Published on Sunday, 03 February 2013 15:31 Written by Gerry Gable
The Freedom Anarchist bookshop was firebombed around 5.30am on Friday morning, 1 February. The shop in Whitechapel, east London, was badly damaged by both the fire and the water used to douse the flames. Its electrics were destroyed but “upstairs is okay”, said a tweet by Freedom Press, and luckily no one was on the premises at the time.
This is not the first arson attack on the shop, which stocks thousands of books, newspapers and pamphlets and houses campaign groups such as the London Coalition Against Poverty. In 1993 the shop was targeted by the far right at the height of a campaign of bombings and violence by carried out by Combat 18 in its violent heyday. Freedom Press, which was started by Charlotte and Peter Kropotkin, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year and the shop, founded in 1886, has been in Whitechapel since the 1970s.
The latest attack comes at a time when we are seeing a new growth of small groups of hardline Nazi thugs on the extreme edges of the British far right, often consisting of men and women of violence who are deserting the failing English Defence League together with sleeping tigers from old established groups such as British Movement and the Racial Volunteer Force.
Towards the end of C18’s period of activity, it was established that it had been set up and run by the State until they lost control of it and infighting led to the murder in 1997 of the young Nazi Chris Castle by the onetime leader of C18, Paul David “Charlie” Sargent and his psycho sidekick Martin Cross during a power struggle. Both received life sentences. Cross remains in prison but Sargent was released on licence last September.
It is likely that the far right would associate Freedom Books with the growing numbers of young activists, many of them anarchists, who have confronted the EDL on the streets in various parts of the country. The attack might well reflect frustration rather than organisation, as many of the thugs from the far-right splinter groups are now being convicted of arson attacks on mosques, violence against trade union meetings and other crimes.
The anti-fascist movement must remain alert without getting caught up in gossip mills. One of our best defences is early warning and solid information.
If you are a young or old far-right activist suddenly feeling out of your depth, be aware that Searchlight has a long record of speaking to far-right activists who fear arrest and may wish to talk to us before the police catch up with them.