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. Amongst 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 Saturday afternoon.
This was in the days before credit cards came in vogue and I had only a few francs on me. I had sterling, pesetas and travellers cheques, but the banks were closed. I was immobile, tired, hungry, had nowhere to stay and nobody wanted to take or change my money. I was going to phone the AIT (the Continental equivalent of the AA) when the initials reminded me of the other AIT (the Franco-Spanish initials of the anarcho-syndicalist International Workers Association).
I had often criticised “Toulouse” for years, which generic name signified the fossilised bureaucracy of the libertarian movement in exile, but I reckoned that if I phoned a hall of the local CNT-in-exile I would probably find someone to help. It was worth a chance and I found someone in, though she answered in the local patois. My French was somewhat rusty anyway and never extended to the language of Oc, but I gathered she told me to wait where I was and meanwhile order whatever I wanted. I hesitated to do so in case I had misunderstood but ordered a brandy and some croissants which were covered by my remaining francs.
In about twenty minutes, three carloads of Spaniards drove up, for all the world like a police raid. The message had been passed on round the hall that Albert Meltzer was in town, stranded, starving and penniless, all of which was true in a less dramatic way, and three different cars had driven out to the rescue. I had never been in Toulouse before and had no idea anyone knew me there, but the people in the CNT hall that Saturday night celebrating the end of the tyranny were far from being supporters of the civil-war compromises and opponents of the post-war Resistance that I had criticised. Some had been in the Resistance with Miguel, one was a close friend of “la inglesa”, someone else had been to the Centro Iberico, another two had been in prison with Stuart and all knew of him.
I was bathed in the reflected glory of three old friends as half-a-dozen new ones argued which should have the honour of putting me up for the weekend. When they came to tow the car in and saw the contents it certainly did not detract from my welcome, and it was decided that the family with the best accommodation should house me but that I should have a meal with each. It worked out at seven dinners in three days. No wonder I never kept to the diet the doctors laid down.
When the banks opened on Monday I was able to hire a car to take me into Spain but, it having a Toulouse number plate, always suspect in the Franco years, I was stopped at Customs. There was no charmed passage such as an English registration had always afforded. They took away all the books and pamphlets I was carrying, saying severely this was not England and such literature was prohibited in Spain. They let me travel on, however, and presumably were told after I left that times had changed. When I arrived in Barcelona I found a police car had arrived at Miguel’s flat before me and returned the literature with apologies to the traveller when he arrived and the hope that he had not been inconvenienced. It certainly was not England. Catch the British Customs or police behaving like that if they confiscated something wrongly!
That honeymoon period did not last long so far as locals were concerned. For years afterwards the police and to this day the Guardia Civil behaved as they did under Franco. As the locals said, they were “the same dogs with different collars”. The growth of tourism had made them modify many attitudes, even under Franco, and continued to do so. I had first-hand knowledge of the privileges accorded to foreigners on another occasion, when my car was stolen, and I had to go into the Guardia Civil to report it, for insurance purposes. A couple of former Spanish exiles came with me, saying as a foreigner I would need their back-up. The openly-displayed brutality with which Spanish suspects in the same interview room were treated, and the contempt shown to the Spanish victims, made my friends realise in time they should leave me to speak for myself. The desk sergeant, seeing my passport, was courteous, complimented me on my accent and expressed the hope that the distressing loss of my car would not lower my opinion of Spain. He entered the particulars, filled out the form for the insurance, wished me Godspeed and turned to bully some parents whose son had been taken in for a traffic offence, cuffing the boy for his disrespect in addressing an officer in Catalan.
Afterwards one of my friends commented how different it was from Notting Hill. “There they make you see the English rule, here they make you see the foreigners rule.”
The Re-birth of the CNT
For years I had been urging the Resistance to form a breakaway organisation. Even when the anarcho-syndicalists in Spain formed their own unions in the Interior, the fossilised leadership in Toulouse complained they were “forging the seals” and should wait until a reconstruction of the organisation was possible.
