Working Class Self Organisation

Syndicalism: the modern menace to capitalism - Emma Goldman

In view of the fact that the ideas embodied in Syndicalism have been practiced by the workers for the last half century, even if without the background of social consciousness; that in this country five men had to pay with their lives because they advocated Syndicalist methods as the most effective, in the struggle of labor against capital; and that, furthermore, Syndicalism has been consciously practiced by the workers of France, Italy and Spain since 1895, it is rather amusing to witness some people in America and England now swooping down upon Syndicalism as a perfectly new and never before heard-of proposition.

It is astonishing how very naïve Americans are, how crude and immature in matters of international importance. For all his boasted practical aptitude, the average American is the very last to learn of the modern means and tactics employed in the great struggles of his day. Always he lags behind in ideas and methods that the European workers have for years past been applying with great success.

Speeches against conscription - Emma Goldman

The transcripts of four speeches made by Emma Goldman against conscription across the US in 1917.

“We Don’t Believe in Conscription” (Delivered at the Harlem River Casino, New York City, May 18, 1917)

Some reminiscences of Kropotkin - Alexander Berkman

Some personal notes by Russian-American anarchist Alexander Berkman on the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin.

It was about 1890, when the anarchist movement was still in its infancy in America. We were just a handful then, young men and women fired by the enthusiams of a sublime ideal, and passionately spreading the new faith among the population of the New York Ghetto. We held our gatherings in an obscure hall in Orchard Street, but we regarded our efforts as highly successful.

Bolsheviks shooting anarchists - Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman

Letter from Emma Goldman and Alex Berkman written to warn workers of the persecution of revolutionaries in Russia by the Bolsheviks, originally published in Freedom in 1922.

We have just received the following letter from our comrades Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, who are now stranded in Stockholm. This letter gives us the truth about the terrible persecution of Anarchists in Russia.

Fight? for What? Poem read at the Old Bailey

Extracts from a paper which was said to have advocated anarchy, and verses of a poem which asked that landlords should do the fighting, were read at the Old Bailey yesterday. Three men and a woman pleaded not guilty to having conspired to seduce from duty persons in the Forces and to cause disaffection. They are: Vernon Richards (29), civil engineer, and Marie Louise Richards (26), secretary, both of Eton Place, Hampstead; John Christopher Hewetson (32), medical practitioner, Willow Road, Hampstead; and Philip Richard Sansom (28), commercial artist, Camden Street, N.W.

They also pleaded not guilty to endeavouring to cause disaffection by disseminating copies of a paper called “War Commentary.” The two Richards were further charged with having a leaflet headed: “Fight? What for?”

The Attorney General (Sir Donald Somervell) said that “War Commentary” was a paper which was headed “For anarchism.”

Anarchists against the Army - Philip Sansom

Philip Sansom — one of the editors of War Commentary / Freedom found guilty of incitement to disaffection — describes the background to the trial and two other offences, for which he was jailed three times in 1945.

Soldiers are not supposed to think and it is a criminal offence to encourage them to do so. The laws on disaffection of the forces prescribe heavy penalties against civilians approaching soldiers and asking them to question their blind obedience to authority.

Tom Mann's memoirs

The personal memoirs of syndicalist Tom Mann. While we disagree with much of his politics, such as his support for the Stalinist Communist Party, we reproduce this text is an important addition to the history of the workers' movement in the UK.

Original introduction

The case against voting - Colin Ward

An article from Freedom newspaper (1987) - No politician of any colour likes a non-voter. Last week Labour MP Tony Banks introduced a bill in an almost empty House of Commons seeking to make voting compulsory .His fellow members had voted with their feet out of the chamber, but he wanted to fine those of us who fail to vote, unless, like absentees from school, we could produce ‘a legitimate reason’.

Yet the non-voters are among the largest of the political groups. Tony Banks reckons that they form 24 per cent of the electorate and he claims that ‘those ten million or so who failed to vote in 1983 have a great deal to answer for to those who did’. His assumption is that all those non-voters would have made their cross for candidates of whom he approves.

Witness for the Prosecution - Colin Ward

The revival of interest in anarchism at the time of the Spanish Revolution in 1936 led to the publication of Spain and the World, a fortnightly Freedom Press journal which changed to Revolt! in the months between the end of the war in Spain and the beginning of the Second World War. Then War Commentary was started, its name reverting to the traditional Freedom in August 1945. As one of the very few journals which were totally opposed to the war aims of both sides, War Commentary was an obvious candidate for the attentions of the Special Branch, but it was not until the last year of the war that serious persecution began.

In November 1944 John Olday, the paper’s cartoonist, was arrested and after a protracted trial was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment for ‘stealing by finding an identity card’. Two months earlier T. W. Brown of Kingston had been jailed for 15 months for distributing ‘seditious’ leaflets.

Leaflet for which Tom Mann was jailed in 1912

The first issue of The Syndicalist reprinted a ‘Don’t Shoot’ letter originally published in The Irish Worker and written by a Liverpool building worker. Then a railway worker, Fred Crowsley, had it reprinted and personally distributed copies to soldiers at Aldershot. He was arrested, tried and sentenced to four months.

The editor of The Syndicalist, Guy Bowman, was given nine months and the printers, the Becks, of Walthamstow, got six. Tom Mann, chairman of the Industrial Syndicalist Education League which published The Syndicalist, was charged, like the others, under the 1797 Act. He wrote: February 1912, all of the miners had downed tools.