Across seven decades, Vernon Richards maintained an anarchist presence in British publishing. His chosen instrument was Freedom Press, based in Whitechapel, in London's East End. He edited the anarchist paper Freedom—and its prewar and wartime variations—into the 1960s. Earlier, he had been imprisoned in 1945, translated the Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta, and photographed George Orwell.
Lessons of the Spanish Revolution: 1936–1939
Author: Vernon Richards • Introduction: David Goodway
Publisher: PM Press/Freedom Press
Page count: 272
It was the revolutionary movement in Spain which took up Franco’s challenge in July 1936, not as supporters of the Popular Front Government but in the name of the Social Revolution, and this book soberly examines the many ways in which Spain’s revolutionary movement contributed to its own defeat.
Was it too weak to carry through the Revolution? To what extent was the purchase of arms and raw materials from outside sources dependent upon the appearance of a constitutional government inside Republican Spain? What chances had an improvised army of guerrillas against a trained fighting force? These were some of the practical problems facing the revolutionary movement and its leaders.
But in seeking to solve these problems, the anarchists and revolutionary syndicalists were also confronted with other questions which were fundamental to the whole theoretical and moral bases of their organisation. Could they collaborate with political parties and reformist unions? Given the circumstances, was one form of government to be supported against another? Should the revolutionary impetus of the first days of resistance be halted in the interests of the armed struggle against Franco or be allowed to develop as far as the workers were able and prepared to take it? Was the situation such that the social revolution could triumph and, if not, what was to be the role of the revolutionary workers?
Originally written as a series of weekly articles in the 1950s and expanded, republished, and translated into many languages over the years, Vernon Richards’s analysis remains essential reading for all those interested in revolutionary praxis.
“The revolution that accompanied the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War was a high point in the history of working-class creativity, internationalism and self-activity. If it is to be a resource for present and future struggles, we must assess the strengths and weaknesses of the movement that propelled it. In this regard, the early endeavours of Vernon Richards remain indispensable.”
—Danny Evans, author of Revolution and the State: Anarchism in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939
“Vernon Richards’s Lessons of the Spanish Revolution is an excellent critical anarchist work on the revolution and the role of the anarchists.”
—Iain McKay, editor of Direct Struggle Against Capital: A Peter Kropotkin Anthology
“Lessons of the Spanish Revolution explores the deeply complex subject of the Spanish workers’ heroic struggle against Franco’s regime exceptionally well. One of the key strengths of the book can be seen in the way Richards unflinchingly lays bare a clutch of deeply sobering truths, particularly through demonstrating how a number of disastrous tactics pursued by Spanish anarchists and syndicalists directly contributed to the defeat of the revolutionary movement.”
—Richard J. White, coeditor of The Practice of Freedom: Anarchism, Geography, and the Spirit of Revolt
Collectives in the Spanish Revolution
Author: Gaston Leval • Translation and Foreword by Vernon Richards • Introduction by Pedro García-Guirao
Publisher: PM Press
Page count: 416
Subjects: Anarchism / History-Europe
Gaston Leval’s study brings together two aspects that are generally difficult to unite—analysis and testimony. He visited the towns and villages of revolutionary Spain where people had opted to live a libertarian communist lifestyle almost without precedent in history, collectivising the land, factories, and social services.
Collectives in the Spanish Revolution demonstrates clearly that the working class are perfectly capable of running farms, factories, workshops, and health and public services without bosses or managers dictating to them. It proves that anarchist methods of organising, with decisions made from the bottom up, can work effectively in large-scale industry involving the coordination of many thousands of workers in many hundreds of places of work across numerous cities and towns, as well as broad rural areas.
Leval's history of anarchy in action also gives us an insight into the creative and constructive power of ordinary people. The Spanish working class not only kept production going throughout the war but in many cases managed to achieve increases in output. They improved working conditions and created new techniques and processes in their workplaces. They created, out of nothing, an arms industry without which the war against fascism could not have been fought. The revolution also showed that without the competition bred by capitalism, industry can be run in a much more rational manner. Finally it demonstrated how the organised working class inspired by a great ideal has the power to transform society.
“Collectives in the Spanish Revolution demonstrates clearly that the working class are perfectly capable of running farms, factories, workshops, and public services without bosses or managers dictating to them.”
—Stuart Christie, author of The Floodgates of Anarchy
What Is Anarchism?: An Introduction, 2nd Ed.
