Some little known anarchists : Frank Kitz

It is an irony of fate that Frank Kitz should be classed amongst the little-known. For few men were so well endowed with those qualities that make for greatness, and deserving of celebrity. I remember John Turner, saying on one occasion, that “John Burns (then in the flood-tide of his popularity) was not up to Kitz’s ankles in intelligence”. He was an orator, in the full sense of the word. He could play on every cord of the human heart, using cold logic, bitter sarcasm, or fervent emotionalism. He knew his crowd instinctively, and the right weapons to use.

The late Bruce Glasier, in his book, “William Morris and the early days of the Socialist Movement”, writes of Kitz as a genial Bohemian with revolutionary tendencies, and doubts if Kitz was really an anarchist. To those who were comrades with Kitz this is simply ridiculous. His history is a complete refutation of such a statement.

When a young man, after his apprenticeship as a dyer, he went on the tramp into the provinces, following out the old custom of establishing himself as a journeyman, by working at his trade, and on his way preaching the gospel of Socialism. On his road to London he stayed at Oxford, where the late Professor Thorold Rogers took the chair for Kitz at one of his meetings, and welcomed him as the last of the Socialists. The Owenite socialists were almost extinct, and the new conception of revolutionary [anarchist] Communism was just being born.

Kitz, back in London, was soon busy in the various small groups of working-men revolutionaries known as the “Labour Emancipation League” which was afterwards affiliated with the Democratic Federation, later on the S.D.F. Kitz keenly resented the invasion of the movement by the middle-class element, and often said that “As the movement grew in extent, it lost in depth”. Kitz worked as a dyer for William Morris at Merton, and also with him as a comrade in the Socialist League, afterwards becoming one of the editors of the “Commonweal”; collaborating in that capacity with C.W. Mowbray.

In 1881 John Most took refuge in this country, and published his famous “Freiheit”, printed in German all through. That paper was stopped in consequence of a prosecution on account of an article which approved the assassination of the Czar. An English edition of the “Freiheit” was brought out, with Kitz as editor, as a challenge to the authorities. It was hawked on the streets, and the utmost publicity given to it. Kitz was a firm believer in leaflet propaganda, and was the author of many leaflets. He was supported in that direction by Kropotkin, and other well-known comrades of a generation which has now passed away.

Frank Kitz devoted himself largely to the open air propaganda, carrying on for years at Mitcham and Merton. Besides that, he also spoke at places all over London, and in many provincial towns. With the help of the late Sam Mainwaring he was a pioneer of open-air Socialist propaganda in South Wales; Kitz speaking in English, and Mainwaring in his native Welsh.

Professor Okey. in his “Garland of Memories”, pays a fine tribute to Kitz’s abilities and courage, in which all who knew him will join. As a speaker and writer he was always ready to join in any efforts for the spread of anarchism. To hear him speak was an inspiration to greater efforts for the realisation of the noblest social ideal of all; Anarchist-Communism.

From: Freedom, March 1934.