London's FREEDOM anarchist bookstore firebombed

FREEDOM, a legendary anarchist bookstore in east London, was firebombed on Friday morning. This is the store that Peter Kropotkin helped found in the 19th century, and the home of a monthly newspaper that published Emma Goldman. No one was hurt, and no one seems to know who did it, or why. The store was uninsured.

They're having a community clean-up day today. I wish I could go, but it's my daughter's fifth birthday, so I'll be donating to the repair and rebuilding fund. This is a ghastly, senseless act.

The bookshop has been firebombed. Fortunately nobody was hurt, but there’s quite a lot of damage from both the fire and the water used to douse the flames.

If you’d like to help us sort out some of the mess, please come down to the shop on Saturday 2nd February from 1pm and give us a helping hand. See here for details.

We’re still assessing the damage, so watch this space for further news.

If you’d like help us out financially, cheques or postal orders made payable to Freedom Press can be sent to Freedom Press, 84b Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX.

You can also help by ordering books through our website here and then emailing us at to let us know that your purchase was a donation.

I can't say enough about what a tragedy this is. FREEDOM is an institution and an incredible bookstore.

Freedom firebombed

(Photo: International Times)


    1. What’s the state of BOOKMARKS books over on Bloomsbury Street near the British Library? – I would think this would create a bit of worry for the staff of that store. I assume the two stores have strong ties

      1. Bombing ANY shop in Bloomsbury would attract rather more attention than I imagine the bombers want. I am assuming this is more of a personal spat than the first move in a plan for world domination by whatever right wing group.

          1. Halal meat is some kind of Islamofascist conspiracy, according to right-wing nutjobs in the US. These are the same people who are convinced that soy makes people gay.

          2. I was wrong.

            Bombing In Bloomsbury.

            It is the plot of a sensationalist novel. Virginia Woolf meets John Le Carre reimagined by Jackie Collins. There used to be all sorts of bookshops in those streets just a few minutes away from the British Museum and British Library with its Reading Room and the University. An Albanian bookshop, a Chinese Maoist bookshop which always had the complete works of Mao in stock – on a top shelf in plain covers. A bookshop must always be the front for something. It is where emigre London with its foreign ideas seduces and manipulates genteel London in its desire to manipulate the world.

            I now have a picture in my head of Vanessa Redgrave as Mrs Dalloway planning a very different kind of party. I didn’t want that to happen.

      2. FREEDOM being down a dank piss stained back alley, and Bookmarks being on the main road from the north into the centre…

          1. Bookmarks is at #1 Bloomsbury Street, which also happens to be the original address of the Swedenborg Society – Bookmarks is about a minute’s walk from the British Museum

  1. It’s rather mordbidly curious. On the one hand, the rather human hand, there are the instant, unbidden feelings of sympathy, even empathy, for those who have been needlessly victimized. And then on the other hand, the cynical cerebral hand, there is the thought that this is just the sort of thing that Anarchism fails to equip anyone with an effective means of preventing.

    Ah, humanity. What a confusing creature.

    1.  Wait, what? Which system is it that prevents senseless firebombing? It’s pretty clearly not the one we live in now — the evidence is before you.

      1. You’d suggest that an Anarchy would be better equipped? No formalized structures? No governmental services? Every man for himself? I’m no great fan of Capitalism, to be sure, but we’re talking governance, not economy! Republic and Democracy have shown their worth through the ages, surely?

        Anarchy says “No!” to the will of the people. Anarchy says might makes right. Anarchy says that if you get firebombed, tough luck!

        And worst of all (or perhaps best), Anarchy doesn’t have any lasting power. A government of some stripe or another always springs up, albeit often a rigid, cruel, oppressive, and unfair one. Despots and Dictators quickly establish themselves in lawlessness. If nothing else, The Rule of The Gun takes hold, with governance by the armed and violent, with warlords and gangs filling the vacuum.

        Anarchy is madness. It is bedlam. It is the lack of Order. It is the lowest, most animal state of Humanity, and anyone who champions it is almost certainly either naive, deluded, or insincere.

        1. I’m not an anarchist myself, but I think you misunderstand it.

          It doesn’t mean there’s no order, it just means there’s no formal authority to enforce order.  All interactions are purely voluntary.

          And I would add that we currently live in a system where very, very frequently “might makes right.”

        2. You aren’t exactly familiar with what you’re talking about.

          Look at what anarchists try to build, in specifically anarchist projects, or in other projects with anarchist and non-anarchist members. A bookstore. A labor union. A hurricane relief project for New Orleans and another for New York. A program to feed the homeless.