Author and Illustrator: Donald Rooum • Editor: Vernon Richards • Foreword: Andrej Grubacic
Publisher: PM Press
Page count: 160
Anarchists believe that the point of society is to widen the choices of individuals. Anarchism is opposed to states, armies, slavery, the wages system, the landlord system, prisons, capitalism, bureaucracy, meritocracy, theocracy, revolutionary governments, patriarchy, matriarchy, monarchy, oligarchy, and every other kind of coercive institution. In other words, anarchism opposes government in all its forms.
Enlarged and updated for a modern audience, What Is Anarchism? has the making of a standard reference book. As an introduction to the development of anarchist thought, it will be useful not only to propagandists and proselytizers of anarchism but also to teachers and students of political theory, philosophy, sociology, history, and to all who want to uncover the basic core of anarchism.
Edited and arranged by the late Vernon Richards of Freedom Press, this useful compendium includes extracts from the works of Errico Malatesta, Peter Kropotkin, Max Stirner, Emma Goldman, Charlotte Wilson, Michael Bakunin, Rudolf Rocker, Alexander Berkman, and many more.
Author and Wildcat cartoonist Donald Rooum gives context to the selections with introductions looking at “What Anarchists Believe,” “How Anarchists Differ,” and “What Anarchists Do” and provides helpful and humorous illustrations throughout the book.
Praise:“What Is Anarchism? is a classic. It brings together a marvellous selection of inspiring texts with a clear, comprehensive introduction—now updated—to provide a brilliant account of the cares, concerns and commitments that animate anarchist politics and activities of British anarchists since 1945.”
—Ruth Kinna, author of Anarchism: A Beginner’s Guide
Life and Ideas: The Anarchist Writings of Errico Malatesta
Author: Errico Malatesta • Edited by Vernon Richards • Foreword by Carl Levy
Publisher: PM Press
Page count: 320
With the timely reprinting of this selection of Malatesta’s writings, first published in 1965 by Freedom Press, the full range of this great anarchist activist’s ideas are once again in circulation. Life and Ideas gathers excerpts from Malatesta's writings over a lifetime of revolutionary activity.
The editor, Vernon Richards, has translated hundreds of articles by Malatesta, taken from the journals Malatesta either edited himself or contributed to, from the earliest, L’En Dehors of 1892, through to Pensiero e Volontà, which was forced to close by Mussolini’s fascists in 1926, and the bilingual Il Risveglio/Le Réveil, which published most of his writings after that date. These articles have been pruned down to their essentials and collected under subheadings ranging from “Ends and Means” to “Anarchist Propaganda.” Through the selections Malatesta's classical anarchism emerges: a revolutionary, nonpacifist, nonreformist vision informed by decades of engagement in struggle and study. In addition there is a short biographical piece and an essay by the editor.
“The first thing that strikes the reader about Malatesta is his lucidity and straightforwardness. For him anarchism was not a philosophy for a future utopia which would come about one day as if by magic, or simply through the destruction of the state without any prior preparation. On the contrary, Malatesta was, throughout his life, concerned with a practical idea. His anarchism was something concrete, to be fought for and put into practice, not in some distant future but now. It is in this aspect of practical anarchism that gives him a special place amongst anarchist theorists and propagandists.”
—Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review
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Life and Ideas: A Review
Despite the deep and rich history of anarchism, it can appear as a utopian novelty among radical sociopolitical movements, if it even registers with the public at all. This collection, a reprint of the 1965 original, seeks to reintroduce Italian activist and propagandist Errico Malatesta (1853–1932) as a thoughtful, compassionate, and fierce anarchist. As Richards (1915–2001) noted in his original introduction, “everybody recognizes Malatesta as the man of action but few realise how valuable, and original, and realistic were his ideas.” The book is compiled from writings throughout Malatesta’s life and organized around 27 topics, including writings on revolution, the working class, intellectuals, and science. The work includes typical anarchist fare in its overtures against “both State and property,” but there are far more moments where Malatesta breaks the mold, revealing his deep compassion and his desire for solidarity among all peoples: “We want society to be constituted for the purpose of supplying everybody with the means for achieving the maximum well-being.” Malatesta’s writings offer a refreshing, undogmatic criticism of coercive power relations, and they point to the potential inherent to a society with neither oppressors nor the oppressed.Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Back to reviews | Back to top