The Anarchists in London 1935-1955 : a Personal Memoir by Albert Meltzer [Review]

This account of London’s anarchist movement, originally published in 1976, has just been reprinted by Freedom Press. There’s an extra short introduction and epilogue (bravely trying to sum up the last forty years of British anarchism in two pages).

I found it a pleasure to read and interesting to see some familiar themes again: Albert was often underwhelmed by intellectuals, and always keen to record the contribution of unknown militants who made up the backbone of the movement. Here he also frequently laments the lack of structures – even cultural ones – to keep militants in touch (something the Anarchist Black Cross and Black Flag were obviously meant to remedy).

Some of it is very quotable: ‘most English barristers are utterly useless at anything but fixing their wigs and collecting their guineas’ (p73).

A memoir like this won’t be the last word, but it provides many interesting threads to pull. It’s not been footnoted which on balance seems the right choice. Unfortunately the OCR gremlins have turned Emidio Recchioni into ‘Ernidio’ (Something to fix in the next printing).

This edition includes a note that Albert’s use of ‘communism’ refers only to Marxist-Leninism but lacks one saying that ‘libertarian’ here refers to the anti-authoritarian wing of socialism. That might have been useful.

When the second edition of The Albert Memorial was being put together, I recall one of Albert’s comrades saying ‘I miss the old rascal’. Now we have a chance to enjoy some of his work again.

The Anarchists in London 1935-1955 : a Personal Memoir by Albert Meltzer. Freedom Press, 2018 ISBN 9781904491293 (£7)  ■