In 1917 he was one of the leading lights of the Petrograd Federation of Anarchist Communists, and subsequently the Union of Anarcho-Syndicalist Propaganda -Voice of Labour and then of the . He was an active participant in the July and October uprisings against the Provisional Government of Kerensky. He wrote the famous and well known statement Why I Am An Anarchist on 23rd October 1917 in the paper Vol’nyi Kronshtadt. During the Civil War, he was a leading light in the Moscow bakers union, a member of the Secretariat of the Russian Anarcho-Syndicalists (1918) and of the Secretariat of the Moscow Workers’ Union of Anarchists (1920-1922), and of the Provisional Executive Bureau of the Russian Confederation of Anarchist-syndicalists(1920-1921). He and other Moscow anarchist-communists and anarcho-syndicalists united to set up the Moscow Union of Anarcho-Syndicalists-Communists in early 1919.
Pavlov was repeatedly elected by workers to the Moscow City Soviet. When the Communist regime attempted to replace delegates to the bakers’ union with their own appointees, the bakers revolted and threatened to stop work. When the Cheka attempted to arrest Pavlov, the elected candidate, the bakers surrounded him, allowing him to get home safely. They subsequently issued an ultimatum which meant that the authorities backed off from deposing their choice of Pavlov.
The Moscow bakers union was a stronghold of anarchism, along with similar sections in Kiev and Kharkhov. It heavily criticised the official Communist unions as controlled by the State and operating to police workers. Alongside the anarchists and working closely with them were SR-Maximalists. Maximalists like Nyushenkov were also elected as delegates by the bakers, as well as one Left SR, I. Steinberg. The bakers worked in two large cooperatives (artels), Freedom of Labour and Anthill.
Writing about the Freedom of Labour cooperative in the anarchist paper The Initiative Pavlov wrote: “There was a developed charter that puts forward the following objectives: the most complete and fair satisfaction of the vital needs of its members. This goal is achieved through co-operative sustainable use of technical means and the comradely use of manpower in accordance with the basic principles of the socialist system. The artel with the same purpose, puts the problem of raising the cultural level of its members through the device of lectures, courses, schools and so on. …Upbringing of the growing generation in the spirit of the new free-communist development. ”
Subsequently the Moscow Trade Union Council, controlled by the regime, made a decision to dissolve the bakers’ union on 17th-18th June 1920. Pavlov and another anarchist, Kamyshov, were arrested, along with Niushenkov. Also arrested were two section members Kusnetsov and Viurgov.
A complete report by Melnitschansky , Chair of the Council appeared in No. 125 of Pravda. “The meeting thereupon adopted the following resolution : Due to the systematic abuse and breach of union discipline by the members of the union committee of the Moscow bakers, it was decided to dissolve the section of the Moscow bakers and include the bakers in the union of the foodstuff workers. The members of the former committee of the section of the bakers’ union, N. Pavlov, Kamyshov, Niushenkov, Viurgov and Kusnetsov are excluded from the union movement and shall, furthermore, be held to answer before a judiciary board. They lose their right to speak before any assembly and can never more be elected to a responsible post in the unions.”
Pavlov was driven from holding positions in the union and of the mandate of delegate to the Moscow Soviet.
Pavlov’s home at 18 Bolshoi Cheryshevsky was raided by the Cheka on October 24th , 1920 when a meeting of anarchists took place there. Pavlov was arrested along with Volin who had only just been released from a Cheka prison, and fifty others. Later on December 1st of that year he, Volin and all the participants in a conference of anarcho-syndicalists in Kharkhov were arrested by the Cheka.
On February 8th 1921 , learning of the grave condition of Kropotkin, he went with Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman and Alexander Schapiro to visit him. Unfortunately the train was delayed and Kropotkin died one hour before they arrived. Pavlov was subsequently heavily involved in the committee to prepare for Kropotkin’s funeral. He can be seen in the short film dedicated to the funeral which has recently re-emerged.
Later on June 8th of the same tear, Pavlov was arrested with Vasily Lukich Panyushkin,(1) the Kronstadt sailor. He was exiled for a year to the mouth of the North Dvina river.
Pavlov’s various spells in prison had severely affected his health, and the constant pressure and recurring arrests forced him to withdraw from the anarchist movement. However this did not stop him from being arrested as an “anarchist underground fighter” in 1930 and exiled to Tashkent in Central Asia for three years, where he soon died on July 29th 1932.
By Afed Nick Heath
(1) Panyushkin , born in 1887 emigrated to St Petersburg, where he worked as a tool-maker. He joined the Bolsheviks in 1907. He later was drafted into the Navy and was a leading light in the revolt of the Kronstadt sailors in February 1917. He left the Party in disgust in 1921, forming his own Workers and Peasants Socialist Party. After his arrest he was sentenced to two years hard labour. He later rejoined the Communist Party, was again arrested in 1937 and served over 10 years more in prison, dying in 1960.
He was born Vero Recchioni in London in 1915. He was educated at Emanuel School, and Kings College London, where he trained as a civil engineer. He helped his father Emidio Recchioni with propaganda work against Mussolini, was arrested in Paris in January 1935 and extradited from France. In 1936, he published in collaboration with Camillo Berneri, a bilingual anarchist and antifascist, the paper Italia Libera/Free Italy.
Richards founded and edited Spain and the World, which became Revolt in 1939, and eventually was followed by War Commentary 1939–1945, all filling the gap left by the cessation of Freedom in 1932, and the title naturally reverted to Freedom from 1945. With his co-editors Philip Sansom and John Hewetson, he was tried at the Old Bailey and imprisoned for nine months in 1945 for conspiring to publish an article allegedly inciting soldiers to disaffect from their duty or allegiance. (Marie-Louise Berneri was excluded from the indictment because spouses are legally incapable of conspiring with each other.) He was a conscientious objector during the war. He continued as editor of Freedom until 1964, and ran Freedom Press for longer. Among his publications were Lessons of the Spanish Revolution (1953), Errico Malatesta – Life and Ideas (1965) and “Protest Without Illusions”, a critique of CND (1981). He was a personal friend and official photographer of George Orwell and a close friend of fellow Anarchist writer, Colin Ward.
Richards was involved in a long-running dispute with fellow and former contributor to Freedom Albert Meltzer which entangled many of their associates and the organisations with which they were involved and continued after both their deaths. Although the feud started in a dispute arising from the possibility of Meltzer’s Wooden Shoe Press moving into Freedom premises, there were also political differences. Meltzer advocated a more firebrand and proletarian variety of anarchism and often denounced Richards and the Freedom collective as “liberals”.
Vernon Richards returned to Franco’s Spain in the late 1950s. He was of the view that tourism would act as catalyst of change, opening up a hitherto closed society. Working for the Wayfarers Travel Agency he escorted the first British Tourists to the Catalan fishing village of L’Escala (Girona Province) in 1957. He took a series of photos documenting the life of the village and its inhabitants at that time. A book of these photos (Vernon Richards. L’Escala, 1957–61. La visió d’un estranger −31 fotografies- (Aj. l’Escala, 1999) was published by the Municipality of La Escala in 1999. He is still well remembered (2013) by many people in the town.
In his later life, Richards became interested in Bio-Dynamic gardening, based on the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. Richards ran a Bio-Dynamic smallholding near boxford, north of Colchester from the 1970s up to his death. Richards died in Hadleigh, Suffolk in 2001. His publications include
-Lessons Of The Spanish Revolution
-The impossibilities of social democracy
-Protest without Illusions
-George Orwell At Home (and Among the Anarchists). Essays and Photographs
-Why Work? Arguments for the Leisure Society
-Violence and Anarchism
He was born in Ukrainian in 1891, died in Mexico 1956. He is notably known for the assassination of a police chief responsible for the killings of workers.
Szymon Radowicki (more usually known in Argentina as Simon Radowitzky) was born on either the 10th of September or November 1891 into a workers family in the Jewish community in the little Ukrainian village of Stepanice (Stapanesso).
The family moved to the industrial city of Ekaterinoslav, because Simon’s father wanted his children to get a good education, and Simon received a rudimentary knowledge of reading, writing and maths. At the age of 10 he had to leave school to work as a blacksmith’s apprentice because of his family’s poverty. He had to sleep on a hard cot under his master’s dining table. From here, he heard the revolutionary conversations of his master’s daughter and her friends.
At the age of 14, he got work in a hardware factory. He took part in his first strike for shorter hours, but was wounded in the chest by a sabre wielded by a Cossack at a street demonstration. He was forced to lie in bed for 6 months of recuperation. He was then sentenced to four months imprisonment for the distribution of leaflets. In 1905, during the revolutionary events, and despite being still only 15 years old, he was elected second secretary of the soviet of the factory where he worked. With the repression that followed the 1905 Revolution, Simon was forced into exile to escape being deported to Siberia.
He arrived in Argentina in March 1908, where he got work as a mechanic. He read the anarchist press there, in particular La Protesta, the paper of the FORA, the anarcho- syndicalist union that organised among the workers. He associated with a group of Russian anarchist exiles that included the intellectuals Petrov, Karaschin, Ragapelov, Scutz and Buwitz and lived in a tenement with some of these. On the 1st of May 1909, he participated in the big workers’ demonstration in the Plaza Lorea. A cavalry detachment under the command of the police chief Colonel Ramon Falcon charged the crowd and twelve workers were killed and 100 seriously wounded. In the following “Red Week” Falcon pursued his terror against the workers. The police began to fan an anti-Semitic campaign against “Russian Jewish instigators”.
Radowitzky, like the German Wilckens was a gentle soul and advocated the use of as little violence as possible in the revolutionary struggle. Like Wilckens, he was horrified and disgusted by the murders of workers and proposed to act. Falcon was returning from the funeral of the prison service, when Radowitzky, lying in wait along the route, threw a bomb into his coach. Falcon and his secretary were mortally wounded. Radowitzky was apprehended not far away. At his trial, the public prosecutor asked for the death penalty. Radowitzky’s cousin was able to produce a birth certificate that showed that Simon was only 18 and thus was excused the death penalty. The judge sentenced him to indefinite imprisonment, and to be put in solitary on bread and water for 20 days near the anniversary of Falcon’s death.
Radowitzky gained the respect of both prisoners and jailers in the National Penitentiary where he was incarcerated. Following a breakout of 13 prisoners that included 2 famous anarchists, Radowitzky was transferred to the dreadful prison of Ushuaia in Patagonia in 1911. He was one of 62 prisoners transported there in the coalbunker of a ship. At the end of the voyage the prisoners were blackened with coal dust and their ankles ulcerated by leg- irons.
At Ushuaia, Radowitzky showed immense strength of character. He stood up to all the humiliations and indignities meted out, and moreover, became the spokesperson of all the prisoners, leading hunger strikes and “protest choirs”. When the prison officials realised his standing among the prisoners they increased their torments. Lanterns were swung in front of his face every half hour at night. He was anally raped by the deputy governor and 3 warders in 1918.
When the anarchist movement in Buenos Aires heard this, they launched a campaign, covering the walls with messages demanding his freedom and publishing a pamphlet on the treatment he had received. Radowitzky “the martyr of Usuaia” became the subjects of songs sung by Creole payadores (songsters) at workers’ meetings and assemblies. The liberal press took up the call for his freedom, but it was not forthcoming. Tired of waiting, some anarchists planned his escape. In league with a smuggler, they got Radowitzky on board his schooner.
But the Chilean Navy intercepted them and Radowitzky was returned to prison after just 23 days of freedom. He was punished with solitary confinement and half rations up to January 1921.
The campaign to secure his release continued. Finally in 1930 after 20 years of hell, Radowitzky was released. Expelled from Argentina, he took refuge in neighbouring Uruguay, again taking up the work of a mechanic.
His involvement with the anarchist movement there and the struggle against the dictator Gabriel Terras in 1933 led to his arrest and deportation to the isolated Isla de Flores.
When the Spanish Revolution broke out, Simon headed for Spain in 1936. By now he was in his mid-forties and in poor health. He went to the Aragon front where he fought with the anarchist 28th Division led by Gregorio Jover. Here he met Antonio Casanova, originally from Galicia in North Spain, who had emigrated to Argentina at an early age and had been one of the founders of the Federación Anarco-Comunista Argentina in 1935. The two became good friends.
Later Simon worked in Barcelona for the cultural division of the mass anarcho-syndicalist union, the CNT. At a time of strict rationing he happened to get hold of a bottle of milk that he immediately gave to a pregnant woman that he felt needed it more than him.
With Franco’s victory, he had to flee to France, where like so many others, he was interned in the concentration camp at St. Cyprien. From there, he got away to Mexico. Here, a poet managed to get him a job as a clerk at the Uruguayan Consulate. At the end of the World War, he worked in the Mexican branch of the International Rescue and Relief Committee to help political refugees in Europe, alongside the German anarchist Augustin Souchy, sending CARE food packages. He wrote for anarchist publications in Mexico.
Simon’s last years were plagued by ill health. The prison years had taken their toll. When not in hospital, he lived in a shabby attic of an apartment building.
He died of a heart attack on February 29, 1956 whilst working in a toy factory.
“With Radowitzky’s passing one of the last social revolutionaries of the Russian Revolution of 1905, one of the finest idealists of the international labour movement was gone.” – Augustin Souchy.
Postscript: In November 2003, a popular assembly, meeting in the Plaza named after Ramon Falcon, voted to change its name to that of Simon Radowitzky.
Taken from Organise! Magazine of the Anarchist Federation Edited by libcom
Since 1999, Alston has produced four issues of the zine, anarchist Panther Zine. He refers to himself as a post modern anarchist.
In “Beyond Nationalism, but Not Without It”, Alston rejects traditional anarchist dogma and says “Every time I hear someone talk about my people as if we are just some ‘working class’ or ‘proletariat’ I want to get as far away from that person or group as possible, anarchist, Marxist, whatever”. Opponents of this perspective within the Anarchist People of Color camp insist that opposing authority yet placing the needs of people of color above others represents racism, that black nationalism would mean using force to exclude people based on the color of their skin and is utterly incompatible with anarchism, and that one cannot deny a “white nationalism” if one is to have a “black nationalism” and thus it is best that neither exist. While Alston supported a nationalist position in the first issue of his publication, it was a far milder version of the position.
Alston occasionally speaks at events as diverse as animal rights events and union activist conferences. He currently resides in the U.S.
“When we talk about property, State, masters, government, laws, courts, and police, we say only that we don’t want any of them”.
Luigi Galleani was a major figure in the anarchist movement, specifically among Italian anarchists, known as an unflinching advocate of propaganda by the deed. Galleani savored insurrectionary anarchism, seeing the Idea (as they termed anarchism) as a crusade and anarchists as martyrs pursuing holy vengeance and retribution against State, Capital, and Church.
Galleani was most influential Italian anarchist of the early 20th century. He was an accomplished radical orator, strongly charismatic, and inspired countless followers among his Italian comrades. He edited the principal Italian anarchist paper, Cronaca Sovversiva, which ran for fifteen years until its eventual suppression by the US government.
Born to middle class parents, Galleani became an anarchist in his late teen years while studying law at the University of Turin. He refused to practice law, which he now held in contempt, and turned his attentions to anarchist propaganda. He was forced to flee to France to evade threatened prosecution in Italy, but was expelled from France for taking part in a May Day demonstration.
Galleani later lived briefly in Switzerland, where he spent some time with students of the University of Geneva before again being expelled as a dangerous agitator, this time for arranging a celebration in honor of the Haymarket martyrs. He went back to Italy only to run afoul of the police again as a result of his insurgent activities. His return to Italy ended with his arrest for charges of conspiracy, where he spent five years in jail, exiled on the island of Pantelleria, off the coast of Sicily.
Escaping Pantelleria in 1900, Galleani fled to Egypt, staying among Italian comrades for a year until threatened with extradition, whereupon he fled to London. He was 40 years old at this time, and arrived at the United States in 1901, barely a month after the assassination of President McKinley at the hand of a self-proclaimed anarchist.
Settling in Paterson, New Jersey, Galleani assumed editorship of La Questione Sociale, the leading Italian anarchist periodical in America. In 1902, the Paterson silk workers engaged in a strike, and Galleani threw his oratorical talents in with the strikers, urging workers to declare a general strike and overcome capitalism, spellbinding his audiences with his rhetorical flourish and clarity of thought.
When police opened fire on the strikers, Galleani was wounded in the face and was later indicted for inciting a riot. However, he managed to escape to Canada before being apprehended by the authorities.
“Continue the good war. . .the war that knows neither fear nor scruples, neither pity nor truce.”
Galleani later slipped back into the United States via Vermont, living under an alias among his comrades, who by now regarded him with zealous devotion.
It was during this period that he founded Cronaca Sovversiva on June 6, 1903, what historian Paul Avrich has described as “one of the most important and ably edited periodicals in the history of the anarchist movement.” (Sacco and Vanzetti, pg. 50).
While its circulation never exceeded four to five thousand, this periodical was of considerable influence within the movement and held sway wherever there were Italian anarchists–from North and South America, Europe, to North Africa and Australia.
Galleani was captured by authorities in 1906 after a socialist (Giacinto Menotti Serrati, editor of Il Proletario) revealed Galleani’s whereabouts in the wake of lengthy personal dispute he had with Galleani. Galleani was tried in 1907 for his role in the 1902 strike, but the trial ended in a hung jury and he was set free.
Galleani’s force of personality as a living example of revolutionary anarchism won him more converts than any single individual in the movement. A prolific writer, he produced hundreds of pamphlets, articles, and essays, reaching tens to hundreds of thousands of readers on several continents, although he never wrote a full-length book.
Galleani merged Kropotkin’s idea of mutual aid with unfettered insurgency, defending communist anarchism against authoritarian socialism and reformism, speaking of the value of spontaneity, variety, autonomy and independence, direct action and self-determination in a world of industrialized conformity.
He spoke of militant anarchism, advocating the overthrow of the government and capitalism by violent means, including use of dynamite and assassination as the chosen methods of bringing this change about. Galleani detested partial, incremental reforms, seeing them as betraying anarchist ideals.
He later relocated to Lynn, Massachusetts in 1912, where he continued his polemics unabated, urging violent reprisals against the enemies of the anarchist movement. By this time, Galleani’s followers, almost all manual laborers, numbered in the thousands, coming to America from all parts of Italy.
The affinity groups of Galleanists were not mere satellites orbiting around Galleani; conversely, they were fiercely independent and were awash with squabbles, disputes, and rivalries. A dangerous dynamic had grown among the Galleanists, as each affinity group sought to outdo the other in revolutionary acts.
Paradoxically, Galleani was, despite his proclamations in favor of liberty and diversity, absolutely intolerant of dissent, castigating those who challenged him as allies of State and Capital, and even accusing them of being traitors and spies!
The Italian anarchists, particularly the Galleanists, were deeply suspicious of formal organizations, seeing them as likely to turn into hierarchical, authoritarian organizations. As a result, they played little role in the union movement, although they did participate in strikes and demonstrations. This shortcoming on their part would prove to isolate them from the rest of working society.
La Salute è in voi! (“Health is in You!”) was a 46-page bomb manual adapted from a guide to explosives from a chemist friend of Galleani’s, Professor Ettore Molinari. Galleani’s handbook was characterized as accurate and practical by the New York City bomb squad, but this turned out not to be the case, as several unfortunate anarchists soon discovered–there was an error in the formula to nitroglycerine that had to be emended.
This work of Galleani’s was eventually put to use by his followers (the first instance of its use occurred in 1914). Three anarchists were blown up while creating a bomb with which to destroy John D. Rockefeller’s home in Tarrytown, New York (in retaliation for the Ludlow Massacre). Later that year, several bombings occurred in different areas of New York by Galleanists, including several police stations.
Faccia a facciao col nemico (“Face to Face with the Enemy,” 1914) was a collection of Galleani’s articles defending propaganda by the deed and exalting the anarchists who practiced it. This book was described the the Justice Department as “the glorification of the most anarchistic assassins the world has ever seen” and even possessing this book marked one as a dangerous subversive in the eyes of the government.
One Galleanist, Nestor Dondoglio, a chef by profession, poisoned some two hundred guests at a banquet in 1916 to honor Archbishop Mundelein by lacing the soup with arsenic. None of the guests died–Dondoglio, under the alias of Jean Crones, had used too much poison, which prompted the victims to vomit it back up. Dondoglio was never apprehended.
The Galleanists engaged in numerous high-profile acts of terrorism, including a systematic bomb plot with thirty targets, all high officials or wealthy people directly or indirectly responsible for persecuting anarchists and workers; none of whom were actually hurt by the bombs — out of sheer luck, not for lack of trying on the part of the Galleanists.
Another Galleanist, Mario Buda, to protest the indictment of Sacco and Vanzetti, bombed Wall Street (September 16, 1920, pictured below), leaving 30 dead, over 200 seriously injured, and creating a conflagration causing $2 million in property damage (including demolishing J.P. Morgan’s office).
These bombings caused a panic among the authorities that served as the main impetus for the Red Scare, and led to the unparalleled expansion of the FBI’s powers. In fact, one of J. Edgar Hoover’s first cases with the FBI was tracking down the bombs carried by the Galleanists.
The authorities invoked the idea of a giant anarchist “conspiracy” to overthrow the government, which was actually false. The infamous “Palmer Raids” whereby the government raided and jailed radicals across the country, were a direct response to the Galleanists’ terrorism (Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer being one of their bombing targets). The American Civil Liberties Union was created in reaction to the unconstitutional Palmer Raids.
Between 1919 and 1920, hundreds of radicals, including many anarchists, were deported (including Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman), as part of a nationwide reaction against radical insurgency, largely instigated by the bombings of the Galleanists.
Galleani himself was deported in 1919, along with a number of his comrades, forced to leave his wife and children behind. Interestingly, these deportations were not carried out juridically, but instead were done by the Department of Labor, mostly because the courts proved unable to convict anarchists and radicals, either from lack of evidence or from hung juries. The government relied on the executive power of the Labor Department to treat it as an immigration issue, allowing them to bypass the court system entirely.
Galleani arrived in Italy on the eve of Benito Mussolini’s rise to power, and was eventually arrested by the Fascists, who had been provided reports on Galleani by the FBI. Bouncing in and out of jail in Fascist Italy, Galleani never wavered in his opposition to Mussolini’s thugs. He spent the rest of his life under police surveillance, living in exile off the coast of Italy.
Galleani died of a heart attack on November 4, 1931, at the age of 70.
The terrorism of the Galleanists forever created the association in people’s minds that anarchism was synonymous with terrorism–the image of the “bomb-wielding anarchist” grew directly in the wake of the massive Galleanist bomb plot. With Sacco and Vanzetti’s executions in 1927, the anarchist movement in the United States was pronounced dead.
Several books that bear his name are excerpts from Cronaca Sovversiva. The one exception is La Fine dell’anarchismo? (The End of Anarchism?) in which Galleani asserts that Anarchy is far from dead, but in fact is a force to be reckoned with.
Activist, Writer and political agitator, he’s written for ‘Anarchy’ and ‘Xtra’ magazine. In the 80’s he became involved with the group Class War.
He spent his childhood and teens in North London, Islington, and describes his neighbourhood then as (a festering slum). Being sent to the local Catholic primary school, by the age of 7 he had completely rejected the God doctrine, he says “Ironically culminating on his first communion”. Having left school at the age of 16, his childhood was spent in poverty where he learnt to survive. From that he developed a first hand understanding of oppression.
In his mid teens he was heavily influenced by underground press. He had access to a different world and the theory of Anarchism. Having learnt about the Anarchist movements throughout history, he declared himself an Anarchist at 17 years of age. Till this day his perspective on Anarchism is working class, anti authority and revolutionary. In the 1970’s his main political activity was Antifascist, which involved almost exclusively violent confrontation against Fascists and police on the streets. In the early 1980’s he was part of the Brixton riots and other riots across London such as the poll tax disruptions culminating in the famous Trafalgar sq riot. Still not one to miss out on a anti establishment disturbance, he also witnessed the August 2011 London riots first hand located in Hackney.
In the late 80’s he gained a degree in History as a mature student but as an avid reader (has read thousands of books), he says it had no impact on his already formed self taught politics. Having himself been involved in industrial workplace struggle (as one of the strikers in the winter of discontent), he argues against arm chair politicos and says true politics is out on the streets, organising for example in your work place, community etc.
He has a love for seeing the world and his travels include North, West, East and South Africa, India and Ice Land. Despite suffering from many serious chronic conditions throughout his life, has managed to overcome them. His other keen interests are the blues particularly 20’s/30’s blues piano. And he’s a film buff (a genre he has passion for is film Noire), and fondly remembers as a young boy going to watch films on the big screen.
He has 2 books published ‘Anti Fascist’, an account of his experience of fighting the Fash on the streets in the 1970’s and ‘Camden Parasites’ a true story of his brothers life in the lumpen and crime scene (which is also a critique of the Bohemian middle classes). Both books have attained a semi cult status.
He has been retired since 1985 and been involved in actions and protests such as ‘Movement Against the Monarchy’ which was the largest Anti-Monarch demonstration in England in the 21st century. He has lived in London his entire life and has set up an Anarchist library at the London Action Resource Centre aka Larc (in Whitechapel). He also was involved in setting up a monthly social at Larc called Red&Black, and currently (despite being as he says technology phobic) has got a youtube channel (Red&Black TV) where he regularly delivers his opinions on current topical news.
Living minutes away from Algate East station (Tower Hamlets), he describes the rapid gentrification there, as having a front seat on the Manhattanization of london by the global super rich, and the marginalisation of the majority of london from any form of housing security. He has squatted in his younger years and is passionate about housing issues. Most of his close relationships and comrades have been from working class backgrounds, this is an indictment of the british class system he says.
He was a key member of the infamous Whitechapel Anarchist Group (WAG), a highly active local East End group circulating a paper, hosting talks/events and attracting some publicity. He recently participated in the ‘Poor Doors’ and anti ‘Jack the Ripper museum’ demonstrations with Class War. And has frequently done history tours of the East End. He gives talks at social centres in the UK and Europe.
He’s has never given up hope or faith in an Anarchist class struggle based uprising.
90. Ian Bone, labelled ‘the most dangerous man in Britain’ by the Sunday People in 1984, notably founder of the group and newspaper ‘Class War’, Bone is from England and has been an active publisher of anarchist newspapers and an outspoken orator since the 1960s up to the present day.Ian Bone was born in the post war years to socialist parents with a proud working class heritage. He grew up with an awareness of the inequality and injustice in society, something reinforced by the experiences of his father during his years as a butler. Stories of the contempt that the rich held towards their servants, alongside his family’s political values, resulted in that contempt running both ways.
He studied politics at Swansea University and established the Swansea Anarchists in 1966, many of whom were present in the Grosvenor Square clashes with the police outside the US Embassy in 1968 following an Anti-War demonstration in London. After University in 1971 he was involved with the Swansea Solidarity Group and was part of the defence campaign for the Stoke Newington Eight producing the Swansea SN8 Bulletin as part of the Angry Brigade trial.
In 1977 he produced a 20 page pamphlet entitled the Swansea Mafia, printing and distributing 5,000 copies in one night, it ignited local interest exposing the dodgy dealings of the Council and resulting in the collapse of Swansea’s Labour Council as five of it’s Councillors faced prison sentences on corruption charges. Following this success the local people’s paper Alarm was established, written and distributed in rough working class pubs, it’s initial print run started with 50 copies which grew over two years to a distribution of six thousand a week. In 1979 Alarm stood candidates in the elections for Swansea District Council the same year that they also flour bombed Councillors in the Guildhall from the public gallery.
Moving to London Bone produced (with the help of friend Jimmy Grimes) the first copy of the Class War paper in 1983, a confrontational style newspaper aimed at the Crass punk anarchists, with the hope of moving them away from the stranglehold of pacifism and allying them with the inner city rioters of the early eighties. The success of the first edition quickly saw the formation of the London Class War group (which included anti-fascist Martin Lux) who regularly produced and distributed the paper. Bone was famously dubbed ‘The Most Dangerous Man in Britain’ in 1984 by British tabloid newspaper The Sunday People. In 1985 the group held a Bash The Rich march on Henley Regatta and by 1986 had formed into a nationwide Federation. The outspoken and angry style of Class War led to Bone becoming an infamous figure in the politics of the 1980s and in 1991 he appeared on the Jonathan Ross show. Ian Bone left the Class War Federation in 1992, briefly setting up the short lived rival Class War Organisation, the CW Federation was ended by it’s members in the summer of 1997 though a small group continued as London Class War.
In October 1994, Ian Bone organised the Anarchy in the UK festival, billed as 10 days that shook the world and described in the festival program as an attempt to have the largest gathering of international anarchists. In 1997, Bone helped to set up the Movement Against the Monarchy. With them he helped to organise the biggest Anti-Monarchist march Britain saw in the 20th century. Around 1500 people were estimated to have attended this march.
Now living in Bristol Bone started the Vote Nobody Campaign in 2001 which encouraged residents in Easton, Bristol to turn out for the local election and vote for ‘Nobody’. In that same year he started The Bristolian, a scandal sheet distributed for free in bars and pubs, and by Bone himself in Bristol’s Corn Street, the news-sheet gained a weekly circulation of over 15,000. He wrote much of the paper himself, but was assisted by local journalist Roy Norris, and by his long-term partner Jane Nicholl. In 2003, the success of The Bristolian led to the Bristolian Party, which stood in the local elections in an attempt to mobilise widespread discontent with Bristol City Council’s policies. The Bristolian was runner-up for the Paul Foot Award for investigative journalism in 2005.
On 6 December 2006, Bone appeared on Channel 4’s current affairs discussion show Starkey’s Last Word, alongside Ed Vaizey and Harriet Harman, discussing the Iraq war. In it, Bone contended that the solution to the failing war was that British soldiers serving in Iraq should take part in mass desertion, that 10 Downing Street should be blockaded on May Day (International Workers’ Day), and that the two speakers beside him, both of whom were pre-war advocates of the Iraq invasion, should be put on trial for war crimes.
In 2006 he wrote his auto-biography Bash The Rich: True Life Confessions of an Anarchist in the UK and sold the film rights for ten pounds in a pub to film maker Greg Hall. Returning to London in November 2007 Bone organised a “Bash the Rich” march through Notting Hill with the aim of marching on David Cameron’s house but the demonstration was heavily policed. It marked Ian’s return as he re-joined the London Class War group while also maintaining his highly successful wordpress blog up until 2015.
Today Ian Bone still continues to be as active and as fiery as ever. He most recently has been involved with the Class War picket at the Poor Doors of 1 Commercial Road, the Class War Party standing candidates in the 2015 Election and the still ongoing Class War Women’s Death Brigade campaign to close the Jack The Ripper Museum on Cable Street.
89. Maria Silva Cruz, was born into a family of day labourers and charcoal burners in the impoverished village of Casas Viejas in Andalucia on 20 April 1915.
Her father Juan Silva Gonzalez and her uncle Jeronimo were in the CNT. Her grandmother read anarchist novels out loud to her as a young girl.Antonio Cabanas Salvador – Gallinito – was a member of the Libertarian Youth in Casas Viejas. He was 27 in 1932, raised partly in Cadiz where he had come in contact with the anarchist movement. He taught the ideas of anarchism to a group of ten young women in Casas Viejas in 1932. He went out with Maria. She earned her nickname La Libertaria because of her red and black neckerchief. This shocked the Guardia Civil sergeant in the village who ordered her to take it off. She refused, upon which he tore it off. This did not intimidate the young women, which included her sister Catalina, her first cousin Catalina and her close friend Manolita Lago. By the end of the year they had organised a group called Amor y Armonia (Love and Harmony).
During the insurrection in Casas Viejas in 1933 (which is eloquently documented in The Anarchists of Casas Viejas by Jerome Mintz) she with Manuel Lago and Gallinito paraded the red and black flag through the town, singing revolutionary songs. Libertarian communism was proclaimed in the village. When the Guardia Civil surrounded her family’s house and killed her grandfather, “Seisdedos” (Six Fingers), setting fire to the house, she ran out, her clothes and hair ablaze, with one of her neighbour’s children shouting “Don’t shoot! It’s a boy”. She fled to her mother’s house. She was arrested on January 14th, 1933. She was imprisoned for two weeks at Medina Sidonia. She was arrested again at Medina and then transferred to Cadiz where she remained for a month.
There was massive public outrage over how the authorities had brutally crushed a rebellion of poorly armed peasants and had then shot many in cold blood. Maria was released with other anarchist prisoners.
Her mother went to Cadiz and Maria went with her. The anarchist militant Miguel Perez Cordon began to court her and after 2 months they went to Madrid to live in free union (Miguel edited the magazine CNT there). They had a son in early May 1935. Later they both returned to Andalusia. In July 1936, the couple was living in Ronda. When the fascists occupied the area Cordon took refuge in the mountains. Maria stayed at home with her son, who was a few months old. The Guardia Civil arrested her, snatching her son violently from her arms. She was shot at dawn on 23 August 1936 with two others
Miguel Perez Cordon was shot by the Francoists on the last day of the Civil War at Cartagena on 5th March 1939. Gallinito fell fighting in an anarchist militia column.
The son of Maria and Miguel is fighting for her remains to be exhumed and recognized.
88. Benjamin Fletcher, an early 20th-century African-American labor leaders in the revolutionary IWW. The union that he helped lead for a decade, Local 8, the largest, most powerful, and longest lasting interracial union of the World War I era. He stands as a rare example of interracial equality in the early 20th century.
He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1890. He worked as a day laborer and a longshoreman, loading and unloading ships. Fletcher joined the IWW and the Socialist Party around 1912. He first heard IWW soapbox speakers addressing working class audiences in riverside neighborhoods. Shortly thereafter, Fletcher became a leader of the IWW in Philadelphia, beginning a long career in public speaking that won him a great many accolades for his fine voice and incisive arguments for overthrowing capitalism.
As America formally entered World War I, Philadelphia became one of the most important ports for the war effort. Though they engaged in but a single work stoppage (Local 8’s anniversary was celebrated annually with a one-day strike), the federal government targeted Local 8’s leaders, Fletcher included, in its national raids on the IWW. Demonstrating his importance and singularity, Fletcher was the only African American among the hundred members of the IWW tried in 1918 for treasonous activities.
While no direct evidence was provided against Fletcher, Local 8, or even the IWW (most of the “evidence” were statements of the IWW’s anti-capitalist-beliefs, not any planned actions to interrupt the war effort), all of the defendants were found guilty—the jury came back in under an hour, all guilty on all counts. Fletcher was fined $30,000 and sentenced to ten years in the Leavenworth federal penitentiary in Kansas. As the sentences were announced, the Wobbly leader Bill Haywood reported that, “Ben Fletcher sidled over to me and said: ‘The Judge has been using very ungrammatical language.’ I looked at his smiling black face and asked: ‘How’s that, Ben? He said: ‘His sentences are much too long.’” While in jail, Fletcher’s release became a celebrated cause among African American radicals, championed by The Messenger, a monthly co-edited by A. Philip Randolph. Fletcher served around three years, before his sentence was commuted, along with most of the other jailed Wobblies, in 1922.
After his release, Fletcher remained committed to the IWW, though never played as active a role as he had prior to his imprisonment. He stayed involved in Local 8 but generally remained in the background. He still gave occasional speeches, on tours and street corners into the 1930s. Fletcher’s health failed while still young, typical of longshoremen and other manual laborers. He also moved to Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn with his wife, where he worked as a building superintendent, until he died in 1949. He is buried in Brooklyn, New York.
87. Jonathan Pollak, a founder of ‘Anarchists Against the Wall’, which protests the Israeli West Bank barrier. A direct action group composed of Israeli anarchists and anti-authoritarians who oppose the construction of the Israeli Gaza Strip barrier and Israeli West Bank barrier. The AAtW calls the West Bank barrier the ‘Apartheid Wall’. Although AAtW has no official membership, it claims to have around 100 active participants who coordinate with Palestinians and groups like the International Solidarity Movement to organize nonviolent marches, civil disobedience, and direct action.
Born in 1985, his father is actor Yossi Pollak, and his brothers Avshalom and Shai also work in the film industry. He grew up in Tel Aviv and works in graphic design. As a teenager, he participated in protests in Budrus in 2003 and 2004. In the mid-2000s, he joined protests against the barrier wall in Bil’in.
