Welcome !! A Call to Participants & "Faits Divers & Fate's Divers"

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This site is for any persons who are actively interested in and working in these areas
Theoretical letters are welcome, stories, photos, anything which
investigates the everyday all around one with a questioning Anarkeyological spirit & energy. Insight and Incite!
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Since to an American ear and reader the homophonic punning possibilities of the title "Faits Divers" in French are completely absent, IL Maestro di "PAROLE IN LIBERACE" Professore G-A Vidiamodopo suggests instead the use of an American homophonic translation, in order to keep alive the sense of
"Une Joie de Vivre qui se trouve a travers les Jeux du Mots."
(A Joy of Life found through Plays on Words)

--and now allow me to turn over the podium to our illustrious and well-beloved colleague, Il Maestro, Giulio Agosto di Vidiamodopo--

the Fondatore, who has given us the eternally generative legacy of his never-to-exhausted "Grand Song of the Open Piano" under the sign of his immortal


echoes of which one may find in all manifestations Visual Sonic Visceral which in their very most particulate, singular and also massed, on-flowing wave existences acknowledge the inspiring and influential, ceaselessly experimenting presence of Il Maestro among their notations of Found and Accidental scores . .

Then, with a magnificent flourish, Il Maestro di Parole in Liberace enters stage left and announces the entry into the world of the "Faits Divers--Fates' Divers"--

Special Forces' Lieutenant X announces the Vernissage of his "Celestial Snuff Films" at Galeria Gore,Friday, 19:00-24:00 hr. Combining his Fighter Jet's elegantly enhanced and edited videos with his own high powered zoom photos and infra red images, the young hero creates the "Theater of Certain Death" as seen by both the "Omniscient Eye's View from Above," and the "subjective focus on the Eroticism of the Subject's Snuffing on the ground."

Exactly at 8, the New American Extreme Experimental Fascist Poets' opening salvo of "Militarized Morphemes" created Pure Terror. Renditioning subjects from the audience using Chance Operations, the Poets undertook "Interrogations of Parole" via the branding of each Tongue as a Forbidden Langue. By making speech mute, projected words announced, the subject existed now only as name brands of material language.

Felix Feneon Editing La Revue Blanche --painted by Felix Vallotton

Felix Feneon Editing La Revue Blanche --painted by Felix Vallotton

from Nouvelles en trois lignes/Three Line News Items/ Short Stories

Feneon created the simultaneous "news/"stories" of his Nouvelles
with perhaps "more in mind" than his own punning use of the Faits Divers' Nouvelles en trois lignes--

he may have been thinking also of the example of Gusrave Flaubert
who several decades earlier had created out of a provincial journal’s Faits Divers the novel Madame Bovary:

“Delphine Delamare, 27, wife of a medical officer in Ry, displayed insufficient austerity. Worse, she ran up debts. To avoid paying them, she took poison.”

Nurse Elise Bachmann, whose day off was yesterday, put
on a public display of insanity.

A complaint was sworn by the Persian physician Djai Khan
against a compatriot who had stolen from him a tiara.

A dozen hawkers who had been announcing news of a
nonexistent anarchist bombing at the Madeleine have
been arrested.

A certain madwoman arrested downtown falsely claimed
to be nurse Elise Bachmann. The latter is perfectly sane.

On Place du Pantheon, a heated group of voters attempted
to roast an effigy of M. Auffray, the losing candidate. They
were dispersed.

Arrested in Saint-Germain for petty theft, Joël Guilbert
drank sublimate. He was detoxified, but died yesterday of
delirium tremens.

The photographer Joachim Berthoud could not get over the
death of his wife. He killed himself in Fontanay-sous-Bois.

Reverend Andrieux, of Roannes, near Aurillac, whom a
pitiless husband perforated Wednesday with two rifle
shots, died last night.

In political disagreements, M. Begouen, journalist, and
M. Bepmale, MP, had called one another "thief" and
"liar." They have reconciled.

