February 24, 2011

No God, No Boss, No Husband: Virginia Bolton

A short biography of Virginia Bolten, fearless fighter for anarchism and women's liberation.

Virginia Bolten was the daughter of a German street vendor. She was born in Uruguay, either in San Luis, according to some, or in San Juan, according to the researcher Placido Grela. Rosario was known as the “Barcelona of Argentina” at this point in time because of its concentration of industries, the radical ferment there and the political influence it had over the rest of the country. She worked making shoes for workers and then later in the Refineria, the huge sugar factory that employed thousands of workers, many of them European immigrants and many of them women. She married Marquez, an organiser of a shoe workers union and a fellow Uruguayan.

In 1888 the bakery workers paper El Obrero Panadero of Rosario became one of the first voices of anarchism in Argentina, with many bakery workers attracted to anarchist ideas. It had a key role in organising the first May Day demonstrations in 1890. Activists like Virginia Bolten and Francisco Berri appear to have been associated with it. In 1889 she helped organise the seamstresses’ strike in Rosario, believed to be the first strike of women workers in Argentina.

Anarchists and socialists whether French, Italian, Spanish or German language had started meeting at the La Bastilla ( The Bastille Café) among them French and German internationalists and the Catalan Paulino Pallas. Virginia frequented this café and it was one of the places where the plans to celebrate May Day were hatched. Among other anarchists who contributed to discussions there were Romulo Ovidi, Francisco Berri, Domingo Lodi, Juan Ibaldi, Rafael Torrent, Teresa Marchisio and Maria Calvia (who were both later involved in setting up La Voz de la Mujer and its paper with Virginia). The day before the demonstration Virginia was detained by the police for distributing leaflets outside the Refineria. Not to be deterred she was at the head of a march of thousands of workers which proceeded to the main square of Montevideo, the Plaza Lopez, on the First of May. She carried a large red flag with black lettering proclaiming: "Primero de Mayo - Fraternidad Universal" (First Of May- Universal Fraternity). At the Plaza Lopez her fiery speech entranced the crowd. She is credited as being the first woman in Argentina to address a workers rally (it should be borne in mind that she was twenty years old at the time).

Juana Buela, in her autobiography Historia de una ideal vivido por una mujer, rememembered the strength and tenacity of Virginia in propagating anarchist ideas including in the pages of the anarchist papers La Protesta Humana and La Protesta and especially in La Voz de la Mujer, (Woman’s Voice (1896-1897). This was a paper which explicitly described itself as anarchist communist, with a subtitle Dedicated to the advancement of anarchist communism. It was the first publication edited by women for women in the whole of Latin America, fusing class struggle anarchist ideas with the liberation of women. It was supported by the meagre wages of Virginia and her women comrades in the shoe and sugar industries. It was an anarchist publication that was typical of the period, small and ephemeral and semi-clandestine. Its descriptive sub-title summed it all up: Appears when it can. Only nine issues appeared, although it is believed that Virginia edited another issue in Montevideo. Issues 1-4 had a print run of one thousand copies, which went up to two thousand for the following four issues whilst the last appearance of the paper merited a print run of 1,500.

La Voz de la Mujer published many articles from Spanish anarchists on the subject of the liberation of women. Contributors included the great anarchist organiser Teresa Claramunt, Soledad Gustavo, etc. The support of Emma Goldman and Louise Michel was actively sought and secured. It deplored the action of the anarchist F. Denanbride in shooting his lover five times because she was leaving him. This woman, Anita Lagouardette, was a contributor to La Voz de la Mujer and miraculously survived the attack. La Voz de la Mujer railed against the hypocrisy in male anarchist ranks where freedom was denied to women: “When we women, unworthy and ignorant as we are, took the initiative and published La Voz de la Mujer, we should have known, Oh modem rogues, how you would respond with your old mechanistic philosophy to our initiative. You should have realized that we stupid women have initiative and that is the product of thought. You know - we also think . . . The first number of La Voz de la Mujer appeared and of course, all hell broke loose: 'Emancipate women? For what?' 'Emancipate women? Not on your nelly!' . . . 'Let our emancipation come first, and then, when we men are emancipated and free, we shall see about yours.'"

