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

Revolt Library >> People >> Meltzer, Albert

(1920 - 1996)

Description

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.

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From : AInfos.ca Bio

Quotes

"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 Meltzer

"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 Meltzer

"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 Meltzer

Biography


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About Albert Meltzer

 Albert Meltzer 1

Albert Meltzer 1

Albert Meltzer was one of the most enduring and respected torchbearers of the international anarchist movement in the second half of the twentieth century. His sixty-year commitment to the vision and practice of anarchism survived both the collapse of the Revolution and Civil War in Spain and the Second World War; he helped fuel the libertarian impetus of the 1960s and 1970s and steer it through the reactionary challenges of the Thatcherite 1980s and post-Cold War 1990s.

Fortunately, before he died, Albert managed to finish his autobiography, I Couldn't Paint Golden Angels, a pungent, no-punches pulled, Schvejkian account of a radical twentieth century enemy of humbug and injustice. A life-long trade union activist, he fought Mosley's Blackshirts in the battle of Cable Street, played an active role in supporting the anarchist communes and militias in the Spanish Revolution and the pre-war German anti-Nazi resistance, was a key player in the Cairo Mutiny [after] the Second World War, helped rebuild the postwar anti-Franco resistance in Spain and the international anarchist movement. His achievements include Cuddon's Cosmopolitan Review, an occasional satirical review first published in 1965 and named after Ambrose Cuddon, possibly the first consciously anarchist publisher in the modern sense, the founding of the Anarchist Black Cross, a prisoners' aid and ginger group and the paper which grew out of it - Black Flag.

However, perhaps Albert's most enduring legacy is the Kate Sharpley Library, probably the most comprehensive anarchist archive in Britain.

Born in 1920 into a mixed marriage in the London of Orwell's Down and Out in which there were few homes for heroes, but many heroes fit only for homes, Albert was soon enrolled into political life as a private in the awkward squad. His decision to go down the road of revolutionary politics came, he claimed, in 1935 at the age of 15 - as a direct result of taking boxing lessons. Boxing was considered a "common" sport, frowned upon by the governors of his Edmonton school and the prospective Labor MP for the area, the virulently anti-boxing Dr Edith Summerskill. Perhaps it was the boxer's legs and footwork he acquired as a youth which gave him his lifelong ability to bear his considerable bulk. It certainly induced a lifetime's habit of shrewd assessment of his own and opponents' respective strengths and weaknesses.

The streetwise, pugilistic but bookish schoolboy attended his first anarchist meeting in 1935 where he first drew attention to himself by contradicting the speaker, Emma Goldman, by his defense of boxing. He soon made friends with the aging anarchist militants of a previous generation and became a regular and dynamic participant in public meetings. The anarchist-led resistance to the Franco uprising in Spain in 1936 gave a major boost to the movement in Britain and Albert's activities ranged from organizing solidarity appeals, to producing propaganda, working with Captain J R White to organize illegal arms shipments from Hamburg to the CNT in Spain and acting as a contact for the Spanish anarchist intelligence services in Britain.

Albert's early working career ranged from fairground promoter, a theater-hand and occasional film extra. Albert appeared briefly in Leslie Howard's Pimpernel Smith, an anti-Nazi film that did not follow the line of victory but rather of revolution in Europe. The plot called for communist prisoners, but by the time Howard came to make it, in 1940, Stalin had invaded Finland, and the script was changed to anarchist prisoners. Howard decided that none of the actors playing the anarchists seemed real and insisted that real anarchists, including Albert, be used as extras in the concentration camp scenes. One consequence of this meeting was Howard's introduction to Hilda Monte, a prominent but unsung hero of the German anarchist resistance to Hitler, which may have contributed to his subsequent death en route to Lisbon.

Albert's later working years were spent mainly as a secondhand bookseller and, finally, as a Fleet Street copytaker. His last employer was, strangely enough, The Daily Telegraph.

