Storione, Lawrence 1867-1922

A short biography of Lawrence Storione, miner and founder of the Anarchist Communist League in Fife.

Laurent (anglicised as Lawrence) Storione was the son of the Italian stonemason Felix Storione and Philomena Moir (or Noir). He was born in Italy in 1867 in the French speaking area of Valle d'Aosta at the town of Pre Saint Didier near the border with France. He left France when he was called up for a medical examination for training as a conscript. He deserted to Switzerland and then to Italy. He worked as a miner in these countries. Storione later went back to France to get to Belgium, where he lived in Liege, in 1891. He participated in several miners' strikes in Belgium during which locomotives were derailed and cage ropes severed. It appears he was given pamphlets on anarchism in this period by the noted French anarchist Elisee Reclus, who was lecturing at the University of Brussels and Storione now began to identify as an anarchist. When workers threw a bomb into a judge's garden, it resulted in several arrests, with some facing sentences of up to 25 years in prison. Whilst Storione was not involved in the incident, there were agent provocateurs and spies working in these pits, and due to Storione's agitation the police intended having him exiled. He managed to avoid this for a short time, staying in and around Liege and Charleroi. He ended up in Scotland in 1897, after fleeing France disguised as a woman, arriving in Muirhead, Ayrshire. He moved on to Hamilton in Lanarkshire where he was to marry Annie Cowan in 1900 and stayed until 1906 when he travelled to Canada.

Due to the 'money panic' he returned to Scotland in 1908, where he lived in Lumphinnans,Fife. His coming to the pit village of Lumphinnans and his employment at No1 pit there had consequences for revolutionary ideas among the miners in that area. He soon set up an Anarchist Communist League which, according to Stuart MacIntyre in his Little Moscows: Communism and working –class militancy in inter-war Britain (1980) “preached a heady mixture of De Leonist Marxism and the anarchist teachings of Kropotkin and Stirner, a libertarian communism which was fiercely critical of the union”. Macintyre bases this view on literature stocked by the group(see below) and is not necessarily the case! Among those who appeared to have joined the League were the miners Abe and Jim Moffat and Robert (Bob) Selkirk. All three were to join the Communist Party in 1922, Abe Moffat having an important position within it and Selkirk serving as a CP town councillor in Cowdenbeath for 24 years. In his anarchist years, Selkirk had been a member of a Scottish branch of the IWW, and publicly polemicised against Guy Aldred’s rejection of workshop organisation, as well as denouncing Kropotkin for his pro- First World War position.

Storione’s children were given good revolutionary names: Armonie, Anarchie, Autonomie, Germinal and Liberte! His daughte Anarchie, usually known as Annie, was a leading light in a Proletarian Sunday School in Cowdenbeath, far more radical than the Sunday School set up in the area by the Independent Labour Party.
According to Abe Moffat, Storione was “very short in height”. Bob Selkirk wrote that the League sold copies of Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid, Stirner’s The Ego and His Own, and De Leon’s Two Pages From Roman History. The main slogan of the League was, again according to Selkirk, “Trade Unions are bulwarks of capitalism and all Trade Union leaders are fakirs”. Acccording to Mary Docherty, the League ( which she refers to as the Communist Anarchist Group) held weekly Sunday evening propaganda meetings after the Proletarian Sunday Schools, at which such notable activists such as Willie Gallagher, John McLean, and Jack Leckie held forth ( A Miner's Lass, Mary Docherty, 1992).

Both Abe Moffat and Selkirk mention Storione as an inspiration. However as members of a Party that was virulently anti-anarchist they had to re-write history. So for Moffat, Storione, (remembered as Storian in his book) was no longer an anarchist but “an ardent Communist,” who had convinced he and his brother Jim to a militant anti-capitalist position (My Life With The Miners, 1967).

Selkirk is a little more truthful, mentioning the League and Storione’s initiative in founding it. On the League’s critique of the trade unions Selkirk remarks that: “We thus sowed defeatism and pessimism instead of strengthening the organisations of the workers. Actually most of the members of this Branch became successful businessmen, accountants, dance band leaders, insurance agents, etc. They had lost faith in the workers” (Bob Selkirk, The Life of a Worker, 1967). This requires further investigation as to whether this is true, bearing in mind that members of the League like Selkirk himself, went on to be founders of the Communist Party in Fife. Graham Stevenson in his biography of Davie Proudfoot, Communist and then Labour activist, says that he was influenced by the League, although carrying on the CP tradition conveniently drops the "Anarchist" from the League's title , see http://www.grahamstevenson.me.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=892tongueroudfoot-davie&catid=16tongue&Itemid=119

The League set up a bookshop in nearby Cowdenbeath in 1916, as the result of the subscriptions of twelve workers subscribing £24 each. It sold Capital, Ancient Society and other Charles Kerr publications. “We sold anything considered progressive, even “The Strike of A sex”. We sold the anti-war literature of the time and became familiar with police warrants and police searching of our houses” (Selkirk). this was the Communist Literature Depot at 128 Perth Road, described in Freedom in 1915 as selling Freedom and other anarchist literature. Freedom also recorded Storione as having contributed 3 shillings and three pence ( a considerable quantity for a miner) to the Freedom press fund in June-July 1915.

