Monday, 14 October 2013

WAS FERRER AN ANARCHIST ?

Opinions for and against.

A correspondent, writing to the R. R, Herald, says: — "I am sending you a number of the Literary Guide in which you will find something about Francisco Ferrer and his work. The man labored hard to regenerate Spain, and to free its people from the clutches of one all powerful church, and from the tyranny of a corrupted and reactionary government. Like a brave apostle of liberty and knowledge (the greatest enemy of a dogmatic church) he met his martyrdom. The good people of Spain should venerate his memory, and avenge his death by continuing his humanitarian work."  We are unable to publish the article in full, but reproduce the opening paragraphs : —
The Escuela Moderna(Modern School) sprang Minervalike from the fertile brain of one man, and the destruction of that man — by fair means or foul — would preserve intact the Catholic faith of Spain, at least for another generation. But the work initiated by Ferrer had rooted itself in the very fibres of the Spanish democracy, and its activities had become an invaluable asset of Freethought in its wider international implications. It thus happened that the prosecution of Ferrer ministered to the success of the pedagogic purposes which the founder of the Escuela Moderna had in view. From the Carcel Modelo itself, where already he had been incarcerated for more than seven months, Ferrer, with absolute in difference to his fate, but watchful of the interests of the schools, wrote to me in the following terms : — " Everybody thinks I am bound to be acquitted, but Becerra del Toro (the Public Prosecutor) declares that he wants my head, because he believes I must have been acquainted with Morral's intentions. Who can say which will conquer ; the truth or Becerra del Toro with his Jesuits? In the mean time I do not complain, because the longer I remain in prison the stronger will grow the movement in favor of the Escuela Moderna ; and I prefer that it should be so." Amid the educational darkness, fostered by a bull-fighting, bigoted Government, Ferrer was a light shining in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended the necessity of extinguishing the new light. The bigots failed, and their failure revealed the sombre blackness of the school problem in Spain when left for settlement in the hands of a regime controlled by priests, and wire-pulled by reactionaries. The horrible condition of affairs which Ferrer sought to remedy, may be gathered from a terrifying picture which a Spanish educational organ, La Escuela Espanola, presents of the dilapidated and disgraceful state of public education in Spain when abandoned to priestly tutelage. It appears that in July, 1907, there were in Spain 24,000 defective Governmental schools, "without light and without ventilation — dens of death, ignorance and bad training." Every year fifty thousand children die, it is stated, from the diseases contracted in these non-hygienic schools, and 250,000 grow up injured in health owing to confinement in these cages. Besides this, 480,000 boys and girls wandered about the streets without schooling, and exposed to habits fatal to the child's best interests, and those of the community. No less than 30,000 blind, consisting of children and young people, 37,000 deaf mutes, 67,000 sufferers from mental diseases, and 45,000 morally deformed either from physical or psychological causes, are living in the most absolute state of neglect for want of educational institutions for their treatment and relief. To worsen all this there are some 24,000 elementary school roasters, so wretchedly ill-paid, that in the majority of places their salaries are inferior to the earnings of an ordinary day-labourer. The number of illiterates in Spain amounts to 10,000,000, while 50,000 of the conscripts who annually swell the military ranks are unable to read or write. The contemplation of this picture fixed in Ferrer's mind the resolve to implant the Escuela Moderna as a challenge, and an example to a supine and superstitious Government."
The article goes on to show the rise and progress of these Modern Schools. The first was established by Ferrer in Barcelona only eight years ago, and, inside four years, 40 schools had copied its methods, and adopted its text books. In 1906 50 schools were in existence, but the Government stepped in and quashed a dozen of the weakest. Under persecution, however, the zeal and enthusiasm of Ferrer and his associates flourished, and similar new schools sprang up as if by magic in Brazil, Switzerland, Holland, Paris, and throughout various provinces in Spain. Professor Haeckel, the famous scientist, Professor Samuel Torner, Prince Krapotkine, Professor Sergi, and other distinguished scholars and savants, have aided Ferrer in his work, and the Chief Bishop of the Independent Church of the Phillipines lately adopted many of Ferrer's publications as text books in the schools and seminaries of the Islands, " only rectifying and explaining the atheistic or irreligious tendencies " of the books in question.
To take the other side of the picture, here are several excerpts from the last issue of the Catholic Press : —
