Louis Lecoin, by May Picqueray

My enthusiasm for anarchism went in all directions. I was at risk of becoming inefficient, spreading my energies too thin. Chance made me cross paths with Louis Lecoin. It was in 1921 that I first met him. From that moment on, I spent most of my time making war to war.

Louis Lecoin was just out from the prison of Albertville after an eight-year sentence for antimilitarism. What stroke me first were his blue eyes which glistened with intelligence, with a touch of mischievousness, but also his goodness, his energy, and his courage. He even courted me for a short while. But, at 20, I thought this great man was too small. This did not stop us from being good friends all our lives.

I was not disappointed, the legend about him seemed justified. I knew him well from what Sébastien Faure, Pierre Le Meillour and other people had told me, with such warmth, such love! I knew all the things for which he had been imprisoned: his refusal, as a young soldier, to march against train workers on strike, and to shoot at them, defying the military machine of which he was a part. His campaign against the war, in 1914, the thousand leaflets he had distributed, his long years in jail, punctuated with hunger strikes to demand the reestablishment of the status of political prisoners, and for it to be granted to the anarchist comrade Jeanne Morand, injustly suspected of intelligence with the enemy.

Louis Lecoin was to us, young libertarians, young syndicalists, an example to follow. He had proven us that we could be at the same time syndicalists, liertarians, and antimilitarists.

When he got out he became the administrator of Le Libertaire, the newspaper of the Union Anarchiste, which did not prevent him from being a militant in his union (the builders’ union) and to intervene energetically and efficiently at the Lille congress in 1921 and Saint Etienne in 1922.

Like most of us, he felt enthusiastic about the Russian revolution, from which we expected great things, and which only brought us disillusions, but he resisted being enrolled into the Communist Party, unlike some other comrades.

In 1921, he led a campaign to avoid the extradition of three Spanish men: Ascaso, Durruti, and Jover, sentenced in Argentina pretendingly for some robbery, but in fact for being anarchists. Their extradition was imminent: a cruiser was coming to get them. He reached out to the highest political and judiciary figures, and, finally, won their case.

He also worked to avoid the deportations of Camille Berneri and Nestor Makhno and managed to save them.

But his biggest case was the Sacco and Vanzetti affair.

The Makhnovist Movement, by May Picqueray

The Makhnovist Movement
May Picqueray

Paris, March 14th, 1967
Dear Sir,
I have received, over a month ago now, your letter, and I wished I could have answered it sooner. A stupid incident, a fall, a broken kneecap, and annoying care are the causes of this delay.
You will find attached an excerpt of Nestor Makhno’s life. Pardon me if I let myself give some details in some places, but if I hadn’t stopped myself I would have given you even more details, as passionate as I am about Makhno’s life. Please excuse me, and I remain at your disposal if you need any precision.
I am too glad to have been able to please you, I pray you to accept, Sir, my best wishes.
May Picqueray

Nestor Makhno

Nestor Makhno was born on October 27th, 1889, in Goulai-Pole, a district of Alexandrovsk, in the Ukraine, in a poor peasant family.

He was about 1m65 high; when I met him, in 1923, he weighed no more than 60 kilos. In good health, he must have weighed more, because he had large shoulders and must have been stocky. His hair was brown, his eyes light, clear, deep set in their sockets; precocious lines marked his face, as well as the scar from a bullet which had entered the back of his neck and had exited through his cheek. He had many injuries all over his body, sabre wounds, bullet wounds, one of which had shattered his ankle, which gave him a slight limp.
He was 10 months old when his father died and left him with his 4 brothers in the care of his mother. At the age of 7, he worked as a shepherd in his village. At 8 he went to school, but only during the winters. In the summer, he had to look after sheep. At 12, he left school to work as farmhand for German kulaks who owned many rich farms in the Ukraine. Already at that time he professed his hatred for exploiters. He then worked as a foundry worker in a factory in his village. He had no political creed at this time. It was the 1905 revolution which made him leave the circle of peasants and workers of his village. He met political organisations and joined the ranks of the anarchists where he became a tireless militant.

In 1906, he fell into the hands of the tsarist authorities which condemned him to hang; because of his young age, his sentence was commuted into life in prison. In the prison of Boutirki, where he did his time, in Moscow, he learnt grammar, literature, mathematics, and political economy. To tell the truth, prison was the school where Makhno gained the historical and political knowledge which helped him greatly in his revolutionary work. But it is also in prison that Makhno compromised his health. As he couldn’t stand the crushing of his personality which all forced labour convicts were subjected to, he rebelled against the penitentiary authorities and was perpetually in isolation, where, because of the cold and damp, he contracted tuberculosis. During 9 years in detention, he was always in irons because of bad behaviour. He was freed in 1917, like all the other political prisoners, by the insurrection of the Moscow proletariat on March 1st.
He went back to his village, gathered the peasants, founded a farmhands’ trade union, organised a free commune and a local peasants’ soviet. When the Austro-Germans occupied the Ukraine, he formed battalions of workers and peasants to fight against the invaders. The local bourgeoisie put a price on his head and he had to hide for a while. German and Ukrainian military authorities burnt his mother’s house and shot his older brother, a war invalid.

