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"Greek, Italian and other Anarchists in Egypt"

A historical chronicle

mercredi 13 avril 2011, par CREAGH Ronald

A chronicle about the Greek, Italian and other anarchists and radicals been active in Egypt during the late decades of 19th and the first decades of 20th century

The first trade union in Egypt, named "Brotherhood of Workers", was founded in 1872 by Greek workers, most of whom came from the island of Corfu.

The first anarchist publication in Egypt appeared in Alexandria, probably in 1877 with the title « Il Lavoratore » (« The Worker") in Italian.

In September 1878, Errico Malatesta left Naples to avoid internment. He went to Alexandria, Egypt where there was a thriving community of Italian workers. Meanwhile, after King Umberto I assumed the throne of Italy, the republican Passannante unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate the new king. There was a widespread repression throughout Italy, in particular, against the anarchists. A meeting of Italian patriots organized in Egypt to decry the act of Passannante occasioned a reaction from the Italian workers who started a demonstration in front of the Italian Consulate to salute Passannante and oppose the Italian patriots. Before this event, however, Malatesta was arrested along with Alvina and Parini. Malatesta and Alvina were both deported. Parini ,though a native of Leghorn, was a long time resident of Egypt and managed to stay there.

Another Italian anarchist, Amílcare Cipriani was arrested and imprisoned in Italy in 1881 for the killing of an Italian in Alexandria in 1867. This incident was previously ruled self-defence but was invoked by the Italian authorities to prevent Cipriani from being elected during his revolutionary campaigning in 1881. Cipriani’s imprisonment became a celebrated case across the left.

Cipriani remained for quite a long time in Greece.

Amilcare CIPRIANI (1844-1918) [1]

On April 1, 1882, Egyptian charcoal workers began a strike (the first in the history of the country) against the Suez Canal Company in Port Said . The strike was perhaps initiated by anarchists and it had a strong anarchist participation.

During the same year the President of the Italian Workers Association in Alexandria sent a letter to the new government, under Prime Minister Sami Pasha al-Barudi, approving the insurrection of Ahmad Orabi and denouncing foreign intervention.

In 1884 an Italian anarchist review appeared under the title« La Questione Sociale » (“The Social Question").

In 1890, the Patenta law is passed effectively ending the guild system in Egypt. Its effect was to boost labor activity in the country.

On 18 March 1894, the Egyptian Newspaper, Al-Hilal, reported the arrest of a Greek worker in Alexandria for distributing what the police call "anarchist leaflets". The leaflets called for workers to celebrate the anniversary of the Paris Commune and ended with the words "Long Live Anarchy." (or "Long live Communism" according to another translation.) On October 1 1894, Greek workers employed by the Suez Canal Company went on strike. Sakellaridis Yannakakis established a shoemakers union.

Greek physician Dr. A. Skouphopoulos was another well known agitator in this region. Under his leadership, the International Labor Union of the Isthmus of Suez was founded in 1918, after the previous creation of a Mutual Brotherhood, "The Phoenix", which was initiated in 1908. In 1923, Skouphopoulos’ book, "Old and New Ideas” was published in Alexandria.

On October 1, 1894, Greek workers employed in the Suez Canal went on strike, encouraged by the anarchists. During the same year, the International Association of Cigarette Makers was founded in Cairo mainly through the initiative of Italian anarchists and a few Greeks. This time a general cigarette makers and tobacco workers strike broke out. That same year, the Greek anarchist Sakellaridis Yannakakis actively participated in the foundation of a union of shoe makers. (He was later allegedly involved in the Socialist Centre of Istanbul, Turkey).

In 1899 there was another tobacco workers’ strike, in which some Greek anarchists such as Aristides Pappas, N. Chrysoudis or Zografos and S. Vlachopoulos, Egyptian Mohamed Sintky and Jewish anarchist Solomon Goldenberg played a leading role. Shortly after, the manufacturers managed to expel Pappas, Chrysoudis and Vlachopoulos from the scene and formed an employers’ association with some Greek cigarette makers as members. Nevertheless, among the workers, there was a fairly active group of Greek anarchists and revolutionaries, such as the Vourtzonis brothers, Nick Giannis and Yiannis Mavros.

In the early 1900s, the worker K. Asteriadis, published in Cairo a pamphlet entitled "Capital-Work or Domination-Money”, adopting a kind of anarcho-syndicalist view. The same year Italian workers struck while working on Aswan Dam. Tobacco and cigarette workers called for a general strike.

In 1900, the libertarian Tucker Publications in New York, published a pamphlet on ancient Egypt by Paul Pfitzner called Five Thousand Years Ago.

Luigi Galleani, escaped imprisonment on the island of Pantelleria, off the coast of Sicily, in 1900, and fled to Egypt. He stayed among Italian comrades for a year until threatened with extradition, whereupon he fled to London, at the age of 40. Galleani’s journal Cronaca Sovversiva (founded June 6, 1903 in Vermont), was widely read by Italian anarchists in many countries including those in North Africa.

