I Couldn't Paint Golden Angels

By Albert Meltzer (1996)

Entry 1402


From: holdoffhunger [id: 1]


Untitled Anarchism I Couldn't Paint Golden Angels

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(1920 - 1996)

British Anarcho-Syndicalist and CNT-FAI Activist during the Spanish Civil War

: A lifelong trade unionist he fought Mosley's blackshirts; actively supported the Spanish revolution's anarchist communes and militias and the German anti-Nazi resistance and was a key player in the second world war Cairo mutiny. (From: AInfos.ca Bio.)
• "If we accept the principle of a socialized society, and abolish hereditary privilege and dominant classes, the State becomes unnecessary. If the State is retained, unnecessary Government becomes tyranny since the governing body has no other way to maintain its hold." (From: "Anarchism: Arguments for and against," by Albert ....)
• "Nobody is fit to rule anybody else. It is not alleged that Mankind is perfect, or that merely through his/her natural goodness (or lack of same) he/she should (or should not) be permitted to rule. Rule as such causes abuse." (From: "Anarchism: Arguments for and against," by Albert ....)
• "If Government is the maintenance of privilege and exploitation and inefficiency of distribution, then Anarchy is order." (From: "Anarchism: Arguments for and against," by Albert ....)

(1946 - )

Scottish Anarchist Publisher and Would-Be Assassin of a Fascist Dictator

Stuart Christie (born 10 July 1946) is a Scottish anarchist writer and publisher. As an 18-year-old Christie was arrested while carrying explosives to assassinate the Spanish caudillo General Franco. He was later alleged to be a member of the Angry Brigade, but was acquitted of related charges. He went on to found the Cienfuegos Press publishing house and in 2008 the online Anarchist Film Channel which hosts films and documentaries with anarchist and libertarian themes. (From: Wikipedia.org.)