Virginia undertook speaking tours throughout Argentina speaking at meetings in San Nicolás, Campana, Tandil, Mendoza and many other towns. The police intervened on many occasions to stop her speaking. Her main topics were the situation of the working class and in particular the various oppressions suffered by working class women. In November 1900 she and Teresa Marchisio organised a counter procession against the parade of the Catholic establishment in Rosario, the procession of the Virgen de la Roca. She and Teresa were arrested with four other anarchists.

In the same year she was actively involved in the setting up of the Casa del Pueblo (the House of the People) with other anarchists. This housed political, social and cultural events with many conferences, debates, discussions, poetry readings and theatre pieces; it had an orchestra and a library of 380 books. She was one of the speakers at its inauguration. On the 20th October 1901 she was arrested for distributing anarchist propaganda outside the gates of the Refineria in the course of a strike. During this incident, she witnessed the cold blooded murder of the immigrant worker Come Budislavich by the police. She helped set up an anarchist women’s group with other anarchist militants like Lopez and Teresa Deloso that year.

In 1902 she was one of the main speakers at the First of May rally in Montevideo using it as an occasion to denounce the situation in Argentina. In 1904 she was forced to move to Buenos Aires where she was active in the Comité de Huelga Femenino,(Women’s Strike Committee) which with the Federación Obrera Argentina organised the women workers in the port fruit market of Buenos Aires and brought them out on strike. Her intensive activity began to effect her health. The comrades of the anarchist theatre group Germinal issued an appeal to all libertarian groups, unions and societies to take part in a benefit to aid her. The great Italian anarchist Pietro Gori introduced her to anarchist intellectual circles in Buenos Aires and helped her found an organisation of anarchists and socialists focussed on attacking legal marriage and other authoritarian concepts.

The failure of the civil-military uprising of Hipolito Irigoyen against the conservative government in 1905 was used as a pretext to attack the workers movement. Despite the fact that the anarchist movement had no kind of alliance with Irigoyen its principal activists were arrested, prosecuted and even deported. Virginia was arrested along with her partner and detained for two days. Marquez was expelled to Uruguay under the new Residency Law.

In 1907 she was one of the initiators of the Centro Femenino Anarquista (Anarchist Women’s Centre) and through it was one of the principal organisers of the tenants strike of that year. Following her speech during this strike, the Residency Law was used to deport her to Montevideo in Uruguay, where she was reunited with Marquez and their young children. She was the first woman to be deported under this law.

Her home in Montevideo became an operational base for the anarchist exiles deported from Argentina. In Montevideo she collaborated with Juana Buela in 1909 in the anarchist feminist newspaper La Nueva Senda (The New Path) (1909-1910). The same year she was involved in the international agitation around the trial and execution of the Spanish anarchist educationalist Francisco Ferrer. This was linked up with the brutal repression of demonstrators in Buenos Aires on the 1st May in Buenos Aires in the same year. At the hour on which Ferrer was executed in Barcelona on 13th October a large demonstration of more than ten thousand people organised by workers organisations, anarchists, socialists and liberals, with the participation of many students and university teachers ended in the main square of Montevideo, the Plaza Constitución. Here it was addressed by a host of speakers, among them Virginia and her fellow anarchist Juana Buela. In the repression which followed she was one of the anarchists most harassed by the authorities, along with others like Juana Buela and María Collazo.

In early April 1911 she was involved in the setting up in Montevideo of the Asociasion Femenina- Emancipacion she which sought to unite all anticlerical women in Montevideo. She and Maria Collazo were influential in this organisation. It appealed to working class women and held its meetings at the offices of the Electrical Workers Union. It made strong efforts to organise among telephone operators, at this time made up mostly of native women workers. It rejected the overtures of the reformist Pan-American Federation, Virginia speaking out against appeals for female suffrage.

