04. The Anarchist and Freedom... and Dan Chatterton

Submitted by Steven. on October 7, 2009

As we have seen, the first English-language Anarchist paper to circulate in England was the American paper Liberty, published by Benjamin Tucker ( see p. 19 ). It is possible that the paper was introduced to the English socialists in the early days by Marie Le Compte, the American delegate to the 1881 Congress in London, who evidently spoke in a number of clubs during her stay in England. [1] She was a regular correspondent from France for Tucker's paper in 1883, great interest being aroused by the trial and imprisonment of a number of Anarchists ( including Louise Michel, Pouget and Kropotkin ) at Lyons. A number of prominent English public men and intellectuals signed a petition for Kropotkin to be released from prison on health grounds and because of his scientific work - a petition, it must be said, that Kropotkin did not solicit. But it seems evident that a wider interest in Kropotkin's political ideas was encouraged in England by the trial. Liberty, by giving accounts of the trial and reports on the prisoners, and printing translations of Anarchist-Communist material played its part in introducing Anarchist ideas to England.

In December 1883 two distributors of the paper in England were given. One was George Standring, a regular lecturer to working-men's clubs. The other was 'The Science Library', Tunbridge Wells. This was run by the local secretary of the National Secular Society, Henry Seymour. He had achieved a minor notoriety by posting a 'blasphemous' bill in Tunbridge Wells and being summonsed for it at the request of local Christians. On Bradlaugh's advice he had pleaded guilty in July 1883 and was fined. The accusation of cowardice raised against him for following this advice seems to have rankled, but the fact of his prosecution had given him a certain status. [2] His interest in Anarchism seems to have originated with his secularism - illustrated by his publication in 1883 of Bakunin's essay 'God and the State' . He seems to have become converted to Anarchism by 1884 because there was something of an encounter between Seymour and Bradlaugh in the columns of the Secular Society's paper in September, Seymour defending Anarchism and Bradlaugh attacking : '( ... ) we consider all views unfortunate which result in the cowardly and murderous use of explosives as means of agitation.' [3] Bradlaugh never seems to have asked himself whether the same argument could not have been used to denounce his own political views, which, after all, had resulted in the cowardly and, murderous use of almost every weapon to ensue Coercion in Ireland. It is interesting though that Anarchism and bombs were seen as synonymous at this early date.

By January 1885 Liberty was announcing the forthcoming publication of an Anarchist paper by Seymour. It appeared in March 1885, came out monthly and was called the Anarchist. It was a lively paper and, like Tucker's, though initially supporting a Prudhonian position of small proprietorship and staunch independence of artisans within voluntary cooperative schemes it was prepared to give space to Anarchist-Communist writings. Seymour also shared Tucker's admiration for the Fenian bombings. The first issue contained greetings from Elisée Reclus and the French-speaking International Anarchist circle of London. It reprinted the Lyons Anarchist manifesto. It also had a characteristic piece of verbal acrobatics from George Bernard Shaw and acknowledged the receipt of one pound from Pease, the later historian of the Fabian Society. All in all it represented quite a rich mixture! Further issues of the paper also make it plain that Seymour was in touch with the exiled Anarchist groups in London, and one of the most interesting things about the paper was the immediacy with which foreign events ( in France particularly ) were portrayed. Letters from Marie Le Compte, from Kropotkin in Clairvaux prison, from Brocher, who organised the Congress of 1881, gave events at first hand, allowing some insight into the emotions and personalities involved. The reader was thus able not only to grasp the facts about happenings abroad but to understand the atmosphere within which they took place. But if Seymour was in contact with the Anarchist movement abroad or exile circles in London his contact with the English socialists was somewhat limited - limited, it would seem, initially to the Fabian Society. This isolation from those groups of English socialists who were engaged in the problems of relating experience and theory, utopian aspiration and day-to-day activity, gives Seymour's theoretical contributions a certain dogmatic unrealism. When Seymour turned his hand to propaganda, however, he could turn out quite snappy stuff, like his 'Anarchist Manifesto' on the Elections in the October 1885 issue. The cross-heads on the manifesto read 'Why do you vote ? The people in Subjection; Labour Representation is an illusion; No need for any Government at all. Do Not Vote,' and finally in huge capitals 'THE SOCIAL REVOLUTION !'