Sunday, January 4, 2009



new left review 29 sept oct 2004
excerpted from Part III



Among the hundreds imprisoned at Montjuich in the aftermath of the
Corpus Christi bombing of June 7, 1896, most were still there when
Rizal joined them for one bizarre night in early October. The key excep-
tion was the remarkable Cuban creole Fernando Tárrida del Mármol,
Rizal’s exact age-mate, whom we last encountered accompanying Errico
Malatesta on his abortive political tour of Spain at the time of the Jérez
émeute of 1892.
Born in Havana in 1861, Tárrida had returned to
Spain with his family in 1868; his father was a wealthy Catalan manu-
facturer of boots and shoes. The young Fernando was then packed off
to the Lycée in Pau, where a classmate, future French Prime Minister
Jean-Louis Barthou, converted him to republicanism. On his return to
Spain he moved further to the left, frequenting working-class meetings
and clubs while continuing his mathematical studies. At twenty-five,
he was a confirmed anarchist, a magnetic lecturer, and contributor to
Barcelona’s anarchist journal Acracia and its daily El Productor. In July
1889 he was chosen by the Barcelona workers to represent them at the
new International Socialist Congress in Paris.
Tárrida was arrested late—July 21, 1896—in the post-Corpus Christi
round-up, and marched to the dungeons of Monjuich from the steps of
Barcelona’s Polytechnic Academy, where he served as Engineer-Director
and distinguished professor of mathematics. He was lucky that a young
lieutenant warden there recognized his former teacher, and had the cour-
age to sneak down into Barcelona and wire the news of his incarceration to
the national press. Tárrida’s cousin, the Marquis of Mont-Roig, a conserv-
ative senator, then used his influence and contacts to spring the prisoner
on August 27, 1896. Tárrida quietly made his way across the Pyrenees
to Paris, then to London, taking with him letters and other documents
from his fellow-prisoners that he had managed to get smuggled out.
‘In the World-Shadow of Bismarck and Nobel’, pp. 120–1, fn. 61. In what follows
I rely on the splendidly detailed chapter viii (‘Anarquismo sin adjetivos’) in George
Esenwein’s Anarchist Ideology and the Working Class Movement in Spain, 1868–1898,
Berkeley 1989.
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The ex-inmate of Montjuich was already a familiar (printed) figure in Paris,
from his jousts with the ‘Pope of Anarchism’ Jean Grave in the pages of
La Révolte—to which, as we saw in Part Two, many of the leading novel-
ists, poets and painters of Paris were loyal subscribers. In a November
1889 lecture Tárrida had coined the inimitable slogan anarquismo sin
adjetivos in an attempt to end the bitter quarrels between Marxist and
Bakuninist partisans. An ‘anarchism without adjectives’ would never
impose a preconceived economic plan on anyone, since this violated the
basic principle of choice; but it was no less opposed to the whole idea of
solitary Propaganda by the Deed. Tárrida was promptly denounced by
Grave in La Révolte, as representing the wrongheaded Spanish anarchist
tradition of ‘collectivism’, i.e. attachment to an organized working-class
base. It says a good deal for this Pope’s sane rejection of infallibility
that he immediately published Tárrida’s toreador reply, which argued
persuasively that small groups using propaganda of the deed stood no
chance against the centralized power of the bourgeoisie. Coordination
was essential, since the organized resistance of the working classes was
the only productive instrument for fighting state repression.
Tárrida’s arguments were important in their own right (and fairly soon
convinced Malatesta, Elisée Reclus and others), but in the present con-
text it is their place of publication that matters. A ready audience awaited
him when he arrived in Paris after his release from Montjuich. That he
was a Cuban in the time of Weyler’s massively publicized repression on
his native island further secured his entrée. Tárrida’s memorable essay,
‘Un mois dans les prisons d’Espagne’, appeared in La Revue Blanche,
France’s leading intellectual fortnightly, in October 1896, just as Rizal
was being taken back from Barcelona to Manila under heavy guard.