All of the above was a remarkable life achievement for the cause of anarchism. Unfortunately she was to be involved in an episode referred to as “Anarcobatllismo” which caused the first important rift within the anarchist movement in Uruguay. She and other anarchists like Francisco Berri, Adrian Zamboni, Orsini Bertani, and Clerici organised around the anarchist communist paper Idea Libre began to give critical support to the regime of President Batlle y Ordonez. During his second term in office in Uruguay Batlle initiated a huge reform programme. This was not just far-reaching for Latin America but on an international level. He separated Church from State, banned crucifixes in hospitals, removed references to God and the Bible from public oaths, gave widespread rights to unions and political parties and organisations, brought in the eight hour day and universal suffrage, introduced unemployment benefits, legalised divorce, created more high schools, promised and practised no residency laws against exiled anarchists and other radicals, opened universities to women, and led a campaign to take away the control of industry and land from foreign capitalists ( the British capitalists had huge influence in Uruguay) and nationalised private monopolies. This seems to have disoriented some elements in the anarchist movement, Virginia included. In the process sections of the Uruguayan anarchist movement were neutralised. The emerging Socialist Party had supported Emancipacion but now turned against it. Their paper El Socialista attacked Virginia in July 1913, reproducing alleged statements from her in which she praised Batlle as ‘progressive’ and ‘unlike anything we have ever had in this country’. By the end of the year El Socialista had heightened its critical tone, insisting that Virginia and her associates had betrayed the workers’ movement, that workers reorganise their movement and “send anarchism to the devil”. This brought about the collapse of Emancipacion and the working class women’s movement in Uruguay, as well as doing damage to the anarchist movement and bringing about the ascendancy of the Socialist Party.

In 1923 she was involved in the setting up of the Centro Internacional de Estudios Sociales (a libertarian literary association) in Montevideo and in the same year spoke at the 1st May rally in Montevideo. I have little information on the later years of Virginia Bolten. Any further information would be very much appreciated. It appears that she continued to live in the working class district of Manga in Montevideo until her death in around 1960 and that she remained attached to anarchist ideas.

Taken from Libcom

November 27, 2010

The Dream of My Adolescence

For your viewing pleasure. It's sure to upset some, and empower others. Enjoy!

And as usual, email us with any thoughts, comments, hate-mail or questions: lunariapress[at]gmail[dot]com.

Sibilia Vane
April 21, 1921
(translated from Italian in 2010)

May the wisdom of rotten idiots not sneer nor the idiotic chastity of decent young ladies be scandalized.

I am a precocious adolescent who, after a long journey through the phosphorescent labyrinths of the most terrifying depths, climbed back up to the peak to sing the proud and sacrilegious song of my still young and oh so free life in the sun.

Someone told me: “You will be a woman, then a wife, then a mother!…”

I answered like this, with a question: What do woman, wife and mother mean? I won’t tell you what they said in response. I only know that when I think about it, I laugh, yes, I still laugh. Love understood as a mission!? The woman as wife and mother? No, no, no! I will not be a wife; I will not be a mother! My revolt cannot stop halfway or make mistakes. My revolt even casts its darts – beyond the family – against nature. I don’t want to be a wife; I don’t want to be a mother. No, no, no!


Yesterday, I stripped naked before the mirror and looked at myself for a long time. I saw my body of flesh wrapped in a shadow of light that quivered slightly. I don’t quite know why, but I adored myself….

The turgid breasts rose proudly from the chest, a treasure of creamy whiteness. My smooth, round belly gave me the impression that it was something that had been shaped from the finest ivory by the miraculous hands of a godlike artist. I had loosened the blonde ringlets of my hair over the curved smoothness of my shoulders and lightly circled my moist-lidded eyes with violent and black. The down that crowned the lower concavity of my belly looked like a golden wing on the sacred spine of heavenly angels. My red mouth appeared to be a ripe pomegranate opened to the yellow caress of the sun.

I approached the mirror and voluptuously kissed my reflected lips.

I don’t know if I have ever in my life desired anything with more intensity than, yesterday evening, when I desired to be a man so that I myself could lay the white virgin body, which the mystery in the clear mirror had shown me, down on the bed.

But the idea of intercourse brought forth another idea in me. Every cause has an effect.

I lay down on the bed. My temples throbbed. The blood boiled in my veins. Perhaps I was delirious…

I know that I had my eyes closed and only saw darkness. But amidst the darkness I saw another mirror. The mirror of the imagination, which showed reality. I looked at myself. I saw my fine, round, varnished belly fearfully swollen, with a symmetrical black-yellow line that gave me the clammy impression of a small grass snake stretched out on a sack full of bulky, withered grass.

