"Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth."

Welcome to Infoshop News
Saturday, July 26 2014 @ 08:09 AM CDT

Paul Avrich, radical historian, 1931-2006

Radical historian, Paul Avrich, died last week. He was 74. Paul Avrich was born in New York City on August 4, 1931. He was a noted historian and professor who authored many books on anarchist history, including books on the Haymarket Riot, the Modern School Movement, the Russian Revolution and a collection of oral interviews with American anarchists titled Anarchist Voices.

Paul Avrich, radical historian, 1931-2006

Infoshop News
February 20, 2006

Radical historian, Paul Avrich, died last week. He was 74. Paul Avrich was born in New York City on August 4, 1931. He was a noted historian and professor who authored many books on anarchist history, including books on the Haymarket Riot, the Modern School Movement, the Russian Revolution and a collection of oral interviews with American anarchists titled Anarchist Voices. Avrich was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize several times and in 1984 he won the Philip Taft Labor History Award.

Avrich received his B.A. from Cornell University in 1952 and his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1961. Avrich taught at Queens College of the City University of New York and at Columbia University. He was a Guggenheim fellow at Columbia University in 1967-68 and a National Endowment for the Humanities senior fellow in 1972-73.

Avrich published his dissertation on “The Russian Revolution and the Factory Committees” at Columbia University in 1961. In 1967 Avrich published his first book on the history of anarchism, “The Russian Anarchists.” He went on to publish many more books on anarchist history, including “The Haymarket Tragedy” in 1984 and “Sacco and Vanzetti” in 1991. Writing about Avrich’s book “Kronstadt 1921” for the New York Review of Books, Alasdair MacIntyre observed that "[Avrich] gives us the closest examination of all the available evidence that we are likely to have for some time and he uses his evidence to construct a narrative that, in its most brilliant passages, matches the power of Deutscher's The Prophet Armed and Moshe Lewin's Lenin's Last Struggle."

The Library of Congress houses the Paul Avrich Collection, a collection of over twenty thousand manuscripts and publications on American and European anarchism that Avrich donated to the library.

Ronald Creagh remembered Avrich this weekend: “…I know that Paul's friendliness will remain in the minds of all who have known him, just as his scholarship will be remembered by all who have read his remarkable books. He offers his readers very extraordinary information. Perhaps his most thought-provoking testimony is contained in his work Anarchist Voices, which is based on his careful, time-consuming interviews with hundreds of people.”

AK Press (www.akpress.org) recently re-published Anarchist Voices.

Avrich Collection at the Library of Congress http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/awhhtml/awrbc4/pamphlet.html

Selected Bibliography

* The Russian Anarchists, Princeton University Press, 1967.

* Kronstadt 1921, Princeton University Press, 1970.

* Russian Rebels, 1600-1800, Schocken, 1972.

* (Editor and author of introduction) Peter Kropotkin The Conquest of Bread, Allen Lane, 1972.

* (Editor and author of introduction) Peter Kropotkin, Mutual Aid, a Factor of Evolution, Allen Lane, 1972.

* (Editor) The Anarchists in the Russian Revolution, Cornell University Press, 1973.

* An American Anarchist: The Life of Voltairine de Cleyre, Princeton University Press, 1978.

* The Modern School Movement: Anarchism and Education in the United States, Princeton University Press, 1980.

* (Author of introduction) Voltairine De Cleyre, The First Mayday: The Haymarket Speeches, 1895-1910, Libertarian Book Club, 1980.

* The Haymarket Tragedy, Princeton University, 1984.

* Bakunin & Nechaev, Freedom Press, 1987.

* Anarchist Portraits, Princeton University, 1988.

* Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background, Princeton University, 1991.

* Anarchist Voices: An Oral History Of Anarchism in Amreica, Princeton University, 1996.

Sources: Includes information from Contemporary Authors Online and research assistance from Radical Reference.

