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The end of the British anarchist magazine Black Flag?

category ireland / britain | anarchist movement | opinion / analysis author Thursday November 23, 2006 23:56author by Anarcho Report this post to the editors

Observant attendees of this year's anarchist bookfair may have noticed that Black Flag did not have a stall nor was a new issue out. Some speculation has been made on the libcom.org forums that it is no more. The truth is, perhaps. It depends on what happens next and whether people get involved.

Currently, Black Flag is (effectively) on a year's sabbatical. Two meetings were called earlier this year, to which no one beyond myself attended. One member of the collective has dropped out, due to time constraints (which is fair enough). Another, myself, is busy trying to get "An Anarchist FAQ" (www.anarchistfaq.org) revised for publication as well as doing lots of other things (like writing for Freedom and having a life). Other members have also been busy and were unable to attend the meetings. So there was little point in trying to produce a new issue even if there was material to go into it.

The question is whether this is a sabbatical or whether it is (for now) the end of Black Flag after 35 years of publication. Personally, I would like it to continue. Part of the "problem" (if you can call it that) is the improvement in Freedom. Most of the people involved in Black Flag are now involved with writing for Freedom (something I never would have predicted ten years ago). While this is a positive development, it does mean less time for Black Flag and a question mark raised over its role.

There is no need for a newspaper type Black Flag and a magazine that comes out yearly does seem, well, a little infrequent. Also, there are magazines like "Organise!" and "Direct Action" and so is there really any point in producing another one? So what role is there for Black Flag?

There is, I think, a need for an anarchist publication which allows longer, more in-depth articles to be published and which is independent of any specific organisation. Such a publication would be a natural complement to Freedom which cannot, by its very nature, include longer articles. I did raise the possibility with Freedom about a bi-yearly journal in the same format as "The Raven" called Black Flag but that seems to have become somewhat muddled in communication (for the record, I never suggested that Freedom and Black Flag should merge and the resulting journal be called Black Flag!).

The question now becomes, is this viable? Do people think the anarchist movement would benefit from such a journal? Would people contribute to it? I know there was a thread on libcom.org on the lack of any theoretical anarchist journals just now, so it seems that I am not the only person who sees the need for this. Is there any point in pursuing this idea? I await feedback, either here, to Black Flag's email address (Black_Flag@lycos.co.uk) or by snail mail (Black Flag, BM Hurricane, London, WC1N 3XX).

Will Black Flag see another 35 years? That lies in your hands.

author by José Antonio Gutiérrez D.publication date Fri Nov 24, 2006 00:19Report this post to the editors

Personally, I think it would be a real shame that Black Flag ceased to exist, for a number of reasons, both political and personal. On a personal level, Black Flag was very important in my own personal political development, something I know might be true for many others, and it would be a shame to see a magazine that lasted for 35 tough years to collapse in a moment when, paradoxically, there seems to be more people that could take more of a responsibility with it.

On a political level, there is actually a need of more political-theoretical magazines, and one that is not linked to any peculiar organisation, might be useful as a platform for some proper debate, much needed these days. It is true that Freedom has improved a lot and it is now a paper of great quality (I don't agree with a recent claim of Larry Gambone that Le monde Libertaire puts Freedom to shame -quite the contrary could be actually said!). Its articles are always relevant, it is quite enjoyable and thought provoking reading, and it's generally spot on. Its regularity, as well, is a major advantage.

Still, by its very nature, it cannot develop debate and theoretical issues in depth (it was never its pretension neither -in the past, that was done by the Raven quarterly), and we sorely need them both.

Usually, the most difficult thing is to get a core of people to work on its editorial tasks. The rest, article, distribution, even support, could be sorted out by numerous people, and at least from my quarters, we are more than ready to give a hand.

author by Viola Wilkins - IWWpublication date Fri Nov 24, 2006 11:12author email violawil at bigpond dot net dot auReport this post to the editors

I worked on Black Flag then back in the 1980s but as the technology has changed nowadays I suggest that there be a Black Flag website maintained with news, articles, letters/comments ongoing for the current internet savy generation and some of us old lags who are learning the ropes. Former editors like Stuart Christie have gone on to do all sorts of excellent projects so just because the paper fails to appear does not mean the contributors are absent.

Given the prohibitive cost of publishing and distributing a paper these days without a philanthropist regularly donating or a large number of "ragged trousered philanthropists" seems to be "dormant" until the demand and numbers reach critical mass again as they did in the 1980s.

Here in Oz we are planning to relaunch Direct Action which has had several resurgences since the First World war perio best known series. Still a need for agitational educational papers just requires the time and energy and resources to be committed to the project is all !

Related Link: http://www.iww.org.au
author by mitchpublication date Sat Nov 25, 2006 11:21author email wsany at hotmail dot comReport this post to the editors

If ya fold, we'll miss you. We've been getting BF since the 1970s.

In spite of all the changes, BF was always a good source for international news, solidarity updates and the intersting UK pieces.

Good luck comrades!

author by Michael Schmidt - ex-ZACF (southern Africa)publication date Tue Nov 28, 2006 16:09author email blackdragon at africamail dot comReport this post to the editors

[NB: I will send a copy of this post directly to the originator of this debate]. This is, to my mind a vital issue because the anarchist movement often lacks continuity, global interconnectivity and an understanding of its own (especially post-war) history, and thus of itself and the challenges it has faced and continues to face.

I became aware of the capacity problems around Black Flag about two years ago (around the time that the last online version appeared, the one on Colombia, though at least two more print editions were run).

At the time, I suggested to Iain McKay of the Anarchist Federation that Black Flag could be revived in the following way:

1) that it be transformed from a British into an international English-language anarchist journal, with the emphasis still as it always was in Christie and Meltzer's days, on internationalist, class struggle anarchism;

2) that a dedicated international editorial collective be assembled from individuals and organisations around the world, with the requisite writing and layout skills, who were in political agreement with BF's objectives; and

3) that an on-line version of the journal be created, with editions being produced in both text and pdf formats, for ease of access world-wide - and for remote-printing where necessary.

Now, the anarkismo.net editorial collective has discussed the possibility of launching a similar online international platformist / especifist / anarcho-communist journal.

Given the controversial nature of debates that continue to rage over the platform and organisations that take their inspiration at least in part from the tradition, I am NOT suggesting an anarkismo.net takeover of Black Flag.

Given the nature of Black Flag, we would naturally include reports and analysis from ABC, A-infos, IWA and synthesist sources.

So what I am suggesting is that anarkismo.net may be able to supply interested participants in a revival scheme as laid out above.

I'm not sure if such a project would satisfy anarkismo.net editorial aspirations, but I believe it would be a significant internationalist project.

I myself am a journalist by profession and have such an interest (and from next year will have the time available for hyelping with such a project).

I would suggest that the proposed editorial collective be initially composed of four members, one member each from a) North America, b) Britain, c) Anglophone Africa, c) Australia / New Zealand.

Correspondents could later be sought in South Asia (Pakistan / India / Bangladesh / Sri Lanka), the Anglophone Caribbean and the Philippines - or any English-speakers in Latin America, Europe, Central Asia and elsewhere.

red & black regards
- Michael Schmidt (Johannesburg)

author by Nick Heathpublication date Wed Nov 29, 2006 16:23Report this post to the editors

Iaian MacKay is not a member of the Anarchist federation

author by Michael Schmidt - ex-ZACFpublication date Tue Jan 02, 2007 22:45Report this post to the editors

Oops! Sorry Nick (and sorry Iain) for the error. At the back of my mind I wasn't sure about his affiliation, but rushed through posting my mail nevertheless. Still Nick, any response to my suggestion?

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