Then there was the fight against Petliura, in September and October 1918 (the Petliurovschina was a movement of the Ukrainian bourgeoisie), the peasants were enrolled by force, and often deserted to join Makhno. Petliura was very hostile to the organisation of free communes, federalist soviets, and, as he hadn’t been able to convince Makhno of his “error”, he engaged in armed struggle against him, but he was faced with a very strong army and his troops were soon killed.

The statists fear a free people, the mortal enemy, the “authority” soon manifested itself, and from both sides at once. From the South-West, Denikin’s army was moving up, and from the North, the communist state army was coming down. Denikin arrived first. He was not expecting such resistance and his troops were soon defeated.
Statists fear a free people, and its mortal enemy, the “authority” soon showed up, and from two sides at once. From the South-West, Denikin’s army was marching up, from the North, the communist state army was marching down. Denikin arrived first. He was not expecting such resistance and had to retreat towards the Don and the Azov sea, where his army established a 100 km front. For 6 months, the battle raged; the hatred of Denikin’s officers took awful proportions, they burned and massacred everything on their path. Denikin was offering half a million roubles for Makhno’s head. In January 1919, Makhno seized a convoy of 100 wagons of wheat belonging to the Denikin’s supporters, he decided to deliver them to the workers in Moscow and Petrograd; a delegation of Makhnovists accompanied it and were warmly welcomed by the Moscow soviet.

Bolsheviks appeared in the territories of the Makhnovtchina in March 1919, under a benevolent guise; an ideological struggle then started; Makhno saw in them a great danger for the freedom of the region, and thought it was mainly necessary to concentrate all forces to fight the common enemy; it is for that purpose that the junction of the Makhnovist and Red armies was made. But the bolsheviks wanted to install their authoritarian regime, by arresting thse who refused to submit to it. They tried to assassinate Makhno several times. A campaign of slanders was launched and led by Trotsky himself at a time when the White danger was becoming huge, as Denikin was receiving reinforcements in the Makhnovist sector thanks to the massive arrival of Caucasians. Trotsky wanted to let Denikin crush the Makhnovists and push him back afterwards; he made a cruel mistake and underestimated Denikin’s forces. Bolsheviks opened the front in front of Denikin, and Makhno saw himself be bypassed by Denikin’s armies. The situation was tragic, because even though Makhno received many volunteers, he had nothing to arm them with, since the bolsheviks had cut all supplies and sabotaged the region’s defences. The peasants defended their region with axes, piques, old hunting rifles; almost all of them were massacred. The bolsheviks abandoned the Ukraine, and Makhno had to face Denikin’s hordes on his own. A few Red regiments joined Makhno’s cause along with their equipment. Red regiments from Crimea also joined with him. An uninterrupted battle lasted for over two months, with advances, setbacks, lack of ammunition, encircling movements, lightning advances of the Makhnovists, and the annihilation of Denikin’s counter-revolution by Makhno’s forced in the Autumn of 1919. Bolsheviks then came back to the Ukraine and Makhno received Trotsky’s order to leave for the Polish front with his troops. He refused. Makhno and his fighters were declared outlaws. For 9 months there was a ruthless struggle. Over 200 000 peasants and workers were shot by Trotsky; as many were taken prisoners or deported to Siberia. A monstrous campaign of slanders against Makhno was led by the soviet authorities. On top of this, a typhoid epidemic hit the Ukraine. Wrangel showed up in the Spring of 1920, and Makhno’s troops then marched and fought for several months until the final defeat of Wrangel in November 1920.

Makhno came back to his village and started his work of education and organisation, but all this creative drive was broken by a new and sudden attack from the bolsheviks, furious at Makhno’s success in this domain, as well as at his military success.

