Monday, June 16, 2008
The history of the anarchist movement must not be a barren and unrealistic presentation of elements for a few certain "enlightened" anarchists or any alteration and bourgeois-inspired theory served by every shrewd person, but that of the anarchists and libertarian revolutionary movements of the working class in a way that would also corresponds in the today’s needs.
In issue No.10 (2nd Period - March 2007) of “Epi Ta Proso” (“Forward”) the newspaper of Eleftheriaki Syndikalistiki Enosi (ESE – Libertarian Syndicalist Union) – from Greece – there appeared a 4-page review of 3 books published during the same time in Greece, on the history of the Spanish Revolution and Civil War 1936-1939. These books are by Anthony Beevor "Spanish Civil War 1936-1939" (Govostis Edition), Gabriel Ranzato "The Spanish Civil War" (Kedros Editions) and Helen Graham "The Spanish Civil War. All you must know" (“Ellinika Grammata” Publications and as an inset in a book format in the mainstream Sunday newspaper “To Vema”).
I generally agree with the arguments in this book review by its author, but only for the book by A. Beevor (on which I have read a litle bit in its English edition) as well as for the book by H. Graham, for which the only thing I have to say is that it simply constitutes the worst presentation ofall of those published in Greece last year. I still do not know the book by G. Ranzato.
However, beyond the Greek publòication and the review of these books, I feel there is an enormous question arising and this is the anarchist historiography or, at least, that relative bibliography, which is not only dealing with the history of the Spanish Revolution and Civil War, but more generally with every aspect of the history of the international anarchist revolutionary movement since its beginnings until its present phase. That is to say, in my opinion – the question of anarchist historical research is an enormous and crucial question. By giving as an example the history of the Spanish anarchist movement and its peak during the 1930s, I believe that I could advance my subject.
I know very well that an enormous bibliography exists, specifically in Spanish , made up of books, albums, magazines, monographs, manuscripts, photographs, posters as well as audiovisual material, with regard to the Spanish Revolution, but also with the almost whole history of the Spanish anarchist movement before the Revolution. This enormous wealth is squeezed onto bookshelves etc at the anarchist and libertarian historical and research institutes and archives in Spain, in the archives of the CNT (Anselmo Lorenzo Foundation etc) and other libertarian organisations, as well as anarchist archives and research institutes around the world.
Despite all of these, the undeniable fact remains that from this enormous wealth not even 10% of it has been translated and published in other languages, specifically in English. (I do not know for French or Italian though). In particular, the available bibliography on the Spanish Revolution in English, although there have been published some works of direct participants in this, organisations and individuals (such as "The Friends of Durruti" Group, J. Peirats, M. Garcia, A. Paz, G. Leval, A. Souhy, J. G. Casas, A. Telez and others) or even some amous anarchist writers and historians who did not directly participate (such as S. Dolgoff, E. Goldman, V. Richards, S. Christie, the anglophone bulletin "Spain and the World" etc.), the relevant bibliography in English still remains poor.
Even poorer than the English, though, remains the relevant bibliography in Greek . This bibliography is made up of roughly 20 books and pamphlets, all translations. Certain of these translations are bad, by no means instructive or functional and, consequently. Also many of these translations did not come from the Spanish prototype, but, mainly, from English and French, that is to say they constitute a translation from second or third hand with a danger of alterations, misinterpretations and misundestandings.
Moreover, the problem in Greece becomes bigger and more intense, since that a significant number of anarchists or all those who use other labels such as anti-authortitarians, libertarians etc, but who they try to refer to anarchism are not interested so much for the historical research and it appears they prefer everything to be ready, by someone "enlightened" or "initiated" to research offerring them a certain history of any movement in the… dish.
Consequently, an important problem exists: that of historical research, indexing, re-examination and publication of history, with an authentic and useful way.
The present anarchist movement - and I talk about the organised anarchist movement, which is constituted from cohesive, ideologically and theoretically, organisations, federations, unions etc, with a processedly decided strategy, content of action and prospect and not for loose groupings which are form and dissolve as shooting stars, with ideological and theoretical confusion, not clear strategy and action - needs historical archives, libraries or institutes, specific groups of comrades charged with the historical research, translators, people to come in contact with collectors of books and other publications, to follow systematicly academic and other historical seminars, to read regularly historical magazines and reviews, to collect, sort and store electronically or/and not various documents, to organise launches, presentations, discussions and lectures, to publish or/and republish historical documents etc.
All this process - which of course is insistent and laborious - should be the subject of information, learning and friction that will allow and will contribute at its biggest in the acquisition of a revolutionary historical conscience and, at extension, in the constitution of a cohesive anarchist movement with strategy and clear prospects.
Finally, what is the aim of research and presentation of the history of the anarchist movement? The resistance against the alteration of this history begun decades ago and is continued up to today, against the deliberated refusal to the working class of every effortlessly contribute in its own theory and history and against the assisted by every government or other falsification of the anarchist movement by academics and other similar writers. Also the as much as possible genuine recording and publication of this history in combination with the social struggles of today and tomorrow.
The various academics who write any anarchist history can research without problem files and other installations granted and offered to them by the state and other institutions, but they degrade blatantly not only the historical facts but the very substance of anarchism. Moreover, there are other academics who write what they write supposedly in the name of anarchism, but their histories lead them to degrade facts and significances.
The history of the anarchist movement we called to research and bring in the light must not be a barren and unrealistic presentation of elements for a few certain "enlightened" anarchists or any alteration and bourgeois inspired theory served by every shrewd person, but that of the anarchists and libertarian revolutionary movements of the working class in a way that would also corresponds in the today’s needs.
It is said many times that if someone doesn’t learn from the history is condemned to commit the same errors again. This is deeply genuine. But the same deeply genuine is also that if someone has taught you your own history with some exterior influences then you are condemned to commit those the errors which they who exctract a profit from this want you to commit.
* This article was written in Greek in 12 June 2007 and published in Anarkismo.net the next day.
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