Stuart Christie who died two years ago is arguably one of the most significant political Scots anarchists and activists of the twentieth century. I got to know Christie around 1980 when he was running Cienfuegos Press, an anarchist literature source from the unlikely setting of Orkney. Two works I recall obtaining from him were ‘Towards a Citizens Militia’ and ‘High Intensity Subversion’. I still have the latter but it seems my ‘militia’ days have come and gone. When I was corresponding with Christie or speaking to him by phone I’m bound to say I failed to appreciate his significance in the twentieth century anarchist movement, I recall he was a witty genial sort and it was only later I learned this was a man who had sat in a room with ‘Franco’s Gestapo’ as they tortured one of his compatriots years earlier.
The background was Christie’s bold but in hindsight crazy attempt to kill General Franco in the early 1960s. For the project Christie hiked across Spain in a kilt wearing the explosives strapped around him. Later (because of the kilt) an Argentine paper reporting on the case would describe him as a transvestite!
Caught by the Spanish Police he was delivered into the hands of the Brigada de Investigación Social, BSI (Franco’s Gestapo) and signed a confession after a Spanish colleague caught with him was tortured in his presence.
Christie could have faced the garotte-vil the particularly unpleasant form of capital punishment retained in Spain until the 1970s but instead was sentenced to twenty years. He was released after three years, which was unusual. Many International figures had lobbied for him but it’s said that Franco was ultimately most influenced by pleas for clemency in the forms of letters from Stuart’s mother.
Back in the UK he faced more angst when he was tried as part of the Angry Brigade prosecutions in the 1970s but eventually acquitted.
After we established AMA (Anti-MIlitarist Alliance) here in Mann which went on to become Celtic League Military Monitoring we were casting around for resources and I found various socialist bookshops in Dublin, Liverpool,and Glasgow before lighting on Cienfuegos Press which had a broad portfolio of alternative publications.
These days of course activism for the most part means the environment but Christie and others were in the 60s and 70s still locked in a struggle that started between facism and socialism decades earlier.
Maybe things will go full circle and eventually environmentalists will realize ‘COP’ (Whatever) and the local Chamber of Commerce turning ‘green’ will not actually save the environment at all. The new fascists are burning the rainforest or turning it into ‘desirable floor covering’for the first world
There’s probably room for a new young generation of Stuart Charities fighting the old cause if the world is really going to change.
Image: My old copy of ‘High Intensity Subversion’ (the ultimate riposte to Frank Kitson!) Inset: Stuart Christie.
AGS Celtic League (28 December 2022)