Thursday, October 23, 2014

More Anarchists and Esperanto

La anarkiistoj estas ĉie!
If there were any doubt remaining that there was a broad use of Esperanto by the anarchist movements of the early twentieth century, here’s a third article on Esperanto and anarchists. I’m actually a little behind on this one, as it’s a rehash of an article that appeared in the Washington Times on September 6, 1908.[1] As I’ve been going through these articles, I’ve been stepping back in time, since the notice in the anarchist newspaper for Italian speakers in the US was in 1914, the Spanish anarchists in 1909, and now we’ve taken this all the way back to 1908.[2]

This could be the earliest association between Esperanto and anarchism, and though I passed on it when I first read it, the Perrysburgh Journal (of Perrysburg, Ohio) is giving me a second chance by running this abridgment of the article in its October 23, 1908 edition. The article had some legs, since I found it reprinted in three other newspapers with later dates.[3] As I noted, it seems to have been an abridgment of the Washington Times article, which was itself taken from an item in the Pall Mall Gazette.[4]

Here’s the article as it appeared in the Perrysburg Journal:
Anarchists Use Esperanto.
Recent police investigations in Bohemia into a supposed miners’ labor association, which turned out to be an anarchist organization, have brought to light a large quantity of books, papers, documents and letters of a highly incriminating character, and it was found that the bulk of correspondence with anarchists abroad was carried on in Esperanto.
I find myself wondering, “can’t it be both?”[5] Certainly the labor movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century overlapped with the anarchist movement. Wikipedia notes that the Haymarket affair started as a peaceful protest in support of the radical idea of an eight-hour workday and ended as a violent riot at which a bomb was thrown at the police. As a result, seven anarchists were sentenced to death, with four of them hanged on November 11, 1887.[6] Just as the labor and anarchist movements aligned, so did these movements and the Esperanto movement, in part because they were all associated with cosmopolitanism, an early start on globalism. How can you unite the peoples of the world if no one can understand each other? Kari Nagai, a scholar at the University of Kent, wrote that
Esperanto became affiliated with a wide range of world peace movements, such as vegetarianism, theosophy, anti-war protestors, women’s moments, anarchists, socialists, the community of the blind, as well as the world scouting movement. For instance, according to the Vegetarian Messenger and Health Review, an organ of the Vegetarian Society in Britain, ‘Inasmuch as Esperanto seeks to united the nations of the civilized world, and in this way makes for the spread of a larger humanity, it claims the sympathy of vegetarians.’[7]
Moving back a few days, the Albuquerque Citizen reported on October 12, 1908:
That criminals are quick to avail themselves of the newest scientific inventions in carrying out their occupations has long been well known. And so it is perhaps more interesting than surprising to learn that anarchists have already grasped the possibilities of Esperanto as a means of communication with the comrades in foreign lands. Quite recently the authorities of Bohemia discovered, in which was supposed to be a miners’ labor association, an anarchistic organization well equipped, with ramifications extending from Spain and Portugal in the south, to North America in the west. Police investigation brought to light a large quantity of books, papers, documents and letters of a highly incriminating character. It was found that the bulk of correspondence with anarchists abroad was carried on in Esperanto, in which all the parties seemed to have obtained a fair degree of proficiency.—Prague correspondence in Pall Mall Gazette.
This is clearly the same article referred to on September 6, 1908 by the Washington Times.[8]
New Language Said to Be Official Among the Reds Now.
PRAGUE, Sept. — Anarchists are now using Esperanto as the language of communication with comrades in foreign countries. This was discovered accidentally in Bohemia, where the authorities unearthed an anarchistic society masquerading as a miners’ labor association, with ramifications extending from Spain and Portugal in the South to North America in the west.