The whole of the atrocities in Spain, and falsely-magnified public approval of them, which are implied by the cable agencies, are part of the campaign organised by the Continental Freemasons against the church and Christianity. Seven years ago a meeting of the Masonic Grand Masters of Rome, Lisbon and Madrid was held at Barcelona, a meeting which was also attended by the French Minister, M. Combes. The purport of this meeting was to organise a united attack on Catholicism in the Latin countries, an attack which would probably lead to a United Latin Republic. It seems a large order, but its source is not Catholic, and it appeared in a high-class British journal, the Saturday Review. The meeting was followed by the expulsion of a few remaining religious orders from Portugal, by the outrage on the Spanish Monarch's wedding day, and by the assassination of the King of Portugal. And not only have the countries concerned been kept in a ferment ever since, but the world's press, through widespread Masonic influence, has exaggerated the aims and condoned the crimes of the agitators. Of these agitators, Francisco Ferrers was a leader, an able, if unscrupulous, leader, and their exasperation at his loss is intensified by the chagrin of his failure." In the course of its leading article the same journal says:— ' Like the outbreak in Barcelona, the demonstrations in various parts of the world over the execution of Ferrer, the anarchist leader, are characterised by a hellish hatred of the Catholic religion and Christianity in every form. The London Times special correspondent in Barcelona, in a letter to his paper a few weeks ago, shows that this hatred is at the bottom of the whole movement. His account is as follows : — " The mixed population of the city, to a great extent engaged in industrial occupations, offers a singularly favorable soil for the spread of socialist or anarchist doctrines. Republicanism in Spain is inseparable from atheism, and not even a Goddess of Reason is set up to take the place of the dethroned Deity. Since there is no God, it is obvious that there is no justification for the existence of a church, much less of wealthy ecclesiastical establishments. Barcelona is, moreover, near enough to France to be peculiarly susceptible to French anti-clerical influences, and is exposed to the subversive tendencies of French Freemasonry. The agitator, in fact, here finds no appeal so certain of a ready response as an attack on the church. Hence the organisers of the outbreak began where they felt surest of their ground. If their success had been greater they would doubtless have proceeded to sack the banks, pillage the shops, etc. ; but, as it was, the damage to property, other than ecclesiastical, has been comparatively trifling." The great body of the people of Catalonia had no hand or part in the recent diabolical deeds committed in Barcelona. The "insurrection " was confined to small bands of ruffians, who went about in twos and threes, setting fire to convents and churches ; and Ferrer was the acknowledged leader of these scoundrels. A telegram to the London Times , dated Barcelona, September 13, puts this beyond doubt. It reads : " The text of a proclamation, found in the course of the police search at Ferrer's house, is published in the papers this morning. In it Ferrer says : 'You are all agreed upon a revolution. We revolutionaries must devote ourselves to the cause, but we want 300 comrades ready, as we are, to risk their necks, to begin the movement in Madrid. We await a favorable opportunity, such as after a general strike, or on the eve of Labor Day (May 1).'" The proclamation talks of the putting to death of high personages and the destruction of public buildings. Documents were also found showing that the prisoner gave instructions to his adherents for the use of cipher codes, and begged them to let him know if they had supplies of arms, money and dynamite. It is against the execution of this miscreant that the socialists are protesting ! There was no protest against the unspeakable deeds committed under his direction a few weeks ago, his dynamite stores for the destruction of innocent life and civilised society. . . . Spain has acted with a strong hand. She would indeed be contemptible if she had shown weakness in the face of the organised ruffians at Barcelona, who would thus be encouraged in their murderous intentions. Besides, the Government has the sympathy of the people of Spain. . . . . According to its usual practice, the anti-clerical, Masonic, socialist and anarchist press have for years been leading the ignorant masses with vile calumnies against men and women who have sacrificed all that the world holds dear in order to devote themselves to God's service and the good of their fellow-citizens."
Meanwhile, the outcry at Ferrer's execution still continues. The Manchester Guardian says : " He was before all things else an educational reformer, and his chief crime in the eyes of the clericals who control the Government is that he founded near Barcelona the only secondary school in Spain that is not run by the priests. His arrest is as clear an instance of clerical persecution of opinion pure and simple as could well be imagined. No one expected him to be tried fairly by court-martial." At a huge demonstration in London this week the Rev. Dr. Clifford moved a resolution condemning the inaction of the British Government during the trial of Ferrer and since. The Rev. R. J. Campbell, of the City Temple, wrote saying that the execution of Ferrer was an atrocious crime against liberty and justice.

 The Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser 29 October 1909,

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