Information on many of these people is available in the library or encyclopedia. Because a history of militancy and pacifism makes up the legacy of the libertarian left (nor are the two inconsistant with libertarian socialist values), both militant and pacifist individuals are included here.
Not all of the people on this page are anarchists, but are considered to have had some strongly libertarian aspects that won them respect by working people. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, for example, was a syndicalist who later joined a major Marxist organization... and others fought for national (but not nationalist) causes, or were specificaly interested in a morality that was limited to the individual but did not take into account the social nature of human beings. Nevertheless, it is hoped that at least something will be learned about historical figures who fought against tyranny and oppression in it's various forms.
This page is constantly evolving, when new information is added or something needs to be changed, so please check back regularly! Also, if you want to add someone to this page you must send a short biography and a scanned photograph to jah-AT-iww.org.
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Emma Goldman (1869-1940)
Born in Kovno, Russia, Emma Goldman came to the United States in 1886. Her early schooling consisted of a wretchedly oppressive religious education, which was mercifully shortlived. As a girl she witnessed the cruel beating of a peasant that was to leave its mark upon her. In her last few months of school, she came into contact with radical students, which also left an important influence. On arriving in the United States, she settled in Rochester, where exhausting factory work and an unhappy marriage ending in divorce made her decide to resettle in New York.
In New York she came
into contact with anarchist circles and expanded her great
oratorical talents on behalf of the movement. She was a great
champion of women's rights and fought for birth-control methods
with Margaret Sanger. She wrote a great number of articles,
traveled widely on behalf of the anarchist movement, suffered
deportation to Russia with Alexander Berkman, made her way back
to the U.S. She spent a number of years in England, Canada,
and Spain, agitating, sometimes enduring imprisonment and
always giving her life and energies to her ideals. She was
described as a highly dynamic and attractive personality with an
impressive and untainted crusading zeal. Some of her books
are: Anarchism and Other Essays, The Social Significance
of the Modern Drama, My Disillusionment in Russia,
Living My Life, and numerous pamphlets.
(Irving Horowitz, The Anarchists, 1964, Dell Publishing)
Noam Chomsky (1928- )
Noam Avram Chomsky revolutionized the discipline of linguistics. His linguistics work argues that the acquisition of language is part of the natural or innate structure of the human brain. An anarchist and libertarian socialist, Chomsky first came to prominence in the political realm opposing the U.S. invasion of South Vietnam. Outspoken against all abuses of power, Chomsky is a particularly astute critic of U.S. foreign policy. Chomsky's analysis of the media illustrates the compliant nature of the information industries to the ideological objectives and imperatives of governments and corporate elites.
(From "Philosopher All-Stars", trading-cards from the movie "Manufacturing Consent")
Mikhail A. Bakunin (1814-1876)
The eldest son of an aristocratic family, Bakunin spent his youth on the family estate, which educated him to peasant ways through his association with the serfs. He renounced a military career to pursue philosophic studies at the Universities of Moscow and Berlin. In 1843, in Switzerland, he befriended Weitling, whose imprisonment attracted the attention of the Russian authorities, and he was summoned to return. He refused and made his way to Paris where he learned greatly from Marx and Proudhon, although dislike of Marx prevented any closeness between them. 1849, in Dresden, he was arrested and returned to Russia as a fugitive, where he spent eight years in solitary confinement. After four more years in Siberia and a marriage to a young woman strangely distant from his political concerns, he made his way to London where he worked for a time with Herzen. Making his way to Italy, Bakunin organized in 1864 a secret international brotherhood known later as the "International Alliance of Social Democracy." In 1868 he joined the First International, where his doctrines were strongly opposed by the Marxists. After the resulting split in 1872, the Bakuninists continued as a separate organization. He retired from the movement in 1874 after the abortive Bologna insurrection. He died and was buried in Rome.
He had no faith in parliamentary politics and joined Proudhon
in saying that universal suffrage was counterrevolution.
He believed in mass organization, collectivism, and was above
all anti-State. He held that in place of the State, there would
arise a free federation of autonomous associations enjoying the
right of secession and guaranteeing complete personal freedom.
Max Nettlau and E. H. Carr have written authoritative
biographies of him. His writings were widely scattered, and he
never organized any of them into finished books. A useful
compilation is that of G. P. Maximoff, published by The Free
Press, although this is a partial collection. A project is now
underway for the publication of Bakunin's papers in France.
(Irving Horowitz, The Anarchists, 1964, Dell Pub.)
Alexander Berkman (1870-1936)
The youngest of four children, Berkman was born in Vilna, Russia, to a prosperous family. Attracted to radical ideas as a youth in St. Petersburg, he was expelled from school after submitting an atheistic essay to his instructors. Berkman came to the United States in 1887 and settled in New York City. He was a well-known anarchist leader in the United States and life-long friend of Emma Goldman. His dramatic attempt on the life of Henry Clay Frick is considered the event that broke the back of resistance to the striking workers' demands, although it led to his imprisonment, a penalty he served for over twenty years. Among his numerous agitational writings the best-known of his books are Prison Memoirs, and The Bolshevik Myth. He died as the result of a suicide attempt induced by illness and poverty. (Irving Horowitz, The Anarchists, 1964, Dell Pub.)