It was only the first of fourteen articles he wrote for the journal over
See La Revue Blanche, 81, October 15, 1896, pp. 337–41. The journal was the brain-
child of two pairs of brothers, one Belgian, the other French (the cadet was only 16)
who met in Spa in the summer of 1889. The four secured the financial backing of
the Natanson brothers, wealthy Polish-Jewish art-dealers who had settled in Paris
in 1880. The first number was published in Liège in December 1889. In 1891 the
operation moved to Paris, with the middle Natanson brother, Thadée, assuming
direct charge, and the fortnightly started appearing in a much more lavish and
elegant format. In January 1895, the brilliant Félix Fénéon, recently acquitted of
terrorism and sedition in the notorious ‘Trial of the Thirty’, took over the main
editorial work. A committed cosmopolitan anarchist and anti-imperialist, he made
the journal more international and leftwing. La Revue Blanche’s last issue (no. 312)
came out on April 15, 1903. See Joan Undersma Halperin’s riveting Félix Fénéon,
Aesthete and Anarchist in Fin-de-siècle Paris, New Haven 1988, pp. 300–14.
112 nlr 29
the next fifteen months—on atrocities in Montjuich, the Cuban War of
Independence, nationalist movements in the Philippines and Puerto
Rico, America’s noisy imperialist scheming and, surprisingly, a pre-
Wright Brothers text on ‘aerial navigation’. But the space given to him at
the start in La Revue Blanche’s pages was certainly the result of his grim
testimony on Montjuich. This was the onset of what would become an
‘Atlantic-wide’ movement of protest against the Cánovas regime, dubbed
by Tárrida ‘the Spanish Inquisitors’.
The anti-Cánovas campaign was helped by conjunctural changes. In
France, the immediate aftermath of the 1892–94 attentats of Ravachol,
Vaillant, and Henry had been heavy repression. The so-called lois
scélérates had banned all revolutionary propaganda. In early August 1894
the famous ‘Trial of the Thirty’ began, at which Mallarmé appeared as
a character witness for Félix Fénéon, ‘cet homme doux’. (When asked
by journalists for his general view of the accused—a mix of criminals,
anarchists and pro-anarchist intellectuals—the poet replied that he ‘did
not wish to say anything about these saints’.
) But by the later 1890s the
repression had eased. Three central signs of the changing atmosphere:
first, in the early spring of 1897, La Revue Blanche published a huge
‘Enquête sur la Commune’ with contributions by such well-known anar-
chists as Elisée Reclus, Jean Grave, Louise Michel, Henri Rochefort and
Ernest Daudet, in a stellar issue otherwise graced by Alfred Jarry, Jules
Laforgue, Mallarmé, Nietzsche, the late ‘Multatuli’ (Eduard Douwes
Dekker), Daniel Halévy, Jean Lorrain, Paul Adam—and Tárrida. Second,
whereas in 1894 Captain Alfred Dreyfus’s initial kangaroo court mar-
tial had attracted little engaged attention, the mood was very different
in 1896. Evidence that the Jewish Dreyfus had been framed began to
leak out, leading in time to an intense press campaign that forced the
state to arrest the real culprit, Major Marie-Charles Esterhazy, in October
1897. His acquittal the day after the trial opened led to Zola’s famous
J’accuse for Clemenceau’s L’Aurore and the massive political confronta-
tion between Right and Left that became known as the Dreyfus Affair.
Third, a longstanding group of Cuban exiles in Paris became especially
active after the onset of Martí’s uprising, and some of these people
James Joll, The Anarchists, Cambridge, ma 1980, pp. 149–51. See also Eugenia
Herbert’s subtle The Artist and Social Reform, France and Belgium, 1885–1898, New
Haven 1961; David Sweetman, Explosive Acts, Toulouse-Lautrec, Oscar Wilde, Félix
Fénéon, and the Art and Anarchy of the Fin-de-Siècle, New York 1999, p. 495; Jean
Maitron, Le Mouvement anarchiste en France, Paris 1975, vol. 1, p. 137.
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successfully lobbied leading journalists like Clemenceau to show sup-
port for the cause of their country.
In London, the overlapping Montjuich and Dreyfus affairs aroused
widespread indignation, and Tárrida was welcomed there for a lengthy