On November 26th, 1920, Goulai-Pole was encircled, Makhno was there with 240 horsemen. Makhno was only just recovering from an illness and was suffering from his crushed ankle; they launched an attack and knocked over the red cavalry regiment, escaping the enemy’s grasp. He regrouped his troops (around 2000 men) who fought like devils, on the left, on the right, to break the encirclement by four army corps: two cavalry and two infantry, launched after him and his men (over 150 000 men). He rushed like a Titan of the legends, towards the North, where workers warned him that a military roadblock was waiting for him, then towards the West, taking fantastic paths of which he alone knew the secret. Hundreds of miles, through fields and plateaus covered with snow and ice. This unequal fight lasted several months, with unceasing battles day and night. In Kiev, in a rocky and hilly country, in full frost, the Makhnovists had to give up their artillery, food and ammunition. Two cavalry divisions of the Red Cosacks Divisions joined the mass of armies launched by the bolsheviks against Makhno. They couldn’t escape. No one hoped to get out of it alive. But no one thought of fleeing in shame. They all decided to die together. Makhno escaped this trial with honour. He advanced to the borders of Galicia, crossed the Dniepr again, went up to Koursk, found himself outside of the enemy’s circle: the attempt to capture his army had failed. But the unequal duel still did not end. The red divisions in all of the Ukraine marched to find and block Makhno. The vice tightens again, and the fight to the death resumed. Highs and lows, attacks, victories, setbacks, at the cry of “live free or die fighting”. Makhno was shot through his thigh, another through his crotch; carried in a horse cart he regained consciousness and was bandaged: he was losing a lot of blood. He continued to give orders, to sign them; small detachments went here or there. On March 16th, only a small unit was left near Makhno. Enemy cavalry forces charged them, the fighting was fierce. Makhno could not ride, lying on the horse cart, he had to witness this massacre. Five machine gunners from his village told him: “Batko, your life is useful to our cause, this cause which is dear to us, we are going to die soon, you must live, if you see our parents again, give them our farewell.” They took him in their arms and carried them in a peasants’ car which was passing through, they kissed him and went back to their machine guns which started to fire to prevent the bolsheviks from crossing. The car drove across the fording of a river, Makhno was saved. He started riding again despite everything and renewed contact with his troops in Poltava. He grouped around 2000 men; they decided to march on Kharkov: once again, battles, advances, setbacks against an important army, during the whole Summer of 1921.

In early August 1921, it was decided that because of the severity of his injuries, he would leave the country with a few companions in order to receive a serious treatment. On August 17, he was once again injured 6 times; on the 19th, a new battle with the 17th red cavalry division which camped along the Ingouletz river. Makhno was trapped like a rat; he fought like a lion and lost 17 of his companions. A new injury: bullet went into the back of his neck and came out through his cheek. Once more lying on a cart on august 22nd, on the 26th, a new battle, new loss of old comrades in-arms. On August 28th, Makhno crossed the Dniepr; he never saw his country again; the Ukraine was occupied by the Red Army who imprisoned and killed without mercy.

Makhno arrived in Romania, he was interned with his comrades. He escaped and got to Poland. Arrested, put on trial, he was acquitted. He came to Danzig where he was once more put in jail, escaped with the help of his comrades and settled definitely in Paris.

From time to time, he tried the hint of an action. He mainly used his leisure to write the history of his struggles and of the Ukraine revolution, but he could not finish it. It ends in late 1918. Three volumes were published, the first in Russian and in French; the second and third only in Russian, after his death. He worked in a factory for a while, but, very seriously ill, suffering from his many injuries, not knowing the language of this country and adapting badly to a different atmosphere than what he had known, he lived in Paris a very painful existence, materially and morally. His life abroad was but a long and pitiful agony against which he was unable to fight. His friends helped him to carry the burden of these sad years of decline.
His health was worsening quickly. Admitted in the Tenon hospital, he died there in July 1935. He was cremated at the Père-Lachaise Crematorium, where the urn containing his ashes can be seen.

As an anarcho-syndicalist militant, I had constituted a sort of mutual aid service for foreign comrades: I welcomed them, put them up at mine or with comrades who could do it, I received their mail, they found at my place shelter, meals, in the measure of my limited means, but also comfort. I received Makhno when he first arrived in Paris, along with his wife and daughter, who was then 4. I directed them to some friends in the countryside where they stayed a couple of days, then we found them a small flat in Paris. I then founded with my friend, Louis Lecoin, a Makhno committee, I appealed to comrades in Paris, in the rest of France, internationally, in the US especially, and I could ensure him a daily allowance, not very important, but enough to ensure material needs. And this, until he died. His wife and his daughter opened a small grocery store in Vincennes; during the war, they disappeared. We believe they were arrested by the Gestapo and deported. We never heard from them again.

Among Makhno’s companions, I have known Volin very well, who fought alongside Makhno in the Ukraine, was arrested by the bolsheviks and was freed by an anarcho-syndicalist delegation in 1922. He lived in Paris with his family and died in 1945. He rests next to Makhno at the Père-Lachaise. I also knew Arshinov, but I saw him less, we didn’t always agree on anarchist principles. He went back to Russia, not only because he was home sick, but because he rallied himself to bolshevik ideas, which was quite surprising for a former Makhnovist companion. Makhno had violent discussions with him on this subject. On the other hand, he got along well with Volin. Arshinov did not drink.