In 1903, the Union of Employees of International Trade Firms was formed.

Shortly before, the well known anarchists Dimitris Karampilias and Panos Makhairas arrivde in Egypt from Greece (1901-1902), as well as another anarchist from Athens, Nickos Doumas, a former member of the Central Association of Kallergis’ Socialists and the Socialist League “World” in Athens, who had settled in Cairo. In particular, under the latter’s initiative, in 1907 an anarcho-syndicalist newspaper appeared entitled the "Worker" ; it circulated in Alexandria and Cairo. In this newspaper also participated doctor G. Saraphides, Zacharias Hatzopoulos (1880-1935, brother of the well-known Greek socialist Costas, the anarchist Dimitris Hatzopoulos, who in 1913 published in Alexandria a booklet entitled "Joy and Hedonism in the Revolution"), George Telemitis, Stavros Kouchtsoglous (who worked as a cigarette factory at Tsanakli), Iosif Chionis and K. Asteriadis.

Dimitris Karampilias was born in the village of Mintilogli Achaias (outside of Patras) in 1872. After the dissolution of the anarchist movement in Patras, he settled in Athens with Yiannis Magkanaras and both participated in the anarchist activities there. In 1901, he migrated to Alexandria, Egypt, where he worked as a cigarette-maker and participated in the local working class and anarchist movement, collaborating with other Greek anarchists who had been living there, but also with Italians. After about 2 or 3 years, he left Egypt for France, where he worked as a tailor and participated in the French anarchosyndicalist circles. [2]

At about the same time, N. Doumas was one of the main founders of the Socialist Center of Cairo. In 1908, the "Worker" stopped its circulation, but that same year G. Saraphides published another newspaper called "The News" (which had socialist literary articles), and with which most of the participants in the "Worker" group collaborated.

Greek anarchists, Iosif Chionis and Gerasimos Louzis, along with Italian anarcho-syndicalists Vozai, Loggi and Pitzoriti, contributed to the establishment of the International Association of Printers, which had a Greek section - with Iosif Chionis as secretary - and an Italian section.

During 1907-1908 and until 1913, Italian and Greek anarcho-syndicalist had an influence on over almost all the printers in Egypt. They also published a « Bulletino Typografico » (in Italian) and their protests and initiatives led printers to the conquest of the eight hours day, whereas before they worked 12-14 hours. « Bulletino Typografico » played an important role in the development of the trade union movement in Egypt.

In 1907, foreign workers in Alexandria and Cairo, among them Greeks, organised demonstrations and other actions against the planned deportation of some Russian refugees who had fled to Egypt to escape the wave of repression after the failed Revolution of 1905 in Russia.

In 1908, The Cairo Tramworkers Union was formed.

Between 1909-1911, two pages were written and printed in Greek, by Chionis, Louzis and Loukas Christophides. At the same time, articles in Greek, written by Stavros Kouchtsoglous, George Vrisimitzakis and someone else with the pseudonym Spartacus, published in the Italian anarchist newspaper « Idea » circulated in Cairo. In this newspaper were also published articles of the Spanish anarchist and editor of the anarchist newspaper « Tierra y Libertad » (« Land and Freedom") Jose Estivalis (an article of whom was published in the socialist newspaper “Koinonismos" in Athens during the same period). Jose Estivalis later became predominantly known as an anarchist filmmaker with the name Armand Guerra.

In 1909, Greek anarchist George Telemitis (for whom nothing else available until today, and perhaps the name is a pseudonym), wrote and released a pamphlet with the title “Kato ta Eidola“ (“Down with the Idols”) on the occasion of the execution of the Spanish anarchist teacher Francisco Ferrer y Guardia, the same year in Spain. This pamphlet was circulated widely in Greece by anarchists and socialists.

In 1911, Egyptian State launched a series of prosecutions against the anarchists and the Italian anarcho-syndicalists, Vozai, Loggi and Pitzoriti and some other Italians were deported. But the Greeks as Stavros Kouchtsoglous and Nickos Doumas intensively continued their actions. Kouchtsoglous published in 1912 in Cairo a pamphlet with the title “Kato I Maska” (“Down with the Mask”) and Doumas worked with other Italian militants such as Antonio and Tzampio. However a new wave of persecution came, during which Italianswere hunted mercilessly and N. Doumas was forced to leave Egypt. He settled in Athens in late 1912 and in 1913 and was one of the pioneer founders of the Footwear Workers’ Association, after finding work as a shoemaker and actively participating in the working class movement, although some historians wrote that he progressively became a Marxist.

Historian and academic Panagiotis Noutsos writes that from 1915 onwards Nickos Doumas turned to reformist socialism, associated with social-democrat Plato Drakoulis and became also a member of the then Greek Socialist Party (SEKE). Marxist historian Yiannis Kordatos also wrote that both sons of Nickos Doumas, George and Antonis, joined as welltje reformist socialists, confirming Noutsos’ allegations. However, George Doumas participated in the left wing which left or was expelled from SEKE and became Communist Union.