publicity tour by Keir Hardie, Ramsay MacDonald, and others.
In a coun-
try with a long history of animosity to Spain, accounts of the doings of
the ‘New Inquisition’ found ready ears. The conservative regime in Italy,
still at daggers drawn with the Papacy, and humiliated by the Ethiopian
monarch Menelik at Adawa in March 1896, was in no position to help its
counterpart in Madrid. In Germany, Belgium, Portugal, even in Rumania,
as well as the United States and Argentina, Protestant, Freemason, lib-
eral, socialist and anarchist newspapers responded to Tárrida’s call for a
vociferous campaign against the Spanish government.
In Spain, too, all Cánovas’s enemies—in his own party, among the lib-
erals, federalists, republicans and Marxists—found the occasion ripe,
for principled or opportunistic reasons, to take up the Montjuich scan-
dal. It helped that among those imprisoned in Barcelona were at least
one ex-Minister and three parliamentary deputies. But Cánovas’s nerve
did not fail him. A few relatively prominent Montjuich prisoners were
allowed to go into exile, but most of those not tried before military courts
were deported, along with some Cuban ‘troublemakers’ sent in from
Havana, to harsh camps in Spanish Africa. After undergoing excruci-
ating tortures and trial before a military court, the principal suspect for
the Corpus Christi bombing, the Frenchman Thomas Ascheri, and four
Spaniards (almost certainly innocent) were executed on May 5, 1897—
but not before letters describing their sufferings and proclaiming their
innocence had been smuggled out by their fellow-prisoners.
Cánovas felled
Then a 26-year-old anarchist from Foggia changed everything. Michele
‘Miguel’ Angiolillo Lombardi seems to have converted to anarchism while
Many of Tárrida’s articles for La Revue Blanche were written in London. He liked
England and eventually settled down there, becoming, alas perhaps, a Fabian. He
died, too young, during the Great War.
Ascheri, ex-seminarist, army deserter and French police informer, also claimed
to be an anarchist spy. The real mastermind of Corpus Christi may have been Jean
Girault, who escaped to Argentina. Esenwein, Anarchist Ideology, p. 192; Rafael Núñez
Florencio, El Terrorismo Anarquista, 1888–1909, Madrid 1987, pp. 96–7, 161–4.
114 nlr 29
a conscript. On return to civilian life he worked as a printer, but had to
flee Italy in 1895 after publishing an anti-government manifesto. During
the following year he drifted to Marseilles, Barcelona, Belgium, London
and Paris, before going back to Spain. He is said to have become enraged
by what he read in the French newspapers about the torture of anar-
chists in Montjuich, was electrified by Tárrida’s hastily assembled book
Les Inquisiteurs d’Espagne, and impressed by the public lectures of Henri
Rochefort and the Puerto Rican lobbyist for Cuban freedom, Ramón
Betances, who denounced Cánovas’s responsibility both for Montjuich
and the horrors in Cuba.
He tracked down Cánovas at the Santa Agueda
spa in the Basque country and shot him dead, on August 8, 1897. Angiolillo
made no attempt to escape, and was garrotted two weeks later.
Cánovas’s asassination not only sounded the death-knell for Restoration
‘cacique democracy’ in Spain. It also brought with it the fall of Weyler
in Havana, as the general immediately understood.
On October 31,
1897, Weyler handed over command in Cuba to none other than Ramón
Blanco—the man who had tried to save Rizal and who had been forced
out of Manila by the clerical lobby’s working on the Cánovas cabinet
and the Queen Regent. He came with a mandate for leniency, compro-
mise and reform, but it was now too late. The diehard colons greeted him
with the organized mob violence that Guy Mollet would experience six
decades later in Algiers; the revolutionaries had no taste for a second
Zanjón; and American imperialism was on the move. Eight months later
the United States was master of Cuba. Probably only Weyler had the
capacity and determination to give Roosevelt and Hearst a serious run
for their money.
A folklorist’s anarchist education
By June 1897 the situation in the Philippines was cautiously judged to
