War Commentary

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War Commentary
The cover from the 5th May 1945
PublisherFreedom Press
Editorial group
FoundedNovember 1939
Political alignment
Ceased publicationAugust 1945 (relaunched as Freedom)
HeadquartersNewbury Street, London

War Commentary was a British World War II era anti-militarist anti-war anarchist newspaper published fortnightly in London by Freedom Press from 1939 to 1945.[1] The paper was launched as a successor to Revolt! and Spain and the World and was opposed to World War II along anti-capitalist and anti-state lines.[2]

Regular contributors to the paper included Vernon Richards, Marie Louise Berneri, John Hewetson, Philip Sansom, and Ethel Mannin, with John Olday contributing cartoons. Occasional contributors included Tom Brown, Reginald Reynolds, George Woodcock, and Colin Ward.[3]

1945 Freedom Defence Trial[edit]

The British state had been reluctant to take action against Freedom Press and War Commentary, though the government were monitoring the paper while Special Branch and MI5 spied on those involved in the paper.[1][4]

However, as the war coming to a close, police action against the paper increased and in 1945 the four editors of the paper – Berneri, Hewetson, Richards and Sansom – were arrested and charged with conspiring to cause disaffection among members of the armed forces under Defence Regulation 39a. The four day trial at the Old Bailey saw significant press coverage and public controversy.[5][6][7]: 186  The Freedom Defence Committee was launched, which included notable figures such as George Orwell, Simon Watson Taylor, Herbert Read, Harold Laski, Kingsley Martin, Benjamin Britten, Augustus John, and Bertrand Russell.[1] The committee had been formed in part because at the time the National Council for Civil Liberties had been considered a communist front. Richards, Sansom and Hewetson were sentenced to nine months imprisonment, while the charges against Berneri – who was married to Richards – were dropped as legally a wife could not be prosecuted for conspiring with her husband – about which she was reportedly furious.[1]

With Richards, Hewetson and Sansom in prison, Berneri was joined by George Woodcock who together took on editorship of the paper.[8] The court case greatly raised the profile of War Commentary and Freedom Press. While the Freedom Defence Committee continued to organise until disbanding in 1949.

In August 1945 the paper was relaunched as Freedom.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Honeywell, Carissa (August 2015). "Anarchism and the British Warfare State: The Prosecution of the War Commentary Anarchists, 1945". International Review of Social History. 60 (2): 257–284. doi:10.1017/S0020859015000188. ISSN 0020-8590. S2CID 151669269.
  2. ^ "War Commentary: Background". International Institute of Social History. Archived from the original on 9 December 2021. Retrieved 4 May 2022.
  3. ^ Di Paola, Pietro (2011). "'The man who knows his village' Colin Ward and Freedom Press". Anarchist Studies. 19 (2): 22–41. ISSN 0967-3393. Archived from the original on 10 July 2022. Retrieved 4 May 2022.
  4. ^ The Freedom Press Anarchists and H. M. Forces (PDF) (Report). MI5. February 1945. HO 45/25554. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 May 2022. Retrieved 4 May 2022.
  5. ^ Sansom, Philip (6 June 1985). "1945 - The Victory Against Fascism and Freedom Goes To Jail". Freedom. Internet Archive. p. 8. Retrieved 2 May 2022.
  6. ^ Senta, Antonio (2019). "Maria Luisa Berneri Richards". In Guarnieri, Patrizia (ed.). Intellectuals Displaced from Fascist Italy: Migrants, Exiles and Refugees Fleeing for Political and Racial Reasons. Biblioteca di storia. Vol. 34. Translated by Dawkes, Tom. Firenze University Press. doi:10.36253/978-88-6453-872-3. ISBN 978-88-6453-872-3. OCLC 1125084797. S2CID 226874803. Archived from the original on 3 May 2022. Retrieved 4 May 2022.
  7. ^ Goodway, David (2012). Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow: Left-Libertarian Thought and British Writers from William Morris to Colin Ward. Oakland, CA: PM Press. pp. 168–169. ISBN 978-1-60486-669-8.
  8. ^ Antliff, Allan; Adams, Matthew S. (2015). "George Woodcock's Transatlantic Anarchism". Anarchist Studies. 23 (1): 6–14. ISSN 0967-3393.