Storione and the League surely deserve further historical investigation, buried as they were by an “official” version of working class history as purveyed by the Communist Party.

Lawrence Storione died in 1922 after a pit accident invalided him during 1917. At a compensation hearing that year the Sheriff gave a decision in Storione's favour. However, police were to challenge this, saying that he was fit to work. They said that, along with Jack Leckie and Willie Gallagher, he headed a demonstrations in Kelty when 5,000 workers struck during the Three Weeks Strike. He was eventually to lose his fight for compensation. Annie survived him by two years.

NICK HEATH
Sources: works mentioned in main text. Information on Lawrence's parents and his marriage was provided by a relative of Lawrence's

Comments

lawrie salkeld
Jul 19 2011 13:14

Bob Selkirk was my grandad, i did not realise how strong a man he was as i was only a wee boy when i saw him. R.I.P grandad

T La Palli
Jul 19 2011 14:28

Lawrie, did your grandad leave any letters or papers of any sort? I read Auld Bob Selkirk: A Man In A Million. Have been trying to track down any of the papers distributed in the pits that he mentions. Haven't had any luck so far. Plus, any letters he wrote with regards to his pre-Communist Party days would be interesting, especially for me, anything to do with Storione and the other Fife antiparliamentary socialists.

lawrie salkeld
Jul 22 2011 18:13

Hi, t lapalli,

Sorry only child hood images, i think my uncle still lives in scotland Dundee, the same name as my grandad. I have just bought his book a life of a worker, a very strong man indeed. good luck with your search if anything comes to mind i will let you know.

all the very best

lawrie salkeld

Red Marriott
Jul 22 2011 22:11

The Glasgow anarchist workers later on had the same mix of Kropotkin and Stirnerite influences, but don't mention Storione in their histories; http://libcom.org/history/not-life-story-just-leaf-it-robert-lynn
http://libcom.org/history/anarchism-1940s-glasgow
Yet there may well have been a connection or at least an enduring influence?

bobselkirks grandson
Nov 14 2011 18:15

Red Marriott - auld bob's son "young bob" himself a lifelong political activist recently passed away and I am one of his surviving grandchildren, I know for a fact he has or at least now my mum and her siblings have loads of transcripts from auld boab

T La Palli
Nov 15 2011 13:56

People involved in in the Glasgow Anarchist movement were in touch with people like Storione. There were Scotland-wide meetings where Storione reported good progress in Fife. Still hard to track down nearly enough detail about Storione and the Fife group. Same for the anarchists like Harry Duncan in Aberdeen, or Andrew Porter in East Lothians (Tranent, Dalkeith, Musselburgh), and later in Dunfermline, and the several anarchists in Lanarkshire, Storione was in Hamilton (where there was an anarchist presence) before moving to Cowdenbeath. There are many more Scottish anarchists from this period who probably deserve a mention.

So far in the research that I have carried out, the Stirnerite individualism is probably overplayed, possibly because some of the people where interviews are easily accessible happened to have been individualist syndicalists. I also doubt that there was an enduring influence by one group, or person. Most explicit anarchists, and the more anarchist anti-parliamentary types, seem to have drifted away from positions they had 1910/1-14/15. Some involved with were definitely involved with the Industrial Workers of Great Britain. Storione went briefly to Canada to work, and came back (I think) championing the Wobblies. Would like to know what these anarchists learnt from this period. Several people who had been one time anarchists could later be found in working class struggles, but no longer considered themsleves anarchists; far from it.

Would be great to know more about Storione's time in Liege when he had to leave for Scotland in 1871 as police wanted him deported due to struggles going on.

Bobs grandson, the transcripts that your family has, I would very much liek to read some of them. Could you possibly email me at t_la_palli@live.co.uk

Battlescarred
Nov 15 2011 17:51

Surely not 1871 as Storione would have been 4 years old at the time!! I've added some info on the Cowdenbeath bookshop and Storione's support of Freedom to the bio which should appear soon.

T La Palli
Nov 16 2011 17:53

Thats what it said in his Obituary in the The Miner, 6 January 1923 (the publication of the Fife Miners Reform Commitee. I didn't know his age.

Battlescarred
Nov 23 2011 10:15

Hmm, there was a miners strike in Belgian, including the Liege region in May 1891, so 1871 could be a misprint.

Lorselkirk
Sep 22 2012 23:49

Hi auld bob selkirk was my grandad , he has only 1 son still alive , I know my dad has loads of things of my auld bobs , copy of his book , it's a long time since I have seen them but my dad still has them ,

Lorselkirk
Sep 22 2012 23:52

Hi auld bob selkirk was my grandad 2 , the uncle you refer 2 is my uncle bobby , sadly he has passed away but his family still live in Cowdenbeath fife Scotland .

carolian
Sep 19 2013 16:49

is there any more information about this man I would be interested to know
Carol