My Granny Made me an Anarchist: The Christie File: Part 1, 1946-1964 ‘Born in Glasgow in 1946, Stuart’s book recounts his life in post-war Glasgow (and round about) and his political awakening, an awakening that brought him to via the Labour Party, anti-nuclear protesting and trade union activism, to anarchism.
‘Being a Glaswegian anarchist myself I was enthralled by his account of growing up in a Glasgow which was in so many ways similar to my own but, at the same time, was slowly disappearing. He gives the reader a glimpse into working class life and culture in the 1950s and 1960s, even down to the comics he read and the films and books which influenced him and his ideas. Unsurprisingly, many of his memories, influences and experiences I can relate to. Stuart said he became an anarchist outside the Mitchell library, I discovered I was one inside it. He talks about meeting anarchists like Bobby Lynn, a comrade I came to know decades later. He gives a good overview of the ideas of anarchism, its history and the state of the movement in the 1960s, both in Glasgow and in Britain as a whole. He discusses the anarchist resistance to Franco, providing background to his decision, at the age of 18, to go to Spain to assassinate the dictator. It is here that volume 1 ends. All I can say is I cannot wait for volume 2!
‘Compared to the original Christie File, published in 1980 by Cienfuegos Press (and found by me in Oxfam in Glasgow), this new version is substantially bigger. What was covered in one chapter in that book is now a book in itself. As such, owners of the original will find the book worth buying for the new material in it. Moreover, Stuart has supplemented his story with pictures of people, where he lived, his schools, protests and much more! He provides material on a wide range of related subjects (such as the Spanish and Cuban revolutions) as well as discussing left-wing, anarchist and anti-nuclear politics in the 1960s (including the Glasgow Committee of 100, Spies for Peace and Scots Against War).
‘His account of anarchism in Britain in the 1960s shows a divided movement, within which he was drawn to those around the Syndicalist Workers Federation. He considers that “the role of Freedom under the control of Vernon Richards and his close associates, proved seriously divisive within the British anarchist movement.” An opinion I, until recently, agreed with. Thankfully the split between Freedom and the class struggle anarchist movement (which dates from 1946 and which Stuart recounts) is being healed and the new century can see Freedom playing the role it did in the 1940s, namely the voice of a militant working class anarchist movement. His definition of anarchism shows the way forward:
“Anarchism is a movement for human liberation. It is concrete, democratic and egalitarian . . . Anarchism began — and remains — a direct challenge by the underprivileged to their oppression and exploitation. It opposes both the insidious growth of state power and the pernicious ethos of possessive individualism, which . . . ultimately serve only the interests of the few at the expense of the rest.
“Anarchism is both a theory and practice of life . . . Ultimately, only struggle determines outcome, and progress towards a more meaningful community must begin with the will to resist every form of injustice . . . If anarchists have on article of unshakeable faith, it is that, once the habit of deferring to politicians or ideologues is lost, and that of resistance is acquired, then ordinary people have a capacity to organise every aspect of their lives in their own interests.”
‘His autobiography is a testament to this perspective, to an anarchism that inspires people to fight for freedom, equality and solidarity. It shows that anarchism is more than a vision of a bigger tomorrow, it is a guide to bringing it about. As such, Stuart’s biography should inspire those who have the good fortune to read it.
‘This book is a limited edition and is so expensive in order to fund a bigger (and so cheaper) reprint. As such, I would urge all comrades who can afford it to buy a copy. For the others, get their local library to get a copy. Either way, you will not be disappointed.’ FLAG BLACKENED