Wooden Horse [Jan/Feb 1975]

In Anarchy No. 10 George Woodcock made a positive allegation which, he stated illustrates the “illusory nature of anarchist beliefs”. This was that “many of the Spanish anarchists perpetrated the slaughter of defenceless men who happened to be in their power just because of their social backgrounds, their beliefs or even their sexual predilections (for it is established that Barcelona anarchists at one time rounded up male prostitutes and liquidated them).”

These allegations of vicious murder by professed libertarians, many dead, many living, are either true or false. If true, they do not necessarily establish the “illusory nature” of anarchism but they condemn those whose sympathies are with the Spanish Anarchists. If false, Woodcock is a vile libeller and the acceptance of him as an impartial historian is an illusory belief. 

In Anarchy No. 11 Albert Meltzer showed that these allegations were totally untrue. In Anarchy 14, Woodcock does not say that they are true. He gives a pretence of an answer by using words “malicious … sly … bigot” which should more properly apply to the author of a calumny which he does not justify. It is Meltzer’s “puritanism” that makes him object to someone making an accusation like this that is untrue; it is Woodcock’s reverence for life and mankind that makes such allegations of minor consequence compared to the details he lovingly gives of his own career!

Of the killings he now says he will deal only with “the killings of pimps and homosexuals by Barcelona anarchists.” The remaining accusations are “entirely untrue”. He thus makes it sound ambiguous, whose accusations? Were defenceless people in the power of Barcelona anarchists murdered for their social backgrounds or their beliefs as he said? Other than that sentence, Woodcock is now silent. In his attempt at self-justification, he no longer says that people were murdered merely for their sexual predilections – which presumes moral vigilantes, thought police and so on – he brings in “pimps”. The late Prudhommeaux (who edited a paper on Spain during the civil war and was silent on the subject of the killing of “homosexuals”) is supposed to have told Woodcock this in 1950, and “these statements were published”, “most anarchists in England” knew about them and “Red Lion Street” (which was dear old Lilian Wolfe and arch-pacifist Jack Robinson, unless he includes Vernon Richards) found them unwelcome. It is a long way from the positive “it is established” to “someone told me!”

The idea that “most anarchists” could know something unknown to others and keep it silent shows I fear a sad lack of knowledge about the movement! Everyone knows that “pimps” may well be the subject for killing in a busy seaport, in Barcelona as in London. Nobody would in 1936 find it necessary to “cover up” the shooting of Mafia types. On the contrary they would make great play of it. But Woodcock is deliberately deceiving for he has brought the “pimps” in together with the homosexuals, pretending that he does not know really what the latter are and confusing the two – (pointing this out is just “puritan” prurience)

That such a person is accepted as a historian is a sad reflection on academic standards. Garcia Pradas – Peter Cadogan – George Woodcock – all to one degree or another serving or whitewashing fascism – are still regarded by some as coming within the “libertarian” description!

Black Flag v3, n17 Jan/Feb 1975

A response to A Reply to Albert Meltzer
[Uploaded as supporting material for ‘Slaughter or slander? Notes on the Albert Meltzer-George Woodcock conflict’ in KSL: Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library No.107-108, December 2022: https://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/cjt075 ]