Meanwhile they criticised active resistance, even that of Sabater, which might compromise their situation in France. The Resistance relied for its funds on hold-ups. I was always sceptical. The Trots were raising huge sums from British unions for non-existent Spanish ones. They used the name of the UGT, dead and forgotten in the years of resistance, and denounced the CNT (as “it had entered the republican government during the civil war”). The UGT had not only entered the anti-fascist government but previously the pro-fascist Primo de Rivera dictatorship too but that didn’t matter to them. Militant Tendency raised huge sums from British trade unionists talking about the UGT. Meanwhile our activists were pinning their hopes of financing a new movement in Spain on a few bank jobs for which their background made them totally ill equipped and which inevitably resulted in a few more captives being taken.
I had constantly reasoned there could be an appeal for the re-building of the pre-war “majority trade union centre”, which it certainly was, and there would have been a sympathetic response from ordinary trade unionists, providing far greater returns than any daring hold-ups. As the official CNT in exile did not want to do this, why not form a complementary organisation, incorporating Interior industrial activity and activism, until such time as the reconstruction of the CNT took place?
My idea was that they should create a separate but temporary organisation, the Federacion Obrera Iberica (the Iberian Workers Federation), a name reminiscent of the logo FAI, but independent. Miguel and a few others (none of whom wanted to be accused of causing a schism) were finally convinced but the FOI died soon after birth. Just at the moment of launching the FOI, Franco started his lingering death in bed and when he finally let go of life, the CNT itself could be re-launched in Spain.
During the first exciting months after the Generalissimo’s death it seemed as if the old flames were to be re-lit. But, in a prepared move, the Spanish Government moved in to establish new patterns of labour relationship and to marginalise the CNT.
The fascist syndicates had consisted of employers and workers delegates appointed by the Falangist union. It had confiscated every union’s assets. Now it had been permeated by the Communist Party under the name of the Comisiones Obreras (CC.OO — Workers Councils). They had been quietly working with the employers’ representatives via the Christian Democrats, neither Christian nor democratic, and had unity with a section of the Carlists. They thought they would get away with the merger and angled for British and American backing with the Spanish Government acquiescing. The Communist Party would thus provide an “anti-fascist” alibi for the others while the Christian Democrats and Carlists would provide a “non-Soviet” alibi for the CP. Some offbeat Trot groups favoured adding students and small shopkeepers to the commissions, some claiming it actually happened, which would have made an even more bizarre labour organisation.
The plan hinged on the British TUC, which, after Hitler, had successfully reorganised the German unions in its own image, and expected to do the same after Franco. Some in the TUC International Committee were Communists and favoured the Comisiones Obreras pretending it was the “Spanish TUC.” Joe Thomas and I (with the aid of a person in the hierarchy he knew well) exposed the plan, which knocked it on the head right away by scaring off the Labour Party supporters on the TUC who had experienced a bellyful of CP intrigues. We were accused in an old cliche by a student-led clique of an “unholy alliance” with the right wing. It seemed to us holy enough to block the backing of a coalition of Christian Democrat employers, Carlists and Communist Party to take over a fascist body.
The TUC then accepted the notion that there should be a “Spanish TUC”, only one, with a political party to back it, just like theirs. They took for granted it would be the Socialist Party. When they said that in Spain to an assembly of trade unionists the notion was met with derision by all but the Socialists. It was exciting to trump the ace of those who wanted to tell the workers how to organise, but the politicos had other tricks up their sleeve. The Spanish Government came up with its own formula which got acceptance.