A small group began to form around the paper. The third issue of the Anarchist in May 1885 announced that 'A circle of English Anarchists is about to be formed'. By July the 'English Anarchists' were meeting more or less monthly. The numbers involved were not indicated and neither were the individuals; but it is possible to make some educated guesses. Firstly, since Seymour was involved in the Fabian Society it is probable that this provided some recruits. George Bernard Shaw was later to remark that there had been 'a sort of influenza of Anarchism in the Society at that time'. [4] E. Pease could have been one victim of the epidemic : he is described as making 'public confession of his belief in Anarchist Ethics as distinct from Coarse Materialism so ably set forth - by H. M. Hyndman' at a Fabian Society meeting. [5] In December 'C.M.W.', who can be no one else but Charlotte Wilson, a member of the executive of the Society, was acknowledged as a collector of the princely sum of nine shillings for the Manifesto Fund, and was probably also a member of the 'English Anarchists'. She had already contributed two pieces on Anarchism to Justice in November 1884, signing herself 'An English Anarchist'. A review of the 'Labour Remuneration Conference' was given by someone signing similarly in the first issue of the Anarchist; this too could have been Charlotte Wilson. More will be said about her later as she was deeply involved with the founding of Freedom . Apart from Fabian Society intellectuals, however, the paper attracted a most remarkable figure in the shape of James Harrigan. Material on him shows him to have been an exceptional figure, a loner who according to his own account had espoused Anarchism long before the 1880s. A shoemaker by trade, as an apprentice he had worked with one of the Cato Street conspirators 'who may have inspired[him] with revolutionary ideas'. [6] Harrigan had been a member of the English Section of the First International and had once been chairman of its Annual Convention. He was to write in October 1885 : '( ... ) old stagers know well enough that I have consistency and persistently advocated and defended the principles of Anarchy from the time I left the old "International", exactly at the same time that Michael Bakounine left it and for the same reason ( ... )'. [7] 'He became an open air speaker at an early age in the parks and open spaces and probably deserves the distinction of being the first open air propagandist of avowed Anarchism in England.' In this early period he would attend trades union meetings and advocate the stay-in strike. He is also credited with converting Ben Tillett, later a leader of the Dockers' Union, to socialism while working with other cobblers at seasonal work opening tea chests at the Docks. 'He said there was nothing he regretted more for he hated the political charlatans who used the workers' movement to make a career for themselves. Harrigan with abilities far beyond those smooth-tongued adventurers, remained a worker, a rebel in society.'

In October 1885 he was pushing the Anarchist at meetings and had run into accusations from Charles Mowbray that he was a police spy. How this came about is almost impossible to discover - Harrigan was of the opinion that it was jealousy of someone pushing papers other than the Commonweal at Socialist League meetings. ( There had, incidentally, been complaints from Hyndman that S.D.F. paper-sellers were being harassed at League meetings. ) The incident is worth mentioning because it shows that an awareness of the activity of police spies already existed in socialist bodies. It also shows that Mowbray, who was later to declare himself an Anarchist, at this stage remained like most of the Socialist League, an anti-parliamentary revolutionary socialist. His accusation of Harrigan, however, might have had something to do with the latter's style of agitation. At a large meeting to which he lectured on Anarchism in South London in November 1885, Harrigan, in an aside while telling about a no-rent campaign, advised his audience '( ... ) by way of a pastime they should amuse themselves by poisoning off the landlords'. [8] This could easily be taken as provocateur's talk.

These minor difficulties did not affect the paper. By the end of 1885 Seymour was writing : 'On the whole, the success of the paper from a pecuniary point of view has exceeded my sanguine expectations but I am bound to say that, since enlarging its size, the increased circulation is not so large as reasons led me to anticipate.' As a result he decided to bring out the paper twice as often but half the size. He printed a mocking commentary on a piece reprinted from the Daily Telegraph which said that Anarchists were far more dangerous than socialists, that they were madmen and so on, and which went on : 'Fortunately there are certainly not more than 300 Anarchists in London and their organ the Anarchist which appears rather irregularly sells not more than 500 copies and is not in a flourishing condition.' [9] But in substance apart from saying that the Telegraph had got its facts wrong Seymour gave no details. It is probable that an informed guess would give a circulation of approximately 1,000 at this point. It was a recognized left-wing journal read by branches of the Socialist League and with some support in the Fabian Society and took its place as a regular if modest feature of socialist political life. It was undoubtedly a one-man effort and stood or fell with Seymour and his reputation. It had the words 'Edited by Henry Seymour' under the title on the front page in letters small enough to come within the bounds of decency but large enough to read at some distance. It was unfortunate for him that two events took place which first shook his position and then almost completely destroyed his influence in the small new movement. The first was the arrival of Kropotkin in England and the eventual formation of Freedom. The second was his support for Theodore Reuss, a German police spy.