Lucy Parsons (1853-1942)
Claiming to be the daughter of a Mexican woman and a Creek Indian, and raised on a ranch in Texas (though later research showed that she may have been a slave in Texas), Lucy Parsons married Albert Parsons, a former Confederate soldier turned radical Republican around 1871. The Marriage forced the couple to flee to Chicago in 1873 and became heavily involved in the revolutionary elements of the labor movement. Parsons wrote articles about the homeless and unemplpyed for The Socialist in 1878, and later helped found the International Working People's Association (IWPA). She also became a requent contributor to the IPWA weekly paper The Alarm in 1884. Parsons was also a staunch advocate of the rights of African Americans, stating that that blacks where only victimized because they were poor, and that racism would inevitably disappear with the destruction of capitalism. In 1886, Lucy's husband was implicated in the Haymarket Square bombing of a crowd of police and sentenced to death by hanging. After her husband's death, Parsons continued revolutionary activism, publishing a short-lived publication, Freedom, in 1892. In 1905 she participated in the founding of the Industrial Workers of the World, and also published a paper called The Liberator. After working with the Communist Party for a number of years, she finally joined in 1939, despairing of the advance of both capitalism and fascism on the world stage and unconvinced of the anarchists' ability to effectively confront them. Parsons died in a fire in her Chicago home in 1942.
(Excripted from Free Society, vol. 2, no. 4, 1995, article by Joe Lowndes)
Paul Goodman (1911-1972)
Goodman was a pacifist and anarchist whose beliefs, expressed in prose, poetry, and social criticism, helped shape the doctrine of the New Left of the 1960s. Committed to personal and sexual freedom, he believed that society's institutions inhibited innate human creativity, caring, and nonviolence. His writings covered a wide range of topics- education, city planning, psychotherapy, and literary criticism- reflecting some of the varied careers he had while continuing to work for social change. During the Indochina War, Paul Goodman was a staunch supporter of the Resistance to the Draft movement and its participants, and an articulate proponent of a mass-based nonviolent movement against the War.
(From pamphlet 10 of the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute Essay Series)
Ricardo Flores Magon (1874-1922)
Ricardo Flores Magon, born in 1874, was the most important and influential anarchist in the Mexican revolutionary movement. He became active in the struggle against the dictator Porfirio Diaz at an early age. In 1901 he came to the forefront of the liberal movement, a reformist organisation opposed to the excesses of the regime and, as editor of the opposition newspapers, Regeneracion (founded by his brother) and El Hijo del Ahuizote he was imprisoned several times by the dictatorship. Forced to take refuge in the U.S. in 1904 he continued the struggle against Diaz first from St. Louis and later from Los Angeles, in spite of continual persecution and imprisonment by the U.S. authorities at the instigation of the Mexican dictatorship In 1905 Magon founded the Partido Liberal Mexicano which organised two unsuccessful uprisings against Diaz in 1906 and 1908.
During his early years of exile he became acquainted with Emma Goldman, and it was partly through her he became an anarchist. With the outbreak of the revolution of 1910, the revolution that he and the P.L.M., more than any other group or person, had paved the way for, Magon devoted the rest of his life to the anarchist cause. Through his influence large areas of land were expropriated by the peasants and worked in common by then under the banner of Tierra y Llbertad, the motto of the P.L.M., later to be adopted by Zapata. During the years of struggle Magon opposed and fought successive so called "revolutionary regimes," resisting both the old and new dictatorships with equal vigour. Imprisoned by the U.S. authorities in 1905, 1907, and 1912 he was finally sentenced to 20 years under the espionage laws in 1918. He died in Leavenworth Prison, Kansas, on November 22, 1922. (Land & Liberty, Black Rose Books, 1977)
Peter Alexeyevich Kropotkin (1842-1921)
Born in Moscow to an aristocratic family, Kropotkin was originally destined for a military career. After his education at a select military school where his interests in Russian politics and natural science became firm, he chose service with a Siberian regiment where his experiences in studying reform were to shape his thought. As an official in Siberia, in 1862, he made important geographical and anthropological investigations that yielded valuable results in correcting distortions in map representation. At the social level, he concluded that State action was ineffective while mutual aid was of great importance in the struggle for existence. He made a reputation in science and in his thirtieth year was faced with the decision of proceeding with his career or indulging political impulses. He renounced a scientific career.
Kropotkin joined the
International in 1872 but was soon disappointed with its limitations.
The well-known events that led to a split brought the Interntional
to two opposite paths. The federative and libertarian
wing drew Kropotkin's loyalties. Returning to Russia, after
having fully worked out his theories and in order to propagate
them, he was there arrested. After a dramatic escape in 1876 he
made his way to England and then to Switzerland to rejoin the
Jura Federation, to Paris and back to Switzerland to edit Le
Revolte. The assassination of the Czar led to his expulsion.
He fled to England and resumed his researches on the French
Revolution. Discouraged by the political atmosphere, he and his
wife returned to Paris. With others they were arrested in 1882 and
tried in a spectacular public trial in which the accused conducted
a brilliant defense enabling them to preach anarchism to
Europe. Returning to Russia after the 1905 Revolution, the
remainder of his life was devoted to his writings. Among the best
known of his works are, The Conquest of Bread; Fields,
Factories and Workshops; Mutual Aid; and the unfinished Ethics.
