The London Years is the autobiography of a remarkable man and a window into a long-forgotten world.
Rudolf Rocker was a German Catholic who moved to London to became the acknowledged leader of the Yiddish-speaking Jewish anarchists. Rocker introduced this mass movement to world literature, lecturing on Shakespeare, Cervantes and Tolstoy; organised demonstrations of up to 25,000 against the contemporary Russian pogroms, edited Yiddish political and cultural journals; set up properly instituted Jewish trade unions.
Rocker established the Jewish Bakers’ union in a community action where housewives would only buy bread with a union label. In 1912 he organised a famous general strike of Jewish tailors which abolished the sweatshop system. This happened at a time of mass immigration by impoverished Jews, who were persecuted by a right-wing press and an ‘anti-alien’ movement which brought in the first anti-immigration controls. The London Years chronicles this vanished world.
The Jewish anarchist movement came to an end in 1914, Rocker was arrested as an ‘enemy alien’ and his journals were closed down. After the war Rocker was active in the ferment of Weimer Germany before leaving for the USA where he was active in the Jewish anarchist movement until his death in 1958. In the USA Rocker was mainly involved with the Yiddish anarchist magazine Frei Arbeter Shtimme which lasted until the 1970s and whose adherents included the young Noam Chomsky.
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