Makhno was not involved in Petliura’s death, but it was another Ukrainian, Schwartzbart, who killed him. We were having lunch in a Russian restaurant on the street of the School of Medecine in Paris, with Schwartzbart, Alexander Berkman, Mollie and Senya Elechine, when Petliura got in the restaurant and was recognized by Schwartzbart. Livid, he made no comment, but he came back alone the next day and killed him. He was acquitted by the Assize Court in paris.

About Trotsky, the “superman” as his accomplices now call him in France and beyond, he was excessively proud and nasty, a good polemicist and orator, he became thanks to the confusion of the revolution an “infallible” military dictator, he was not liked by Makhno and with reason: this man could not stand a people being free in his vicinity, organised along Proudhonian and Kropotkinian principles, in perfect disagreement with K. Marx’s principles. And because of this, he did not hesitate to have hundreds of thousands Ukrainians killed, men, women, and children, using the most perfidious weapons to lose Makhno in the eyes of the people and soldiers, branding him a bandit, an antisemite, etc. Lenin was in perfect agreement with Trotsky on this issue.
I knew Trotsky personally, in Paris, before the revolution, at the café La Rtonde, where revolutionary students such as myself met. I considered him as someone bright but machiavellian, ready to do anything to reach his goals. I saw him again in 1923, at the 2nd syndicalist congress in Moscow, where I was a delegate with a mandate of opposition to joining the 3rd International. I had contacted, in Berlin, A. Berkman and E. Goldman, who had come back from Russia and gave me many addresses of comrades who had gone underground. I managed to contact some of them, others were in prison. Among those, Mollie Steimer and her partner, Senya Fleshin, interend in the camp of Archangelsk, and condemned to life deportation on the Solovietsky islands. I decided to take advantage of my mandate as a delegate to ask an audience from Trotsjy and obtained it after 8 days. I went to meet him at his Kremlin office with a comrade who wouldn’t let me go alone, since the result of the last delegation: our friends Lepetit, Vergeat and R. Lefebvre had disappeared. We later learned that they had drowned while trying to reach France, in rather mysterious circumstances. Trotsky received me with much warmth, he walked towards me smiling, and holding out his hand, but I ostensibly put my hand in my pocket. He asked me why and I couldn’t help myself and told him that I could not shake hands with the person who had Makhno’s troops massacred, and who was also responsible for the events in Kronstadt. To my surprise he did not get angry, or at least he did not show it. It was not very diplomatic of me, since I came to ask the liberation of Mollie and Senya, but my impetuous character at that time made me act this way. I exposed my objectives to him, asked for the liberation of my friends, the right to visit them in Archangelsk, and told him I was firmly decided not to leave Russia until they were freed. I was granted all of my demands, I had the joy to see my friends free and welcomed them to Paris not long afterwards. He didn’t do this by kindness, because he was a hard, even a ferocious man, but the Lepetit-Vergeat affair had made a lot of noise in the syndicalist and anarchist milieus, and Trotsky did not wish for a new campaign to be led among the workers at that time.

May Picqueray

Petlioura’s Assassination, May Picqueray

Petlioura’s Assassination
May Picqueray

Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkmann sent me a telegramm. They were arriving in Paris to stay a while and they strongly wished to meet me there. At their demand, I book a room for Emma, on the Sorbonne square, and for Alexander (who we all call Sacha), rue Royer-Collard near the Luxemburg.

Emma will only be staying for 48 hours, people are waiting for her in England for a series of conferences. Sacha has a lot of work. He wishes me to help him for a few days with the writing of his Memoirs. I feel very comfortable around this, good, generous man, who carries with him the stigmata of the fourteen years he spent in prison.

Contrary to what I have read about him afterwards, on his pessimism which would have led him to suicide, Sacha was very jovial, very easy to get along with. We often had our meals in either restaurant opposite his hotel, one was Russian, the other Polish. Musicians and singers performed there, which livened up our meals. And Sacha hummed the old tunes they played.

He received the visit of a young Russo-American blouse-maker who was going on holidays in Israel. It was an occasion to reunite a few comrades around a bortch, in a restaurant of the rue Racine; Mollie, Senya, and Schwartzbard, who held a small shop as a jeweller-clockmaker on the boulevard de Belleville, joined us.

We were discussing merrily while having lunch, when a group of men entered the restaurant with a lot of noise; the outbursts of their voices attarcted the consumers’ attention. Suddenly, Schwartzbard turned livid, he had just recognised in this group the former ataman of the Ukraine, Petlioura, the author of many bloody pogroms against Jewish people, who became famous for his uncountable murders, rapes, and acts of looting. Fifteen members of Schwartzbard’s family had been hanged on Petlioura’s orders.

He came back to the restaurant the next day, armed this time; that is how on May, 25th, Petlioura fell under Schwartzbard’s shots, who had come to avenge his people.

Gravely injured, Petlioura was taken to the Charité hospital, where he died upon arrival.