(Irving Horowitz, The Anarchists, 1964, Dell Publishing)
Buenaventura Durruti (1896-1936)
The man who would become a mythic figure of the Spanish anarchism was born in León (Central Spain) and was the son of a socialist railroad worker. He started to work on the railroad when he was 14, and met his first exile in France after the general revolutionary strike in 1917. He didn't come back to Spain untill 1920. In Barcelona, partnered by the Ascaso brothers, García Oliver and other anarchists, found the group named "Los Solidarios" (the solidarian men) close from the FAI (Federacion Anarquista Ibérica, Iberian anarchist federation) ideas. This group attempted a failed bomb atack against Alfonso XIII, the Spanish king by then; particied on the assault against the Guijon sucursal of the Bank of Spain; plus killed the Soldevilla cardinal. Due this reason, he had to escape to Argentina, where he organized anarchist syndicates and was soon pursued by the police forces.
The arrival of the Republic found Durruti either exiled or in prison. In 1932 he was deported to Bata because of his participation on the Anarchist sublevation of Alto Llobregat. He was arrested in 1933 and after the revolution of 1934. The electoral victory of the Frente Popular delivered him from the El Puerto de Santa María (Cádiz) prison.
In July, 1936, he was one of the most important leaders of the CNT masses that aborted the military sublevation in Barcelona. After the sublevation was suffocated, he inmediately leaded the militia columns whose purpose was to re-take Zaragoza, occupied by the nationalists. He spread his ideas about the 'libertary communism' as he marches by Aragonian lands, being the doctrinal base for the 'communes' established lately.
In November, 1936, convinced by García Oliver and Federica Montseny, arrives to Madrid to defend it against the nationalist army, followed by his column, composed by about 3,000 men. He got the task of defending a sector of the Universitary City, though he was unable to avoid the occupation of the Clinic Hospital by the enemy. The nationalists were still in that hospitan in Nov. 19. That afternoon, Durruti was mortally wounded under not cleared yet circumstances. His body was translated to Barcelona, where he was buried in a ceremony where more than 200,000 people assisted. When he died, all his belongings were a couple of clothes, two pistols, a sunglasses and a pair of binoculars.
His fame of uncorruptable, his activistic life and the doubts generated by his death bacame him in a mith that, in some way, resisted the pass of the time and the years.
(taken from Hugh Thomas' "La Guerra Civil Española", tome II, page 165.
Ediciones Urbión, 1979)
Emiliano Zapata (1879-1919)
Emiliano Zapata was from the Morelos region of Mexico. He joined the army after being caught as a highway man. His other option was to be shot. After his release in 1910 he supported the liberals and had to take to the hills when they lost the elections despite having more votes. He was now the leader of an army of peasants and they fought and defeated the tyrant Don Porphyry. Then the liberal Francesco Madero came to power and he spoke of freedom of the press and democratic elections. Zapata published a charter which called for 'Land and Liberty.' Despite the charter not much changed and eventually power struggles broke out again.
In the course of the following years Zapata
in the south and Pancho Villa in the north defeated many power mongers who tried to
grip the reins of power. Yet, despite many opportunities Zapata never took control
himself. "A strong people do not need a government" he once said. Zapata was
influenced by the manifesto drawn up by Ricardo Flores Magon (Mexico's leading
anarchist at the time who went on to die in an American prison). In the manifesto
issued by Zapata and signed by 35 officer in August 1914 he wrote "It (the country)
wishes to destroy with one stroke the relationships of lord and serf, overseer and
slave, which in the matter of agriculture are the only ones ruling from Tamaulipas to
Chiapas and from Sonora to Yucatan". During the revolution the 'Zapatistas' destroyed
public papers, deeds, property transfers, titles and mortgages in the hope that the
land would return to the only true owners, the people. In 1919 Zapata was lured into
an ambush and killed.
("Red & Black Revolution", Oct. 1994, WSM publication)
Louise Michel (1830-1905)
Put on trial in 1871 and exiled to New Caledonia in the South Pacific for life following the supression of the Paris Commune.
Biography: "The Memoirs of Louise Michel, the Red Virgin" - edited and translated by B. Lowry, pub. by U. of Alabama Press, 1981, 220 pages.
(longer bio pending)
Big Bill Haywood (1869-1928)
Known as "Big Bill" Haywood, William Dudley Haywood, b. Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb. 4, 1869, d. May 18, 1928, was a radical militant labor leader who founded the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). At the age of 15 he began working as a miner. He led the Western Federation of Miners from 1900 to 1905 and in 1905 helped found the IWW, which aimed to organize all workers in "one big union." In 1906, Haywood and others were tried for the murder of a former governor of Idaho, but the noted trial lawyer Clarence Darrow won their acquittal. In 1918, the last year of World War I, Haywood and 165 other IWW leaders were convicted of sedition for opposing the U.S. war effort. Haywood jumped bail in 1921 and went to the USSR, where he remained until his death. Bibliography: Dubofsky, M., "Big Bill" Haywood (1987).
(Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc., 1995 Encyclopedia)
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (1890-1964)
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was among the greatest of twentieth century labor speakers and organizers. Born in New Hampshire to an Irish family active in union, socialist and anti-colonial struggles, Flynn joined the Industrial Workers of the World in 1907. A model for Joe Hill's "The Rebel Girl." Flynn stirred countless thousands of workers in IWW free-speech fights, defense campaigns and, above all, in strikes, especially those at Lawrence (1912) and Paterson (1913).
In 1920 Flynn helped to found the American Civil Libertles Union. She was both a comrade and lover of the anarchist Carlo Tresca through much of the decade before 1925. Flynn later joined and helped to lead the Communist Party. During the anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s she served twenty-eight months in prison because of her political beliefs. Her writings include Sabotage (Cleveland, I915), The Rebel Girl (New York, 1973) and My Life as a Political Prisoner (New York, 1963). Flynn's grave, appropriately enough, lies with a stone's throw of the Haymarket Martyrs' Monument in Chicago's Waldheim Cemetery.
(David Roediger, Haymarkey Scrapbook, 1986)
Joe Hill (1879-1915)
Joe Hill, originally Joel Emmanuel Hagglund, b. Sweden, c.1879, d. Nov. 19, 1915, was an American labor organizer for the radical Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and a writer of union songs, such as "Casey Jones" and "The Union Scab." He became a martyr upon his execution by a Utah firing squad after having been convicted of murder. Efforts by President Woodrow Wilson, the government of Sweden, and many prominent Americans to get him a new trial had failed. On the eve of his execution, Hill telegraphed Big Bill Haywood, head of the IWW: "Don't waste any time mourning. Organize." This sentiment became the theme of the well-known song memorializing him, which begins "I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night/Alive as you and me."
Bibliography: Smith, Gibbs M., Labor Martyr: Joe Hill (1972).
(Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc., 1995 Encyclopedia)
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Writer of one of the greatest and most influential classics of American radicalism: " Civil Disobedience", which was written as a lecture for the Concord, Massachusetts, lyceum in January 1848. Over the years it has served a powerful inspiration for Tolstoy, Gandhi and the Industrial Workers of the World, as well as for contemporary activists in the civil rights, anti-war and radical environmentalist movements.
"How does it become a man to behave toward this American government today? I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it.... Under a government which imprsons any injustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison." - Thoreau
Marie Louise Berneri (1918-1949)
Born in Arezzo, Italy, the elder daughter of Camillo and Giovanna Berneri. Her father was a very popular and at times controvertial figure in the Italian anarchist moverment of the 1920s, and he and his family went into exile in 1926 for resisting Moussolini. Maria Luisa Berneri took on the french version of her name and went to study psychology at the Sorbonne in the mid-1930s. She soon became involved in the anarchist movement and produced the short-lived paper Revision, with Luis Mercier Vega. At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War her father went to Spain, fought on the Aragon front, moved to Barcelona, and edited the prestigious Italian-language revolutionary anarchist paper Guerra di Classe. Marie went twice to Barcelona, the second time after her father's assasenation by Communists in May, 1937. She subsiquently moved to England and took an active part in the production of the English anarchist paper Freedom. Projects Berneri worked on included Spain and the World, Revolt! (the successor to Spain and the World) and being part of one of the small groups which started War Commentary.
Her wide contacts in and knowledge of the international movement gave her great authority among anarchists, but her libertarian principles and personal modesty prevented her from misusing it. In April 1945 she was one of the four editors of War Commentary who were tried for incitement to disaffection, but she was acquited on a legal technicality (a wife cannot conspire with her husband), and when her tree comerades were imprisioned she took on the main responsibility for maintainign the paper into the postwar period. After her death in 1949 from a viral infection, several of her works were published posthumously by Freedom Press; Neither East Nor West and Journey Through Utopia, as well as various contributions to Freedom Press periodicals.
(Transcripted from Freedom Press, 1986)
Errico Malatesta (1853-1932)
Born in Italy, Malatesta gave some sixty years to the anarchist movements of Europe. As a medical student at the University of Naples he embraced Republicanism and shortly thereafter became a socialist and member of the First International. It was in this association that he befriended and came under the influence of Bakunin. He pressed constantly for the principles of direct action, Iand seizure, and the general strike. He organized a number of insurrections and workers' revolts. He delivered anti-State speeches at many anarchist gatherings at an international level. He thus laid down the important features of communist anarchism and anarchist tactics that had a great impact on the movement. Malatesta was a wealthy man who put his entire fortune at the disposal of the cause. He won the militant support of broad sections of his countrymen whose demonstrations and strikes on his behalf saved him from death and imprisonment a number of times. In Argentine exile and again in the United States he published radical newspapers. He took part in the Xeres insurrection in Spain, in the General Strike of 1895 in Belgium, spent years of exile and imprisonment in England, France, and SwitzerIand. It was in 1907 that he attended the anarchist congress at Amsterdam and made speeches on anarchist organizadon that were to shape the anarchist movement. Kropotkin Ieft us a picture of his life in exile: "Without even so much as a room that he could call his own, he would sell sherbet in the streets of London to get his living, and in the evening write brilliant articles for the Italian papers. Imprisoned in France, released, expelled, recondemned in Italy, confined to an island, escaped, and again in Italy in disguise; always in the hottest of the struggle...."
Through the systematic destruction of its finest radical leadership,
Italy moved on to the eventual victory of fascism.