be improving in the eyes of Primo de Rivera, its last Captain-General.
As we have seen, Bonifacio had been executed the month before by
the Caviteño clique around Emilio Aguinaldo. The young caudillo
had now lost Cavite and was insecurely ensconced in Biak-na-Bató, a
See Esenwein, Anarchist Ideology, pp. 197–8.
This moment is well described by Weyler hagiographer Hilario Martín Jiménez
in Valeriano Weyler, De su vida y personalidad, 1838–1930, Santa Cruz de Tenerife
1998, chapter xiii.
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rugged hideout far away on the opposite side of Manila. But local annoy-
ances remained. One such was none other than the amateur folklorist,
journalist and businessman Isabelo de los Reyes, whom the Spanish
proconsul disliked for ‘the audacity of his temperament and his love of
Isabelo had been arrested immediately after the outbreak
of the Revolution, and remained in prison till May 17, 1897, when he
was pardoned along with about 660 other internees by Primo de Rivera
in a post-Polavieja conciliatory gesture. Shortly thereafter the Captain-
General received a delegation of the amnestees, believing they had all
come to thank him. Isabelo, however, deeply embittered by his wife’s
death while he was behind bars, and the regime’s refusal to allow him
to attend her funeral or see his orphaned children, brought with him a
long, blistering memorandum outlining what he said were the ilustrados’
conditions for a peaceful settlement. Chief among them was a demand
for the immediate expulsion of the Orders. The Captain-General reacted
‘as though he had been bitten by a snake’, and had Isabelo re-arrested
on 20 May, confined in chains in Bilibid Prison, and sent off secretly
to martial-law Barcelona.
The ship’s captain was ordered to keep the
young villain isolated from any contact with Filipinos on board, ‘over
whom he exercises considerable influence’.
On arrival in Barcelona in June 1897—Cánovas was still alive and well—
Isabelo was soon transferred to Montjuich, whose commandant calmly
(and falsely) assured him that only those facing the death penalty were
incarcerated in its cells. He was not, by a long chalk, the first Filipino
since Rizal to be sequestered in the prison. The sympathetic Catalan
anarchist ‘Federico Urales’—arrested after the Corpus Chisti bombing
because he had courageously adopted Paulino Pallás’s orphaned daugh-
ter, after her father’s execution by firing squad (detailed in Part Two),
opened a highly popular secular school for children and published an
attack on trials by military courts in Barcelona—recalled in his memoirs
how, in 1896:
For an account of Isabelo’s extraordinary proto-nationalist El Folk-Lore Filipino
(1887), written when he was just 23, see ‘The Rooster’s Egg’, nlr 2, March–April
2000. In what follows I rely mainly on the late-lamented William Henry Scott’s
funny, pioneering monograph The Unión Obrera Democrática, First Filipino Labor
Union, Quezon City 1992. This quotation comes on p. 14.
See Mariano Ponce’s letters to Blumentritt of August 18, September 14 and 22,
1897, in Mariano Ponce, Cartas sobre La Revolución, 1897–1900, Manila 1932, pp.
23–35, 40–6.
116 nlr 29
Polavieja immediately began executions and deportations to Spain. One
ship laden with insurrectionaries having arrived at Barcelona, the prisoners
were incarcerated in the same prison as ourselves. This happened in winter,
and those poor Filipino deportees were [still] clothed in their native attire,
which consisted simply of drawer-like pants and a cobweb-thin shirt. It was
both shaming and melancholy to see the poor Filipinos in the courtyard
of the Barcelona prison, pacing about in a circle, kicking at the ground
to warm their feet and shivering with cold. It was a noble, beautiful sight
to see the prison inmates throwing down into the courtyard shoes, rope-
sandals, trousers, vests, jackets, caps, and socks to warm the poor Filipino
deportees, in whose country the cold is unknown.
In September 1897 Isabelo received a new cell-mate, Ramón Sempau,
who on the fourth of that month had tried to assassinate Lieutenant