Share
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Ask
  • Kirtsy
  • LinkedIn
  • Digg
  • Twitter
  • SlashDot
  • Reddit
  • MySpace
  • Fark
  • Del.icio.us
  • Blogmarks
  • Yahoo Buzz
Paul Avrich, radical historian, 1931-2006 | 12 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Paul Avrich, radical historian, 1931-2006
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 20 2006 @ 09:26 PM CST
a great author, with some essentially texts of histories that would quite possibly would have been widely forgotten or unknown in many parts of the world!
Paul Avrich, radical historian, 1931-2006
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 21 2006 @ 01:05 PM CST
A great man who contributed tremendously to preventing anarchist history
from being forgotten. Rest in peace.
Paul Avrich, radical historian, 1931-2006
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 21 2006 @ 01:54 PM CST
He and others like George Woodcock
Paul Avrich, radical historian, 1931-2006
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, February 23 2006 @ 01:06 PM CST
No-one is suggesting that Avrich was the only historian of anarchism. But he does make Woodcock look decidedly partial (in both senses): see the hearsay 'accusations' about Spanish Anarchists in 'Anarchism' for instance...
Paul Avrich, radical historian, 1931-2006
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 21 2006 @ 08:11 PM CST
Goodbye to a true revolutionary and a very decent, gentle man. Paul used to say he became an anarchist, "because they were just the finest people around." That has always inspired me to be a kinder and more compassionate anarchist. Thank you Paul, NYC anarchists will miss you dearly.
Paul Avrich, radical historian, 1931-2006
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, March 02 2006 @ 02:18 AM CST
I'd be interested to hear of Paul's funeral,where and when it took place,if comrades attended and gave him a great send-off,etc.
Any information appreciated.
Mike(michaelgoodman@xtra.co.nz)
Paul Avrich, radical historian, 1931-2006
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, February 22 2006 @ 01:09 PM CST
There's a nice comment at 'commie curmudgeon':
http://nomorebigwheels.blogspot.com/2006/02/and-now-paul-avrich.html
which quotes a couple of Avrich's writings. We've lost a good comrade.
Paul Avrich, radical historian, 1931-2006
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, February 23 2006 @ 08:02 PM CST
Paul's lose saddens me. Paul gave thousands to my lawyer to defend me from the cluches of the state. We corresponded and meet about history research and he offered to be an expert witness for my case, he was willing to testify as an expert on political anarchism during my trial.

Paul's research on anarchist history contributed much to the reach of anarchist heritage.

His oral histories have been particularly inspirational. His humble style opened the doors of many who where bitter about feeling betrayed by the political community. His self-reflective approach helped us learn more than many political histories that often are more propaganda then reflection.

One of my favorite stories is in Anarchist Voices. Paul interviewed Johan Most's son. He visited Most's son several times, each time being turned away and being told that he was not interested in talking. Eventually Paul acknowledged that Johan's son was not up for an interview, but asked him politely if he could come in for a cup of tea. Of course after he settled down at the kitchen table the interview started. Most's son spoke of the negative stigma that for years followed him as occasionally while in public people would point at him as that anarchist. He spoke of how he never would get any visits from anarchists or others who his father had sacrificed so much to support. And commented about how he named his son after his father.

His son, Most's grandson, became a famous basketball sportscaster, Johnny Most.

For me this interview illustrated to us Paul's humility and down to earth approach. And begged the question of the limits of seemly revolutionary bonds between comrades. In one generation, political activists forgot the real life relatives of one of the most outspoken German anarchists, who had a relationship with Emma Goldman and was persecuted by the U.S. for his publication of a very practical guide to revolution.

What happened, and what did anarchists do and did not do that shifted history from promoting a German anarchist revolutionary orator to ignoring his son and his grandson being more interested in the Boston Celtics over revolutionary struggle.

Another endearing interview was with Kroptikin's daughter (or granddaughter?) who had become a staunch Democrat.

Paul could have edited these interviews or turned them into propaganda, but no, he knew that we have a lot more to learn from reality and from really listening to others verses simply turning into walking rhetoric machines.