Kropotkin was released, together with the other Anarchists held since the Lyons trial, in mid-January 1886. He arrived in England in March. His reason for leaving France was the high probability of re-arrest and the need for a period of recuperation after his imprisonment where he had suffered from both scurvy and malaria. If he left voluntarily there would be less possibility of the authorities preventing his return. Unless he considered America as a possible home England at this time was his 'last refuge from arbitrary authority'. [10] But Kropotkin was also satisfied that in addition to being close enough to France to continue work on the Revolté there was positive work to be done in England. Seymour had been in correspondence with Kropotkin in Clairvaux prison and Charlotte Wilson had been in touch with Kropotkin's wife during his imprisonment. On his release Kropotkin wrote to a friend, 'I am called to London to found an anarchist ( English ) paper; The means are existant and I will get to work busily.' [11] The phrase 'to found' is interesting : it implied rather more than cooperating with Seymour on his paper. And indeed the twee picture that one is all too often given of Kropotkin as 'The Gentle Anarchist Prince' can only obscure events here - it is a picture belonging to the politenesses of drawing-rooms and respectable tea-parties. Kropotkin had been a soldier and had gone armed on workers' demonstrations, he had worked in underground political activity and had broken from jail. He was also something of an autocrat. Stepniak, the Russian terrorist, with whom he had both lived and worked, gives a convincing picture. While admitting all of Kropotkin's theoretical brilliance and personal talents Stepniak says : 'He is too exclusive and rigid in his theoretical convictions. He admits no departure from the ultra Anarchical programme and had always considered it impossible therefore to contribute to any of the revolutionary papers in the Russian language abroad and in St Petersburg. He has always found in them some point of divergence and in fact has never written a line in any of them.' [12] The implication is, then, that any paper which Kropotkin became involved in would have to be Anarchist-Communist.

Seymour's attitude before ( if only just before ) Kropotkin's release from prison is given in a commentary on his printing of an Anarchist-Communist article by Henry Glasse to which Seymour was to reply on Proudhonist lines. He wrote : 'There is nothing to quarrel about in the ideas of Anarchists - mutualistic or communistic. Both ( ... ) are essentially anarchistic since enforced authority is absent... Why then do not Communist and Mutualist sink outside speculative difference of opinion and join hands to overturn the state ?' [13] This seems to have been a sincerely held view - as we have seen Anarchist-Communists had often featured in the columns of the Anarchist. It was something of a surprise, though, when after Kropotkin had arrived in England the words 'Edited by Henry Seymour' were removed from the paper and the following announcement was printed : 'In accepting the economic principles of Communism as satisfactorarily established I unhesitatingly and fearlessly adopt them...' To many this seemed an over-sudden conversion. The reasons for it were clearly to be found later in this announcement : 'I have succeeded in securing the editorial assistance of several scholarly and revolutionary writers, so that the paper will henceforth be conducted on lines of conjoint editorship.' [14] From now on articles were to be anonymous and to stand on their own merits without personal egoism. These changes can be seen quite simply as the down-payment for Kropotkin's cooperation. Only two issues of the paper under 'conjoint editorship' appeared, the second being something of a disaster - dull as ditchwater for the most part, with a peculiar stifled air to it.

The paper reappeared as Seymour's personal organ in June 1886 and, as if to celebrate the occasion, he allowed himself a war-whoop over the bomb thrown at the police in the Chicago Haymarket :

Our Chicago comrades have proclaimed a reign of terror. They have led the van in the struggle for the people's emancipation. Justice personified in bombs had stepped down and bid the Capitalist pause in his murderous career. A combination of Sulphuric and Nitric Acids and Glycerine has proved itself ten times more formidable than even a quarter of a million 'Knights of Labour' ( ... ) Men are moving ahead. We have practically passed through those crude beginnings of the Social Revolution of the people sacking the bakeshops to appease their HUNGER and are about to enter that final phase where the people will attack the armouries and arsenals to appease their ANGER.