Also, during his anarchosyndicalist period in Egypt, Nickos Doumas wrote and published some books and pamphlets and corresponded with various socialist newspapers in Greece, amongst them the newspaper “O Ergatis” ("The Worker") from the city of Volos (in Thessaly, central Greece). Basically, he was a correspondent of this newspaper in Egypt, in which signed under the pseudonym "Worker").

Other Greek anarchists in Egypt were also authors of books and/or pamphlets, such as G. Saraphidis or someone named G. Drakopoulos who wrote and published “H Ataxiki Epanastasis” ("The Classless Revolution”), although it is unknown if it was a really anarchist or a generally radical work.

At the same time another Greek newspaper of Egypt, “Sosialistiki” (“Socialist"), published translations of works of Mikhail Bakunin and other anarchists thinkers.

Generally, apart from union and strike activism and anarchist propaganda, several Greek anarchists and libertarians in Egypt dealt with both theoretical translations of anarchism, such as M. Bakunin, and different types of literature. In 1904 the magazine “Nea Zoi” ("New Life") started, in 1911 came another entitled “Grammata” ("Letters") and in 1916 "Phoenix" and "Propylaea, while most anarchist and libertarian intellectuals participated also in the scattered groups of demoticists which were active during this time in Egypt.

In April 1919, the Marxist George Skliros (Constantinides) - author of “To Koinoniko Mas Zitima” ("Our Social Question") – which is presented as having laid the foundations of the so-called scientific socialism in Greece - one of the pioneers of the movement of demoticism – announced at a writers’ event in Cairo, that he had already started writing a study on the work of P. Kropotkin, which, as far as we know, was never completed. Between June and December 1917, G. Constantinides gave lectures on Leo Tolstoy, in the Peoples’ Library in Alexandria. These lectures were organised by the magazine “Grammata”. We must mention here that “Grammata” stopped publication but reappeared in July 1920, under the directorship of Stephanos Pargas and M. Peridis as editor, but it is not considered as a continuation of the publication of the first period. Among the collaborators of “Grammata” was also the Italian anarchist Luigi Fabbri, whose extensive article "The movement of ideas in Italy” was published in translation in volume 2 (September-October 1920) on page 96.

In September 1919, following a summer of strikes, the Italian workers, Max di Collalto (publisher of Roma and member of the Societe Internationale des Employes du Caire) and Giuseppe Pizzoriti, a revolutionary socialist of the printers union, were both deported.

Around 1920, Salama Musa, Muhammad ’Abdullah al-’Inani and Husni al-Urabi formed the Socialist Party, in opposition to the Wafd nationalist Party. In 1924, Husni al-Urabi, Antun Marun and Joseph Rosenthal (a Jewish Italian who settled Egypt in 1899) formed the Egyptian Communist Party in 1924.

In 1924, The Wafd Party formed the General Federation of Workers Unions in the Nile Valley to prevent the Communists from doing so.

Lastly, we must say a few things about George Vrisimitzakis. George Vrisimitzakis was of Cretan origin but was born in Alexandria in 1890. Since his young age he was a little untamed and sinewy. He studied French Literature and Science in Paris. He didn’t specialised in some specific subject and never sought to acquire academic qualifications. He knew fluent French, Italian and Arabic, and was self-taught in Greek. From summer 1912 until spring of 1913 he stayed at Viareggio, Italy, where he associated with a local anarchist circle. In summer of 1915, he lived in Paris. In 1918-1919 he was in Athens and worked with the magazine "Altar". In 1921 he returned to Alexandria, but in 1926 moved back to France where he stayed until the end of his life on December 19, 1947. George Vrisimitzakis, devoted himself to literary studies, wrote a critique of the work of poet Constantine Cavafy, translated various works including classics of anarchism and he was one of the publishers of the magazine “Grammata” (in the first period). He also wrote dozens of books, booklets and articles on various social issues most of which published in “Grammata” and republished in other magazines and newspapers. Until 1931, many magazines and newspapers in Greece and Egypt used his translations, introductions and notes . During the last years of his life he published articles in French literary journals, many of whom signed with the pseudonym Philetas.


Voir en ligne : Source : anarkismo.net


[1Amilcare CIPRIANI (1844-1918) joined the Italian army at the age of 15 and afterwards the troops of Garibaldi. Made a prisoner, he escapes to Greece where he participates in the insurrection against the monarchy. Expelled, he will travel to Egypt, and from there go to London where he participates in the foundation of the International Workingmen’s Association. He will participate in several wars and, in 1871, fight in the Paris Commune. In 1891, he is in Switzerland and collaborates in the foundation of the Social Revolutionary Anarchist Party (PSAR). After many other activities, including articles in several anarchist papers, he will die in Paris.

During World War II, a unit of Italian resistance fighters chose to name itself "Amilcare Cipriani". (Footnote by R.C.)

[2On Karampilias, see