Frank Kitz

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Frank Kitz (1849 – 8 January 1923) was an English anarchist.

Born in the Kentish Town area of London as Francis Platt, he was illegitimate and grew up in poverty.[1] He later claimed that his father was a German refugee from the revolutions of 1848, although his biological father was asserted by Florence Boos to have been John Lewis, an English watchmaker.[2] He supported the ideals of the French Revolution in his youth, and attended radical meetings, such as those of the Reform League, participating in the Hyde Park riot of 1867.[3]

Platt completed an apprenticeship as a dyer, and travelled extensively looking for, being particularly impressed by the poverty he saw in the industrial cities of northern England.[3] On several occasions, he supported himself by enlisting in the British Army and then absconding.[4]

Around 1874, he took the surname "Kitz", and settled in Soho.[1] There, he joined the Democratic and Trades Alliance Association, soon renamed as the Manhood Suffrage League. In this organisation, he met veterans of the Chartist movement, and also of the International Workingmen's Association, and served for a time as the league's secretary. By 1877, the league was in decline, and Kitz, fluent in both English and German, founded the English Revolutionary Society, which brought together league members and recent German immigrants. This moved into premises on Rose Street, and became widely known as the Rose Street Club.[5] In 1879, he set up a printing shop on Boundary Street in Shoreditch, and began putting out propaganda, particularly focusing on supporting rent strikes.[4]

Johann Most, a former German parliamentarian, and the editor of Freiheit, became prominent in the Rose Street Club. In 1881, he was sentenced to hard labour for publishing an article calling for assassinations of rulers; Kitz then took over the editorship for a short time.[5][4]

In 1880, Kitz merged the Rose Street Club with Joseph Lane's Homerton Social Democratic Club. This was closed by police in 1882, by which time the two had founded the Labour Emancipation League (LEL), a libertarian socialist organisation, which merged into the Social Democratic Federation two years later.[6][7] In the new organisation, he became associated with William Morris, working with him politically, while also sometimes working for him, using his skills in dyeing.[8][9] Along with most other former members of the LEL, he joined Morris' Socialist League split in 1885. Kitz worked with Lane to develop a radical leftist grouping in the new party, and in 1888 they achieved a majority, Kitz becoming the league's secretary.[10]

In the league's 1890 elections, Kitz was selected to replace Morris as editor of Commonweal, its journal.[11] Morris then left the league, although Kitz retained a favourable opinion of him.[12] Many other posts were won by anarchists supportive of violence, such as Charles Mowbray. Kitz disagreed with this,[11] and resigned from the editorship in February 1891, when the league ceased national operations, instead associating himself with the Freedom group.[4]

Kitz maintained a low profile for the next twenty years, working full-time as a dyer, although he remained supportive of anarchism. In 1909, he began public speaking on anarchist matters again, and wrote his memoirs, published by Freedom in a series entitled "Recollections and Reflections".[13] As a result of this activity, he lost his job, and found himself again in poverty. In his last years, he survived from the old age pension, while Freedom organised two financial appeals for him.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b E. P. Thompson and Peter Linebaugh, William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary, p.281
  2. ^ Martin Wright, "Wales and Socialism: Political Culture and National Identity", p.34
  3. ^ a b Ed. Norman Kelvin, The Collected Letters of William Morris, Volume II, Part B: 1885-1888, p.383
  4. ^ a b c d William R. McKercher, Libertarian Thought in Nineteenth Century Britain, pp.165, 213
  5. ^ a b Constance Bantman, The French Anarchists in London, 1880-1914, p.28
  6. ^ Mark Bevir, The Making of British Socialism, pp. 47–48
  7. ^ Satnam Virdee, Racism, Class and the Racialized Outsider, p. 41
  8. ^ E. P. Thompson and Peter Linebaugh, William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary, pp. 375–376
  9. ^ Sarah Wise, The Blackest Streets: The Life and Death of a Victorian Slum, p. 142
  10. ^ E. P. Thompson and Peter Linebaugh, William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary, pp. 453, 503–510, 588
  11. ^ a b E. P. Thompson and Peter Linebaugh, William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary, pp. 522, 566
  12. ^ E. P. Thompson and Peter Linebaugh, William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary, p. 377
  13. ^ Mark Bevir, The Making of British Socialism, p. 114
  14. ^ Nick Heath, "Kitz, Frank, 1849-1923", libcom

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
William Morgan
Secretary of the Manhood Suffrage League
1875–1877
Succeeded by
Maltman Barry
Preceded by
Fred Charles
Secretary of the Socialist League
1888–1890
Succeeded by
?
Media offices
Preceded by
Johann Most
Editor of Freiheit
1881
Succeeded by
Victor Dave
Preceded by
William Morris
Editor of Commonweal
1890–1891
With: David Nicholl
Succeeded by
David Nicholl