David Porter
Spain ’36

Imagine the United States split regionally into conservative-fascist and leftist popular front-anarchist zones. Civil war rages at the shifting boundary lines with half the country under the domination of an insurgent military right-wing junta determined to destroy the elected government and all individuals and organizations of the left. Then imagine that simultaneously, behind the lines in the popular front zone (say, most of the East and West coasts), there are widespread decentralized efforts to transform the society through economic and social collectivization in producers’ cooperatives, free schools, free health centers, neighborhood councils, local popular assemblies-the assumption of community self-responsibility through direct action from the bottom up.

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David Porter
May Days 1937 Book review

a review of

The May Days, Barcelona 1937 by A. Souchy, B. Bolloten, Emma Goldman and Jose Peirats, Freedom Press, London, 1987, 128 pages, $5.00

FE note: The tragic events of May 1937 highlighted what had always been the dichotomy of the Spanish War. The struggle has been widely and popularly known as the Spanish Civil War, and characterized solely as the defense of the liberal Republican government against the fascist forces of General Francisco Franco. The conflict was the prelude to World War II and the reigning mythology describes it as the “good fight” to defend democracy from the forces of barbarism, a battle which was aided heroically by the world communist movement which sent “international brigades” from numerous countries to assist the struggling Spanish government.

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David Porter
Emma Goldman in Exile New Book Distorts History and a Life

a review of

Emma Goldman in Exile: From the Russian Revolution to the Spanish Civil War, Alice Wexler, Beacon Press, Boston, 1989, 301 pp.

The nature and purpose of “doing history” are at stake in Alice Wexler’s new book, Emma Goldman in Exile. America’s best-known anarchist endured numerous personal and political crises from her 1919 deportation to Civil War Russia to her subsequent odyssey throughout Europe and Canada, her immersion in the 1930s Spanish revolution, and her-death in 1940. Based on extensive research, Wexler’s book usefully describes this journey. But the book is more than this. Unfortunately so, since the interpretive voice of the author is usually louder than her subject.

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David Porter
Emma Goldman: An Appreciation 50 Years After Her Death

Emma Goldman (June 27, 1869-May 14, 1940) was known as “the most dangerous woman in America” by the press in such articles as those to the right which chronicled a visit by her to Windsor, Ontario, across the border from Detroit, in 1939. She certainly was this country’s most famous anarchist in the early years of this century.

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Fifth Estate Collective
David Porter
Alice Wexler

Emma Goldman and the Russian Revolution an exchange

Dear Fifth Estate:

While I appreciate David Porter’s long and serious review of my book, Emma Goldman in Exile (see FE #333, Winter 1990), I’d like to take issue with some of his points. Porter criticizes my “intrusiveness” for allegedly imposing my own political agenda on Goldman’s life, without making my politics explicit. Possibly he is right that I should have laid out my criteria for judgment more clearly.

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David Porter
The Anarchist Spectre in Eastern Europe As Old Regimes Collapse

Rarely is an entire region of the world so caught up in the collapse of hierarchical politics as Eastern Europe of a year ago. The infamous “spectre of anarchy” astonished and horrified Communist, dissident and Western politicians alike as millions suddenly demanded control of their own lives. [1]

Tragically, but predictably, politicians of all sides—Party members and bureaucrats of the old regime, oppositional leaders and Western “advisors”—moved rapidly to protect their interests. Thus, Polish General Czeslaw Kiszczak, Interior Minister of the Jaruzelski regime, began talks in February 1989 to restore Solidarity’s legality in order to prevent the “anarchy and destruction” of its original phase (1980–81). [2]

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David Porter
Free Women of Spain The Roots of Anarcha-Feminism

a review of

Free Women of Spain: Anarchism and the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women, by Martha A. Ackelsberg (Indiana University Press, 1991)

I write this review on the day George Bush officially declares his intent to run again for president. Against the backdrop of this obscene, insulting non-event, the positive image of grassroots politics evoked by Free Women of Spain stands out all the more. Obviously, envisioning and struggling toward fulfillment of people’s fullest capacities is far removed from the media’s image of politics.

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David Porter
Emma Goldman: An Appreciation reprint from FE 334 Summer 1990

50 years after her death

More successfully than any other figure in US history, Emma Goldman communicated an anarchist vision to a broad audience of immigrants, native-born middle-class, and workers.

Goldman’s fundamentally anarchist self-identity and vision of political change are elements neglected or misinterpreted by some of her biographers.

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David Porter
Writing on Fire Passion & obstacles in writing about Emma Goldman in Spain

Studying in Paris during the intense final year (1961 through 1962) of the Algerian war for independence, I became hooked on Algeria and the potentials of revolutionary politics. In 1965 through 1966, I pursued on-site doctoral research on Algeria’s most radical political innovation after independence--a large-scale realm of worked’ self-management in farms, factories and shops throughout the country.

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David Porter
Spain: model for anarchist organizing

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Milicia women at the Madrid front, 1936

a review of

The CNT in the Spanish Revolution, Volume I

by Jose Peirats, Edited and Introduced by Chris Ealham; Translated by Paul Sharkey

PM Press / Christie Books; 432pp, 628; www.pmpress.org

The Spanish anarchist movement and revolution of the late 1930s are undoubtedly the historical force and context most praised by Western anarchists. In absolute numbers, in proportion of the overall population they were part of, and in the radical transformation they accomplished in much of Spanish society, the reputation is well deserved.

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David Porter
Emma Goldman: A Love for Revolution

a review of

Emma Goldman: Political Thinking in the Streets by Kathy E. Ferguson. Rowman ft Littlefield Publishers, Lanham, Maryland, 2011, 362 pp, $35.

In her fascinating book on Emma Goldman, Kathy Ferguson focuses on Goldman as a dynamic anarchist thinker whose differing social activist contexts and personal challenges produced constantly evolving theoretical perspectives.

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David Porter
In Revolutionary Spain, Workers Made the Anarchist Vision Real Book review

a review of

Anarchism and Workers’ Self-Management in Revolutionary Spain by Frank Mintz. AK Press, 2013, 326pp., $19, akpress.org

Following his brief synopsis about the Spanish anarchist movement before 1936, the central concern of French anarchist Frank Mintz is the very core of the 1930s Spanish revolution--the grassroots movement of urban and rural collectivization throughout republican Spain.

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David Porter
Will Franco Era Spanish Fascists Finally Be Brought to Justice? Including for the ghastly death of anarchist Salvador Puig Antich

On October 31, an Argentine judge, Maria Servini de Cabria, issued international arrest warrants and extradition requests to question and try 20 Spanish Franco-era officials accused of crimes against humanity from 1939 to 1975.

Spanish General Francisco Franco led the Nationalists, a military/fascist rebel group, to eventual victory in a civil war (1936 to 39), overthrowing the democratically elected republican government and quashing revolutionary social change led by anarchists and others.

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