The next deal was the Pact of Moncloa, which the new Government persuaded labour leaders to accept. The UGT, theoretically even the CNT, could reorganise without opposition as such. But the CNT was harassed with police dirty tricks such as, later on, the “La Scala” incident in 1978, when during a strike the workers allegedly blew themselves up in protest, and the survivors were charged with the crime. The Communist-led CC.OO was also recognised, as was any other union be it merely a political party with an industrial label, but with a proviso. They had to sign the Pact, a guarantee of class peace, to negotiate. Fascism was democratised in that the old corporate State councils of employers and workers remained, but the workers could elect their delegates from whichever union they chose. Falangist rule would be eliminated, but otherwise the system was in essence the same.
The CNT was thus frozen out. Though this was not the intention, it might perhaps have strengthened it if it thus became the one centre for unofficial action. Therefore it became the target for attack, as it had ever been. The now indiscriminate terrorist actions of Catalan nationalists (always the enemy of anarcho-syndicalism and the workers) were blamed on the CNT. Its funds remained confiscated. Solidaridad Obrera, its daily paper, with its building and printing press, had been the fascist Solidaridad Nacional since Franco seized Barcelona. The stolen halls, presses and sequestrated assets of 1936 vintage (not to mention the collectivisations of the civil war period) must have added up to billions of pounds sterling on current values. The CNT was inveigled into the tempting but hopeless task of claiming them back. The Government would obviously never agree to finance a revolutionary organisation, in that fashion, even with its own money, so it had to seek a legal formula to reimburse the UGT while refusing the CNT.
In the first heady year after Franco’s death, nobody realised what that formula would be and optimism abounded. Exiles returned, branches were re-opened everywhere, militants came out of hiding. There was an unprecedented enthusiasm among the young. Only among the students, in other countries then undergoing a radical enthusiasm for a modified Marxism (however the media might confuse it with anarchism), was there a begrudging attitude to the CNT inspired by Trotskyism. Those who spoke enthusiastically about the 1936 Revolution were sneeringly referred to as “los historicos”. The more open physical attacks by the fascist groups — in reality the secret police in civilian clothes — forced CNT sympathisers to fight back (and treat the New Left more as allies than enemies). Right wing provocations even took the form of assaults, sometimes sexually motivated, on young women offending “Catholic morality” by dressing and behaving in a modern fashion taken for granted in France or Italy.
Nothing stopped exiles from all parts of the world coming home. I had known many in London where they had formed an exemplary community even by conventional standards: hard working, and though harassed by the police for their anti-fascist activities, free from anti-social crime. In the case of the confederal movement, whole families went back. Those veterans who returned from France and Britain having earned English or French old age pensions were able to live well, a contrast with others, especially those wounded in the Civil War or those who had served in Spanish prisons or labour camps, or had been blacklisted or disabled, who either were reduced to beggary in Spain or sometimes returned from exile from nothing to nothing.
They helped each other. Miguel Garcia, for instance, who had no pension in Spain and left a British one behind, was set up by sympathisers in a café bar of his own, “La Fragua” (the forge — it had formerly been a blacksmith’s shop) in the calle Cadena, a backstreet in the slums. It was near the spot where the employers’ organisation’s pistoleros murdered Salvador Segui, the CNT’s most vigorous secretary and organiser (known affectionately as “Noi de Sucre” (Sugarboy) either because of his addiction to sweets or because his baby face contrasted with his toughness — I have heard both stories). The bar became a mecca for many who also went to have a look at the historic spot where Miguel’s father (one of Sugarboy’s bodyguards) had once narrowly missed assassination too. (Today there is a square named after Segui, in his day hunted and feared).
Some of the clients at “La Fragua” turned up to help Miguel get it going and came again and again, despite the grotty bar and service for the sake of the company that gathered there. If Miguel had less of a taste, after so much deprivation, for his own liquid wares, it might have done well.
He one day took me on a bar crawl round Barcelona and showed me every historic spot associated with our movement — the old no go area in the Barrio Chino, the former anarchist quarter where Durruti had lived, the Telefonica where they had resisted the Communist takeover in the May Days, the grave of Ferrer at Montjuich. I meant to return with him one day and take a notebook. It was a missing slice of social history and would have made a fascinating ‘revolutionary tourist’s guide to Barcelona’ but I left it for another visit — too late. After his death I wrote up his life, with the omitted early chapters of Franco’s Prisoner (the published version dealt only with his 20 years in prison) in the book Miguel Garcia’s Story.
