March for Free Expression

The next phase

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Alan Johnson, Editor of Democratiya, sends us this endorsement:
Today, freedom of expression is under threat and needs defenders. I am happy to support the March for Free Expression. As the German socialist Rosa Luxemburg said “Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently” because “all that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic, and its effectiveness vanishes when 'freedom' becomes a special privilege.


Anonymous Sagunto said...

I tend to view Rosa's emphasis on the "purifying"-dinges in relation to political freedom with more than a little suspicion. Moreover, the freedom of expression we are forced to defend here isn't "political", it's fundamental.
(Moh.-toons adressed the issue of selfcensorship not any political party if I'm not mistaken)

Individual freedom is a fundamental right of everyone regardless of political colour, with or without purifying political opinions.

"Think differently", Rosa said?
Just thinking will do nicely, thank you ;-)

C.u.(caroonists unite!)25,

11:25 pm  
Blogger Revolution Radio said...

I think the blogsphere could make this a big one. If it isn't a huge success then we may as well give up. It's democracy's last stand.


11:39 pm  
Anonymous Sagunto said...


Haven't got the faintest idea what a "caroonist" might be ...?

I meant cartoonists, obviously.
X-cuse my Dutch; hope I haven't offended anyone. If I did however, I'd like to say to any stigmatized caroonist, dat het me echt enorm spijt ;-)

12:03 am  
Anonymous Steve said...

Why is it that out of all the declared supporters, only the Freedom Association has posted anything on its website?

12:36 pm  
Anonymous Steve said...

Is it true that Alan Johnson has pulled out because he doesn't want to share a platform with the Freedom Association?

5:13 pm  
Blogger Voltaire said...

Steve, yes it is. We have removed his name from the lists of supporters and speakers on the sidebar.

We are preparing a full comment that will be posted on Thursday but for the moment, I'll just say that we're disappointed but if he can't support the right to free expression of people he disagrees with, then he doesn't support this campaign anyway.

5:19 pm  
Anonymous Martin Ohr said...


Alan Johnson has not withdrawn because he does not support free expression for people he disagrees with, but because he declines to share a platform with the Freedom Association.

As you already know this organisation are a fringe far-right group who have organised strike breaking, maintained intelligence blacklists of socialists and trades unionists and provided funds to right wing groups to take legal action against trades unions and lbour organisations.

In the 1990's I was one of a group of students unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of a writ served by the local student tories but financed by the Freedom Association in exchange for listings of campus lefties. My 'crime' was to have reproduced safe-sex advice for gay men in a student union handbook. The paragraphs relating to gay men were thus secretly removed by a member union staff who had also been included in the writ -not an example of supportig freedom of expression

8:26 am  
Blogger Voltaire said...

Martin, I understand that you don't agree with the Freedom Association, but the plain fact is that by supporting this campaign they are supporting freedom of expression for people, including you and Alan Johnson, with whom they disagree.

We are preparing a statement about this for tomorrow, Thursday. We can't speak to everyone we need to before then. I hope you will bear with us.

We absolutely refuse to discuss the merits of the standpoints of the organisations and individuals who support us, be they socialist, libertarian, conservative, religious, rationalist or secular. This is not a debate about social or political policy, it is a campaign that advocates a tolerant and non-violent environment within which such debates can take place.

It is wonderful that so many are prepared to set aside their differences to advocate this environment and of course we are disappointed that some do not. But we will not be drawn into political or religious sectarianism.

9:20 am  
Anonymous martin ohr said...


Those are good sentiments. I support the right of the Freedom Association to do as it pleases, say what it likes etc. The point is that you mis-represent Alan's reasons for withdrawing.

His reasons as far as I understand are not that he disputes the right of the Freedom Association to exist, just that he doesn't want to be any part of a campaign that involves them. These reasons are not the same and you deliberately mis-represent him in order to question his motives for withdrawing.

12:37 pm  
Blogger Voltaire said...

Martin, Alan has not stated his position in the way you suggest, at least to us. It may be that you have better information and I am happy to clarify this if I hear from him. But as I have said, I will reserve full comment until tomorrow.

12:43 pm  
Anonymous Sagunto said...

@ Martin ohr,

"..Alan Johnson has not withdrawn because he does not support free expression for people he disagrees with, but because he declines to share a platform with the Freedom Association.."

So Mr. Johnson can't handle free expression when it actually matters. It's hard to share a platform with people whose views you abhor, but that's no reason to back out (fearing "guilt by association" perhaps?) from this rally.

6:25 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


While Alan is more than capable of sticking up for himself and I don't purport to speak for him, I feel I have to respond:

Either I am not making myself clear or you are deliberately mis-representing what I am saying....

If I were in Alan's position I would decline to be involved in any campaign that involved the freedom association for the following reasons:

1) The freedom association has the right to say and do as it pleases and campaign as vigourously as it chooses on any subject.

2) The freedom association has a history of strike breaking -including the support of physical attacks on strikers. For trades unionists such myself this is obviously a very bad thing and puts us on opposing sides of very real class struggle.

3) In the 80s and 90's (when it was still legal) the Freedom Association helped compile blacklists of trades unions, socialists, pacifists, gay activists etc. These lists were used to effectively deny people like myself freedom of speech by ensuring that people like myself were prevented from getting decent jobs, were harrassed by police, DHSS, courts etc

4) The freedom association has in the past funded legal action against freedom of speech where it involved -for example- safe sex advice for gay men, by invoking arcane irrelevent laws.

5) The freedom association are thinly veiled racists who are temporarily putting aside their hatred of the left in order to try to score some bigger victory against muslims

11:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I'm a Labour voter and you're making me feel ashamed of the left. Don't you realise the Tories think the unions nearly bankrupted the country in the 70's? They feel just as strongly about you as you do about them. The left keeps lists too. Searchlight for instance. But it's the right who are keeping a dignified silence and putting differences aside to stand up for a civilised country to argue in. I'm disgusted with you.

9:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember all the fuss about working men's clubs not letting black people join. I remember london dockers nicking a quarter of some of the stuff that was landed. I remember trades union intimidation to get people to join in the 1960s. I remember striking miners dropping lumps of conceret off motorway bridges. We are all in glass houses really and if we start throwing stones there's going to be a lot of mess and the people who want to stop free speech will be laughing all the way to the house of commons where they start off another bill to stop free speech.

11:31 am  
Blogger Voltaire said...

This is, of course, an open blog site and people can add whatever comments they like (although on another thread we did delete one very lengthy manifesto from another organisation who we felt should find a platform elsewhere).

But please consider avoiding squabbles about politics here. Organisations and individuals from the right as well as the left have declined to endorse this campaign. Our refusal to advocate the prohibition of (Christian) blasphemy, for example, has led to such a reaction.

All we can do is stick to our principles and hope we gain as much support as possible. And one of these principles is a refusal to discuss the merits of the political platforms of those who have been good enough to endorse this campaign.

Another is the refusal to accept endorsements from any group that advocates political violence. This is why we have consistently declined offers from BNP members. It should be plain that we do not believe that any of our current support does advocate this.

11:56 am  

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