Malatesta remained in Italy, under house arrest, until he died.
The authorities ordered his body thrown into a common grave.
His best known political statement in English is his pamphlet
(Irving Horowitz, The Anarchists, 1964, Dell Publishing)
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865)
Proudhon was one of the few great revolutionary leaders of genuinely plebeian origion, his father having been a barrel-maker. Scholarship aid enabled him to pursue his studies. In 1840, in Paris, his pamphlet What Is Property? was published and created a sensation with the thesis that property is theft and an impossibility. His further publications gave him a wide reputation as a radical. Involved with radical politics and in his contact with the Marxists, he soon rejected their doctrine, seeking rather a middle way between socialist theories and classical economics. He supported a notion of free credit and equitable exchange. In 1848 he attempted to found a people's bank. His activities led to his imprisonment. His De la justice dans la revolution et dans l'eglise, an attack on Church and State, led to his flight to Brussels. On his return to Paris he continued his writings, despite ill health, till the end of his life. He wrote his De la capacite politique des classes ouvrieres, which was published a few months after his death. This work had an influence upon the French workers in the International. They defended his solutions, which aimed at free credit and equality of exchange without a dictatorship of the proletariat. Marx first admired this enemy of property, then attacked him, thereby undermining his prestige and virtually eclipsing him until the syndicalist Fernand Pelloutier revived interest in his theories by falling back on his work. Proudhon published many works in jurisprudence, political economy, on the State and property. Among them are: System of Economic Contradictions or the Philosophy of Poverty, Confessions of a Revolutionary, The Principle of Federation and the Need to Rebuild the Revolutionary Party.
(Irving Horowitz, The Anarchists, 1964, Dell Publishing)
Note: First theorizer of Direct Democracy & Mutualism. Collectivist, individualist. Famous quote: "Property is theft."
William Godwin (1756-1836)
Godwin was a English political philosopher who, while in the ministry for which he was trained, had cast off his Toryism and Calvinism and achieved a place of first importance as the interpreter to England of the French Encyclopedists. His ideal society is intensely equalitarian and a complete anarchy, although he tolerated the idea of a loosely knit democratic transition that would witness the withering of the State. Strongly antiviolence and completely rationalistic he carried his doctrine to the point of total alteration in human relations. Ignoring economics and starting from a highly individualistic psychology, he argued for education and social conditioning as the chief factors in character formation. His chief work, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, develops the thought of the prerevolutionary school, is strongly influenced by Helvetius, and is an argument for the perfectibility of the human species by way of a refutation of contradictory theories and examination of such conditions as will perfect the human community. In the philosophical debate owr whether man is governed by self-love, Godwin argued that man capable of a genuinely disinterested benevolence. The turning point in his career was the French Revolution, which spurred him to write his major work, Political Justice, completed in 1793. Though many were disillusioned after the early years of the Revolution, Godwin's liberalism remained intact. The publication of this work gained him a far-reaching contemporary fame.
It was in 1796 that he renewed an acquaintance with Mary
Wollstonecraft. They took up residence together and, with the
approaching birth of their child and despite his attacks upon
the institution of marriage, were married in 1797. Their brief
marriage, ended by the death of his wife, was described as his
happiest period. Although Godwin wrote indefatigably, only
Political Justice is still a work of enduring fame. His Caleb
Williams, a novel with a social purpose, is another of his
works retaining some contemporary interest.
(Irving Horowitz, The Anarchists, 1964, Dell Publishing)
Note: first writer to put foreward anarchist ideas.
Voltairine DeCleyre (1866-1912)
Of French-American descent, Voltairine de Cleyre was born on November 17, 1866 in Leslie, Michigan, and named for Voltaire by her freethinking father. "The most gifted and brilliant anarchist woman America ever produced", said Emma Goldman (with whom she was often at odds) of DeCleyre. Friend and co-thinker of Peter Kropotkin, Errico Malatesta, Louise Michel and Alexander Berkman, De Cleyre is best known for her impassioned, insightful, provocative essays. From the mid-1890s till her death in 1912 she was much in the news as one of anarchism's "notorious characters"; within the movement itself she was universally recognized as a major spokesperson. Several of her writings- most notably the essay, Anarchism and American Traditions immediately won the status of classics, and have been many times reprinted as well as translated into other languages. In the heyday of the "Chicago Renaissance," nascent Imagism and other pre-World-War-I literary upheavals, De Cleyre sounded a desperate, somber note that was all her own. Well into the 1930s her black and bitter verses were reprinted in radical, labor and freethought publications; many Wobblies and other activists knew at least a few of them by heart. Like most radicals of her generation, De Cleyre was profoundly affected by the Haymarket Tragedy of 1886-87. Year after year she spoke at Haymarket memorial meetings at Chicago's Waldheim Cemetery, and the "Chicago Martyrs" inspired many of her finest Iyrics.
Translator of Yiddish poets and publicist of the Mexican Revolution (she was Chicago correspondent for Ricardo Flores Magon's paper, Regeneracion), de Cleyre was also an enthusiastic supporter of the IWW, whose members turned out in large numbers at her funeral. She was buried at Waldheim close to the martyrs who so decisivly influenced the course of her life. (From "Poets of Revolt", pamphlet 2, by the Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company)
Nestor Ivanovich Makhno (1889-1935)
Makhno was a Ukranian and a militant anarchist. At the time of the Russian Revolution of 1917 he and other anarchists found themselves pitted against both the capitalistic whites as well as the Bolsheviks (from which Makhno initialy hoped for help). While Makhno was a suprime military officer, his forces were eventualy overwhelmed by the combined strength of the white and red armies.