The Phoney CNT
Over the next years I attended several Congresses of the CNT, including the Fifth one in Madrid. It was held in an exhibition hall in the Casa del Campo, a park where a famous battle in defence of the capital had once been fought. As usual, there were so many old friends to greet that I skipped a lot of speeches, and oratory bores me anyway. I also missed the fireworks at the end. The gathering had seemed well organised but cracks in the structure were appearing.
Despite the affirmations of anarcho-syndicalism, a tendency emerged calling themselves the “Impugnados” (I never discovered what being “impugned” was supposed to signify). I think they were sincere enough and many of their criticisms of the people who had compromised in the civil war and taken a quietist attitude in exile were what we had been saying for years. But when they finally broke away from the organisation, still calling themselves the CNT, they were quickly penetrated by the nationalists, Trots, Maoists, Catholic Action and all the riffraff of political entryism, as the CNT proper never could be.
The “Impugnados” re-styled themselves the “Renovados” and the renovated ones became a new organisation. It was rueful to reflect that had the First of May people not been so reluctant to be regarded as schismatic and formed the FOI sooner, this split would never have happened. Eventually the CNT Renovada, or “Phoney CNT” as I dubbed it, had to call itself the CGT, claiming nevertheless it was heir to the old CNT.
There was a manoeuvre by the UGT to take it over after it had successfully laid claims to a part of the heritage of the old CNT, but this was withheld anyway and the UGT lost interest. The CGT still exists at the time of writing, pretending to be anarcho-syndicalist but in fact taking part in “union elections”, in other words the democratised fascist corporations set up under the Pact of Moncloa. One can understand some Spanish workers wanting to take part in the Moncloa system, which is an advance on Francoism, but not only is it far from Syndicalism, it is not up to British trade unionism as it has always operated. It must be admitted Mrs Thatcher’s “reforms” have reduced trade unionism to that level but we may reverse this yet. What makes me suspicious of the CGT is that it is busily hankering for international approval among syndicalist movements, which would make it not a step away from Francoism but a step backwards to it and they know that perfectly well.
After having spent some eighteen months awaiting acquittal, Stuart went in the spring of 1975 to Huddersfield because it was then one of the last few places in England where one could get a house at an unreasonable but at least attainable price. He paid for it largely with the proceeds of advance royalties from The Christie File, which in the end the leading and respected publisher was afraid to print, and it came out finally under the imprimatur of an American anarchist publishing house.
He had not heard the last of police harassment. One high-ranking officer expressed the view to me that they would not object to the Black Cross if we expelled Stuart! “We don’t object to charities for our own prisoners, so why should we object to aid for Spanish prisoners”, he said, missing the whole point of what we were about.
Another tipped him off he would be framed as he had not been forgiven for being acquitted after so many worthy people much more important than a commonsense jury had decided it should be otherwise, and so he moved to Sanday, a little island of the Orkneys, and soon made himself at home. Joe Thomas jokingly asked me if Stuart had advance information that all dissidents would be banished to a Gulag in the Orkneys and he had made sure of getting the best housing going there. I reminded him of the jest later, when we read of the preparations for just such an eventuality in the event of a military take-over had the abortive coup against Wilson’s Government been successful.
Soon after, there was a hold-up in London when a man walked into a bank and shot the cashier, apparently without warning. It was in Wimbledon, where Stuart had been living before going to Huddersfield, not too many miles from Streatham. The local CID apparently at first decided it was a certain character who had been in prison at the same time as Stuart had been on “remand” and they wondered if he had confessed all to him. It seemed something of a long shot and makes me wonder if it was a would-be replay of the Hain incident not far away. The Wimbledon police had no idea where Stuart was and unlike Special Branch had not the expertise to know how to walk into a bookshop and ask for the latest Black Flag, which would have given the address.
