Tanrez, Ernest 'Ernestan', 1898-1954

Ernest Tanrez

A short biography of Ernest Tanrez, a Belgian anarchist who was imprisoned by the Gestapo during World War II.

Ernest Tanrez
Aka Ernestan, born 1898 - Belgium, died 1954 - Belgium

Ernestan was the pen name of Ernest Tanrez who came from a middle class family, with a French speaking father and a Flemish mother. Deeply affected by the slaughter of the First World War, from 1921 he began writing for the Belgian libertarian press, for Bulletin libertaire and l’Emancipateur and then for the international anarchist press (le Libertaire, Combat Syndicaliste, CNT) He also published several pamphlets like Socialism against Authority and the Libertarian Socialist Manifesto.

He was a gifted speaker as well as writer. He supported framed American anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti, fought for the right to enlarge the scope of asylum rights, and was active in the Comite Hem Day/ Leo Campion in 1933, which won the release of these two anarchist activists. To support the Spanish Revolution of 1936-9, he started a paper Rebellion with Campion. In 1940, taking refuge in France from the Nazi invasion, he was denounced to the Vichy government and spent 3 months in a concentration camp of Vernet. Freed from there, he returned to Belgium. There, he was arrested by the Gestapo as a supporter of the Communist Party (a joke, but a very unpleasant one) and interned in the prison camp of Breendonck near Malines. The starvation rations and forced labour there had a terrible effect on his health and he emerged physically diminished.

After the war he continued with his conferences where he explained his libertarian ideas and his collaboration with the anarchist press, writing for Volonta, the Italian paper and for Pensee et Action (Thought and Action) a review published in Brussels. His last pamphlet was the Value of Liberty, and the one before that was You Are An Anarchist.

In this pamphlet, Ernestan uses the technique developed by the Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta in which a conversation takes place between two people. Here, an anarchist, Francois meets an acquaintance, Pierre, who is vaguely socialist and out on strike. Francois talks about the great socialist ideas - anarchism is not disorganisation it is organisation and free association: Leninism is the dictatorship of a minority, there can be no socialism without liberty. Little by little, Pierre is convinced and ends up feeling more anarchist and revolutionary than Francois!

He died in 1954.

By Nick Heath, edited by libcom

Posted By

Jan 14 2006 15:54


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May 24 2009 07:46

You Are an Anarchist is now out as a Kate Sharpley pamphlet You Anarchist, You with the above piece as an introduction and great illustrations from Richard Warren
see here