Of all the individuals on this page, Makhno's history has been
cited to be the most violent. Neither Bolshevik or capitalist, it
can be said that Makhno resisted the false solutions of centralization
and authority until the bitter end.
Federica Montseny (1905-1994)
An anarchist organizer in Barcelona, Spain, in the Autumn of 1936. Against the advancing nationalists, she agreed to work with Largo Caballero's government (with a position of Minister of Health) at the same time as her fellow-CNT member Garcia Oliver.
It has been argued that it was a mistake for some anarchists to work within the
government of Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War, weakening their
most basic of principles.
During a mass labor meeting on
May 4, 1885, in Haymarket Square, a bomb thrown at the legs of the police
in an unexplained manner provided the necessary pretext for arrests. Eight
leaders of the revolutionary and libertarian socialist movement were arrested,
seven of them sentenced to death, and four subsequently hanged (a fifth
committed suicide in his cell the day before the execution). Since then
the Chicago martyrs-- Parsons, Fischer, Engel, Spies, and Lingg-- have
belonged to the international proletariat, and the universal celebration
of May Day (May
1) still commemorates the atrocious crime committed in
the United States.
(From Anarchism by Daniel Guerin)
Bartolomeo Vanzetti was arrested with Nicola Sacco on charges of murdering a shoe factory paymaster and guard in South Braintree, Massachusetts, and convicted on July 14, 1921, Vanzetti left a most moving articulate statement of the vindication of Sacco and himself in an atmosphere of hysteria the two were sentenced to die and were electrocuted on August 23, 1927. With the encouragement of supporters, Vanzetti issued letters and articles from his prison cell and displayed a highly sensitive intelligence despite the fact that he was largely self-educated. The Sacco-Vanzetti case inspired controversy reaching worldwide proportions. Belief in their innocence became widespread as they were seen to be victims of antianarchist hatred.
Neither has been officially cleared of the charges against them in the State of Massachusetts although considerable pressure has periodically mounted to bring this about.
(Irving Horowitz, The Anarchists, 1964, Dell Publishing)
At first he was closely associated with Louise Michel, but he soon became a major figure in his own right, and one of the best-known anarchists in the country. In 1894 he was one of the defendants in the Trial of the Thirty, when the French authorities tried unsuccessfully to suppress the anarchist movement by implicating its leaders in criminal conspiracies, and was acquitted. He was involved in several papers at various times in several parts of France, the most important of which was Le Libertaire (The Libertarian), which he started with Louise Michel in November 1895 and which appeared weekly on and off until June 1914. He was active in the Dreyfusard movement, replacing Le Libertaire with the daily Journal du Peuple during 1899. He also produced Le Quotidien (The Daily) in Lyon during 1901-1902. From 1903 he was active in the birth-control movement. From 1904 to 1917 he ran a libertarian school called La Ruche (The Beehive) at Rambouillet (near Paris).
After the war he revived Le Libertaire, which continued from 1919 until 1939. In 1921 he led the reaction in the French anarchist movement against the growing Communist dictatorship in the Soviet Union. In January 1922 he began La Revue Anarchiste (Anarchist Review), the leading monthly magazine of the French anarchist movement between the world wars. In the late 1920s he opposed the sectarianism both of the authoritarian Platformists and of their critics, and advocated what he called an `Anarchist Synthesis' in which individualism, libertarian communism and anarcho-syndicalism could co-exist. In 1927 he led a secession from the national Union Anarchiste, and in 1928 he helped to found the Association des Federalistes Anarchistes and to begin its paper, La Voix Libertaire (Libertarian Voice), which lasted from 1928 until 1939. He was reconciled with the national organisation and Le Libertaire in 1934. During the 1930s he took part in the peace movement as a prominent member of the International League of Fighters for Peace. In 1940 he took refuge from the war in Royan (near Bordeaux), where he died in 1942.
Daniel Guerin (1904-1988)
As a youth, Guerin was attracted to the radical movement, and was won over to revolutionary socialism as espoused by Leon Trotsky. As a member of the Trotskyist movement, he wrote Fascism and Big Business, one of the premier texts in the always-pugnacious battle over that term's definition. Like Victor Serge, as Guerin grew older, his politics moved increasingly leftward, leading him later in life to espouse a hybrid of anarchism and marxism. Arguably, his most important book from this period of his life is Anarchism: From Theory to Practice, which includes an introduction by Noam Chomsky. Extremely prolific in French, it's unfortunate that, outside of the books above and a few small pamphlets, most of this thinker's original and stimulating material is unavailable in English (a pamphlet, "Libertarian Marxism?", which includes two singular essays, is also available in English at this time). (Bio by Chris Faatz)
Max Stirner (1806-1856)
Stirner was a German social philosopher. He supported himself first as a teacher and then as a translator. It was through the anarchist John Henry Mackay that an interest in Stirner's work was stimulated in England and the United States. Mackay presented Stirner to the public as the spiritual forefather of individualistic anarchism. The impression that Stirner was an anarchist arises from his rejection of all political and moral ties of the individual and his attack on all general concepts, such as right, virtue, duty, etc. The individual himself is the overriding reality, these concepts being mere ghosts. Egotism determines everything. He sets his own tasks against these "ghosts," thereby rising above them by mastering himself. All relations in which the individual enters are now freely chosen, as among possessions, and exist solely for the ego. The ego is not an antimoral force for Stirner. It is merely a fact. Stirner's individualistic egotism was highly democratic. He wrote The Ego and Its Own for proletarians and hoped for everyman to emerge as this liberated individualist. (Irving Horowitz, The Anarchists, 1964, Dell Publishing)
Note: Stirner is one of the main inspirations for the concept of egoist communism.