In this and the following issue ( July ) he also gave the reasons from his point of view why the short-lived 'conjoint editorship' failed. Firstly, he says that the whole conception was impractical leading to a 'dull and dead level of mediocrity'. He says that a particular article 'The Family as a Type of Society' which, one is forced to admit, was turgid in the extreme was ordered 'by one individual member' of the editorial committee without his knowledge. It was then placed in the paper by the committee, overriding his objections. This 'one individual member' of the committee would appear to be Charlotte Wilson from other remarks he makes. He implies that she was both undemocratic and impractical and there seems to have been quite some friction between them. Charlotte Wilson seems, for her part, to have seen Seymour and his paper as something of an inconvenience. According to her, Freedom would have been started earlier if there had been no Anarchist. [15] She was keeping aloof from Seymour's circle by this time and had her own 'Proudhon Society' which met in Hampstead. Seymour's group became the Central London Anarchist Group. [16] It may well have been difficult to work with Seymour but one can understand his irritation when rumours were circulated in the London clubs saying that the Anarchist was finished now that Kropotkin and Charlotte Wilson had left. However, he misjudged the situation when he wrote that Kropotkin 'resigned only because he saw that no useful work could be done by the committee ( ... )'. La Revolté, a paper with which Kropotkin retained a close connection, had written 'we learn with regret that the attempt made by London friends to publish the Anarchist with a new programme has been abandoned. We hope that a new Anarchist journal will be started'. [17] There is little doubt that Kropotkin was the source of both the information and the intention to publish a new paper. However, due to the illness of his wife, Kropotkin was not able to start work on the new paper for some time and the first issue of Freedom did not appear until October 1886. [18]

In the meantime Seymour had the field to himself. He did not, however, use his opportunity well. He made the mistake of becoming involved in a dispute raging among the German exile Anarchists in London - the Bruderkreig or Brothers' War. His mistake was the more serious because in the process he both became associated with a proven police spy and caused a deep split between himself and the Socialist League. The circumstances of the Bruderkreig are more fully explained elsewhere. [19] Putting it simply, however, it was a dispute involving both personalities and politics and boiled down to a conflict between Victor Dave - a trusted member of the Socialist League - and Peukert. The conflict was longstanding, having its origins in Most's rather high-handed treatment of Peukert, the opposition of Peukert to the American-based Freiheit ( distributed in Europe by Dave ) and the starting of a rival journal Der Rebell. This split the limited financial resources of the German Anarchist movement and caused friction. Peukert was an Anarchist-Communist and opposed Most's more Bakuninist collectivism. Such opposition, both literary and political, incensed Most and Dave who both seem to have considered Peukert a young upstart. There were further disagreements over the smuggling of Anarchist literature into Germany with Peukert accusing Dave of trying to take control of the whole Anarchist movement. Quantities of ink were spilt in mutual backstabbings in the German Anarchist press. Dave and his followers finally succeeded in expelling Peukert and his followers from their Whitfield Street club. Those expelled founded the Gruppe Autonomie with a club house at 32 Charlotte Street, in February 1886. The group grew rapidly and eventually moved its premises to 6 Windmill Street, Tottenham Court Road. The whole affair was conducted with astonishing bitterness on both sides with every accusation from misappropriation of funds to police spy activity being thrown back and forth. Frankly, it was rather silly of Seymour to get mixed up in the business at all.

On 17 May a council meeting of the Socialist League expelled Charles Theodore Reuss as a police spy in the pay of the German police. Reuss had been quite deeply involved in the Socialist League as librarian and labour secretary in 1885. He was connected with Peukert and would thus have come under Victor Dave's suspicion but in fact the information upon which the accusation was made came from the Belgian Social Democrats and was brought independently to the council by H. Charles. [20] Events were to prove the accusations correct. In the mean time Peukert and his followers rallied to defend Reuss. A more than somewhat biased commission cleared Reuss of the charges against him and denounced Dave as a police spy. Seymour reprinted its findings in September 1886. Almost all of the front page of the October issue of the Anarchist was devoted to an attack on the Socialist League for its expulsion of Reuss. This came in response to a special supplement to the Commonweal of 18 September marked 'Printed for Foreign Transmission Only' which emanated from Dave's club at Whitfield Street and which denounced both the biased commission of inquiry and the Anarchist for reprinting it. Seymour began to back-pedal a little on his denunciations as time passed, but his support for Reuss continued. It was not clever of him, for it more or less completely alienated the Socialist League, which at that time was the only grouping of English socialists which he could have allied with or even infiltrated. His misjudgement was demonstrated clearly when in February 1887, Reuss, using Peukert as an unwitting accomplice, was able to trace Johann Neve in Belgium and have him handed over to the German police. Neve was one of the most wanted men in Germany. A truly heroic figure, modest and careful, he had chosen a life of exile on the Belgian/German border organizing the secret distribution of Anarchist literature, arms and explosives in Germany. His arrest was a major triumph for the German political police. Johann Neve died - or was murdered - in prison. Seymour's paper moved into a magazine format in March 1887 and steadily dwindled into insignificance.

