Anarchist history roundup July 2019 part 1


Stuart Christie sent in this correction to the review of A beautiful idea: history of the Freedom Press anarchists by Rob Ray (page 6 of KSL97-98): ‘John Rety may well have read out Miguel’s speech: [when freed] he lost his voice for around 6 or 7 months (possibly psychological).’ [SC]

Jānis Žāklis (Peter the Painter)

A Towering Flame: The Life & Times of the Elusive Latvian Anarchist Peter the Painter by Philip Ruff is available now:

You can watch a video of the book launch at One point Ruff makes is that had the police in London retracted the wanted notice for ‘Piatkow’ the whole legend of ‘Peter the Painter’ might never have got going. But what happened in London was only a small part of his life: see chapter four, ‘Dare to be a Daniel’ for the 1906 raid on Riga’s secret police HQ!

One of our readers said of the first English-language edition [2018] ‘What a marvellous piece of research. It really must have been a labour of love.’ A towering flame is also reviewed at:

Reviewed: Wobblies of the World

The latest issue of Counterfutures (Left research, thought, and alternatives) contains a review of Wobblies of the World: A Global History of the IWW (edited by Peter Cole, David Struthers & Kenyon Zimmer) by Barry Pateman. This is a bit broader than a simple review: you get a quick intro to the strengths and weaknesses of the previous books on the Industrial Workers of the World, as well as enlightening asides like ‘For some, the IWW existed as a mythical entity just as much as a real one’.

The book itself sounds good but let me quote this bit from the end of the review: ‘IWW members spoke a similar language to the people they worked with and supported. It was a language based on undergoing similar emotional and physical experiences that generated empathy with others. It might be that organisations such as the IWW are impossible to replicate today, but they are important to learn about if only for their abilities to speak with people and not at them. This is something that, the Left today, for whatever reasons, appears to have difficulty replicating. However we want to define its ideology this quality might be the IWW’s finest and most potent legacy.’

You can read the review at

More info at

Barry Pateman on Emma Goldman

‘I lived closely with her memory and work for thirteen years, helping to put out three volumes of her letters and writings. As I grow older it pains me to see how she has been treated by anarchists and historians alike. Many of them have filleted her ideas to find those they find prescient and relevant today ignoring anything that doesn’t fit their own particular predetermined ideas or needs. Such an approach demeans the wonderful complexity of her ideas and the way she saw them inter-relating. So often people ignore how anarchist communism was the dominant and underlying philosophy of her life; the platform that all her struggles were built on. She never gave up fighting against the economic and mental cruelties engendered by capitalism and state communism no matter the emotional and physical cost to herself. Perhaps we all need to take a deep breath, step back and realize that it is her life, not ours. The least we can do is agree that she lived her life on her terms and accept this remarkable woman for who she was and not for who we would like her to be.’

From other archives

Read ‘The Freedom Press Anarchists and H.M. Forces’ and other secret files from the National Archives (highlights of file HO 45/25554) at

Part two of the roundup (sorry) is at