Schwartzbard was sent to trial in Paris, on October 18th, 1925, his trial lasted for a week. Mr. Heni Torrès defended him brilliantly. It was one of the most famous legal cases of that period.

Many famous people testified in his favour, such as Séverine, the countess of Noailles, Maxime Gorki, Joseph Kessel, Professor Langevin, Vicor Margueritte, who all put on trial the pogroms and Petlioura the murderer.

Schwartzbard then declared at his trial:

“I am happy I did what I did, I avenged my people, I killed a murderer!”

He was discharged.

L’Action Française, the Germaine Berton and Philippe Daudet affair, May Picqueray

L’Action Française, the Germaine Berton and Philippe Daudet affairs
May Picqueray

Here are now two stories in which I played almost no part, but to which I want to bear witness to, since I lived them from inside the libertarian movement.

First if all, the Germaine Berton case.

Germaine was brown-haired. She was younger than me (born in Puteaux in 1902). I have hardly spent any time with her. We met however at a meeting at the Wagram meeting hall organised by the Action Française.

You might be surprised that I attend an extreme right meeting. But I strongly wished to see with my own eyes someone like Léon Daudet. What I had read about him in L’Action Française semed so extraordinary that I wondered whether he actually existed.

War was his favourite subject. He talked about it with a truly hysterical violence. At some point, he started to scream:

“Never forget that, above love, there is hatred…”

Even before the clapping flared up, a young boy stood up:

“No, mister,” he said, “above hatred, there is love. At least, that is what I’ve always been told…”

Not only was he silenced, but the “King’s Comelots” in attendance threw him out, beating him with canes.

Leon Daudet resumed his speech. His language was warmongering, pushing his troops to war and the restoration of the monarchy. I was absolutely astonished.

L’Action Française, the Royalist newspaper that he directed had for its motto “Tomorrow on their graves… Wheat will grow more beautiful.”

What I found appalling was that the young people who drank his words seemed to be okay to be used as fertilizer.

When we left the meeting, I was frankly feeling sick. Germaine Berton was even more outraged than I was. She told me:

“What a bastard, he doesn’t deserve to live!”

She had not been around the anarchist milieu for long and already had a solid anti-militarist and pacifist training. She often took part in the discussions of her group and always to say something intelligent.

She lived with a bookshop delivery boy, Armand Gohary. I saw him a couple of times, he seemed nice. People said he had important documents on the Red Hat affair1.

He was found dead in his room, probably murdered.

Taupin, an Anarchist comrade, who was also his friend, “committed suicide”. That was the official version at least.

I hadn’t seen Germaine again, and I hadn’t taken seriously the words she had uttered in her outrage.

I was wrong.

On January 23rd, 1923, some time after the meeting, carrying a revolver in her handbag, she showed up at the Action Française headquarters and asked to see Léon Daudet. He said he was absent and had her meet Marius Plateau. She was introduced in a large room with magnificent blue armchairs, embroidered with fleur-de-lis motifs.

The fact he was a Monarchist did not prevent Marius Plateau from being a vulgar character. He bahaved with Germaine with a vulgarity, a baseness and an arrogance beyond description. He accused her of being paid by the police “like all the Anarchists, anyway”. He offered her money “for the information she no doubt had come to give him”, etc.

Angered by his words, she took out her weapon and shoot him down without a word. Then she shot a bullet towards herself, missed, and fell unconscious. The camelots on guard burst in at the sound of gunshots, they believed her dead, or they would have no doubt torn her to pieces.

Le Libertaire had to face the attacks and slander of L’Action Française, and they vigorously defended Germaine Berton, and instead of weekly, it was published daily, what they had planned to do for a while already. They asked Mr. Henri Torrès to represent Germaine Berton. He was starting his career as a lawyer, which did not prevent him to defend her brilliantly. Séverine, Louis Lecoin, and other famous people came to support Germaine Berton and she was discharged.

Léon Daudet and Maurras’s spite, their jingoism, did not attract the sympathy of the jury. On the contrary, and it was an important factor in Germaine Berton’s acquittal.

After her trial, Germaine Berton was no longer seen in the Anarchist movement. She had come back for a short time at the front of the scene during the Philippe Daudet affair. She had claimed that she had been her lover, having met him by chance in the Quartier Latin a few months before.

“Pure invention,” all our comrades who knew her better than I did said. She attempted suicide in the Belleville church then she disappeared from our milieu.

It was a very dark story around the death of Léon’s son. It was on the front page of newspapers during all the end of 1923 and L’Action Française made it into a daily episode serial.

Let’s recall the facts:

A young man of around 15, but who looked much older, showed up at Le Libertaire headquarters, 9 rue Louis Blanc. He asked with insistence to be given a revolver. He intended to “do a hit, kill someone important”. He said his name was Philippe, that he had run away from home, and that he had no money. His parents were members of the bourgeoisie, he did not want to go back to them.

