Magkanaras, Giannis

Biography of Greek anarchist Giannis Magkanaras, who was active in the movement towards the end of the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Submitted by Ed on June 13, 2011

Despite we know today some of his writings, yet we have not been able to form an insufficient data on the life of Giannis Magkanaras. We know, however, that he and everyone else with the surname Magkanaras originate from Ioannis Magkanaros, who was a French, graduate of the French Military School of Paris, an officer of Napoleon and a philhellene. He arrived in Greece, probably through the island of Kefallinia during the Revolution against Ottoman Empire of 1821, apparently for fighting for Greek independence and participated in Lord Byron's unit in Mesollogi.

He and the family he made remained in Greece and changed their surname to Magkanaras. The family spread to Patras, Mesollogi, Syros, Navarino, Corinth, and later in Athens. One of his three sons was Miltiades Magkanaras, father of Giannis, who settled in Corinth where Giannis was born.

Greek writer Renos Apostolides, who had met with members of the extended Magkanaras family, said that the name Magkanarios was from Byzantium and most of the members of this family were well-paid engineers who belonged to the middle bourgeoisie.

We do not know anything about education or other related pre-occupations of Giannis Magkanaras but it is confirmed that he was well aware of the French anarchist movement and other revolutionary ideas of his time.

He settled in Patras in 1893, coming from Corinth and worked as a journalist, mainly in the daily newspaper "Peloponnese".

In 1895 he bought from Alexander Eumorfopoulos the newspaper "Epi Ta Proso” (“Forward”), which afterwards became the main organ of spreading the anarchist ideas in Patras and the surrounding area during the second half of 1890. It is also confirmed that before buying "Epi Ta Proso” Magkanaras used writing poems and articles in the socialist newspapers of the time such as “Sosialistis” ("Socialist") of Stavros Kallergis and “Metarrythmistis” (“Reformer”).

Given that only a few issues of the newspaper "Peloponnese" have been survived today we do not know if Magkanaras continued writing for "Peloponnese" simultaneously with his activities with "Epi Ta Proso” and anarchist agitation. Perhaps he continued writing just for living.

In his articles dealt with various social issues of the era, such as working class organizing, women's emancipation, and others. And, of course, he wrote articles about the anarchist ideas.

One of the acquaintances of Giannis Magkanaras was the journalist of "Peloponnese" G. Papalexandropoulos, who was close to the anarchist communist group “Epi Ta Proso”. G. Papalexandropoulos, probably by the help of Giannis Magkanaras published during July-September 1897 (period during which Magkanaras was not a prisoner) the satirical newspaper “Satanas” ("Satan") and later in 1899 (obviously, again with Magkanaras’ help) another satirical newspaper “Mimosa”. Nikos Politis in his "Chronicle of Patras Press 1840-1940” (Patras 1984), writes that "Satanas" had been published regularly every week during July-September 1897 (or maybe and after that time). At least two issues were seized by the authorities. "Mimosa” which appeared in 1899, was the continuation of "Satanas”. This newspaper was against women and men who upheld the rules of conduct, or belonged to the so-called aristocracy. G. Papalexandropoulos apparently had also declared a war against the police and, especially, the local police chief Stymfaliadis.

After the final dissolution of “Epi ta Proso” (or maybe a little before the end of the group-newspaper) it appeared that Giannis Magkanaras published a magazine called “Anarchiki Vivliothiki” (“Anarchist Library”) but we have not been able to find any issue of this publication. He finally moved to Athens in May 1899. We do not know his exact activities in the capital of Greece but it is confirmed his participation in Anarchikos Ergatikos Syndesmos Athinon (Anarchist Workers’ Association of Athens). Marxist historian G. Kordatos reports that Magkanaras published a newspaper (of which he does not mention the title), where he was publishing lectures of members of Diligiannis (by then a famous politician) party in the parliament, but this information has not confirmed by anyone else. Apparently Kordatos had been confused by the fact that a first cousin of Giannis Magkanaras (by the same name but whose father was Theodore Magkanaras), was a candidate with Diligiannis party in Kalamata region(in southern Peloponnese), in the early 20th century. In addition, in Issue 13 (10 June 1904) of the newspaper "Corte", we read that sometime in late 1902, Giannis M. Magkanaras toured Kyparissia (again in southern Peloponnese) to promote a new political newspaper with the title “O Filos Tou Laou” ("People’s Friend").

Kordatos is writing also other things which are not applied, such as that Magkanaras was illiterate and despised a few years later by his former comrades. The fact is that Kordatos was a really anti-anarchist writer.

Rather, the dissolution of Anarchist Workers Association of Athens and other anarchist and libertarian groups, made Magkanaras (and other anarchists) upset and, obviously disappointed, so that he retired to his hometown Corinth.

Between late 1903 and early 1904, Giannis Magkanaras under the pseudonym of Giannis Magkas – rather continuing to be disappointed by the dissolution of anarchist groups - just for living published in Athens the illustrated magazine "Corte" where he was publishing satirical articles and readings of emotional texture, which castigated the then society through the funny and the satire. Kordatos called that magazine a paper of "blackmail", but from issues of this magazine which we had seen nothing demonstrates this.

With the publication of "Corte", there was an intense war between Magkanaras and another journalist with the nickname "Rooster", publisher of another satirical magazine “Flirt”. He had invited Magkanaras from Corinth to take over the editing of this magazine, something that happened when "Flirt" was firstly released in 30 October 1903. At the beginning of publication and after a complaint about a magazine article, "Rooster" was sentenced to serve 35 days imprisonment. Then Magkanaras continued as editor and administrator of the magazine until the issue 19, (4 March 1904), when he left. In fact in issue 20, published in 11 March 1904, there was a notice of his withdrawal. Immediately after his departure, Magkanaras started publishing "Corte" along with other authors who, according to him, left with him from "Flirt". It seems that "Rooster" did not forgive this withdrawal and the competition and began publishing libels against Magkanaras in the pages of “Flirt” where he wrote that Magkanaras during his time in Patras was a blackmailer and a murderer...

After all, the whole thing came at the expense of Magkanaras because he was arrested, detained and sentenced to three months imprisonment for inciting anti-morality, because, amongst the others, probably some of the contents of "Corte" considered "provocative" by the authorities. This incident revolutionised not only almost all of the readers of “Corte” but also old comrades and friends of Magkanaras from Patras and elsewhere. Only in Patras and the surrounding areas almost 1000 people signed a petition demanding his release, which proves that Magkanaras since the publication of “Epi Ta Proso” had gained a strong foothold in the local society and now even he was not circulating a purely anarchist magazine, he was able to mobilize people for any case.

We must note that three anarchists and formers comrades of Magkanaras, C. Couloumbis a member of the Anarchist Workers‘ Association, Kostas Stavropoulos a former teacher and one of the most familiar anarchists of Patras in 1890's, and T. Kostopoulos another local anarchist, sent an angry letter to “Rooster” which been published in “Corte”. The same time, several people were also expressed solidarity and sympathy to Giannis Magkanaras by sending letters in "Corte". In issue 23 of "Corte" (19 August 1904) another solidarity letter from his old comrades and friends from Patras published.

He finally released from prison in November 1904 and in December resumed the publication of “Corte”.

Allegedly Giannis Magkanaras was publishing the magazine from Corinth where he was resettled probably very sick, according with issue 161 of magazine (7 August 1906), and he was continuing writings poems, short stories, reviews, translations and more. Among his translations (mentioned in the same issue) was the work of Theocritus “Romance”.

Since then we have not any sign from Giannis Magkanaras. We do not know when, where and how old he died. We had not also any photo of him.