Pollak was struck in the head by a tear gas canister fired by an Israeli soldier in April 2005, briefly losing consciousness and requiring stitches. He later accused Israeli forces of violating their regulations by deliberately firing the canister at him. An IDF spokesperson stated that the canister had first struck a rock and then hit Pollak on a ricochet.
In October 2010, Pollak was fined $1,250 for participating in an illegal demonstration against the barrier; Palestinian activist Abdullah Abu Rahma was sentenced to a year in prison at the same hearing. On 27 December 2010, he was sentenced to three months in prison for illegal assembly for having participated in a January 2008 bicycle ride protest. A prison term for illegal assembly was an unusually severe sentence, attributed by one official to three previous convictions of Pollak’s on protest-related charges. He declined an offer by the court to have his sentence commuted to a community service requirement. Pollak was released from prison in February 2011 after having his sentence reduced for good behavior, and returned to demonstrating at the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh within the week.
After the death of Jawaher Abu Rahmahin January 2011, allegedly from tear gas, Pollak criticized Israel’s use of the gas against Palestinians, stating, “This death was caused by the fact that they are using tear gas that was banned in Europe in the 60s and 70s, because it is lethal. But here, on Palestinians, they continue using it”. In May 2012, Pollak protested at the trial of Bassem al-Tamimi, a Nabi Saleh protest leader accused of organizing stone throwers and holding illegal demonstrations. In December, Pollak criticized the Israel Defense Forces for shooting Mustafa Tamimi, a Nabi Saleh resident throwing stones at a military vehicle, in the face with a tear gas canister; Tamimi later died from his injuries.
Pollak supports the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions(BDS) movement against Israel in protest of occupation of Palestinian territories. He has stated, “‘Ni’lin, just like Soweto, needs the world to stand behind it and generate significant pressure. … In Palestine, just as in South Africa, a strong BDS movement can make that change.”He has defended Palestinian stone throwing against the occupation as a moral act of self-empowerment.
87. Maria Roda, “Who knows poverty more than woman? Let’s show to the man who suppresses our will, who does not allow us to think and act freely, who considers us inferior to him, imposing on us his authority, as father, brother and husband, and, believing himself stronger than us, tramples us, oppresses us, and sometimes even hits us …. Let’s show him that we want freedom and equality too”.
“I pity this guard. I pity him because he barely earns his bread, because he’s a poor devil. But it impresses me to see him go after other poor devils, his brothers…let him think about this.”
They each received three months imprisonment for this as well as heavy fines. Zo remarked: “It is said over and over that Milan is a little Paris. The magistrates of Milan prove this, at least on one point; they are every bit as repugnant as their Parisian confreres”.
In Milan Maria met Malatesta at an anarchist congress, as well as the Spanish Catalan anarchist Pedro Esteve, who was later to be her life long companion. At some point Maria moved to France. There she was arrested along with other members of an anarchist group, following the assassination of President Sadi Carnot of France by one of the group’s members, Sante Caserio. Maria had gone to school with Caserio where both had been taught by the fiery socialist poet Ada Negri. On her release she eventually immigrated to the United States with her father and a younger sister in 1892 after stays in Portugal and England. She and her father joined the Gruppo Diritto all’Esistenza which included Maria Barbieri and other Italian anarchist immigrants. She began to organise textile workers in Paterson. Emma Goldman heard her speak alongside Voltairine de Cleyre and the English anarchist Charles Mowbray at a meeting set up to welcome Goldman home following her release from Blackwell’s Island. Roda addressed the Italian comrades present in the hall to welcome Emma home after her term of imprisonment. A skilled orator and organizer she also wrote for La Questione Sociale, organ of the Paterson group.
Maria helped found a gruppo anarchico feminile (anarchist women’s group) called the Gruppo Emancipazione della Donna (Women’s Emancipation Group) in 1897. Announcing that women were meeting separately in La Question Sociale she wrote “and it is right because we feel and suffer; we too want to immerse ourselves in the struggle against this society, because we too feel from birth, the need to be free, to be equal”. It had connections with French feminists through a journal called Feminist Action started by Louise Réville. Over the next decade into the early 1900s the group established links with a similar woman’s group in New York City and established a network with other women workers throughout the States and internationally. This included in Philadelphia and Boston and among the mining communities of Pennsylvania, Illinois and Vermont. They discussed and wrote about the specific problems and struggles of women whilst uniting with men in the common struggle of the workers movement and the anarchist movement. Italian anarchist women formed one of the first locals of the Industrial Workers of the World in Paterson.
Maria moved in with Pedro Esteve who along with the Italian Pietro Gori had established La Questione Sociale.
While raising eight children and working in the silk mills, Maria and Pedro became leading lights within the anarchist and workers movement in Paterson. Maria and Pedro regularly went to Tampa and New York City to help the struggles of Puerto Rican, Mexican, Cuban, Spanish, and Italian textile, cigar, and dock workers.
86. Goliardo Fiaschi! In 1943, the young Italian anarchist falsified his birth certificate – to make himself seem older than his 13 years – and joined the wartime Italian partisans. Armed with a captured rifle almost as big as himself, he accompanied the women who regularly crossed the Apennines on foot to carry food from Parma, Reggio or Modena, some 150 miles away, back to the starving inhabitants of his Tuscan birthplace, Massa di Carrara. In 1944, he was adopted as a mascot by the Costrignano Brigade, and, in that role, entered Modena as standard-bearer on its liberation in April 1945.
Fiaschi, who has died aged 69, was one of the youngest of the generation of anti- fascist partisans who fought against Mussolini’s rule in Italy and Franco in Spain.
The natives of Carrara are reputedly descendants of Phoenician slaves who quarried marble for Rome. The city is also the cradle of Italian anarchism and a historical centre of rebellion. The fascist years in Italy, from 1922 onwards, were particularly bitter in Carrara. The city itself was twice liberated from the Nazis by anarchist partisans prior to the arrival of allied troops
After the liberation, Fiaschi returned to the quarries, where he had worked from the age of eight, alongside his father and uncle. By the early 1950s, he was involved with the Spanish refugee committee and became friendly with Jose Lluis Facerias, a veteran Spanish anarchist of the Ascaso column in the Spanish civil war, who had been freed from a Francoist jail in 1945 and had lived illegally in Carrara since 1952.
In August 1957, the two men crossed the Pyrenees on bicycles to join the guerrilla struggle against Francoism. They were detected within a fort night; Fiaschi was arrested in a forest hideout and Facerias murdered in a guardia civile ambush in the Barcelona suburbs. After beatings and torture, Fiaschi was brought before a military court in August 1958, where he was sentenced to 20 years and one day in jail.
For more than a decade, in 40 Spanish prisons, Fiaschi sent thousands of postcards, decorated with precisely detailed paintings, to friends and acquaintances. I met him first in one of those jails, and I was to receive those cards throughout the 35 years of our friendship, the last of which arrived only a few weeks be fore his death. With amnesties, he was released in 1966.
He returned to Italy to serve a 10-year prison sentence – passed in absentia, without his knowledge, without any notification of the charges and without representation in court. This conviction was for alleged involvement in a 1957 bank robbery in Monferrato with Facerias. Following an international campaign, he was finally released from prison after 17 years in March 1974.
Fiaschi became a key figure in the local anarchist movement. He ran a bookshop and cultural circle, and was a prime mover in the occupa tion of the Germinal Centre located, embarrassingly for the city fathers, in the most prestigious building in Carrara’s main square. Occupied by anarchist partisans during the liberation in 1945, the building had been the defiant focus of anarchist activity until 1990, when the local authority finally wrested it back.
After last year’s May Day celebrations in Carrara, which he had always helped organise, Fiaschi announced that he was terminally ill and was preparing to end his life. Persuaded to shelve this plan, instead he went into hospital saying: “There was a time when suicide would have been the right thing. I could have left my body to science and for the advancement of medicine. Now, I must surrender myself alive, so they can study me. I realise they will carry out all sorts of experiments on me, but, since my death is inevitable anyway, I will try to be equal to the task.”
Brought home after 14 months in a cancer ward, Fiaschi died the following day. His coffin was borne around the town on the shoulders of friends, followed by a band, and anarchists from all over Italy carrying red and black flags. He was laid to rest beside Gino Lucetti and Steffano Vatteroni, both would- be assassins of Mussolini, and Giuseppe Pinelli, who was defenestrated from police headquarters in Milan in 1969.
Such was the esteem in which Goliardo Fiaschi was held that even the ranks of Tuscany, in the person of the mayor of Carrara, could scarce forbear to cheer with a farewell notice, which ended with the words: “Thanks, Goliardo!”
Written by Stuart Christie
She was given a secular education and at 16 married a revolutionary nobleman who would die in a Russian prison. In order to avoid arrest herself, writes Naomi Shepherd at the Jewish Women’s Archive, she fled “to live clandestinely, first in Kiev and then in Kharkov, often singing in public parks to earn a living.” In Kiev she allied herself with radicals associated with the Land and Liberty party, who fomented peasant uprisings and engaged in terrorist acts against the tsarist authorities. When her colleagues in this armed group were arrested, she managed to escape. Again facing arrest in 1877, she used a false passport to move to Paris, where she joined a Bakuninist anarchist group. Imprisoned in France, she next headed to Italy, where she earned her medical degree (Despite her poverty, she graduated as doctor of medicine in 1885, after having taken additional courses in Turin and Pavia to complete her specialization in obstetrics and gynecology) and set up a gynecological and general medical clinic for poor people that lasted several years. She opened a medical practice in Milan, caring for working women and the poor, but abandoned it in 1891 because of her ill health and because she wished to devote herself to politics. Kuliscioff was a radical feminist for her day, arguing “not only for women’s education and social equality, but for their political rights; she appealed for equal pay for women and protested against women’s exploitation by both their employers and their husbands.” Kuliscioff, was chiefly concerned with the conditions of women in the working class—those whom she came to know intimately through her profession as a doctor—and in this she was very different from most early European feminists, who were overwhelmingly middle class and very often conservative in the political sense. Such ideas were completely new in Italy. Kuliscioff even argued that women should be paid for housework as an occupation, and in this she was ahead of her time, even today. But she never saw women merely as victims of the system. She thought that her own sex was essentially reactionary and conservative, and deplored the lack of solidarity among women from different classes.With her long-time partner Filippo Turati she founded the Milan Socialist League, which evolved into the Italian Socialist party in 1893.Kuliscioff’s death elicited quiet respect from crowds that gathered under her window on the Piazza del Duomo in anticipation of her funeral procession, but the procession itself was disrupted, the flowers and wreaths rudely destroyed, by Fascist thugs. Historian Luigi Salvatorelli bitingly commented: “Fascism did far worse things, but perhaps nothing revealed more clearly its irrevocable moral repugnance.”
84. Jules Bonnot! The son of a factory worker was born in Pont-de-Roide, on 14th October, 1876. His mother died in 1881 and as a teenager was arrested and spent time in prison for assaulting a police officer.
In 1897 Bonnot was conscripted into the French Army. He served three years as a mechanic working on army vehicles. This experience gave him a keen interest in cars. After leaving the army he associated with anarchists. He also developed a terrible temper and in 1907 he hit his boss with an iron bar.
Bonnot escaped to Geneva. He joined a gang that specialized in stealing luxury-cars in France and Switzerland. During one of these operations he accidental killed a fellow gang member. According to Victor Serge: “Joseph the Italian, a little militant with frizzled hair who dreamed of a free life in the bush of Argentina, as far away as possible from the towns, was found murdered on the Melun Road. From the grapevine we gathered that an individualist from Lyons, Bonnot by name (I did not know the man), who had been traveling with him by car, had killed him, the Italian having first wounded himself fumbling with a revolver.”
Bonnot decided to move to Paris where he soon formed a gang that included local anarchists, Raymond Callemin, André Soudy, Octave Garnier, Stephen Monier, René Valet and Edouard Carouy. The author of The Bonnot Gang has argued: “His early flirtation with anarchism, which might once have been dismissed simply as youthful exuberance, now became a fully- fledged liaison but although his turn to crime may well have been influenced by his new-found anarchist contacts, he must have felt that he had very little to lose; he’d worked for years, done his military service, tried to support a family, and what had he got at the end of it? – nothing. Ideas and theories on the one hand, social experience on the other, it was a dialectical process that produced illegalism, and each individual’s particular set of circumstances that produced illegalists.”
These men shared Bonnot’s illegalist philosophy that is reflected in these words: “The anarchist is in a state of legitimate defence against society. Hardly is he born than the latter crushes him under a weight of laws, which are not of his doing, having been made before him, without him, against him. Capital imposes on him two attitudes: to be a slave or to be a rebel; and when, after reflection, he chooses rebellion, preferring to die proudly, facing the enemy, instead of dying slowly of tuberculosis, deprivation and poverty, do you dare to repudiate him? If the workers have, logically, the right to take back, even by force, the wealth that is stolen from them, and to defend, even by crime, the life that some want to tear away from them, then the isolated individual must have the same rights.”
Richard Parry, the author of the The Bonnot Gang (1987) has argued: “The so-called ‘gang’, however, had neither a name nor leaders, although it seems that Bonnot and Garnier played the principal motivating roles. They were not a close-knit criminal band in the classical style, but rather a union of egoists associated for a common purpose. Amongst comrades they were known as ‘illegalists’, which signified more than the simple fact that they carried out illegal acts. Illegal activity has always been part of the anarchist tradition, especially in France.”
On 21st December, 1911 the gang robbed a messenger of the Société Générale Bank of 5,126 francs in broad daylight and then fled in a stolen Delaunay-Belleville car. It is claimed that they were the first to use an automobile to flee the scene of a crime. As Peter Sedgwick pointed out: “This was an astounding innovation when policemen were on foot or bicycle. Able to hide, thanks to the sympathies and traditional hospitality of other anarchists, they held off regiments of police, terrorized Paris, and grabbed headlines for half a year.”
The gang then stole weapons from a gun shop in Paris. On 2nd January, 1912, they broke into the home of the wealthy Louis-Hippolyte Moreau and murdered both him and his maid. This time they stole property and money to the value of 30,000 francs. Bonnot and his men fled to Belgium, where they sold the stolen car. In an attempt to steal another they shot a Belgian policeman. On 27th February they shot two more police officers while stealing an expensive car from a garage in Place du Havre.
On 25th March, 1912, the gang stole a De Dion-Bouton car in the Sénart Forest by killing the driver. Later that day they killed two cashiers during an attack on the Société Générale Bank in Chantilly. Leading anarchists in the city were arrested. This included Victor Serge who complained in his autobiography, Memoirs of a Revolutionary (1951): “A positive wave of violence and despair began to grow. The outlaw anarchists shot at the police and blew out their own brains. Others, overpowered before they could fire the last bullet into their own heads, went off sneering to the guillotine…. I recognized, in the various newspaper reports, faces I had met or known; I saw the whole of the movement founded by Libertad dragged into the scum of society by a kind of madness; and nobody could do anything about it, least of all myself. The theoreticians, terrified, headed for cover. It was like a collective suicide.”
The police offered a reward of 100,000 in an effort to capture members of the gang. This policy worked and on information provided by an anarchist writer, André Soudy was arrested at Berck-sur-Mer on 30th March. This was followed a few days later when Edouard Carouy was betrayed by the family hiding him. Raymond Callemin was captured on 7th April.
On 24th April, 1912, three policemen surprised Bonnot in the apartment of a man known to buy stolen goods. He shot at the officers, killing Louis Jouin, the vice-chief of the French police, and wounding another officer before fleeing over the rooftops. Four days later he was discovered in a house in Choisy-le-Roi. It is claimed the building was surrounded by 500 armed police officers, soldiers and firemen.
According to Victor Serge: “They caught up with him at Choisy-le-Roi, where he defended himself with a pistol and wrote, in between the shooting, a letter which absolved his comrades of complicity. He lay between two mattresses to protect himself against the final onslaught.” Bonnot was able to wound three officers before the house before the police used dynamite to demolish the front of the building. In the battle that followed Bonnot was shot ten times. He was moved to the Hotel-Dieu de Paris before dying the following morning.
83. Lola Ridge! (1873-1941). An Irish-American anarchist poet and an influential editor of avant-garde, feminist, and Marxist publications. She is best remembered for her long poems and poetic sequences, published in numerous magazines and collected in five books of poetry. Described as a gifted rebel poet, she drew the cover for Goldman’s “Patriotism” pamphlet and contributed poetry. Born in Dublin, Ireland, she was 13 when her mother emigrated with her to New Zealand. Ridge emigrated to the United States after her mother died, settling first in San Francisco in 1907. She later moved to New York, settling in Greenwich Village.
She was the first manager of the Francisco Ferrer Association in New York and first editor of The Modern School magazine; she was arrested for protesting the execution of Sacco &Vanzetti. She also wrote a poem, “The Effects of Public School Education,” for a special issue of Everyman on the Modern School, edited by Leonard Abbott (Dec 1914) to which Goldman contributed “The Child and Its Enemies”.
While her writing was widely admired, Lola Ridge’s astonishingly intense personality and revolutionary zeal contributed to her reputation. People “felt the necessity of either defending or abusing her whenever her name came up”. She was an early advocate of women’s rights, gay rights and of blacks, Jews and other immigrant groups, and she used her poetry to advocate publicly on behalf of the issues she felt most passionately.
Her published collections of poetry won the most prized literary awards in the US. She was a close friend of Emma Goldman and other well-known anarchists, and also of the leading US writers of the 20s and 30s, including William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Rexroth and Marianne Moore. Unlike many of the leftwing writers of her time she had authentic experience of working-class life, most of it gained in mining towns on the west coast of New Zealand. Above all, she showed through her life a commitment to combining avant-garde creative work with political action.
Born in Dublin in 1873, Lola Ridge’s father was a medical student and after his early death she arrived in New Zealand. Her mother Emma had relatives on the West Coast and in 1880 she married a goldminer in Hokitika. Her daughter’s dedication to writing emerged early and Lola’s first poem was published in a Canterbury newspaper when she was just 19. Later work appeared in other New Zealand papers and magazines and in the Australian Bulletin. When she was 22, Lola also married a miner, Peter Webster, a partner in a gold-sluicing operation in the small settlement of Kaniere, near Hokitika. The marriage was not a happy one. Webster seems to have been a heavy drinker and at the age of 30 Lola divorced him and moved with her mother and three-year-old son to Sydney, where she studied painting and continued to publish her poems and short stories. When her mother died a few years later, Lola and her son moved again, this time to the US. She settled in New York’s Greenwich Village and became active in the anarchist movement. In 1909 her poem ‘The Martyrs of Hell’ appeared on the cover of Mother Earth, the anarchist monthly edited by Emma Goldman.
Ridge spent the rest of her life in the US, becoming a celebrated figure in New York’s radical literary scene. To support her writing she initially worked as a factory worker and artists’ model. Soon she became organiser for a radical educational movement, the Ferrer Association, established by followers of the Spanish anarchist Francisco Ferrer. An early advocate of education as a liberatory activity, Ferrer was executed in 1909 during a purge against anarchist activity in Catalonia. Through the Association Ridge met David Lawson, a young Scottish-born engineer and fellow anarchist. They lived together for almost ten years before marrying.
An earlier poem, Frank Little at Calvary, describes the death of the part-Native American labour organiser Frank Little, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, or ‘Wobblies’, during World War One. Both Ridge and Little had protested vehemently against the war and the repressions that accompanied it. Little said that the war “will mean the end of free speech, free press, free assembly, everything we ever fought for”. In June 1917, 200 miners at a copper mine in Butte, Montana burned to death below ground because the mining company ignored safety regulations. Two months later Frank Little arrived to organise a union of the surviving workers. He was tortured, castrated and lynched by hired thugs in the pay of the Anaconda Copper Co.
The couple became a focus of the revolutionary social protest in the period around and after World War One. Their “large, barely furnished, windswept, cold water loft… in downtown Manhattan” became a meeting point for New York’s radical intelligentsia and Ridge gave a party there every time she sold a poem or an article. Her first collection of poems, The Ghetto, appeared in 1918 and described the life of the working-class Jewish immigrants she saw around her on New York’s East Side. Two years later another sequence of poems, Sun-up, drew on her unconventional Irish and Antipodean childhood. Together these books established her name for socially engaged free verse.
Ridge was described by her friend and editor as “The frailest of humans physically and the poorest financially”. She was seldom in good health and died of TB in 1941, aged 67. Her New York Times obituary described her as one of America’s ‘leading contemporary poets’. Her reputation is now being revived in the US and a number of her poems are back in print, but she is barely known in the country where she grew up. She’s fondly known as “The nearest prototype in her time of the proletarian poet of class conflict, voicing social protest or revolutionary idealism.”
82. Dolores Prat Coll! She was born on 8th March 1905 into a poor Christian family in Ripoll in Catalonia. When her mother died when she was seven, she was sent to live with nuns, who treated her abysmally and made her work as a housemaid.
Ripoll was almost completely dependent on the textile industry and at the age of fourteen Dolores witnessed a bitter nine week strike for the eight hour day. As a result she developed a lasting hatred of scabs. She decided she would become a textile worker, rejecting her father’s suggestion to become a teacher because she had had a bellyful of nuns or running a fruit and veg stall because she would end up giving the food away to hungry workers.
At the age of fifteen she started work as a textile worker in Ripoll and she soon joined the CNT. She was later to say that she had joined the CNT “because they were real revolutionaries”. She served on the factory committee at work. She had a prominent role in the fight for the eight hour day. She became known as “the little Montseny” because of her indomitable character , after the anarchist Federica Montseny.
Between 1936 and 1939 she was secretary of the textile workers union of the CNT in Ripoll. With the defeat she escaped over the Pyrenees into France with her family. They were interned in the concentration camp at Magnac-Laval. She was deported back to Spain in February 1940 but then secretly climbed back over the Pyrenees to France via Prats de Mollo on May 15th of that year. She worked in a quarry in Prades. She subsequently lived in Toulouse and continued her activity within the local federation of the CNT in exile and within International Antifascist Solidarity (SIA). At the age of ninety one she became involved in supporting immigrants without documentation (Sans Papiers).
She can be seen in the film by Lisa Berger Road To Freedom/Chemin de Liberté (English-French versions) in 1997. She also appeared in the documentary Living Utopia made in the same year by Juan Gamero. She died on 12th September 2001 in Toulouse. After her death her son Progreso Marin wrote a book about her : “Dolores : une vie pour la liberté”(2002).This was translated into Catalan from French in 2007.
Every year since 1996 a group of people (caminodelibertad.com) takes the same route between Prats de Mollo and Ripoll to remember Dolores’s journey over the Pyrenees.
81. Concha Perez ! A Spanish anarchist, she joined an anarchist affinity group at age 14 and later fought in the anarchist militia in Barcelona.
Concha Perez Collado was born in Barcelona on October 17, 1915, in the Les Corts neighbourhood. She was the third of six children, children from two different mothers. Her father was Juan Pérez Güell, an anarchist who suffered imprisonment for his political views and who was widowed by his first wife, dead of tuberculosis when Concha was only two years old. Her father then married his first wife’s sister. Juan, whilst illiterate, was a staunch anarchist and a founder member of the CNT. Concha remembered that their home was a meeting place for anarchists and how she and one of her brothers used to peer through a crack in the door at the intense meetings taking place.
Concha had a happy childhood but her family could not afford to keep her at school and she went out to work in a graphic arts workshop at the age of thirteen. She became active in the libertarian movement and at last received an education in the schools-cum-clubs-cum social centres of the ateneos, run by anarchists to raise the educational level of the working class. She attended the Ateneo Libertario Faros (Lighthouse Libertarian Ateneo) and the Ateneo Agrupación Humanidad (Humanity Association). One of her friends there was the anarchist militant José Virgili Martorell, later known as Barcelona’s Public enemy no 1 because of his bank robberies for the cause. She only learnt as late as 2011 that he had been arrested and executed in 1941 by the Franco regime.
In April 1931, with the coming of the republic, she participated with her family in the liberation of detainees from the prisons and in the demonstration for a lowering of rents on the Placa Sant Jaume. In 1932, she he joined the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI) and a year later she was arrested and detained for carrying a hidden pistol to another anarchist on a picket line during the insurrectional strikes. She spent five months in prison for this. She learnt how to use bombs and pistols as self-defence against the attacks of the police.
She left home in 1935 because she insisted during an argument with her mother that her brother Pepe share household tasks. She worked as a machinist in a carpentry workshop, where she was a CNT delegate, and helped set up a rationalist school the Escuela Eliseo Reclus in the neighbourhood of Torrassa where she now lived. A few days before the outbreak of the civil war she joined the Revolutionary Committee of the Les Corts neighbourhood, where the first barricades went up and where armoured trucks were constructed.
She knew the Mujeres Libres grouping but she never joined it, insisting that her place was alongside anarchist males where she would fight for respect despite dominant macho attitudes.
Concha Pérez took part in the attack on the Pedralbes barracks (to be re-named the Bakunin Barracks) and the seizure of a convent. She also assisted in the opening of the gates of the Modelo prison. She was part of the armed group Los Aguiluchos (The Young Eagles) of Les Corts, a centuria (100 militia) with seven women in its ranks.
After fighting on the fronts of Caspe and Belchite where she saved the life of a comrade, she returned to Barcelona with the prohibition of women from the fighting. She had fought in the Sur-Ebro Column, one of whose leaders, the anarchist Antonio Ortiz, was to boast that he had been the first to expel women from his column. On the front Concha fought alongside the redoubtable anarchist women Carmen Crespo, Maria Rius and Libertad Rodenas. She never forgot her friend Martirio Romero of Cordoba, a female militant of the Libertarian Youth and the CNT since the age of 17 who fought on the Huesca front, was captured by the Francoists, tortured and sentenced to death, to have this commuted at the last moment but not to be released until 1945.
In Barcelona she worked as a labourer in a factory producing arms.
During the May Days of 1937 in Barcelona, she volunteered for reconnaissance work but was wounded in an ambush by the Stalinists on the Plaza Catalunya on May 3rd. A metal fragment remained in her leg for many years.
With the defeat of the Republic, in December 1938, he left Barcelona crossed the border where she was confined in the concentration camp Argelès. Later, she worked as a volunteer nurse in a camp, where he met the socialist doctor Madrid Alonso Isidoro, who for a time was her partner, and with whom she had her only child, born in Marseilles.
She returned to Barcelona in September 1942, where she had to leave her son in foster care in an orphanage .Then, the family of Jewish origin who she worked for as a maid helped her regain custody of the child.
In Barcelona, Concha met up with an old friend from the Ateneo Faros, Mauricio Palau, who had just spent four years in prison. They began a relationship that lasted 30 years. They set up a stall in the neighbourhood market of Sant Antoni, where they sold jewellery and lingerie that they had made themselves and which served as a meeting place for anarchists during the Franco regime.
After the death of Franco, she participated in the organization of the first neighbourhood associations and the resurgence of the CNT. In 1997, she was one of the founders of Mujeres del 36 (Women of 36) sponsored by the City of Barcelona, which gathered together women that had taken part in political and social movements during the civil war in Barcelona. Her final days were spent in a retirement home at Barceloneta, where she had many anarchist visitors. She died at dawn on April 17th, 2014 at the age of ninety nine.
Written by Nick Heath
80. Charles Mowbray! He was born at Bishop Auckland, Co. Durham in 1857 and as a young man served in the Durham Light Infantry. He worked most of his life as a tailor. He didn’t leave much record of his first contact with revolutionary ideas, but we do know that he moved to London and married Mary, the daughter of an exiled Paris Communard, with whom he had several children. Cores says that he was the ” first person I knew personally who described himself as an anarchist-communist…”
Living in the Boundary Street slum in London, he educated himself. He engaged in propaganda with Kitz and with him joined the Socialist League.
When the police began to harass open-air meetings in 1885, he was one of those involved in the agitation in Dod Street in Limehouse. On September 20th, he was beaten by the police there and arrested for obstruction along with other speakers, including Kitz. William Morris opined that Mowbray “had done the most” but fortunately he was set free. The publicity and outrage meant that 50,000 people turned out in support at Dod Street a following Sunday. The police left the meeting alone, and following ones, too. He was again arrested at a free speech rally in Trafalgar Square on June 14 th, 1886. He was fined £1 and costs.
He organised a number of unemployed meetings in Norwich in 1886 (see our biography of Fred Charles for more information) and became secretary of the local Socialist League branch. He was arrested with Fred Henderson on January 14th 1887 after the Battle of Ham Run, and received nine months on the treadmill in Norwich Castle prison. Before the sentence he had been a passionate opponent of capitalism but now he was consumed with hatred against it. He took part in annual Paris Commune and Chicago Martyrs meetings, speaking with famous anarchists Peter Kropotkin, Errico Malatesta, and Louise Michel. He returned to Norwich to chair a meeting where Lucy Parsons, widow of one of the Chicago Martyrs, spoke.
In 1889 he was elected onto a tailors’strike committee of 17 alongside John Turner and Woolf Wess. The three-week strike brought out both West End and East End tailors and was successful. Mowbray developed warm relations with Jewish workers in the East End, and often spoke at the anarchist Club in Berner Street off of the Commercial Road. Mowbray was now talking about dynamite and individual propaganda by deed. In an 1890 article in Commonweal he wrote: “I feel confident that a few determined men…who are prepared to do or die in the attempt could paralyse the forces of our masters providing they were acquainted with the power which nineteenth century science has placed within their reach”. This sort of talk had been the final straw for William Morris and he had left the League not long before. Kitz was to follow not long after.
In 1891 Mowbray and Fred Charles were involved in intensive anti-militarist propaganda. Mowbray’s son had been imprisoned and discharged from the Army for carrying out anti-militarist propaganda. Mowbray and Charles visited the barracks at Rochester, Colchester and Chatham, distributing thousands of leaflets and copies of Commonweal containing an Address to the Army. This reminded soldiers of their working class origins and urged them to refuse to fire on the people if ordered to do so. A No-Rent agitation was also carried on in the Boundary Street slum where Mowbray lived. He spoke alongside Louise Michel at the August tea party to keep the Jewish anarchist paper Arbeiter Fraint (Workers’ Friend) going in 1892.
Later, after the Walsall Anarchist trial in 1892 (see Fred Charles), the Socialist League paper Commonweal editorialised “Are These Men Fit To Live” referring to the Home Secretary and the policemen and judge who had been involved. The editorial had been written by David Nicoll and Mowbray was not present (he was nursing his dying wife) and would have vetoed its inclusion. He was arrested and charged with inciting to murder.
When the police came to arrest him, his wife Mary was already dead of TB a few hours before in a room upstairs. Mowbray and his children were sitting down to a meagre meal. He was taken away and children left alone in the house with their dead mother. Mowbray was remanded in custody, and the judge reluctantly let him attend his wife’s funeral. Yanovsky and the other anarchists at the Berners Street Club took charge of the funeral and it became a show of defiance, with thousands marching in the cortege and 20 anarchist banners flying.
Mowbray was finally acquitted in May, Nicoll receiving 18 months hard labour. In summer 1893 he was one of the delegates excluded from the Zurich Congress of the socialist Second International by August Bebel, along with Gustav Landauer and other anarchists.
They then held their own congress of protest. As a result of deliberations there, Anarchists turned to agitation in the workplace. Mowbray wrote an article “Trades Unionism and the Unemployed” where he called for unity of employed and unemployed, an overtime ban, an eight hour day, the abolition of piecework, and a rejection of political lobbying.
In 1894 Mowbray and the editor of Arbeter Fraint, Saul Yanovsky, attended scores of meetings in the East End, “both Trade Union and unemployed, at which they have done a remarkable amount of good” (Freedom newspaper).
The Socialist League had finally disappeared in 1894. Mowbray went on a speaking tour of the United States. He addressed many meetings on the East Coast, denouncing reformist trade unionism and calling for revolutionary action. The tour was highly successful, pulling in large crowds. But he was arrested on December 28th in Philadelphia, charged with incitement to riot and sedition against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Voltairine de Cleyre, who had chaired the meeting, immediately set up a defence Committee. Charges were dropped and Mowbray moved to Boston, where he started work as a tailor. Mowbray brought his family over in April 1895.
He went on another speaking tour in summer 1895, speaking in St. Louis and Chicago, where police attacked the meeting.
Mowbray continued his intensive activity on the East Coast. An anarchist-communist group was set up in Boston. Mowbray became secretary of the Union Cooperative Society of Journeymen Tailors and orientated it in an anarchist direction.
In 1895 Mowbray and Harry Kelly set up the paper The Rebel – a Monthly Journal devoted to the exposition of anarchist communism. He continued his speaking tours, and brought out another anarchist paper with Kelly called The Match, only two issues of which appeared. A few years later he moved to New York and then Hoboken. Here he opened a saloon and developed a taste for heavy drinking.
After the assassination of President McKinley by an anarchist he was deported in 1903, returning to London.
In 1904 Mowbray was involved in the general strike activity propagated by Arbeter Fraint. He chaired a mass meeting at The Wonderland, Whitechapel where all 5,000 seats were taken and many had to be turned away. Rocker, Malatesta, Mainwaring and Kitz spoke and the Jewish Bakers Union came out for improved hours and working conditions. He was involved in the initiative by John Turner and Guy Aldred to set up the Industrial Union of Direct Actionists (see Charlie Lahr) in 1907.Guy Aldred says that he often spoke with him in Canning Town.
But now Mowbray dropped the political views he had held all his life Guy Aldred says that he “became a mere political adventurer, and organised Australian emigration schemes.” He also got involved with the tariff reform movement and lectured for it. He died of a heart attack in a Bridlington hotel he was staying in in December 1910. Harry Kelly believes he drank himself to death. As Aldred says: ” It was a sad conclusion to an active Anarchist career”.
Written by Nick Heath
79. Scott Crow, He is an American anarchist organizer, speaker and writer. A longtime activist, he is an advocate for the philosophies and politics of anarchism. In addition to a number of other groups, crow is a co-founder of ‘Common Ground Collective’ or ‘Common Ground Relief’, an anarchist organization formed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans where he went to, among many things, help defend black communities in the area. His book ‘Black Flags and Windmills: Hope, Anarchy and the Common Ground Collective’ details those efforts.
As well as being international speaker and author who is from a working class background, he has engaged his varied life as a coop business co-owner, political organizer, educator and strategist, activist, filmmaker, dad and musician. From 1988-92 he was the singer in an industrial music band called Lesson Seven which had a minor dance club hit with 12″ ‘Radiation’ Oak Lawn Records in 1990. The band also toured with Nine Inch Nails and Skinny Puppy on their seminal ‘Hate’ and ‘VIVIsect VI’ tours respectively.
He has spent a life in a quixotic quest of enacting the ideas of collective liberation rooted in the philosophies of anarchy.For over two decades he has focused on diverse socio-political issues including anti-globalization and worker cooperatives, animal liberation, feminism, police brutality, environmental destruction, prison abolition, political prisoners, alternatives to capitalism and disaster relief.Scott has worked for a number of national organizations creating and implementing direct actions, protests and mobilizations including Greenpeace, A.C.O.R.N., Rainforest Action Network, Ruckus Society and the short lived but powerful networks Continental Direct Action Network, and Mobilization For Global Justice. Additional he has worked with many grassroots groups on campaigns, education efforts and strategies including the Industrial Workers of the World, Earth First! and Anti Racist Action. In these efforts over the years he also co-founded a number of diverse projects, businesses and organizations rooted in cooperative, power sharing models including Lesson Seven (political industrial band), Radical Encuentro Camp (education project), Red Square (co-op art gallery), Dirty South Earth First! (environmental organization) Century Modern (antique cooperative), Treasure City Thrift (volunteer/worker cooperative) and the Common Ground Collective (the largest anarchist inspired organization in modern US history) in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.Beginning in the late 1990s he came under broad investigations for political activities (related to animal rights and radical environmental issue) by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I) and the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), living under surveillance in nine states which continued for almost a decade and included being targeted by the F.B.I. informant Brandon Darby. To date Crow has never been charged with any crimes. He was labeled as an alleged “domestic terrorist” by the FBI for a decade and his high profile case was one of the precursors to the unveiling of the US governments spying on political activists and citizens which was widely revealed in 2013.Crow has been widely interviewed over the years in various international mainstream and independent media as well as appearing in documentary films. He has often been the target of right-wing media for his views. He has appeared in international media as commentator and subject. In other media he appeared in the documentary films Informant (Music Box), Better this World (PBS) and Welcome To New Orleans (Fridthjof Film) and he co-produced a documentary film ‘The Angola 3: Black Panthers and the Last Slave Plantation’ which was released in 2008.His forthcoming books are
‘Emergency Hearts, Molotov Dreams: A scott crow Reader’ (GTK Press summer 2015), ‘Paper Tigers: Memoir of a Target under the War on Terror’, ‘Setting Sights: Histories, Praxis, and Reflections on Community Armed Self-Reliance’ and ‘Towards Politics and Engagements of Possibilities’. He contributed to the books ‘Grabbing Back: Essays Against the Global Land Grab’, ‘Witness To Betrayal’, ‘Black Bloc Papers’ (LBC) and ‘What Lies Beneath: Katrina, Race, and the State of the Nation’ (South End Press) and was a featured subject in the book ‘The Power and Promise of Animal Rights and the Radical Earth Movement’ (U. Minnesota Press) by David Naguib Pellow. His writings have also appeared widely within international radical publications.Today he speaks at college campuses and community centers internationally talking about anarchy, surveillance, political prisoners, climate change and environmental issues, animal rights, community organizing and worker cooperatives.“I envision a world where we, as individuals and communities, are free to determine our own futures beyond capitalism. Where we can create shared power from below without exploitation or oppression and where collective liberation and sustainability are more than just desires.”