The sergeant phoned his solicitor who promised to pass on the message but would not give his client’s address. They informed him helpfully there was a reward of several thousands offered by the bank. After Benedict Birnberg’s call, Stuart mentioned it to Brenda and her father, who was staying with them. Stuart remembered signing a petition when he was in Brixton prison with this man’s name on it, but as a political dissident he was in a high security wing, and the man suspected of murder in a normal wing so he had never met him. Brenda’s father commented that he had served in the Navy with someone of the same name as the detective sergeant concerned.
Despite their scoffing, he said it might be the man’s son. He lived in Wimbledon and his son was going into the police. When Stuart phoned back he asked confidently, after explaining to the detective sergeant he had never met the suspect (who turned out eventually to be a false lead) if the DS’s father hadn’t served in a certain warship during the war. One could imagine the poor man’s jaw falling. “How on earth do you know that?” “Oh, we have our files too, you know, like you do — even up here”.
If you’ve got the name. you might as well have the game.
There was no harassment on Sanday, no police and no crime. TV filmed an interesting interview with Stuart in the Orkneys talking about anarchism and posting off Black Flag around the world. It looked as if he had a private plane, which might have stirred memories in Daily Express readers, but it was the scheduled flight from the island, whose airfield really was a field. The interview was only spoiled by the TV’s investigative crew putting in a bit of background, no doubt from information supplied by their historical experts, in which it seemed General Franco’s Loyalists had thwarted an anarchist rebellion.
Stuart ceased to be an editor of Black Flag a year or so after he went to the Orkneys. He continues to be regarded by the professional writers and “historians” as editor to this day, and for years the press regarded me as his spokesperson. We were as indelibly joined as Marx and Engels, or perhaps more appropriately Laurel and Hardy.
He still distributed the Flag round his international contacts, but it was printed and edited in London except for a few issues in the early days. In the intervening years there have been many editorial teams. As I was the most regular contributor and was never a professional writer (my articles needed editing), I was never sole editor except in emergencies. There must have been fifteen other editors but they never get a mention in the “histories”.
Stuart started a publishing house called Cienfuegos Press. It was a remarkable achievement in anarchist publishing which attracted attention rarely ever received by a small publishing house. Financially it started from nothing and ended in disaster. In the decade it was going, it started with an anthology of the American journal Man! and Sabate: Guerrilla Extraordinary, financed with money received from post-trial interviews, translations and donations, plus part of the royalties on Floodgates of Anarchy. Financially, alas, it was always chasing its own tail.
Another book, Towards a Citizens Militia: Anarchist Alternatives to NATO and the Warsaw Pact, aroused a furore of denunciation from sinister right-wing forces in and out of Parliament. The introduction made it clear it wasn’t “a do-it-yourself guide to military revolution — a ludicrous conception for anarchists anyway — but a guide on how to organise resistance to a foreign invasion, Soviet or other, or to a military coup d’etat,” wrote Stuart in a reply to his critics, printed in the Times Literary Supplement.
It didn’t stop them baying for his blood but it did give the book an enormous fillip that enabled Cienfuegos to carry on with more publications. The success was so great that the far-Right philosopher Roger Scruton published an allegation in the Times that Stuart had written the Anarchist Cookbook, a commercial US cultural revolution product pretending to be a guide to Anarchism, absurdly hyping drugs and with misleading recipes for bombs. There was no conceivable connection between the reasoned arguments of Towards a Citizens Militia and the absurdities of the Cookbook, but this type of misrepresentation, typical of bourgeois fascism, was made respectable by “philosophers”. From there it permeated the police, and during the riots of young Blacks in Brixton a young Italian woman was raided because she lived in the area affected and only, because of books like Citizens Militia found in her possession, was arrested and sentenced for deportation. The press referred to “the Italian connection”!