Paul will be missed, he was the living embodiment of struggling for a revolutionary memory, a walking oral history library and a gigantic time capsule all in one. He was a kind and generous man who shared his knowledge, never played the elitist games of academia and supported rank and file labor and radical history researchers like me.
~Camilo Viveiros
Paul Avrich, radical historian, 1931-2006
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, March 02 2006 @ 02:11 AM CST
Camilo,
I don't know if you'll see or read this,but I thank-you for your comments on Paul Avrich and on Anarchist Voices.It was always an ambition of mine to get to New York and to go and meet him,but I never did.
His writings have always inspired me,and it is indeed a great loss for all of us in the movement.My sympathies are indeed with his wife and family,a very trying time for them.
I would be interested to hear what subjects have interested you,or you have written on...if you would care to get in touch.
My email address is: michaelgoodman@xtra.co.nz
Salud Y anarquia,
Mike
Paul Avrich, radical historian, 1931-2006
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, March 02 2006 @ 02:08 PM CST


I sent this out as a bulletin on Myspace. A disclaimer- I see above that someone had characterized Paul as an anarchist. My classification of him below is based on personal experience and many hours of conversation- though, admittedly, we haven't spoken in nearly a decade... something that is entirely my fault, but in the last few years of his life, he wasn't up to much anyway... I should also add that, unlike many other people (read, pretty much the entire Anarchist Milieu) he was very understanding and supportive as I battled with the "health problems" that plagued me for over a decade....much more than could be said about many a self-described "anarchist".

Emma spent months out of her life nursing a few comrades and acquaintances who, for whatever reason, had stumbled in the poppy field... the 19th century anarchs, probably through personal hardship, seemed to have an authentic compassion for the consequences of despair... Paul also instinctively understood this.

MYSPACE BULLETIN myspace.com/tadkepley


I'm pretty far out of the loop these days; so I didn't hear about Avrich's death until yesterday. I first met him in the late 80's in NYC, at the time there were still quite a few of the old folks around the city- people like Sam Dolgoff. I went to a few funerals for these folks- Anarchists from the early twentieth century; Spanish Civil War vets; Russian Anarchist Refugees who had fled the Bolsheviks, etc. It's amazing that I got to meet so many of those people- people who could tell personal stories of knowing Goldman and other luminaries. Avrich was always at these funerals; many of these folks had been sources in his work. He was a consumate historian, and his work influenced me greatly. When he initially met me, he was very standoffish- like alot of the older folks, they didn't understand the punk thing, ( being a HC type, I was never "extreme" looking- tshirts, jeans, combats, leather jackets and a severe haircut was enough to scare people in the 80's, remember) and it made them nervous- prompting me to quip to Peter Lamborn Wilson that Avrich was like most statists- to him, the only good anarchist was a dead one. That comment got back to him, (my voice carries, and I was never very politic anyway) and had offended him- but it engendered a long discussion where I let him in on what was going on in CONTEMPORARY anarchist circles- something he knew absolutely NOTHING about, and really, intially didn't CARE to know... but that's 'cause Paul wasn't an anarchist. He sympathized with anarchist ideas, but was, at heart, a libertarian socialist, and hence, a statist. But he was a great writer, a brilliant researcher and linguist. If I achieve HALF of what Paul did in my lifetime, I'd die sorta happy... we had met through the LBC (Libertarian Book Club) circle, which was all that was left of the old Freie Arbiter Stimme grouping.

I'd post a link, but why bother. Anyone reading this who is interested probably already knows.

TAD KEPLEY
Paul Avrich, radical historian, 1931-2006
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, May 12 2006 @ 03:04 PM CDT
Thanks for attempting to dispel the well-intentioned revisionism that often
occurs after the death of an inspirational figure. It was a shame that the good
man passed before I had a chance to correspond with him, I've only become
aware of his work recently, thanks to the folks at AK Press, but I found his
writings on libertarian education and the Modern School movement highly
relevant to the educational revolution that must occur before a full social-
political one will be possible.

Thank you again for for setting the record straight, and especially for
highlighting the fact that many anarchists show only derision towards
comrades that have succumbed to the refuge of the false void, due to the
despair that we all must combat in this most imperfect of worlds. We must lift
eachother up as we fall, with solidarity and without judgement.
Paul Avrich, radical historian, 1931-2006
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, April 09 2006 @ 07:35 PM CDT
I've enjoyed Paul Avrich's great historical studies over the years and recommended him to many curious people. Just this week my wife picked up a copy of his study of Voltairine de Cleyre in a bookshop, but we haven