Anarchists in Mourning

Discussion in 'theory, philosophy & history' started by Mordi, Mar 26, 2018.

  1. Mordi

    Mordi Amoral adventurist

    I've been trying to come to terms with a friends death and also having to deal with the politicisation of that death. I can see that there's a context of mourning from other political ideologies/traditions that doesn't fit me but I can see the value of. I'm thinking of Revolutionary Martyrs, Paramilitary funerals from over here but even things like the state military tradition of sticking flags on coffins and wheeling them through the street. It goes without saying that I don't particularly like any of those things but can see what they offer in terms of situating that loss within a political context and continuity. Something that speaks (however imperfectly) to the dead's beliefs or actions as well as those who share in them.

    What I've been wondering is whether this is something that already exists within the history of anarchism? May Day comes to mind as a way of emphasising international solidarity as well a particular event/set of martyrs but I can't think of much beyond a list of those who have been murdered by the state.

    Do folks here have experiences of this? How have others commemorated those who've died in a way that speaks to their continued value to a political project?
  2. albionism

    albionism A successful virus clinging to a speck of mud.

    Kropotkin's funeral.
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  3. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    Albert Meltzer’s funeral in 1996 included a parade of hundreds of anarchists behind a horse drawn carriage.

    I am also dubious about flags but there were a lot of black and red ones which seemed appropriate I guess. I didn’t make it to the ceremony but it seemed like the parade was a big reunion of old comrades and it generated some local press interest.

    Of course, Albert’s death wasn’t especially political in itself.

    I’m sorry about your loss.
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  4. Lurdan

    Lurdan old wave

    At the 'service' there was - at Albert's request - a stand up comedian, and a video of him helpless with laughter was shown. It wasn't a solemn political occasion, more about affectionate remembrance.

    Funerals aren't straightforward. People usually have family and friends outside of their political commitments and these people may not share their political views. I've been to funerals where relations imposed their own religious views, sometimes in defiance of the deceased persons views and wishes. These can be rather unhappy affairs in consequence. I can imagine circumstances where imposing some form of political ceremonial might have the same effect. Sometimes a separate political memorial event may be more appropriate.
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  5. cantsin

    cantsin Well-Known Member

    Durrutti's funeral : huge turn out for what was a powerful display of solidarity, at a crucial point in the civil war :

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  6. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    Yes I think this is a key point. I think perhaps the politics of the death and legacy of a comrade is easier to deal with in the aftermath of the funeral. A couple of examples that spring to mind:

    In The Spirit of Emma - a series of pamphlets named after Emma Cray, formerly of Active Distribution.

    The campaign around the death of Simon Jones who was killed in a workplace accident.
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  7. planetgeli

    planetgeli There's no future in England's dreaming

    My in-laws were anarchists and pacifists. They died a couple of years apart. We held humanist services (Golders Green crematorium) for their cremations where close friends and family were allowed to pay tributes. The coffins were decorated by family. Not a minister in sight. Each year since we hold a happy memorial in the form of an all-day picnic on Hampstead Heath. Twenty years on this is still well attended and well thought of by all. There is a space for speeches at the picnic which is attended by various friends from anarchist organisations, War Resisters International, CND etc. Games are organized for the kids, and big games are organized for the bigger kids (adults). Everyone brings food and/or alcohol/drinks. It works.

    Edit. We also set up a trust fund for a children's play organisation where Jeanne worked. This was done from some of the profits from the sale of their house and the fund is still going today.
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  8. nyxx

    nyxx Well-Known Member

    My friend’s funeral reflected their life as an anarchist.
    It was just over 10 years ago and I’ve been to too many funerals in the interim, but here are some of my recollections.
    They died young and suddenly, which might be part of why the room was packed out. People spoke about their life*, their beliefs, their work in organising politically with anarchists and their work in advocating for young LGBT people in their small town. One speech included an acoustic rendition of Bella Ciao. There were red and black flags. It was a woodland burial and the casket was of woven willow.
    I think their parents must have been supportive of their ideals and work, and embraced what those who were dear to them wanted to do by way of remembrance.

    I have zero recollection of the reception, possibly I didn’t go to it. It was out in the sticks so transport limitations might have led to us leaving after the burial bit.

    It was beautiful, and really moving. And very true to their life and work.

    *I’ve used “they” throughout as this person was non-binary and it feels more respectful to their memory to do this, however awkward it may read to some.
  9. Kate Sharpley

    Kate Sharpley Well-Known Member

    Sorry to hear this, Mordi.

    A few thoughts. I think anarchists have always been influenced by broader attitudes to mourning, inevitable since they were brought up in a particular place, time, culture etc.
    Anarchists have been good at memorial meetings and books (and those, particularly celebrating 'a long life in the struggle') are quite close to celebrating people while they're still alive. Eg there's a 60th birthday tribute to Alexander Berkman (he also - after his death - got an aid fund [re]named after him, and a [much later] social club). And 'memorial portraits' for the dead also butt up against 'remember the prisoners' graphic commemorations.
    I wonder if anarchists were more inclined to put their limited resources into the printed word than sculpture?

    Francisco Ferrer got a monument (i'm sure) but also the whole 'modern school movement' was dedicated to carrying on his work. Paul Avrich's 'the modern school movement' (a book much broader than the title implies!) reports the urn made for the Lexington Avenue explosion victims (Caron, Berg and Hanson) - also that Harry Kelly remembered the lid of the urn at Stelton: 'the bronze fist with the hollow pyramid beneath served "the peaceful function of a bell to call children to school and adults to meetings'" (208)

    There are also libraries and archives named after fallen (and just respected) comrades: Pinelli, Franco Serantini (and more, see Ficedl)

    There have also been 'historical walks', i'm thinking particularly of the 'Maquis March'. (Marxa-Homenatge als Maquis in Catalan)
    and then there are songs...

    Give flowers to the rebels who failed
    Their sight fixed upon the break of dawn,
    To the bold rebel who fights and works
    To the far-seeing poet who sings and dies

    (Pietro Gori, the rest at Primo Maggio (The First of May))
    More on Ferrer at Kate Sharpley Library: Ferrer y Guardia, Francisco (1859-1909)
    "Lives" on the KSL site. some of these are obituaries (an important part of the anarchist press, though you'd hope not the main part) Kate Sharpley Library: Lives (biography, autobiography)
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