The young anarchist poet Georges Vidal, who received him, talked to him at length, explaining him what anarchism was, that Anarchists did not kill for the pleasure of killing, and that his act should have real meaning for him to sacrifice his life. Then, he took him for dinner, and, to distract and entertain him, to the “Grenier Gringoire”, on the Butte, the cabaret owned by our friend Charles d’Avray. He spent the evening with a group of comrades who welcomed him like a brother. Charles gave him a bit of money to pay for accommodation, but one of the comrades in attendance and his partner took him home for the night. He was called Jean Gruffy.

How come the son of someone like Léon Daudet was attracted by anarchism?

After his death, some journalists deemed he had attempted to infiltrate the anarchist movement in order to avenge the death of Marius Plateau of whom he were one of the most fervent admirers…

Let’s try to keep to the facts:

Although he didn’t manage to obtain the weapon he was demanding, Philippe came back to Le Libertaire. Georges Vidal was not there this time, he met a certain F. who took him to the bookshop owner Le Flaouter, who might sell him a weapon. Indeed, Le Flaouter promised it for the next day.

The bookshop owner received him as planned in the basement of his shop. From this moment on, there is a complete black-out.

The official version was that Le Flaouter sold him a weapon, that Philippe took a taxi on th boulevard, near Bastille, and asked the driver to take him to the Medrano circus. When they reached Gare de l’Est, the driver would have heard a gunshot from his car, and, looking round, saw his client slumped across the seats in a pool of blood. According to the witnesses who arrived on the scene, the floor of the taxi were already well drenched in blood. The driver made the observations stop and took the “injured” to Lariboisière hospital. There, he was found to be dead and his corpse was taken to the morgue.

The other version, the Anarchists’ version, was that Philippe, believed to be a dangerous Anarchist, was shot down by a police officer, warned by Le Flaouter, in the basement, then loaded in a taxi paid for by the police, everything else being fabricated. Philippe having been dead when the driver made people witness it.

It has to be said that Le Flaouter was very close to a police officer, whom he probably fed information. They played cards together every evening.

The Daudet family, worried about Philippe missing, looked every day at the crime section of the newspapers; their attention was attracted to the suicide of a young an, whose description matched Philippe’s. Léon Daudet, accompanied by a friend, went to the hospital, where he could only identify the corpse.

He held the Anarchists responsible for his death, and launched an extremely violent campaign in L’Action Française, to which Le Libertaire answered blow for blow.

Léon Daudet especially attacked Georges Vidal, who had welcomed Philippe the first tim he came. Philippe had given him a letter to his mother, in case something happened to him. This letter, the contents of which Georges Vidal did not know, was opened and addressed to Mrs. Daudet. The name of his father was not mentioned.

Embarassed by what Le Libertaire revealed, all of L’Action Française launched romantic fantasies, in which a tiny bit of truth tried to cover gigantic lies…

Haymarket was a Riot, May Picqueray

Haymarket Was A Riot

May Picqueray

May Day 1920 and 1921 were particularly wild. Leaving the Bourse du Travail, the République square and the boulevard de Magenta, horse-riding guards charged us and hit us with the flat of their sabre blades, and one of them slapped me in the face in such a way that I thought my head had flown off. I kept the mark of his sabre on my face for a long time, and I had a swollen and multicoloured eye of the prettiest effect.

I do not speak of those May Days with the nostalgia for past times. Because they were the May Days of my youth.

But I say categorically that these May days were “authentic”.

The Communists had not yet hijacked this day to make it the “celebration” of labour.

I need to restore historical truth:

Chicago, in 1886, was only a city of immigrants, coming from every corner of Europe. It comprised different factories, canning factories, slaughter houses. The lack of hygiene and physical protection, the inhumane work speed, the low wages, the lack of employment security, pushed the workers to organise to defend themselves against the exploitation they were subjected to. Not only in Chicago, but on all the American continent, there was undiluted class struggle. Syndicalism was growing roots in the United States. Not without problems. American workers showed an instinctive distrust for the Socialist ideas imported from Europe. Newspapers written in German, English, or French claimed: “to fight against private property is a right, and even a duty.”

A group of Chicago industrials and bankers asked the mayor to ban these newspapers, and to arrest their directors. The mayor told them:

“We have a police force in our hands, nothing will happen, we do not fear them.”

A couple of days later, however, a grumbling flow of people filled the streets and the red and black flags were flowing above the crowd.

“We are fighting for the eight hour day, for a wage increase, for better working conditions, for the abolition of black lists” we could hear every night when workers left the factories.

There was no right to strike, in the sense that, once the strike was over, the bosses took back who they chose, creating discord among workers. Fights broke out between workers and the police intervened with extreme brutality.