The first number of Freedom in October 1886 was very different from Seymour's Anarchist. It was sober, respectable and theoretically coherent. All contributors were anonymous - except that everyone knew Kropotkin wrote for it. The keynote of its long life was given in its first article. After a review of the contemporary situation, man's constant struggle for freedom and the uselessness of participation in the structure of repression for achieving freedom, the piece finishes : 'Such, in rough outline, is the general aspect of the Anarchist Socialism our paper is intended to set forth and by the touchstone of this belief we purpose to try the current ideas and modes of action of existing Society.' Here it is made clear that the paper is not considered so much an agitational newspaper but as a general propagandist paper reviewing events as they take place outside. Unlike Commonweal or the Anarchist it was not designed as a newspaper of combatants. Neither did it consider itself at any time the newspaper for the Anarchist movement but as the newspaper of the Freedom Group. The Group was not open, its 'membership was always limited and confidential' [21] The Group included in addition to Kropotkin, Dr Burns Gibson, Mrs Dryhurst, Frank Hyde and his wife, and Charlotte Wilson who was effectively the editor of Freedom.

Charlotte Wilson remained editor of Freedom until 1895 and it was largely due to her efforts that the paper appeared consistently over that time. She had first become interested in Anarchism during the trial of Kropotkin and other Anarchists in Lyons in 1883,and by 1884 had become an Anarchist. Born Charlotte Mary Martin in 1854, the daughter of a surgeon, she received 'the best education then available to girls. During 1873-4 she attended the institution at Cambridge which a few years later became Newnham College. After leaving university, she married Arthur Wilson, a stockbroker, and settled in Hampstead, a fashionable suburb of London.' [22] By 1886 they were living a somewhat expensively appointed simple life at Wildwood Farm ( later renamed 'Wyldes' ), on the edge of Hampstead Heath. She had joined the Fabian Society in 1884 and in December was elected to its executive. In addition to her two contributions to Justice on Anarchism she also wrote the section on Anarchism in the fourth Fabian tract 'What Socialism Is' which was published in June 1886. At this time the Fabian Society had not firmly espoused Social Democratic electioneering and was basically a discussion group for socialist intellectuals with no fixed programme or ideology. It was its openness at this time which made the publication of Anarchist material possible. But this openness was too open for some of the members and steps were taken to find out the extent of Mrs Wilson's influence and to establish a policy of parliamentary activity. At a meeting in London in September 1886 the parliamentarians proposed that the Fabian Society should organize itself into a political party. William Morris proposed and Charlotte Wilson seconded an amendment which stressed the need for the education of the people as to their position and to steadily keep the principles of Socialism before them '( ... ) and whereas no Parliamentary party can exist without compromise and concession which would hinder that education and obscure those principles : it would be a false step for Socialists to attempt to take part in the Parliamentary contest'. This amendment was overwhelmingly defeated. Charlotte Wilson resigned from the executive of the Society in April 1887.

