Rudolf Rocker

This month is the 50th anniversary of the death of the great Rudolf Rocker, one of my heroes. The Jewish East End Celebration Society (JEECS) is holding an event at Toynbee Hall on Sunday to mark this. There is a walk in the morning (details below) and a celebration in the afternoon. Rocker was a non-Jewish German anarchist bookbinder who lived for a couple of decades in the East End of London as the "rabbi" of the Yiddish anarchist and labour movement there. He later lived in Germany, where he was a key figure in the syndicalist movement, and then in upstate New York, where he was associated with the Freie Arbeiter Stimme group and the libertarian education movement. His great works include The Tragedy of Spain, The Truth About Spain, Anarchism or Sovietism and his magumn opus Nationalism and Culture.
"At the afternoon celebration, chaired by Anthony Rudolf, the keynote speaker, if his health allows, will be great Bill Fishman, Cable Street veteran, author of the wonderful East End Jewish Radicals and well-known tour guide. 

He will be followed by Ben Gidley on "Why Rudolf Rocker matters". Ben Gidley is a researcher at the Centre for Urban and Community Research at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has researched Jewish radicals in East London, focusing on the period around World War I, and has written about British Jewish responses to the Kishinev pogrom. He has contributed to Limmud’s New Voices in Jewish Thought, Jewish Socialist, Democratiya and other periodicals.

Brian Morris will speak on "Rocker as an anarchist". Brian Morris, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Goldsmiths,
University of London, is a leading intellectual historian of anarchism. His works include Bakunin: The Philosophy of Freedom (1993), Kropotkin: The Politics of Community (2003), the essay collection Ecology and Anarchism (1996), and several key works in anthropology and ethnobotany. He has also contributed to periodicals such as Anarchist Studies, Freedom, The Raven (on Tolstoy and anarchism), Green Anarchist (on Rocker) and Philosophy Now (on Nietzsche and anarchism).

Julia Weiner will also speak, on Fermin Rocker, Rudolf's son, a great artist and illustrator, whose 100th birthday would have been last Autumn. (His painting of his family, from AskArt, is on the right here, and his engraving of his father, from Jon's anarchist librarian web page, is above.)

The event is at 2.30. It is £10 to get in (£8 for JEECS members), including ham sandwiches - the food of choice for the East End Jewish anarchists. Further details from Jeecs chairman Clive Bettington, 07941 367882 or mail to:

Walk details: Walk – Rudolf Rocker and the Radical History of the Jewish East End. Clive Bettington looks at the life of anarchist leader Rudolf Rocker and the general history of radical politics in the Jewish East End. 10.30 am from Aldgate Tube. £8/£6. 07941 367 882"

Also, BBC Radio 3's Sunday Feature will be broadcasting "The First War on Terror" on Sunday 28th September, on the policing of anarchists in early twentieth century London, presented by Hari Kunzru and featuring JEECS' Clive Bettington, Ben Gidley and others.

Previous: The Spanish Civil War in SF, Alexander Schapiro, Chaim Weinberg, Sacco & Venzetti, Itzik Manger, A Voice from the Aliens, Majer Bogdanski.
Blog links: Rocker on Bakunin, Fermin/Rudolf at EastLondonHistory, Fermin at whitelightblacklight, Asher in London, Donnacha D on anarchism in the NUJ, Revolutionary Yiddishist, Telexism on Rocker and Kropotkin, Charlie Pottins on Rose Witcop.


Larry Gambone said…
Thank you for posting about Rudolf Rocker. His writings on syndicalism were an inspiration for me and I learned a lot from his massive book"Nationalism and Culture."
Anonymous said…
Thanks Larry. That book is so underrated. The reviews it got at the time are amazing (from Herbert Reed, and Einstein, and Lewis Mumford), and now it almost totally unknown outside the anarchist movement.

Glad to find you here, by the way. I really like your "St Che" document.
Anonymous said…
Wish I could make it. Sounds like an excellent event.

I like the St. Che piece as well, Larry.
Anonymous said…
i wish i could be there too, but it's a long way from baltimore to london. i don't suppose there's any possibility that someone might videotape parts of this event and post it on you tube? just asking.

oh on "ham sandwiches - the food of choice for the East End Jewish anarchists." try crumbled up bacon, scallions and a little horseradish mixed with cream cheese on a bagel--that's trayfe twice over!
Anonymous said…
oops! just noticed your "bacon bagel" category and i plan on perusing that. i'm new to your blog, but i definitely like it.

bob said…
Thanks TNC, thanks Anon of Baltimore. It is my suspicion that the story of the anarchists' predilection for ham sandwiches - like the stories of Yom Kippur balls - are somewhat inflated. It is also the case that the Social Democrats (the non-anarchist socialists) also iondulged in such activities in this period. And it is also the case, too, that Rocker himself was, altho a staunch atheist, rather disapproving of this sort of practice: he saw no particular need to epater the frum, and in fact made sure his venerable, very religious father in law shared a platform with him at strike meetings, precisely to appeal to the frum.

I like the scallion recipe, and will now go and tag this post with the "bacon bagel" category.

By the way, I suppose the ham sandwich anarchists were the Ayaan Hirsi Alis of the Jewish faith.
Thanks for this; he's one of my favourite anarchists for lots of reasons, most of all because of his vital approach to adult education or lifelong learning if you prefer.
bob said…
Yes, Rocker was passionate about education, and specifically self-education. He was dissapproving of those anarchists of the deed who thought that some single clean sweep - revolt - would eradicate capitalism. He knew that it takes time and energy to foster the consciousness that will bring change, and that people need to come to this consciousness themselves, not be led to it by some vanguard.

He named his son Fermin after Fermín Salvochea, who was among other things, a teacher, and one of young Fermin's first memories was the significance in his home of the death of Francisco Ferrer, the father of libertarian education. The principles that Ferrer put forward, and which Rudolf Rocker took up, were extremely radical at the time, but many have become pedagogical common sense now.

It is appropriate that this event is at Toynbee Hall, as many of the Yiddish proletarians who went to Rocker's adult ed classes would also have attended lectures and courses there. (Joseph Leftwich and Isaac Rosenberg, for example, attended both Rocker's Jubilee St Club and Toynbee Hall.)
jams o donnell said…
Another post to thanks you for Bob. I knew virtually nothing about Rocker