Then, I also saw my superb, white breasts gone flabby and shriveled… I was a mother!

A hateful brat greedily sucked my blood , spoiled my youth, mercilessly destroyed my divine beauty that I had hoped would be immortal.

Yesterday evening’s desire has passed, but the nightmare remains.

Mother… What does it all mean? Giving children to the species, more slaves to society, more derelicts to sorrow.

… Mother… Wife….

Are these then the aims of love?

Ah, the old sorcery of morality, the old lies of this old humanity.

No, I will never be anyone’s wife; I will never give any children to the species. Never!

Life is pain. Humanity is a lie. Anyone who accepts perpetuating the species is an enemy of pure beauty.

Humanity is a race that must FADE AWAY!

Individualism must kill society, pleasure must strangle pain. Let weeping and pain die, drowned in a final orgy of joy. Give yourself to the mad joy of living, you who love life, you who love the end.

Why should the future matter? What does the species matter to you?

Come on, you who have discovered yourselves, let’s make the world a feast. Let’s make life a twilight orgy of love. For those that come from the depths of the social lie where the roots of human pain cling, joy must be an end and the end the highest aim.

I don’t want to have a child that spoils my beauty and withers my youth.

I don’t want to have a family that constrains my freedom. I don’t want an insipid, jealous and brutal husband who, as payment for a piece of bread, prevents the lyrical flights of the spirit through the most divine and wicked follies of lust and voluptuousness that multiple love affairs give to the flesh.

I don’t love husbands and perhaps not even lovers.

I love pleasure and love.

But love is a flower that germinates on men’s lips.

When I approach their lips to gather the perverse flower of love, I will do it for my love alone.

Loving the other is always needless and sometimes stupid.

It is enough to love oneself. It is enough to know how to love oneself. And I will know how to love myself so much, oh so much!

I will love myself naked in front of the mirror in the evening. I will adore myself naked in the bathtub in the morning. I will intoxicate myself naked in the arms of lovers.

Humanity walks the paths of pain in order to perpetuate itself. I walk the paths of pleasure because I seek the end.


I walk toward the east; I walk toward the west. I want to walk over the paths of the world gathering the flowers of love, joy and freedom.

I love black and flesh-colored stockings. White or red silk panties. Shoes of rubber and refined material. Baths in scented vinegar water, perfume from Cotty and bouquets of roses.

I want to walk over the paths of the world gathering the flowers of love, joy and freedom.

I will break off the fronds of lime trees; I will gather hydrangea sprays, wisteria clusters and oleander flowers to prepare the perfumed bed of my love.

And I will be the lover of vagabonds and thieves. And I will be the ideal of poets.

Because I don’t want to give anything to the fatherland, to the species and to humanity.

I want to get drunk at the fountain of pleasure, lust and voluptuousness. I want to be completely consumed on love’s pyre.

I don’t want to be a mother; I don’t want to be a wife. No, no, no!

Perfumed beds, lover’s kisses and the music of mad violins. Song and dance.

I know. You will call me a madwoman and a pervert. You will call me a wh…

But these are old and powerless names that no longer affect me.

I am the precocious adolescent who, after wandering in the most terrifying chasms of the depths, climbs back up to the peak to sing the sacrilegious song of my free life in the sun.

A life of beauty and strength, a life of art and love, surging with godlike sin, gushing in the sacred oasis of voluptuousness.

Enough now with epileptic frenzies of the spirit.

Nothing belongs to pagan beauty more than my young body.

Oh, love flies off with me…

October 14, 2010

Tacoma Anarchist Bookfair

Lunaria Press will be tabling at the Tacoma Anarchist Bookfair.

King's Books
218 St. Helen's Ave Tacoma, WA 98402

October 23rd 2010, 11am - 7pm
October 24th 2010, Noon - 7pm

See ya there!