Rudolph Rocker (1873-1958)
Rocker was born in Mainz, Germany, son of a workingman who died when the boy was five years of age. It was an uncle who introduced him to the German SociaI Democratic movement, but he was soon disappointed by the rigidities of German socialism. As a bookbinder, he wandered from one employment to another, and, from the contacts he made in this occupation, he became interested in anarchism. He lived in Paris and in London until after World War I. Although of Christian background, he identified himself with the Jewish and Slavic immigrants who settled in East London. He edited a Yiddish newspaper, Arbeiter Freund, and a Yiddish literary monthly, Germinal. He contributed his organizing efforts to the jewish labor unions in England. Interned as an enemy alien in England in 1914, Rocker and his wife left England upon ther release. In 1919 he returned to Germany. With the rise of Nazism he fled to the United States. He is the author of a biography of Johann Most. His most widely read book was Nationalism and Culture, published in 1937. (Irving Horowitz, The Anarchists, 1964, Dell Publishing)
Note: Rocker is considered one of the foremost theorists on Syndicalism.
Gregori Maximoff (1893-1950)
GREGORI PETROVICH MAXIMOFF was born on November 10, 1893, in the Russian village of Mitushino, province of Smolensk. After studying for the priesthood, he realised this was not his vocation and went to St. Petersburg, where he graduated as an agronomist at the Agricultural Academy in 1915. He joined the revolutionary movement while a student, was an active propagandist and, after the 1917 revolution, joined the Red Army. When the Bolsheviks used the Army for police work and for disarming the workers, he refused to obey orders and was sentenced to death. The solidarity of the steelworkers' union saved his life.
He edited the Anarcho-Syndicalist papers Golos Trouda (Voice of Labour) and Novy Golos Trouda (New Voice of Labour). Arrested on March 8, 1921, during the Kronstadt revolt, he was held with other comrades in the Taganka Prison, Moscow. Four months later he went on hunger strike for ten and a half days and ended it only when the intervention of European Syndicalists attending a congress of the Red Trade Union International, secured for him and his comrades the possibility to seek exile abroad.
He went to Berlin, where he edited Rabotchi Put (Labour's Path), a paper of the Russian Syndicalists in exile. Three years later he went to Paris, then to the U.S., where he settled in Chicago. There he edited Golos Truzhenika (Worker's Voice) and later Dielo Trauda-Probuzhdenie (Labour's Cause-Awakening) until his death on March 16, 1950.
Maximoff died while yet in the prime of life, as the result of heart
trouble, and was mourned by all who had the good fortune to know him. He
was not only a lucid thinker, but a man of stainless character and broad
human understanding. And he was a whole person. in whom clarity of thought
and warmth of feeling were united in the happiest way. He lived as an
Anarchist, not because he felt some sort of duty to do so, imposed from
outside, but because he could not do otherwise, for his innermost being
always caused him to act as he felt and thought.
George Woodcock (1912-1995)
George Woodcock was born in Winnipeg, Canada. He was educated in England, where worked in railway administration and as a farmer, free-lance writer, and editor. He has taught at the University of Washington and the University of British Columbia. He held a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1951-52 and in l959 has became editor of the periodical Canadian Literature. He has had a considerable number of books, articles, fiction, and poetry published, including biographies of Godwin, Proudhon, and Kropotkin. (Irving Horowitz, The Anarchists, 1964, Dell Publishing)
Note: Author of Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements
Sam Dolgoff (1902-1994)
Sam Dolgoff played an important role in the anarchist movement since the early 1920s. He was a member of the Chicago Free Society Group in that decade, and co-founded the New York Libertarian League in 1954. He also was active in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). He was also the editor of the highly-acclaimed anthologies, Bakunin on Anarchy (1971; revised 1980) and The Anarchist Collectives: Workers' Self-Management in the Spanish Revolution, 1936-1939 (1974), Dolgoff also wrote Ethics and American Unionism (1958), The Labor Party Illusion (1961), The Cuban Revolution: A Critical Perspective (1974), A Critique of Marxism (1983), and the autobiographical Fragments (1986).
(From a blurb on the back of a pamphlet, The Relevence of Anarchism in Modern Society)
Fernand Pelloutier (1867-1901)
During his short but brilliant life Fernand Pelloutier became one of the most influential figures in French working-class history. He began life as a journalist, and joined the Marxist Parti Ouvrier Francais, but became disgusted with the dogmatism of the leaders and turned to anarchism. In 1885 he became the secretary of the Federation des Bourses de Travail, the equivalent of local trades councils in English-speaking countries, and there developed his anarcho-syndicalist idea that the trades union or syndicate could become at the same time a means of carrying on the struggle for social change and a model for the free communist world of the future.