While by nature a remarkably gentle, generous and gracious soul, Albert's championship of anarchism as a revolutionary working class movement brought him into direct and sustained conflict with the neo-liberals who came to dominate the movement in the late 1940s. Just as people are drawn to totalitarian movements like fascism and communism because of their implicit violence and ideological certainties, many otherwise politically incompatible people were drawn to anarchism because of its militant tolerance. Albert was vehemently opposed to the re-packaging and marketing of anarchism as a broad church for academia-oriented quietists and single-issue pressure groups. It was ironical that one of this group, the late Professor George Woodcock, should publicly dismiss anarchism as a spent historical force in 1962, blissfully unaware of the post-Butskellite storm which was about to break and the influence anarchist and libertarian ideas would have on this and generations yet to come. It was his championship of class-struggle anarchism, coupled with his skepticism of the student-led New Left in the 1960s which earned Albert his reputation for sectarianism. Paradoxically, as friend and Black Flag cartoonist Phil Ruff points out in his introduction to Albert's autobiography, it was the discovery of class struggle anarchism through the "sectarianism" of Black Flag under Albert's editorship that convinced so many anarchists of his and subsequent generations to become active in the movement'. The dynamic and logic of Albert's so-called sectarianism continued to bring countless young people into the anarchist movement then and for a further thirty years until his untimely stroke in April 1996.

It is difficult to write a public appreciation of such an inscrutably private man. Albert Meltzer seemed often like a member of a tug-of-war team; you never quite knew if he was there simply to make up numbers or if he was the anchor-man of the whole operation. To Albert, all privilege was the enemy of human freedom; not just the privileges of capitalists, kings, bureaucrats and politicians but also the petty aspirations of opportunists and careerists among the rebels themselves. Much of what he contributed to the lives of those who knew him must go unrecorded, but he will be remembered and talked about fondly for many years to come by those of us whose lives he touched.

 

Stuart Christie

 

Albert Meltzer, anarchist, born London, January 7, 1920; died, Weston-Super-Mare, North Somerset, May 7, 1996.

An edited version of this obituary was published in The Guardian under the title 'Anarchy's torchbearer'.

From : "Albert Meltzer, anarchist," by Stuart Christie, published by Kate Sharpley Library, http://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/w9gk1g

Works

This person has authored 59 documents, with 235,071 words or 1,423,417 characters.

Anarchism : Anarchist and Anti-Authoritarianism -- (16,682 Words / 109,345 Characters)
Table of Contents Introduction Inalienable Tenets of Anarchism The Class Struggle Organization and Anarchism The Role of an Anarchist in an Authoritarian Society Bringing About the New Society The Marxist Criticism of Anarchism The Social-Democratic Critique of Anarchism The Liberal-Democratic Objection to Anarchism The Fascist Objection to Anarchism The Average Person's Objection to Anarchism Introduction The Historical Background to Anarchism It is not without interest that what might be called the anarchist approach goes back into antiquity; nor that there is an anarchism of sorts in the peasant movements that struggled against State oppression over the centuries. But the modern anarchist movement could not claim such precursors of revolt as its own more than the other modern working class... (From : Hack.org.)

Anarchism : Anarchist and Anti-Authoritarianism -- 1976 ~ (547 Words / 3,243 Characters)
(Anarchist Albert Meltzer writes about British author and anarchist Ethel Edith Mannin.) Ask who is the writer who has contributed most in the English language to the spread of libertarian ideas and you will get some peculiar answers, probably one of them some obscure Canadian professor whom nobody reads except as prescribed in the university curriculum (ed: he probably means George Woodcock, who it would appear Meltzer doesnt think too highly of!). You might well get the same answer from Ethel Mannin, but for my money it is she who deserves the maximum credit, and seems to have received none that I know of. She was writing on sex and womens liberation fifty years ago and has introduced anarchist ideas in numerous works of fact and fiction. Alas, she has committed the major literary sin: her novels have been successful, and the higher critics cannot possibly evaluate her. Dig into the novels of Ethel Mannin and you will find anarchism,... (From : LibCom.org.)

Anarchism : Anarchist and Anti-Authoritarianism -- 1970 Publishers note to the 1998 electronic edition We have three good reasons for reissuing this book. First, it was written in the aftermath of the heady events of 1967 and 1968, so that in some sense it completes its third decade of existence this year. If nothing else it is a witness to its time-indeed the dated or obscure references in the text are proof of just that! Also, Albert is no longer with us in person, and that is sad. A meeting with Albert was a true encounter. He always gave cheer. His obstinacy was never more than caution. His ever-present dedication, common sense, erudition, seriousness and wit were a delight. Luckily for us, they spring from every page of this book, even those that did not come principally from his typewriter. Lastly, there still remain hardly any books on the subject of anarchism in relation to the class struggle. Yet with very few exceptions every human being born must fight for survival and dignity...