Lines In Sand

Lines in Sand
Two essays on identity, oppression, and social war.
By Peter Gelderloos

There is a line that divides many people whose struggles I respect. I won't name this line or define either camp, to avoid entrenching them, and I don't know of any fair definitions that have been put forward by any of those involved in this antagonism. Most of us are familiar with the strawmen that litter this battlefield, though. Those on one side are guilty of “identity politics,” those on the other are “privileged.”

In some cases I think the different practices can complement each other, each having their own shortcomings. But in other cases they are merely different; I know of people on either side who seem to me to have a complete revolutionary practice, with its own particular advantages, but no failing that could be addressed by the other side. Simultaneously, there are those on both sides who I do not consider allies. Among those who speak of social war are some who want a homogenous front that struggles only for freedom in the abstract, who stifle any talk of oppressions they do not personally experience. And among those who speak of privilege and oppression are some who are just politicians and guilt-mongerers.

Between those who speak of privilege and oppression, and those who speak of social war, I come largely from the former, and now find myself closer to the latter. While I want to direct these criticisms in multiple directions, I don't want to create a false balance between two fictive positions. I hope these criticisms aid not in the development of a better anarchist practice, a peace or synthesis between those who have not seen eye to eye, but in the development of better anarchist practices that need not ever come to terms.

However, recognizing that we'll never all agree on anything, and this is good, I want to argue nonetheless that a needed common ground is an understanding and embrace of social war. I'm afraid that those who speak of oppression without acknowledging the war we are a part of, not as metaphor but as a real and current practice, will only succeed in turning a battlefield into a garden, decorating this cemetery of a society with flowers and accessibility ramps. I don't care to argue that one side or another is necessarily more correct, only that revolution becomes impossible not when we enter into the current historical era but when we start believing in civil society and stop noticing that the guns are pointed at us too.

Defiant Hearts

Defiant Hearts
by Adeline Lionheart

United States prisons and jails are currently housing more than 170,000 mothers. Approximately 2,000 babies are born to mothers in prison each year. In a world where millions are sent to death camps [prisons] and the only solutions that most people on the outside propose are modifications to these death camps, what are those of us who still possess our hearts and spines to do? Defiant Hearts advocates the utter annihilation of prisons, the destruction of capitalism, and the overthrow of civilization.

Supporting underground and independent midwives; making midwifery care accessible to all; redefining criminality; creating alliances in and outside prison walls; and identifying prison reformists/sympathizers as enemies who wish to recuperate us: all are decent places to start in our work to eradicate the prison industrial complex, as well as necessary steps to creating truly self-reliant communities, empowered women, and autonomous families.

August 1, 2010

Seattle Anarchist Bookfair

Lunaria Press is excited to announce that we will be tabling at the upcoming Seattle Anarchist Bookfair.

Saturday, August 21st
10am to 5pm
Sunday, August 22nd
11am to 5pm
At The VERA Project

We hope to see you there!


July 4, 2010

On Feminism.

Alfredo Bonanno was arrested on October 1st 2009 in Greece, accused of concourse in robbery. With him, anarchist comrade Christos Stratigopoulos. At the present time they are being held in the prison in Athens.

Bonnano explores feminism from a revolutionary perspective emphasizing on the importance of feminism for efforts in repelling chauvinistic compulsions, but also acknowledging certain contradictions that feminism can carry.

"If they place themselves before the mass as women alone, they cannot fail to discriminate between two distinct groups of different sex within the mass. In this way ‘all women’ come to have a revolutionary potential, which remains to be seen. In the same way, all workers become part of an hypothetical revolutionary potential, even policemen, judges, politicians, Mafiosi. Of course, starting from a quantitative logic this solution is very convenient, makes the woman feel strong, makes her part of a ‘great mass of sisters’, but certainly doesn’t take her towards liberation."

"That said, we are not trying to suggest that women should ‘soften up’ the violent charge that is exploding within them as they take consciousness of the double exploitation they suffer, in order to enter ‘purified’ into the ‘revolutionary movement’. . . And against the rage of women it will not be easy for power to find an accommodating solution."