Pelloutier was the major theorist of anarcho-syndicalism and
is perhaps more deserving to be known for initiating the theory of
syndicalism than Georges Sorel.
Georges Sorel (1847-1922)
Sorel was a French social philosopher whose livelihood came from his practice as an engineer. His political personality has always been controversial, though he is generally accepted as the theoretician of revolutionary syndicalism. His socialism sprang more from an attack on the moral disintegration of the bourgeoisie than from the needs of the proletariat. The labor movement, however, had unique dimensions for revolution. He favored a variety of industrialism as opposed to finance capital, since it bred a discipline and potential for heroism that create the moral foundations for the proletarian revolution. For Sorel, the proletariat represented the virtues of producers and warriors. In Reflections on Violence, he took an antideterminist position against those who saw an "inevitable" revolution and he maintained that proletarian victory was bound up with its fighting ethics and its capacity for sustaining the "myth" of the general strike. The creative violence of the proletariat must show its superiority to the technical economic skills and force of the bourgeoisie. Some of the important works of Sorel are Reflections on Violence, Illusions du progres, Le Proces de Socrate, Materiaux pour une theorie du proletariat, and The Decomposition of Marxism. (Irving Horowitz, The Anarchists, 1964, Dell Publishing)
Sorel was a socialist, a syndicalist, and after 1917, a vigorous admirer of Lenin. His anti-intellectualism and his passion for revolutionary activity in place of rational discourse is said to have had an influence on the development of fascism, which co-opted and re-directed his ideas.
Peter Arshinov (1887?-1937)
Peter Arshinov was a militant socialist at the age of 17 and it was in prison in 1911 that he established a close relationship with Nestor Makhno which continued after their release following the February (Russian) Revolution in 1917 first in the Ukraine and later in exile in Germany and France. Arshinov wrote the History of the Makhnovist Movement, first published in Germany in 1923.
(From a Freedom Press blurb on the back of a new edition of Arshinov's book)
Lev Chernyi (18??-1921)
The anarchist poet Lev Chernyi suffered imprisonment under the Russian Czarist regime for his revolutionary activities. In 1907, he published a book entitled Associational Anarchism, in which he advocated the "free association of independant individuals." Paul Avrich, in his study, The Russian Anarchists, states that Chernyi was greatly influenced by Max Stirner; although, other writers have minimized Chernyi's debt to Stirner.
On his return from Siberia in 1917 he enjoyed great popularity among Moscow workers as a lecturer. He was also Secretary of the Moscow Federation of Anarchist Groups, which was formed in March of 1917.
In the spring of 1918, in reaction to the growing repression of all opposition and free expression, the anarchist groups within the Moscow Federation formed armed detachments, the Black Gaurds, and Lev Chernyi played an active part in these. On the night of April 11, 1918 the Checka, the secret police, raided the building of the Moscow Federation, and the Black Gaurds offered armed resistance. About forty anarchists were killed or wounded and about five hundred were imprisoned.
In 1919 Chernyi joined a group called the Underground Anarchists, who published two numbers of a broadsheet which denounced the Communist dictatorship as the worst tyranny in human history. On September 25, 1919, a number of Left Social Revolutionaries and Underground Anarchists bombed the headquarters of the Moscow Committee of the Communist Party in protest at the growing repression. Twelve Communists were killed and fourty-five others were wounded.
August, 1921, the Moscow Izvestia published an official report
announcing that ten "anarchist bandits" had been shot without hearing or
trial. Among the dead was Lev Chernyi. Although he was not involved in
the bombing of the Moscow Communist headquarters, he was, because of his
association with the Underground Anarchists, a likely candidate for a
frame-up. The Communists refused to turn over his body to his family for
burial, and there were persistant rumors that he had in fact died of
(by Terry Phillips, origionaly printed in The Match! #79/Fall 1984.)
Mother Jones (1830-1930)
Mother Jones was one of the most forceful and picturesque figures of the American labor movement. Born around 1830 she lived well into her nineties and was widely known and respected among labor groups all over the United States. In her early life, after losing her husband and children to an epidemic, and then losing everything again in the Chicago fire, she found in the labor movement an outlet for her inherent sympathy, love and daring. She never had the time or the education to study the philosophy of the various movements that have inspired many devoted idealists.
She worked especially with the miners of West Virginia and Colorado, but also with Steel Workers and groups in many other industries. She was a born crusader and organizer. She led a march of child textile-mill workers from city to city that was instrumental in reforming the child labor laws.
Mother Jones was an individualist. Her own emotions and ideas were so strong that she sometimes came in conflict with others fighting for the same cause, such as John Mitchell of the mine workers. Without education or scholarship, Mother Jones had the power of moving masses of men by her strong, living speech and action. She had likewise a total disregard for her personal safety, and was jailed countless times.
She wrote her autobiography with some help at the age of 95. Charles
Kerr published it with an introduction by Clarence Darrow. It is
probably the most emotionally riveting piece of labor history ever written.
(by RM Baseman)
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