78. Albert Parsons! Born as Richard Parsons in Montgomery, Alabama, on 24th June, 1848. Orphaned at five years old, he was raised by Esther, an African American slave. In the Civil War he served as a member of the Confederate Army under the commanded by his brother, Major General William Parsons.
After the war Parsons condemned slavery and became a Radical Republican. Now a socialist, Parsons began publishing the Spectator, a journal that advocated equal rights for African-Americans.
In 1873 Parsons married Lucy Waller (Lucy Parsons), the daughter of a Creek Indian and a Mexican woman. Mixed marriages in Texas was unacceptable and so under pressure from the Ku Klux Klan, the couple moved to Chicago. Parsons became a printer but after becoming involved in trade union activities he was blacklisted.
Parsons and his wife joined the Socialist Labor Party in 1876. They were also founder members of the International Working Men’s Association (the First International), a labor organization that supported racial and sexual equality. Parson also became editor of the radical journal, Alarm.
On 1st May, 1886 a strike was began throughout the United States in support a eight-hour day. Over the next few days over 340,000 men and women withdrew their labor. Over a quarter of these strikers were from Chicago and the employers were so shocked by this show of unity that 45,000 workers in the city were immediately granted a shorter workday.
The campaign for the eight-hour day was organised by the International Working Peoples Association (IWPA). On 3rd May, the IWPA in Chicago held a rally outside the McCormick Harvester Works, where 1,400 workers were on strike. They were joined by 6,000 lumber-shovers, who had also withdrawn their labour. While August Spies, one of the leaders of the IWPA was making a speech, the police arrived and opened-fire on the crowd, killing four of the workers.
The following day August Spies, who was editor of the Arbeiter-Zeitung, published a leaflet in English and German entitled: Revenge! Workingmen to Arms!. It included the passage: “They killed the poor wretches because they, like you, had the courage to disobey the supreme will of your bosses. They killed them to show you ‘Free American Citizens’ that you must be satisfied with whatever your bosses condescend to allow you, or you will get killed. If you are men, if you are the sons of your grand sires, who have shed their blood to free you, then you will rise in your might, Hercules, and destroy the hideous monster that seeks to destroy you. To arms we call you, to arms.” Spies also published a second leaflet calling for a mass protest at Haymarket Square that evening.
On 4th May, over 3,000 people turned up at the Haymarket meeting. Speeches were made by Parsons, August Spies and Samuel Fielden. At 10 a.m. Captain John Bonfield and 180 policemen arrived on the scene. Bonfield was telling the crowd to “disperse immediately and peacebly” when someone threw a bomb into the police ranks from one of the alleys that led into the square. It exploded killing eight men and wounding sixty-seven others. The police then immediately attacked the crowd. A number of people were killed (the exact number was never disclosed) and over 200 were badly injured.
Several people identified Rudolph Schnaubelt as the man who threw the bomb. He was arrested but was later released without charge. It was later claimed that Schnaubelt was an agent provocateur in the pay of the authorities. After the release of Schnaubelt, the police arrested Samuel Fielden, an Englishman, and six German immigrants, George Engel, August Spies, Adolph Fisher, Louis Lingg, Oscar Neebe, and Michael Schwab. The police also sought Parsons but he went into hiding and was able to avoid capture. However, on the morning of the trial, Parsons arrived in court to standby his comrades.
There were plenty of witnesses who were able to prove that none of the eight men threw the bomb. The authorities therefore decided to charge them with conspiracy to commit murder. The prosecution case was that these men had made speeches and written articles that had encouraged the unnamed man at the Haymarket to throw the bomb at the police.
The jury was chosen by a special bailiff instead of being selected at random. One of those picked was a relative of one of the police victims. Julius Grinnell, the State’s Attorney, told the jury: “Convict these men make examples of them, hang them, and you save our institutions.”
At the trial it emerged that Andrew Johnson, a detective from the Pinkerton Agency, had infiltrated the group and had been collecting evidence about the men. Johnson claimed that at anarchist meetings these men had talked about using violence. Reporters who had also attended International Working Men’s Association meetings also testified that the defendants had talked about using force to “overthrow the system”.
During the trial the judge allowed the jury to read speeches and articles by the defendants where they had argued in favour of using violence to obtain political change. The judge then told the jury that if they believed, from the evidence, that these speeches and articles contributed toward the throwing of the bomb, they were justified in finding the defendants guilty.
All the men were found guilty: Parsons, August Spies, Adolph Fisher, Louis Lingg and George Engel were given the death penalty. Whereas Oscar Neebe, Samuel Fielden and Michael Schwab were sentenced to life imprisonment. On 10th November, 1887, Lingg committed suicide by exploding a dynamite cap in his mouth. The following day Parsons, Spies, Fisher and Engel mounted the gallows. As the noose was placed around his neck, Spies shouted out: “There will be a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.”
Margarita was a school teacher who came from a family “made up of people who were not politically conscious, but were proletarians aspiring to be bourgeois”. During the unrest in Mexico in the early years of this century, she joined the Partido Liberal Mexicano (Mexican Liberal Party). Despite its name, the PLM was openly anarchist communist in its views, and was very active among workers and peasants.Margarita was an excellent horsewoman and crack shot. As Regeneracion, the paper of the PLM noted:
“More than one time her daring and cold blood saved her from falling into the hands of the forces of tyranny. Margarita Ortega had a big heart on her horse, or from behind a boulder, she could keep the Government soldiers at bay, and a little later she could be seen caring for the wounded, feeding the convalescing or offering words of comfort to the widows and orphans.”In 1911 Margarita told the man she was living with: “I love you; but I also love those who suffer, and for them I fight and risk my life. I don’t want to see more men and women giving their effort, their health, their intelligence, their future to make the bourgeoisie rich. I don’t want there to be men who order around other men any more. I am determined to continue to fight for the cause of the Partido Liberal Mexicano, and if you are a man, come with me to the country; otherwise, you can forget me, because I am not going to be the companion of a coward”. He refused to go with her, but her daughter Rosaura replied; “Let us saddle the horses and throw ourselves into the struggle for the redemption of the working class!”Expelled because of their activities, Margarita and her daughter Rosaura were expelled from the border town of Mexicali, and marched out into the desert, with the command that they never return again… For several days they struggled under the blazing sun through the desert. At one point Margarita thought that her daughter had died, and was about to kill herself when she saw signs of life. The pair struggled on to Yuma in the United States, where Margarita was arrested by the immigration officials. She managed to escape from prison, and with Rosaura went to Phoenix, Arizona. Rosaura had been badly effected by her ordeals in the desert. She wished to return to Mexico to take part in the struggle rather than die on her sick bed but this was denied her by death.With her comrade in struggle and love, Natividad Cortes, Margarita began to organise the anarchist movement in the northern Mexican state of Sonora, using the small town of Sonoyta as her base in October 1913. But she and Cortes were surrounded by government forces, and he was shot dead.Margarita was imprisoned in Mexicali. She refused to name any other members of the PLM and as a result she was tortured. “Cowards!” she shouted, “Tear my skin to pieces, break my bones, drink all of my blood, and I will never denounce one of my friends”.She was forced to stand up in a cage. Any time she leant against the bars she was shoved back into the middle of the cage. If she fell on the ground, she was beaten till she was forced to stand again. After 4 days of suffering, she was taken out and shot at night.”A shot left this noble woman without life, free; her existence and example to remind the dispossessed to redouble our efforts against exploitation and tyranny”
– Regeneracion, June 13, 1914Let us saddle the horses and throw ourselves into the struggle for the redemption of the working class.From Organise! 51 by the Anarchist Federation
76. David Graeber! He is an American anthropologist, Author and activist, perhaps best known for his 2011 volume Debt: The First 5000 Years. He is Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics.
As an assistant professor and associate professor of anthropology at Yale from 1998–2007 he specialised in theories of value and social theory. The university’s decision not to rehire him when he would otherwise have become eligible for tenure sparked an academic controversy, and a petition with more than 4,500 signatures. He went on to become, from 2007–13, Reader in Social Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London.
His activism includes protests against the 3rd Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in 2001, and the 2002 World Economic Forum in New York City. Graeber was a leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement, and is sometimes credited with having coined the slogan, “We are the 99 percent”.
He helped create the first New York City General Assembly, with only 60 participants. He spent the next six weeks involved with the burgeoning movement, including facilitating general assemblies, attending working group meetings, and organizing legal and medical training and classes on nonviolent resistance. A few days after the encampment of Zuccotti Park began, he left New York for Austin, Texas.
Graeber has argued that the Occupy Wall Street movement’s lack of recognition of the legitimacy of either existing political institutions or the legal structure, its embrace of non-hierarchical consensus decision-making and of prefigurative politics make it a fundamentally anarchist project. Comparing it to the Arab Spring, Graeber has claimed that Occupy Wall Street and other contemporary grassroots protests represent “the opening salvo in a wave of negotiations over the dissolution of the American Empire.”
He is a member of the labor union Industrial Workers of the World and of the Interim Committee for the emerging International Organization for a Participatory Society.
75. Leonard Dalton Abbott, an English-born American publicist, politician, and freethinker. Originally a socialist, Abbott turned to anarchism and remained a Georgist later in life. He is best remembered as a leader of the so-called “Modern School movement” of those years.
Leonard D. Abbott was born in Liverpool, England in 1878. Leonard’s father, Lewis Lowe Abbott, was a prosperous New England metal merchant and graduate of Yale College. In January 1876, the elder Abbott took a position with the firm of Dickerson & Co. and on behalf of that firm spent the next two decades in Liverpool representing the commercial interests of American firms abroad. It was owing to this employment situation that Leonard, the child of American parents, was born abroad.Leonard came to the United States for the first time in 1897, settling in New York City. Under the influence of the British socialist William Morris, Abbott engrossed himself in the socialist movement, in which he remained an active worker up to 1905.
Shortly after his arrival in America, Abbott became the art editor for The Literary Digest, one of the leading news weeklies of the period. Abbott also reported on the American socialist movement to the British Labour Annual each year from 1899 to 1901.
Abbott was a leading figure in the Social Democratic Party of America (SDP), an organization based in Chicago and headed by journalist Victor L. Berger and union activist Eugene V. Debs. He was a keynote speaker at a June 1900 convention which united the forces of the Chicago SDP and an organization formerly hailing from the Socialist Labor Party of America behind the Presidential candidacy of Eugene Debs and Benjamin Hanford. Abbott was named a candidate of the combined Social Democratic Party for New York State Treasurer by that same gathering.
In 1901, Abbott became one of seven members of the editorial board of a new illustrated socialist magazine published in New York City, The Comrade. In its inaugural issue, the editors of the monthly declared their intention was not to deal with the economic factor of the socialist movement, but rather with “such literary and artistic productions as reflect the soundness of the Socialist philosophy.”The new century was seen by the editors as marking the dawn of a new era of artistic creation.
In conjunction with his role as a member of the editorial board of The Comrade, Abbott became a frequent contributor of biographical sketches on such worthies as the socialist novelist Edward Carpenter, poet Edward Markham, and painters Vasily Vereshchagin and Jean-François Millet. The publication survived until 1905, at which time it was dissolved and its subscription list taken over by The International Socialist Review of Chicago.
In addition to his writing for The Comrade, Abbott sat on the editorial board of the Chicago publication Socialist Spirit from 1900 to 1903 and edited The Free Comrade with J.W. Lloyd from 1900 to 1902. Abbott was also an associate editor of Current Literature for over a quarter century.
After about 1905, Abbott’s interests turned to libertarian education, in which he at once assumed a commanding presence. He was associated in the publication of The Commonwealth, Current Opinion, and The Modern School.
Abbott sat on the first executive board of the Rand School of Social Science, started through the volition of his friends George D. Herron and Carrie Rand Herron. He was also influential in the establishment of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, and the Ferrer School of Stelton, New Jersey.
Abbott was influential in the foundation in New York City in 1911 of what was to become the Stelton Modern School, together with other leading anarchists such as Alexander Berkman, Voltairine de Cleyre, and Emma Goldman. Commonly called the “Ferrer Center,” the facility was established just two years after the execution for sedition of Francisco Ferrer.
Starting in 1912, the school’s principal was the philosopher Will Durant, who also taught there. Besides Berkman and Goldman, the Ferrer Center faculty included the Ashcan School painters Robert Henri and George Bellows, and its guest lecturers included writers and political activists such as Margaret Sanger, Jack London, and Upton Sinclair. Student Magda Schoenwetter recalled that the school used Montessori methods and equipment, and emphasised academic freedom rather than fixed subjects.
Abbott was a public proponent of free speech and pacifism and served for a time as president of the Free Speech League. In this capacity he became involved in a free speech fight in Tarrytown, New York by the Industrial Workers of the World in 1914 over a ban on outdoor public meetings enacted by that community. Not accidentally, Tarrytown was the location of the estate of industrialist John D. Rockefeller.
In July 1914, radical anarchists who frequented the Ferrer Center, and loosely associated with its adult education program, plotted to bomb the mansion of Standard Oil chairman Rockefeller. On failing to enter the Rockefeller estate in Tarrytown. The group took the bomb back to the Lexington Avenue apartment of Louise Berger (a school habitué and an editor of the Mother Earth Bulletin), where it exploded, killing four people, including three of the bombers, and wounding many others. The Ferrer Center became politically notorious and was shortly compelled to leave New York City for the comparative isolation of Stelton, New Jersey. Abbott was among those who addressed a mass meeting attended by 5,000 in remembrance of those killed in the explosion.
Leonard D. Abbott died in 1953.
74. Olga Taratuta, a Ukrainian Jewish anarchist, she worked with the journals Buntar and Golos Truda; she participated in several attentats and established the Anarchist Black Cross, which provided aid to anarchist political prisoners. The Soviet government executed her. Olga Was fondly thought of as the “grandmother” of the Russian anarchist movement.
“The Kharkov comrades, with the heroic personality of Olga Taratuta at their head, had all served the Revolution, fought on its fronts, endured punishment from the Whites, persecution and imprisonment by the Bolsheviki. Nothing had daunted their revolutionary ardour and anarchist faith.” Living My Life, Emma Goldman.Elka Ruvinskaia was born in the village of Novodmitrovka near Kherson in the Ukraine in 1876 ( or possibly 1874 or 1878). Her family was Jewish and her father ran a small shop. After her studies she worked as a teacher. She was arrested for “political suspicion” in 1895. In 1897 she joined a Social Democrat group around the brothers A. and I. Grossman (who later became anarchists) in Elizavetgrad, and distributed their propaganda. In 1898-1901 she was a member of the Elizavetgrad committee of the Social-Democratic Party and the South Russian Union of Workers. In 1901 she fled abroad, living in Germany and Switzerland where she met Lenin and Plekhanov and worked for the paper Iskra.
In 1903 In Switzerland she became an anarchist-communist. In 1904 she returned to Odessa and joined the group Without Compromise which was made up of anarchists and disciples of the Polish socialist Machajski. She was arrested in April 1904 and in the autumn was freed for lack of evidence. She then joined the Odessa Workers Group of Anarchist Communists which distributed propaganda and organised workers’ circles. She began to acquire a reputation as one of the most outstanding anarchists in Russia. She used the pseudonym Babushka (Granny) – a strange alias considering she was still only around thirty!
At the beginning of October 1905 she was arrested again but was again released with the October amnesty. She joined the Battle Detachment of the South Russian Group of Anarchist Communists which used the tactic of “motiveless terror”- that is attacks on institutions and representatives of the autocratic regime rather than particular targeted individuals . She helped prepare the notorious attack on the Libman café in December 1905. She was arrested and sentenced to17 years imprisonment in 1906 She escaped from prison on 15th December and fled to Moscow. In December 1906 she joined the Moscow anarchist-communist organisation Buntar (Rebel) and agitated in the workplaces. After the arrest of group members in March 1907 she and some others fled to Switzerland where they edited a paper of the same name.
In autumn 1907 Olga returned to Ekaterinoslav and Kiev and after moved on to Odessa. She prepared an attentat against general A.V.Kaulbars, the commander of the Odessa military region, and against general Tolmachov governor of Odessa and an explosion at the Odessa tribunal.
At the end of February 1908 she went to Kiev to prepare the blowing up of the prison walls of Lukianovka prison and organise the escape of arrested anarchists there. However all other members of the group were rounded up but Olga managed to flee. She was arrested at Ekaterinoslav and at the end of 1909 sentenced to 21 years imprisonment. She was freed from Lukianovka prison in March 1917. As Paul Avrich says in his book The Russian Anarchists she was now “a tired and subdued woman in her late forties,” at first keeping her distance from the movement. In May 1918 she organised the Political Red Cross in Kiev, which help imprisoned revolutionaries regardless of their political affiliations, and which once even helped Bolsheviks. By now her old revolutionary zeal had returned, fired by her rising indignation at how anarchist revolutionaries were being treated by the Bolsheviks. In 1919 she moved to Moscow. In June 1920 she took part in the organisation of Golos Truda (Voice of Labour) At the end of September 1920 after the signing of the pact between the Soviet government and the Makhnovists she returned to the Ukraine. In Gulyai Polye she was given 5 million roubles by the Makhnovist commanders. With this money she went to Kharkov and set up the Anarchist Black Cross which helped imprisoned and repressed anarchists. In November Olga was elected as representative of the Makhnovists in Kharkov and Moscow.
During the wave of repression against anarchists and Makhnovists in the Ukraine, Olga was arrested. The Black Cross was closed down and its centre destroyed. In January 1921 she was transported to Moscow with 40 other Ukrainian anarchists. She was one of the imprisoned anarchists allowed to attend the funeral of Kropotkin by the Bolsheviks. At the end of April 1921 she was transferred to Orlov prison. In May 1921 the Soviet Attorney General proposed to Olga that she could be released if she recanted her ideas in public. In summer 1921 she joined the 11-day hunger strike of arrested anarchists. In March 1922 she was exiled for 2 years to Velikii Ustiug.
Freed at the beginning of 1924 she moved to Kiev. She ceased all activity but kept in personal contact with various anarchists. Mid-1924 she was arrested for making anarchist propaganda, but was soon released. In 1924 she moved to Moscow. In 1927 she supported the campaign for Sacco and Vanzetti. In 1928-1929 she wrote many letters on the need to organise an international campaign for anarchists imprisoned in the Soviet Union. In 1929 she moved to Odessa where she was arrested for trying to create anarchist cells among the rail-workers. (During this period in the 20s she was involved with the Odessa anarchists in the illegal smuggling of anarchist literature into the USSR). She got a term of 2 years in the “polit-isolator”.She was freed in 1931 and returned to Moscow. She became a member of the Society of ex- political prisoners and exiles which attempted to get pensions for old, impoverished and sick revolutionaries, but without success. In 1933 she was re-arrested and sentenced but documents for this no longer exist. In 1937 she was living in Moscow and worked in a metal processing factory as a driller.
She was re-arrested on 27th November 1937, and accused of anarchist and counter-Soviet activity. On 8th February 1938 Olga was condemned to death by the Chief Tribunal of the Soviet Union. She was executed on the same day.
Sources: ‘The Russian Anarchists’ by Paul Avrich and ‘Living My Life’ by Emma Goldman.
73. Hélène Patou, a French textile worker who lived at the anarchist colonies of Vaux and Bascon (a libertarian colony ‘Le Milieu Libre de Vaux’, & pioneered the colony of Bascon.) she was a writer, militant anarchist & néo-Malthusian and joined the Durruti column to fight with the anarchists in the Spanish revolution. She was a model for numerous artists, including Matisse and Picabia.
As a firm supporter of the Spanish revolutionists in 1936, she wrote Le domaine du hameau perdu (1972), prefaced by d’Henry Poulaille.
72. Madeleine Pelletier, a French physician, psychiatrist, first-wave feminist, and socialist activist. She wrote for numerous radical journals; during World War I she worked for the Red Cross, treating the wounded of both sides; she frequently cross-dressed, writing “I will show off mine [breasts] when men adopt a special sort of trouser to show off their…”. She wanted to distance herself from femininity, a concept that she saw as a sign of the oppression of women.
Pelletier originally trained as an anthropologist studying the relationship between skull size and intelligence after Paul Broca with Charles Letourneau and Léonce Manouvrier. When she left anthropology she attacked the concept of skull size as a determinant of intelligence distinguishing the sexes. Following her break with anthropology Pelletier went on to become a psychiatrist. In 1906, she was the first French woman to sit the examination to become a psychiatrist. She was also the first woman to work as an intern in state asylums.Outside her professional life, Pelletier was a committed activist. As a teenager, Pelletier attended feminist and anarchist groups. By 1900, Pelletier was actively involved in feminism and socialist activism. In 1906, she became secretary of La Solidarité des femmes (Women’s Solidarity), and established the organization as one of the most radical feminist organizations at the time. In 1908 she represented the group at the Hyde Park demonstrations for women’s suffrage. She published La suffragiste.During this period, in 1905, she also helped to found the unified French Socialist Party (as the Section française de l’Internationale ouvrière), sat on its national council until World War I, and represented the party at most international socialist congresses before the War.She was also notable as a female Freemason. Pelletier was a member of the La Nouvelle Jérusalem lodge, becoming a member in 1904. The lodge had both male and female members, and, although politically active, she was often at odds with her lodge in her efforts to promote the emancipation of women. Her views in favor of birth control and abortion were closely aligned with the French neo-Malthusian movement, supporting the use of birth control and abortion by women, she also wrote for the periodical Le Néo-Malthusian.Pelletier wrote extensively on the subject of women’s rights, some publications include: “Woman Struggling for Her Rights” (1908), “Yesterday’s Ideology: God, Morals, the Fatherland” (1910), “Sexual Emancipation of Women”(1911), “The Right to Abortion”(1913), and “The Feminist Education of Girls” (1914).She traveled illegally to the Soviet Union in 1921, wrote “My Adventurous Voyage in Communist Russia”, first published in La Voix de la Femme (“The Woman’s Voice”) at the end of 1921, and published as a separate volume in 1922. She joined the French Communist Party upon its creation, but left it in 1926; following her break with Communism she embraced Anarchism. Pelletier wrote utopian novels following her return from the Soviet state, as well as her autobiography La femme vierge (“The Virgin Woman”) in 1933.Pelletier was partially paralyzed by a stroke in 1937. However, she continued to openly practice abortion, and was arrested in 1939. Following her arrest she was interned in an asylum and her physical and mental health deteriorated. She died within the year.
71. Sakae Ōsugi, was a radical Japanese anarchist. He published numerous anarchist periodicals, helped translate western anarchist essays into Japanese for the first time, and created Japan’s first Esperanto school in 1906. He, Noe Itō, and his nephew were murdered in what became known as the Amakasu Incident.
He was the eldest son of Kusui Yutaka and Japanese military captain Ōsugi Azuma. In his early teens, Ōsugi enlisted in Cadet School but was a poorly-motivated, rebellious student. He was reprimanded often and nearly expelled more than once. On one occasion it was implied that he took part in illicit homosexual behavior with a younger cadet; he was held in the school stockade for 10 days for this and received 30 days of confinement. Later he participated in a knife fight; fighting unarmed, fearing he’d injure his opponent, he received injuries which required a fortnight’s hospitalization. After this incident he was finally expelled.
In 1903 he eventually decided to attain higher education in French Literature at the Tokyo School of Foreign Languages, he later learned several languages. While in school he experienced independent living for the first time and began associations that would last years and lead to his experimental phase in Christianity and socialism. He graduated from the school in 1905.
After his mother’s death, he became depressed and redirected his energies into his studies. He began to read large numbers of books–only a handful of which he counted as having made an impression on him later in life–primarily works by Gorky, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky. He later wrote that he’d been most influenced by Oka Asjirō’s Discourse on Evolution.
His depression over his mother’s death also led him to search for a spiritual outlet in Christianity. He attended several churches, never fully accepted the miracles of the faith, and “believed that God is something within the self”. He was eventually baptised when others assured him he would understand the religion more if he did, but he later wrote that he was never fully satisfied.
He began to involve himself in socialism more at this time, mostly because of exposure to the most radical newspaper available in Tokyo: Yorozu Chōhō. He would further involve himself in the socialist movement when Kōtoku Shūsui and Sakai Toshihiko formed the Commoners’ Society (Heimin-sha). He began to write letters to the editor of this organization’s paper, the Heimin Shimbun (Common People’s Newspaper), and hand out the paper in public. When the Heimin Shimbun folded, his first article, “Socialism and patriotism” (Shakaishugi to aikokushugi), was published in another radical paper, Hikari, in August–September 1905. However, his participation with socialism was largely superficial at this time, and he admitted later that he did so largely because he felt the need to take part in a paper he often read.
Later exposure to criticisms of Christianity from prominent socialists led him to question his faith, but it was not until the onset of the Russo-Japanese War that he fully cut his ties to the religion. When his local church began to merge its sermons with patriotic and pro-war sentiments, he felt this was a betrayal of his spiritual principles and left permanently.
Ōsugi still held military aspirations as a matter of practicality, since he had no other career ambitions. But a military career became impossible in 1906, when he was arrested during a demonstration-turned-riot against increasing trolley fares. In prison he took the time to fully study socialism and its tenets, and completed his transition to socialist. His interest in science would lay the groundwork for his eventual shift to anarchism. He also taught himself languages including Italian, Esperanto, Russian, English, French, and German.
His initial prison sentences were due to separate instances of activist-related activity. After the aforementioned trolley-fare protest riot, he was arrested for violating press laws in connection with two articles he published in late 1906 and early 1907. He served two more terms in 1908 for violating the Peace Police Law on two occasions, the early-1908 Rooftop Incident (Yane-jō jiken) and the late-1908 Red Flag Incident (Akahata jiken).
His arrest as part of the Red Flag Incident handed him his heaviest prison term, but it saved him and others convicted at the time from being associated with the High Treason Incident (Taigyaku Jiken) of 1910. At the trials, twelve anarchists, including Kōtoku Shūsui and one of the few anarchists found not guilty during the Red Flag trials, were found guilty of conspiracy to assassinate the Emperor and were sentenced to death. Ōsugi encountered the defendants in prison but was afraid to speak to them too loudly. Kōtoku, nearly deaf, was unable to hear him. Ōsugi also encountered their executioner, who retired after their executions.
After this experience, he never challenged the state with open calls for violent revolution, and his future essays instead focused on individualism and criticisms of capitalism. He would not be arrested again until 1919 for assaulting a police officer, for which he received a 3-month term. He was also briefly held in detention in France in 1922 before being deported to Japan.
While in prison, Kōtoku, now an avowed anarchist, encouraged him to research the work of Bakunin and Kropotkin. Ōsugi was particularly receptive to Kropotkin’s scientific approach to anarchy, and he translated Kropotkin’s autobiography in 1920. September Itō published a translation of an article by Emma Goldman–which Osugi had also intended on writing. Her work impressed him, and he praised it highly in a review of articles on women’s liberation.
Ōsugi was married to Hori Yasuko in September 1906, but later pursued a relationship with Kamichika Ichiko and author Noe Itō as part of his philosophical and political beliefs in egoism and free love. In 1916, Ichiko stabbed him in an incident that led to an open scandal and has been a source for popular culture. It was the inspiration for the film Eros plus Massacre, by Yoshishige Yoshida and Masahiro Yamada (1969).
On September 16, 1923, in the chaos immediately following the Great Kantō Earthquake, Osugi and his lover/partner, Noe Itō, and his 6-year-old nephew, Munekazu Tachibana, were arrested, beaten to death, and thrown into a well by a squad of military police led by Lieutenant Amakasu Masahiko. The killing of such high-profile anarchists along with a child became known as the Amakasu Incident and sparked surprise and anger throughout Japan.
70. Peter Gelderloos, is an activist and author from Virginia (United States).
Gelderloos was arrested in 2001 while attending a protest at the Georgia-based Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly known as School of the Americas), a controversial school that trains Central and South American soldiers and police. He was convicted and served the maximum sentence of 6 months in prison.
In ‘How Nonviolence Protects the State’ Gelderloos sets out to debunk the notion that non-violent activism is the only acceptable and effective method of struggle and to defenestrate the stranglehold that pacifism has on movements.
In April 2007, Gelderloos was arrested in Spain and charged with public disorder and illegal demonstration during a squatters protest. He faced between three and six years of imprisonment. Eventually he was acquitted.
In 2010 Gelderloos published Anarchy Works, a comprehensive book explaining basic principles of anarchism and their historic usage. He also published To Get to the Other Side, a narrative of his travels through Europe’s anarchist milieus.
He recently spoke at the London Anarchist book fair 2014.
69. Clara Thalma, a Swiss revolutionary, she fought with the Durriti column in Spain during the revolution and in the French resistance during the Nazi occupation; afterwards she and her partner Pavel Thalmann created an agricultural commune called La Séréna near Nice.
Clara Thalmann was born at Basel, Switzerland, in 1910. She was one of ten children from a working class family. Her father was German and had emigrated to Switzerland because, as a socialist and an internationalist, he opposed conscription for the German war against France in 1870.
Clara grew up in atmosphere of committed socialist activity. Early in life, influenced by the betrayal of social democracy with its pro-war attitude, and the success of the October revolution in Russia in 1917, Clara was attracted to communism. In the 1920’s when she was a young working woman she joined the communist party and worked on the French communist paper ‘Humanite’. Soon after Lenin’s death in 1924, however, the internal struggles within the communist movement began to be apparent. The new party leader in Russia, Joseph Stalin, systematically strengthened the bureaucratic apparatus at the expense of the influence of the few remaining revolutionaries within the party. Stalin’s campaign also affected the French communist party. It meant that committed activists like Clara could no longer carry out their political work where and how they saw fit, but rather had to follow instructions from party functionaries. A vivacious and passionate character like Clara could not stand it, and disillusioned, she returned to Switzerland in 1928. She immediately joined the Swiss communist party, but did so in order to fight against Stalinist policies. It brought her close to the disciples of Leon Trotsky, the former leader of the Red Army, now branded by Stalin as a “dangerous agent of the anti-Soviet counter-revolution”.
The night that Clara returned from Paris she met a young worker from her home town of Basel who had returned that same day from Moscow where he had spent four years as a student at the Workers University. He too was very disillusioned with Stalinism. His name was Paul (‘Pavel’) Thalmann and it was the start of a life-long relationship. They were soon expelled from the party, but continued to make anti-Stalinist propaganda, co-operating with Trotskyites and left-wing communists from Germany.
In 1936 the German Nazis arranged the big propaganda show which was the Berlin Olympic Games. In response, the international revolutionary movement had organized a workers’ olympics at Barcelona in Spain. Clara hitch-hiked south to take part. She went as a swimmer and as a Swiss working woman delegate. But the International Workers’ Olympic Games never took place.
On July 17th 1936 the military coup d’etat against the Spanish republic led to the outbreak of the civil war which was to last until 1939. When Clara arrived at the Spanish border the anti-fascists had already defeated the militarist conspirators in much of the country. She witnessed the enormous social revolution which was occuring. The Spanish anarchist movement, the biggest working class organization in Spain at that time, at once confiscated large estates and factories, transforming them into collectives run by the workers themselves. Soon almost two-thirds of the land and industry under the control of Republican forces was collectivised and organized by the anarchists of the CNT and the FAI. Revolutionary committees and militias, rather than the state, controlled politics and the economy as well as the anti-fascist military struggle.
Inspired by these events, Clara at once joined the anarchist militias of the famous Durruti columns to fight as a militia-woman at the Aragon front. Pavel also came down to fight for the revolution and joined her.
But all did not go well with the revolution. Clara and Pavel were among the first to warn of anti-revolutionary developments inside the Republican camp. Because of their previous experience of Stalinist politics they at once realized the dangers posed to the social revolution by the Communist Party of Spain (PCE). Together with the liberal-bourgeois parties like the Republican Left (IR), the Left Republican Party of Catalonia (ERC), and the middle class tenant farmers’ union (the UDR), the communist PCE defended private property and the existing legal system. During the “short summer of anarchy” in 1936, when the social revolution was overwhelmingly successful and powerful, the Spanish communists did not dare to attack the revolution openly. Nevertheless the Thalmanns noticed their dangerous intentions and constantly warned their anarchist comrades. As they report in their autobiographical “Revolution for Freedom” the Stalinists’ tactic to compromise the anarchist trend of the revolution was obvious to them. Under the influence of the Russians, the Spanish communists demanded that the anarchists had to join the government.
They had two reasons: firstly they calculated correctly when they thought the anarchists would then be more controllable, having to carry responsibility for things which the whole government had decided. Secondly, the communists, well aware of anarchist theory, thought that by persuading anarchists to join a government they would sow the seeds of a split within the anarchist movement. The resulting split in many of the committees enabled the communists to gain more control. They gained further influence once the Soviet Union began to supply quantities of arms to the Republican forces. The PCE demanded the dissolution of the militias and the reintroduction of a conventional hierarchical “People’s Army” in place of the rank and file organization of the militias
The anarchists, seeking to gain access to badly needed Soviet arms supplies, finally agreed to disbanding the militias, but things continued to get worse. In the spring of 1937 the Stalinists turned to direct military aggression against the revolution.
In May 1937 in Barcelona, communist provocation led to fighting between petit-bourgeois parties allied with the Stalinists on the one side and anarchists, POUM and UGT people on the other The fighting left at least 500 dead and 1,000 injured. Subsequently the anarchists and their revolutionary comrades suffered a decisive loss of political power. Clara and Pavel were fighting with the Anarchist group “Amigos de Durruti” (freinds of Durruti) At that time Clara met and got to know George Orwell (“He did not know what was going on and his eyes expressed amazement, he had a terrified look”) who was sitting with his gun on a roof close to her barricade.
Because of their pro-revolutionary participation in the Barcelona “May Days”, Clara and Pavel had to go underground in order to escape persecution by the S.I.M., the newly formed secret police organisation of the PCE. They decided to leave Spain and, some time later, were about to board a ship at Barcelona when they were recognised, arrested and taken to one of the SIM’s private prisons. They spent several months in Stalinist jails, while friends in Switzerland launched a campaign to get them out. Finally, after the intervention of a leading member of the Spanish socialist party, they were released. They immediately left Spain and travelled to Paris.
During the Nazi occupation of France in the second World War, Clara and Pavel built up a small, independent, revolutionary resistance group in Paris. Their home soon became a safe house for Jewish and revolutionary refugees trying to escape. They were never caught and were able to help many people in this way.
After the liberation from German Fascism, Clara and Pavel grew tired of life in Paris and eventually moved to the south of France to found an agricultural commune called ‘La Séréna’ on the northern outskirts of Nice. ‘La Séréna’ soon became a meeting place for revolutionaries from all over the world. Pavel died there in 1981.