May 8, 2010

Beyond Feminism

L. Susan Brown became interested in Anarchist theory when obtaining her B.A. at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. She became disillusioned with the broken promises of her liberal upbringing after being exposed to Marxist criticisms in pursuit of making sense of the world. This accounted for the uneasiness she had always felt when considering our society. The Marxism she embraced was a humanistic vision of society that critically revealed inherent contradictions in liberal capitalism and a world where the potential of the human individual could be fully realized. Then, through reading the literary works of Emma Goldman, she recognized the historical and theoretical incompatabilities between Marxism and Anarchism. Her ideas as an individualist anarchist then started to bleed into her critical consideration of the political philosophy of liberal feminism. Her book, The Politics of Individualism, was published in 2003:

“I found myself drawn back to the humanism of anarchism as I recoiled against the often blind anger of feminism.”

Brown uses certain terminology and definitions that I would not have personally chosen to represent my thoughts; such as her referring to the “adherents” of anarchism. However, she articulates her weariness and critiques clearly with an emphasis on liberal feminism lacking a vital opposition to domination as a whole within the many veins of contemporary feminist theories. Coming from different experiences and upbringings, this is a weariness that I share. Without an anti-authoritarian perspective, “liberation” of our own individual identities is not only unachievable, but also provides a wider range of those in positions that are inherently dominant over others. The redistribution of this essay is an expression of my own interest in steering clear from the feminist identity and is an attempt to propose a discussion with those who choose to reside within it.

April 28, 2010

A Brief Note: "Friend Requests"

Thanks to everyone who has been sending us emails, we appreciate the support. We love learning about other people's projects and communication between distros is really great. If we come across a project/group/distro that we find affinity with and feel is in alignment with the intentions of Lunaria Press then we will link them on our site. However, we will not link to another site just because we are asked to. We are interested in a quality of friends and comrades rather than a quantity. So, continue to let us know about your projects, but please don't request that we link to your site.


April 1, 2010


Originally published by Black Cat Press.

The Ukrainian anarchist Maria Nikiforova played a prominent role in the Russian Revolutions of 1917 and the subsequent Civil War as an organizer, military commander, and terrorist. A revolutionary from the age of 16, she was on trial for her life on four separate occasions under three different regimes and was sentenced to death twice. Her exploits became the stuff of folklore. But she was ‘blacklisted’ by official historians and her story was lost for generations.

March 31, 2010

Witches, Midwives & Nurses

This is the first part of a two part series, the other being Complaints and Disorders.

Witches, Midwives and Nurses
explains how the American medical profession came to be dominated by rich, white men, while Complaints and Disorders addresses the effects of this domination.

Barbara Ehrenreich &
Deirdre English:
The suppression of female healers by the medical establishment was a political struggle, first, in that it is part of the history of sex struggle in general. The status of women healers has risen and fallen with the status of women. When women healers were attacked, they were attacked as Women; when they fought back, they fought back in solidarity will all women.

It is a political struggle, second, in that it was part of a class struggle. Women healers were people’s doctors, and their medicine was part of a people’s subculture. To this very day women’s medical practice has thrived in the midst of rebellious lower class movements which have struggled to be free from the established authorities. Male professionals, on the other hand, served the ruling class – both medically and politically. Their interests have been advanced by the universities, the philanthropic foundations and the law. They owe their victory – not so much to their own efforts – but to the intervention of the ruling class the served.

This pamphlet represents a beginning of the research which will have to be done to recapture our history as health workers. It is a fragmentary account, assembled from sources which were usually sketchy and often biased, by women who are in no sense “professional” historians. We confined ourselves to western history, since the institutions we confront today are the products of western civilization. We are far from being able to represent a complete chronological history. Instead, we looked at two separate, important phases in the male takeover of health care: the suppression of witches in medieval Europe, and the rise of the male medical profession in 19th century America.

To know our history is to begin to see how to take up the struggle again!

March 23, 2010

The Makhnovist Granny

Leah Feldman, who was cremated in London on January 7th, 1994 was one of the ordinary men and women who rarely get into history books but have been the backbone of the anarchist movement.

Born in Warsaw in 1899, as a schoolgirl she became interested in anarchism. She said that her mother used to hide her shoes so that she could not attend meetings, which were then illegal in Poland. Finally she ran away to her sister in London where she earned her living at the sewing machine.

