Many thanks to the Kate Sharpley Library for permission to republish their tribute to Stuart Christie 1946 – 2020 Anarchist activist, writer and publisher who was once a resident and publisher in Orkney.
By John Patten
Stuart Christie, founder of the Anarchist Black Cross and Cienfuegos Press and co-author of The floodgates of anarchy has died peacefully after a battle with lung cancer.
Born in Glasgow and brought up in Blantyre, Christie credited his grandmother for shaping his political outlook, giving him a clear moral map and ethical code. His determination to follow his conscience led him to anarchism:
“Without freedom there would be no equality and without equality no freedom, and without struggle there would be neither.”
It also led him from the campaign against nuclear weapons to joining the struggle against the Spanish fascist dictator Francisco Franco (1892-1975).
He moved to London and got in touch with the clandestine Spanish anarchist organisation Defensa Interior (Interior Defence). He was arrested in Madrid in 1964 carrying explosives to be used in an assassination attempt on Franco. To cover the fact that there was an informer inside the group, the police proclaimed they had agents operating in Britain – and (falsely) that Christie had drawn attention to himself by wearing a kilt.
The threat of the garotte and his twenty year sentence drew international attention to the resistance to the Franco regime. In prison Christie formed lasting friendships with anarchist militants of his and earlier generations. He returned from Spain in 1967, older and wiser, but equally determined to continue the struggle and use his notoriety to aid the comrades he left behind.
In London he met Brenda Earl who would become his political and emotional life partner. He also met Albert Meltzer, and the two would refound the Anarchist Black Cross to promote solidarity with anarchist prisoners in Spain, and the resistance more broadly. Their book, The floodgates of anarchy promoted a revolutionary anarchism at odds with the attitudes of some who had come into anarchism from the sixties peace movement. At the Carrara anarchist conference of 1968 Christie got in touch with a new generation of anarchist militants who shared his ideas and approach to action.
Christie’s political commitment and international connections made him a target for the British Special Branch. He was acquitted of conspiracy to cause explosions in the “Stoke Newington Eight” trial of 1972, claiming the jury could understand why someone would want to blow up Franco, and why that would make him a target for “conservative-minded policemen”.
Free but apparently unemployable, Christie launched Cienfuegos Press which would produce a large number of anarchist books and the encyclopedic Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review. Briefly Orkney became a centre of anarchist publishing before lack of cashflow ended the project. Christie would continue publishing, and investigating new ways of doing so including ebooks and the internet. His christiebooks.co.uk site contains numerous films on anarchism and biographies of anarchists. He used facebook to create an archive of anarchist history not available anywhere else as he recounted memories and events from his own and other people’s lives.
Christie wrote The investigative researcher’s handbook (1983), sharing skills that he put to use in an exposé of fascist Italian terrorist Stefano delle Chiaie (1984). In 1996 he published the first version of his historical study We the anarchists : a study of the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI), 1927-1937.
Short-run printing enabled him to produced three illustrated volumes of his life story (My granny made me an anarchist, General Franco made me a ‘terrorist’ and Edward Heath made me angry 2002-2004) which were condensed into a single volume as Granny made me an anarchist : General Franco, the angry brigade and me (2004). His final books were the three volumes of ¡Pistoleros! The Chronicles of Farquhar McHarg, his tales of a Glaswegian anarchist who joins the Spanish anarchist defence groups in the years 1918-1924.
Committed to anarchism and publishing, Christie appeared at many bookfairs and film festivals, but scorned any suggestion he had come to ‘lead’ anyone anywhere.
Christie’s partner Brenda died in June 2019. He slipped away peacefully, listening to “Pennies From Heaven” (Brenda’s favourite song) in the company of his daughter Branwen.
Stuart Christie, 10 July 1946-15 August 2020
Link: Christie Books