Narciso Portas, the head-torturer of Montjuich—whose name Tárrida, via
the European press, had made synonymous with the ‘New Inquisition’.
Isabelo was enchanted by the failed assassin. In old age, he wrote that
the Catalan was very well educated:
he knew by heart the scientific names of plants in the Philippines, and
later translated Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere into French. In his fight with some
hundred police agents, he showed an absolute lack of fear. His very name
caused terror in Europe. Yet in reality he was like an honest and good-
natured child—yes, even a true Christ by nature . . . I repeat, on my word
of honour, that the so-called anarchists, Nihilists, or, as they say nowadays,
Bolsheviks, are the true saviours and disinterested defenders of justice and
universal brotherhood. When the prejudices of these days of moribund
imperialism have disappeared, they will rightfully occupy our altars.
With Cánovas dead, and Sagasta’s opposition coalition in power, the
situation of the Montjuich prisoners started to change. On January 8,
1898, Isabelo was freed. Thanks to letters of reference from his radical
Catalan friends, he found a minor sinecure in the propaganda sec-
tion of Moret’s Ministry for Overseas Territories. His articles on the
Philippines, especially his tirades against the Orders, were published in
the Radical Republican Party’s organ. Armed with a revolver, he plunged
happily into the radical demonstrations of the times, without shooting
Urales, Mi Vida, Tomo I, pp. 79, 196–7, and 200. His real Catalan name was Joán
Montseny, but he took on the Ural Mountains for his first nom de guerre.
Quoted in Scott, The Unión, p. 15. This first translation of Noli Me Tangere (done
jointly by Sempau and the Frenchman Henri Lucas, surely at Isabelo’s suggesting)
came out in Paris in 1898 or 1899 under the title Au Pays des Moines.
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anyone, but not without getting an occasional bloody nose. When, at
the end of 1898, the Treaty of Paris was initialled by which Spain ceded
the Philippines to the United States for twenty million ‘pieces of silver’,
Isabelo rushed to start his own newspaper, Filipinas ante Europa, and in
the two years before he went back home, used it for vitriolic attacks on
American imperialism.
While Isabelo and Sempau were still languishing in Montjuich,
Aguinaldo in his Biak-na-Bató redoubt decided it was time to form a
revolutionary government, and for this purpose a consitution making
him president was needed. It is a curious fact that the two ilustrado
drafters of this document lifted it wholesale from Cuba’s revolutionary
constitution of 1895, adding only a clause making Tagalog the national
The caudillo, whose Spanish was weak, and who knew little
about the world beyond the Philippines, had no idea of this, and proudly
proclaimed the enactment of this ‘Filipino’ constitution on November 1,
1897. The next day he was sworn in as president.
But even before this
grand gesture negotiations had begun with Primo de Rivera, who seems
to have hoped, under the new regime in Madrid, to secure at best a sort
of oriental version of the Pact of Zanjón. By the end of the year, it had
been agreed that the rebels would lay down their arms and receive full
amnesty; and that Aguinaldo and his officers would leave for Hong Kong
with 400,000 pesetas in their pockets.
Meanwhile Washington was on the move. As early as November 1897
Theodore Roosevelt had written that, in the event of war with Spain over
Cuba, it would be advisable to send the American Asiatic Squadron to
Manila Bay. At the end of February 1898, he ordered Commodore George
The most probable source for the text of the Cuba Constitution is Rizal’s and
Del Pilar’s great friend Mariano Ponce, who had long served as the secretary of the
Solidaridad group in Madrid. Having nursed Del Pilar through his final days in
Barcelona in July 1896, Ponce settled in Hong Kong where he worked to do what
he could as a ‘telephone operator’ for the anti-colonial revolution. There are many
extant letters to his Cuban (and often freemason) friends in Paris and Spain, asking