Working in the sweatshops of the East End she became active in the Yiddish-speaking anarchist movement that flourished at that time. When the Russian revolution broke out in 1917 the overwhelming majority of Russian male Jewish anarchists returned home. Many of those women whose husbands and lovers died at the hands of the Tsarists or the Bolsheviks, remained in England. The Jewish (in the sense of neither racial or religious but Yiddish-speaking) anarchist movement gradually dwindled and ended with Leah's death in January.

Leah, however, had made her own way to Russia. Upon arrival she saw the reality of Bolshevik rule and was not impressed. As a working woman she could see the effects of their dictatorship in a way that visiting intellectuals could not. Before leaving Moscow she attended Kropotkin's funeral, the last permitted anarchist demonstration until the collapse of Stalinism. (In a great display of self-discipline all of the anarchist political prisoners who were paroled for the funeral returned to jail, in the hope that the Bolsheviks would give parole to others in the future).

Leah traveled south to the Ukraine and joined the anarchist Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army led by Nestor Makhno. The Ukranian anarchists fought Tsarism, foreign intervention and then the Bolshevik dictatorship. Though she did not actually fight (some women who could ride horseback did) she joined the train that followed the army and prepared clothes and food for the orphans and strays they picked up everywhere.

When they were defeated in 1921 she got out of the country by changing her nationality through a marriage of convenience to a German anarchist. They did not meet again. She made her way to Paris and then back to London. There she acquired British citizenship by another marriage of convenience, this time to a derelict ex-serviceman who was paid £10 for his services. They did not see each other until many years later Leah received an official communication that he was in a geriatric hospital. She used to visit him with presents of tobacco.

Before World War II she travelled to Poland and Palestine, working her way to both places. In Palestine she organized a federation of anarchists. One surprise was meeting her old friend Paula Green, who had been pressured into marriage in Russia, so had chosen an atheist zionist with whom she was in love. Paula knew he was active in Labor politics but thought it impossible that he would ever be in government as he thought her ideas impossible.

Green changed his name to Ben Gurion and became the first prime minister of Israel. His wife did not leave him but she never once took part in any public functions with him. She remained a still believing, if passive, anarchist.

When Leah returned to London at the end of 1935 she helped raise money for the German sailors who organized an anti-Nazi resistance group in the 1930s. She also did tremendous work for the Spanish anarchist movement when the civil war broke out.

Leah was a member of a working group of immigrant anarchist women in Holborn ever since 1939. How, with the confusion of tongues - broken English, Yiddish, Polish, French, Catalan, Spanish, Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot - they understood each other was a mystery to many. But they managed.

Leah had to give up work when her eyesight went after an operation. She was completely blind in one eye thereafter and increasingly so in the other. She used her free time to help the movement she had given her life to. In the 1960s she smuggled arms into Spain for the fighters who had continued resisting the Franco regime since 1939. The Catalans, who are prone to giving nicknames, christened her "la yaya Makhnowista" (the Makhnovist granny).

Her last years were sad. Not only were all her family and her early friends dead, there was nobody left with whom she could talk in her own language. But she never gave up. She still supported anarchist meetings and always attended the annual London Anarchist Bookfair when her health permitted.

Our movement has been built by working women and men like Leah. It is right that we do not forget their contribution.

March 3, 2010

Complaints and Disorders

This is the second part of a two part series. The first pamphlet, Witches, Midwives, and Nurses, will be posted soon.

Barbara Ehrenreich &
Deirdre English:
Our motivation to write this pamphlet comes out of our own experiences as women, as health care consumers, and as activists in the women’s health movement. In writing this, we have tried to see beyond our own experiences (and anger) and to understand medical sexism as a social force helping to shape the options and social roles of all women. Our approach is largely historical. In the first sections of this pamphlet we attempt to describe medicine’s contribution to the sexist ideology and sexual oppression in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (approximately 1865 to 1920 though a few important medical books were written earlier). We chose to begin with this period because it witnessed a pronounced shift from a religious to a bio-medical rationale for sexism, as well as the formation of the medical profession as we know it – a male elite with a legal monopoly over medicine practice. We feel that this period provides a perspective essential for understanding our relation to the modern medical system. In the last two sections we attempt to apply that perspective to our present situation and the issues that concern us today.