On May 4th, a large meeting was planned in Haymarket, and workers’ leaders were supposed to speak there. 6000 strikers from the Mac Cormick factories were already there when the factory’s bell struck, and the scabs who had been working came out. The strikers left the meeting and fights broke out between workers.

The police intervened and shot at them: the toll among workers was one dead and six seriously injured by bullets; an indeterminate number of superficial wounds; a few injured on the police side. Haymarket was a long square which could contain up to 20 000 people. August Spies, a typographer for the Arbeiter Zeitung, Fischer, who had left Germany at age 15 and had become a social anarchist, Parsons, an American and director of The Alarm, who had joined the army during the Civil War, at age 13, Fielden, an Englishman who had moved to America in 1868, were supposed to speak, but it started raining and so they moved to a nearby hall to finish the meeting. When they arrived there, Fielden was on the platform, when suddenly a troop of policemen barged in, officers at the front, and gave the order to disperse. The speakers started leaving the platform, when a “round and luminous” object flew into the air and a loud detonation followed.

First there was silence… then the police opened fire on the crowd of workers who were fleeing and screaming. In a few minutes, it was all over. The square was emptied, all that could be heard was the moaing of the wounded. There are 70 injured and one policeman killed.

“The Anarchists inaugurated yesterday evening the rule of chaos. They ambushed the policemen and threw a bomb…” the reactionary press printed. Yet, the workers had not fired and the bomb was thrown from the police ranks.

The workers’ leaders: Spies, Fielden, Schwab, Waller, G. Engel, Oscar Neeve, W. Senger and L. Lingg were arrested. Parsons could not be found. Two hundred arrests in a week. An atmosphere of inquisition and xenophobia ruled. Four lawyers offered their help to the accused, despite the threats they received. The jury was chosen from 981 people. In truth, the twelve people finally selected all already had their judgement made.

The judge declared at the start of the audience that it was useless to know who threw the bomb, that all the accused were responsible.

George Engel, 50, declared:

“I was not at the meeting but at home, with my wife, my kids and some friends.”

Adolph Fischer ackowledged he had taken part in the meeting; Samuel Fielden was accused of having shouted:

“Here come those ferocious beasts, comrades, do your duty.”

But some policemen recognized that he had only said:

“We are peaceful…”

Parsons, who had come for the trial, after fleeing on the day of the meeting, declared:

“I have been on black lists for ten years, have published The Alarm for two years. I fight against workers’ poverty…”

Spies, turning to the counsel for the plaintiff:

“My defence is your accusation itself.”

Michel Schwab and Oscar Neeve, who weren’t in Haymarket, were also charged with murder. Neeve had said these words:

“The police reaction is inadmissible.”

Louis Lingg was accused of having made the bomb. Witnesses attested he was not at the meeting.

“It is true that I have made bombs”, he said, “but not this one.”

The counsel for the plaintiff repeated twenty times to the jury:

“You must choose between law and anarchy, between good and evil. Your decision will mark history. Your responsibility is huge. Do not let yourselves go to clemency.”

The defence claimed that the accused were on trial for their opinions, in the absence of any proof. The pleas were closed on August 19th.

On the morning of the 20th, a line of police officers blocked the entrance to the courthouse, patrols circulated round the city. The jury were the first to enter the room, then the lawyers and both parties. Then the judges. The judge stood up, and everyone with him.

The verdict: death for all, except for Neeve, 15 years in prison. Whispers were heard in the room. The eight men left the room without a word, with great dignity.

Two minutes later, a great clamour came from the crowd, then clapping. The crowd was scared…

The general opinion was expressed in the press: “The verdict has killed off anarchism in our city. It is a warning for European snakes, Socialists, Communists, Anarchists. The Chicago verdict will at least limit the immigration to our country of organised killers.”

Many letters were sent by US and European celebrities to Governor Oglesby: Walter Besant, Walter Crane, Stafford Brooke, Ford Madox Brown. A large meeting was organised in London with William Morris, Bernard Shaw, Anne Besant, Kropotkin, Stepniak, etc.

The governor suggested:

“The condemned would have to renounce their doctrine.”

“Show them a sign,” the lawyers told their clients.

The condemned welcomed this offer with haughty contempt. They demanded freedom or death.

An extraordinary fact, the 50 most important bankers in the city, who held supreme power in Chicago met up to decide whether the condemned should be pardoned or not. It was not a matter of mercy: “Executions can cause trouble, it is useless to revive the agitation…” Should they pardon these men? Some were in favour, others against.

On the morning of November 10th, the wardens hear an explosion from Lingg’s cell. They see blood everywhere, Lingg’s face is ripped away. People talk of a bomb. He had used a lozenge of mercury fulminate. Some doctors wished to save Lingg by making him pass as mad. He had preferred death to the asylum. On the wall of his cell, drawn with his blood, this inscription: “Long live anarchy”.