for documentary information on the progress of the Cuba Revolution, as well as
advice on guerrilla strategy, gun-running, fundraising, and so on. See, for examples
in 1897, the letters of May 10, September 8 and October 26 to J. A. Izquierdo in
Paris, as well as the June 29 letter to ‘Consuelo’ perhaps also in Paris. Ponce, Cartas
sobre La Revolución, 1897–1900, pp. 5–9, 28–32, 59; and 18–21.
Agoncillo, A Short History, p. 102. This was the so-called Constitution of
Jimaguayú. The Philippines was now only ‘two years behind’ Cuba.
118 nlr 29
Dewey to move his base of operations to Hong Kong. When war with
Spain was finally declared on April 25, 1898, after the curious explosion
of the warship uss Maine in Havana’s harbour—it had been sent there
to intimidate the Spanish—Dewey set off for the Philippines within an
hour of getting the official cable. On May 1, he destroyed the obsolete
Spanish fleet in sight of Manila’s coast, ostensibly to liberate the Filipinos
from the Spanish yoke. At Dewey’s invitation, Aguinaldo and his men
followed from Hong Kong on May 19, 1898. But Washington’s real aims
soon became clear. Aguinaldo was barred from entering Manila, and
while Dewey’s people started to fraternize with the defeated Spaniards,
relations with the Filipinos steadily deteriorated. With the signing of
the Treaty of Paris at the end of 1898, war between the annexationist
power and Aguinaldo’s newly proclaimed Filipino Republic became
The Americans, having ferociously denounced Weyler’s
‘concentration of populations’ in Cuba, ended up by adopting this same
policy in spades. Perhaps half a million Filipinos died of malnutrition
and disease in these concentration zones, as well as in savage counterin-
surgency warfare. In March 1901 Aguinaldo was captured and agreed to
swear allegiance to the us, but other generals continued the revolution-
ary war into 1902, and popular resistance persisted in various places till
near the end of the decade.
Syndicalist soirées
Isabelo had returned to Manila in October 1901, with his characteristic
ebullience and energy. In his bags he had packed a small idiosyncratic
library: Aquinas and Voltaire, Proudhon and the Bible, Darwin and Marx,
Kropotkin and Malatesta. There is every reason to believe that these were
the first texts of Marx and the leading anarchist thinkers, perhaps even of
Darwin, to enter the Philippines. His reputation as a staunch adversary of
American imperialism had preceded him. The Manila Times, mouthpiece
Aguinaldo had also issued a proclamation that the entire population should
mourn, on each anniversary of his death, the National Hero José Rizal. The first
monument, two modest Masonic pillars inscribed with the titles of his novels, still
survives in the small, hurricane-haunted town of Daét. There are now hundreds of
statues of Rizal decorating the plazas of Philippine towns; in Spain and Spanish
America, it is common to find streets named after him. In the us he is barely known
(though there are statues in San Francisco and Chicago). But in Amoy there is now
an entire Rizal theme park, financed mainly by wealthy Hokkien Chinese-Filipinos
whose ancestors sailed from that port.
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of the swelling population of American business-vultures, immediately
denounced him as a dangerous agitator and bloody anarchist. Not by
chance: the previous month President McKinley had been shot dead in
Buffalo by the 28-year old Polish-American anarchist blacksmith Leon
Czolgosz (and succeeded by the hyperthyroid Theodore Roosevelt). The
new colonial regime banned Isabelo’s planned newspaper, El Defensor de
Filipinas, and prohibited his proposed Partido Nacionalista.
But Isabelo was not a man easily put down. In old age he recalled that
he ‘took advantage of the occasion to put into practice the good ideas I
had learned from the anarchists of Barcelona’—setting himself, under
the noses of the Protestant conquistadors, to radicalize and organize the
Manila working class. In this endeavour he had some perhaps unsus-
pected advantages. Isabelo had always been odd-man-out within the
ilustrado nationalist intelligentsia, which was overwhelmingly Tagalog:
not exactly aristocratic, since there had never been an indigenous ‘feu-
dal’ state in the Philippines (unlike in neighbouring Indonesia, Malaya
and Cambodia); but with aspirations in that direction—especially in the
face of a Spanish imperialism which both had strong feudal roots and
continued to fancy itself in mediaeval fancy-dress, when the reality was
seedy adventurism, shady caciquism, and Orderly landlordism.
Isabelo was just the opposite, an honest businessman, publisher, printer
and journalist, who had employees rather than servants, and treated them
in a democratic modern spirit. Better still, he was an upcountry boy from
the Ilocanos in the far north of Luzon, an ethnic group legendary for its
thrift, hard-work, plain speaking—and clannishness. The Dienstleute of
late nineteenth-century Manila, as Rizal had rather disdainfully put it,
were overwhelmingly composed of industrious immigrants from hard-
scrabble Ilocos. The incipient working class too, though one would never
guess this from reading Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. Isabelo
could talk to these people in their own language, which, in those days,
virtually no educated Tagalog knew. He was also perfectly familiar with
their sturdy culture of the street and the barrio.
In classical fashion, he first organized the printers. Their success encour-
aged other sectors, and the union became quite quickly a Barcelona-style
free-wheeling ‘central’—the Unión Obrera Democrática, which would
have delighted the Tárrida of anarquismo sin adjetivos. The American rul-
ers watched with disbelief and alarm as a huge wave of strikes engulfed
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Manila and its surroundings, many of them successful because they
were unexpected by capital and administrators alike. They were also
befuddled by some of Isabelo’s methods. Street demonstrations he had
learned in his revolver-waving days in Barcelona. But when he raised
money for the strikers and his organization by holding a series of popular
balls combined with lectures, and staging zarzuelas and other theatricals
with themes hostile to the Americans and their elite Filipino collabora-
tors, he was shrewdly tapping the Filipino passion for fiestas, dancing,
theatre and music. His last act, before going to prison again for ‘labour
conspiracy’, was to throw a massive party in the working-class district of
Tondo, at a newly opened workers’ club.
Last January, I was invited to give a lecture on the themes of these three arti-
cles by the famously radical-nationalist University of the Philippines, where
the influence of (Ilocano) José Maria Sison’s Maoist ‘new’ Communist
Party, founded at the end of 1968, remains quite strong. Arriving too
early, I filled in time at an open-air coffee-stall. A youngster came by to
hand out leaflets to the customers, all of whom casually scrunched them
up and threw them away once he had left. I was about to do the same
when my eye caught the title: Organize Without Leaders! The content
proved to be an attack on the hierarchies of the Philippines—boss-ridden
party-political, corporate capitalist, and also Maoist-Communist—in the
name of ‘horizontal’ organized solidarity. The leaflet was unsigned, but
a website was appended for further enquiries. This was a serendipity too
good to keep to myself. I read it aloud to my audience, and was surprised
that almost everyone seemed taken aback. But when I had finished speak-
ing, many hurried up to ask for copies. I am not sure if Rizal would have
been pleased by the theme park in Amoy, but I am quite certain that
Isabelo would have been enchanted by the leaflet and rushed to his laptop
to check out the website manila.indymedia.org.
The uod collapsed in 1903, but out of its ashes came many other labour organiza-
tions and, eventually, a Socialist and a Communist Party. These merged in 1938, led
the Hukbalahap guerrilla movement against the Japanese military invaders, and
ultimately carried on a revolutionary war against the American-arranged Second
Republic, inaugurated on (when else?) July 4, 1946.

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