A DOMINIE ABROAD by A.S. Neill (£1.50 – ChristieBooks eBookshelf). A fascinating account of A.S. Neill’s experiences setting up a ‘Free school’ in the pre-Hitlerian Germany of the Weimar Republic. Dissatisfied with traditional schooling, with its lack of freedom, democracy, and self-determination, Neill began searching for a place to establish his own school and to experiment with his developing ideas, gathering what was best in the educational systems of various nations. In 1921 he became a co-director of the Dalcroze School in Hellerau, a suburb of Dresden, Germany. Part of an international school, called Neue Schule, the Dalcroze supported the study of Eurythmics. His’s first step was to buy a dictionary and start to learn the language, the next was to record his impressions. His difficulties were many. With cheery optimism the bohemian teacher overlooked the fact that he was in a community with definite laws on education; he also quite forgot the difficulties of finance. There was also the tragic fact that the Dominie’s favourite tobacco was unobtainable within five hundred square miles.

A DOMINIE’S FIVE or FREE SCHOOL by A.S. Neill In 1921 Scottish teacher A.S. Neill moved to Hellerau on the outskirts of Dresden where he co-founded an International School to pursue his own ideas on education: that the child’s happiness should be the paramount consideration in deciding its upbringing, a happiness which grows from a sense of personal freedom. After reading what was at the time considered a popular and exciting story — King Solomon’s Mines — to the English-speaking group of five pupils with the result that four of them went to sleep, he conceived the idea of telling the children a story in which they themselves were the participants and actors. Needless to say, the story was a great success, judging by the remarks of the children. This is the story told by Neill. Its imaginativeness is unique as is its whimsical humour. It makes an original contribution to the art of story-telling for children.

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Dominie1A DOMINIE’S LOG by A.S. Neill

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A Dominie’s Log was directly due to the Scottish Code of Education, by which it is forbidden to enter general reflections or opinions in the official log-book. Requiring a safety-valve, a young Dominie decides to keep a private log-book. In it he jots down the troubles and comedies of the day’s work. Sometimes he startles even his own bairns by his unconventionality. There is a lot in Education that he does not understand. The one thing, however, that he does comprehend is the Child Mind, and he possesses the saving quality of humour. (1915)

DominieDismissedA DOMINIE DISMISSED by A.S. Neill

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In consequence of the Dominie’s go-as- you-please methods of educating village children, the inevitable happens he is dismissed, giving place to an approved disciplinarian. The unhappy Dominie, forced to leave his bairns, seeks to enlist but the doctor discovers that his lungs are affected, and he is ordered an open-air life. He returns as a cattleman to the village where he has previously been a school master. Incidentally, he watches the effect of his successor’s teaching, the triumph of his own methods and the discomfiture of his rival at the hands of the children, in whom the Dominie cultivated personality and the rights of bairns. (1917)

DominieDoubtA DOMINIE IN DOUBT by A.S. Neill (£1.50)

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One day when re-reading A Dominie’s Log, its author decided that a book is out of date five minutes after it is written. In other words, he was in doubt—terrible and perplexing doubt. Do I really understand children? he asked himself. Are my ideas upon education right or wrong ? He decided that he had not sufficiently studied the psychology of children and that, in consequence, he had been guilty of almost criminal neglect. In the same delightfully discursive and humorous manner the Dominic reveals himself, as attractive in his doubts as in his convictions. He does not repent his unconventions. On the contrary, he reproaches himself for having been a heretic, whereas he ought to have been an arch-heretic.  (1920)

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Alexander Sutherland Neill was born in Forfar in the N.E, of Scotland on 17 October 1883 (d. 23/9/1973) to George and Mary Neill. He was raised in an austere, Calvinist house and instilled with values of fear, guilt, and adult and divine authority, which he later repudiated. His father was the village dominie (Scottish schoolmaster) of Kingsmuir, near Forfar in eastern Scotland; his mother, too, had been a teacher before her marriage. The village dominie held a position in the community of prestige, but hierarchically beneath that of the gentry, doctors, and clergymen. The dominie, typically, controlled overcrowded classrooms with the tawse (the belt), as the means of maintaining good order and discipline.

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An Answer Regarding Cuba, Gaston Leval, June 1961 (Translated by Paul Sharkey)

In June 1961, in the wake of the abortive April invasion of Cuba’s Bay of Pigs, the French anarchist newspaper Le Monde libertaire published an article signed “Ariel” glorifying the Castro regime. It also criticised the French anarcho-syndicalist writer Gaston Leval for his lack of enthusiasm for the Castro revolution. This was his response.

Gaston Leval, (1895 – 1978)
Gaston Leval, (1895 – 1978)

“I have just read the article published by this paper’s contributor, Ariel, regarding the Cuban revolution, which has now turned into a totalitarian counter-revolution, as recently remarked upon by our comrade Fidel Miro in Solidaridad Obrera (Mexico), and reported in most Central and South American anarchist papers, and by our American comrades who are aware of the facts and are none too sparing in their criticism of what they term their homeland’s capitalist imperialists.

Ariel recommends to his readers the review Esprit which, as we know, is a progressive, pro-Moscow, Catholic publication, one with which Albert Camus had serious issues. He also urges us to read the relaunched  Bohemia magazine  published by the Castro-communist propaganda apparatus, a pale imitation of the original Bohemia whose managing editor — who fought against Batista and championed Castro at the time — has now been forced into exile. While quoting a travel writer, Ariel is careful not to compare that writer’s claims against those of our comrades or people better informed than him. Remember, thousands of travellers of that sort praised the wonders of Stalinist rule while writing us off as counter-revolutionaries, that is until Khrushchev took it upon himself to put them straight in 1956.

