Friday, 23 January 2009

Local Anarchist Anniversary

‘In the Lenin Barracks in Barcelona, the day before I joined the militia, I saw an Italian militiaman standing in front of the officers' table... Something in his face deeply moved me. It was the face of a man who would commit murder and throw away his life for a friend - the kind of face you would expect in an Anarchist,though as likely as not he was a Communist…’

The opening paragraph from Orwell’s Homage To Catalonia pretty much sums up how I feel about anarchism. Although I’ve been a Marxist all my adult life, I have a gut inclination of emotional sympathy with anarchism. Trouble is though anarchists seem so often in the flesh to turn out to be … wankers.

Jan 23rd is the centenary of the ‘Tottenham Outrage’. Anarchists locally and nationwide are getting ready to celebrate an event that happened in my own backyard.The story pretty much sums up anarchism then and now:

In 1909 Tottenham, as it still is, was a working class district with a large immigrant population. It was home to two Jewish-Russian anarchists who decided to rob the payroll of a local rubber factory.

From the start the operation was a cock-up. They chose a factory practically next door to the local police station. They failed to make a clean getaway and consequently were chased by a posse of armed police and locals whilst they made their escape to Walthamstow. Eventually in Chingford they were cornered and shot themselves.

Along the way they shot off an estimated 400 rounds, killing one policeman and wounding seven others. They tried to hi-jack a tram with passengers aboard but were given short shrift by the driver, and then continuing in the farcical theme, tried to escape on a delivery cart that overturned because they left the brake on. Less comically they also managed to kill a ten-year-old baker’s boy who got in their way, and also wounded seventeen other assorted civilians.

Their only achievements were to unite the local working class community behind the police, and to stir up a general wave of xenophobia and anti-Semitism. And of course to enter permanently into anarchist folklore. Wankers.

No comments: