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June 10, 1977 - Image 22

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1977-06-10

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22 Friday, June 10, 1977


Oldest Surviving Yiddish Periodical Has a Heyday
of a Celebration, at 86,With Anarchy as Background

A study of the Jewish
press in America, with em-
phasis on Yiddish, would be
incomplete without consid-
ering the Freie Arbeiter
How many know about it,
see it, read it, remember
its origin as the organ of
the Yiddish anarchists in
this country?
The current 80th anniver-
sary of the Jewish Daily
Forward is an historic occa-
sion. Yet in age, the major
surviving Yiddish daily
newspaper in America is su-
perseded by the anarchist
It retains its old ideology,
although ideology often is
equated to necrology. But
since it has only 2,000 read-
ers, it now appears only as
a monthly—instead of its
previous role as a weekly
and then as a semi-month-
Freie Arbeiter Stimme
had a celebration—marking
its 86th year. What an event
that was, judging it by the
report in the New York
Times by Israel Shenker,
the newspaper's expert on
educational matters. Shen-
ker has written author-
itatively on Jewish educa-
tional and historical ques-
tions. Here is his story on
the 86th anniversary ban-
quet of the Freie Arbeiter


As faithful subscribers to

the anarchist Freie Arbei-
ter Stimme—Free Voice of
Labor—gathered at the
Summit Hotel the other day
for the 86th anniversary
banquet, circumstances
were blissfully congenial,
even anarchic. The Free
Voice of Labor, the oldest
Yiddish newspaper in Amer-
ica, was celebrating three
anniversaries—and it had
picked the wrong date for
all three.
It was late for the 86th an-
niversary, since the 87th
was only a few weeks off, it
was celebrating May 1, but
unfortunately May 1 had al-
ready arrived, right on
time; finally, it was corn-
memorating the 50th anni-
versary of the execution of
Sacco and Vanzetti, which
was not due until Aug. 23.
"So it balances out," said
Ahrne Thorne, the paper's
editor, who acted as master
of ceremonies.
"This seating list is not
entirely accurate, as should
be expected," he continued,
in the spirit of the occasion.
Many anarchists had
pleased themselves about
their seating, and were
deep into their people's
fruit cups although the
meal had not yet officially
begun. "Will everyone
please sit down and get
ready for the full-course
meal?" Mr. Thorne plead-
ed, good-naturedly. "The


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waiters are nervous."
Prof. Paul Avrich of
Queens College, who special-
izes in Russian revolution-
ary movements, roamed
about, greeting old friends.
He happily saluted Alberto
Pirani, who is 89 years old
and remembers sharing
Sacco's Mexican exile.
Robust and militant, Pi-
rani gruffly voiced his con-
tempt for society's in-
stitutions and softly con-
fessed his total ignorance of
"I'm international," he
said. "I ain't got no coun-
try. When you mention coun-
try and religion, wash your
mouth. That's the way you
kill millions of people, for
God and country and flag.

Look at America-73 gods,
226 religions."
Three courses later, Mr.
Pirani—who kept looking
about him as though won-
dering where to build the
barricades—was still rasp-
ing in a loud stage whisper,
while the 83-year-old who
calls himself "Brand"—and
who looked as though he
had just come off the barri-
cades—was still wrapped in
Brand's hair was a wild
fringe, floating at sides and
back; his shirt was open at
the neck and rumpled; he
had -the look of a man who
had seen hopes come and
disappear. Asked when an-
archism would triumph, he
"Not in my lifetime.
Might be a few centuries
from now. To be an anarch-
ist it's not important to real-

$10 for
a family

55 per

$2 for
students S

$25 for




(Have your family join us for chicken dinner and
a fun-filled way of starting Steve's re-election campaign.)

FRIENDS OF STEPHEN C. COOPER, 21650 West Eleven Mile Road, Suite 205, Southfield, Michigan 4807E

YES- ... We would like to attend

Enclosed is S


Masthead of the June Issue of Freie Arbeiter Stimme



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people. ❑ Family ❑ Individual ❑ Student ❑ Patron.

Pd. Pol. Adv.

ize anarchism immediately.
Some day individuals will
be free and regulate their
lives by themselves, with-
out intervention by the
state—the greatest enemy
of the individual."
This veteran anarchist,
who spends his whole life
pseudonymously, was born
in South America and
raised in Europe. He partici-
pated in Berlin's Spartacus
revolt, then went to Russia,
and—as he said—"There I
found the Russian Revolu-
tion had been betrayed."
He was in Spain during the
Civil War.
"Brand" is the name he
took in tribute to Ibsen's
hero, the uncompromising,
headstrong idealist who sac-
rifices everything rather
than betray • his duty.
Having learned the uses
of clandestiness, the con-
temporary Brand had a
ready answer when asked

his real name. "Which
one?" he replied. "What
Morris Ganberg admits to
only 45 of his roughly 90
years, but he owns up to his
real name. Mr. Ganberg
was one of those who hur-
ried to Russia to help the
Revolution, taking along
leaflets to stir up Petro-
grad's workers in defense
of Thomas Mooney, the left-
wing agitator falsely
charged with complicity in
a 1916 San Francisco bomb-
Russian workers confused
the message, thought an
Itatian anarchist was being
persecuted, and changed
"Muni! Muni !"
the American charge
d'affaires cabled the Secre-
tary of State.
years, and the names on
the seating list suited that
era, with such as Sonia,
Bessie, Shlome, Hershl,
Feigl, Shaindl, Gertie,
Yetta, and Pants Makers.

In the beginning, when
these anarchists were
younger, the newspaper
seemed headed for the
heights. Weekly circulation
climbed to 30,000, which
meant—anarchists being a
comradely sort, thick on
the ground—perhaps 150,000
Today the paper comes
out once a month. Circula-
tion is 2,000 and that
means—anarchists are now
thin upon the face of the
earth—perhaps 2,000 read-
ers. Ideology struggles with
"We get letters every
week," Mr. Thorne said.
`Don't send the paper—my
father died, my uncle died.'
The world may be crying
out for anarchism, but in
the whole benighted planet
just a single newsstand—
outside the New York Pub-
lic Library on 42d Street—
stocks the inflammatory
One newsstand does not a
simmer make. Even Yidd-
ish-reading anarchists, who
believe that one day every-
thing will go from right to
left, see no revolution on
the horizon. "We are not
part of world conspiracy,"
Mr. Thorne said, "just a
few people who have crazy

three years ago, Mr.
Thorne earned his living as
a typographer at the Jewish
Daily Forward, a news-
paper of only 80 years; he
contributed to the future by
writing for the Free Voice
of Labor. Now that he is 67,
give or take a struggle, and
editor of the anarchist
paper, he donates all, gets
nothing, never complains.
"I did not make the
paper," he said. "The_-
paper made me." H
pseudonym is P. Constar.,
which he constructed from
the initial portion of his
wife's maiden name, Kon-
stantinovskaya. She . does
not have a pseudonym, but
she does have a complaint.
So few anarchists these
days can write Yiddish that
Thorne-Constan is reduced
to supplementing his own
editorials by translating con-
tributions. Mrs. Thorne
says that her husband's
English has deteriorated
ever since he turned into a
part-time translator.
When the master of cere-
monies introduced Sam Dol-
goff, half of the honors
were in Yiddish, half in
English. Mr. Dolgoff, a
bear of a man, with


great, beaming smile, has
been an anarchist about 60
years, and he spent less
than five minutes on the
platform. "What brought
me to anarchism," he said,
"was that they threw me
out of the Young People's
Socialist League and told
me I was an anarchist, and
I agreed with them."
The half of the audience
that slipped out returne
quietly for the proletari
songs in Yiddish, Hebrew,
even English, by a man
young enough to most every-
body else's grandson. His
was vigorous interpretation
with fitting gestures—a tai-
lor maipulating a sewing
needle, a shoemaker ham-
mering and even—for the
song that says: "Press ikh
mit ein pressele"—a press-
er smoothing air horizontal-
ly with a clenched fist.
It was the closest to a
threatening gesture all day,
all year for that matter.

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