The writing of Anarchist history is a scene of conflict. Antonio Gascón and Agustín Guillamón declare:
‘Faced with the growing bringing of the profession of historian into disrepute, and in spite of whatever honorable and outstanding examples there may be around, we, Antonio Gascón and Agustín Guillamón, abjure the description ‘historian’ in the aim of averting undesirable and unpleasant confusion: grounds enough for us lay claim to the honest pursuit of collectors of ancient testimonies and papers: rag-pickers of history.’
You can read the manifesto at https://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/4tmqmn. Their piece Antonio Martín Escudero (1895-1937), ‘The Durruti of the Cerdaña’, which will give you the background to the manifesto is at https://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/cc2h2r.
There’s a growing number of anarchist archives online (see http://spiritofrevolt.info/ and http://www.thesparrowsnest.org.uk/ for starters). Now there’s one devoted to the North East of England at https://tynesideanarchistarchive.wordpress.com/
Some of the items here are tantalising – we only get to the see the cover of the dissertation on ‘Anarchism in North East England (1886-1990)’ – but the commentary shows its done by people who know what they’re talking about (see the comments about anarchists from different groups working together against the Poll Tax). It might even become the regional equivalent of the Irish Anarchist History collection (https://irishanarchisthistory.wordpress.com/).
Working Class History is a podcast devoted to a history from below approach: ‘History isn’t made by kings or politicians, it is made by us: billions of ordinary people.’ This is a two-part interview with John Barker. It covers not just his own background but the general 1960s context of working class ‘hedonism and audacity’ and capitalist offensive to restore order. Thankfully, in discussing the Angry Brigade John Barker has a sense of proportion and humour (he’s open about the lack of ‘criminal nous’) rather than striking a nostalgic radical pose (no ‘Look at me, I was an urbane gorilla’).
Barker is good on the importance of the trial: both the effort the defendants put into explaining their anti-elitist politics and why a jury trial made that important.
The thing I found most interesting was his reflections on the collapse of the post-war consensus:
“My mum and dad and a lot of others they fought this war. They fought this war for the state.
- World War Two?
Yes, World War Two, they fought this, right? And in a way they had to be rewarded. And us, the kids, we got the reward. We got free university education and all this. And this…
- Without fighting the war
Without fighting the war. And this was a reward for the children of the parents who’d done it. I only think about this in retrospect but I’m sure this was the case and, you know, in a certain time around 1975 the ruling class suddenly said ‘Fuck this, we’ve paid you off now, you’re not having any.’ Because, you know, you could say, ‘Oh well, maybe, from one point of view, you could say we took the piss, actually.’ [laughter] Having this relatively easy situation we took the piss but this was a whole, you know, this wasn’t just a few, you know, dropout layabouts, this was, I think, the young working class actually was assertive.”
The WCH team have put in footnotes. There’s a nice bit where North American comrades are told that ‘dustman’ is British English for ‘garbage collector’ – but we also learn that the South Wales terms was ‘ashman’.
The first part of the interview is at https://workingclasshistory.com/2018/03/07/episode-2-the-angry-brigade-part-1/
You can now get it as a digital album https://goodfriendrecords.bandcamp.com/album/sparks-of-hope-reflections-on-early-anarchist-papers
Video footage of Leah Feldman, Albert Meltzer, Leo Rosser and Phil Ruff can be seen at https://archive.org/details/@kate_sharpley.
These are unedited tapes from an anarchist history project involving Leo Rosser filmed in the 1980s. Phil Ruff talks about the Siege of Sidney Street in the very early stages of his researches which led to his book A Towering Flame : The Life & Times of ‘Peter the Painter’(2018) [reviewed in this issue].
This issue produced by the KSL collective, summer 2018. Tried for a better layout with more pictures but they had to make way for words. Feedback welcome. As are more anarchist memories. ■