She thought urban guerrilla struggles in Western Europe, she was sceptical of their usefulness. She always maintained that a guerrilla has to act in connection with a social revolutionary mass movement – militarily and politically. For her a guerrilla war only made sense if a revolutionary mass movement already existed. Otherwise the guerrillas were in danger of developing policies which the people could not understand and were also likely to become authoritarian and elitist.
On the other hand she saw very clearly the need for determined direct action, even if it is carried out by small groups. However, such action must be the actual expression of how the people feel and think.
Clara’s main hope for future social and political change rested with the young. Their increasing contempt for official policy and their readiness to get up and revolt seemed the mainspring of her political optimism. She never lost her belief in the revolution.
On the 27th January 1987, after a long illness, the Swiss revolutionary Clara Thalmann died at her home on the outskirts of Nice in the south of France.
Bio sourced from SolFed
A vicar’s daughter, Ottar was born as Elise Ottesen, the 17th of 18 children, in Norway. Later in life, her father sent away her little sister Magnhild to give birth in Denmark, so that she could be forced to give up her child. Maghild was told nothing about pregnancy or birth, and for nine months she feared that her stomach would just split. She committed suicide because of the longing for the child she had to leave behind. For this, Ottar could never forgive her father, and the fate of her sister became a strong driving force for her commitment to the struggle for women’s rights.Ottar’s dream was to become a dentist, but an explosion in the chemistry laboratory of her high school injured her fingers, spoiling her chances to pursue a dentist career. Instead she started to work in a newspaper, and eventually became a journalist. She had always questioned the preachings of her father, and early arrived at the conclusion that she was not a christian. She now found that her sympathies were with the socialists, and it was with them she would struggle for the rest of her life.She made several attempts to organize working class women. And soon they started asking her for advice in sexual matters, asking her questions like “Do I always have to when my husband wants to?”, “What can I do to avoid getting pregnant?”.By the end of the First World War, Ottar met and developed a close friendship with the Swedish anarcho-syndicalist peace agitator Albert Jensen. They later married, and Elise Ottesen changed her surname to Ottesen-Jensen. When Albert Jensen was expelled from Norway, she came with him to Denmark. There, she gave birth to their child, who died soon after birth.Ottar and Albert moved to Sweden, and she came to know a doctor who amongst other things taught her how to use a diaphragm. She then set out for her first nation-wide tour, in Sweden. She travelled from Skåne to Norrland, teaching female workers how to avoid pregnancy. She agitated for the right for women to experience sexual pleasure, for free abortion, for the repealing of the laws against contraceptives, for lesbian&gay rights, and more. What she did was illegal and she risked harsh penalties.In the 1920s, Ottar was a regular writer for Arbetaren, with her own column focusing on feminist issues. After a disagreements with the other editors of Arbetaren in 1925, she started her own paper, Vi kvinnor. The paper did however not last for long. A few years later, she also wrote for the anarchist magazine Brand.In 1933, Ottar, together with a number of radical medical doctors and trade union representatives, founded the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education. She became its first President, and held this post until 1956. Ottesen-Jensen was also one of the founders of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, in 1953. A paper published by RFSU bears the name “Ottar”, to honour Elise Ottesen-Jensen.
‘Equity’ was a fortnightly journal published in Missouri. It is a tiny sheet, but a brave one. Announcing its object as “emancipation from sex, wages, monopolistic, and custom slavery, and State superstition,”. She was waging a courageous battle for free speech in one of the most despotic and authoritarian communities in America.
Born in Alexandrovsk (now Zaporizhia), Ukraine, in 1885, Maria’s father was an officer and hero of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878. At the age of 16, she left home and became a babysitter, sales clerk, and ultimately a factory worker, with a position of bottle washer in a vodka distillery. She joined a local group of anarcho-communists.During times of revolution, she favored immediate and complete redistribution of property owned by wealthy land owners.With the outbreak of the Russian revolution, she abandoned France and returned to Petrograd. In the city, she organized and spoke at pro-anarchist rallies in Kronstadt. In the summer of 1917, with anti-anarchist activity within the Russian Provisional Government on the rise, Maria escaped back to her home town in Alexandrovsk, Ukraine. Once there, she organized a fighting force of anarchist Black Guards under her command to terrorize the city’s authorities, in particular army officers and landlords who refused to cooperate with peasant efforts to redistribute wealth. Alexandrovsk’s nationalist government struggled to maintain order under the subversive actions of leftists in general, and anarchists in particular, who exercised political control and popular support to exclude the influence of the Central Rada and redistribute private property.However, while she constantly spoke in favor of anarchist philosophy, she warned against vanguardism and elitism, insisting that anarchists could not guarantee positive social change. “The anarchists are not promising anything to anyone.” She cautioned, “The anarchists only want people to be conscious of their own situation and seize freedom for themselves.”While living in exile in Paris, she sided with Kropotkin on the issue of World War I, favoring the Allies in opposition to the German Empire. However a global majority of anarchists, were mostly unified in opposition to the conflict entirely.Upon returning to Russia in 1917, Nikiforova was influenced by Apollon Karelin, a veteran anarchist who advocated a tactical strategy of “Soviet anarchism.” Meeting her in Petrograd, Karelin’s political tactics encouraged anarchist participation in Soviet institutions with the long term plan of directing them towards an anarchist agenda, provided these institutions did not deviate from revolutionary goals. In the event that they deviated from a radical agenda, anarchists were to rebel against them. Such institutional cooperation was widely disliked among anarchists, as they were largely a minority within such institutions, rendering their activity ineffectual.Nikiforova agreed to ally with the Bolsheviks under special circumstances, and negotiated to have herself appointed to a soviet institution, briefly becoming the Deputy leader of the Alexandrovsk revkom. She would go on to help establish footholds for Soviet power in several Ukrainian cities, demanding material support from Bolshevik agents in return, which she then used to pursue her anarchist agenda. Although She would ally herself with the Red Army on multiple occasions, she was constantly at odds with their commanders and personally antagonized several, arguing against some their practices on revolutionary grounds. Upon discovering that a Soviet commander was hoarding luxury goods looted from an aristocrat’s home, she angrily confronted him for his selfishness. With their alliance based on expediency rather than ideology, she was largely disliked within Bolshevik political circles and was the subject of rumor and harassment in Bolshevik propaganda.When the October Revolution took place in Russian Empire, leftist dominated cities such as Huliaipole were already teetering on open civil war. There, anarchists gained strength by appealing to peasant enthusiasm for revolution. Upon the invasion of Ukraine by the Red Army, the soviet of the small city issued a decree calling for fighters to join the invasion to overthrow the Ukrainian nationalists. Hundreds of men, mostly anarchists, formed a Black Guard under Nestor Makhno and his brother Sava, and marched on Alexandrovsk. Under siege by advancing Red Army forces to the north, Makhno’s anarchists to the east, and subversion by Nikiforova’s Black Guards from within, the nationalist army retreated from the city on January 15, 1918. The city shortly came under Bolshevik control. Makhno’s forces arrived within days, altering the balance of power in the anarchist’s favour.In June 1919, Makhno’s anarchist armies were outlawed by the Bolshevik command, and came under attack. Facing a two-front war against the white and red armies, Maria gathered a group of fighters, and reunited with her husband Witold Bzhostek. Her intention was to field terrorist cells, as a formal fighting force was no longer available. Dispatching three cells on various missions, she took part in a sabotage mission against the White movement in the city of Sevastopol. There she and Bzhostek were recognized and arrested. Held on trial on September 16, 1919, she and her husband were found guilty and sentenced to death. Both were shot.
65. Rose Witcop, a Pacifist, Feminist, Journalist and pioneer of birth control and sex education. She was born Rachel Vitkopski in Kiev, Ukraine to Jewish parents – Simon and Freda, who brought her to London, England when she was five years old. In the decades following the 1881 assassination of Czar Alexander II, many Jews left Russia and the surrounding countries as a result of anti-Jewish pogroms throughout the Empire. Most went to the United Kingdom or the United States.
Witcop was a member of the anarchist Jubilee Street Club – her sister Milly (Witcop) was the partner of Rudolf Rocker – and it was there she met Guy Aldred. In January 1907 they set up home together in Thorpebank Road, Shepherd’s Bush, London. Two years later, on 2 May 1909, she gave birth to their son, Annesley.She worked alongside Guy Aldred and single-handedly ran The Spur during his imprisonment for resisting conscription during the First World War. From 1921 she concentrated her efforts on the issue of birth control and in 1923 she and Aldred were arrested and charged for publishing and distributing Margaret Sanger’s Family Limitation. The case drew much press coverage and was supported both morally and financially at appeal by Dora and Bertrand Russell and John Maynard Keynes among others. Although losing the case, Rose re-published the text in 1925 (though no action was taken against their persons, they were forced to publish the pamphlet without the offending illustrations) and, while she avoided prosecution, attracted the attention of the Home Office who threatened to deport her as a Russian (i.e. Soviet) national. Despite having parted in 1924, Witcop and Aldred arranged a civil marriage in order to confirm her citizenship status and prevent any possible deportation.In 1924, when the new Labour government resisted allowing birth control to be dispensed in government-run welfare centres, Witcop joined Stella Browne, Dora Russell and others in forming the Workers Birth Control Group to put pressure on the Labour Party. When the Party resisted, private voluntary clinics were opened by birth control advocates, including Rose Witcop, who in 1926 enlisted the assistance of Sanger and the Fulham Labour Party to open the People’s Clinic in London; lack of sufficient funds forced her to close it down in 1928.She died on 4 July 1932 in St George’s Hospital, London from gangrenous appendicitis and was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium two days later.The photo is of Rose and sister Milly Witcop I believe.
64. Alan Moore, an English writer primarily known for his work in comic books including Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and From Hell. Frequently described as the best graphic novel writer in history, he has been called one of the most important British writers of the last fifty years.
Moore was born on 1953 in Northampton to a working-class family whom he believed had lived in the town for several generations. He grew up in a part of Northampton known as The Boroughs, a poverty-stricken area with a lack of facilities and high levels of illiteracy, but he nonetheless “loved it. I loved the people. I loved the community and … I didn’t know that there was anything else.” He lived in his house with his parents, brewery worker Ernest Moore, and printer Sylvia Doreen. He “read omnivorously” from the age of five, getting books out of the local library. At the same time, he began reading comic strips. He later passed his eleven plus exam, and was therefore eligible to go to Grammar School, where he first came into contact with people who were middle class and better educated, and he was shocked at how he went from being one of the top pupils at his primary school to one of the lowest in the class at secondary. Subsequently disliking school and having “no interest in academic study”, he believed that there was a “covert curriculum” being taught that was designed to indoctrinate children with “punctuality, obedience and the acceptance of monotony”. He says “As I went into my twenties and started to think about things more seriously that I came to a conclusion that basically the only political standpoint that I could possibly adhere to would be an anarchist one.”Moore is an occultist, ceremonial magician as well as an anarchist, and has featured such themes in his works. He likes performing avant-garde spoken word occult “workings” with The Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels. Of magic he says “About anarchy and fascism being the two poles of politics. On one hand you’ve got fascism, with the bound bundle of twigs, the idea that in unity and uniformity there is strength; Now anarchy, on the other hand, is almost starting from the principle that ‘in diversity, there is strength,’ which makes much more sense from the point of view of looking at the natural world. Also Anarchism is completely determined by the individual, and where the individual determines his or her own life. Now if you move that into the spiritual domain, then in religion, I find very much the spiritual equivalent of fascism. The word “religion” comes from the root word ligare, which is the same root word as ligature, and ligament, and basically means ‘bound together in one belief.’ It’s basically the same as the idea behind fascism; there’s not even necessarily a spiritual component it. Everything from the Republican Party to the Girl Guides could be seen as a religion, in that they are bound together in one belief. So to me, like I said, religion becomes very much the spiritual equivalent of fascism. And by the same token, magic becomes the spiritual equivalent of anarchy, in that it is purely about self-determination, with the magician simply a human being writ large, and in more dramatic terms, standing at the center of his or her own universe. Which I think is a kind of a spiritual statement of the basic anarchist position. I find an awful lot in common between anarchist politics and the pursuit of magic, that there’s a great sympathy there.”
Despite his own personal objections, his books have provided the basis for a number of Hollywood films. He has been vocal about his criticisms of the Hollywood adaptations of his comics onto the big screen, but nevertheless they have been very popular. Moore has also been referenced in popular culture, and has been recognised as an influence on a variety of literary and television figures.
In his own words, “Anarchy wears two faces, both creator and destroyer. Thus destroyers topple empires; make a canvas of clean rubble where creators then can build another world. Rubble, once achieved, makes further ruins’ means irrelevant.
Away with our explosives, then!
Away with our destroyers! They have no place within our better world.
But let us raise a toast to all our bombers, all our bastards, most unlovely and most unforgivable.
Let’s drink their health… then meet with them no more.”
63. Captain Jack White,known as the man who drilled the Irish Citizen Army during the 1913 lock-out.
Captain Jack White is a fascinating yet neglected figure in Irish history. Son of Field Marshal Sir George White V.C., he became a Boer war hero, and crucially was the first Commandant of the Irish Citizen Army. One of the few notable figures in Ireland to declare himself an anarchist, he led a remarkable life of action, and was a most unsystematic thinker. He knew Lord Kitchener, was a dinner companion of King Edward and the Kaiser, who corresponded with H.G. Wells, D.H. Lawrence and Tolstoy, and shared a platform with G.B. Shaw, Conan Doyle, Roger Casement and Alice Stopford Green. The founder of the Irish Citizen Army along with James Connolly, White marched (and argued) with James Larkin during the 1913 Lockout, worked with Sean O Casey, liaised with Constance Markievicz and socialised with most of the Irish activists and literati of the early twentieth century. A man who lived many lives, White was the ultimate outsider beset by divided loyalties with an alternative philosophy and an inability to conform.
White belonged to the Anglo-Irish landowning class. James Robert – always known as Jack, was born in Co Antrim, at Whitehall, Broughshane, just outside Ballymena. As a young man he followed his father into the British army, where he saw action against the Boers in South Africa.
It is said that at the battle of Doorknop he was one of the first to go over the top. Looking back he saw one 17 year old youth shivering with fright in the trench. An officer cried “shoot him”. White is said to have covered the officer with his pistol and replied “Do so and I’ll shoot you”. Not exactly the attitude wanted among the officer classes of the army!
Soon after this he dropped out of the army. Arriving back in Ireland he found Sir Edward Carson’s bigoted crusade against Home Rule was in full swing. This was the time when the original UVF was created to threaten war against the British government if Ireland was granted any measure of self-rule.
Jack organised one of the first Protestant meetings, in Ballymoney, to rally Protestant opinion against the Unionist Party and against what he described as its “bigotry and stagnation”, that associated Northern Protestants with conservatism. Another speaker at that meeting, and coming from the same sort of social background, was Sir Roger Casement.
As a result of the Ballymoney meeting Jack was invited to Dublin. Here he met James Connolly and was converted to socialism. Very impressed by the great struggle to win union recognition and resist the attacks of William Martin Murphy and his confederates, he offered his services to the ITGWU at Liberty Hall. He spoke on union platforms with such famous names as Francis Sheehy Skeffington, Big Bill Haywood of the Industrial Workers of the World, and James Connolly.
He put forward the idea of a workers militia to protect picket lines from assaults by both scabs and the blackguards of the Dublin Metropolitan Police. This proposal to create a Citizen Army, drilled by him, was enthusiastically accepted. Its very appearance, as White recollected, “put manners on the police”.
He later put his services at the disposal of the Volunteers, believing that a stand had to be taken against British rule by a large body of armed people. He went to Derry where there was a brigade of Volunteers who were largely ex-British Army like himself. But he was shaken by the sectarian attitudes he found. When he tried to reason with them and make the case for workers’ unity they dismissed his case as merely sticking up for his own, i.e. Protestants.
When Connolly was sentenced to death after the 1916 rising White rushed to South Wales and tried to bring the miners out on strike to save his life. For his attempts he was given three months imprisonment.
He came home to find himself in a political wilderness. The unionists regarded him as a Shinner. The nationalists regarded him as an Orangeman! He moved towards the newly founded Communist Party which, with the first reports from Russia, seemed offer hope to humanity. But he had his doubts about them and never joined. Indeed for a time in London he worked with Sylvia Pankhurst’s anti-parliamentary communist group, the Workers Socialist Federation.
In 1934 a special convention was held in Athlone which was attended by 200 former IRA volunteers together with a number of prominent socialists, Communists and trade unionists. It resolved that a Republican Congress be formed. This was a movement, based on workers and small farmers, that was well to the left of the IRA. White joined immediately and organised a Dublin branch composed solely of ex-British servicemen. One notable result of this was a contingent of British ex-servicemen marching behind the Congress banner through cheering crowds of Dubliners on a demonstration against war and poverty.
The Congress is best known for bringing 200 Belfast Protestant workers to the republican Wolfe Tone Commemoration that year and for the scandalous attack on them by Sean McBride’s IRA men who were determined that no ‘red’ banners would be seen at their Catholic day out in Bodenstown.
One of the men carrying the second banner – on which was embroidered James Connolly Club, Belfast – The United Irishmen of 1934 – was John Straney, a milk roundsman from loyalist Ballymacarret who was later killed while fighting Franco’s army at the Battle of the Ebro in 1939.
Congress later split between those who stood for class independence, those who fought only for the Workers Republic, and those – led by the Communists – who firstly wanted an alliance with Fianna Fail to reunite the country. After the bulk of the first group walked out (many of them demoralised and ending up in the Labour Party) White remained in the depleted organisation. But their reduced size did not reduce the hatred the rich had for them. In April 1936 the Congress contingent taking part in the annual Easter Commemoration was subjected to attack by blueshirt gangs all along the route.
The main target of the mob was White. Patrick Byrne, the joint secretary with Frank Ryan of the Congress, describes him as a “tall, well built man with a clipped army moustache” who “used his blackthorn stick to advantage in close encounters with his attackers”. Inside the cemetery he was badly injured by a blow of an iron cross ripped from a grave. Byrne and a young poet, Tom O’Brien, who also fought in Spain managed to get White away.
The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War saw General O’Duffy’s blueshirts sending a contingent to help Franco. The Communist Party and leading republicans organised the Connolly Column to fight the Spanish fascists. Incidentaly the Irish International Brigade was yet one more example of how Catholics and Protestants fought together in a common class cause. White was thrilled with the collectivisation in Spain, and also with the volunteer militias. He learned with amazement that this was the work of the anarchists.
In addition to his work with the Connolly Column at the front, he trained militia members in the use of firearms. He also trained women in the villages on the way to Saragossa in the use of pistol for defence. What he could not stomach was that the Irish, like all the International Brigadeers, were being increasingly manipulated by the Communist Party. He had never accepted the CP, he had just not seen an alternative. Now he saw that alternative and it was anarchism.
There was a clash between White and Frank Ryan, who accused White of being a ‘Trotskyite’ and a traitor. White relinquished his International Brigade command and offered his services to the anarchist CNT union. White was asked to work, with the legendary Emma Goldman, for the CNT in London. In the course of a few months in Spain he had become a convinced anarchist.
It was at this time that he wrote the pamphlet ‘The Meaning of Anarchism’. He joined the group producing Freedom (the anarchist paper – still published in London – whose founders included Peter Kropotkin), and was one of the organisers of the regular meetings at the National Trade Union Club against Italian fascism and in support of the Spanish anarchists.
At this time White worked with a Liverpool-Irish anarchist, Matt Kavanagh, on a survey of Irish labour history in relation to anarchism. In 1940 White died. His body was hardly cold when the family, ashamed of Jack’s revolutionary politics, destroyed all his papers, including a study of the Cork Harbour ‘soviet’ of 1921.
His importance lies not in what he wrote, for all that survives is one short pamphlet, nor in any particular position he took. His importance lies in the link he provides between Irish working class history of the past and our anarchist vision today. All through his life he tried to organise ordinary people to defend their own interests and to realise the power they had if only they would use it.
62. Albert Meltzer, one of the most enduring and respected torchbearers of the international anarchist movement in the second half of the twentieth century. His sixty-year commitment to the vision and practice of anarchism survived both the collapse of the Revolution and Civil War in Spain and the Second World War; he helped fuel the libertarian impetus of the 1960s and 1970s and steer it through the reactionary challenges of the Thatcherite 1980s and post-Cold War 1990s.
Fortunately, before he died, Albert managed to finish his autobiography, I Couldn’t Paint Golden Angels, a pungent, no-punches pulled, Schvejkian account of a radical twentieth century enemy of humbug and injustice. A life-long trade union activist, he fought Mosley’s Blackshirts in the battle of Cable Street, played an active role in supporting the anarchist communes and militias in the Spanish Revolution and the pre-war German anti-Nazi resistance, was a key player in the Cairo Mutiny [after] the Second World War, helped rebuild the post-war anti-Franco resistance in Spain and the international anarchist movement. His achievements include Cuddon’s Cosmopolitan Review, an occasional satirical review first published in 1965 and named after Ambrose Cuddon, possibly the first consciously anarchist publisher in the modern sense, the founding of the Anarchist Black Cross, a prisoners’ aid and ginger group and the paper which grew out of it – Black Flag.However, perhaps Albert’s most enduring legacy is the Kate Sharpley Library, probably the most comprehensive anarchist archive in Britain.Born in 1920 into a mixed marriage in the London of Orwell’s Down and Out in which there were few homes for heroes, but many heroes fit only for homes, Albert was soon enrolled into political life as a private in the awkward squad. His decision to go down the road of revolutionary politics came, he claimed, in 1935 at the age of 15 – as a direct result of taking boxing lessons. Boxing was considered a “common” sport, frowned upon by the governors of his Edmonton school and the prospective Labour MP for the area, the virulently anti-boxing Dr Edith Summerskill. Perhaps it was the boxer’s legs and footwork he acquired as a youth which gave him his lifelong ability to bear his considerable bulk. It certainly induced a lifetime’s habit of shrewd assessment of his own and opponents’ respective strengths and weaknesses.The streetwise, pugilistic but bookish schoolboy attended his first anarchist meeting in 1935 where he first drew attention to himself by contradicting the speaker, Emma Goldman, by his defence of boxing. He soon made friends with the ageing anarchist militants of a previous generation and became a regular and dynamic participant in public meetings. The anarchist-led resistance to the Franco uprising in Spain in 1936 gave a major boost to the movement in Britain and Albert’s activities ranged from organising solidarity appeals, to producing propaganda, working with Captain J R White to organise illegal arms shipments from Hamburg to the CNT in Spain and acting as a contact for the Spanish anarchist intelligence services in Britain.Albert’s early working career ranged from fairground promoter, a theatre-hand and occasional film extra. Albert appeared briefly in Leslie Howard’s Pimpernel Smith, an anti-Nazi film that did not follow the line of victory but rather of revolution in Europe. The plot called for communist prisoners, but by the time Howard came to make it, in 1940, Stalin had invaded Finland, and the script was changed to anarchist prisoners. Howard decided that none of the actors playing the anarchists seemed real and insisted that real anarchists, including Albert, be used as extras in the concentration camp scenes. One consequence of this meeting was Howard’s introduction to Hilda Monte, a prominent but unsung hero of the German anarchist resistance to Hitler, which may have contributed to his subsequent death en route to Lisbon.Albert’s later working years were spent mainly as a second-hand bookseller and, finally, as a Fleet Street copytaker. His last employer was, strangely enough, The Daily Telegraph.Albert’s championship of anarchism as a revolutionary working class movement brought him into direct and sustained conflict with the neo-liberals who came to dominate the movement in the late 1940s. Just as people are drawn to totalitarian movements like fascism and communism because of their implicit violence and ideological certainties, many otherwise politically incompatible people were drawn to anarchism because of its militant tolerance. Albert was vehemently opposed to the re-packaging and marketing of anarchism as a broad church for academia-oriented quietists and single-issue pressure groups. It was ironical that one of this group, the late Professor George Woodcock, should publicly dismiss anarchism as a spent historical force in 1962, blissfully unaware of the post-Butskellite storm which was about to break and the influence anarchist and libertarian ideas would have on this and generations yet to come. It was his championship of class-struggle anarchism, coupled with his scepticism of the student-led New Left in the 1960s which earned Albert his reputation for sectarianism. Paradoxically, as friend and Black Flag cartoonist Phil Ruff points out in his introduction to Albert’s autobiography, it was the discovery of class struggle anarchism through the “sectarianism” of Black Flag under Albert’s editorship that convinced so many anarchists of his and subsequent generations to become active in the movement’. The dynamic and logic of Albert’s so-called sectarianism continued to bring countless young people into the anarchist movement then and for a further thirty years until his untimely stroke in April 1996.To Albert, all privilege was the enemy of human freedom; not just the privileges of capitalists, kings, bureaucrats and politicians but also the petty aspirations of opportunists and careerists among the rebels themselves. Much of what he contributed to the lives of those who knew him must go unrecorded, but he will be remembered and talked about fondly for many years to come by those of us whose lives he touched.Written by Stuart Christie
61. Helena Born, a labor organiser, poet and writer, was born in Devonshire, England. She became involved in the workers movement beginning with the London Dock Strike in 1889. In 1890 she emmigrated to the United States, settling in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She learned typesetting and proofreading which became her life work. She wrote Whitman’s Ideal Democracy, and Other Writings (1902). Born was an apostle of simplicity and social regeneration. She appreciated the harmony and joys of nature and possessed the idealism of Thoreau. Her papers found after her death contain scrapbooks, correspondence, autographed letters, photographs, memorabilia, poetry, essays, a biography of Born (written by Helen Tufts), her will and printed material. Her organizing efforts in Bristol are documented as well as her writing and publishing work. (A photo of her could not be found online)
60. Anarchist of the day is Francesco Saverio Merlino! He was an Italian lawyer, anarchist activist and theorist of libertarian socialism.
Merlino was born in Naples 1856. He was raised in the Neapolitan anarchist tradition. Merlino started to participate in the militant anarchist movement in Italy during his university studies.Merlino attended the Anarchist Congress that met in London from 14 July 1881. Other delegates included Kropotkin,Malatesta, Le Compte, Michel and Gautier.
In 1884 he went into exile in England and also travelled to the USA. After he returned to Italy in 1894 he was arrested and had to spend two years in prison.
The Belgian review La Société nouvelle published articles by Merlino in 1891 that took an anarchist viewpoint in criticizing Marxism and German socialism, but Merino also questioned anarchist principles. In 1897 his book Pro e contro il socialismo was published, reflecting his thoughts on the subject.
In the following years he developed his theory of libertarian socialism in arguments with his friend Anarchist Malatesta.
In 1900 he defended Gaetano Bresci, an Italian-American anarchist who assassinated the king of Italy, Umberto I, in response to the Bava-Beccaris massacre. Despite killing the monarch, Bresci was not sentenced to death, making him the only person to ever kill a monarch (without toppling the monarchy) and not be executed.
In 1907, the Turin daily La Stampa published an interview with Merlino, who felt dissolution and had recanted his anarchism and become a socialist. The interview, titled “The End of Anarchism,” pronounced anarchism an obsolete doctrine, torn by internal disputes, bereft of first-rate theorists, and doomed to extinction.
Merlino died on 30 June 1930 in Rome.
59. Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin, American writer and activist. He is a former member of the Black Panther Party.
When he was 12, Ervin joined the NAACP youth group and participated in the sit-in protests that helped end racial segregation in Chattanooga. He was drafted during the Vietnam War and served in the army for two years, where he became an anti-war activist. In 1967 he joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and, a short time later, the Black Panther Party.In February 1969, Ervin hijacked a plane to Cuba to evade prosecution for allegedly trying to kill a Ku Klux Klan leader. While in Cuba and Czechoslovakia, Ervin became disillusioned with state socialism. After several unsuccessful attempts, the American government eventually extradited Ervin and brought him to the U.S. to face trial. Ervin was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Ervin first learned about anarchism while in prison in the late 1970s. He read numerous anarchist books, and his case was adopted by the Anarchist Black Cross, a political prisoner support organization. While in prison, Ervin wrote several anarchist pamphlets, including Anarchism and the Black Revolution, which has been reprinted many times. (An easy-to-read introduction to the fundamental principles of class struggle anarchism and an analysis of relevance to the black liberation movement.)
Eventually, Ervin’s legal challenges and an international campaign led to his release from prison after 15 years.
After his release Ervin returned to Chattanooga, where he became involved with a local civil rights group called Concerned Citizens for Justice, fighting police brutality and the Klan. In 1987, Ervin helped file a class action civil rights lawsuit that resulted in the restructuring of the Chattanooga government and the election of several black city council members.
On April 26, 2008, Ervin and his wife organized a march and rally in Nashville, Tennessee, to protest the deaths of two youths in Tennessee facilities at the Chad Youth Enhancement Center, and the deaths of a number of prisoners at the Nashville Detention Center, allegedly by guards at that facility.
In June 12, 2012, the Ervins and other black activists held a conference called “Let’s Organize the Hood”, and there created the Memphis Black Autonomy Federation to fight the high levels of unemployment and poverty in African American communities, rampant police brutality, including the unjustified use of deadly force, and the mass imprisonment of blacks and other peoples of color by the United States government through its War on Drugs, which Ervin states are unjustly directed to black/POC communities.
Ervin currently goes on talking tours all over the world and attended the London Anarchist book fair in 2013.
Bookchin was an anti-capitalist and vocal advocate of the decentralisation of society along ecological and democratic lines. His writings on libertarian municipalism, a theory of face-to-face, assembly democracy, had an influence on the Green movement and anti-capitalist direct action groups such as Reclaim the Streets.In the 1950s and 1960s, before most people even knew what ecology was, he was proposing fundamental solutions. Being ahead of his time, however, meant that his ideas were either ignored or condemned when they were first published; they remain insufficiently recognized today.Bookchin joined the American Communist movement at the age of nine, during the Great Depression; disillusioned, he was a Trotskyist—a member of the Socialist Workers Party (Fourth International)—from 1939 to 1947. He thereafter abjured political Marxism but remained committed to advancing the project of anticapitalist revolution. He would rethink revolutionary politics, find a new framework for it. He dedicated the rest of his life to theorizing, inspiring, and trying to organize a revolution that would be not only socialist but (unlike Marxian socialism) antihierarchical, democratic, and ecological.Starting in 1952, Bookchin began writing about “the problem of chemicals in food” for the New York-based journal Contemporary Issues. He argued that the use of pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals in agriculture was having toxic effects on human health. To reduce the need for them, he advocated a marriage of town and country—that is, producing food near where it is to be consumed, sowing, maintaining, and harvesting crops locally. He criticized the use of monocultures and called for crop diversity; he condemned the exhaustion of topsoil and called for crop rotation; he denounced large-scale, centralized agriculture, which reduced farmers to laborers, and called instead for small-scale farming, in which the those who worked the land maintained a valued connection to the natural world. Overall, he condemned the absorption of agriculture into the capitalist system, where it served the imperative of maximizing profit, and instead called for organic farming, integrated with rather than separated from human settlements. On a philosophical level, he criticized the alienation of humanity from nature.Unlike other members of the emerging 1950s peace movement, he criticized not only weapons testing but also “atoms for peace”—nuclear power. In 1963 Con Ed proposed building a nuclear reactor in Ravenswood, Queens, in 1963. Bookchin joined the fight against it, which was the first community struggle against nuclear power—which successfully killed the project.In the early 1960s new threats to human health appeared to be everywhere. Giant cities were sites of mounting air and water pollution; poisoned air and water too were giving rise to physical illness. Just living in oversized cities was a source of unremitting stress, and stress (it was just coming to be understood) had negative health effects.Such a planet was not a place where people could survive. Ordinary people, Bookchin was convinced, would not stand for it. They would not tolerate these widespread and systematic assaults on their health, on the integrity of their bodies. They would not stand for the destruction of the environment by the greenhouse effect. In the interests of sheer survival, they would rise up against the system that was producing all these effects. The limit to capitalism was not, as Marx had argued, the immiseration of the proletariat; it was the erosion of human health.A society without capitalism would be one that was humanly scaled, in which town and country were integrated; in which farming was local and part of everyday life. And it would be free of fossil fuels.Large cities, he pointed out, depend on large centralized energy systems. Since the 1950s, scientist at MIT had been experimenting with new, alternative sources of energy: the sun, the wind the tides. These forces of nature could be be harnessed virtually anywhere. Unlike fossil fuels, which are integral to massively scaled conurbations, these alternative sources of energy lend themselves to decentralized generation and ownership. They can be used at a community scale in solar panels and wind turbines, in small hydro, geothermal plants. Starting in the early 1960s, Murray argued that solar, wind, and tidal energy were suited to small-scale, self-managed, decentralized of self-managed communities.But social ecology, as he soon called this body of ideas, did not mean a return to benighted medieval-style peasantry. Thanks to modern manufacturing technology—which Bookchin saw as mostly positive—labor and toil could be eliminated. People would not have to work, because machines would do the work. They would be free to be creative.In the mid-1960s, he and his political group—the New York Federation of Anarchists–went to demonstrations. He tried to convince major figures in the New Left that ecology should be a basic issue for them. They considered concern for the environment and chemicals to be petty bourgeois and some mocked Murray as “Smokey the Bear.”But with Earth Day 1970 and the onset of the environmental movement, his ideas were suddenly timely. In 1974 he co-founded a school in Vermont — the Institute for Social Ecology — that gave thousands of baby boomers their first exposure to organic farming and solar and wind energy.Abandoning Marxism also meant abandoning Marxian ideas about revolutionary institution. Rethinking the revolutionary project meant determining new revolutionary institutions, indeed the political structure of the new society, in a way that would not recapitulate Marxist authoritarianism. There must be no more Stalins, no more Robespierres. The new revolutionary movement would have to be free of tyranny. And instead of leaving it to a vanguard Politburo to make decisions, it would make decisions democratically.Starting back in those same 1950s that were so creative for him, he became an advocate of face-to-face democracy. He realized that the ancient Athenians had managed a whole society collectively, through citizens’ assemblies.Starting in the late 1970s, the Marxists of the New Left were not interested, but anarchism, under his auspices, underwent a revival and embraced his call for community self-management in an ecological society. Some anarchists mocked him as an “institution freak,” but he understood that it was the responsibility of a revolutionary movement to provide a framework for the new society.
For revolutionary movement organization, he began (in 1969) advancing the affinity group as the fundamental unit. A student and historian of 1930s revolutionary Spanish anarchism, he discovered that these libertarians had organized themselves as grupos de afinidad, bands of small, close-knit activists working together on common projects. It was Bookchin who brought the name and the idea from Spanish anarchism into the American context. The antinuclear movement Clamshell Alliance (in which he participated) took up the affinity group as it unit of organization in 1976-78. Affinity groups have since become basic to leftist movement organizing, up to the 1999 anti-WTO Seattle protests and beyond.
The antidote to social control by large impersonal forces, to hierarchy and domination, to the market economy, to the market society, and to the commodification of all aspects of social and individual life, is face-to-face association from the bottom up—to build an ethical movement against capitalism, and a communal democracy. .“We desperately need a decentralized society,” he would tell audiences, “a revitalization of community, a re-empowerment of our citizens, a vital public sphere in which people can recover contact with each other and take control of their own destinies.”
When environmentalists argued that the fabric of life could be preserved by curbing the excesses of capitalism with legislation, like Clean Air and Water acts, Bookchin denied it, calling such views reformism; only (social) ecology, he argued, by working to eliminate capitalism, could get at the root cause. Affirming that the problem lies in our social arrangements: in the grow-or-die market economy in which businesses must compete to undersell each other and to maximize profits – an imperative that is tearing down the planet. The problem is a social arrangement, and social arrangements are malleable, people can create a new one, replacing capitalism with a cooperative socialist system.
He argued for an ethical revolt against capitalism, appealing to disgust with the emptiness and meaninglessness of a life organized around commodities. “Detrivialize yourselves,” he would tell students at the Institute for Social Ecology, which he cofounded in 1974 and where he taught the rest of his life. The school educated thousands in organic farming, aquaponics, renewable energy, food justice, and revolutionary social theory. Students went on to become climate change activists, social workers, environmental attorneys, community organizers, organic farmers, and Green activists.
He tried unsuccessfully to build it into the Green movements that emerged internationally in the early 1980s. Today the Kurds of Anatolia have embraced his ideas, under the name “democratic confederalism,” as a path to liberation. His writings on the subject remain a blueprint for those elsewhere who may aspire one day to turn that social potentiality for freedom into an actuality.