The Freedom Group, however, betrayed distinctly Fabian tendencies - not so much in any penchant for electioneering as in its exclusiveness and its commitment to 'permeation' of other bodies with Anarchist ideas as opposed to using the paper as the nucleus for the organization of other autonomous groups. It can be guessed that this was Charlotte Wilson's natural preference. Kropotkin who had taken part in more direct agitational and organizational work in the past now also seemed to prefer a more discreet role. This was partly due to his desire not to upset the authorities with regard to his residence in England, to failing health and to his difficulties with English. French was the court language in Russia and with it he had no trouble. English was another matter : 'His pronunciation was peculiar until one grew used to it. "Own" rhymed with "town", "law" was "low", and "the sluffter fields of Europe" became a kindly joke amongst us'. [23] Manuscripts in the Institute of Social History in Amsterdam show his written English to have been defective. In order to write English propaganda he needed sub-editors and the Freedom Group represents from this point of view a 'front organization' for Kropotkin. Whatever the difficulties, though, he had great personal prestige at this time in the English socialist movement and it was his presence that rubbed some of this prestige off on to the other Freedom Group members. His discretion by no means forced him completely into the background, however. In the 1880s he is to be found lecturing to a large number of meetings, bad English or not. He also formed friendships with the Hyndmans and William Morris. The S.D.F. regularly reprinted his Appeal to the Young over the years. William Morris and he met at a celebration of the Commune shortly after his arrival in England. Soon they were to have long discussions and were in close contact, Kropotkin speaking occasionally at the Hammersmith branch of the Socialist League and attending some of the Sunday suppers at Morris's home. 'It is doubtful that Morris made any systematic study of Kropotkin's anarchist writings, but he did have ample access to Kropotkin's ideas, and arguments during the last years of his participation in League affairs.' [24] It was probably through this early contact with Morris that the Commonweal press facilities were used to print Freedom. As time went by the Freedom Group also used branches of the Socialist League to distribute Freedom - Freedom certainly reached Scotland and Norwich by being ordered through the Socialist League office. [25] It is doubtful whether this 'permeation' would have been possible without the prestige of Kropotkin.

Engels wrote in April 1886 : '( ... ) the Anarchists are making rapid progress in the Socialist League. Morris and Bax - one as an emotional socialist and the other as a chaser after philosophical paradoxes - are wholly under their control for the present.' [26] Yet a rather different view is given by Nettlau of this period. He points out that Kropotkin had the choice of working with the Socialist League and preferred to work with first Seymour and then the Freedom Group. Indeed Kropotkin wrote to Morris in reply to a request for articles for Commonweal saying he had too much work on hand with La Revolté and the Anarchist together with the scientific articles by which he earned his bread. Reasonable though this refusal might sound it nevertheless represented a political choice, a choice Nettlau described as

regrettable, for in 1886 and 1887 the League contained the very best Socialist elements of the time, men who had deliberately rejected Parliamentarianism and reformism and who worked for the splendid free Communism of William Morris or for broadminded revolutionary Anarchism. If Kropotkin's experience and ardour had helped this movement we might say today Kropotkin and William Morris as we say Elisee Reclus and Kropotkin. Unfortunately we cannot say so. There was a latent lack of sympathy between the Anarchists of the League and those of the Freedom Group in those early years; the latter were believed by the former to display some sense of superiority, being in possession of definitely elaborated Anarchist-Communist theories ( ... ) if both efforts had been coordinated a much stronger movement would have been created. [27]

Thus it is made clear that the Freedom Group in no way wished to become organically linked with the Socialist League but were prepared to use the branch organization of the League to distribute their paper. When members of the Socialist League were recruited - as, say, John Turner and Alfred Marsh were in 1887 - their activities in each body were kept separate. Thus it was not from the group round Freedom that the 'Anarchists' in the League received consistent encouragement and support or received their political education - except as general readers of the paper or through attendance at Anarchist meetings.