On the same day, Fielden and Schwab were pardoned, their sentence is commuted to a life sentence. The others will be executed.

The scaffold was set up in the night between November 10th and 11th 1887, very close to the prison. On the morning of the 11th, the condemned had their breakfast quietly, writing letters.

At 8.40, a lawyer rushes in: the man responsible for the bomb had been arrested in New York, he demanded the execution to be reported. At 10.15, the governor replied “No!”

At 11.30, the sheriff came to read the sentence to each of the prisoners. They were handcuffed and they were dressed in a white muslin shroud. Fischer helped to put his on. Hoods were placed on the four men’s heads. They then said their final words:

Spies: “One day will come when our silence will be louder than the voices you strangle today!”

Fischer: “Long live anarchy! This is the most beautiful moment in my life!”

Engel: “Long live anarchy!”

Parsons: “Will you let me speak, o Americans? Let me speak, sheriff Matson, let the voice of the people be heard! Let…”

Then nothing.

The funerals were held on Sunday, November 13th. “No signs, no flags, no speeches,” the mayor of Chicago had said. Over 250 000 people were crammed along the path of the coffins; around 15 000 people came in the cemetery. The procession marched in complete silence. Four speakers made speeches, including Black, the lawyer of the condemned.

Five years later, a monument was erected on the graves of the martyrs and Waldheim Cemetery became a place of pilgrimage.

The novellist Henry James, the equivalent to Marcel proust, then wrote he had “felt a sinister world, inferior, anarchic, boiled in its grief, its power and its hatred.”

This sinister world was the working class, then crushed by exploitation. Its roaring revolt, which Americans started to feel, was going to keep growing until it shook the world.

It is from this date that May Day is the day of revolt throughout the world and that it is marked in France (in Cléry, in Fourmies) like everywhere, by violence and blood.

Pétain tried to turn May day into a patronage “celebration”.

And the Communists, whether they like it or not, have borrowed his idea and updated it.

But for the “old ones”, May Day will always be a synonym of demands, struggle, REVOLT.

Midinettes on strike, by May Picqueray

Midinettes on strike

May Picqueray

The small hands, the midinettes, these small bees of the great fashion houses, from where the masterpieces worn by artists and ladies of the Paris and international bourgeoisie come, these young girls who you can meet in squares or at the Tuileries, at lunchtime, sharing their meagre meals with the birds, their friends, are very badly paid, live on very little, dress with almost nothing, but always with taste. The midinettes are known in all of Paris for their laughter, their chicness, and their small artists’ hands.

But there’s a down-side to this. Today, they are on strike. They can no longer manage. Bosses who exploit them shamelessly don’t want to hear anything about granting them a pay increase. So, they take to the streets.

There is a meeting this afternoon at the trade union hall, near République. Our friends Margot, Marie, Mado Ferré are on strike. Thérèse and I decide, in solidarity, to join them, to bring them our support. The room is packed. Girls and women follow one another on the platform, they explain the situation in couture: whether it is in workshops or in rooms, they are exploited all the same. They will not give up, a delegation is chosen to start negotiations with the bosses’ union.

When they leave, it is like sparrows taking flight. They laugh, hail one another. Surprise: we can see several hundred guys from the building industry and road workers who have stopped work to bring their moral and material support to the midinettes. That’s great! They are cheered and even kissed. It is decided to go demonstrate in front of the great fashion houses, and then on the Champs Elysées. He guys give their arms to the girls, and the picturesque and joyous march is ready to flow onto the Grands Boulevards. Suddenly, a squadron of republican guards shows up on the République square, surrounding open carriages. Poincaré1 sits in the front carriage. The rest of the government in the other ones.
“It is Poincaré, you know, ‘the man who laughs in cemeteries’…”
He is simply here to inaugurate a very strange exhibition on the République square. In some sheds, machines have been set up in which we could see photographic sights of life in the tranches, the transport of the wounded, the dead lying on the battlefields, and all the horrors of war. And, on top of this, the Paris public had to pay to see that…

We are at the edge of the pavement, ready to join the march, Poincaré gets off, waving at the crowd who came to salute him. All of a sudden, Mado leaves us, walks towards him, raises her hand and shouts at his face: “Bastard! You came to see your dead!” Immediately she is seized by the guard and handed to the police who rushed to the scene (and so are we as we didn’t want to leave her); there we are embarked for the police station, mistreated and pushed into a corner like thieves, then interrogated by the commissar who gives us such an earful!…

We are thrown into cells and kept overnight. We weren’t proud! What was to become of us? Fortunately this “attentat” was not taken seriously. There was probably an order not to talk about it to the press, in other words to stifle the case.

We got off lightly, but we were furious we had missed the march on the Champs Elysées.