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Vernon Richards

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  • Clore Daniel C
    News for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo Vernon Richards His single-minded efforts helped keep the anarchist voice alive by Colin
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 5, 2002
      News for Anarchists & Activists:

      Vernon Richards

      His single-minded efforts helped keep the anarchist voice

      by Colin Ward

      Monday February 4, 2002

      The Guardian [UK]

      Across seven decades, Vernon Richards, who has died aged 86,
      maintained an anarchist presence in British publishing. His
      chosen instrument was Freedom Press, based in Whitechapel,
      in London's east end. He edited the anarchist paper Freedom
      - and its prewar and wartime variations - into the 1960s.
      Earlier, he had been imprisoned in 1945, written a biography
      of the Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta, and photographed
      George Orwell.

      Born Vero Recchioni in Soho, Vernon was the son of the
      Italian anarchist Ernidio Recchioni, who had escaped from
      what was then the prison island of Pantelleria in the 1890s,
      set up the famous Italian delicatessen King Bomba, in Soho,
      and taken part in interwar plots to assassinate Mussolini.

      Vernon was educated at Emmanuel school, Wandsworth, and
      graduated in civil engineering from King's College London in
      1939. In his Soho childhood, he had been taught the violin
      by the conductor John Barbirolli's uncle, and had performed
      the orchestral repertoire.

      By 1934, he was becoming active in the battle against
      Mussolini, and, in 1935, was deported from France, where he
      had met the Italian anarchist Camillo Berneri, and fallen in
      love with his daughter, Marie-Louise. Back in London, he
      anglicised his name to Vernon Richards and, collaborating
      with Berneri in Paris, started publishing Free Italy/Italia

      In 1936, the year the Spanish civil war began, Vernon joined
      the veterans of Freedom - founded in the 1880s, it had
      effectively ceased publication by 1932 - to produce Spain
      And The World as an English-language voice for Spanish
      anarchists. This was at a time when the only version of
      events in Spain being heard on the left in Britain was that
      of the News Chronicle and New Statesman, supporting the
      Soviet-backed popular front. In October 1937, Marie-Louise
      joined Vernon in London, and, to give her citizenship, they
      married. She and their baby died in childbirth in 1949.

      Between the end of the Spanish civil war and the outbreak of
      the second world war, the fortnightly Spain And The World
      briefly became Revolt!, before adopting the title War
      Commentary. Registered as a conscientious objector, Vernon
      worked in a reserved occupation as a railway engineer. In
      1945, War Commentary resumed the title of Freedom.

      The previous year, however, four of the group around the
      paper - Vernon, Marie-Louise, Philip Sansom and John
      Hewetson - had been charged with conspiring to cause
      disaffection among members of the armed forces. Despite a
      defence campaign backed by the likes of Orwell, Michael
      Tippett, TS Eliot and Benjamin Britten, Vernon, Sansom and
      Hewetson were convicted and served nine months in jail.

      Prison gave Vernon the chance to resume playing the violin,
      and indeed, form a scratch band with other incarcerated
      musicians. Friends regretted that he never played again
      after his release. He never practised as a civil engineer
      again either, saying that the one thing he learned in prison
      was the folly of pursuing a "career".

      Instead, he ran the family business at 37 Old Compton
      Street, Soho, until it was sold in the 1950s. He also worked
      as a freelance photographer -producing latterly famous
      images of Orwell in the mid-1940s - and as an organic
      gardener and travel courier. Convinced that the links formed
      by tourism were a liberatory influence, opening closed
      frontiers, he went to Franco's Spain and the Soviet Union.
      In 1968, he and Peta Hewetson moved to a smallholding in
      Suffolk, where, for almost 30 years, Vernon produced
      vegetables for the organic market.

      After 1951, he continued to edit Freedom as a weekly, and
      wrote, in weekly instalments, his continually reprinted and
      translated Lessons Of The Spanish Revolution (1953). He quit
      as Freedom's editor in 1964, but assumed the role again
      whenever he felt that others were pushing it in the wrong
      direction. It was not until the 1990s that he finally
      stopped writing for the paper. By this time, Freedom Press,
      as an anarchist publisher, had a spectacular range of books
      in print.

      Looking for the source of Vernon's single-mindedness,
      friends assumed that his father had set him in motion,
      though I once heard him dismiss Ernidio as a "bourgeois
      terrorist". The anarchist who influenced him most was

      In his dedication, Vernon was a quite ruthless exploiter of
      others. None of the group he had inspired in the 1940s -
      Sansom, Hewetson, and George Woodcock - were on speaking
      terms with him at the times of their deaths. Unable to
      recognise himself as a manipulator, he saw their withdrawal
      from his circle as proof that they had been seduced by
      capitalist values.

      At the end of the 1990s, admirers sponsored the publication
      by Freedom Press of four books of Vernon's photographs. In
      1999, the Centre For Catalan Studies produced an album of
      his pictures, taken after 1957 while he was escorting
      holidaymakers to the then poverty-stricken Catalan village
      of L'Escala. For local families, the book became a precious
      record of their grandparents, their dignity and hard times.

      Peta predeceased him in 1997.

      · Vernon Richards (Vero Recchioni), writer and publisher,
      born July 19 1915; died December 10 2001

      Dan Clore

      Now available: _The Unspeakable and Others_

      Lord Weÿrdgliffe:
      Necronomicon Page:
      News for Anarchists & Activists:

      "It's a political statement -- or, rather, an
      *anti*-political statement. The symbol for *anarchy*!"
      -- Batman, explaining the circle-A graffiti, in
      _Detective Comics_ #608
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