It is more than likely that Nettlau is naive in ascribing the 'latent lack of sympathy' between the Freedom Group and the Anarchists in the League to the alleged 'sense of superiority, being in possession of definitely elaborated Anarchist Communist theories' of the Freedom Group. This amounts to an accusation of inverted snobbery and philistinism. With the exception of Kropotkin, the militant anti-parliamentarians in the League seemed to have looked on the Freedom Group with some suspicion not as clever theorists but as 'middle class faddists' to use Nicoll's phrase. He wrote '( ... ) neither Kitz, Mowbray or I were particularly friendly ( to the Freedom Group ). We looked upon them as a collection of middle class faddists, who took up with the movement as an amusement, and regretted that Kropotkin and other "serious" people ever had anything to do with them. But they called themselves "Anarchistsl" and that had great influence with many of our international comrades.' [28] This was a suspicion which extended to many of the middle-class members of the League. William Morris was acceptable because he was completely free of pretension, and seemed prepared to take the risks and do the work. More to the point, perhaps, he seemed to understand what it meant to live the worker's life. 'The whole of his poetry and prose is permeated with sympathy and love of the poor,' wrote Frank Kitz, 'the victims of landlord and capitalistic greed. This note of sympathy distinguishes him from many who surrounded him and who babbled of art and culture, but were mere tuft-hunters devoid of any desire to raise the status of the working class ( ... ) Morris's preference for the society of his humbler confreres gave great offence to some superior persons.' [29] Kitz is here referring to Fabians of the George Bernard Shaw type. But one can see the reasons for suspicion of the sincerity of Anarchists like Charlotte Wilson on the part of working-class militants in the face of her middle-class life-style. A contemporary, Margaret Cox, later Lady Oliver, wrote of a time around 1886 : 'She seemed to me a peaceful sort of anarchist and so did all the others who came to meetings, some of them Russian. Someone read a paper and this was followed by discussion, often very vigorous and exciting, lasting until Mrs Wilson interrupted with sandwiches and drinks, after which we all turned out on the Heath.' [30] It all seemed a little too genteel.

It really seems then that the Anarchism which was developing in the League received only passing encouragement from the Freedom Group. In fact, as Anarchism grew within the League the Freedom Group finally disengaged from it. The Anarchists in the League developed their Anarchism in their own way, and in response to their own needs, which will be described more fully later on. Briefly, they were due to the need to develop the ideological counter-attack to the parliamentarians in the League and the need for a wider vision of a new libertarian society under the pressure of events.

As we have seen the working class were becoming increasingly responsive to socialist propaganda of every kind. But the socialist response - like the mass misery and bitterness which nourished it - was decentralized. This was both reflected in the self-activity within the branches of the socialist organizations and the activity of individuals too ambitious, too heterodox or too eccentric for one organization to hold or contain. Under the first head we could put John Burns, under the second Tom Mann, neither of whom of course were Anarchist. But one eccentric could be described as a one-man Anarchist response to the social situation. This was the astonishing Dan Chatterton who published forty-two numbers of the wildly individual Chatterton's Commune - the Atheist Communistic Scorcher from 18 September 1884 until his death in 1895.

Dan Chatterton lived in one of the most miserable slums in London, off Drury Lane. In his time he was well known among London socialists, an old Chartist who had recovered the fire of his youth in the new socialist movement. David Nicoll wrote of him :

Who does not remember ( ... ) a pale haggard old man who used to climb the platform at meetings of the unemployed, or in the closely packed Socialist lecture halls and pour forth wild denunciations of the robbery and injustice that flourishes in our rotten society, mingled with fearful prophecies of the terrible revolution that was coming. He looked as he stood in the glare of the gaslight, with his ghostly face and flashing eyes, clad in an old grey overcoat and black slouched hat, a red woollen scarf knotted around his neck, like some grim spectre evolved from the misery and crime of the London slums and middle class men who had entered the meeting from curiosity shuddered as they murmured to themselves 'Marat !' Yes Marat come to life again, an English Marat [31]

Dan Chatterton made his living, if not a particularly lucrative one, as a bill sticker and as a seller of socialist newspapers - an indication of the mood of the time that someone could actually sell enough of them to exist on the commission.

He was well known not only in Hyde Park, but also at all meetings of the advanced sections of the social movement where he sold Freedom and the Commonweal but especially pushing the sale of his own little production ( ... ) He usually created a sensation and considerable amusement by rapidly announcing his paper as 'An appeal to the half-starved, herring-gutted, poverty-stricken, parish-damned inhabitants of this disunited kingdom ( ... )'

Through the Scorcher ran his 'Autobiography of Old Chat' which is a history of the struggles of his time, the scenes he witnessed and his frequent challenges to Bishops and priests to debate with him. These last were mostly preceded by an 'Open Letter' stating why they should meet him in debate, and he took pains to see that they received the challenge, though I think that he had no success in drawing them into battle ! ( ... )