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Espionage’s tortured legacy. The ‘Banda Negra’s’ pistolerismo in Barcelona From ‘Nidos de Espías: España, Francia y la Primera Guerra Mundial 1914-1919 by Eduardo González Calleja and Paul Aubert, Alianza Editorial, 2014

Although Spain remained neutral in World War I, Madrid, Barcelona and the country’s ports were nonetheless clandestine proxy battlefields for the espionage services of the Allied and Central Powers. Here the belligerents waged a ruthless war of terror, sabotage and black propaganda in which agents of each country pursued their national interests no matter what the cost. This desperate secret struggle involved the subornation of the trade unions, the police and security services, murder, intimidation, gangsterism, sabotage, port and maritime blockades, submarine warfare, the supply of bellicose materiel, the spreading of insidious rumour and lies,etc., etc. Of particular interest to ChristieBooks in this story — because of their activities targeting the anarcho-syndicalist CNT on behalf of the Catalan employers’ associations — are the roles of police inspector Manuel Bravo Portillo of the Social Brigade, who was an asset of German Intelligence, and of the false Baron de König (referred to here as Baron Koening), a crook, boulevardier and agent of the French intelligence services until his death in mysterious circumstances in the immediate aftermath of WWII. The careers of these lowlifes we have explored at length previously in the three volumes of Pistoleros! The Chronicles of Farquhar McHarg (1 ; 2 ; 3 ) and The False Baron von König by Raymond Batkin

nidos-de-espiasThe clandestine ‘dirty war’ fought on the streets of Barcelona in the immediate post-WWI years by the belligerent European powers was directly connected with the aggravated social and industrial tensions in the Catalan capital. Nor is there any doubt that some CNT union leaders, sponsored by the German secret service, actively targeted Allied interests,  justifying their activities in the name of class struggle.

In an audience with Thierry, King Alfonso remarked on the venality of some CNT leaders:

“[…] once the libertarian syndicalists and French anarchists have broken and bewildered the labouring mass sufficiently, the Germans move in, taking over and orchestrating sabotage, or bringing to a standstill the industries that are working for you people.”

The French consul in Barcelona was more nuanced:

“Since the war I have seen a significant role ascribed to German propaganda across the various labour movements in the peninsula. I am not denying this is the case, but I do not regard it as decisive […] our enemies have bought many ‘leaders’ in Catalonia; their subsidies are behind many of the strikes that have led to such extensive disruption of the delivery of goods intended for the Allies.”


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FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE by Maximilian A. Mügge. eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)


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Nietzsche has a poor reputation among many of the liberal intelligentsia for, among other things, his critique of liberal rationalism and his propagation of the over-man/Superman (Übermensch), but is his near villainous reputation deserved? He was, certainly, a complicated, ambiguous and contradictory piece of work, but he did help shape the modern philosophical landscape and is considered to be one of the genuinely great, influential and thinkers who has earned his ledge in the modern philosophical pantheon

Not many philosophers have provoked such widely varying assesments: “a madman” (The Chambers Biographical Dictionary); “a greater thinker than Marx” (Horkheimer); the “philosopher of developed capitalism” (Franz Mehring); the “progenitor and ideological founder of the Third Reich” (Hitler); the inspiration for “Nietzschean anarchism” (Gustav Landauer, who conveniently turned a blind eye to Nietzsche’s tirades against anarchism, solidarity and communal social interest and cherry-picked his ideas on voluntarism, materialism, along with his occasional tirades against capitalism and the “money economy” to establish the basis for his own take on anarchism.) He was also a significant influence on Lenin and Trotsky, as well as Max Weber, Sartre and other 20th century existentialists

The present work is neither polemic nor apology. It is, rather, an attempt to introduce aspiring students and aficionados of moral philosophy to Nietzsche as a person and as a provocative thinker. Contents include a detailed biography, an outline of his views on metaphysics, moral theorising, Christian values, the Superman, art, war, history, etc., together with interpretative sketches and a chronological exposition of all his works. A useful primer on all things Nietzsche.

SEVEN RED SUNDAYS (Siete domingos rojos) Ramón José Sender. eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

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Amparo García del Rio

Seven Red Sundays is Sender’s third novel. Published in Spanish as Siete domingos rojos, it forms a prominent landmark in modernist Spanish literature. It was written in 1932 in the aftermath of the unsuccessful anarcho-syndicalist ‘declarations of Libertarian Communism’ (uprisings) in Figols, Berga, and Cardona in Alto Llobregat (Catalonia), and also in Alocorisa and Teruel (Aragon). The complex story covers seven consecutive days, each a ‘Red Sunday’ of socially transformative class struggle: agitation, street fighting, and a revolutionary general strike triggered by the killing of three anarcho-syndicalists by the police during a banned protest meeting. Following mass labour unrest heightened by the betrayals of the anti-working-class Second Republic, a public funeral in Madrid ends in street fighting, sabotage and the prospect of a nationwide general strike. Sabotage throws the city into darkness, leading to mass arrests, and more state terror, including the torture and cold-blooded murder of union activists by police applying the ‘Law of Flight’ (legitimising the shooting of escaping prisoners).  Sender’s use of perspective — in which he looks at the network of connections and the unfolding course of events from ten different viewpoints — explores not only the ambiguities, selfless heroism, frailties and inner conflicts of the central personages struggling for change: love, sublime faith, self sacrifice, religion, betrayal and treachery. It is also a hauntingly beautiful and tender book that captures the mood and feel of revolution as well as the spirit of the Second Spanish Republic in 1932.

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