34 Chapters | 162,799 Words | 966,256 Characters

INTRODUCTION "A person is strong only when he stands upon his own truth, when he speaks and acts with his deepest convictions. Then, whatever the situation he may be in, he always knows what he must say and do. He may fall, but he cannot bring shame upon himself or his cause. If we seek the liberation of the people by means of a lie, we will surely grow confused, go astray, and loose sight of our objective, and if we have any influence at all on the people we will lead them astray as well -- in other words, we will be acting in the spirit of reaction and to its benefit." (Michael Bakunin -- Statism and Anarchy, 1873) Two tactics of Communism (Marxist and Anarchist) have existed ever since Marx and Bakunin clashed in the First Internation... (From: Hack.org.)
FOREWORD 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 fueled 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 traveler, a public speaker and a challenger of humbug. His character, ideas, good humor (mostly) and gener... (From: Hack.org.)
CHAPTER I The Box Scandal; Gypsies and Germans; The Film Scandal; The Road to Salvation: In the Van; Lost Millions; Paradise Lost and Regained The Box Scandal Nellie, who ten years later was to be my grandmother, sat on the pavement in front of her house in a crumbling North London suburb tossing crumbs to the squawking birds, holding court of the cottages around among her chirping friends. Her husband Joe often remarked in reply to her complaints of the time he spent on charitable committees that she ran a more efficient advice center and board of help than anything the guardians of the parish did. Sure as fate Mrs Noel brought her along a hard luck story, a servant girl crying and holding her pinafore over her eyes to conceal her ... (From: Hack.org.)
CHAPTER II The Coasts of Bohemia; Fighting Fascism; The Battle of Cable Street; Schoolboy Anarchist; Castles in Spain; Frustration on Spain The Coasts of Bohemia The first Anarchist meeting I attended was at the old National Trade Union Club in New Oxford Street. The speaker was the well-known Emma Goldman, who was on that occasion talking about arms manufacture, not Anarchism as such. As I was the only stranger at the meeting, attention turned to me when inquiries elicited the fact that I had never heard of Emma Goldman and more particularly when I had the temerity to contradict her. I believe it was on the fallacy that as 'aggression' caused war, boxing, which I then esteemed highly, taught aggression. I was overawed by my elders... (From: Hack.org.)
CHAPTER III Off to Work; The Guy They All Dread; Early Days; Ebbtide; Attempts on Dictators; Around the Left Off to Work Meanwhile I had started work, not fit for anything much, at the age of 17, for the gas company, who paid the magnificent sum of 17/6 per week (75p in today's coinage). Even so it was reckoned to be a prize at a time when office jobs started at around 12/6d per week. It's no good saying things were a lot less then; they weren't, one simply had and did less. I had a friend in the company, George Plume, who had started there a year or so before. I had known him since I was 11, he was a little older and had been a form or two higher at school, and we had been friendly until he joined the Young Communist League. Now we ... (From: Hack.org.)
CHAPTER IV War Clouds; The Taste of Defeat; War at Last; Internment and Discernment; Splitting the Atom; Blackpool Breezes; Prison; Division; Military Detention War Clouds Getting back to 1938, as it drew to a close I began to work at a North London hospital. It was well paid for the time -- hospitals have slid back since like everything else in local government but there was great competition for such municipal and therefore presumed secure and pensionable jobs. The nurses themselves were less well rewarded, then as now being regarded as dedicated and expected to put up with low pay and poor conditions. There was no possibility of my getting into any trouble here, since the non-medical staff was unionized but apathetic. This was a ... (From: Hack.org.)
CHAPTER V On 'Active' Service; the Marquis and the Maquis; the Cairo Mutiny; Bounty on the Mutiny On 'Active' Service We crossed the Channel in early 1946 and took a train, so packed that men were even sleeping on the luggage racks, across France to Marseilles. Our only contact with the outside world was with the dispirited people we saw at stations, and the main thing they were interested in was cigarettes. 'Liberation' had worn off a few months earlier; now, when anyone stole anything, they referred to it as 'being liberated'. We stopped over a day in Marseilles. Most of the draft, young men out of England for the first time, went off looking for the brothels. A couple of KRs attached themselves to me thinking I, with my knowledge... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter VI Back in the Old Routine; The Spanish Resistance; The 374 Monster; Ruling the Waves; Three Minute Celebrity Back in the old routine I was now at the break in life routine and at the age when enthusiasm tends to wane, and if one carries on any longer one becomes known as a 'veteran'. Stubbornness carried the day against the advice that it was certainly now 'high time to settle down' as my family and friends said in principle and most of my contemporaries were doing in practice. Any pretense of there being an anarchist movement had collapsed with the effects of the 'split'. Most of my previous political colleagues had gone into purely trade union activity rather despairing of any chance of other activity in the drab era we were... (From: Hack.org.)