          I think a lot of anarchist organizing centers on building community institutions, on education, and on promoting an inclusive society.

          If the whole society has these institutions, and enough of the society shares these values, where are you going to find an army to suppress it and institute warlordism?

          1. Yes, but it would appear that Anarchism is uniquely vulnerable to those who do not share the same values.

        3. “No formalized structures?”

          What? Why not? Anarchism would include plenty of formalized structures, just look at Revolutionary Catalonia.

          “Every man for himself?”

          Could not be further from anarchism.

          “Anarchy says “No!” to the will of the people.”

          No it does not, it says “no!” to the will of the tyrant over the people.

          “Anarchy says might makes right.”

          It says literally the opposite. 

          “Anarchy says that if you get firebombed, tough luck!”


          “And worst of all (or perhaps best), Anarchy doesn’t have any lasting power. A government of some stripe or another always springs up, albeit often a rigid, cruel, oppressive, and unfair one. Despots and Dictators quickly establish themselves in lawlessness. If nothing else, The Rule of The Gun takes hold, with governance by the armed and violent, with warlords and gangs filling the vacuum.”

          You are deeply misunderstanding what anarchism is — not to be critical, this is a mistake a lot of people make because our culture has sort of simplified “anarchism” to mean “no government!”, when in fact the ideology is much more complex.Anarchism does not advocate that all governance and social cooperation and organization disappear — far from. Instead, anarchism advocates that all such structures be as open, participatory, and democratic as possible. I highly recommend looking into actual anarchist theory. You may well disagree with it’s conclusions (plenty of people do!), but I’d rather you understood it and disagreed with it rather than misunderstanding and reinforcing falsehoods.

          1. “Anarchism does not advocate that all governance and social cooperation and organization disappear — far from. Instead, anarchism advocates that all such structures be as open, participatory, and democratic as possible.” 

            On the specific point of how it deals with people who would perpetrate violence like the firebomber, how do anarchists typically approach it? Would most still advocate a police force, a court system, and imprisonment of some kind, but run in a more open and democratic manner than the present system?

      2. Somehow I thought readers of BoingBoing would be more knowledgeable about anarchism as a political theory and social practice.

        But the majority of comments here make assumptions about anarchism that even 10 minutes on the “Anarchism” wikipedia page could dispel.  I mean, I’m not asking people to have read huge tomes of political theory…but surely it’s reasonable to expect people to at least understand the basics of the subject before spraying criticism everywhere?

        Anarchism on wikipedia.  Seriously, everyone go have a read.  You’ll learn a lot – I know I did.

    2. You mean, like who do Anarchists call when they are victims of a crime?  Sort of like the Scientologist with appendicitis problem?

      1. To be fair to Scientologists, I think the more accurate thing to ask is who Scientologists call with a schizophrenia problem, and who Christian Scientists call with an appendicitis problem.

      2.  You should try not to get your nutty cults (Christian Science was kind of the Scientology of its day, but they are totally different sects) mixed up when making your obvious lazy-ass joke.

        1. Sometimes, late at night, I get the fruits, nuts and flakes mixed up.  But I get it straightened out the next morning at breakfast.

    3.  Interesting that nobody turns their snark on the attackers.  Because apparently someone who doesn’t like anarchists decided to display their love of law and order. . .  by firebombing a bookstore?

      But it’s the anarchists who have to explain themselves.

      1.  Unless the anarchists were attacked by other anarchists. Which is not remotely unfeasible, anarchy being what it is.

      2. I was just asking Eldritch to clarify his point.  But the situation does have enough irony to set the standup comics drooling. Such as a comment on a firebombing by someone using the name “PhosPhorious”.  Humor is where you find it.

  2. That seems, well, pretty anarchist, and pretty free(dom)? Live by the anarchy, die by the anarchy.

    Hopefully the cleanup will fix things up. If you can roll with this it’s anarchy win. But it’s definitely a normal part of the process.

    1.  You’ve mistaken anarchism for chaos. They aren’t the same thing.

      I have to say that it’s a pretty tasteless public remark to make, given the circumstances.

      1. an·ar·chism  
        Belief in the abolition of all government and the organization of society on a voluntary, cooperative basis without recourse to force or…Anarchists as a political force or movement.

