The Freedom 2018 roundup

Over the last year Freedom News has covered, and in many cases broken, hundreds of stories, run a wide range of feature and analysis pieces and backed anarchist activity worldwide — below is just some of the news from around Britain that we picked up. Happy New Year everyone!

Anti-fascism

The rise of the alt-right in the US and adoption of its tactics by British fascism has been one of the more difficult events to counter over the last year, particularly with the left’s forces having been relatively weak and demobilised. Successes were had however in shutting down and discouraging Britain’s less charismatic wing of the international far right, with multiple confrontations in London and a seeming lull in street-based activity beyond “free speech” rallies held for Tommy Robinson. Robinson himself, while posing as a heroic defender of the right to undermine court cases, was by far the biggest winner of the year, at least financially, moving into a £1 million mansion paid for by his boneheaded followers.

Anti-militarism

Less covered in Freedom (partly because the DSEI arms sale didn’t happen this year), but still vibrant, was 2018’s anti-war activity. The biggest victory of the year actually happened at its end, with Israeli arms firm Elbit Systems being abandoned by banking giant HSBC after a sustained campaign over alleged links to human rights violations. Court showings for the 2017 DSEI protests went relatively well, and while we missed a few of them there were plenty of lock-ons, vigils and other activities which took place, documented by Stop The Arms Fair.

Climate change and fracking

By far the most active and vibrant form of activism this year has, like in 2017, been around fracking and climate change. The campaigners at Preston New Road near Blackpool put their bodies and liberty on the line to try and stop Cuadrilla from getting going, but were ultimately stymied when the government backed its activities, imposing an injunction against, among other things, walking too slowly. The firm, which has already spent vast sums of money just to get the frack site open, has already had to shut down multiple times for breaching earthquake regulations since beginning its drills — and is now busily trying to strip away laws which literally make sure the ground doesn’t shake beneath our feet.

Coal was also a major fight at Druridge Bay and in Pont Valley, with markedly militant campaigns rolling throughout the year. And as 2018 entered winter, Extinction Rebellion garnered significant media coverage with its Committee of 100-style brand of protest.

Feminism

For all that misogyny has been on the rise, most famously in party politics with Trump and Bolsanaro, there have been some standout moments for feminism on the world stage in particular with the Irish abortion vote in May, and in Britain feminist activists have been prominent in everything from workplace pressure to anti-fascism.

Housing and gentrification

Grenfell continued to be the iconic example of how councils have abandoned the working class on homes despite all those pretty words about dealing with the housing crisis. Nearly 100 families from the tower spent this Christmas without a place to call their own. But anti-gentrification struggle and hitting back at landlords has continued and grown through the year,

International solidarity

More fully covered through our international section, in Britain Freedom covered several of the solidarity showings for Syria and, towards the end of the year, raising aid cash for Russian anarchists and anti-fascists struggling in the chilling atmosphere of violence and State repression. At the time of writing, a Firefund request has raised over £2,600.

Syria

Russia

Labour and unions

2018 was the year of the base union, reflected in our October magazine which focused on successes and campaigns being undertaken by the likes of the UVW, IWW, IWGB, Solfed and Caiwu. But even in the more traditional TUC unions there were rays of hope for self-organisation, in wildcat actions, and in the defeat of yellow unions by more militant approaches.

LGBTQI

An almighty set-to over trans rights dominated Freedom’s LGBTQI coverage in 2018, with the anarchist movement largely coalescing round a trans-supportive position despite confrontations and disruption at several bookfairs around the country. The founding of Sister not Cister in May marked a significant shift in how the conversation was being pursued and groups including Afed and Solfed made it clear they would be backing trans people in struggle.

Migration

Migrant support continued to be an important part of anarchist activity this year, including involvement in the long-running campaign to close Yarl’s Wood detention centre. The fight against deportations turned up some spectacular acts of solidarity, particularly in Bristol and, towards the end of the year, the Stansted 15.

Prisons

In our magazine we charted the ongoing fight against IPP prisoners, but it was a quieter year in terms of Freedom news reports. The big issue of 2018, as in previous years, is the extraordinary lengths the government is going to in its baffling efforts to expand US-style incarceration methodology, including greater privatisation and the building of superjails.

Spycops

The government, as you might expect, continues in its efforts to stymie a proper inquiry into the behaviour of undercover officers. From inquiry chief Mitting’s “minded to” notes blocking identification of wrongdoers, to State refusal to extend its remit to Scotland or Northern Ireland, it’s been a mess. In June Freedom itself was caught up in the scandal when it emerged that Roger Pearce had used us to get at Northern Irish comrades.

Squats and Occupations

It may have been another difficult year for the squatting community around Britain, but that didn’t stop a wide range of occupations and activities from happening. Towards the end of the year we brought a columnist on board to get a more in-depth look at the situation for squatters.