John Turner (anarchist)

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John Turner
Turner ca. 1900
Born(1864-08-24)24 August 1864
Near Braintree, Essex, England
Died9 August 1934(1934-08-09) (aged 68)
MovementAnarchist movement, labour movement

John Turner (24 August 1864 – 9 August 1934)[1] was an English-born anarcho-communist shop steward. He referred to himself as "of semi-Quaker descent."[2]

Turner was the first person to be ordered deported from the United States for violation of the 1903 Anarchist Exclusion Act.


Turner was a member of the Socialist League but left to become a member of the Freedom Group (UK) and later on became general secretary of the Shop Assistants' Union, which he had founded.[3] At one point, the union attempted to nominate Turner for Parliament, but he declined since he preferred not to "waste his time in parliamentary debates".[4]

Turner worked on several publications in addition to Freedom. He was a member of the collective that put out Commonweal[5] and was also the editor of Freedom's syndicalist journal The Voice of Labour, which denounced the "blight of respectability" of mainstream labour unions. The paper began as a weekly in 1907 and advocated direct action and the general strike.[6]

The same year, Turner, along with Guy Aldred and others, formed the Industrial Union of Direct Action. Turner was also elected in absentia to the International Bureau of the Anarchist International, which wad formed at the International Anarchist Congress of Amsterdam. Throughout the many changes in the history of Freedom, Turner was its publisher from when it was renamed Freedom: A Journal of Libertarian Thought, Work and Literature in 1930 to his death in 1934.[7]

After the Russian Revolution, Turner traveled to Russia as part of the British Labour Delegation, and attempted to help Aron Baron acquire reprieve from a death sentence. Baron was subsequently charged with having "aroused public sentiment abroad against his imprisonment in the Solovietzki and having induced revolutionists visiting Russia to seek his release". Baron was then sent to a prison in Siberia.[8]

Deportation from United States[edit]

Turner had spent seven months of 1896 (during which time he met Voltairine de Cleyre) lecturing throughout the US.[9] He returned to the country in October 1903, just seven months after enactment of the Anarchist Exclusion Act, which barred anyone from entering the country who held anarchist views. He was arrested on October 23 after he gave a lecture at the Murray Hill Lyceum. When he was searched, immigration officials found a copy of Johann Most's Free Society and Turner's speaking schedule, which included a memorial to the Haymarket Martyrs.[10] That was enough to order his deportation. Turner was held in detention at Ellis Island for three months awaiting appeal of his case to the US Supreme Court. Before the final ruling, Turner was released on US$5,000 bail. He then gave some lectures around the country, wrongly speculated that the Supreme Court would declare the law unconstitutional[11] and returned to England before the judgment could come down against him.[12]


  1. ^ Becker, Heiner (October 1986). "John Turner 1864-1934" (PDF). Freedom / A Hundred Years. Vol. 47, no. 9. pp. 12–13. Archived (PDF) from the original on 16 May 2022. Retrieved 15 May 2022.
  2. ^ Turner, John. The Independent, December 24, 1903.
  3. ^ Avrich, Paul (1988). Anarchist Portraits. Princeton University Press. p. 160. ISBN 0-691-00609-1.
  4. ^ Rocker, Rudolf. The London Years. AK Press, 2005, pg. 101.
  5. ^ Quail, John. The Slow Burning Fuse, London, Paladin Books, 1978.
  6. ^ Voice of Labour. February 9th, 1907
  7. ^ McKercher, William Russell. Freedom and Authority, Black Rose Books, Ltd, 1989, p.214.
  8. ^ Maximoff, Gregori. The Guillotine at Work: Twenty Years of Terror in Russia, p.543
  9. ^ Goldman, Emma (1970). Living My Life Vol. 1. Courier Dover Publications. p. 346. ISBN 0-486-22543-7.
  10. ^ Chalberg, John (1991). Emma Goldman: American Individualist. HarperCollins. pp. 85–86. ISBN 0-673-52102-8.
  11. ^ "ANARCHIST TURNER TELLS OF HIS FIGHT; Was Stared At on Ellis Island as If a Wild Animal". New York Times. 14 March 1904. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 9 August 2008.
  12. ^ Porter Bliss, William Dwight (1908). The New Encyclopedia of Social Reform: Including All Social-reform Movements. Funk & Wagnalls. p. 50.

Further reading[edit]

Trade union offices
Preceded by General Secretary of the National Amalgamated Union of Shop Assistants, Warehousemen and Clerks
1912 – 1924
Succeeded by
Preceded by
New position
Food, Drink, etc. Group representative on the General Council of the TUC
1921 – 1925
Succeeded by
Media offices
Preceded by Editor of Freedom
Succeeded by