        So therefore shouldn’t the owners of the shop not expect any goverment or political force to catch the people responsible or hold responsible parties for the recourse under the law. courts, and legal system? Or even file a police report, to the goverment, insurance etc. Did they file a police report? Did they ironically want the people ‘brought to justice’ and made to pay for a crime against their property? Or do they plan and use “Ad Hoc” justice? (See: Vigilantism) 

        EDIT: I now see they didn’t have insurance so don’t keyword pick on that item in my post.

        1. Arguing political philosophy via dictionary is not productive.

          A political philosophy can distinguish between
          (1) right action once what the theory deems (un)just political structures are in place (removed), and
          (2) right action under the imperfect conditions of life inside unjust structures.

          To be sure, the main of anarchist political thought is especially wed to the idea of “living the change” here and now in the shell of the old world. And that may be what you are having in mind. But that broad commitment is compatible with a variety of strategic adaptations to the situation.

          To begin get a grasp on this outlook beyond the dictionary you might start here

          1. Agreed
            But you could have stopped at
            Arguing I should have. My mistake.

            As it’s best done over many beers among good friends. With some nice snacks.

          2. Also under Anarchy/Schools Wikipedia comes up with

            Anarchist communism
            Christian libertarianism
            Consequentialist libertarianism
            Free-market anarchism
            Green libertarianism
            Individualist anarchism
            Libertarian Marxism
            Libertarian socialism
            Natural-rights libertarianism
            Social anarchism

            Take your pick.

          3. Yes, but cackling hyenas get off on pointing and laughing at ignorant stereotypes. Actually learning anything about the two-centuries and more of rich history, philosophy, traditions and activism of anarchism and libertarianism would require they engage their brains before their mouths.

            Goddamn book-burning fascist fuck sonsofbitches!

        2. I think that applies to any political philosophy. You have to believe in the possible success of your philosophy while acting in a world which has yet to come to its senses.

        3. In Hell, Anarchists and Libertarians are forced to listen to each other explain their political philosophies, forever.

      2. I know nothing about these guys, but after what the “Anarchist” bookstore in Berkeley did in Oakland, I wouldn’t have had any sympathy had it happened to them.  If your experience with “Anarchists” derives from the typical California asshat variety, you can be excused if you’re not familiar with anything more cerebral.

        I know there’s a lot more to Anarchy than just Chaos, but actions like this are not exactly antithetical to Anarchy as practiced: something Kropotkin wrestled with, and in many ways something Burning Man is wrestling with right now (tl;dr after your “society” grows beyond a couple hundred people, Anarchy doesn’t work).

        1. So some California anarchists did something to you so bad that you want them to be firebombed?

          1. Books aren’t people, and framing someone else’s argument so as to suggest that they conflate the two is disingenious at best and malicious at worst.

            (It should go without saying, of course, but to be clear, this is not to advocate the destruction of books by any means, even if that is far preferable to the destruction of lives. Rather, it is to admonish the making of sloppy retorts which distort the words of others in a way that inflames the passions.)

          2. I don’t want anyone firebombed (hear that, FBI?) but I have no sympathy for those supercilious shitbags after they tore up a bunch of small, black-owned businesses in downtown Oakland in order to “stick it to the man”, or whatever their moronic point was.

    1. Probably several, so the cops could keep an eye on the reading habits of scary anarchists.  Anyone want to bet they were all “out of order” the night of the firebombing?

  3. So by “anarchist” do we mean some kind of softened-up form thereof?  Cuz I’m thinking a real anarchist would have accepted this simply as the laws of nature.

    1. I’m going to amend myself and say maybe I was thinking of nihilists rather than anarchists, but I guess I’m not the only one here that needs to be straightened out in this respect.

        1. If the Klan believed in human freedom and human equality, why did they kill freed blacks and later kill labor unionists? And get away with it, at least as recently as the Greensboro Massacre.

          The Klan weren’t anarchists. They were gorram proto-fascists.

          Albert and Lucy Parsons would become anarchists, and they had to flee the Klan.

        2. They were domestic terrorists that targeted specific ethnic groups and were dedicated to preserving a class structure based on slavery.  They were early fascists and some would later adopt Nazi symbols.  Watch “The Birth Of A Nation” and you’ll see the Klan described as “Aryan” back before there was a Fascist party.

  4. It’s rather disappointing to see Cory seemingly embracing Ayn Rand as a touchstone. 

    Yes I know, but she was a Anarchist at heart..with a dose of protection of corporate property and rights. Individuals were left to sink/swim on their own.
    (read my above definition) She wanted basically the same thing.Individuals would be on their own, no goverment, “Freedom” for all—(Damn that includes corporations too!). Any kind souls that would help they poor were free do so, but goverment “holding a gun to you head’ to collect money for roads, health care, science..was right out.

