About Frank Kitz
Born in the Kentish Town area of London as Francis Platt, he was illegitimate and grew up in poverty. He later claimed that his father was a German refugee from the revolutions of 1848, although his biological father was asserted by Florence Boos to have been John Lewis, an English watchmaker. He supported the ideals of the French Revolution in his youth, and attended radical meetings, such as those of the Reform League, participating in the Hyde Park riot of 1867.
Platt completed an apprenticeship as a dyer, and traveled extensively looking for, being particularly impressed by the poverty he saw in the industrial cities of northern England. On several occasions, he supported himself by enlisting in the British Army and then absconding.
Around 1874, he took the surname "Kitz", and settled in Soho. There, he joined the Democratic and Trades Alliance Association, soon renamed as the Manhood Suffrage League. In this organization, he met veterans of the Chartist movement, and also of the International Workingmen's Association, and served for a time as the league's secretary. By 1877, the league was in decline, and Kitz, fluent in both English and German, founded the English Revolutionary Society, which brought together league members and recent German immigrants. This moved into premises on Rose Street, and became widely known as the Rose Street Club. In 1879, he set up a printing shop on Boundary Street in Shoreditch, and began putting out propaganda, particularly focusing on supporting rent strikes.
Johann Most, a former German parliamentarian, and the editor of Freiheit, became prominent in the Rose Street Club. In 1881, he was sentenced to hard labor for publishing an article calling for assassinations of rulers; Kitz then took over the editorship for a short time.
In 1880, Kitz merged the Rose Street Club with Joseph Lane's Homerton Social Democratic Club. This was closed by police in 1882, by which time the two had founded the Labor Emancipation League (LEL), a libertarian socialist organization, which merged into the Social Democratic Federation two years later. In the new organization, he became associated with William Morris, working with him politically, while also sometimes working for him, using his skills in dyeing. Along with most other former members of the LEL, he joined Morris' Socialist League split in 1885. Kitz worked with Lane to develop a radical leftist grouping in the new party, and in 1888 they achieved a majority, Kitz becoming the league's secretary.
In the league's 1890 elections, Kitz was selected to replace Morris as editor of Commonweal, its journal. Morris then left the league, although Kitz retained a favorable opinion of him. Many other posts were won by anarchists supportive of violence, such as Charles Mowbray. Kitz disagreed with this, and resigned from the editorship in February 1891, when the league ceased national operations, instead associating himself with the Freedom group.
Kitz maintained a low profile for the next twenty years, working full-time as a dyer, although he remained supportive of anarchism. In 1909, he began public speaking on anarchist matters again, and wrote his memoirs, published by Freedom in a series entitled "Recollections and Reflections". As a result of this activity, he lost his job, and found himself again in poverty. In his last years, he survived from the old age pension, while Freedom organized two financial appeals for him.
Frank Kitz was born in in 1849 in Kentish Town in London. His real name was Francis Platt, the illegitimate child of Mary Platt and John Lewis, a watchmaker. He later claimed that he was the son of an English mother and German father exiled after the revolutions of 1848. His mother worked as a domestic servant.
He had to look after himself, working as an errand boy, porter and messenger. He decorated the walls of his room with pictures of the French Revolution. “Brought up in the neighborhood of the West End… I needed no lectures upon surplus value… to cause me to challenge the justice of a system which confers wealth upon the parasites of society and clouds the lives of thousands.”
He attended every meeting and rally of the radical movement in London. At the Hyde Park Riot of 1866, he narrowly avoided arrest. He noted that “the police behaved with their usual brutality.” He became a dyer’s apprentice. When this finished in 1869 he went on the tramp around south east England, financing himself by taking the Queen’s shilling (enlisting in the Army) and then making his escape on multiple occasions. He then traveled through northern England, noting the abject poverty there.
He returned to London and settled in Soho in 1873 or 1874. Here he came across the Democratic and Trades Alliance Association, which was the last remnant of the socialist First International in England. They were mostly tailors and shoemakers. The more revolutionary elements formed the Manhood Suffrage League with Kitz as secretary. By 1877 he was no longer secretary of the League and was looking to help create a specifically socialist and internationalist grouping in London. Kitz spoke good German and was in contact with the German exiles. He was urged by John Neve to form an English section of the socialist movement. The English Revolutionary Society was founded which finally moved into Rose Street in 1878. Here Kitz met Johann Most. Kitz, Most and Neve were all moving from social democratic/social revolutionary positions in a trajectory towards revolutionary anarchism.
When the anarchist newspaper Freiheit (Freedom) was confiscated and Most imprisoned, Kitz brought out an English language version in 1881. At the time of the Most prosecution, Kitz was totally impoverished and had the brokers in. He had 20 pounds from the defense fund in his possession. He hid this in a barrel of sand which he was using in his work and later turned this over to the defense committee after everything had been taken away by the bailiffs.
He attended the International Socialist Congress as a Rose Street delegate. He spoke at the Stratford Dialectical and Radical Club which started his agitation in East London. With Joe Lane he conducted propaganda in Homerton and then Mile End. They set up the Labor Emancipation League, carrying out open air speaking and distribution of propaganda. The League was not specifically anarchist but over the years tended more and more in that direction.
The LEL loosely affiliated to Hyndman’s Social Democratic Federation. When a section seceded with William Morris, Eleanor Marx etc, the LEL decided to integrate into the newly formed body called the Socialist League. Kitz and Charles Mowbray, as members of the English Revolutionary Society, had set up a print shop at Mowbray’s house in the appalling Boundary Street slum. They produced anti-militarist and anti-rent propaganda and flyposted the East End . They worked with the LEL and agitated in the various London radical clubs. Both Kitz and Mowbray signed the Manifesto of the Socialist League which was basically a statement of libertarian socialism
In August 1885 Kitz was arrested for obstruction whilst speaking at an open air pitch in Stratford . His case was dismissed.
It was probably Kitz who penned the League leaflet handed out on Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in June 1887 which remarked that “the discovery of gas, electricity, steam-driven locomotives and machinery and the vast extension of commerce, is all to be mixed up with the deification of a mean old woman who has had as much to do with inventions or art as the man in the moon.”
In 1887 and early 1888 he went on a campaign around London to boost the sales of Commonweal, the League paper, in newsagents and bookshops and managed to raise its circulation to 2,600. By 1888 the anarchist current within the League had gained dominance. Kitz took over as Secretary of the League from Ferd Charles. Kitz continued his effective work to boost the League. With Sam Mainwaring he went on an open air public speaking tour in South Wales.
He was one of the League speakers who addressed many meetings during the 1889 dock strike, at which much propaganda was distributed. He helped Reynolds of the Merton branch of the League set up a Surrey Laborers Union which organized car men, laborers and laundry women (probably when he was working as a dyer at Morris’s workshop in Merton).
But by 1890 things within the League were turning sour. Kitz disagreed with Mowbray’s advocacy of the use of bomb and dynamite and resigned from the League in March.
In 1909 Kitz was one of the regular speakers at 8 pitches established by London anarchists. He had been out of the movement for a long time. His renewed activity meant that by early 1910 he was blacklisted by the employers and lost his work as a dyer, which he had always exercised as a trade. He was forced to get by by having stalls in street markets. He wrote a set of memoirs, Recollections and Reflections, for anarchist newspaper Freedom between January and July 1912. He described himself as an old man who had at one time felt “despondent of the revolutionary cause”, but was no longer so.
From : Wikipedia.org
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