The French Anarchists in London, 1880-1914: Exile and Transnationalism in the First Globalisation

The French Anarchists in London, 1880-1914: Exile and Transnationalism in the First Globalisation

The French Anarchists in London, 1880-1914: Exile and Transnationalism in the First Globalisation

The French Anarchists in London, 1880-1914: Exile and Transnationalism in the First Globalisation

Excerpt

During the 1860s and early 1870s, anarchism emerged as an active political movement within the First International, especially among the Jura-based Swiss sections of the organisation, and went on to spread across Europe and far beyond. Like Italy or Belgium, from the late 1870s onwards, France harboured a large and active movement (relatively speaking, of course, since anarchism was always a minority, radical pursuit). Great Britain, which is frequently but inaccurately regarded as an inhospitable milieu for anarchist ideas, also counted a fair number of anarchist groupings, and between 1880 and 1914, the French anarchists formed and maintained close connections with their British counterparts. The French and British movements were in close contact from the early 1880s onwards: the International Revolutionary Socialist Congress held in London in July 1881 helped foster personal ties among militants from various countries. During the 1880s, little groups of exiled French ‘companions’ (the nickname adopted by the French anarchists) were formed in London. They became larger and far more active and influential in the first half of the 1890s, when the theory of ‘propaganda by the deed’ gained ground among anarchists. The concept of propaganda by the deed, developed from 1876–7 among the anarchists of the First International, justified acts of violence as a way of publicising anarchism and initiating the revolution. The main consequence of its propagation was a series of anarchist-inspired terrorist attacks which swept over the Western world throughout the 1890s and early 1900s, peaking in France between 1892 and 1894. The authorities of the Third Republic retaliated with a fierce repression, resulting in the arrest or silencing of most comrades. Hundreds of them were forced into exile, just like the defeated supporters of the Second Republic after Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte’s 1851 coup and the Communards after their insurrection was crushed in 1871.

Britain, the only country in Europe whose asylum policy remained fairly liberal, became the destination of many active anarchists; about 500 . . .

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