Among the Women of the ETA

This text was originally the first chapter of a book called Shoot the Women First written in the late 1980s by Eileen MacDonald. In her book MacDonald explores the role of women who are involved “violent” or “terrorist” organizations: the ETA (the Basque separatists movement), the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the Irish Republican Army, Leila Khaled of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Baader-Meinhohf Gang and the Red Army Faction, Kim Hyon Hui (who blow up a plane for the North Korean government), and Susanna Ronconi of the Red Brigades. The title of this book comes from orders rumored to have been given to police forces who specialized in terrorist incidents. Upon hearing this from a special agent in the German terrorist unit, MacDonald set out to investigate the reason behind this piece of advice.

While the book provides great insight into these organizations and individuals, MacDonald is by no means sympathetic to the causes of those she is interviewing and writing about. Her interest in these groups extends only to the role of these women and their relationship to violence: whether or not women are more brutal, more committed, and more dangerous than their male counterparts. She explores the idea that women have a greater capacity for violence because of their biology: they give life, and are therefore more able to take it; and that patriarchal relations makes women tougher because they feel that they have more to prove, that they can be equally, if not more, violent and brutal than men.

In printing “Among the Women of the ETA” out intention was to take a look at one instance of women in militant struggle. We are not really concerned with the struggle of the ETA, nor any other nationalist movement.
What was appreciated about this particular interview was that the women didn't seem to dwell on the fact that being women made them different than their male counterparts but seemed to embrace the idea that they were equal, both as individuals and as comrades, but were willing to discuss that differences that did exist and analyze how that affected their struggle. Many of the texts out there about women in militant roles written by anarchists are about the same few people or groups or have the same perceptive and bias – which is what makes this zine interesting, it's different. And while the ETA is not anarchistic, many of the tactics that they discussed in the interview are things that some anarchist embrace -- clandestine action, bombings, attacks on police and judges, etc. And as such we found these women's thoughts relevant.

Resistance to Difference

Helene Bowen Raddeker:

In imperial Japan sexual equality had many champions, though definitions of what constituted equality varied markedly. The following discussion concerns three women who were among the most radical of its advocates: Kanno Suga (1881-1911), Itō Noe (1895-1923) and Kaneko Fumiko (1903-1926). All three, it will be noted, died young. Not one of them, moreover, died from natural causes but, rather, at or in the hands of the State. This may come as no surprise since all were anarchists or (in the case of Fumiko) strongly influenced by anarchism; as we shall see below, two of the three were even self-confessed traitors who believed in political violence as a necessary strategy. These three women did not fall foul of state power due specifically to their advocacy of sexual equality, yet this was an intrinsic part of the political standpoints and identities they embraced. If it had not been for their resistance to hierarchical notions of male-female difference and their demands for equal recognition and treatment by society, their fates may have been different. The self-denial and self-effacement traditionally expected of women was, for each of them, not an option, for it ruled out the possibility of a true subjecthood and destiny of her own choosing.

This is Not a Love Story

The Revolutionary Cells (RZ) made their first appearance on November 16th, 1973 with an attack against ITT in West Berlin to point out the participation of this multinational corporation in Pinochet’s military putsch in Chile.In 1976, numerous wimmin broke with the RZ and formed their own splinter group and from 1977 onwards, the militant feminist ant patriarchal urban guerrilla group Rote Zora (Red Zora) acted autonomously and independently, though some wimmin still participated in the Revolutionary Cells, which had by then shifted its focus to acts of clandestine sabotage in support of the larger anti-nuclear movement in Germany.

In this pamphlet there is an interview with members of the Red Zora and a brief look into Direct Action and the Wimmin's Fire Brigade.

“....We are women between the ages of 20 and 51. Some of us sell our labour, some of us take what we need, and others are “parasites” on the welfare state. Some have children, some don’t. Some women are lesbians, others love men. We buy in disgusting supermarkets, we live in ugly houses, we like going for walks or to the cinema, the theatre or the disco. We have parties and we cultivate idleness. And of course we live with the contradictions that many things we want to do can’t be done spontaneously. But after successful actions we have great fun.”
-Member of the Red Zora