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Albert Meltzer - Anarchy's Torchbearer
Remetente: Luiz  Fernando  <fernando@edugraf.ufsc.br>
Data  de  Envio: 1996-05-11  18:15:07.000
Albert Meltzer - Anarchy's Torchbearer

Obituary in Guardian Newspaper, 8th May, 1996
Stuart Christie

Albert Meltzer, who has died aged 76 was a torchbearer 
for the international anarchist movement. His 60 year 
commitment survived the collapse of the Spanish Revolution, 
the civil war and the second world war. He fuelled the 
libertarian impetus of the 1960's and steered it through 
the reactionary challenges of the 1980's and 1990's.

A lifelong trade unionist, he fought Mosley's blackshirts; 
actively supported the Spanish revolution's anarchist communes 
and militias and the German anti-Nazi resistance and was a key 
player in the second world war Cairo Mutiny. Postwar he helped 
rebuild Spain's anti-Franco resistance and the internationals 
anarchist movement. His achievements include Cuddon's 
Cosmopolitan Review, a satirical magazine first published in 
1965, and the founding of the Anarchist Black Cross, a 
prisoners' aid and ginger group -- and the subsequent paper 
Black Flag. perhaps his most enduring legacy is Britain's 
most comprehensive anarchist archive, the Kate Sharpley Library.

Born into the London of Orwell's ~Down and Out~ Albert's 
decision, aged 15, to go into revolutionary politics resulted, 
he claimed, from boxing lessons. That "common" sport was 
frowned upon by the governors of this Edmonton school and the 
local Labour candidate, Dr Edith Summerskill. Perhaps it was 
his boxers' legs which later enabled him to bear his considerable 
bulk. Boxing certainly made him a shred judge of opponents' 
strength and weaknesses. The streetwise but bookish schoolboy 
attended his first anarchist meeting in 1935 -- where he 
defended boxing against Emma Goldman. He became a dynamic 
participant at meetings.

The anarchist-led resistance to the 1936 Franco uprising 
in Spain boosted British anarchism. Albert helped to 
organise arms shipments from Hamburg to Spain and acts 
as a contact for the Spanish anarchist intelligence service.  

His early career was as a fairground promoter, theatre hand 
and occasional extra -- he appeared as an anarchist prisoner 
in Leslie Howard's anti-Nazi ~Pimpernel Smith~, after Howard 
insisted that real anarchists be used. Later Albert was a 
secondhand bookseller and, finally, a Fleet Street copytaker 
-- for the Daily Telegraph.

While a gentle, generous and gracious soul, his championship 
of anarchism as a revolutionary working class movement led to 
conflict with the neo-liberals who dominated the movement in 
the late 1940's. Many otherwise politically incompatible people 
were drawn to anarchism because of its militant tolerance. Albert 
was vehemently opposed to the repackaging of anarchism as a broad 
church for academia-orientated quietists and single issue 
pressure groups. It was his championship of class struggle 
anarchism, coupled with his scepticism about the student-led 
New Left in the 1960's, which earned Albert his reputation 
for sectarianism.

Paradoxically, as friend and Black Flag cartoonist Phil Ruff 
points out in his introduction to Albert's autobiography 
~I Couldn't Paint Golden Angels~, it was the discovery of 
class struggle anarchism through the "sectarianism of Black 
Flag under Albert's editorship that convinced many anarchists 
of his and subsequent generations to become active. It brought 
countless young people into the anarchist movement then, and 
for a further 30 years until his stroke last month.

Albert Meltzer was an inscrutably private man. He often seemed 
like a member of a tug-of-war team: you never quite knew if he 
was there to make up numbers or as the anchor of the operation. 
To Albert, all privilege was the enemy of freedom; not just the 
privilege of capitalists, kings, bureaucrats and politicians but 
also the petty aspirations of opportunists among the rebels 
themselves.

Albert's pungent autobiography pulled no punches and was a 
Schvejkian account of an enemy of humbug and injustice. Its 
author will be fondly remembered by those of us whose lives 
he touched.

End



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