A large quantity of books, documents, and letters of a highly incriminating character was discover by the police. The bulk of this correspondence with anarchists abroad was carried on in Esperanto, in which all the parties seemed to have obtained a fair degree of proficiency. “Czeska Federace,” as the society was called, also had its secret cipher, which the police have not yet been able to unravel.
Clearly, the Times piece is also quoting the Pall Mall Gazette, as the identical (attributed) language in the Citzen makes evident, although it also gives us one more item, the name of the anarchist group, which seems to be “Czech Federation,” presumably short for “Czech Federation of Labor,” or, in other words, an actual labor group, which returns us to the question of “why can’t it be both?” If labor groups and anarchist groups are going to share goals, why not band together, and if labor organizing is viewed as a subversive activity, then labor organizers will go underground, adopting other languages or even secret codes. Then as now, owners of companies tend to view organized labor as the enemy. Yet the Perrysburg Journal has just below the article on anarchists another article about miners, and in this case, we can be certain that miners’ labor associations were involved.
Lives of Miners Protected.
In Austria and France the provision of rescue apparatus in mines is made compulsory.
Mining is dangerous work and safety precautions cost money. There was a story a few years back of American miners caught in a mine collapse. There should have been some safety equipment, but the mining company had been paying the fines for not having it because they were cheaper than the equipment. Stories like that are almost enough to make you turn anarchist. So if any anarchists want to learn Esperanto, let me know, kaj ni marĉos antaŭen en solidareco!

Finally, to end on a literary note, the American anarchist and writer Hutchins Hapgood in his book An Anarchist Woman[9] he quotes the subject of the book, Marie, talking about a radical couple, Esther and Jay (who is described in the text as “her lover”)
After a very chaste breakfast Esther continues her scrubbing and Jay finishes his correspondence and puts in the rest of the tim until seven o’clock, when his work in the factory begins, in studying the new language, Esperanto.
The days of labor organizers and factory workers studying Esperanto are long over. Too bad, the Esperanto movement could use them.

  1. I saw it, but I opted instead to write up an article where Charles E. Sprague gave the obituary for Volapük.  ↩
  2. Although even earlier, I wrote about James F. Morton, an early twentieth-century lawyer, civil rights advocate, and anarchist. Morton lived in Paterson, New Jersey, which some years before had been the site of this melodrama (that last link is wholly gratuitous, but I love it when I can link blog posts together).  ↩
  3. The article may have been published prior to its appearance in the Perrysburgh Journal, but that one hasn’t come to my attention. It was subsequently published in the Greenville Journal of Greenville, Ohio on October 29, 1908, the Mahoning Dispatch of Canfield, Ohio on November 6, 1908, and the Star of Reynoldsville, Pennsylvania on December 2, 1908.  ↩
  4. The Pall Mall Gazette is available as a searchable resource at the British Newspaper Archive, but only up to 1900, too early for our anarchists. It also costs £9.95 a month to search.  ↩
  5. A science-fiction fan’s digression, that has nothing to do with the subject at hand, but it’s my blog, so it goes in. My asking the question “why can’t it be both?” brings to mind the use of the line in the Doctor Who episode “The Day of the Doctor.” In it, the Doctor has stolen the Time Lord weapon of mass destruction “The Moment” (“mass destruction” as in removing the warring planets of Gallifrey and Skaro from existence, along with all of their inhabitants). Its interface appears to him as young woman who he first sees sitting on the device. He ushers her out of the building, telling her that it’s a weapon, not a chair. He turns and she’s back on it, asking, “why can’t it be both?”  ↩
  6. So when on a Friday, you say, “I’ve put in my eight hours,” and go home to a weekend of leisure, you have anarchists, socialists, and communists to thank.  ↩
  7. Kari Nagai, “‘The New Bilingualism’ Cosmopolitanism in the era of Esperanto,” in Re-Routing the Postcolonial: New Directions for the New Millennium, Janet Wilson, Cristina Şandru, Sara Lawson Welsh, (editors), 2010.  ↩
  8. This article was reprinted in The Pharmaceutical Era of September 17, 1908. The issue must have run a little thin, as it is on a page filled with all sorts of things with no relevance whatsoever to pharmacies. The same issue has an article “A.Ph.A. Starts Crusade Against Liquor Selling,” which noted that the American Pharmaceutical Association was coming down firmly against pharmacists selling alcohol in dry towns.  ↩
  9. An Anarchist Woman seems to be a novel, though it is presented as a memoir.  ↩

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