Richard Whiting in his once famous novel 'No. 5 John Street' makes Chatterton one of his main characters under the name of 'Old 48', and says of his paper : 'The journal if I may be pardoned the digression, has no circulation; yet it supports '48 as he supports it. It is bought at public meetings as a curiosity and usually by persons who have in view an inexpensive donation to the British Museum. Many who purchase it make the transaction an excuse for offering the proprietor an alms. It has every note of singularity. It is printed on paper of the texture commonly used for posters and of the hue of anaemic blood. Its orthography is of the first standard; its syntax aspires to the perfect freedom of the Anarchical ideal. It is set up from a composite fount suggestive of a jobbing printers dustbin, and containing so undue a proportion of Capitals they sometimes have to take service out of their turn at the end of a word. It might appear to have a large staff for no two of its articles are signed by the same person. 'Brutus' writes the leader, 'George Washington' supplies the reports of meetings, 'William Tell' gives reminiscences of the Chartist rising and 'Cromwell' acts as agent for advertisements. To the initiated, however these are but so many incarnations of the same commanding personality. When '48 has written the entire number he sets it up. When he has set it up he carries it to a hand printing press which Guttenberg would have considered crude. When the press happens to be in a good humour, he obtains a copy by the usual method. When it does not he is still at no loss : for he lays the formes on the table and prints each sheet by the pressure of the hand. Earlier difficulties of this sort were met by the co-operation of his wife, now deceased. This devoted woman sat on the formes and obtained the desired results by the impact of a mass of corpulency estimated at fourteen stone. Her death is said to have been accelerated by the sudden demand for an entire edition of a hundred and seventy copies descriptive of a riot in Hyde Park. These earlier issues are valued by collectors for the extreme sharpness of the impression'. [32]

Dan Chatterton was an eccentric, a curiosity; yet he was also something of an institution. There are references to him in many papers and books of the period and Richard Whiting's account discounts his importance as an agitator. As Nicoll remarks, his pamphlet/newspaper 'reached an audience which more pretentious writers never do ( ... ) he never wrote above the heads of the people'. He deserves to be rescued from oblivion.

[1] See, e.g. Liberty, 25 August 1883.

[2] For more detail see A. Calder-Marshall, Lewd, Blasphemous and Obscene, London, 1972, pp. 181--2.

[3] National Reformer, September 1884, quoted Liberty, 3 January 1885.

[4] Fabian Tract 41, London, 1892..

[5] Anarchist, August 1885.

[6] Mat Kavanagh, biographical sketch of James Harrigan, War Commentary, 24 February 1945

[7] Anarchist, 15 October 1885.

[8] Anarchist, 9 December 1885.

[9] Quoted in the Anarchist, March 1886.

[10] See G. Woodcock and I. Avacumovic, The Anarchist Prince, London, 1950, p. 203ff.

[11] See G. Woodcock and I. Avacumovic, The Anarchist Prince, London, 1950, p. 203ff.

[12] From Stepniak's Underground Russia, quoted in the Anarchist, September 1885.

[13] Anarchist, 1 January 1886.

[14] Anarchist, 20 April 1886.

[15] See letter, C. M Wilson to Marsh, Marsh papers, I.I.S.H.

[16] See C. M Wilson to Sparling, 7 March 1886, S.L. archive, and the Anarchist, June 1886.

[17] Quoted in the Anarchist, June 1886.

[18] Letter, C. M Wilson to Sparling, 29 June 1886, S.L. archive.

[19] See A. Carlson, German Anarchism, Metuchen, New Jersey, 1972.

[20] Letter from Reuss to S.L. council, 3 July 1886, S.L. archive, and letter from H. Charles to the Anarchist, October 1886.

[21] Woodcock and Avacumovic, The Anarchist Prince, London, 1950, p. 205.

[22] This is an accurate account taken from Nicolas Walter's biographical sketch in the Match, November 1973.

[23] H. W. Nevinson, Fire of Life, London, 1935, p. 52

[24] J. W. Hulse, Revolutionists in London, Oxford 1970, p. 91.

[25] See letters of F. C. Slaughter ( F. Charles ) and C. M. Wilson, S.L. archive.

[26] Engels to Sorge, 29 April 1886

[27] Quoted in the Commune, November 1926.

[28] Commonweal, D. Nicoll ( ed. ), 3 October 1903.

[29] Frank Kitz, Freedom, May 1912.

[30] Quoted in A. Freemantle, This Little Band of Prophets, New York, 1960, p. 158.

[31] Anarchist, Sheffield, August 1895. From an article written on the death of Dan Chatterton.

[32] Mat Kavanagh, biographical sketch of Dan Chatterton, War Commentary, 24 February 1945.