The first of a monthly series of events to raise the profile of, and funds for DRB 2020. The Four Horsemen Pub, 77-79 Commercial Rd Bournemouth BH2 5RT 7 for 7:30 p.m. Discussion afterwards. facebook event
It shouldn’t really be me writing this obituary of Donald Rooum the anarchist and his time with Freedom Press, as I knew him for a mere 17 years, a relative drop in the ocean of his experiences. But the truth is that those of his friends and comrades who would have known him best, the likes of Phillip Sansom, Colin Ward and of course Vernon Richards, all passed away before him.
With Donald passes the only remaining direct link to the anarchist movement of the 1940s, when he began to involve himself just weeks before Sansom, John Hewetson, Richards and Marie Louise Berneri were arrested for their anti-war writing in War Commentary, as Tom Brown and the syndicalists planned a takeover of the stricken publication, where splits that would rock the movement for decades to come began
Born on April 20th, 1928, he was among the last to remember a Britain at war with fascism, although too young to be called up a principled horror of war and bombs would infuse his work ever after.
Though he was known first as a Bradfordian and then for 65 years as a Londoner, Donald Rooum’s first steps as an anarchist were actually taken via a Kent hop-picking project in the autumn of 1944. The son of a left-leaning mother and trade unionist father in a red city which had produced the very first splash headline of the Communist Daily Worker, the 16-year-old already had links to the Communist Party, briefly held, when he was sent to the fields as part of a Ministry of Food placement scheme.
But he was starting to become disillusioned with the Party’s positions, and on his day off he took a trip to Hyde Park, where he came across an anarchist speaker and was immediately impressed, taking out a subscription to their paper War Commentary (which would revert to the name Freedom from August 1945) in short order. Speaking on a long interview with The Final Straw shortly before his death, he recalled: