In spite of the self-effacing sub-title, the life of Albert Meltzer has been far from “commonplace”. It is a witty account of the never-ending and tireless struggle — sometimes Herculean, sometimes Schvejkian — against the hydra-headed nonentities who seek to impose their order and their certainties on the universe.
Since his schooldays, throughout his working life and now in “retirement”, anarchism has been the guiding star which has fuelled Albert’s thankfully incurable and infectious optimism and faith in the ultimate common sense of humanity. He is a worker, was active in trade unionism, a tireless but unpaid editor, a traveller, a public speaker and a challenger of humbug. His character, ideas, good humour (mostly) and generosity of spirit have touched and influenced many people in many lands during the past sixty years. I am grateful to have been one of those links in the chain. Others, some of the many younger people Albert continues to inspire, will undoubtedly be the torchbearers of anarchism — a vision of a free, just and self-managed society — into the twenty-first century.
However did Albert Meltzer get to be one of the most enduring figures in the active international anarchist movement in the second half of the twentieth century? How did his commitment to anarchism survive the destruction of the Revolution and defeat in the Civil War in Spain? How did it survive the Second World War? What was the anarchist contribution to the revolutionary impetus of the 1960s and 1970s? How did it respond to the more demanding reactionary challenges of the 1980s and 1990s? These are important questions with a valuable bearing on the human condition in this century. “I Couldn’t Paint Golden Angels” does not provide any easy answers but it does provide sharp and invaluable insights into how anarchists are formed and sustained — unpretentious, without illusions, prepared for everything and forgetting nothing.
© Copyright: 1996 Albert Meltzer
Published by AK Press Book details and the Kate Sharpley Library.
Marked up by Chuck0 in 1996, originally posted at http://www.spunk.org/library/writers/meltzer/sp001591/angeltoc.html
(Reproofed by KSL May 2010).