CHAPTER VII Bookselling; The Thetford Pain; Bookselling, the Lack of; Tales of the Housing Acts; The New Left; Squatting; International Spy Bookselling In the course of eighteen months the premises on the upper floors of 374 Grays Inn Road had become increasingly grottier. It had needed total re-wiring when the finance company moved out. The next sub-lessees, Levene and his original partner Bush, who had since disappeared, had not a shilling's worth of capital between them. Even the structure of the building was unsound, which was one of the reasons commercial firms were not interested in the vacant offices available for sub-letting. The council was, not unreasonably, pressing for something to be done by the next lessee in line, w... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter VIII Plumbing the Depths; Keeping Watch; -- And Ward; The Law-and-Order Candidate; Poetry to Pros Plumbing the Depths Furtive sex was a flourishing industry at the end of the Macmillan era. I had a certain ingrained prudery and never paid for a prostitute in my life, even at the time I will relate after my long-term companions died and I only occasionally enjoyed the pleasures of sex. Maybe I sound puritanical, but it was not that. I knew one or two professionals well but I never availed myself of their services. One is always pestered by hustlers when one visits Paris, especially as a lone male, and when soliciting was accompanied by genuine pleas for cash -- "I've been ill and can't work" was the favorite -- I gave them the m... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter IX The Iberian Liberation Council; How the Thames Was Lost The Iberian Liberation Council In one of many visits to Spain prior to the death of the dictator, talking with old friends of the Resistance about how our mutual affairs were going, I was pessimistic about the British scene. I told Melchita sadly, "There'll never be another Billy Campbell". Events proved me wrong. There were many in the younger generation of Spanish exiles, sons and daughters of the first wave of the emigration, who were taking a hard look at the facts of the Resistance. As there was an inrooted determination not to split the Spanish movement, the FIJL (Libertarian Youth), which had always had an independent existence within the CNT-FAI, preserved itself... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter X The Spy, the Royalist and a Last Farewell; The Freedom of the Press; Admonition; Old Flame and New Floods The Spy, the Royalist and a Last Farewell When I walked away from the remnants of my bookshop venture I was head over heels in debt and somewhat inclined to curse, like Thenardier, the wretched place 'where they all had such royal sprees and I devoured my all like a fool', not that the All came to very much, and I had enjoyed myself at times. I had never been able to shake off the legacy of the 374 Monster and by the time I had paid off its debts those of the bookshop had mounted. For months I had been stunned by the tragic death of Evie, with whom I had a long association. She crashed her car in Wales returning from... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter XI Half-time summing-up The late Fifties and early Sixties represent roughly a halfway house for my personal life, such as it was. For whatever interest it may afford, I have been persuaded I should write down a full account of my life to enable, among other matters, the background of the anarchist movement in this country in my lifetime, otherwise unrecorded or misreported, to be known. I tried to give a summing up in The Anarchists in London 1935-55 which was somewhat sketchy and uncritical (and had a totally irrelevant cover for which I was not responsible!) Since then an obscure byway of history has come to a crossroads, the roads dividing to one still neglected by historians but reaching in the right direction along... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter XII Closer Links with Spain; Customs and Practice; Error and Terror; Satire; The Wooden Shoe; The Carrara Conference; The Vietnam Connection Closer Links with Spain Through my contacts I had always known about the Spanish Resistance, but usually when they were already on trial for their activities. During the darkest days I managed to throw the occasional lifebelt of solidarity or publicity, but it was not until the worst of the postwar civil genocide was over, and the resistance of 1939-63 was finally crushed by Franco's police that my links became really close. Francisco Gomez had always been secretive, probably because he did not wish to compromise me too much. Most of the exiles in London were as out of touch as I was.... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter XIII The Shadow of the Tong; The Anarchist Black Cross; Miguel Garcia; Start of "Black Flag"; Towards the Center; Rise of the Print Empire; Anarchist in Fleet Street; 1986 Again; Doctor's Dilemma The Shadow of the Tong Over the years I had been corresponding with a Chinese friend, Ch'En Chang, who had originally been in London as a medical student before the war. He had returned to China and was always in touch with the what remained of the huge anarchist workers' movement, about which the best-known figure in modern Chinese literature, Pa Chin, had movingly written. That movement had passed through immense struggles with the old Empire, the new Republic, the warlords, the Japanese invaders and now the Communists. His lette... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter XIV The Spanish War (Continued!); Centro Iberico; Greek Tragedy; Haverstock Hill; The Invisible Woman; This Gun for Sale; Only Too Visible Women; Channel Swimmer in Beads; Emilienne The Spanish War (Continued) Traveling around Spain from time to time I found ghost towns where mass murder had taken place, abandoned by those fleeing from terror or deliberate economic privation, where only a few of the old great movement kept the flame alight in secret. All over the world one could find veterans of the struggle and their families who had fled. Strange that these veterans, though isolated, kept a relationship, even with divisions. Slowly in the postwar years the groups in several countries were reemerging from the obscurity i... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter XV Floodgates; The First Twenty Black Flag Years; Novel Approach; Terrorist Links; The Magic Coat Floodgates Stuart and I wrote a book together, on the basics of anarchism, which we called The Floodgates of Anarchy. On the royalties we were able to continue the Black Cross and also fund Black Flag as a regular publication for several years. Floodgates brought anarcho-syndicalism into modern terms of reference, and ran into several editions, one of them a major paperback (Sphere Books). There was also a Spanish edition by the Argentine publisher, Editorial Proyeccion. Later we did an offset run ourselves to take into Spain. It attracted some interesting reviews, ranging from the leading Sundays to a bizarre review in Chili wh... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter XVI Barrack Room Lawyer Again; Twilight of Francoism; The Angry Brigade; Bitov What You Fancy; The Brief Morning of Anarchy; Trials and Tribulations Barrack Room Lawyer Again When the Center was established in Haverstock Hill, Miguel and I plunged into a series of meetings up and down the country, and throughout Europe, speaking on behalf of the Spanish prisoners. We encountered a lot of enthusiasm on behalf of the Resistance, and this coincided with a rise in industrial resistance at home, so I was kept busy. Fleet Street printworkers usually worked a seven-day week, and a lot of my spare time was devoted to bringing out Black Flag and working for the Black Cross, all voluntary. It may sound impossible, but a lot can be a... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter XVII Auto Destruction; At the Old Bailey; Witness of the Persecution; Fun and Games at the Gulag; The Most Distressful Country; After the Storm; Irish Association; The Murrays Auto Destruction International Socialists, later styling themselves the Socialist Workers Party (or in Trotskyist terms, "State Caps") often finished up writing books about the Left in which their superficial student involvement was less than serviceable. One named David Widgery, later a doctor and a bitter Marxist sectarian, not to be confused with his relative Lord Chief Justice Widgery until the SWP should take power on Tibb's Eve, and dying too soon for that anyway, referred to me in his book as an "ex-boxer and auto-destructive artist". It wasn't ... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter XVIII The CNT between Death and Birth; The Re-Birth of the CNT; The Phony CNT; The Orkneys; Cienfuegos Press; The Wooden Horse The CNT Between Death and Birth After Franco died in 1975, there was a tremendous sense of elation among the exiles as well as in Spain. Among others, Miguel decided to return to Spain. He went by train with some others, and I followed a few weeks after, on vacation, with the car loaded with books and pamphlets we had printed at the Centro Iberico and with a couple of duplicators. Fortunately I resisted Miguel's insistence I should have a roof rack, which is why I got so far. Even so the car, somewhat on its last legs anyway, would not take the weight. It broke down irretrievably near Toulouse on a ... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter XIX The Execution of Puig Antich; The 'Newer Angry Brigades'; The Bookie Always Wins; Affinity Groups; Persons Unknown; The Protest Movement The Execution of Puig Antich Among the circle of anarchist activists who gathered in London around Miguel Garcia in the early days of the Centro Iberico had been Salvador Puig Antich. As a student he had been a Catalan Nationalist and social revolutionary, but the briefest study of Catalan history brings one to anarcho-syndicalism. It is odd to reflect that if he had stayed with his original beliefs, on his death the press would have referred to him as an Anarchist. As it was he was described as a "Catalan Nationalist". He accompanied Miguel Garcia and myself on two of our speaking tou... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter XX After the Christie File; Refract; "The Kid's Last Fight"; Kate Sharpley After the Christie File Cienfuegos Press caused a stir during its years in the Orkneys, with press hounding and pounding, even inquisitive TV and radio interviews ensuring that it was well known. It didn't do it much harm when a number of Conservative MPs, vigilant in defending a platform for fascists but feeling that advocating workers self defense was giving way to terrorism, called for it to be banned. One German woman activist decided to flee to Sanday when she was wanted by the West German police, not quite realizing that she would stand out like a sore thumb in a closely-knit community where an English accent marks you as a stranger and even the ... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter XXI By the Waters of Babylon; The Battle of Railton Road; International Centers By the Waters of Babylon When the variety profession was at its height theatrical lodgings in Brixton, roomy houses that had become rooming houses, handily close to the West End and the exit roads from London, had taken over from its middle-class Victorian heritage. Most theater artists made their permanent address in one or other of the myriad bedsitter flats that abounded among the 'pro's digs'. It was a desirable neighborhood when World War Two started, though with a Bohemian undercurrent provided by the variety artists. Abe Ball, who briefly tried working the boards as "Major the trapeze artist", set up as a garden gnome manufacturer and faile... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter XXIII The State's Internal Enemy; Death Pangs of Fleet Street; Spanish Practices; The Battle of Wapping; The Emperor's Courtiers The State's Internal Enemy In a memoir I wrote, The Anarchists in London 1935-55, I digressed to say something of the Welsh miners. In 1938 I spent a weekend in Neath with Sam Mainwaring junior, one of the last active survivors of the heyday of Welsh anarcho-syndicalism. At a meeting of the local ILP I came across an obstreperous group at the back who liked to give hell to visiting "toffee-nosed" English speakers from the Communist and Labor Parties. "Those are the Wrecking Brigade," whispered the chairman. "Take no notice of them." But they were, to my delight, survivors of the formerly strong anarch... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter XXIV The New Left; "Anarchy"; Lost Weekend; Venice Observed The New Left It came as a shock to me and the survivors of the old anarchist movement that the student movement of the Fifties, with a middle-class background or the results of scholarly brainwashing, regarded itself as the New Left. As one friend observed, "The Old Left was bad enough, God knows, but this. . . ." One trend emerged from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, another from the events of the Soviet tanks going into Hungary. Most of the originals have gone from student activists to mandarins. The failed mandarins-to-be took hold of the new liberalism they created and ultimately became professional organizers of presumably good causes or gave university lectu... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter XXV Lucky Strike; Direct Action Years; Poll Tax; The Battle of Trafalgar Square; Class War; Leo Lucky Strike After I returned from Venice, I realized I wanted to move out of my Greenwich council flat, which felt desecrated by the police raid on it. Those who have experienced burglaries feel the same way. I also realized that the way Fleet Street was going, I should soon be out on my ear. I was approaching retirement age, and had nothing whatever to show for my years of work. Had the kidnapping trial been for months rather than days, I would have been homeless, though acquitted. I looked around to buy a home, realizing wryly that had I been prudent I would now be thinking of the last payments of a mortgage rather than startin... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter XXVI Higher Intelligence; Velikovsky; Wonderful Copenhagen; Jim Abra; Counter Intelligence; The Informer Who Changed History Higher Intelligence I have never been impressed with the contributions of learned writers, professors and academics to political or economic theory. Perhaps that is why I have persisted so long in the same political and economic opinions. I have seen every one of them altering their views, squirming when reality proved them wrong and inventing learned apologies insisting they were right all the time nevertheless, but what happened in reality was foreseeable. Anyone who experienced the impact upon the working class movement by the professors' theories in the Thirties, and lived to see the collapse of Marx... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter XXVII Two Fascisms; Anti-Fascist Fascism; The Irascibles; The End of Fleet Street; Retirement; Down Under Two Fascisms When Phil Ruff took over Anarchy in 1982 he made a positive anarchist magazine out of the third attempt, even though it did not last long. A measure of his success was that, although Freedom had built their commercial viability upon the old magazine, they speedily withdrew not only recognition but even use of "their" address from the magazine, because it upset the liberal elements who had been prepared to swallow the second series as a painful necessity. They denied Anarchy was the same journal as it had different editors from the original, which Freedom also had many times over. Anarchy concentrated on inve... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter XXVIII My Discovery of Sweden; The Schism; 'Nordic Anarchism'; Weekend in Macedonia My Discovery of Sweden It was as long ago as 1938 that I first contacted the Swedish anarchist movement. From 1938 until 1940 I was the London correspondent of Brand, then under the editorship of C. J. Bjorklund. I fully intended to learn Swedish and keep in contact. I broke off contact for obvious reasons. I postponed learning the language until late 1991, quite a gap for good intentions. Maybe by the time I speak it I will find an angel who speaks only Swedish, or be able to converse with the divine Greta in her own tongue. At the time they translated the articles from English and persuaded me to learn Esperanto instead. I learned it quickly an... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter XXIX Looking Back; State Over Health; The Slump (Second Act); Act in the Court; Police in the State; Looking Forward Looking Back In the dark days of the War the public wanted to be told something of what they were fighting for, rather than against, which even so was not always clear For instance, were they to wipe out the Germans -- all of them -- or just the Nazis? Those who said the former were vociferous admirers of pre-war Germany and later of postwar Germany, but during the war they preferred to discredit ordinary Germans. No such distinction was made between Mikadoist and Japanese -- all "Japs" were blamed equally, which meant the leadership not at all. All the Emperor lost in defeat was his divinity. Was the war perha... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter XXX The Final Curtain A lot of old friends died in recent years. What can one expect? I can no longer snap my fingers at the advance of years. The sell-by date has gone already. I have done my best. Some of my mates had big sendoffs. With some their families had the last word and kept their passing confined to the family circle. Sometimes, in Europe or in Northern Ireland, Catholic and/or Protestant relatives and atheist friends had to battle out their differences. Joe Thomas dying in his eighties of throat cancer, after sixty years of smoking forty cigarettes a day, told me on his deathbed that while that may not have helped, he blamed his employers of thirty years before, as he felt it was due to an old fall down a rickety flig... (From: Hack.org.)
Chapter XXII Communism and Pandora's Box; A Rebel Spirit; 1984 and All That Communism and Pandora's Box For years I was sarcastic about earnest Communists who took trips to Russia and saw what they wanted to see. A printer, Tom Charlesworth (nephew of Ferd, an old anti-parliamentarian communist with whom I had friendly arguments for years) was persuaded by his girl friend, a YCL stalwart, to join a tour to Moscow and Leningrad. There were five places vacant at cut prices and he rashly invited several workmates to join him. The lads had a seemingly profitable time flogging nylons (it was before the jeans revolution) but found they could do nothing whatever with the amassed rubles except spend them on drink and prostitutes. Tom was w... (From: Hack.org.)
Appendix I In telling my own story it was necessary to jerk forwards and backwards, not least because of the illegal confiscation of my notebooks and diaries by police on three different occasions, and also to keep a flow to the narrative. For the historical record this chronology of Anglo-Spanish Anarchist associations might be useful. 1934 -- Asturias rising; the last ditch stand at Casas Viejas and first Spanish Prisoners committee in London, whose first secretary was Matilda Green, later Ralph Barr. 1936 -- Civil war and revolution in Spain. Italian group in London begins Spain and the World, editor Vernon Richards. Emma Goldman forms CNT-FAI London Committee and made representative of CNT-FAI Exterior Propaganda London bureau. ... (From: Hack.org.)
On Black Flag collective editorial board from its inception 22 years ago until now. There have been some thirty editors all told, all unpaid, usually a minimum of four at one time. The paper was at various times fortnightly, monthly, and is at present quarterly, though recently it has had some timelag holdups for various reasons. Currently honorary contributing researcher for the Kate Sharpley Library. One of the founders of the Anarchist Black Cross (as reconstituted in the 60's) as a political prisoners support group. A member of the anarcho-syndicalist Solidarity Federation (formerly Direct Action Movement), affiliated to the International Workers Association, and functions secretary of the Red & Black Club, Deptford (a local). ... (From: Hack.org.)


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