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THE UK PRISON “BOOK BAN”

Well, one of the big prison stories in recent months has been the Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) “book ban”, that has so outraged the British middle classes and the country’s intelligentsia that it has brought them out on the streets to protest… to read poems outside Pentonville nick. We’ve had the likes of Mark Haddon, Philip Pullman, Sarah Waters, Mary Beard, Carol Ann Duffy, Alan Bennett, Salman Rushdie… even Jeffrey Archer (whose books are of course much more likely to be available in prison libraries than these others), expressing their outrage at the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s mean spirited actions. He had described the IEP crackdown as “right wing solutions [brought] to bear on social problems where the Left has palpably failed”, yet even his own side (an unnamed senior Tory) has slagged him off as being “the government’s least enlightened minister.”
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THE HORRORS OF THE KORYDALLOS PRISON COMPLEX

The Korydallos prison complex in Piraeus is Greece’s main “Type B” maximum-security prison. It is massive, with a designated capacity of 8,500 across its numerous wings, which hold both male and female prisoners – many of whom the Greek State consider to be the worst of the worst. It is also grossly overcrowded and currently holds over 12,500 people, some in wings designed to house half their number. A significant factor in these excessive numbers is the high percentage of pre-trial prisoners being held there rather than, as would normally be the case, in lower-security “Type A” prisons. Historically, Greek prisons have long been prone to serious overcrowding problems, which have precipitated regular prison uprising and protests, but the country’s current economic crisis has further exacerbated this endemic problem.

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Books behind bars

Rob Ray talks to Lee Humphries, founder of prisoner support charity Haven Distribution, which specialises in educational literature

The newest addition to the denizens of Freedom Press made a noisy entrance late last month by thumping down a huge mountain of literature destined for inmates up and down the country. The small but active collective has been delivering educational texts, dictionaries and large print books aimed at helping people educate themselves since 1996. The timing, and this interview, coincides with a controversial ban on prison books from secretary of state for justice Chris Grayling.

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ANARCHISM AND CHRISTIANITY: AN INTERVIEW WITH KEITH HEBDEN

From humble beginnings the Christian faith, and its collective expression the Church, spread rapidly through the Roman World. After experiencing several periods of persecution it was co-opted by the Emperor Constantine in the 4th century CE as the official state religion of the Roman Empire. Since then the Church has had a chequered history globally, often working to maintain the status quo and usually siding with the ruling class. Historically the Church has been hierarchical, patriarchal and sexist. However, in Anarchism and Other Essays Emma Goldman refers positively to Tolstoy – an enthusiastic, idiosyncratic advocate of Jesus teachings and John Ball (maverick Priest who was a key figure in the Peasant’s Revolt). Some Christians go as far as to claim Christianity and anarchism are compatible. One of these is Dr Keith Hebden, Anglican vicar, activist and author, who agreed to an interview with Freedom

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WHAT DOES MOVING ONLINE MEAN FOR FREEDOM?

Rich Cross – long-time Freedom reader and writer and author of the anarchist punk blog The Hippies Now Wear Black – reflects on the end of an era for Freedom

First produced in 1886, the monthly British anarchist newspaper Freedom has ceased print publication with the second edition of 2014, after the Freedom bookshop collective concluded that “a sold hardcopy newspaper is no longer a viable means of promoting the anarchist message”. Freedom will become an online publication, supplemented by an occasional print newssheet.
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Tom Gilliam: “Dissent and reprisal”

Tom Gilliam is a survivor of the Vietnam War.  He was a Navy medic, a conscientious objector medic, assigned to a Marine Corps combat unit during the war.  Throughout his time in Vietnam, Tom was surrounded by the noise, the disorientation, and the butchery of raw combat.  He still has shrapnel in his body from the experience of that war.  Nevertheless, Tom did not run.  More than a few Marines owe their lives to him, as he patched them up and kept them from bleeding to death in the jungles of the night. Read more »