The venue for revolutionary action was not the factory (as the Marxists had it) but the city, where concentrations of people makes possible popular media, repeated encounters, neighborhood action, popular assemblies, and revolutionary ferment. The great movements of revolutionary history, when closely examined, turn out to be urban.
The reasons he wrote the history of popular movements in revolutionary eras was to keep the revolutionary tradition alive and to bring its lessons into the present. The Spanish Anarchists covering the movement from its nineteenth-century founding up to 1936, was an extended argument that anarchists could, contrary to all stereotypes, be organized. His magisterial four-volume work, recounts the tradition on which revolutionary movements base themselves.
He was a fervent champion of the Enlightenment’s values of reason and humanism. As a humanist, he opposed misanthropy in the ecology movement. It became fashionable to blame human beings as such for destroying nature. Bookchin argued that on the contrary, we depend on human ingenuity and creativity to find solutions to the crisis.
In a world that no longer values coherence, Bookchin dared to be coherent. As a result, his ideas have an internal logic. As a developed social outlook with a broad critique of hierarchy, capitalism, and the state, it points to a utopian alternative and reminds us what a good society could look like, and the social generosity of which human beings are capable. The ethical revolt against capitalism speaks to a craving for meaning and appeals to virtuous human agency.
In a risk-averse society, he cared nothing for risking his reputation. He didn’t desire to impress or fear the disapproval of others. Despite massive countervailing social forces, he sustained the utopian temper. He understood that while success could not be immediate, the choices we face are apocalyptic. He transformed Rosa Luxemburg’s maxim “Socialism or barbarism” into “Ecology or annihilation”: or better still, “Be realistic do the impossible, because otherwise we will have the unthinkable.”
He continued to teach at the ISE until 2004 and died of congestive heart failure on July 30, 2006, at his home in Burlington at the age of 85.
57. Anarchist of the day is Emiliano Zapata! He was of Indian and Spanish descent, his parents poor peasants, Zapata became the great agrarian leader in the Mexican Revolution. Zapata was partly influenced by an anarchist from Northern Mexico named Ricardo Flores Magón. The influence of Magón on Zapata can be seen in the Zapatismo Plan de Ayala, but even more noticably in the Zapatista slogan “Tierra y libertad” or “land and liberty,” the title and maxim of Magón’s most famous work. Zapata’s introduction to anarchism came via a local schoolteacher, Otilio Montano, who exposed Zapata to the works of Peter Kropotkin and Flores Magón at the same time as Zapata was observing and beginning to participate in the struggles of the peasants for the land. As a young boy, Zapata learned to hate the rich landowners in Morelos as he witnessed evictions of peasants from their land. In his youth, he had to leave his home state of Morelos and go into hiding on several occasions, being hunted by authorities for acts of village defence. He hated the city and distrusted men in suits and shoes. ‘They’re all a bunch of bastards,’ he said of the self-serving politicians of Mexico’s governing elite. So he shunned Mexico City, national politics, and attempts to suborn him with offers of high office. He hated the rich and the liberals. He grew wise from long experience of lies and betrayals. Like Ukrainian Makhno, he led an army of insurgent peasants and fought for an egalitarian society, inspired by a distrust of politics and contempt of personal gain, insisting that the people had to themselves fight “to re conquer the true freedom and to shake off once and forever the yoke of mayors and hacendados, who have always been the worst enemies and the worst tyrants.”
56. Noam Chomsky, an Anarcho Syndicalist libertarian Socialist, the son of an eminent Hebrew scholar who’s father William Chomsky, fled from Russia in 1913 to escape conscription into the Tsarist army. By the age of 13 Chomsky identified with ‘the anti-Bolshevik left’ and had come to reject the Tyranny under Lenin&Trotsky that the Left espouse as freedom.
His father was the Ukrainian-born William “Zev” Chomsky, (an Ashkenazi Jew who had fled to the United States in 1913) and his mother was Elsie Simonofsky. William placed a great emphasis on educating people so that they would be “well integrated, free and independent in their thinking, and eager to participate in making life more meaningful and worthwhile for all”, a view subsequently adopted by his son. Chomsky developed an early interest in anarchism from relatives in New York City. Political sympathies with a professor of linguistics brought him to work in that field-he developed a theory on how to predict the sentence combination in a language and to describe their structure, the ‘Chomskyan Revolution’ which to many remains the foundation of modern linguistics. He has became one of the leading libertarian critics of modern world politics including the support of the Palestinian people and a critic of the Israeli Government policies.
“The essential attribute of human nature give the opportunity to create social conditions and social forms to maximise the possibilities for freedom and diversity, and individual self-realisation.”
55. Marie Le Compte! She was an American journal editor who was active during the early 1880s.
Marie was of French origin but settled in the United States, where she joined the Socialist movement, speaking and writing for that cause. Le Compte was a friend of John Swinton. She was an editor and a writer for Joseph Patrick McDonnell’s New York Labor Standard. According to Paul Avrich she was “an exotic and somewhat mysterious figure” with “a special sympathy for outlaws and tramps.” She called herself “Miss Le Compte, Prolétaire”.
Marie Le Compte attended the Anarchist Congress that met in London from 14 July 1881. By this time she was middle-aged. She represented the “Boston Revolutionaries”, an obscure group of whom little is known.
The Radical of 23 July 1881 reported that the congress met on 18 July 1881 at the Cleveland Hall, Fitzroy Square, with speeches by Marie Le Compte, “the transatlantic agitator”, Louise Michel, and Kropotkin. In addressing the congress Le Compte said that revolutionaries should join labor unions in order to radicalize the members. She supported the idea of having bomb-making manuals published in many languages by local groups. During her visit to England Le Compte and Kropotkin gave talks to the Homerton Social Democratic Club and to the Stratford Radical and Dialectical Club. At the Homerton club her topic was “the situation in America”. In October 1881 she gave a talk at Stratford, London, in which she praised pirates.
Benjamin Tucker’s Liberty was the first Anarchist paper in the English language to circulate in England. Marie Le Compte may have introduced it during her 1881 visit. She wrote several articles for the paper in 1883 reporting on the trial and imprisonment at Lyon of several anarchists, including Louise Michel, Émile Pouget and Kropotkin. In March 1883 she participated in the Paris bread riot and was wounded in a fight with the police. She fled to Switzerland to avoid being arrested. She settled in Berne where she translated Bakunin’s God and the State and Kropotkin’s Appeal to the Young.
Marie ceased to participate in the movement some time after 1883. Her translation of Kropotkin’s An Appeal to the Young was serialized from 5–26 January 1884 in the San Francisco Truth.The first number of The Anarchist published in 1885 in London by Henry Seymour held an announcement of a translation by Le Compte of Mikhail Bakunin’s God and the State. The International Publishing Company announced that the profits from God & The State would go to the Red Cross of the Russian Revolutionary Party.
Eugene’s father hoped that his son would study and not be condemned to hard toil all his life like so many others in the neighbourhood. He attended school until 13 and then took an apprentice as a bookbinder with his uncle in Paris. He took evening courses at the same time, even learning Latin and distinguished himself in his studies.Eugene became conscious of the need to organise and joined the Bookbinders Society at the age of 18. This society concerned itself with sickness benefits and retirement sums and he sought to make it more militant. In 1864, already on police files, he took part in his first strike and became a member of the strike committee. His agitation in the Society led to his expulsion from it and he now set up his own bookbinders’ association which grew to 300 members by 1870. At the same time he organised a cooperative restaurant and a cooperative shop.
In an attempt to turn the workers’ societies in a more militant direction he called for the creation of a Federation of Parisian Workers’ Societies which was created in 1869. During the strike wave of 1869 he set up a strike fund, not devoted to one trade but for all workers on strike.
Eugene became a socialist, adopting the mutualist outlook of Proudhon, situating himself on the left of that current and acting among the anti-authoritians within the First International which he joined in 1865. He advanced the ideas of federalism within it. He began writing for the weekly paper of the First International. La Tribune Ouvriere. He was one of the 4 French delegates at the London conference. He was unimpressed by the London leadership of the International, preferring the company of Marx’s daughters to that of their father, and waltzing with them throughout the last evening ! However he felt the need to continue to work within it. He was opposed to the Proudhonist position which said that women should stay at home and not work in the factories. He had meetings with Bakunin and James Guillaume, representing the libertarian current within the International.With the banning of the International in 1868 he was fined and served 3 months in prison. He developed a collectivist position, becoming coordinating secretary of the workers’ societies. He believed the societies could be a place to train people for a future society.At the end of 1870 , after having set up sections of the international in Lyon, Lille and Creusot, he had to flee to Belgium.
With the fall of Napoleon III and the setting up of a government of national defence in Paris, he returned there and founded the vigilance committee of the 4th arrondissement. He became delegate to the central committee of twenty arrondissements, where he was in charge of finance. Head of a Garde Nationale battalion, Eugene, with his libertarian outlook, felt that this had to be aligned to the workers’ movement and that its leaders be elected and subject to instant recall. However he resigned from the battalion when it failed to accept his suggestions. He saw that the new government was prepared to make a deal with the Prussians and to flee Paris for Versailles. When this government attempted to seize the cannons at Montmartre Eugene Varlin was among those who took part in the subsequent insurrection, with the battalions of the Batignolles district taking control of the area.On the 26th March as a member of the International he was elected to the Council of the Commune, being the only delegate to be elected in 3 arrondissements. He served on the finance committee, finally passing to the committee for military supply.
With his experience of cooperatives he now set up clothing workshops, one of which was directed by Louise Michel. He also became secretary of the Council of the International, maintaining links between the Commune and the workers’ societies.As a libertarian he was opposed to the moves to set up a Committee of Public Safety to defend the Commune, reminding himself of the role of such an organisation in the 1789 Revolution. He saw in it the danger of a dictatorship in opposition to the grass roots organisations of the masses. He signed the declaration of the minority, flyposted throughout Paris protesting against these moves.During the Bloody Week, with the advance of the troops of the Versailles government, he led the defence of the 6th and 10th arrondissements, fighting from barricade to barricade. The Versaillais troops began massacres, but Varlin denounced the attempts by some Communards to retaliate with similar massacres, and tried unsuccessfully to stop the execution of 50 hostages.Recognised by a priest in the street on 28th MAY he was arrested. He had made no attempt to flee or to hide himself. He was tortured and beaten and then finally put up against a wall and shot, his body lying on the ground for several hours. In front of the firing squad he cried out Vive la Commune!This article first appeared in Organise! No 77. Magazine of the Anarchist Federation www.afed.org.uk
53. Mollie Steimer! A leading anarchist and advocate for the rights of political prisoners, was a codefendant in one of the most publicized antiradical trials in American history.
Born on November 21, 1897, in Dunaevtsy, Russia, Steimer arrived in New York City at age fifteen, along with her father, her mother Fannie Steimer, and five brothers and sisters. To help support her family, she worked in a garment factory, where she was first exposed to radicalism. In 1917, she became an anarchist and joined a group of Jewish radicals calling itself Frayhayt [Liberty]. The group supported the Russian Revolution and, in addition to publishing a Yiddish journal, secretly distributed leaflets and other propaganda materials that were banned by wartime legislation. Among these materials were two brochures—one in English and one in Yiddish—opposing American intervention in the Russian Revolution and strongly criticizing the U.S. Government.
The two brochures soon got Frayhayt in trouble with government authorities. One of the group’s members was arrested for distributing the leaflets. After he agreed to cooperate with military intelligence, six other members, including Steimer, were arrested and charged with conspiring to violate the Sedition Act.
The subsequent trial became a cause célèbre, notable as the first major prosecution under the Sedition Act and for the blatant infringement of the defendants’ rights. Steimer and her codefendants were represented by Harry Weinberger, a well-known advocate for conscientious objectors, pacifists, and radicals. The two-week trial began on October 10, 1918. Weinberger argued that, since the actions of the defendants did not directly interfere with the war effort, they were not punishable under the provisions of the Sedition Act. Despite his defense, all but one of the defendants were found guilty, and four were given major sentences. Jacob Abrams, Hyman Lachowsky, and Samuel Lipman were each sentenced to twenty years in prison and fined one thousand dollars, while Steimer received fifteen years and a fine of five thousand dollars. All four appealed their case to the Supreme Court.
Released on bail, Steimer continued her radical activities. She was befriended by anarchist Emma Goldman, who had just been released from prison herself. Goldman admired Steimer’s uncompromising attitude toward anarchist ideals and called her “a sort of Alexander Berkman in skirts.” Steimer’s continued radical activities resulted in at least eight arrests while her case was on appeal, and finally led to her imprisonment on Blackwell’s Island in the East River toward the end of 1919. While she was there, the Supreme Court upheld her conviction and those of her colleagues. Steimer was transferred to a prison in Jefferson City, Missouri, where she was put to work sewing garments.
Meanwhile, Harry Weinberger continued his efforts to free the four anarchists, this time hoping to obtain a pardon, a decree of amnesty, or deportation to Russia. He was able to elicit a groundswell of support for the group, not only among Jewish radicals but also among a number of leading lawyers and intellectuals who were convinced that they had not received a fair trial. Despite such support, Steimer refused to sign a petition for amnesty or to request deportation to Russia. “I do not want any pardon,” she wrote to Weinberger. “The word ‘pardon’ drills my ears and affects my sense of right, which is bad already.” She objected to deportation on the basis of her belief that “each person shall live where he or she chooses,” and that “No individual has the right to send me out of this, or of any country!” Despite these objections, Weinberger secured the group’s release. In 1921, the four anarchists were permitted to be deported to Soviet Russia at their own expense, and received a full pardon on the condition that they never return to the United States.
After arriving in Russia, Steimer was disappointed to find that anarchists were little more welcome than in the United States. Goldman and Berkman, who had been deported a few months before her, had already left the country in disillusionment. The new communist regime tolerated no opposition to state policy and viewed the anarchists as a threat to its authority. Promising to “advocate my ideal, anarchist communism, in whatever country I shall be,” Steimer started spreading propaganda for anarchist causes and on behalf of Soviet political prisoners.
Not long after her arrival in Russia, Steimer met and fell in love with fellow anarchist Senya Fleshin, a Russian-born Jew who had immigrated to the United States and returned after the Revolution. Although the two never married, they became devoted companions. Like Steimer, Fleshin was disillusioned with the Soviet regime, and the two joined forces in their work to help political prisoners. In 1922, Steimer and Fleshin were arrested by the Soviet secret police, accused of having anarchist connections in Europe and the United States. They were sentenced to two years’ exile in Siberia, but were released when they staged a hunger strike. After being arrested a second time and staging another hunger strike, the two were expelled from the Soviet Union, leaving for Germany in 1923.
During the next fifteen years, Steimer and Fleshin moved between Berlin and Paris, aiding political prisoners and anarchist exiles. They maintained contacts with countless prisoners—to whom they sent care packages—and with radicals in several countries, many of whom they received as guests. The couple also took part in the major debates of the day concerning radical politics, including the controversy surrounding Peter Arshinov’s Organizational Platform. Arshinov proposed the creation of a central executive committee to guide the anarchist movement, a move that Steimer and Fleshin felt would lead to authoritarianism and a subversion of anarchist principles.
At the beginning of World War II, Steimer and Fleshin were living in Paris. With the invasion of France by the Germans they faced danger both as radicals and Jews. In 1940, Steimer was arrested and taken to an internment camp, while Fleshin fled to the unoccupied sector. Able to negotiate her release, Steimer was reunited with Fleshin in Marseilles, and the two fled to Mexico City, where they opened a photographic studio and became part of a growing group of political exiles. In 1963, they retired to the town of Cuernavaca. Steimer spent her final years corresponding with fellow radicals and receiving many visitors who admired her as a veteran of the international anarchist movement. She died on July 23, 1980, at age eighty-two. Written by The Jewish Women’s Archive.
She started work at 8, and left school at 13 to work full-time as a delivery person, then in a sweatshop.In 1914, she threatened to shoot John D. Rockefeller as she arrived with a crowd and a loaded pistol in front of the Standard Oil Building in Manhattan. The judge is very lenient.“Never before this, mark you, has the whole American people united in a demand for atonement for the crimes of capital. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. stands convicted of being accessory to the murder of women and children at Ludlow! He must answer for it to the American people. Like Belshazzar he sits at a feast of plenty while his victims starve and die. And to him, too, have appeared in letters of fire the warning: MENE MENE tekel upharsin. ‘You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.’”In her autobiography she renounces anarchism and criticises Emma Goldman for her absence from meetings whilst she’s on lecture tours.
She was born in Dublin on 17th June 1856. She was the daughter of Alexander Robinson a dyer and Emily nee Egan. Her sisters called her Nannie and she decided to change her name to Nannie Florence. This was because she had a friend called Florence who died young. After her father’s death in the mid -1870s she became a school governess in Ireland and then London where she looked after Nellie Tenison an Irish doctor’s daughter. The doctor may have sexually harassed her, as indicated in letters and she suddenly returned to Ireland. Doctor Tenison was the family doctor of the Dryhurst family and this may have been how she met Alfred Robert Dryhurst, usually known as Roy.They became engaged in 1882 and were married in August 1884. There seems to have been some ambivalence from Nannie towards the relationship, which had been conducted for a long time in the form of letters. Nevertheless the marriage took place. A year later a daughter Norah was born in London and 3 years later another daughter, Sylvia ( who as Sylvia Lynd was to become a poet and novelist).
50. Kate Sharpley! She was a Deptford-born anarchist and anti-World War I activist. She is chiefly known today through the work of the library named in her honour.
During the war she left her job with a baker and worked in a Woolwich munitions factory. She was among the first people active in the shop stewards movement. Her father and brother were killed in action and her boyfriend (active in the anarcho-syndicalistic Horse Transport Union) was listed as missing believed killed. She suspected, though she had no proof, that he had been shot for mutiny. At the age of 22, when called to receive her family’s medals from Queen Mary (wife of George V) she threw the medals back at her, saying “if you like them so much you can have them”. The Queen’s face was scratched, Kate Sharpley was beaten by police, and imprisoned for a few days, though no charges were brought against her. She was fired from her job at the factory.
49. Rebecca (Becky) Edelsohn. In the photo she’s the one in the white clothing and white hat. She was a dynamic New York Anarchist active in unemployment protests, anti-militarism, and solidarity actions with both the Mexican Revolution and the Colorado miners strike at the time of Rockerfeller’s notorious Ludlow Massacre.
Beck Edelsohn is the first political hunger striker in America. Possessed of strong convictions and revolutionary temperament, of exceptional determination and courage, Becky refuses to compromise with the enemy. It is not given to the average to be strong and uncompromising. But Becky is not of the average. She is very exceptional—a strong personality, unusually gifted in mind and heart.
Though a very young woman, about twenty-three, Becky Edelsohn has been active in the Anarchist movement for a number of years. Not indeed as a “leader,” nor even as speakers or writer, but as one of the soldiers in the ranks, whose unobtrusive devotion and out-of-the-spotlight work for the cause is the very soul of the more conspicuous activities.
Famous for wearing red stockings during the political demonstrations she engages in. She came to the United States from the Ukraine with her family while still a young girl. Later, she lived for a time in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum of New York until she was discharged on May 14, 1902. She lived in the home of anarchist Emma Goldman as a teenager, where she was introduced to the anarchist ideology of the day. In 1906, she became the close companion of Alexander Berkman after his release from prison, and became his lover the following year. She was arrested in 1906 at a meeting to discuss anarchist Leon Czolgosz. She was again arrested at a meeting of the International Brotherhood Welfare Association at Cooper Union on Labor Day, 1908. She was arrested again on May 23, 1909 along with Leopold Bergman and charged with disorderly conduct. Following the 1914 Ludlow Massacre, she helped to lead anti-Rockefeller demonstrations in Tarrytown, New York. On the first day of demonstrations, she and other anarchists were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after giving speeches at the public square. At her hearing, she was specifically cited for calling John D. Rockefeller, Jr. a “multi-murderer”. She was jailed at Blackwell’s Island where she refused to accept any nourishment other than water. In a letter smuggled to Alexander Berkman, she wrote, “I am still sticking to my programme, having fasted over twenty-seven days. I am very weak.” This letter prompted her friends to raise the $300 needed to post a bond for her release.
The Movement of the Unemployed of last winter found Becky within its ranks. The movement, started by a small group of obscure proletarians at the Ferrer School, at the very outset faced the problem of the lack of speakers from its own ranks. IT was in this manner that Frank Tanenbaum joined in the work. Similarly Becky Edelsohn came to the front, inner necessity and the demand for speakers causing her to ascend the public platform—her first experience of the king—at gatherings of the unemployed at various street corners of New York City, and later at Franklin Statue (Printers’ Row). Of good appearance and sympathetic voice, well versed in the subject matter of her talks, she proved effective and was soon much in demand as a speaker.
She later married fellow anarchist Charles Plunkett after World War I. Their marriage lasted nine years. The couple had a son. She died of emphysema in 1973.
“I am very low and suffering great torture. But there will be no giving in on my part. I can die but once. Many have died for the cause, and it will make good propaganda.”
“If men reach the point of losing respect for property, everyone will have property, as all slaves become free as soon as they no longer respect the master as master.”
46. François Rabelais he was a major French Renaissance writer, doctor, Renaissance humanist, monk and Greek scholar.
The date of Rabelais’ birth is uncertain, and even that of his death disputed. Probably tonsured in childhood, he eventually became a Franciscan, then a Benedictine, a secular priest and then a physician. He became famous as the writer of 5 books later united as Gargantua and Pantagruel, where he describes the utopian abbey of Thelma, the earliest description of an ideal Anarchist egalitarian society. He has historically been regarded as a writer of fantasy, satire, the grotesque, bawdy jokes and songs. Because of his literary power and historical importance, Western literary critics considered him one of the great writers of world literature and among the creators of modern European writing.“Their whole life was not organised by laws, statutes or rules, but according to their will and free judgment…their rule had only one clause: Do what you want, for free people…have by nature an instinct which they call honour, pushing them to do good and keeping them away from vice.”
44. Guiseppe Pinelli, a railwayman, Pinelli was active in the Italian Anarchist movement since the 1950’s, a good organiser of demonstrations, single-mindedly devoted to his cause.
Giuseppe Pinelli was born on October 1928 in the working class neighbourhood of Porta Ticinese in Milan. He worked from a young age as an errand boy, and then later as a warehouse worker. In 1944-45 as a teenager he operated as a courier for an anarchist partisan group operating in the Milan area. Despite having to work at an early age he managed to educate himself by reading hundreds of books.Following a series of explosions Milan and Rome, one of which killed 16 people and injured 100 (and which in fact caused by fascists) the police arrested Anarchists in many Italian cities. One of those was ‘Pino’ Pinelli. One night in 1969 he ‘fell’ from the 4th floor of Milan police headquarters. The police falsely claimed that he threw himself out of the window shouting: “This is the end of Anarchism!”
The state murder of Pinelli set off a wave of protest. One thousand people attended his funeral. Later Dario Fo wrote his play Accidental Death of An Anarchist about Pinelli’s murder and the framing of his comrade Valpreda.
43. Paul Goodman, reader for MGM, teacher, essayist, novelist, playwright, poet, critic, psychotherapist, professor, social philosopher, pacifist, advocate of decentralism and experimental education. Goodman was born in New York (1911) and became famous among the 1960’s generation which claimed to ‘trust no one over 30’ but made him an exception, largely due to his book ‘Growing up Absurd.’
Goodman is quotes as saying “A free society cannot be the substitute of a new order for the old order; it is the extension of spheres of free action until they make up the most of social life.”
Paul Goodman was born in New York City on September 9, 1911. He never knew his father who abandoned the family when Paul was an infant. This left his bohemian mother a working single parent. His brother Percival left home early. He was raised without much supervision by his mother’s sisters and his older sister Alice in the rich atmosphere of the urban Jewish intellectual community of the early part of the century. He was a bookish and curious child who roamed freely in the streets, parks, museums and libraries of New York City absorbing a truly free education. He graduated from City College in the depression year of 1931 and snuck into classes at Columbia and Harvard. Through a Columbia professor he was invited to teach at the University of Chicago while he earned his Ph.D in Literature, but he was fired from his job (as he was fired from every teaching job in his life) because he insisted on his right to fall in love with his students. He was never in the closet about his bisexuality and saw no reason to hide it even in the face of the trouble it caused him in that less permissive time.
Through the next twenty-five years he lived with his common-law wife Sally. Goodman had two daughters, Susan (whose mother was Virginia Miller, Goodman’s first wife) and Daisy, and a son, Matthew Ready. During this time they lived in decent poverty and an ideal environment for serious people. They got by on little jobs including a $5 per story contract with the MGM story department in New York for plot synopses of French novels. During this time he wrote furiously. He considered himself an artist and produced mostly poems, plays and short stories. He promoted himself vigorously but met with little acceptance of his mostly avant-garde style. He was involved with little literary magazines, theater groups and political activities centered around the Spanish Anarchist Hall (Solidaridad International Anti-Fascista).
Midlife found Paul Goodman drained and fearful in the face of his status as a marginal artist with children to raise. He wrote in a journal: I am at a loss, in our great city, how to do anything at all that could make an immediate difference in our feeling and practice (and so in my own feeling and practice). Therefore I have ceased to want anything, I do not know what we want. It was at this time that he met Fritz Perls, a German Jew who spent the Hitler years in South Africa and fled to the United States as the apartheid regime arose there. Perls had studied with the founding generation of Freudians but soon developed a very unconventional therapeutic practice. Perls’ ideas blended well with Goodman’s and they were soon involved in a rich collaboration, founding the Gestalt Therapy Institute and writing Gestalt Therapy .
This exposure shifted Goodmanâs career from artist/writer to social critic. He wrote no more stories or plays and fewer poems. His breakthrough book, Growing Up Absurd, was rejected by a dozen publishers before finally seeing print in 1960 and becoming a huge success. Soon the rest of society began to catch up to him as young people began to rebel against the excessive conventionality of the fifties. He was well placed to address the anti-institutional critique which emerged at this time and led to massive change in the years to come. By the mid-sixties he was adopted as sort of an uncle of the youth/student movement, wrote a book a year, and made almost constant campus appearances. His contribution was scholarly yet personal, classical yet revolutionary, and thoroughly natural and anti-institutional.
As the movement became the Movement and shifted to a struggle between the Old Left and the New Left, Goodman remained unapologetically free. Many of his former followers abandoned him as he refused to offer a blueprint for building structures for the future, preferring the formulation of here, now, next. He seemed both saddened and relieved by this and soon settled into his familiar status as outsider critic, but now with a comfortable fame and some financial security.
In 1967 his son Mathew died tragically in a mountain climbing accident. Friends say he never recovered from the grief this caused him. Soon his health began to deteriorate and his writing mellowed into the reflections of an old warrior. He died of a heart attack on August 2, 1972, just short of his sixty-first birthday.
By: John Fitzgerald
“Above all we should not forget, that government is an evil, an usurpation upon the private judgement and individual conscience of mankind.”
One of the greatest writers of modern times, Tolstoy was also a political radical and an Anarchist, though for a long time he refused to accept that term for himself due to his categorical refutation of violence. After years in the army and the experience of the Crimean War (1852-57), he travelled to Western Europe, where he visited Proudhon in 1861, who deeply influenced him. He took the title of Proudhon’s book War and Peace for his own most famous novel.
In 1873, Tolstoy set to work on the second of his best known novels, Anna Karenina. He continued to write fiction throughout the 1880s and 1890s. One of his most successful later works was The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Tolstoy died in 1910 in Astapovo, Russia.
38. Camille Pissarro! A painter (artist) Living in France permanently since 1855, he was strongly influenced by Corot, and one of the first impressionists, remaining a central figure of this movement all his life. A sympathiser of the Paris Commune, he became an Anarchist and supported the Anarchist movement and Publications both financially and with his works, especially the effort of Jean Grave and Émile Pouget to bring modern art to the workers.
“General suffrage, the instrument for the rule of the capitalist bourgeoisie…serves only the interests of the big bosses…how stupid to imagine the interests of the proletariate represented by a member of Parliament.”
From his youth, Pissarro was sympathetic to the anarchist cause. He grew up on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, where he studied and played with children of African descent. Pissarro was known for treating all members of his own household equally because he believed that women and children were just as valuable as men. During the 1880s, Pissarro became very influenced by anarchist authors. He voraciously consumed any piece of anarchist literature that he could acquire. He subscribed to anarchist newspapers—his favorite was La Révolte— and bought as many books written by anarchists as he could afford, a habit that continued even when his financial situation became extremely dire (Adler, 1977, p. 124-5).
However, Pissarro was not a revolutionary. He was nonviolent by nature and did not favor the radical form of anarchism that argued that a violent revolution was necessary to implement anarchism. Instead, Pissarro believed that anarchism could be “built.” He did not view anarchism as the destruction of government but as the creation of an egalitarian society. He believed that an anarchist society could be built by carefully educating future generations and inspiring them to craft a society where everyone was equal. He applied these principles in his family life; he encouraged his own children to study political theory—particularly anarchism—and he regularly engaged his family in political discussions at the dinner table (Adler, 1977, p. 126-7).
Pissarro’s political beliefs were not isolated to his personal life—they infiltrated his artwork as well. He was convinced that for true artistic freedom to exist, artists must liberate themselves from the patronage of wealthy capitalists. However, Pissarro did not overtly demonstrate his beliefs in his artwork. Instead, he subtly tried to build sympathy toward an anarchistic mindset (Adler, 1977, p. 126).
Despite his subtly, his paintings still created much controversy. Pissarro’s paintings were controversial not because of the subject matter but because of how it was presented on the canvas. Pissarro’s paintings did not cater to the social context or preconceived ideologies of his patrons. Rather, he focused his works primarily on peasants and their daily lives. He did not depict them as destitute and subhuman, as his wealthy patrons may have considered them to be. Pissarro also did not depict the peasants as oppressed by the wealthy—unable to live up to their full potential because of their economic bondage.
Instead, Pissarro—the only Impressionist painter to center his paintings on domestic workers—sought to portray the peasants and their works as dignified. Essentially, by painting these subjects Pissarro encouraged his wealthy patrons to publicly display artwork that made peasant life appear dignified and important. For instance, In the Garden at Pontoise: A Young Woman Washing Dishes, depicted a servant girl washing dishes. As in all Pissarro’s paintings featuring servants, the girl is “attractive, well-fed, and seemingly contented” (Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2011, p. 9). Pissarro often also used his own family members as models for his pieces, which further demonstrates that he did not view domestic work as a lesser profession.
Pissarro employed beautiful combinations of light and color to convey a sense of the utopia that he believed could be achieved in an anarchist society. His paintings Apple-Picking and Apple-Harvest, which depict workers in Pissarro’s future anarchistic utopia, feature a bright hue created by thousands of carefully placed dots of colorful paint. The sun radiates across the rural landscape, and the workers appear happy and peaceful as they harvest apples from the trees.
The influence of Pissarro’s anarchist beliefs can also be seen by examining the precision and detail afforded to the figures in his paintings. He painted his subjects laboriously and painstakingly—oftentimes spending years revising and reworking his pieces—a work ethic that was conventionally only afforded to wealthy, important patrons. In The Gardener—Old Peasant with Cabbage, Pissarro painted a rural worker harvesting cabbages with immense precision. He used thousands of brushstrokes to paint the cabbages that fill the background.
Pissarro’s most overtly anarchistic works were those never intended to be displayed publicly. He sent a collection of drawings entitled Turpitudes sociales—“social disgraces”—to several of his nieces. While his published works never focused on the exploitation of the working class, this unpublished collection bluntly depicts Pissarro’s view of capitalism and its effects on the lower classes. Each of the drawings in Turpitudes sociales portrays Pissarro’s interpretation of a common scene from capitalist society. He depicted such evils as people marrying for money, financial corruption, and the exploitation of workers. Each drawing is also accompanied by a quote from a socialistic publication. Departing from the utopian beauty displayed in his paintings, Pissarro sketched this collection in pen and brown ink on graphite paper. The sketches are grisly. One particularly shocking piece, entitled Suicide of an Abandoned Woman—depicts a hopeless woman in freefall after jumping off a bridge. Pissarro clearly intended his artwork to be used as a teaching tool (Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2011, p. 7).
Another bio here.
37. Ba Jin the “grand old man of Chinese literature” according to The Guardian. He’s also known by just one name, Bakin.
He’s known as Ba Jin but was named Li Feigan by his family. He was born in to a high-up official’s family in 1904 in Chengdu (China). His youth was marked by the convulsions that shook China, with the fall of the Emperor and the proclamation of the Republic. In 1919, there was a wave of strikes and social unrest and young Li Feigan joined the Chengdu anarchist group, the Equality Society. He took the name Ba Jin from the first syllable of the anarchist Bakunin and the last from Kropotkin in tribute to them. He was deeply impressed by the work of Kropotkin and of Emma Goldman, and he entered into correspondence with her. He was the most active member of the group, involved in distribution of propaganda and the setting up of a reading room in the building of the local anarchist paper.
He left to study at Nanking then at Shanghai, and learnt Russian, French, English and Esperanto. He remained active in the anarchist movement there, writing a pamphlet on the Chicago Anarchist Martyrs. Shanghai was one of the centres of revolution in China, which climaxed in the workers insurrection there in 1927. The Chinese anarchist movement, caught between the Communists and the Nationalists, started to decline. Li Feigan left to study in Paris.
There he was active in the anarchist movement and was involved in the campaign to save the Italian-American anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti from their death sentence. He entered into correspondence with Vanzetti and later wrote a pamphlet The Scaffold about the case. He acted as a liaison between the European and Asian anarchist movements. He translated Kropotkin’s Ethics into Chinese, and continued to write for the Shangai anarchist magazines. He met many anarchists in France, including Alexander Berkman, whose ABC of Anarchism he later translated into Chinese as From Capitalism to Anarchism.
He published his first novel Destruction in Paris, in which he describes the life of revolutionaries in Shanghai I the 1920s. In this book he expresses his conviction that anarchism cannot come through political assassination and can only be achieved by an organised mass movement. At the same time, he sought to understand the terrorists and that the stagnant state of Chinese society was responsible for their actions.
Returning to China in 1929, he became one of the most well known intellectuals within the anarchist movement. He continued with his work of writing novels, which were always about the clash between feudal society and the revolutionaries. His masterpiece was Family, where he attacks the family system as it was in its feudal and patriarchal form.
During the Japanese invasion in the 30s, most intellectuals aligned with the Communist Party, and so did Ba Jin, despite his reservations. But at the same time he was inspired by the Spanish Revolution and the actions of the anarchists.
In 1945 he began his translation of the complete works of Kropotkin, and brought out one of his last novels, Icy Night. The anarchist movement was still in decline, but Ba Jin remained the principal correspondent in China for the Commission of International Anarchist Relations (CRIA) liaison bureau for the worldwide anarchist movement.
The Communists tightened their grip on China in October 1949 and Ba Jin was obliged to enter one of the satellite organisations of the Party. He joined the Association of Chinese Writers. His work was glorified on stage and screen.
After that his life took many twists and turns. He was on the side of the Party in 1957 at the time of the “anti-right turn” and was involved in the denunciation of writers accused of deviation. Then his novels were censored and re-edited and all the mentions of anarchism were cut out. Already in 1949, he had stopped writing much, only involving himself in translations, essays and his memoirs. It appears that he was put under considerable pressure by the authorities.
In 1966, during the Cultural Revolution, it was his turn to be denounced. He was publicly humiliated in front of thousands and made to kneel on broken glass. He was denounced as a “traitor to the nation”, placed under surveillance and spent 10 years being forced to make self-criticism.
He was only rehabilitated in 1977 after the death of Mao and the fall of the Gang of Four.
After that, he was used by the regime again, who made him a personality and in 1981 put him into the post of President of the Association of Chinese Writers. However, the Peking Spring of 1989, before the tanks crushed it in Tien An Men Square, brought him hope again. Throughout his life, it appears he remained true to anarchism, but was often forced to keep silent and to make compromises.
His beloved wife Xian Shian died after being refused proper medical care by the regime in 1972. His last few years were spent in great pain as the result of debilitating illnesses and he begged to be granted euthanasia. He finally died on 17 October 2005.