    There’s only a slight diffrence in the philosophy, and it’s mostly the glasses.

    1. Ok I’ll bite. How does protection of corporations fit in with Anarchy ? Also what Anarchist model do you know where people are left to sink/swim on their own ? Ayn Rand an Anarchist indeed. Read more.

    2. Geez. Rand was hardly an anarchist. Wikipedia says of Objectivism: “Objectivism views government as “the means of placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective control—i.e., under objectively defined laws;” thus, government is both legitimate and critically important”

      1. That’s as may be, but I imagine that if an Objectivist bookstore had been torched, the schadenfreude here on BB (“No fire department for YOU!”) would have been thick enough to need cutting with a steak knife.

    3. Sympathizing with somebody over an act of violence + trying to be accurate about who they are = embracing their ideology, therefore Cory is Ayn Rand with glasses.
      Simple logic, really.

    4. It’s rather disappointing to see Cory seemingly embracing Ayn Rand as a touchstone.

      You know who else cast unsupportable allegations based on false equivalencies?

    5. Really I would say that the mainstream of anarchist thought has always been collectivist. Look up the Makhnovists and 1930s Spain for historical examples of anarchy in action. About as far as you can get from Rand

    6. You’re right, “It sucks that your bookshop got firebombed, I wish I could have helped with the cleanup” is pretty much exactly equivalent to “I agree with the text of every book in your shop, even the ones I haven’t read”

    7. No no, these are British Anarchists, not American “Anarcho-Capitalists.”  An important member of their movement said of Ayn Rand, ” I had to look at The Fountainhead. I have to say I found Ayn Rand’s philosophy laughable. It was a white supremacist dreams of the master race,’ burnt in an early-20th century form. ” —

  5. What I want to know is, who hates anarchists so much they decided to… behave like a blatant anarchist stereotype, basically? Or if that’s their idea of irony, on whom do they think the joke really is?  Are they other anarchists, attempting to eat their own because that’s always a good idea?

    Or is it some type of conspiratorial cliche like a black flag to turn anarchists against each other, which happens to be the exact thing a stereotypical anarchist would think of immediately?

    I guess what I’m saying is, no matter which way you slice it, the bomber must be amazingly stupid.

  6. It’s OK because it didn’t happen, at least for me in my plane of quantum existence. It’s amazing what a little bit of understanding of quantum mechanics can do for… r r eyy…… g  o  n    ee e ….. 

  7. I am surprised so few of you recognize the stereotype of the anarchist with a bomb is propaganda from a long time ago when wobblies were a real power and authority worked hard to destroy their credibility. In fact many of the bombings attributed to anarchists were self-inflicted. (citations, i know, but what fun is that) 

    It is easily spotted as typical of cooked-up anti-insurgent propaganda. 

    Also, if they were real anarchists they would ask their community for help re-building instead of relying on insurance. 

    Yeah, I know.

      1. Did you read my last sentence which was a predictive answer to your too quick assumption that I was being serious? Reading comprehension is really important around here.

    1. when wobblies were a real power

      Reading your post made me wonder if the IWW was still around.  Well, it turns out they are, and per their website, the heirs of Mother Jones, Bill Haywood, and Joe Hill are now kicking the power structure in the nuts by picketing Starbucks and that nest of plutocracy, the “Berkeley Ecology Center”.

      Thanks for indirectly pointing me to a website so unwittingly hilarious.

      1. They’re also the only union willing to help sex workers unionize.  For that, I’ll forgive them a lot of unintentional ridiculousness.

    2. They are clean up started at 1pm today (saturday) 

      someone just got the lights back on ::

    3. Hopefully you understand that at least some of us are using the term “stereotypical anarchist” precisely because we do recognize that.

    4. At one point, a consortium of mining companies decided to assassinate the former governor of Idaho and frame the unions.

      Eventually, the evidence leaked, the frame-up failed, and it was clear that the mining companies had hired the killer. How many other assassinations and bombings differed only in that the frame-up didn’t fail? The McKinley assassination? The Wall Street Bombings?

    5. no true scotmans much?

      also, insurance is totally compatible with anarchy. it is a form of distributed risk which means that individuals and individual organizations do not have to be enormous to cope with adversity. Obviously in reality most insurers are backed by very few underwriters so the system is more hierarchical than it needs to be, but theoretically a large group of small housing associations can pool risk amongst themselves so that none are vulnerable to the occasional fire etc. This is basically the history of the mutual.

