Emma Goldman
Emma Goldman
 

A Relentless Vision (a/k/a The Suitcase)The Legacy of Emma Goldman, Federico Arcos and the Spanish Revolution


Pacific Street first met Federico Arcos during the production of the 1980 film, ANARCHISM IN AMERICA. It soon became clear that his vision of an Anarchist future was, if anything, relentless. Despite decades of privation and isolation he held fast to the notion of universal freedom, unbridled by the twin constraints of government and religion.

Federico Arcos was born in Barcelona in 1920 to a working class family.  As a shop apprentice he often listened to the passionate debates among his father’s friends and relatives about the future possibilities of Anarchism, a philosophy that had transformed itself into an organizing strategy for many of Spain’s poorest peasants.  Its appeal to the working class factory workers was equally intense.  All this came to fruition in July of 1936, the beginning of what came to be known as the Spanish Civil War.

Federico, just a teenager, joined together with the libertarian youth to help distribute arms, carry ammunition boxes and food through the many firefights with the fascist forces under the command of General Francisco Franco.

Emma Goldman had never given up hope that her anarchist ideals might still find fertile ground, even after her deportation from the United States and her disillusionment with the so-called Soviet revolution.  When the citizens and workers of Barcelona suppressed the July 1936 army uprising Emma, then 67- years old, rushed to lend her support. Working on propaganda broadcasts she traveled to London as a representative of the CNT-FAI, the anarcho-syndicalist union, seeking support and money for the cause. Her tireless campaigning on behalf of the revolution captivated thousands, including a young Federico Arcos.   She even narrated a newsreel, produced by the CNT/FAI, documenting the death of the Spanish Anarchist militia leader, Buenaventura Durruti.  This rare footage was discovered by Pacific Street Films in 1980.

Emma was to end her life in Canada, heartbroken with Franco's final victory, but nonetheless committed to championing the cause of Anarchism and the social revolution. Arriving in Toronto, well-worn suitcase in hand, she was taken in by many friends and colleagues. In return, as a representative of the International Antifascist Solidarity, she was active in procuring help for the tens of thousands of Spanish exiles interned in French concentration camps. One of these exiles was Federico Arcos. Emma was also to devote boundless energy to causes closer to home, included a campaign in Canada to prevent the deportation of Italian Anarchist, D'attilio Bortolotti, to Mussolini's Italy, where he would have faced certain death.

It was in Canada that Emma Goldman was to live out the rest of her life. Indeed, her dusty old suitcase, representing her years of travel and activism, eventually found its way to Federico, who had also found a new home in Canada.  The basement of his nondescript suburban house had now become an enormous archive of Spanish anarchist materials collected from sources around the world. For many years, through the terrible trauma of the Spanish dictatorship, Federico was one of several refugees who helped keep alive the bright light of the Spanish anarchist experience. Certainly, his relentless passion to save the anarchist legacy in Spain – despite Franco’s heated attempts to destroy any trace of the movement – has preserved a period of history that would have long been forgotten.

 

Joel Sucher with Emma Goldman's suitcase
Joel Sucher with Emma Goldman's suitcase

As activists during the late 1960's and early 1970's PSF's principals, Joel Sucher and Steven Fischler, participated in a reborn anarchist movement that took shape during the Vietnam War. They continued their commitment to documenting the legacy of anarchist history in two films, FREE VOICE OF LABOR: THE JEWISH ANARCHISTS (1980), and ANARCHISM IN AMERICA (1981). It was during the research and production period that the producers were able to film, record and photograph many of the participants in the movement -- and many who were friends of Emma Goldman. From Mollie Steimer and Senya Fleischin, who participated with Emma in her pursuit of social justice, to Irving Abrams, who helped bury Emma in Waldheim Cemetery in Chicago, Pacific Street has carefully documented and archived these oral histories..

With footage culled from Pacific Street's extensive archives, and with new original production, RELENTLESS VISION, will examine the lives and legacy of two extraordinary anarchists.

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Related Links

Pacific Street Archival Collection

Role of Anarchism in Spanish Revoution

Emma Goldman Bio at Anarchy Archives

Berkley Digital Library site on Emma Goldman


 
AK Press announces DVD release of Pacific Street's Anarchism in America and Free Voice of Labor
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