As Stuart pointed out, one could safely assume the police would have found little to object to had they found essays on monetarism, the dictatorship of the proletariat, or even discussions of the relative merits of Zyklon B gas as an alternative to repatriation. What got up their noses and those of the Establishment generally was that the book used information available from many other respectable sources, and directed it to the general public. The idea of a defence alternative costing nothing, unlikely to be used for aggressive purposes and available to all was anathema to those who were spending £13 billion allegedly for the same job and risking the existence of the world in doing so.
Many other publications followed, including Flavio Constantini’s Art of Anarchy, Zapata and the first four issues of the Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review, but various factors ultimately forced Stuart to give up the venture and to leave the island. One was the gradual frightening off of printers and binders, as well as booksellers, by fear of legal action which never materialised. Another was a disastrous and mysterious fire in a transport container (plus water damage) added to which an expensive edition, a beautiful reproduction of a work on Japanese anarchism, set and printed, was lost by a printer who declined to compensate. The straw that broke the camel’s back came in 1981, when Brenda was returning from a visit to her sister-in-law at a British base in Germany. She was arrested at the airport, forcibly separated from her child, and put on trial for something that happened there years before, though it was the first time she had been in Germany.
It was a shrewd move by Interpol of which its founder, Heinrich Himmler, would have been proud. The expense in defending her, and telephoning around the world (Stuart had been refused entry) for protests to be made, ruined Cienfuegos Press. The examining judge, like one in France over a similar case involving Jean Weir, declared he was subject to so much irritation he had a nervous breakdown as a result of her being imprisoned nine days, and he and the case collapsed. But as a result the whole struggling but thriving little enterprise Stuart had built in the Orkneys had a financial breakdown, in the course of which he had to put his home on the line and lost that too.
But of course it would be a “conspiracy theory” to imagine that all this was intended. It is notable that when Stuart applied for a gun licence to shoot rabbits (a staple diet and pursuit in the Orkneys) he was refused on the grounds of his conviction for terrorism in Spain. The Spanish authorities denied there was any record of a conviction, which had been imposed by an unconstitutional court martial and subsequent to military rule had been expunged from the records. In Spain, that is, where fascism was declared illegal. Interpol would have none of that. Germany like Britain did bow to commonsense not to recognise the validity for criminal records of German People’s Court decisions sentencing offenders to concentration camps. But Interpol still nostalgically preserves Spain’s fascist past as valid when everyone there wants to forget it.
The Wooden Horse
During the Seventies I had been contacted by a so-called “anarchist party” which had been set up in Stockton (Northern California) by Red Warthan, who called it the “Woodstock Anarchist Party”, after a mass rally at Woodstock that heralded the Youth, Music and Drugs hippy-peace-and-love scene of American sham-anarchism. I was acting secretary of the International Black Cross and got friendly letters from him. He never asked for anything but how to contact already publicised groups.
He seemed from the correspondence genuine enough, and I thought he might be won from his hippiness to something more concrete. “Surely no anarchist would object to an all-night pot party,” he replied in naive response to my saying no anarchist would form a party. He effusively inscribed a book to me, the classic Fat City which featured Stockton (California), after he learned I’d been a “boxer”, though hardly of the type depicted there.
I felt a bit ashamed of my initial doubts until his story finally came out. It seemed that as a boy he had been a Ku Klux Klan member. When he was thirteen he had murdered a ten year old, but at his trial got acquitted “by reason of insanity”. He made friends with Nazi prisoners and drifted back into the Klan. The latter got him released by legal pressure, and asked him to infiltrate the Nazis. He couldn’t or wouldn’t so they asked him instead to “infiltrate the Anarchists”. As his and their definition was even woollier than usual, he set out quite cleverly to infiltrate in the only way possible, by forming his own pacifist-anarchist party and rely on dislike for sectarianism for it to be accepted on face value. However, the only hippy group he succeeded in properly infiltrating was hardly anarchist. It was the Manson hippy murder cult, and as it turned out he’d penetrated something nearer to the Nazis.