Anarchism : Anarchist and Anti-Authoritarianism -- (2,093 Words / 13,133 Characters)
The Prime Minister was presented with a new soapbox to celebrate his election victory. Sir David English, editor of the Daily Mail, said Mr Majors use of a soapbox was brilliant. (News item). A week before the 1992 General Election, when the Conservative Party was facing almost certain defeat, and the Labor Party was holding triumphal meetings at mass rallies, John Major, in what was regarded as a last desperate effort, took to the streets with a (specially made and adapted) soapbox carried by an aide, and stumped the country, giving prepared speeches at crowded street corners and market squares. The Labor Party, knowing little of the history of the labor movement and slightly ashamed of what it did know, said it had long since passed that stage. What they did not point out, or maybe did not know, was they passed that stage when they became respectable as by then it was virtually illegal. Many radicals abroad... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)

Anarchism : Anarchist and Anti-Authoritarianism -- 1996 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 bit upsetting as I had a seeming compulsion to bash my head on brick walls. Wages were set according to national standards, and the non-nursing medical staff were only interested in their career...

Anarchism : Anarchist and Anti-Authoritarianism -- (1,943 Words / 12,140 Characters)
1. Anarchism was built up and invented by the working class to meet with specific problems in working class organization and to point the way to a society free from oppression. It differed from Marxism or authoritarian socialism in that it saw that copying bourgeois forms of organization or government was a mistaken tactic; also that government could form a new tyranny. It was not generally realized at the time that there could be two forms of aspirants to tyranny - capitalists and bureaucrats could take over a new government, but prior to that the middle classes were also divided in their attitude to socialism. The middle class as defined by Marx - the profit making class ^^ had a corollary in the mandarin class aiming at power and its class tyranny, and just as the middle class profit makers were originally divided in two (Liberal/progressives; and the Tory landlord elements gradually incorporated into the capitalist class} so the mandarins were divided between those who... (From : Anarchy Archives.)

Anarchism : Anarchist and Anti-Authoritarianism -- 1995 ~ (1,345 Words / 8,202 Characters)
Prime Minister John Major referred to Tories achieving a classless society. He was referring to the gradual move from the English class system to the American. In England the survival of the old upper class is ensured by the constitutional monarchy, against which the middle class is beginning to rebel, or at least not regard exxpressions of rebellion as reprehensible. The old upper class has managed to snatch on to influence (where once it had supreme power) by social snobbery, beginning with the schools, ensuring that people who make huge sums of money are frozen out of the Establishment unless and until they conform to their requirements. The upper class classically retain certain areas within themselves, such as the leadership of the Church and Army, the judges, the Foreign Office and the upper reaches of the Civil Service. But now the bourgeoisie is moving in. Power in the Tory Party has shifted from the patricians to those whose only God... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)

Anarchism : Anarchist and Anti-Authoritarianism -- (1,501 Words / 9,447 Characters)
Half a century after the events concerned, the Guardian and the BBC unearthed the facts about Edward VIII (later Duke of Windsor). Only their interpretations are dubious. They say the Establishment suspected Edward for his fascist views, and used the Mrs Simpson affaire as an excuse to get rid of him. Certainly Edward collaborated with the Nazis before and during the war and by law should have been hanged for high treason (even now a capital offense). He deserted his post in front of the enemy in France during the war and went to Spain. Another death sentence was due. Prime Minister Churchill then sent him off on a handsome salary to govern the Bahamas, where he gave information and advice to Berlin (a third death sentence!) and engaged in wartime currency trading (meriting only a lengthy prison sentence this time) and postwar black marketing (just a fineable offense). But it is nonsense to say, as they do, that this was because of his 'natural... (From : Hack.org.)

Chronology

January 07, 1920 :
Birth Day.

May 07, 1996 :
Death Day.

November 15, 2016 ; 5:26:09 PM (America/Los_Angeles) :
Added to https://www.RevoltLib.com.

July 17, 2019 ; 5:16:14 PM (America/Los_Angeles) :
Last Updated on https://www.RevoltLib.com.

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