Written by Nick Heath
36. Charlotte M. Wilson was an English anarchist who co-founded Freedom newspaper in 1886 with Peter Kropotkin, and edited, published, and largely financed it during its first decade. She remained editor of Freedom until 1895.
Born Charlotte Mary Martin, she was the daughter of a well-to-do physician, Robert Spencer Martin. She was educated at Newnham College at Cambridge University. She married Arthur Wilson and the couple moved to London. Charlotte Wilson joined the Fabian Society in 1884. In 1886, parliamentarians within the Fabian Society proposed that it organize as a political party; William Morris and Wilson opposed the motion, but were defeated. She subsequently resigned from the Society in April 1887, continuing her association with the anarchists from the Society.
In 1886, Wilson and Kropotkin co-founded Freedom, an anarchist newspaper. The newspaper’s mission statement is stated in every issue, on page 2, and summarises the writers’ view of anarchism:
“Anarchists work towards a society of mutual aid and voluntary co-operation. We reject all government and economic repression. This newspaper, published continuously since 1936, exists to explain anarchism more widely and show that only in an anarchist society can human freedom thrive.”
35. Anarchist of the day is Émile Jean-Marie Gautier! He was an anarchist and later a journalist. He coined the term “social Darwinism”.
Émile Jean-Marie Gautier was born in 1853 in Rennes. He obtained a doctorate in law. He became a disciple of Jules Vallès.Gautier attended the Anarchist Congress that met in London from 14 July 1881. Other delegates included Peter Kropotkin, Eric Malatesta, Saverio Merlino, Louise Michel and Marie Le Compte. While respecting “complete autonomy of local groups” the congress defined propaganda actions that all could follow and agreed that “propaganda by the deed” was the path to social revolution. He was implicated during the trial of Peter Kropotkin, and on 19 January 1883 was sentenced by the Criminal Court of Lyon to five years in prison. In 1885 he was pardoned.
Renouncing political activism, Gautier worked at various newspapers, including L’Écho de Paris, where he met Octave Mirbeau, and Le Figaro, where he published “documentary chronicles”. These were published as a collection in 1992 under the title Les Étapes de la science (Steps of science. According to Patrick Tort, a specialist in the work of Darwin, Emile Gautier was the first to use the term “social Darwinism” in his pamphlet of the same name published in 1880 in Paris. He became a well-known popular science writer. His 1902 Fleur de Bagne (Prison flowers), written with his childhood friend Marie-François Goron, was an ancestor of techno-thrillers and crime dramas with science themes.
34. Gerrard Winstanley! Born in a time when England faced civil unrest and technically before the term Anarchist was used to describe socialist libertarianism, his actions go well with the term “property is theft”.
“I took my spade and went and broke the ground upon George-hill in Surrey, thereby declaring freedom to the Creation, and that the earth must be set free from instanglement of Lords and Landlords, and that it shall become a common Treasury to all…for freedom is the man that will turn the world upside down, therefore no wonder he hath enemies.”
Born into the family of a dissident Protestant pastor, Reclus was one of the most prolific geographers of all time, and a leading Anarchist theorists. As a geographer he was a ‘social ecologist’, while as an Anarchist he was a tolerant and extremely generous communists. Closely involved with Bakunin in the 1860’s, he was imprisoned after the Paris Commune in 1871 and sentenced to 10 years banishment, which he spent in Switzerland to write his monumental ‘New Universal Geography.’
Reclus was born at Sainte-Foy-la-Grande (Gironde). He was the second son of a Protestant pastor and his wife. From the family of fourteen children, several brothers, including fellow geographers Onésime and Élisée, went on to achieve renown either as men of letters, politicians or members of the learned professions.
Reclus began his education in Rhenish Prussia, and continued higher studies at the Protestant college of Montauban. He completed his studies at University of Berlin, where he followed a long course of geography under Carl Ritter.
Withdrawing from France because of political events of December 1851, he spent the next six years (1852–1857) traveling and working in Great Britain, the United States Central America, and Colombia. Arriving in Louisiana in 1853, Reclus worked for about two and a half years as a tutor to the children of cousin Septime and Félicité Fortier at their plantation Félicité, located about 50 miles upriver from New Orleans. He recounted his passage through the Mississippi river delta and impressions of antebellum New Orleans and the state in Fragment d’un voyage á Louisiane, published in 1855.
On his return to Paris, Reclus contributed to the La Revue des Deux Mondes, the Tour du monde and other periodicals, a large number of articles embodying the results of his geographical work. Among other works of this period was the short book Histoire d’un ruisseau, in which he traced the development of a great river from source to mouth. From 1867 – 1868 he published La Terre; description des phénomènes de la vie du globe in two volumes.
During the Siege of Paris (1870-1871), Reclus shared in the aerostatic operations conducted by Félix Nadar, and also served in the National Guard. As a member of the Associated Nationale des Travailleurs, he published a hostile manifesto against the government of Versailles in support of the Paris Commune of 1871 in the Cri du Peuple.
Continuing to serve in the National Guard, now in open revolt, Reclus was taken prisoner on 5 April. On 16 November he was sentenced to deportation for life. Because of intervention by supporters from England, the sentence was commuted in January 1872 to perpetual banishment from France.
After a short visit to Italy, Reclus settled at Clarens, Switzerland, where he resumed his literary labours and produced Histoire d’une montagne, a companion to Histoire d’un ruisseau. There he wrote nearly the whole of his work, La Nouvelle Géographie universelle, la terre et les hommes, “an examination of every continent and country in terms of the effects that geographic features like rivers and mountains had on human populations—and vice versa,”This compilation was profusely illustrated with maps, plans, and engravings. It was awarded the gold medal of the Paris Geographical Society in 1892. An English edition appeared simultaneously, also in 19 volumes, the first four by E. G. Ravenstein, the rest by A.H. Keane. Reclus’s writings were characterized by extreme accuracy and brilliant exposition, which gave them permanent literary and scientific value.
According to Kirkpatrick Sale:
His geographical work, thoroughly researched and unflinchingly scientific, laid out a picture of human-nature interaction that we today would call bioregionalism. It showed, with more detail than anyone but a dedicated geographer could possibly absorb, how the ecology of a place determined the kinds of lives and livelihoods its denizens would have and thus how people could properly live in self-regarding and self-determined bioregions without the interference of large and centralized governments that always try to homogenize diverse geographical areas.
In 1882, Reclus initiated the Anti-Marriage Movement, in accordance with which he and his wife allowed their two daughters to marry without any civil or religious ceremony. This action caused embarrassment to many of his well-wishers. The French government initiated prosecution from the High Court of Lyon against the anarchists and members of the International Association, of which Reclus and the influential Kropotkin were designated the two chief organizers. Kropotkin was arrested and condemned to five years’ imprisonment, but Reclus escaped punishment as he remained in Switzerland.
In 1894, Reclus was appointed chair of comparative geography at the University of Brussels, and moved with his family to Belgium. His brother Reclus already taught religion at the university. Élisée Reclus continued to write, contributing several important articles and essays to French, German and English scientific journals. He was awarded the 1894 Patron’s Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society.
Shortly before his death, Reclus completed L’Homme et la terre (1905). In it, he added to his previous works by considering humanity’s development relative to its geographical environment.
32. Voltairine de Cleyre! An American anarchist writer and feminist. She was a prolific writer and speaker, opposing the state, marriage, and the domination of religion over sexuality and women’s lives. She began her activist career in the free thought movement. De Cleyre was initially drawn to individualist anarchism but evolved through mutualism to an “anarchism without adjectives.” She believed that any system was acceptable as long as it did not involve force.
Family ties to the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad, the harsh and unrelenting poverty that she grew up in, and being named after the philosopher Voltaire all contributed to the radical rhetoric that she developed shortly after adolescence. After schooling in the convent, de Cleyre moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan and began her intellectual involvement in the strongly anti-clerical freethought movement by lecturing and contributing articles to freethought periodicals, eventually becoming the editor of a freethought newspaper titled The Progressive Age.
She was close to and inspired by Dyer D. Lum. In 1890 she gave birth to a son, Harry, fathered by freethinker James B. Elliot.
Throughout her life she was plagued by illness and depression, attempting suicide on at least two occasions and surviving an assassination attempt in 1902. Her assailant, Herman Helcher, was a former pupil who had earlier been rendered insane by a fever, and whom she immediately forgave.
Voltairine de Cleyre died on June 20, 1912, at St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, from septic meningitis.
31. Gustav Landauer! He was one of the leading theorists on anarchism in Germany in the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. He was an advocate of social anarchism and an avowed pacifist. Landauer is also known for his study and translations of William Shakespeare’s works into German. One of his grandchildren, with wife and author Hedwig Lachmann, is Mike Nichols, the American television, stage and film director, writer, and producer.
He was of Jewish descent and he became known from 1892 as editor of Der Sozialist. Apart from politics, he was interested in bringing theatre and literature closer to ordinary people. He underlined the responsibility of the individual for ‘the system’, and for it’s change.
At the “International Convention of Socialist Workers” of the II. Socialist International in August 1893 in Zurich, Landauer, as a delegate for the Berlin anarchists, stood for an “anarchist socialism”. Against an anarchist minority the convention with 411 delegates from 20 countries passed a resolution in favour of participation in elections and political action in parliaments. The anarchists were excluded from the II. Socialist International.
Three days after the Soviet government had been taken over by functionaries of the KPD (Communist Party of Germany) Gustav Landauer became disappointed with their policies and resigned from all his political posts on 16 April 1919.
As Commissioner for Public Instruction in the first Munich Council republic, he was tragically punished. After the City of Munich was reconquered by the German army and Freikorps units, Gustav Landauer was arrested on 1 May 1919. He was stoned and beaten to death by counter-revolutionary troops one day later in Munich’s Stadelheim Prison.
“Those are idle talkers…who regard the state as such a thing or as a fetish that one can smash in order to destroy it…We are the state, and we shall continue to be the state until we have created the institutions that form a real community and society.”
After the Nazis were elected in Germany in 1933 they destroyed Landauer’s grave, which had been erected in 1925, sent his remains to the Jewish congregation of Munich, charging them for the costs. Landauer was later put to rest at the Munich Waldfriedhof (Forest Cemetery).
Together with other like-minded women she founded the Union of Women during the Paris commune, which additionally to its role as an organizational extension of the First Socialist International played a vital role in furthering feminist and socialist causes during the her time.
Additionally to her socialist activism, she also used her position to fight mainly equal salary for men and women and women’s right to vote should democracy be re-established. France at the time was ruled by Napoleon III in the style of an absolutist monarchy but in 1868 slow attempts at re-democratization were made. One of these measures was the repeal of the prohibition on public meetings. Additionally to the discussion of the social question, many meetings were held concerning the “question of women” mainly by socialists like Lemel. This lead to the general politicization of women in France, which should become a major factor in the Paris commune a few years later.
In 1870 war between France and Germany broke out. Paris was under siege by German forces and as unrest grew, riots broke out. Socialist and other left-wing revolutionaries seized this opportunity to form a city government that would govern the city according to socialist principles. The so-called Paris Commune was the first attempt in history to create a socialist order in any form of governance. It existed for two months. Nathalie Lemel was closely involved in the Commune. Not only did she fight against German as well as French government troops but also was closely involved in Commune politics. Together with other like-minded women she formed the Union of Women. The Union had about 1800 members and was the biggest women’s organization in Paris. Its members organized public talks on the rights of women, were involved in the fight against enemy troops not only by supporting men in combat but by fighting themselves. Lemel and the co-founders such as Elisabeth Dimtrieff were also big critics of Commune politics, especially since there was no woman in the Commune’s government and its rulers did not introduce women’s suffrage arguing that this was not the time given the precarious military situation.
One of the biggest achievements of Lemel and the Union was that they organized women’s labor. They created places to work and founded soup kitchens and other places of supply for all of the Paris’ population, opposed to the Commune or not. Lemel saw socialism as a movement for everybody.
The Paris Commune was ended in a very bloody fight in May of 1871. Unlike many of her fellow fighters Lemel did survive the Commune’s end and was banished from France’s mainland to New Caledonia from where she returned in 1880 to continue her fight for socialism and women’s rights through publishing several magazines until her death in 1921.
Lemel does not only stand out as a practical fighter in the field of activism and real military fighting (she stood on the barricades of Paris, rifle in hand) but one of her and her fellow founders of the Union of Women lasting contributions is that the socialist movement was forced to discuss feminist politics and women’s rights issues. Through their active participation in all areas of life during the time of the Commune Lemel and the members of her organization basically proofed that the cause of socialism could not go on without including women. Although it was a very slow process, later prominent female socialist activist such as Adelheid Popp or Rosa Luxemburg could find a political home also concerning women’s rights with the Socialist International, in part due to activists like Nathalie Lemel who pioneered the way.
29. Erich Muehsam ! He was a Bohemian German-Jewish Anarchist essayist, Poet and Playwright. He emerged at the end of World War I as one of the leading Antimilitarism revolutionary agitators for a federated Bavarian Soviet Republic.
Erich Muehsam was born in Berlin in 1878 into a fairly well-to-do Jewish family. Soon after his family moved to Luebeck in north Germany where his father worked as a pharmacist.
He hated the school where he was sent, which was known for its authoritarian discipline and its unsparing use of corporal punishment. Erich was often a victim of “the unspeakable flailings which were supposed to beat out of me all my innate feelings” because his rebellious nature often clashed with the school regime. In 1896 he wrote an anonymous piece for the socialist paper Luebecker Volsboten denouncing one of the school’s most brutal teachers. This caused a scandal and Erich was expelled for taking part in socialist activities.
Erich Muehsam was one of the outstanding modern revolutionary poets in German literature. From his early youth he turned to socialism and soon enough reached anarchism, to which ideal he dedicated his talent and soul. In addition to his poetic creations that appeared in several volumes, he also wrote plays. His work received high praise from many critics. After the end of the World War he was very active in the uprising of Bavaria during 1919, and also was a member of the Red Workers’ and Soldiers’ Council that existed in Munich for a short period of the same year. When the revolt was crushed by the Social Democratic rulers, Muehsam was sentenced to ﬁfteen years’ imprisonment. After serving five years he was freed in the amnesty granted at that time. Once again he became very active in the anarchist movement. That’s when he published and edited two journals that exerted great inﬂuence ‘Kain’and ‘Fanal’. Muehsam was about to escape from Germany when the Mad Dog of Europe, Hitler, came to power. Instead, he was one of the first victims of the Nazis.
When the official report of July 11 by the Nazi regime of Germany told of Erich Muehsam having hanged himself while in ‘protective custody’, many feared that his death came about in a more terrible manner. These fears were borne out by the following wireless message from Prague to the New York Times. It reads as follows:
“Prague, July 20th — Details of the killing of the poet Erich Muehsam in a German concentration camp were given tonight by his widow, who has just reached Prague from Germany. Herr Muehsam went through a Cavalry of Nazi concentration camps, passing through the three most notorious between February of last year and the slaying on July 10th, last. He was in the Brandenburg, Sonnenburg and the Oranienburg camps. His widow declared this evening that, when she was first allowed to visit her husband after his arrest, his face was so swollen by beating that she could not recognise him. He was assigned to the task of cleaning toilets and staircases and Storm Troopers amused themselves by spitting in his face, she added.”
Erich had wanted to be a writer and poet from an early age and he left Luebeck to pursue this aim in Berlin in 1900. He got involved in a group called Neue Gemeinschaft (New Society) which combined socialist ideology with experiments in communal living. Here he met Gustav Landauer who introduced him to anarchist communist ideas. Muehsam contributed to Kampf, the anarchist paper of his friend Senna Hoy.
In 1904 Erich went to Ascona in Italian Switzerland to live in the artists’ colony of Monte Verita (the writer Herman Hesse, the dance theorist Laban, the psychotherapist Otto Gross and many Dadaists and Expressionists lived there at one time or other).
He began writing plays there, the first of which, The Con Men, mixed new political theory with traditional dramatic forms. He also continued contributing to many anarchist papers, which drew the attention of the German authorities. He was considered one of the most dangerous anarchist agitators.
He moved to Munich in 1908 and took part in the cabaret movement. He did not care much for writing cabaret songs, but he achieved much notice because of them.
In 1911 he founded the paper Kain which advocated anarchist communism. He castigated and ridiculed the German state, fighting capital punishment and theatre censorship, and prophetically analysing international affairs. The World War that he had predicted led to the suspension of Kain.
At first Erich publicly supported the war, but by the end of 1914 was persuaded that he had been wrong. He threw himself into anti-war activity taking part in various actions. He supported the strikes that were beginning to break out. As these became more widespread and began to take on a revolutionary nature, Erich was among those arrested and imprisoned in April 1918, and then freed in November.
With the fall of the Kaiser and King Ludwig of Bavaria, Munich burst into revolt. Muehsam and Landauer as well as Ret Marut (later known as the novelist B. Traven) were among those agitating for the setting up of Workers Councils which led on to the founding of the Bavarian Council Republic. This lasted only a week.
The Social Democrats, terrified by the thought of revolution, allied with the right. The Freikorps, a reactionary militia organised by the socialist minister Noske and composed of right wing military and students, crushed the Council Republic. Muehsam escaped but was later captured and sent to prison for 15 years. In prison, Erich continued with his writing, composing many poems and the play Judas. Released in the amnesty of 1924, he returned to a Munich in the grip of apathy. He joined the Anarchist Communist Federation of Germany (FKAD). He restarted Kain but this failed after a few issues. He then brought out Fanal (The Torch) where he attacked both the Communists and the far right. His openly revolutionary tone and his attempts to stop the rise of the right made him a hate figure among conservatives and Nazis.
He used satire to ridicule the Nazis with short stories and poems. This came to the personal attention of Hitler and Goebbels, arousing their anger. He agitated for the freeing of the revolutionary Max Hoelz and wrote a play, Staatsraeson (For reasons of State) in defence of Sacco and Vanzetti), in 1928.
In 1930 he completed his last play Alle Wetter (All Hang) which called for mass revolution as the only way to stop the seizure of power by the radical Right.
A few hours after Van der Lubbe had set fire to the Reichstag in February 1933, Muehsam (along with as many communists, branded the Red Pests, the Nazi’s could find – nearly 4000 people) was arrested and then spent the last 17 months of his life in the concentration camps.
His teeth were smashed in with rifle butts, his scalp was branded with a swastika from a red-hot iron and he was hospitalised. He was forced to dig his own grave for a mock execution, and his body became a mass of bruises and wounds. His tormentors tried to force him to sing the Nazi song Horst Wessel Lied. He refused to give in and sang the Internationale. ” Thanks to his will power he resisted all attempts to humiliate him”. And despite these tortures Erich remained intransigent to the end. Finally he was tortured and murdered in 1934.
After beatings, a Stormtrooper leader administered a lethal injection and then a suicide by hanging was faked.
28. Peter Kropotkin! Peter Alekseevich Kropotkin, the son of Aleksei Petrovich Kropotkin and Yekaterina Nikolaevna Sulima, was born in Moscow, Russia in1842. The family was fairly wealthy and came from a noble lineage and Peter was in fact a prince, but he went to renounce his title when he fundamentally understood and rejected the privilege that it entailed.
Brought up in an aristocratic family and educated at an elite military school, kropotkin then attended St Petersburg university at the age of 15 and four years later became personal page to Tsar Alexander II. He was not terribly impressed with the school, feeling that “all the subjects were taught in the most senseless manner.” However, while at school, he did develop a strong interest in history and geography and went on to became a professor of Geography.
Kropotkin first became aware of political censorship in Russia when his older brother, Alexander, was arrested in 1858 while a student at St. Petersburg University as a result of having a copy of a book, Self-Reliance, by Ralph Waldo Emerson. The book had been lent to him by one of the faculty, Professor Tikhonravof, but he refused to tell the police this because he did not want to get into trouble with the authorities.
In 1862 he applied for a commission in the Cossack Regiment serving in Eastern Siberia. After reading the work of Proudhon and the exploits of Fellow Russian, Bakunin, he developed an interest in Anarchism and a growing interest in politics. As Paul Avrich points out: “In Siberia he shed his hopes that the state could act as a vehicle of social progress. Soon after his arrival, he drafted, at the request of his superiors, elaborate plans for municipal self-government and for the reform of the penal system (a subject that was to interest him for the rest of his life), only to see them vanish in an impenetrable bureaucratic maze.”
Back in Russia, he was arrested in 1874 by the police. His house was searched and they found copies of a revolutionary manifesto that he had written. They also found his diary and several books that had been banned by the authorities. Although they found plenty of incriminating evidence, the police had to bribe several witnesses to get a conviction. Kropotkin was imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress but in 1876 he was able to escape and fled to Switzerland where he lived until the Russian Revolution enabled him to return in 1917. In Switzerland, France and England, he became the leading exponent of Anarchist communism, trying to develop a scientific approach to Anarchist theory and practice.
After the assassination of Tsar Alexander II his radical socialist views made him unwelcome in the country and in 1881 he moved to France where he became a member of the International Working Men’s Association (the First International), a federation of radical political parties that hoped to overthrow capitalism and create a socialist commonwealth.
Kropotkin continued to be interested in the work of Charles Darwin. He had profound respect for Darwin’s discoveries and regarded the theory of natural selection as “perhaps the most brilliant scientific generalization of the century”. Peter had his own take on human species development. In 1880 he read an article by Karl Kessler, a Russian zoologist, entitled On the Law of Mutual Aid. Kessler’s argued that cooperation rather than conflict was the chief factor in the process of evolution. He pointed out “the more individuals keep together, the more they mutually support each other, and the more are the chances of the species for surviving, as well as for making further progress in its intellectual development.” Kessler died the following year and Kropotkin decided to spend time developing his theories.
In 1883 Kropotkin was arrested by the French authorities. Sentenced in Lyon, under a special law passed on the fall of the Paris Commune, to five years’ imprisonment, on the ground that he had belonged to the International Working Men’s Association. While in prison Kropotkin’s first ideas on anarchism were published. He was eventually released in 1886 and moved to England.
In 1886 Kropotkin and his socialist friends organized a mass rally in London protesting against the death sentences imposed on the conviction of Albert Parsons and others for the Haymarket Bombing. That year he helped to establish the anarchist journal, Freedom. As anarchism’s most important philosophers he was in great demand as a writer and contributed to the journals edited by Benjamin Tucker (Liberty), Albert & Lucy Parsons (Alarm) and Johann Most (Freiheit). Tucker praised Kropotkin’s publication as “the most scholarly anarchist journal in existence.” Many of his books and pamphlets are regarded as classics of Anarchist thought. The following year he published In Russian and French. He argued that “Prisons neither improve the prisoners nor prevent crime; they achieve none of the ends for which they are designed.”
Kropotkin continued to develop his ideas on evolution. In 1888 Thomas Huxley published an article entitled The Struggle for Existence. He completely rejected Huxley’s argument that competition among individuals of the same species is not merely a law of nature but the driving force of progress (an argument often used in favour of Capitalism). Kropotkin replied to Huxley in a series of articles where he documented his theory of mutual aid with illustrations from animal and human life. In favour of kropotkin school of thought, Paul Avrich has argued: “Among animals he shows how mutual cooperation is practiced in hunting, in migration, and in the propagation of species. He draws examples from the elaborate social behavior of ants and bees, from wild horses that form a ring when attacked by wolves, from the wolves themselves that form a pack for hunting, from migrating deer that, scattered over a wide territory, come together in herds to cross a river. From these and many similar illustrations Kropotkin demonstrates that sociability is a prevalent feature at every level of the animal world. Moreover, he finds that among humans too mutual aid has been the rule rather than the exception. With a wealth of data he traces the evolution of voluntary cooperation from the primitive tribe, peasant village, and medieval commune to a variety of modern associations that have continued to practice Mutual support despite the rise of the coercive bureaucratic state. His thesis, in short, is a refutation of the doctrine that competition and brute force are the sole – or even the principal – determinants of social progress.”
Kropotkin rejected the idea of a secret revolutionary party that had been suggested by Mikhail Bakunin. He also criticized the views of Sergi Nechayev. He insisted that social emancipation must be attained by libertarian rather than dictatorial means. For Kropotkin the ends and the means were inseparable.
At Jersey City he was asked by a group of journalists for a statement on his political beliefs: “I am an anarchist and am trying to work out the ideal society, which I believe will be communistic in economics, but will leave full and free scope for the development of the individual. As to its organization, I believe in the formation of federated groups for production and consumption…. The social democrats are endeavoring to attain the same end, but the difference is that they start from the centre – the State and work toward the circumference, while we endeavor to work out the ideal society from the simple elements to the complex.”
In his final years Kropotkin concentrated on writing. His works during this period he produced an autobiography, Memoirs of a Revolutionist, Fields, Factories and Workshops, Mutual Aid and The Great French Revolution turned him into a world known political figure. Emma Goldman argued: “We saw in him the father of modern anarchism, its revolutionary spokesman and brilliant exponent of its relation to science, philosophy and progressive thought.” Freedom Bookshop was founded in 1886 by a group of friends, including Charlotte Wilson and Kropotkin, who were already publishing a Freedom newspaper.
After the overthrow of the Tsar Nicholas II in 1917, Kropotkin returned home to Russia expecting the development of “anarchist communism”. When the Bolsheviks seized power he remarked to a friend that “this buries the revolution” and described government members as “state socialists”.
In June 1918, Kropotkin had a meeting with Nestor Makhno, the leader of the anarchists in the Ukraine. He told him about a conversation he had with Lenin in the Kremlin. Lenin explained his opposition to anarchists. “The majority of anarchists think and write about the future without understanding the present. That is what divides us Communists from them… But I think that you, comrade, have a realistic attitude towards the burning evils of the time. If only one-third of the anarchist-communists were like you, we Communists would be ready, under certain well-known conditions, to join with them in working towards a free organization of producers.”
Despite Lenin’s attempts, Kropotkin disliked the developments that took place over the next few months and in March 1920 he sent a letter to Lenin that claimed Russia was a “Soviet Republic only in name” and “at present it is not the soviets which rule in Russia but party committees”.
Peter Kropotkin died of pneumonia in the city of Dmitrov in 1921, and was buried in Moscow. His friend, Victor Serge, attended the funeral. “These were heartbreaking days: the great frost in the midst of the great hunger. I was the only member of the party to be accepted as a comrade in anarchist circles. The shadow of the Cheka fell everywhere, but a packed and passionate multitude thronged around the bier, making this funeral ceremony into a demonstration of unmistakable significance.” Kropotkin’s final book, Ethics, Origin and Development was published posthumously.
27. Guy Aldred! Aldred was born in Clerkenwell London on the 5th of November 1886 as a result of a short liaison at the beginning of 1886 between his father, a 22 year old Naval Lieutenant and a 19 year old parasol maker, Ada Caroline Holdsworth. Ada was socially unacceptable to the young Lieutenant, however he did the “respectable thing”, marrying Ada on the 13th September 1886 but leaving her at the church after the wedding to return to his mother. On Guy Fawkes night the 5th November 1886 Ada gave birth to a son, hence the name “Guy”, his middle name Alfred was after his father. Guy was brought up in the home of Ada’s father, Charles Holdsworth a Victorian radical.
Though born in London and spending the early years of his life there it was Glasgow that he spent most of his adult life and in Glasgow that he died. He said he was attracted to Glasgow by its “citizen’s truculent attitude, rebellious spirit and disrespect for leaders.” In his life he suffered terrible political repression by the state, always in and out of prison.In 1902 at the age of 15 he printed his own leaflets and set about London as a “boy preacher” handing out leaflets and receiving ridicule and disdain in return. He eventually found work as an office boy with the National Press Agency in Whitefriars House. Soon he was writing articles for the agency and was promoted to position of Sub-Editor. At this time Guy met an evangelist called McMasters, together they founded the “Christian Social Mission”. Five days after his 16th birthday the Mission opened with Guy as the “Holloway boy preacher”, giving his first public sermon however It did not go down too well with his audience nor the other preachers due to its non-conformist approach.During 1903-1904, Guy was speaking at the “Institute on Theism” but felt it was time to set up his own organisation. He called it the “Theistic Mission”, it met every Sunday and drew a considerable though not always friendly crowd. Guy was becoming known as a forceful young orator. He was also shifting towards atheism. August 1904 the meeting banner changed, it now read “The Clerkenwell Freethought Mission”. Meetings from then on were on some instances extremely hostile. On one occasion the crowd charged the platform, knocked Guy to the ground and started to beat him, as he tried to regain the platform they again pulled him off with the police intervening to put an end to the meeting. Around this time he was reading “The Agnostic Journal” and became friendly with its editor “Saladin”, William Stewart Ross, a Scotsman. It was at the Journal’s office that he met another Scotsman John Morrison Davidson, these two men introduced Guy to Scottish affairs.He was now a confirmed anti-parliamentarian and socialist. In October 1906 the “Islington Gazette” published his “Revolutionary Manifesto” in which he proposed to stand at the next election but refuse to take the Oath. Guy Aldred was by now a well know speaker at Hyde Park. An eloquent speaker with extremist views his platform always drew large crowds. He was also contributing to several socialist papers and contributed to all thirty issues of “The Voice of Labour” an anarchist paper, this lead him to the anarchist club in Jubilee Street.While visiting the “Jubilee Street Club” during 1906 Guy became more acquainted with Anarchist ideas and with many Anarchists of note from that period. He wrote two articles for the Freedom paper. Rudolf Rocker referred to Guy as one of the promising young men of our time. It was at the “Jubilee Club” that Rocker asked Guy to stand in for Kropotkin who was to speak but could not attend. Guy’s leanings were towards Proudhon and critical of Kropotkin. By now Guy was speaking every night at different places in London and three times on a Sunday in Hyde Park. The Sunday meetings were under the banner of the “National Secular Society”. In January 1907, approaching the age of 21, saw Guy leave the “National Press Agency” for the “Daily Chronicle”, six months later he left the paper and journalism intent on being a full-time propagandist, relying on collections and donations for his living, printing and any other expenses. At the “Jubilee Club” in 1907 he was introduced to Rose Witcop younger sister of Milly Witcop, partner of Rudolf Rocker. The friendship developed and they went on to have a child together, but not to the pleasure of Guy’s mother who highly disapproved. Because of her reaction to their relationship Guy moved out from his mothers to be with Rose.In 1907 Guy in conjunction with John Turner and others formed the “Industrial Union of Direct Action”. A union opposed to reforms its purpose was to organise for social revolution. In a short period there were branches in Dover, Liverpool, Leeds and Weston-super-Mare, plus six branches in London. Shortly after this Guy founded the “Communist Propaganda Group”. The group spread rapidly, first with several branches in London, Wales, the North of England, then to Scotland with branches in Glasgow, Paisley, Fife, Aberdeen, Dundee and several towns in Lanarkshire. In 1921 all these groups federated into the “Anti-Parliamentary Communist Federation”. It was also around 1907 Guy, in the basement of his home, set up the first of his “Bakunin Press”.On the 2nd of July 1909 the Secretary of State for India, Sir Curzon Wylie was assassinated by Madanlal Dhingra. On the day he was sentenced to death the printer of ‘The Indian Sociologist’ was also sentenced to six months imprisonment. The Lord Chief Justice at the trial stated this was a warning that printing this sort of matter was a serious breach of the law. The “Times” in an article stated, nobody would dare print this sheet again. Guy, though not in favour of assassination and no advocate of nationalism was very much against suppression of opinion. So he duly printed the August issue of ‘The Indian Sociologist’ and was arrested. Guy conducted his own defence, was found guilty and sentenced to twelve months hard labour.In the early hours in 1916 a police sergeant called at Guy’s London home and asked if he had received his call-up notice. Guy stated he had not and did not expect to receive the said notice as he was a married man. The vindictive sergeant asked for proof. The obvious proof, the presence of Rose Witcop and the child Annesley was not accepted. Guy and Rose on a matter of principle had no certificate to offer. Without summons or warrant Guy was arrested. He was charged with failing to report for Military Service, in spite of the fact that he had never been asked, and as a married man he was not yet due for service. He appeared at West London Police Court later that day. The Magistrate expressed surprise at the informal nature of Guy’s arrest, but said that he ” was here anyway”. Scott Duckers acting for Guy stated that Guy was a married man by Scots Law of Habit and Repute and was not due to receive his call-up with the present batch. The case was adjourned. Guy continued his anti-war campaigning. The resumed hearing was brief. The Magistrate had still not been advised on Scots marriage law so the case was again adjourned. When the Court convened Guy conducted his own defence. The Magistrate fined him and handed him over to the military authorities. He was taken under escort to Davis Street Barracks. His treatment at the Barracks was typical of the way the military treated conscientious objectors, brutal to say the least. Guy was handed a sheet of paper on which to write his defence. It was a long and passionate defence based on his principles and beliefs. After the Court Martial he was held in his cell for two days before sentence was pronounced, six month military detention. Guy appealed against his sentence. The Commanding Officer turned it down. He was ordered to parade, he refused and was taken before the Colonel who remanded him for court martial (his second). Guy’s defence was that he was not a soldier but a civilian since he never received call-up notice. He was found guilty and sentenced to nine months hard labour. Later at a tribunal Guy was granted a “Certificate of Discharge”. Guy was then moved to Winchester Prison then on August 25th he was transferred to the village of Dyce in the north of Scotland where a camp of tents had been erected in a granite quarry on a sea of mud. In these work camps a total of sixty nine conscientious objectors died. Guy fortunately walked out of the camp and returned to London but he was arrested and sent to Wormwood Scrubs prison. Despite his having a Certificate of Discharge from the Army would face another two cases of Court Martial and a further two years six months hard labour. He was released from prison and taken under escort to Exeter Military Camp, his Certificate of Discharge ignored. He was given another order but he refused and was confined to the guardroom. Due to filthy conditions in the Guardroom Guy contracted scabies. He was returned to Deepcot Military Camp then he was ordered to parade which he refused and was therefore remanded for Court Martial. In spite of his Certificate of Discharge, he was deemed a soldier and went on to face his third Court Martial. It took place with the very short proceedings resulting in Guy being sentenced to 18 months hard labour and sent to Wandsworth Prison. During this period there had been considerable unrest and protest by the conscientious objectors in the labour and work camps and in prisons. Wandsworth was probably the worst from the point of view of the authorities. A work and discipline strike had been planned. The ringleaders which included Guy were sentences to 42 days ‘No.1’ punishment. This consisted of 42 days solitary confinement with 3 days on bread and water and then 3 days off while locked in a bare unheated basement cell. After 3 days they were transferred to Brixton Prison, from their arrival at Brixton they continued their struggle against cruel and unjust treatment of conscientious objectors.In 1918 Guy, with two others, their sentenced served according to a government ruling should have been returned to their respective Army Units for formal dismissal. Instead they were transferred to Blackdown Barracks, Farnborough where they were given an order which they refused and were once more on remand for Court Martial. Guy Aldred’s fourth. Throughout his terms of imprisonment Guy managed to write and was able to smuggle out several articles which were published in his paper the Spur. In his absence the articles edited by Rose Witcop.Guy’s fourth Court Martial saw him speak for himself and the other two prisoners. In spite of showing that their sentences were in contravention of the Army Act and other illegalities in their treatment, a few days later he received a further two years hard labour. During the short period between August and September 1918 Guy managed to have several articles smuggled out and published in the Spur. Among these were “All for the Cause”, “Shall we Deny”, and “Militarism and Woodland”. Another article smuggled out was “Socialism, Unity, and Reality”. It was read at the Brixton branch of the ILP on the 14th of February 1918.In 1923, Guy Aldred brought out a new paper, The Commune. One of its tasks was to challenge the Glasgow City Council on the matter of free speech on Glasgow Green. On April 13th 1916 Glasgow Corporation passed a bye-law withdrawing the right of assembly on the Green, but it was not enforced until 1922 and then challenged by Aldred and others. There were numerous attempts to have the bye-law repealed, it was not until 1932 that the struggle found success.In 1933 Guy left the Anti-parliamentary Communist Federation, he was later to form the Glasgow Townhead Branch of the ILP formed the United Socialist Movement. The group met in a hall in Stirling Road with the indoor meetings being held on a Wednesday and Sunday with a fund raising social on Fridays. Guy worked under this banner for the next thirty years. The Group would use elections to discredit the ballot box. At one election Guy managed to get nominated as candidate for 14 of the city’s 37 wards managing to get over a thousand votes. An astonishing result as a referendum on less than half the city.December 1922 Guy was prosecuted for publishing Margaret Sanger’s family planning pamphlet ‘Family Limitation’. The authorities deemed it an attack on the nation’s morals. Conducting his own defence, he called as a defence witness Sir Arbuthnot Lane, consultant surgeon at Guy’s Hospital London. Sir Lane stated that every young couple about to get married should have this pamphlet. Never the less, the Magistrate, “in the interest of the morals of society”, ordered the pamphlet to be destroyed. Rose Witcop continued covertly to produce it.A conference under the auspices of the ILP and the BSP formed a ‘Hands of Russia’ committee and on this platform Guy Aldred spoke with Bertrand Russell. Prior to 1921 the words Communist, Socialist and Anti-parliamentarian, went hand in hand. It was only after that date, after the formation of the Communist Party of Great Britain that you had to differentiate. At the time of leaving prison Guy associated himself with the newly formed Communist League, becoming its organiser and editor of its paper The Communist. Guy was now working ever closer with Glasgow Anarchists, who had their head quarters in an old Victorian terraced house which they called Bakunin House, it remained an open political centre for about twelve years. Guy and his colleagues continued to strengthen the anti-parliamentary groups especially in Glasgow.The Glasgow Communist Group produced its own paper The Red Commune and in February 1921 it carried an article by Guy called the “Sinn Fein Tactic”. This was a reference to the tactic of standing for election but not swearing the oath or taking your seat. Because of the times, the authorities took the term “Sinn Fein” very seriously. Guy’s London home was raided by the police and special branch, after four hours searching they found nothing. Never the less they decided to arrest Guy, who pointed out that they were acting on a Glasgow Magistrate’s Warrant and it was not valid in London. They took him and locked him up anyway and three days later formally arrested him in his cell. The Glasgow police also raided Bakunin House arresting Jane Patrick – the secretary, Douglas McLeish – group member and Andrew Fleming a printer. Guy Aldred was charged with conspiring with Patrick and McLeish to “excite popular disaffection, commotion, and violence to popular authority”. They made a formal appearance before the Sheriff on and were remanded in custody for two weeks before appearing before Lord Chief Clerk who released Andrew Fleming, Douglas McLeish and Jane Patrick on bail each but remanded Guy Aldred in custody. He remained in custody until the trial at Glasgow High Court. The jury took a few minutes to reach a guilty verdict. Sentenced Aldred 1 year, Jane Patrick 3 months, Douglas McLeish 3 months, Andrew Fleming, 3 months and a fine or another three months. Guy Aldred and Douglas McLeish went to Barlinnie Prison while Jane Patrick and Andrew Fleming were sent to Duke Street Prison. Guy served the full year plus the four months remand, the authorities stated that the remand did not count, the first time ever.Guy always lived on the very edge of poverty, never taking fees for speaking, relying on money from sales of papers and pamphlets. Around this time he opened a second-hand book shop in Buchanan Street. No business entrepreneur he was more inclined to “lend” rather than sell books was soon left without stock in the shop and had to close. He opened an “Advice Bureau” in a dingy little office in Queen Street; with no toilet, no lighting and no heating and from here he offered legal advice, letter writing and typing. He never charged leaving it to the client to make a donation. Most of the clients being poor and in debt never left a donation or at most a shilling (10p). Financially it was a failure but was possibly the forerunner of today’s Citizen’s Advice Bureaus.The cold damp fog of the November weather, cold stuffy halls and excessive work load, the press physically falling apart and mounting debts, was beginning to take its toll. As a very cold winter moved slowly on to February 1963 Guy caught a cold but continued to work. His condition deteriorated and at one point was taken to hospital but signed himself out next day. Informed that he had a heart condition and warned against public speaking, he continued his monthly meetings. A compromise was made, he would sit at home and record his speeches and have them played at the meeting but Guy decided that if he could sit at home for an hour speaking into a microphone he could sit for an hour on the platform. His last meeting on Sunday the 6th. of October 1963 left him physically exhausted. On Wednesday the 16th he was admitted to hospital, he died on Thursday the 17th of October 1963.Guy Alfred Aldred had worked ceaselessly at his propaganda, writing, publishing and public speaking, he took on injustices wherever he saw it. He had spoken at every May Day for 60 years except the years he spent in prison. He never once asked for a fee nor sought personal gain, throughout his 62 years of campaigning his principles never faltered.
