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Summary of Ron Heisler Talk


On 2004-09-17 Ron Heisler spoke to the London Anarchist Forum on the subject "Has the Anarchist Movement Been Infiltrated by Freemasonry?" Having attended the talk and found it fascinating I have attempted a brief summary:

We start in the mid 19th century when Proudhon coined the phase "property is theft" but before Anarchism existed in the modern sense (it took the 1867 publication of Das Kapital to really separate the ideas of Socialism and Anarchism). The Chartist movement in the UK had peaked in 1848 when 500 were arrested at a mass meeting on Kennington Common. The O'Brienite Chartists were linked to Josiah Warren's Modern Times colony in the United States.

Between 1850 and 1851, about 1000 refugees (Les Proscrits) arrived from France escaping persecution by Louis Napoleon. They were radical, well educated, had much in common with the O'Brienites - and many were involved in Freemasonry (Grand Lodge of Philadelphes, Rite of Memphis). Apparently the O'Brienites and the Proscrits both used to meet in Eclectic Hall on Denmark Street.

The O'Brienites were involved in the co-operative movement and rejected Trade Unionism as a "solution" to Capitalism. They were involved in the First International (International Workingmen's Association) and supported the Paris Commune (unlike the Unions). Philadelphes were also involved in the First International at the start but they resigned due to disagreements.

Now we come to Bakunin, who was involved in French Freemasonry around 1847-1849. He was arrested and sent to Siberia but escaped and came to England. He then went to Italy for a while and got involved with a radical Masonic Lodge in Florence which, although he found it ultimately unsatisfactory, gave him his "modus operandi". In the same way that the Illuminati had attempted to take control of Freemasonry, so Bakunin (through his International Alliance of Socialist Democracy) tried to take control of the First International - an attempt which was successfully repulsed by Marx.

My notes at this point became very sketchy, but Ron gave us the names of a number of other prominent Anarchists who were involved in Freemasonry - although the connection was much stronger on the continent (Belgium, France, even Spain) than it was in the UK. He then talked about Rev. John Glasse, a Minister in Edinburgh and friend of William Morris. There seems to be some evidence that John Glasse invited William Morris to join a Masonic Lodge.

Ron had a lot more to say that I can't remember well enough to put down in writing but I understand that the research he has been doing will at some point result in the publication of a paper/article/book. Note that all the references I have given are from Wikipedia. Ian Gregory 2010