When Manson won Warthan’s confidence (or vice versa) he managed to persuade Warthan to switch allegiance from one set of nutcases to the other, and feed Manson back information on KKK operations. He did this by linking up with the Nazi groups and there seems to have been some confusion as to who was spying on whom and to which of the three right-wing set-ups he owed allegiance, while still claiming to be anarchist.
On Manson’s instructions Warthan publicly renounced the ‘anarchist’ connection as too confusing, explaining it was just an attempt to spy, but this alerted one or the other Supermen to his true role in this complicated business, resulting in an attempted killing of him, and his killing a seventeen year old instead. Of course the US press had it all down a battle between ‘rival anarchist groups’.
Warthan had the cheek to write to me, when the charges were brought, asking if the Black Cross would defend him. I don’t know what it could have done anyway. He said all his fascistic friends had turned against him, that he had never done any damage to the anarchists while he was spying on them, and that if his wife hadn’t been raped five or six times by different black men he would never have returned to the Klan.
I didn’t do anything about this heart-felt plea but I did reply non-committally, even deceitfully, questioning some of his statements and so drawing out the names of other small-time Nazi agents which I passed over for others to check.
This was the only cloak-and-dagger involvement I ever had, if at the distance of a few thousand miles. Still, as the result of some disquiet over this someone in the Anarchist Black Cross decided to do a bit of investigation into the fascist groups to see how far the menace went over here. A comrade in Scotland published a fake Nazi paper, available only in reply to advertisements in fascist journals. He unearthed a whole list of addresses. Most of them were predictable, the old gang of sycophants, the aging chasers after the rough trade and the various hangers-on, but there were some finds. One wrote from Spain proudly that he had penetrated both ETA and the CNT, so we passed the message on. It was easy enough to “penetrate” the CNT, a union recruiting people on the basis of their work, but certainly the clandestine ETA was interested.
In Canada Gary Jewell had been in the IWW and raised funds for our prisoners. He had definitely changed sides but had not thought fit to announce his change to his former associates. He visited England in the late Seventies and met many people in the old SWF and they found it hard to believe he had reneged, but we had it from himself in black and white, telling the spurious journal he had been a syndicalist and was now a “third positionist”. This was a line coming into favour from British fascism, suggesting they wanted neither capitalism nor communism but a third position, and mixed with the nonsense of Distributism and Catholic-Fascism. To muddle the situation further I wrote a cod pamphlet putting forward the claims of Constructivism but not saying what it was. It was a theory invented by a fictitious person I always referred to as The Beloved Dr Ludwig Gans or The Great and Learned Dr Gans. I had invented him years before when at the invitation of some group on the lines of Mensa, I gave a lecture in a series of others in which they had to guess which was deliberately phoney. I pulled one over on them by giving it on Constructivism and all these Certified Intelligents believed it, nodding in agreement when I mentioned Ludwig Gans’ work The Menace of Anti-Constructivism. I did it as a pure joke on George Plume, its secretary, who was always kidding someone. He even pretended to have been sentenced to death during the war for incitement by supporting a Scottish Nationalist in a by-election, only being reprieved because the seat had been won.
I am told that Constructivism, while never as popular as Distributism though equally mysterious, was seriously discussed in fascist circles for some time after I quite inadvertently slipped it in, though nobody ever knew what it was except the great and good Dr Gans, and he never existed.
It was a shame to lose him altogether so once or twice I put in quotes from him in Black Flag as a joke against Marxists who wrote in with equally preposterous quotations. Sure as fate one such wrote in, protesting at the notoriously “reactionary professor” currently in favour with the fascists.
Whatever you think of Constructivism, so far as I was concerned, it beat Gustav Metzger and his Auto-Destructive Art hands down, and was a change from writing sense, with nobody, certified intelligent or not, nodding in agreement.