26. John Cage! Researcher, author, printmaker, musical director, professor, composer, art director, Cage was a major figure in the music world for some 50 years. He experimented with the use of noise and of extended silence as musical material, invented the prepared piano, was America’s earliest proponent of electronic music, and originated the multi-media happening. Reflecting on society he states “We should learn to live without working. That would mean we would have to live creatively.”
He was born in 1912 in downtown Los Angeles. His father, John Milton Cage, Sr. was an inventor, and his mother, Lucretia Harvey worked intermittently as a journalist for the Los Angeles Times. The family’s roots were deeply American.
He was an avant-garde composer whose music relied on mathematical patterns, randomness, improvisation and chance to create unique sounds and rhythms. He was also one of the developers of modern dance. Cage’s pieces are controversial because they are vastly different from mainstream music. For example, his piece 4’33” is four minutes and 33 seconds of silence. All of his compositions were difficult to reproduce and perform, which was an embodiment of his anarchist views. He believed that difficulty would ensure that “A performance would show that the impossible is not impossible” -this being Cage’s answer to the notion that solving the world’s political and social problems is impossible.
Critics have lauded him as one of the most influential American composers of the 20th century. He was also instrumental in the development of modern dance, mostly through his association with choreographer Merce Cunningham, who was also Cage’s romantic partner for most of their lives. About the creative process he says “Logic, organisation, government should all be forgotten inasmuch as they begin theselves by making us forget the essential.”
In a 1957 lecture, Experimental Music, he described music as “a purposeless play” which is “an affirmation of life – not an attempt to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply a way of waking up to the very life we’re living”.
Cage was inspired by the work of Thoreau. In an interview in 1985 John Cage said, “I’m an Anarchist. I don’t know whether the adjective is pure and simple, or philosophical, or what, but I don’t like government! And I don’t like institutions! And I don’t have any confidence in even good institutions.”
He visited several parts of Western Europe, following his trade and his political interests. He observed the second congress of the Second International in Brussels in 1891, began contributing to the anarchist press in 1892, and left Germany to escape police harassment in 1892. He lived for a couple of years in Paris, and then settled permanently in Britain in 1895.
Although Rocker was a Gentile, he became involved in the Jewish anarchist movement. He learnt Yiddish, lived in the Jewish community, and became the lifelong companion of Milly Witcop (1877-1953). He quickly became a prominent speaker and writer, on cultural as well as political topics, and for 20 years he was the most liked and respected person in the movement. In 1898 he edited Dos Fraye Vort (The Free Word), a new Yiddish weekly paper in Leeds, for a couple of months, and then became editor of Der Arbeiter Fraint (The Workers’ Friend), a revived Yiddish weekly paper in London, and in 1900 also of Germinal, a new Yiddish monthly.
The Jewish anarchist movement became larger than the native movement. A federation of Jewish anarchist groups was formed in 1902, the circulation of the papers and other publications increased, and a thriving social club was opened in Jubilee Street in East London in 1906. Rocker was the most influential figure in the movement, representing it at the International Anarchist Congress in Amsterdam in 1907, and becoming a member of the International Anarchist Bureau established there. The Jewish anarchists were very active in the growing trade union movement, and Rocker favoured the development of anarcho-syndicalism as a new form of anarchist theory and practice.
In 1914 Rocker vigorously opposed both sides in the First World War, and after a few months he was interned as an enemy alien. Soon afterwards the Arbeiter Fraint was suppressed and the Jubilee Street club was closed. The Jewish anarchist movement in Britain never really recovered, and most of its members were later attracted to Zionism or Communism.
In 1918 Rocker was deported from Britain to the Netherlands, and he soon returned to his native country. He became a leading figure in the German and indeed the international anarcho-syndicalist movement. He was an active member of the Freie Vereinigung Deutscher Gerwerkschaften (Free Association of German Trade Unions) and then a main founder of the Freie Arbeiter Union Deutschlands (Free Workers Union of Germany) and editor of its paper, Der Syndikalist. He was the moving spirit of the International Congress in Berlin in 1922 which led to the formation of the International Working Men’s Association, and was one of its secretaries.’ He exerted his influence against anarchist support for the Bolshevik Revolution after 1917 or for Arshinov’s Organisational Platform (which advocated the reconstitution of the anarchist movement as a virtual political party) after 1926, and he led the libertarian opposition to the rising Nazi movement.
In 1933 Rocker had to leave Germany again to escape persecution by the new Nazi regime. He settled in the United States, which he had previously visited for lecture tours, and he continued to work as a speaker and writer, directing his efforts against the twin evils of Fascism and Communism. He spent the last 20 years of his life as a leading figure in the Mohegan community at Crompond, New York, and was the best-known anarchist in the country until his death. He supported the Allies in the Second World War, which caused a breach with some old comrades, but he continued to receive more admiration and affection than any veteran of the movement since Kropotkin or Malatesta. The most important of his many books is ‘Nationalism and Culture’.
24. Maria Luisa Berneri! She was born in 1918 in Arezzo near Florence, the elder daughter of Anarchists Camillo and Giovanna Berneri. Her father, originally a socialist, became an Anarchists in the early 1920s, and was soon one of the best-known (and at times most controversial) intellectuals in the Italian anarchist movement. He was a teacher who after Mussolini’s seizure of power in 1922 refused to accept the demands laid upon the teaching profession by the Fascists, and in 1926 he went into exile in France. In Paris his – and his family’s – home soon became a centre of anti-Fascist activities, and his two daughters grew up in a highly politicised environment.
From 1936 until her death twelve years later, every activity undertaken by Freedom Press was infused by Marie Louise Berneri’s personality. Already in Paris she had been closely involved (with her father and Tom Keell) in the preparatory discussions and collecting of funds for Spain and the World, which Vernon Richards started in December 1936. After coming to England in 1937 she took an active part in the production of the paper and in 1939 she took part in the attempt to provide some formal link for the Anarchist movement by the production of ‘Revolt!’, the successor of Spain and the World. She also was one of the small group which started War Commentary in 1939. Already knowing Italian, French and Spanish, she quickly mastered English and became one of the main editorial writers, specialising in international affairs. She was an effective public speaker, paper-seller, and meeting organiser. But above all she was the emotional and intellectual centre of the group.
In 1943 Berneri puts forth a scathing criticism of the hypocrisy of “left wing” parliamentary politics and of the capitalist war machine. Here is some of it.
“Political slogans have become like patent medicine advertisements promising health, beauty, and happiness in exchange for a tablet of soap, or a cup of cocoa. Vote Labour, and everything will be alright! Pay your trade union dues and security will be assured! A workers’ government will achieve the revolution. Write to your MP or to such-and-such a Minister, march through the streets in a disciplined manner, with a powerful band and shout till you’re hoarse, and all your wishes (demands) will be granted!
The leit-motif of left parties is that the workers should take as much control as they can of the government. This appears constructive enough. But it only means that Labour leaders will enter the Government by adopting the policy of the Right. For the workers it means sacrifices and the loss of every kind of liberty in order to secure the privilege of seeing “their” Ministers sitting on the Cabinet benches. No improvements are obtained and all official channels for making discontent heard are lost.
Another “practical” solution advocated by the Labour Party is to issue a declaration of war or peace aims. Apparently the world should know of our love of freedom and justice. May we “utopians” suggest to the editorial board of the [pro-Labour] Daily Herald that if the Labour Party is anxious to show the world how “democratic” we are, it could for instance refuse to be associated with a government which imprisons Nehru for four years (may we add that petitions, open letters, etc., etc., will not have the slightest effect?).
How many times in the past have we heard that Anarchism means bombs, that Anarchists work for wholesale destruction? How many times has ruling class police and repression been instituted because an Anarchist has attempted to assassinate a single ruler or reactionary politician? But one single Hamburgizing raid kills more men and women and children than have been killed in the whole of history, true or invented, of Anarchists bombs. The Anarchists bombs were aimed at tyrants who were responsible for the misery of millions; ruling class bombs just kill thousands of workers indiscriminately.
“Disorder,” “Anarchy,” cried the bourgeois Press when single-handed resolutes like [the anarchists] Sbardelotto, Schirru and Lucetti tried to kill Mussolini…Now the same capitalists want to rub whole cities off the map of Europe; want to reduce whole populations to starvation, with its resulting scourge of epidemics and diseases all over the world. This is the peace and order they want to bring to the workers of the world with their bombs.”
At the end of 1948 she gave birth to a still-born child, and in April 1949 she herself unexpectedly died from a virus infection. She was a highly intelligent and deeply committed revolutionary Anarchist; she was also a remarkably beautiful woman and a widely loved personality. Her sudden death at the age of only 31 was a tragedy not only for her friends and comrades but for the whole Anarchists movement. She deserves to be remembered.
Goldman emigrated with her family to the U.S. in 1885, fleeing the rising antisemitism of Saint Petersburg, and lived in New York City, where she joined the burgeoning Anarchist movement in 1889. Attracted to anarchism after the Haymarket affair, Goldman became a writer and a renowned lecturer on anarchist philosophy, women’s rights, and social issues, attracting crowds of thousands. She and anarchist writer Alexander Berkman, her lover and lifelong friend, planned to assassinate industrialist and financier Henry Clay Frick as an act of propaganda of the deed. Although Frick survived the attempt on his life, they did a prison sentenced. Goldman was imprisoned several times in the years that followed, for “inciting to riot” and illegally distributing information about birth control. In 1906, Goldman founded the anarchist journal Mother Earth.
In 1917, Goldman and Berkman were sentenced to two years in jail for conspiring to “induce persons not to register” for the newly instated draft. After their release from prison, they were arrested—along with hundreds of others—and deported to Russia. Initially supportive of that country’s Bolshevik revolution, Goldman reversed her opinion in the wake of the Kronstadt rebellion and denounced the Soviet Union for its violent repression of independent voices. In 1923, she published a book about her experiences, My Disillusionment in Russia. While living in England, Canada, and France, she wrote an autobiography called Living My Life. After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, she traveled to Spain to support the anarchist revolution there.
During her life, Goldman was idolised as a free-thinking “rebel woman” by admirers, and denounced by critics as an advocate of politically motivated murder and violent revolution. Her writing and lectures spanned a wide variety of issues, including prisons, Atheism, freedom of speech, militarism, Capitalism, marriage, free love, and homosexuality.She died in Toronto in 1940, aged 70.
22. B. Traven aka Ret Marut ! A German stage actor and author. Traven wrote only 13 novels, and they sold by the millions in many languages. He lived in Germany as an actor under the name of Ret Marut from at least 1907, published an Anarchist journal the brick burner in Munich and then Cologne from 1917 to 1921, he took part in the revolution in Munich and then went underground. He re-emerged in Mexico with a new name.
Whoever he really was, B. Traven was also a man who utterly shunned public attention. Though there are hordes of Traven theorists and stacks of books written about him, there is still no consensus on his real name, his birthplace, or his exact history. He was kind of like a ghost who wrote books.He always insisted that his life story was irrelevant. “Forget the man! Write about his works!” he would say. Traven readers believe that his life story is told (at least partially) in his books, and that is how B. Traven would have wanted it. E.R. Hagemann, an early B. Traven bibliographer called him “a man who has seemingly courted obscurity as another might court fame and notoriety, courted oblivion with an almost pathological intensity.” He continued to be fanatically protective of his privacy, intentionally misleading his own readers and fans and those who would pursue his identity right to the end.When, as a founding member of the revolutionary government of the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic (Räterepublik), he escaped certain execution in 1919, Ret Marut disappeared completely. Many believe that going to Mexico and assuming a new identity was his way of hiding behind his pseudonym. Indeed, Ret Marut was never caught and brought to justice, so the plan worked. All this may explain why Traven always claimed to be American and denied any connections with Germany; a warrant, in the German Reich, had been out for Ret Marut’s arrest since 1919.Marut attempted to get from Europe, via Britain, to Canada in 1923, but was turned back from that country. He was finally arrested and imprisoned as a foreigner without a residence permit in Brixton Prison, London on 30 November 1923.
B. Traven is the author of twelve novels, one book of reportage and several short stories, in which the sensational and adventure subjects combine with a critical attitude towards capitalism, reflecting the socialist and even anarchist sympathies of the writer. His books are very telling of the man. In The Bridge in the Jungle is the only novel of his in which a woman takes a primary role, and though it is very slow moving, it is a gem. Set among Mexican Indians just before and during the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th century. His closeness to the Mexican people and his ability to show them in their day-to-day situations and especially in their exploitation by ranch owners, loggers, and oil companies are what made him such a big hit with German working-class readers in the 1920s and 30s. The novels and short stories became very popular as early as the interwar period and retained this popularity after the second world war.
The expanded book edition was published in 1926 by the Berlin-based Buchmeister publishing house, which was owned by the left-leaning, trade unions affiliated book sales club Büchergilde Gutenberg. The title of the first book edition was Der Wobbly, a common name for members of the anarcho-syndicalist trade union Industrial Workers of the World.
Traven’s best known novel, apart from The Death Ship, was The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, published first in German in 1927 as Der Schatz der Sierra Madre. The action of the book is again set in Mexico. In 1948 the book was filmed under the same title (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre) by the Hollywood director John Huston. The film, starring Humphrey Bogart and Walter Huston, was a great commercial success, and in 1949 it also won three Academy Awards.
B. Traven’s writings can be best described as “proletarian adventure novels”. They tell about exotic travels, outlaw adventurers and Indians; many of their motifs can also be found in Karl May’s and Jack London’s novels. Unlike much of adventure or western fiction, Traven’s books, however, are not only characterized by a detailed description of the social environment of their protagonists but also by the consistent presentation of the world from the perspective of the “oppressed and exploited”. Traven’s characters are drawn commonly from the lower classes of society, from the lumpenproletariat strata; they are more antiheroes than heroes, and despite that they have this primal vital force which compels them to fight. The notions of “justice” or Christian morality, which are so visible in adventure novels by other authors, are of no importance here.
Instead, an anarchist element of rebellion often lies at the centre of the novel’s action. The hero’s rejection of his degrading living conditions frequently serves as motive and broad emphasis is placed upon the efforts of the oppressed to liberate themselves. Apart from that, there are virtually no political programmes in Traven’s books; his clearest manifesto may be the general anarchist demand “Tierra y Libertad” in the Jungle Novels. Professional politicians, including ones who sympathize with the left, are usually shown in a negative light, if shown at all. Despite this, Traven’s books are excellence political works. Although the author does not offer any positive programme, he always indicates the cause of suffering of his heroes. This source of suffering, deprivation, poverty and death is for him capitalism, personified in the deliberations. Traven’s criticism of capitalism is, however, free of blatant moralizing. Dressing his novels in the costume of adventure or western literature, the writer seeks to appeal to the less educated, and first of all to the working class.
In his presentation of oppression and exploitation, Traven did not limit himself to the criticism of capitalism; in the centre of his interest there were rather racial persecutions of Mexican Indians. These motifs, which are mainly visible in the Jungle Novels, were a complete novelty in the 1930s. Most leftist intellectuals, despite their negative attitude to European and American “imperialism”, did not know about, or were not interested in persecutions of natives in Africa, Asia or South America. Traven deserves credit for drawing public attention to these questions, long before anti-colonial movements and struggle for emancipation of black people in the United States.
This seemed the final solution to the riddle of the writer’s biography – B. Traven turned out, as he always claimed himself, to be an American, not the German Ret Marut. However, the solution was only seeming. Some time after one named Croves’ death, his widow gave another press announcement in which she claimed that her husband had authorized her to reveal the whole truth about his life, also the facts that he had left unsaid in his will. The journalists heard that Croves had also been a German revolutionary named Ret Marut in his youth, which reconciled both the adherents of the theory of the Americanness and the proponents of the hypothesis about the Germanness of the writer. Rosa Elena Luján gave more information about these facts in her interview for the International Herald Tribune on 8 April 1969, where she claimed that her husband’s parents had emigrated from the United States to Germany some time after their son’s birth. In Germany, her husband published the successful novel The Death Ship, following which he went to Mexico for the first time, but returned to Germany to edit an anti-war magazine in the country “threatened by the emerging Nazi movement”. He was sentenced to death, but managed to escape and went to Mexico again. Which confirms the story.
His ashes, following cremation, were scattered from an airplane above the jungle of Chiapas state.
In 1917, 29-year-old Nestor Makhno was released from a Tsarist Russian prison where for nine years he’d been kept chained hand and foot until liberated by the February Revolution. He returned to his Ukraine homeland to begin a peasants’ movement, expropriating land from the wealthy few to redistribute to the many poor. But when the Bolsheviks sold out Ukraine and handed it to the Germans and Austrians in the 1918 treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Makhno’s band of peasants were redeployed as guerrilla warriors who somehow managed to expel the interlopers within a year. By this time Makhno’s reconstructed anarchist society covered most of the Ukraine, in the face of strong opposition from Moscow. In the ensuing chaos, the Revolutionary Insurrectionary or Black Army fought a bewildering multi-front war – sometimes against the Reds, sometimes against the Whites, sometimes with the Reds against the Whites. After the Whites were defeated, Lenin and Trotsky conspired to destroy Makhno’s army – the very forces that had enabled the consolidation of their own power. The Bolsheviks even went so far as to prepare an ambush by inviting the officers of the Crimean Makhnovist army to take part in a military council, where they were immediately arrested and summarily executed.
The then all-mighty Trotsky ordered Makhno’s assassination on sight. Makhno eluded his pursuers for nearly a year, but was soon forced into retreat as the full weight of the Red Army and the Cheka bore down on him. Makhno managed to escape to Western Europe via Rumania and Poland, but by the time he arrived in Paris, the Bolsheviks – having failed to kill him – decided to morally destroy him by branding him a bandit, counter-revolutionary and worst of all a rampant anti-Semite and Jew killer. Yet never has any evidence emerged to support these vicious accusations. Rather, there is an abundance of evidence proving that Makhno possessed numerous close Jewish comrades (who all vigorously defended him), had issued proclamations forbidding pogroms and even personally and publicly executed the chief of a White band of notorious pogromers as an object lesson.
The unceasing stream of Soviet slander, vilification and propaganda in the form of history books, novels, short stories and even a spurious diary of “Makhno’s wife” succeeded in blackening the Ukranian hero’s name for the rest of his days. As he lay dying from tuberculosis in a Paris hospital, it would have been scant consolation to Makhno that the primary architect of his ruin – Trotsky – was in the same city, by then also driven out of Russia into exile.
Born in Leon in 1896, Durruti was the son of Union man. As a youngster, he becomes a charismatic union leader, committed to defend his fellow workers in a period of state approved violence by employers.A legend known as a bank robber, kidnapper, rousing speaker, reputed assassinator of kings and archbishops, leader and a man on the run from death sentences in at least 4 countries. He was active particularly in Spain (killing the archbishop of Saragossa), Argentina (where he was condemned to death), Mexico, and financed Anarchist activities and publications.The charismatic Anarchist leader sparked one of the best revolutions in the history of the world, labelled the Force Behind The Spanish Revolution. His radical plans to steal the Republic’s gold reserves in Madrid in order to fund arms for the people is just one of his many incredible tactics.Physically, he is described as tall, solidly built, curly black hair with penetrating eyes and a disarming smile. Sociable, amiable and dab-hand at networking, Durruti’s reputation is also based on his simple lifestyle and simple needs. At home he always lived poorly. His house was only ever a basic dwelling where he would often spend his time engrossed in doing the housework or cooking – much to the surprise of his compañeros. This was a man who wouldn’t leave his libertarian ideals in the meeting rooms, on the streets or in the trenches, but would take them home to breathe in and absorb and to apply to all of life in the new world opening before him.We look at a man followed by millions when he drew his pistol, grinned knowingly at the enemy and launched into his next revolutionary activities with impressive momentum.Durruti when exiled once more, moves to Latin America and continues his series of campaigns and bank robberies by joining the anarchist movements in Cuba, Mexico and Argentina. Adhering to the Anarchist ideology – no-one is allowed a professional wage – all monies collected are used to fund the activities of the anarchist groups, including the building of libraries and schools. These examples of social and political direct action are far too threatening for the different Latin governments and so a price is put on Durrutis head, a price that increases from one country to the next.By the time of his return – this time to Paris in 1926 – he has a death sentence hanging over his head in countries across the world. Why stop here? In Paris, Alfonso XIII is visiting the french monarch in order to show off his new moustache. Durruti plans the assassination of the moustache and whilst at it, the rest of his useless body. But before he can carry out the deed, someone informs on Durruti and he is arrested and imprisoned. Not one to bow down before any bourgeois states definition of justice, Durruti flees and spends his time organising in Germany, France, Belgium and even North Africa.Meanwhile in his country of birth, Spain of the 1920’s, the employers of cities like Barcelona were using armed groups to hunt down and eliminate “agitators” – a euphemism for CNT workers and anarchist leaders. This practice became known as pistolerismo and alongside the ley de fugas – where agitators were shot ‘trying to escape’ from political sentences in jail – almost every well-known union or anarchist leaders between 1919 and 1922 was murdered. Behind this political repression of workers in Spain, were figures such as the Cardinal Soldevila of Zaragossa who had financed employer backed unions with money raised from his gambling empires. After a period of time in exile, Durruti returns to Spain and helps form a new group to combat this wave of violence. “Give Peace a Chance” will be a slogan for another era. Now, argues Durruti, we need bullets.In an interview that appeared in the Toronto Herald, the reporter Van passen asks Durruti what should happen if the war continues and the workers are left with nothing but a pile of ruins. Durruti fixes his disarming eye on the reporter, pushes back his hat and says:
“Yes this war may leave us with nothing more than ruins. We have always lived in ruins. We the workers are the only producers of wealth. We make the machines in the factories, we extract the coal from the ground, it is we that construct the cities… but we will rebuild them and build them better. We know we are going to inherit a world in ruins, but we carry in out hearts another world that is being born.”For the Anarchists, the military uprising that leads to the civil war is not about challenging the reformist policies of the democratic republic, but rather a final attempt by the privileged classes to halt the spreading anarchist revolution. Durruti feels frustrated and betrayed and now believes the government is more worried about halting the social revolution than fighting Franco. Now convinced of the growing influence of the communists on government policy and their opposition to the anarchists ideals. Durruti and the CNT decide to extend the work of the collectivisation process, moving the revolution to the smaller towns, setting up schools, libraries and to begin to organise the anarchist militia groups to fight against the nationalist uprising.Drawing on his past, Durruti calls together a few of his most Trusted Compañeros and tells them that he has a sneaky plan to win the war. He draws them closer, checks over his shoulder to see if anyone else is listening, pulls down the peak of his hat and whispers into their eager faces: “Trusted Compañeros, we are going to steal the gold reserves from the Banco De España in Madrid!”Durruti is forced to withdraw his plans because the CNT committee feared Durruti’s plans could trigger yet another war between Catalunya and the rest of the country. Besides, unknown to them the Republican government had already given the go-ahead for the communists to begin to move the gold to Moscow.He was shot in the back by an unknown and died the following day in the defence of the city as he organised the first Anarchist militia in the civil war of Spain.”It is we who build those places and cities here in Spain and America and everywhere. We, the workers, can build others to take their place. And better ones. We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth.”
Berger was born in Latvia, Russia in the 1890s. Around 1905, she left Russia for Western Europe. In Hamburg, Germany she met two other Latvian Anarchist Red Cross members, Charles Berg and Carl Hanson (her stepbrother), and accompanied them to New York City in 1911. When the three arrived in New York, the three joined the Lettish (Latvian) Anarchist Group, an organization primarily devoted to the publication and dissemination of anarchist literature.
The Ludlow Massacre in Colorado and police dispersal of the Tarrytown protests enraged most radicals. As a result, members of the Lettish Anarchist Red Cross began plotting a bomb attack to assassinate Rockefeller. And began to collect dynamite from various sources, storing it in Louise Berger’s apartment on New York.
The conspirators devised a plan in which they plant a bomb at Rockefeller’s home in Tarrytown. The plot was scheduled but for reasons unknown got called off. Louise Berger left her apartment and walked to the office of the Anarchist newspaper known as the Mother Earth Bulletin, where she worked as an editor alongside Alexander Berkman. It has been assumed by some who knew her that Berger was going there to inform Berkman that the bomb had been readjusted and was ready. At 9:15 it all went badly wrong and an explosion occurred from Berger’s apartment. The bomb had exploded prematurely killing the very people who organised the plot.
He had a series of unfortunate events later in his life. He started to become mentally-drained by an illness in the early 1880s. He saw spies everywhere, became frightened of the telephone, and tried to kill himself while imprisoned. He started to experience violent outbursts, and once was found in a cave half-naked sitting in a puddle of water. As a person who was hounded by the police and State his entire adult life, along with many other personal and social struggles and disillusionment, Its no surprise he started losing it. He ended up sadly dying in a mental asylum.
In better health he wrote a book called “A Compendium of Das Kapital,” in which even Marx himself praised (praise to an anarchist?!) “The Compendium was written in order to bring the theory of Capital to students, educated workmen and small proprietor” – It must be good, because typically books like this are painfully terrible.
16. Korean Kim Joa-Jin ! (I couldn’t find a pic of him but he’s in this one along with his comrades)
Kim Jao-jin was born in 1889 to a wealthy family. Like many of his generation, his life was shaped by the Japanese imperial government’s colonisation of Korea. This began formally in 1910, but key aspects of Japanese control dated to 1895. The year 1919 saw a massive wave of struggle against colonialism: the March 1st Movement. This was part of a global series of uprisings.
Kim became involved in the Korean Independence Army (KIA). In 1920, he helped lead a famous defeat by the KIA of a Japanese army division at the battle of Ch’ing-Shan. At the same time, he became drawn to Anarchism by his relative, Kim Jong-Jin. Anarchism / syndicalism was a very powerful force in the Korean national liberation and popular class struggles. Japanese anarchists worked closely with Korean anarchists: they knew the Japanese ruling class was also their enemy.
The Korean anarchist movement wanted to build an independent self-governing anarchist society, a cooperative system of the masses of the Korean people. They wanted to take civilisation from the capitalist class, and return it to the popular classes. By doing so, the capitalist and colonial society that existed in Korea (as elsewhere in Africa and Asia and east Europe) would be replaced with a new society. This new society would be based on the principles of freedom and equality, that guarantee the independent self-rule of the producing classes: the working class and the peasantry.
In 1925, Kim formed the anarchist group, the “New People’s Society.” Working closely with the Korean Anarchist Federation in Manchuria and the Korean Anarcho-Communist Federation, in 1929 he helped launch (with KIA support) a large anarchist revolutionary zone in Shinmin in Manchuria, in the Korean borderlands. A large Korean population lived here; Japanese imperial power was not as strong as in the Korean peninsula. The zone was run through the Korean People’s Association in Manchuria, also called the “General League of Koreans.”
From 1929-1931 we can speak of an anarchist revolution in this area. It was based on the peasantry and the military.
Kim was assassinated by a Korean Communist Party member while working in a cooperative. The Communists hated the anarchists. They wanted to form a one-party dictatorship, as existed in Russia.
15. Ricardo Flores Magón! He was a noted Mexican Anarchist and social reform activist. His two brothers also shared the same politics and followers of the Magón brothers were known as Magonistas.
He has been considered an important participant in the social movement that sparked the Mexican Revolution. And as a result in Mexico the name of Ricardo Flores Magon is well known. Born to a poor family in 1873, he became a journalist on the opposition paper ‘El Demócrata’ after finishing school. In 1900, along with his brother Jesús, he founded “Regeneración’, a radical paper opposed to the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz.
After his release from a second prison sentence arising from his campaigning journalism, he moved across the border to the USA. Despite continual persecution and imprisonment by the U.S. authorities, at the instigation of the Mexican dictatorship – who had put a price of $20,000 on his head after he wouldn’t be bought off with the offer of a place in the government. He would not be silenced.
In 1905, Magon founded the Mexican Liberal Party (PLM), a reformist organisation opposed to the excesses of the regime, which organised two unsuccessful uprisings against Diaz in 1906 and 1908. During his early years of exile he became acquainted with Emma Goldman, and it was partly through her that he moved from reformism to become an Anarchist.
With the outbreak of the revolution of 1910 (the revolution that he and the PLM more than any other group or person) he had paved the way. Magon devoted the rest of his life to the Anarchist cause, through the influence of his ideas, large areas of land were expropriated by the peasants and worked in common by them under the banner of ‘Land and Liberty’, the motto of the PLM. This motto was later adopted by Emiliano Zapata, whose legacy inspires the EZLN rebels of the 1994 Southern Mexican uprising whose struggle continues today.
A fortnight later he explained the difference between the PLM and other opposition movements:
“Governments have to protect the right of property above all other rights. Do not expect then, that Madero ( an upper-class politician in the Progressive Constitutional Party) will attack the right of property in favour of the working class. Open your eyes”.
By January, PLM forces were fighting in six of Mexico’s states. Major towns, as well as rural areas, were liberated by Anarchists. In March a peasant army led by Zapata, and influenced by the Magonistas of the PLM, rose up in Morelos. By now the nationalist opposition of Madero had turned some of its guns away from the troops of Diaz and begun to attack the Anarchists of the PLM.
In April, the PLM issued a manifesto to “the members of the party, to the Anarchists of the world and the workers in general”. Vast quantities were produced in Spanish and English to explain their attitude to the revolution:
“The Mexican Liberal Party is not fighting to destroy the dictator Porfirio Diaz in order to put in his place a new tyrant. The PLM is taking part in the actual insurrection with the deliberate and firm purpose of expropriating the land and the means of production and handing them over to the people, that is, each and every one of the inhabitants of Mexico without distinction of sex. This act we consider essential to open the gates for the effective emancipation of the Mexican people.”
In massively illiterate Mexico, where many villages had only a handful of people able to read, the circulation of “Regeneración” had reached 27,000 a week. When Tijuana was liberated in May, most of Baja California came under PLM influence. They issued a manifesto “Take possession of the land…make a free and happy life without masters or tyrants”.
That month saw Madero sign a peace treaty with Diaz and take over as President of Mexico. Military attacks on the PLM increased, and towns were retaken by government troops. Prisoners were murdered by the new regime, sometimes after being made to dig their own graves. At a meeting in Los Angeles, Magon was asked to accept the treaty but replied “…until the land was distributed to the peasants and the instruments of production were in the hands of the workers, the liberals would never lay down their arms”.
Along with many leading PLM organisers, Magon was arrested (again) by the US authorities. The rebels were slandered as “bandits” and repression in both Mexico and the US reached new heights. Despite the setbacks caused by their relatively small size in a gigantic country, the attacks they suffered from the armies of two countries, and the terrible revenge exacted by the rich and their agents, new uprisings broke out in Senora, Durango and Coahuila.
Such was the support for their ideas, that even the British TUC felt obliged to invite Honore Jaxon, Treasurer and European representative of the PLM, to address their 1911 conference. One solidarity action especially worth mentioning was the 24-hour strike by two army units in Portugal protesting against the arrest of PLM militants by the US government.
A new manifesto, emphasising their Anarchism, was issued in September:
“The same effort and the same sacrifices that are required to raise to power a governor – that is to say a tyrant – will achieve the expropriation of the fortunes the rich keep from you. It is for you, then, to choose. Either a new governor – that is to say a new yoke – or life redeeming expropriation and the abolition of all imposition, religious, political or any other kind”.
PLM and Zapatista rebellions continued until 1919, but their numbers and inadequate arms were not sufficient to defeat the state forces. However all was not in vain. In 1922 the Anarchist CGT trade union was founded in Mexico city, and today the rebellion in the state of Chiapas can be seen as, partly at least, a continuation of Magon’s struggle.
During the years of struggle Magon opposed and fought successive so-called “revolutionary regimes,” resisting both the old and new dictatorships with equal vigour. Imprisoned by the U.S. authorities in 1905, 1907, and 1912 he was finally sentenced to 20 years under the espionage laws in 1918. He died, apparently after suffering beatings, in Leavenworth Prison, Kansas, on November 22, 1922.