      1. yes, I know, read up on irony, it will help with understanding a lot of what gets said here.

        Oh I mis read your statement. Call me the kettle. I appreciate what you are saying. It is a good point. I dont think insurance as it is now is very rooted in the community helping itself out of a problem. Their way of doing it, asking for help from the locals and customers, is a sort of insurance like you are talking about. A recognition that ownership is a convenient idea that requires some adjustment in hard times. The spirit of anarchy is that organizations spring up as needed and disappear when not so loyalties and inertia don’t create “need” where there isn’t any, such as insurance companies staying in business.

  8. Honestly? Public programs FTW. Healthcare, education, all of it. Without an elected government to make it available to the public, we are left with the natural laws of elitism, with the elites getting all the resources. It’s why I just can’t but into anarchism.

    1. Someone firebombed a bookstore. Whether you can buy into their ideas or not doesn’t really enter into it. Books are not for burning, they are for learning, even if you don’t agree with their message. May I recommend Fahrenheit 451?

    2. The Anarchists of 1930s Spain created their own progressive school system based on the educational philosophy of Francisco Ferrer. What makes you think there can be no public sphere without the state?

    3. “Without an elected government to make it available to the public, we are left with the natural laws of elitism, with the elites getting all the resources.”

      Yeah, that would be terrible, imagine if that happened.

  9. Bought Kropotkins Mutual Aid. If you only read one book on anarchy/cooperation, that’s the one I would recommend (as a former bookseller :-)).
    If you live outside the UK and they don’t ship to your country (as with Denmark), just put in their address & put donation as the name.

  10. I notice a growing trend for Boing Boing to serve as a board for ads of the “Here’s my sob story, I had no insurance, please send money” sort.

    So, can I cancel my insurance, and when something bad happens to me or my stuff, will BoingBoing post a blurb to help me? I’m not so sure.

    The management/owner of the store decided not to take out insurance. That was a purposeful and conscious decision, and I’m sorry, but they risked and they lost. I do feel for them, but overall – tough luck.

    No sob stories about costs of insurance either – a basic policy that would cover the most serious eventualities, such as this, would probably cost little more than a good dinner for two in London (but feel free to correct me, I’m going on the insurance bill for my business and its material assets).

    1. No sob stories about costs of insurance either – a basic policy that would cover the most serious eventualities, such as this, would probably cost little more than a good dinner for two in London

      That’s a laughable fantasy. First of all, insurance for a business is expensive. Second, many things like plate glass windows are uninsurable. Third, most policies don’t cover acts of terrorism. And fourth, your empathy gland is clogged.

      1. Hark, the moderator shows a hint of humour. Point 4 – the empathy gland went way of the Asperger’s nodule, sorry. Points 1-3, ok, perhaps time to move out of the UK.

    2. Freedom is an anarchist bookshop – perhaps unsurprisingly, it doesn’t make much money, being in the business of printing and selling books that people should read rather than the crap that most people do read. They’ve had some cash problems recently and couldn’t afford the insurance premiums. Not being able to afford something isn’t much of a choice. If you don’t want to help, don’t, but quit complaining when people like Cory do. I say this as someone who spent a few hours in the shop wiping soot off books.

  11. Even if BB now serves only as an outlet for “sob stories”, you have the option to browse other sites and/or not give money. I don’t see what the issue is.

  12. Well, hopefully those awesome Berlin Camera Smashers didn’t get over there and they have a record of who did it.  Certainly there are many better targets for violence than a bookstore.  Might have been personal? Lame either way.

  13. ::best whingy voice:: Thanx Cory; now I’ve gotta spend a couple hours swatting Time Flies.

    Holy Crap! PEFNT is five already? Congratulations to Alice on her best project ever, and Happy Birthday to Poesy!

  14. Thanks for sharing, Cory.  The cleanup today went fantastically, loads of eager hands turned up in solidarity.  Tomorrow (Sunday) again, from 1pm.  Out of the wreckage, beauty.  

  15. Sadly, this is quite similar to when one of my local bookstores was burned down. (Mayflower Books, Berkley, Michigan, USA) Never caught the guy, and it took nearly a decade to get back in full operation.

  16. If only they were anarcho-capitalists, then they surely would have had insurance.

    All snark aside, that really sucks :(

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