NEWS FROM THE US

Louis Further brings us his latest update from across the pond…

Crime
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In the United States making money out of criminals is nearly as huge a business as crime itself is. In mid-February a new scandal of crimes committed by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), one of the biggest private prison companies in the world, came to light as they agreed in the previous week to pay US$1 million (£600,456) to the state of Idaho. They made up or otherwise falsified thousands of staff hours to boost their profits at one of their notoriously dangerous prisons. While guard posts were unstaffed, CCA claimed nearly 5,000 hours. Further, an audit ordered by the Idaho Department of Corrections was conducted by auditing firm KPMG; it found that CCA had left ‘more than 26,000 hours of mandatory guard posts unstaffed or inadequately [staffed]‘.

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CIVIL RELIGION

 Tim Forster on the use of “God” to create false concepts of community cohesion

 

Over the last few years we’ve had a Royal Wedding, the Queen’s Jubilee and this year we’re remembering 100 years since the start of WWI. All these occasions are expressions of, and vehicles for, something that sociologists call ‘civil religion’.

National civil religions are concerned primarily with creating a sense of national identity and unity, of reaffirming national mythologies, of reinforcing the elite’s story and version of the nation. It uses rites, commemorations, ceremonies, symbols (1), weddings and sports events to reaffirm as “right” and “natural” the existing hierarchy and oppressive class structure and gives the elite the opportunity to tell their story of who we are and how we should be. It is one of the ways a nation is told what to think about itself by the elite, part of “the spectacle” referred to by the Situationists. You could see this going on under New Labour as they sought to present Britain to itself in ways that justified the UK’s presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, by continually commemorating and emphasising Britain’s military history.

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SKIPPING FOR JOY

 

Following a recent much-publicised case which saw three men arrested for taking unwanted food from outside a branch of Iceland, Gyorgy Furiosa takes a look at the fine art of skip-diving

You scale the wall under cover of darkness, past the barbed wire and weird razor defences that seem inordinately vicious to protect what has been thrown away. Dropping into the yard, you scurry to the containers and heave them open one by one revealing the gourmet pantry within. Life is like a Waitrose garbage bin – you never know what you’re going to get.

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A Statement from the Freedom Collective

Since Freedom: A Journal of Anarchist Socialism first appeared in 1886 it has been in the form of a newspaper to be sold. Now the Freedom Collective has decided that we shall move content online accompanied by a freesheet after publication of the upcoming second issue of 2014.

We have come to realise that a sold hardcopy newspaper is no longer a viable means of promoting the anarchist message. Despite a huge publicity boost to Freedom following the firebomb attack last year (shop sales rose 50%) there has not been a corresponding increase in distribution of the paper. Only 29 shops, social centres and individuals now sell it and the number of paying subscribers has fallen to 225.As a result annual losses now amount to £3,500, an unsustainable level for our shoestring budget.

Readers will have noticed that the paper has struggled to come out on time for some while. An underlying problem has been a lack of capacity to sustain it. We had hoped that Freedom would be adopted as THE paper of the anarchist movement. Despite a great deal of goodwill from anarchist groups and individuals over the years, sadly this has not been the case.

Although Freedom Press has changed from a political group with a particular point of view to a resource for anarchism as a whole, we have not managed to shake the legacy of the past and get different groups to back it as a collective project. We hope an online version and freesheet will make that possible.

Subscribers will be offered a refund or book in lieu but we are happy to accept donations towards the costs of the new project.

Charlotte Dingle will remain as editor and of course the shop, publishing and book distribution will continue as normal. As will the use of Angel Alley for meetings, events, offices, postal address and drop-in protest advice.

The print version could not have continues so long without the generosity of Aldgate Press, currently amounting to a subsidy of nearly £10,000 a year. They have very kindly agreed to print a regular freesheet/news compilation to enable us to keep in touch with our readers who don’t have the internet, and a special final edition, which will be released for the London Anarchist Bookfair in October.