When his body was brought back across the border, every town where the cortege stopped was decked out in the red and black flags of Anarchism. In Mexico City, 10,000 working people escorted his body to Panteon Frances where it is buried. A flame had been lit that will not burn out until liberty becomes a living reality.
14. Ethel MacDonald! She was a Glasgow-based Scottish Anarchist and activist and, in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, a propagandist on Barcelona Loyalist radio.
A working class girl from Scotland who went to Spain during the civil war. She was compelled to side with the Anarchist movement, like George Orwell and so many other Brits, to keep on fighting for the truth about what the struggle was really about.In 1936, with the civil war about to break out, she (from Motherwell) finds a job in a workers rights centre in Glasgow, helping distribute the radical newspaper: Regeneration. As the struggle in Spain intensifies, she is sent out to cover the imminent war from Barcelona.
She arrives in the city 2 months before Orwell will arrive, and like him, she sees not a country in preparation for war, but a people who have at last shaken off the shackles and constraints of the new republic and were instead creating a completely new order that effortlessly takes control of industry, society, government, commerce, health and education.
This is not the Anarchism ridiculed in the popular press, but the self-educated organisations that sprung up to run a city and a country by the very people themselves, without the hierarchies and divisions that had plagued the radical movements of other times.
Ethel found in the city a deeply rooted sense of liberation. In modes of dress, in the dignity of work, in the emphasis on schooling and social organisation – all was changing before her eyes. Even in language there were changes: the word “mujer” was being changed for “compañera”
She states; “Peasants formed communes on land confiscated from the old ruling elite. Three million men, women and children lived and worked in them. Anarchists had taken over the factories. Police were replaced with civilian self-defence forces. Three quarters of the economy was under anarchist control. Hotels, shops, barber shops and restaurants were collectivised and managed by their workers – often increasing productivity and profit. The maxim ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his need’ was put into practice. Women won the right to divorce and abortion, and the idea of ‘free love’ became popular in the sense [of] the right to enter into a relationship without the permission of State or Church.”
As her reports on the Catalan Revolution are sent home, Ethel is offered a job on a radio station to send out reports to the rest of the world in English, and to speak directly to the International troops arriving to help the Spanish cause.
Ethel does so, but surprisingly for those who offer her the work, she does so from the perspective of an Anarchist and her reports are inspiring and motivating to her compañeros on the front. However, as she reports on the revolutions succeses and failures, the civil war slowly shifts ground and the relatively small Communist Party becomes a leading power as Spain receives no support other than that from Stalin in Russia.
As the Communists begin to “clean-up” the Anarchists revolution in Catalonia, Ethel is placed under arrest and is imprisoned by the very people she came to help. She is finally released and leaves Spain via a British ship ported at Barcelona. But outside Spain the Anarchist journalist continues to travel and publicly speak to raise awareness of the Spanish revolution so recently betrayed and to raise consciousness and funds for the cause.
Sadly, in 1958, she was diagnosed with MS and loses the ability to speak. Ethel MacDonald dies in 1960.
13. Gaetano Bresci ! He was born in 1869 in small village in the commune of Prato in Tuscany, central Italy. His parents sent him out to work at a young age, during which time he was employed as a silk weaver, the profession he was to continue throughout his life.
At a time when Anarchist ideas were beginning to spread across Italy, with Tuscany in particular becoming a stronghold for radical activity, Bresci became involved in an Anarchist group. Little is known of the group’s activities however it is clear that Bresci served a short sentence in prison as the result of being involved in an “Anarchist disturbance”.
Upon his release Bresci emigrated to America, living first in New Hoboken, where he married an Irish immigrant girl in 1897. He and his wife moved away soon after, settling in the large manufacturing town of Paterson, New Jersey, where he took up work as a weaver in one of the city’s numerous mills.
Becoming involved in a local Anarchist group, Bresci and his comrades set about introducing Anarchist ideas to the sizeable Italian immigrant population in Paterson, eventually setting up a newspaper, La Questione Social. Gaining a reputation as a skilled propagandist, Bresci became one of the main contributors to the paper, devoting much of his free time to writing and organising amongst the immigrant mill workers.
Hearing and reporting news for the international labour and Anarchist movement in La Questione Social, Bresci was well aware of the increasingly unstable political and social situation in Italy. In 1898 he received news of an event in his homeland that was to forever change his life.
Following a prolonged campaign of strikes and demonstrations across Italy to protest the rising cost of living, a mass demonstration of workers had taken place through the streets of Milan in 1898. The march took an increasingly violent turn and, fearing an attack upon the Royal Palace, troops were ordered to fire on the crowd, who were unarmed. The protestors marched toward the palace, which was surrounded by a strong military force under the command of General Fiorenzo Bava-Beccaris. The crowd ignored the order to disperse, whereupon Bava-Beccaris gave the signal to fire with muskets and cannons, resulting in a massacre of the demonstrators, in which more than ninety people died. The shootings, known as the Bava-Beccaris massacre named after the general who had ordered the attack.
King Umberto later decorated Bava-Beccaris,complimenting him upon his “brave defense of the royal house” — as a result of which Bresci became determined to kill the king.
Unexpectedly, to his comrades, Bresci approached them at La Questione Social and demanded the return of a loan which had been used to set up the paper. Offering no explanation for his actions and leaving his comrades deeply bitter towards him, Bresci left the United States with the intention of assassinating King Umberto I of Italy (fulfilling the propaganda by the deed ethos).
Two months later Bresci had made his way to the small town of Monza, some 10 miles north of Milan. The town was the location of one of the king’s royal villas which he would be staying at for several weeks. It was here that Bresci committed his attentat. On the evening of July 29, while the king was handing out prizes to athletes after a sporting event, Bresci burst from the crowd and shot the king three times using a 32 revolver, killing him almost immediately.
Bresci was captured and put on trial, represented by the famous Anarchist lawyer Francesco Saverio Merlino, Bresci stood trial in Milan and was sentenced to a life of hard labour on Santo Stefano, the island prison infamous for its many Anarchists and socialist prisoners. He was not to stay long. Less than a year later he was found hanged in his cell, his body being thrown into the sea by prison guards soon after. Although suicide was given as the official explanation for his death, this was widely disputed at the time and it now seems more likely that he was killed by his guards.
Accounts of Bresci’s life tell us that he was a sensitive man, highly susceptible to the injustices committed towards working people. It was these characteristics that drove him to give his life for a deed which he believed would increase the social awareness of the Italian working class and hasten the path to revolution.
The city of Carrara dedicated a marble monument to Bresci. And The city of Prato named a street for him in 1976.
12. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon ! A learned printer and proofreader, who taught himself Latin in order to better print books in the language. His best-known assertion ‘Property is Theft!’, contained his first master piece and major work, ‘What is Property?’ Or, an Inquiry into the Principle of Right and Government.
Proudhon received no formal education as a child, but was taught to read by his mother, who had him spelling words by age three.
Proudhon’s mother began trying to get him admitted into the city college in Besançon. The family was far too poor to afford the tuition, but with the help of one of Claude-François’ former employers, she managed to gain a bursary. Proudhon was unable to afford books (or even shoes) to attend school, which caused him great difficulties, and often made him the object of scorn by his wealthier classmates. In spite of this, Proudhon showed a strong will to learn, and spent much time in the school library with a pile of books, exploring a variety of subjects in his free time outside of class.
Proudhon spent hours every day reading Christian literature and began to question many of his long held religious beliefs which eventually led him to reject Christianity altogether. By 1829, he began to become more interested in social issues than religious theory.
In September 1830, Proudhon became certified as a journeyman compositor. The period following this was marked by unemployment and poverty, with Proudhon travelling around France (and also, briefly, to Neufchâtel, Switzerland) where he unsuccessfully sought stable employment in printing and as a schoolteacher.
His friendship with with Gustave Fallot (a scholar who came from a family of wealthy French industrialists) was one of the most important events in Proudhon’s life, as it is what motivated him to leave the printing trade, and pursue his studies of philosophy instead.
He became the first to call himself ‘Anarchist’ in a positive sense in 1840, and in Bakunin’s words, “The master of us all’ Influenced all progressive writers of his age, including Marx. He became one of the most prolific authors of Anarchism. His concept was an Anarchist society based on mutualism and held together by federalism. He became a member of the French Parliament after the revolution of 1848, whereupon and thereafter he referred to himself as a federalist.
Proudhon favored workers’ associations or co-operatives, as well as individual worker/peasant possession, over private ownership or the nationalization of land and workplaces. He considered social revolution to be achievable in a peaceful manner. In ‘The Confessions of a Revolutionary’ Proudhon asserted that, Anarchy is Order Without Power, the phrase which much later inspired, in the view of some, the Anarchist circled-A symbol.
Proudhon was surprised by the Revolutions of 1848 in France. He participated in the February uprising and the composition of what he termed “the first republican proclamation” of the new republic. But he had misgivings about the new provisional government. the provisional government was dominated by liberals because it was pursuing political reform at the expense of the socio-economic reform, which Proudhon considered basic.
He unsuccessfully tried to create a national bank, to be funded by what became an abortive attempt at an income tax on capitalists and shareholders. Similar in some respects to a credit union, it would have given interest-free loans. He laid out a program of mutual financial cooperation among workers. He believed this would transfer control of economic relations from capitalists and financiers to workers. The central part of his plan was the establishment of a bank issuing of exchange notes that would circulate instead of money based on gold.
Proudhon was arrested for insulting the president Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte and was imprisoned from 1849 to 1852. After his release he remained in exile from 1858 to 1862 in Belgium. Upon the liberalization of the empire in 1863 he returned to France.
In his later life It has to be said (although racism was not overtly part of his political philosophy), he became hugely anti Semitic and Proudhon did publicly express sexist beliefs. It was the common attitude in France at the time unfortunately.
Montseny joined the Anarchist labor union CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo) and wrote for Anarchist journals such as Solidaridad Obrera, Tierra y Libertad and Nueva Senda. One of the founders of the Federación Anarquista Ibérica (FAI), which she joined only in 1936, she became one of it’s leading theoreticians.She became Minister of Health, the first women ever to, and as such legalised abortion.Given her family libertarian tradition, the decision to enter the Popular Front government was especially difficult (which split the Anarchist movement), although joining the government was a move encouraged by the Anarcho-syndicalist, Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT). The collaboration with the government was made in order to present a united front to the Fascist threat posed by Franco’s rebel armies. However the tactic was widely questioned during and long after the war was over by some Anarchists and Anti Fascists. Notably, she was involved in polemics with Emma Goldman, and the recipient of the harsh criticism in Camillo Berneri’s open letter of 1937. For many Anarchists, the topic of collaboration – with both Marxists and governments – is still a contentious one.In 1939, she fled to France. After 1949, she was for many years an extremely productive writer and editor. She wrote some 50 novels and longer stories and more than 15 books on political subjects.
10. Colin Ward ! A British Writer, social theorist who believed in self-sufficiency, allotments and better town planning. He lived with the title of being Britain’s most famous Anarchists for nearly half a century, one of the greatest Anarchist thinkers of the past half century and a pioneering social historian. Learning about Anarchism while serving in the army during WW2, leading him to become one of the most productive and inspiring Anarchist writers and propagandists.
Colin was the author of almost 30 books on subjects that ranged from allotments, architecture, self-build housing, children’s play, education, postcards, town planning to water distribution and Anarchist theory (many of which gained him an international following.)
Colin was born in Wanstead, Essex, the son of a teacher and a shorthand typist. Both were Labour supporters and Colin remembered hearing Emma Goldman speak at a 1938 London May Day rally, and attending the 1939 Festival of Music for the People, in aid of the International Brigades, featuring Benjamin Britten’s Ballad of Heroes. On leaving school aged 15, Colin went to work for the architect Sidney Caulfield. Conscripted in 1942, Colin was posted to Glasgow, where he fell in with the city’s lively Anarchist movement. He was then transferred to Orkney and Shetland for the remainder of the war. In 1945, he was a subscriber to the radical newspaper War Commentary (the war-time equivalent of Freedom). Colin was summoned as a witness at the Old Bailey trial of the paper’s editors, to give evidence at the London trial of the editors for publishing an article allegedly intended to seduce soldiers from their duty or allegiance. Ward robustly repudiated any seduction, but the three editors John Hewetson, Vernon Richards and Philip Sansom, who were accused of promoting disaffection. They were convicted and sentenced to nine months imprisonment.
He was an editor of the British Anarchist newspaper Freedom from 1947 to 1960, and the founder and editor of the monthly Anarchist journal ‘Anarchy’ from 1961 to 1970. From 1952 to 1961, Ward worked as an architect. In 1971, he became the Education Officer for the Town and Country Planning Association. While working as an education officer he was co author of ‘Streetwork’, and established the Bulletin for Environmental Education. The point of both initiatives was to help get children out of school and into their communities, to talk to local people, and explore their neighbourhood, its amenities and utilities, and understand how buildings, streets, landscapes and social life interact. This led to Colin’s focus on the unique world of childhood which, in the end, may prove to have been his – and Anarchism’s– most enduring contribution to social policy. He published widely on education, architecture and town planning. One of his most influential book was The Child In The City, about children’s street culture. On the school system He argued that “one significant role of the state in the national education systems of the world is to perpetuate social and economic injustice.”
Colin believed that Anarchist principles have always been and will continue to be alive and prescient. He thought it was the work of politics to nurture such beliefs and to support them through small-scale initiatives, avoiding the temptation to replicate or scale them up to a level beyond which professional bureaucracies take over. He was fond of comparing and contrasting the vocabulary of self-organisation, with its friendly societies, mutuals, co-operatives and voluntary associations, against the nomenclature of the state and private sectors with their directorates, corporations, boards and executives. Stating “I believe that the social ideas of Anarchism: autonomous groups, spontaneous order, workers’ control, the federative principle, add up to a coherent theory of social organisation which is a valid and realistic alternative to the authoritarian, hierarchical and institutional social philosophy which we see in application all around us.” Ward’s philosophy aimed at removing authoritarian forms of social organisation and replacing them with self-managed, non-hierarchical forms. This is based upon the principle that, as Ward put it, “in small face-to-face groups, the bureaucratising and hierarchical tendencies inherent in organisations have least opportunity to develop”. He particularly admired the Swiss system of direct democracy and cantons whereby each canton is run by its members who have control on the laws placed upon them, although he disapproved of many of the policies this system enacted.
His book ‘The Allotment: Its Landscape and Culture’, written with David Crouch, held the line for this uniquely friendly form of local self-sufficiency during the barren years of centralised land use planning, making Colin a hero of today’s environmental activists. As Most of Ward’s works deal with the issue of rural housing and the problems of overpopulation and planning regulations in Britain to which he proposed libertarian socialist solutions. He was a keen admirer of architect Walter Segal who set up a ‘build it yourself’ system in Lewisham meaning that land that was too small or difficult to build on conventionally was given to people who with Segal’s help would build their own homes. Ward was very keen on the idea of ‘build it yourself’ having said in response to the proposition of removing all planning laws, ‘I don’t believe in just letting it rip, the rich get away with murder when that happens. But I do want the planning system to be flexible enough to give homeless people a chance’. In his book Cotters and Squatters, Ward described the historical development of informal customs to appropriate land for housing which frequently grew up in opposition to legally constituted systems of land ownership. Ward described folkways in many cultures which parallel the Welsh tradition of the Tŷ unnos or ‘one night house’ erected on common land.
In his book, ‘Anarchy in Action’ which is recommended reading for anyone interested in the subject, he said “An Anarchist society, a society which organises itself without authority, is always in existence, like a seed beneath the snow, buried under the weight of the state and it’s beurocracy, capitalism and it’s waste, privilege and it’s injustices, nationalism and it’s suicidal loyalties, religious differences and their superstitious separatism.” In the book he sets out his belief that an Anarchist society is not an end goal. Colin saw all distant goals as a form of tyranny and believed that Anarchist principles could be discerned in everyday human relations and impulses. Within this perspective, politics is about strengthening co-operative relations and supporting human ingenuity in its myriad vernacular and everyday forms.
“Why do people consent to be governed? It isn’t only fear: what have millions of people to fear from a small group of politicians? It is because they subscribe to the same values as their governors. Rulers and ruled alike believe in the principle of authority, of hierarchy, of power. These are the characteristics of the political principle. The Anarchists, who have always distinguished between the state and society, adhere to the social principle.”
From 1995-6, Ward was Centennial Professor of Housing and Social Policy at the London School of Economics. In 2001, Ward was made an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy at Anglia Ruskin University.
9. Kanno Sugako! Born in Osaka, she lost her mother at the age of ten. Her father remarried. In addition to being mistreated by her stepmother, Kanno was raped at the age of fifteen some say fourteen. She had her first contact with socialism when reading an essay about the victims of sexual abuse. At seventeen, she married a man belonging to a merchant family in Tokyo in order to escape the mistreatment of her stepmother.
Kanno Sugako also called Suga was an Anarcho-Feminist and journalist by profession. She was the author of a series of articles about gender oppression, and a defender of freedom and equal rights for men and women. Kanno began writing in a journal and began to engage in a Christian women’s movement against the system of legal brothels. The rape of Suga as a young teenager is widely thought attributed to her political development and radical views. As a middle-class young woman from a respectable family, the rape was considered as her responsibility, and her shame. She sought to find a structural explanation for her circumstance; chancing across a socialist text for survivors of rape, she started the process of reading and radicalisation. As a young girl, living in Japan at the turn of the 20th century, her experience put her on a collision course with the establishment. A short marriage was followed by an “arrangement” with the novelist Udagawa Bunkai, trading sexual favours for economic support. Eventually, on his recommendation, her first salaried employment as a junior reporter on a local newspaper followed.
Whilst in the Socialist-Christian peace movement, in 1906 she became head of a newspaper in the province of Wakayama and began a relationship with the socialist leader Arahata Kanson. Her first foray into political life with the Osaka Reform Society, the Christian socialist group, she campaigned with them strongly against the red-light area of Osaka. The life experience of Suga and other leading women reformers, (two of which had become pregnant out of wedlock, and the Chair of the association, a divorced woman), tempered the inherent prejudice and moralism of some men in the group. And so the women along with Suga offered a political and economic analysis to why women found themselves engaged in the sex industry as a distinct break from the rescue vision of some of the Christian men.
She said ”Although, of course, the root of the problem must await a socialist solution, we women must struggle not only against husbands, but against the entire self-serving world of men. Rise up, women! Wake up! Just like the struggle that workers are engaged in against capitalists to break down the class system, our demands for freedom and equality with men will not be won easily just because we will it; they will not be won if we do not raise our voices; they will not be won if no blood is shed.”
Later that year there was an uprisings in the military arsenal at Osaka, and the naval dockyard at Kure followed by riots at the Ashio and Besshi mines in 1907. Arson, bombings and strategic attacks at the owner’s residence saw an upswing in the workers movement on the back of exploitative and dangerous working conditions. Suga watched these developments from afar as she nursed her dying sister, taking a job writing for the society section of the mainstream publication Daily Telegraph to support them both, occasionally writing supportive pieces for the struggle.
Upon returning to Tokyo, a celebration was held to mark the release from prison of the radical Koken Yamaguchi, and other leaders who were arrested in the Red Flag Incident of June 1908. Waving red flags and singing Communist anthems, Suga and other radicals took to the streets to celebrate. The police moved in quickly, attacking the demonstrators, arresting 10 – Suga among them. Released several months later in deteriorating health, she found her job no longer open to someone marked as a radical, while her lover Arahata was gaoled for his part in the protest. While visiting friends in prison, she was arrested. She was initially gaoled for participating in the celebrations but then pursued through the increasingly repressive press laws Upon her release two months later. She met the Anarchist Shūsui Kōtoku. Together, they began publishing an Anarchist newspaper which was banned by the authorities. Surviving with support from the movement, an attempt to establish a radical journal “Free Thought” was met with prosecution. Kanno was arrested again.
On the eve of the Russo-Japanese War she campaigned and wrote against the Japanese imperial ambitions, publishing a short anti-war novel ‘Breaking Off’, and was offered a correspondent post on Muro Shimpo, a left leaning newspaper produced in Wakayama. Eventually moving there and taking the reins of the paper when the editor was sentenced to gaol for violating the laws of “press freedom”, she was finally being given the editorial opportunity to speak more passionately on her politics.
By now, Suga was terminally ill. Knowing that her death would come in the next few years, she dedicated herself to the assassination of Emperor Meiji of Japan, as a proto “Propaganda of the Deed” to demonstrate to the country that the Emperor was not the God he presented himself as, but a flesh & blood mortal. Sadly that plan failed and in 1910 she was accused of treason by the Japanese government for her alleged involvement in what became known as the Kotoku incident. Suga made no attempt to deny her involvement, instead actively embracing the act as a necessary step of raising proletarian consciousness. She was executed in 1911. She was the first woman with the status of political prisoner to be executed in the history of modern Japan. On the gallows, moments before her execution, she shouted to the crowd, ”We die for our principles. Bonzai!”
8. Dr. Marie Diana Equi was an American medical doctor and Anarchist. Her father was Italian and her mother of Irish parentage. Born in Massachusetts, United States, Marie moved to The Dalles, Oregon, at the age of 21 with her friend Bess Holcomb, a teacher. The two lived together in what was described at the time as a “Boston marriage.”
Infamously, Bess’s employer, the Reverend O.D. Taylor refused to pay her what he had promised, so Marie declared she would publicly horsewhip him if he didn’t pay up! True to her word, Marie waited outside for Taylor to emerge from the office where he worked, and then laid into him with a rawhide whip. Marie received support from the local community and the media, who admired her plucky spirit; The community raffled off the whip, raising the amount owed to Bess and bequeathing it to the women.
Marie moved to California to study medicine, and in 1903 became one of the first women to graduate with an M.D. She set up a practice attending to working class women and their children, and through her work met Harriet Speckart, who worked as her assistance. The two began a relationship and eventually adopted a daughter, Mary.
Following the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, Marie organised a group of doctors and nurses to provide aid, and for this initiative received a special commendation from the United States Army.
Equi was a supporter of the women’s suffrage movement, and an illicit abortion provider. She was one of several doctors in Portland who performed abortions, and did so without regard for social class or status. She was active in the movement to provide access and information about birth control. She was arrested after an incident in which she tried to defend a group of men who were caught distributing a birth control pamphlet that Marie had helped to write.
She was an activist fighting for working class rights, and an open lesbian. In 1913, she visited the site of a strike by women cherry sorters at the Oregon Packing Company, during a strike action supported by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, aka the Wobblies), a group which Marie later joined. Police were called in to clear the women away, and while attending to an injured worker, she was attacked by the police. The brutality she encountered during this strike led Equi to denounce capitalism altogether and become an Anarchist! In 1916, she joined the American Union Against Militarism, and started a small riot at a war-preparedness rally when she unfurled a banner which read: “Prepare to die, working men! J.P. Morgan & Co want preparedness for profit.” This led to her arrest.
In 1918, Marie was accused of sedition due to an anti war speech she made at an IWW conference. Her lawyers were unsuccessful in their attempts to overturn her conviction, and her daughter later recalled how she and her mother were spat upon in the streets during this period. She was sentenced to 3 years in prison, serving a year and half in total. By all accounts, Marie was not an easy prisoner, bending the rules and making trouble just as she did when she was free.
Marie was released from prison, and began a relationship with Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a leading activist in the IWW. In 1930, aged 58 she had a heart attack and was mainly bedridden for the rest of her life, except when she got up to join in the anti war protest of the 1940’s. She later died from a brain tumour in Portland aged 80.
“I’m going to speak when and where I wish. No man is going to stop me!”
7. Errico Malatesta, the son of small landowners from Naples region. The first of a long series of arrests came at age fourteen, when he was apprehended for writing an “insolent and threatening” letter to King Victor Emmanuel II.
Malatesta became politically active in his early youth, first as a Republican, then an Anarchist. He was introduced to Mazzinian Republicanism while studying medicine at the University of Naples; however, he was expelled from the university in 1871 for joining a demonstration. Partly via his enthusiasm for the Paris Commune and partly via his friendship with Carmelo Palladino, he joined the Naples section of the International Workingmen’s Association that same year, as well as teaching himself to be a mechanic and electrician. In 1872 he met Mikhail Bakunin, with whom he participated in the St Imier congress of the International.
While respecting “complete autonomy of local groups” the congress defined propaganda actions that all could follow and agreed that “propaganda by the deed” was the path to social revolution. For the next four years, Malatesta helped spread Internationalist propaganda in Italy; he was imprisoned twice for these activities.
In April 1877, Malatesta, Carlo Cafiero, the Russian Stepniak and about thirty others started an insurrection in the province of Benevento, taking the villages of Letino and Gallo without a struggle. The revolutionaries burned tax registers and declared the end of the King’s reign and were met by enthusiasm. After leaving Gallo, however, they were arrested by government troops and held for sixteen months before being acquitted. After A murder attempt by one Giovanni Passannante on king Umberto I, the radicals were kept under constant surveillance by the police. Even though the Anarchists claimed to have no connection to Passannante, Malatesta, being an advocate of social revolution, was included in this surveillance. After returning to Naples, he was forced to leave Italy altogether in the fall of 1878 because of these conditions, beginning his life in exile.
His constant work as an organizer and speaker embodied his ideals of free association: for Malatesta, it was useful to join an organization only for the purpose of doing something with that group of people. There was no sense in belonging to a group simply to belong.
He argued against pure syndicalism. Malatesta thought that trade-unions were reformist, and could even be, at times, conservative. Along with Christiaan Cornelissen, he cited as example US trade-unions, where trade-unions composed of skilled qualified workers sometimes opposed themselves to un-skilled workers in order to defend their relatively privileged position. Malatesta warned that the syndicalists aims were in perpetuating syndicalism itself, whereas Anarchists must always have overthrowing capitalism and the state, and the Anarchists ideal of Communist society as their end, and consequently refrain from committing to any particular method of achieving it.
His arguments against the doctrine of revolutionary unions known as anarcho-syndicalism were later developed in a series of articles, where he wrote “I am against syndicalism, both as a doctrine and a practice, because it strikes me as a hybrid creature.” Despite their drawbacks, he advocated activity in the trade unions, both because they were necessary for the organization and self-defense of workers under a capitalist state regime, and as a way of reaching broader masses. Anarchists should have discussion groups in unions, as in factories, barracks and schools, but “Anarchists should not want the unions to be Anarchists.”
He thought that, like all unions, “Syndicalism…is by nature reformist.” While Anarchism should be active in the rank and file, he said “Any Anarchist who has agreed to become a permanent and salaried official of a trade union is lost to Anarchism.” He was involved in the founding of the first militant workers’ union in Argentina, the bakers union, and left an Anarchist impression in the workers’ movements there for years to come.
Malatesta was a committed revolutionary. He believed that the Anarchist revolution was coming, and that violence would be a necessary part of it since the state rested ultimately on violent coercion. As he wrote in his article ‘The Revolutionary ‘Haste’. Malatesta, then, advocated violence as a “necessary” part of the emancipation of the working class. The late 1890s were a time of social turmoil in Italy, marked by bad harvests, rising prices, and peasant revolts. Strikes of workers were met by demands for repression and for a time it seemed as though government authority was hanging by a thread. Malatesta found the situation irresistible and early in 1898 he returned to the port city of Ancona to take part in the blossoming anarchist movement among the dockworkers there. Malatesta was soon identified as a leader during street fighting with police and arrested; he was therefore unable to participate further in the dramatic industrial and political actions of 1898 and 1899.
From jail Malatesta took a hard line against participation in elections on behalf of liberal and socialist politicians, contradicting some other Anarchist leaders who argued in favor of electoral participation as an emergency measure during times of social turmoil.
Malatesta wrote and edited a number of radical newspapers. He was an enormously popular figure in his time. According to Brian Doherty, writer for Reason magazine, “Malatesta could get tens of thousands, sometimes more than 100,000, fans to show up whenever he arrived in town.” He remained “the clearest Anarchist thinker”, “the most ‘complete’ Anarchist propagandist” for more than 60 years. He spent much of his life exiled from Italy and in total spent more than ten years in prison. He was subsequently active in Italy, Switzerland, France, Spain, Latin America, USA, England, and again Italy, harassed by Mussolini’s fascists to the last. “Our demand is simple for what could be called social freedom, which is equal freedom for all, an equality of conditions such as to allow everybody to do as they wish, with the only limitation, imposed by inevitable natural necessities and the equal freedom of others.”
6. Alexander Berkman was born in Vilna in the Russian Empire (present-day Vilnius, Lithuania) into a middle class Jewish family in Lithuania and grew up in St Petersburg. He was an Anarchist known for his political activism and writing, and became a leading member of the Anarchist movement in the early 20th century.
He emigrated to the USA at the age of 17 and he soon became involved in the Anarchism movement, active in Russia-Jewish and German circles. In 1892, Berkman made an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate businessman Henry Clay Frick as an act of propaganda of the deed, for which he served 14 years in prison. His experience in prison was the basis for his first book, ‘Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist’.
After his release from prison, Berkman served as editor of Emma Goldman’s Anarchist journal, ‘Mother Earth’, and he established his own journal, ‘The Blast’. He was the lover and lifelong friend of Emma Goldman’s. Berkman and Goldman were sentenced to two years in jail for conspiracy against the newly instated draft. After their release from prison, they were arrested—along with hundreds of others—and deported to Russia. Initially supportive of that country’s Bolshevik revolution, Berkman soon voiced his opposition to the Soviet’s use of terror after seizing power and their repression of fellow revolutionaries. In 1925, he published a book about his experiences, ‘The Bolshevik Myth.’
While living in France, Berkman continued his work in support of the Anarchist movement, producing ‘The classic exposition of Anarchist principles’ , ‘Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism.’ Suffering from ill health, Berkman committed suicide in 1936.
5. Kōtoku Shūsui, the son of a dry goods merchant, Kōtoku studied English and while very young became involved in the popular rights movement. He was a Japanese Socialist and Anarchist who played a leading role in introducing Anarchism to Japan in the early 20th century, particularly by translating the works of contemporary European and Russian Anarchist, such as Peter Kropotkin, into Japanese.
After graduating, he became a journalists. He contributed articles to Sekai fujin (Women of the World), a Socialist women’s paper. In 1901 he helped found Japan’s first Social Democratic Party and in 1903 published his first book on imperialism ‘The Quintessence of Socialism.’
His political thoughts first began to turn to a more Libertarian philosophy when he read Kropotkin’s ‘Fields, Factories and Workshops’ in prison. In his own words, he “had gone [to jail] as a Marxian Socialist and returned as a Radical Anarchist.”
During the Russo-Japanese war, he started the weekly Heimin Shimbun (Commoner’s Newspaper).
In November 1905 Kōtoku travelled to the United States in order to freely criticise the Emperor whom he now saw as the linchpin of Capitalism in Japan. During his time in the United States, Kōtoku was further exposed to the philosophies of Anarchist Communist and European Syndicalism.
He had taken Kropotkin’s ‘Memoirs of a Revolutionist’ as reading material for the Pacific voyage; after he arrived in California, he began to correspond with Kropotkin and by 1909 had translated ‘The Conquest of Bread’ from English to Japanese.
One thousand copies of his translation were published in Japan in March of that year and distributed to students and workers.
On Kōtoku’s return to Japan, in June 1906, a public meeting was held to welcome him. At this meeting, on June 28, he spoke on “The Tide of the World Revolutionary Movement”, which he said was flowing against parliamentary politics (i.e. Marxist party politics) and in favour of the general strike as “the means for the future revolution.”
He followed this speech with a number of articles, the most well-known of which was “The Change in My Thought (On Universal Suffrage)”. In these articles, Kōtoku was now advocating direct action rather than political aims such as universal suffrage, which was a shock to many of his comrades and brought the schism between Anarchist Communists and Social Democrats to the Japanese working class movement.
Although there were Anarchists who preferred peaceful means, such as the dissemination of propaganda, many Anarchists in this period turned to terrorism as means of overthrowing the state and achieving Anarchist Communism, or at least hitting out against the state and authority. Repression of publications and organizations, such as the Socialist Party of Japan, and “public peace police law”, which effectively prevented trade union organizations and strikes, were both factors in this emerging trend in Japan.
In the episode which became known as The High Treason Incident (Taigyaku Jiken), police arrested five Anarchists for possessing bomb-making equipment, which was allegedly intended for a plot to assassinate Emperor Meiji.
This was followed by a wave of arrests of political dissidents, including Kōtoku. Though there was conclusive evidence against five, twenty-six Anarchists were convicted – mostly on circumstantial evidence. Twenty-four were sentenced to death, and twelve were actually executed – Kōtoku among them. While he may have known of the plot to kill the Emperor in its initial stages, he had certainly distanced himself from it.
In truth, the plot against the emperor (Kōtoku was not involved) provided the chance to condemn him to death. He was executed for treason by the Japanese Government.
4. Lucía Sánchez Saornil was a poet and a feminist who worked for Anarchism during the Spanish Civil War. She was born into a poor family in Madrid. Her mother died young and Lucia was raised by her father. She worked as a telephonist to fund her study at art school. At the age of 20 she discovered poetry and started writing revolutionary poetry. She realised that the Spanish Republic was a bourgeois farce, and she became secretary of the National Confederation of Workers (CNT), one of the main Anarchist parties in Spain at the time. She was vocal about the liberation of Women and argued that equality of the sexes was as important as that of classes. Her doctrine that anti sexism should start at home made her unpopular with some of her male contemporaries.
She helped to found Mujeres Libres in 1936, and edited the Mujeres Libres magazine. The group was based on grass roots Anarchist principles and promoted freedom for women from the shackles of patriarchal society and a strong D.I.Y ethos. The organisation had 20 thousand women affiliated who worked before and during the Spanish Civil War for the reality of Anarchism that had spontaneously developed there.
In 1938, Lucia became secretary of the General Council of International Antifascist Solidarity (SIA) in a bid to stop the Fascists from taking over Spain. The same year, she moved to Valencia where she met America Barroso who became her partner.
In 1939, the two women lived in exile in France, as their politics kept them in danger, but then fled back to Spain in 1941 under the threat of being sent to a German concentration camp for being a lesbian. On her tombstone in Spanish is written “But…is it true that hope has died?”.
3. Lucy Parsons was an American unionist, worker’s rights activist, and dressmaker who endorsed violent direct action. She was born of African-American, Native American, and Mexican ancestry, probably in Texas and perhaps in slavery. Around 1870 she met Albert Parsons, who became her husband, although due to laws discouraging interracial marriage, the couple may neverhave been legally married. They both had two children together. Both she and Albert became members of the Knights of Labour and the Social Democratic Party. Later, Lucy helped found the workers women’s Union and also helped to organise the local section of the Anarchist International Working People’s Association.
She published frequently on labor and social issues and was a speaker of formidable talent-according to the Chicago police, “more dangerous than a thousand rioters.”
In 1886, Lucy was deeply involved in the workers’ struggle for the eight-hour day. During a meeting on May 3rd at Haymarket sq, a bomb was thrown at police, leading to gunfire and the deaths of 7 police officers and several civilians. Albert was among the Anarchists tried for murder and sentenced to death. Lucy travelled widely, speaking about the case and demanding justice for her husband but to no avail.
Lucy continued to travel widely on speaking tours and to write, founding the journal Freedom: A Revolutionary Anarchist-Communist Monthly in 1891. She was among the founding members of the Industrial Workers of the World, advocating the idea of sit-down strikes and sabotage as weapons in class struggle.
On women’s liberation she said “we are slaves of slaves. We are exploited more ruthlessly than men.”
2. Louise Michel was an Anarchist of the Paris commune and a school teacher In France and New Caledonia. Once educated to be a teacher she refused to take the oath of allegiance to the emperor and opened her own school. She was committed to revolution and was a part of the Paris Commune, an Anarchist society based on freedom and equality before it got crushed. In the last 2 decades of her life, Louise toured extensively in France, promoting Anarchism.
1. Michael Bakunin, Born into the Russian aristocracy, Bakunin became one of the 19th century’s most impressive revolutionaries. Condemned to death and imprisoned for his role in the 1848-49 revolution, he escaped from Siberia in 1861. In the first international, he became the main opponent of Karl Marx and one of the most important anarchist theoreticians. Author of many books including ‘God and the state’.