The dead anarchists website has been launched in order to supply that extra measure of anarchist history to those who are hopelessly addicted to learning about the men and women who have struggled for centuries, searching for ways to eliminate governments from the Earth. This editor is such an addict, and derives pleasure by seeing others succumb to this delicious illness.
Finding an anarchist in a life situation similar to one's own can give moral strength to living anarchists. Often a young person will be told again and again that anarchist ideas are nonsense, by people who have an endless parade of generals and heads of state to use as examples for argument and role models for themselves. A similar pattern emerges as a teenager begins to form his or her own opinions about religion in a home that is dominated by clergy.
History is often ruled by tales about a handful of superstars, and with anarchism, the same thing happens, but with more likeable stars than usual. Voltairine de Cleyre once remarked that the whole movement seemed to operate out of Emma Goldman's suitcase. I held that same suitcase in my hand once, and that was fun. Anyway, when Emma or Voltairine, or Peter Kropotkin, or some other respected anarchist writer of the time arrived to give a lecture, they were not alone on a street talking to strangers. They slept at someone's house, ate dinner with someone, were introduced by a comrade, and fielded questions from many like-minded people. When a squad of policemen lumbered onto the scene, scores of people would feel the truncheon crash down on their heads. It's these smaller, local anarchist figures that make the fabric of the story, whereas the star characters make for wonderful embroidery.
As we slowly build up this garden of bygone faces, we will share lost texts by anarchists, descriptions of anarchists' grave sites, their landmarks, homes, and events in their lives. These little pieces have been gathered over the course of some fifteen years of research, mostly focusing on local research in my longtime home -- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. But my walking tours of old anarchist neighborhoods, though successful, do not seduce enough newcomers to the idea to satisfy my ruthless agenda, and so I have turned to the ether. We begin small, but the flow will not stop until this editor joins his friends in the graveyard. Please let us hear what you think of all this, and above all enjoy the reading!
Robert P. Helms, editor
June 5, 2006