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(en) Britain, *Organise! #62 - REVOLUTIONARY PORTRAITS: SIMON RADOWITZKY

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 10 Mar 2005 11:01:27 +0100 (CET)


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Szymon Radowicki (more usually known in Argentina as Simon Radowitzky) was born
on either the 10th of September or November 1891 into a workers family in the
Jewish community in the little Ukrainian village of Stepanice (Stapanesso).
The family moved to the industrial city of Ekaterinoslav, because
Simon's father wanted his children to get a good education, and Simon
received a rudimentary knowledge of reading, writing and maths. At
the age of 10 he had to leave school to work as a blacksmith's
apprentice because of his family's poverty. He had to sleep on a hard
cot under his master's dining table. From here, he heard the
revolutionary conversations of his master's daughter and her friends.

At the age of 14, he got work in a
hardware factory. He took part in
his first strike for shorter hours, but was
wounded in the chest by a sabre wielded by a
Cossack at a street demonstration. He was
forced to lie in bed for 6 months of
recuperation. He was then sentenced to four
months imprisonment for the distribution of
leaflets. In 1905, during the revolutionary events,
and despite being still only 15 years old, he was
elected second secretary of the soviet of the
factory where he worked. With the repression
that followed the 1905 Revolution, Simon was
forced into exile to escape being deported to
Siberia.
He arrived in Argentina in March 1908, where
he got work as a mechanic. He read the
anarchist press there, in particular La Protesta,
the paper of the FORA, the anarcho-syndicalist
union that organised among the workers. He
associated with a group of Russian anarchist
exiles that included the intellectuals Petrov,
Karaschin, Ragapelov, Scutz and
Buwitz and lived in a tenement with
some of these. On the 1st of May
1909, he participated in the big
workers' demonstration in the Plaza
Lorea. A cavalry detachment under
the command of the police chief
Colonel Ramon Falcon charged the
crowd and 12 workers were killed
and 100 seriously wounded. In the
following "Red Week" Falcon
pursued his terror against the
workers. The police began to fan an
anti-Semitic campaign against
"Russian Jewish instigators".
Radowitzky, like the German
Wilckens was a gentle soul and
advocated the use of as little violence
as possible in the revolutionary
struggle. Like Wilckens, he was
horrified and disgusted by the
murders of workers and proposed to
act. Falcon was returning from the funeral of the
prison service, when Radowitzky, lying in wait
along the route, threw a bomb into his coach.
Falcon and his secretary were mortally
wounded. Radowitzky was apprehended not far
away. At his trial, the public prosecutor asked
for the death penalty. Radowitzky's cousin was
able to produce a birth certificate that showed
that Simon was only 18 and thus was excused
the death penalty. The judge sentenced him to
indefinite imprisonment, and to be put in
solitary on bread and water for 20 days near the
anniversary of Falcon's death.
Radowitzky gained the respect of both prisoners
and jailers in the National Penitentiary where he
was incarcerated. Following a breakout of 13
prisoners that included 2 famous anarchists,
Radowitzky was transferred to the dreadful
prison of Ushuaia in Patagonia in 1911. He was
one of 62 prisoners transported there in the
coalbunker of a ship. At the end of the voyage
the prisoners were blackened with coal dust and
their ankles ulcerated by leg-irons.
At Ushuaia, Radowitzky showed immense
strength of character. He stood up to all the
humiliations and indignities meted out, and
moreover, became the spokesperson of all the
prisoners, leading hunger strikes and "protest
choirs". When the prison officials realised his
standing among the prisoners they increased
their torments. Lanterns were swung in front of
his face every half hour at night. He was anally
raped by the deputy governor and 3 warders in
1918.
When the anarchist movement in Buenos Aires
heard this, they launched a campaign, covering
the walls with messages demanding his freedom
and publishing a pamphlet on the treatment he
had received. Radowitzky "the martyr of Usuaia"
became the subjects of songs sung by Creole
payadores (songsters) at workers' meetings and
assemblies. The liberal press took up the call
for his freedom, but it was not forthcoming.
Tired of waiting, some anarchists planned his
escape. In league with a smuggler, they got
Radowitzky on board his schooner. But the
Chilean Navy intercepted them and Radowitzky
was returned to prison after just 23 days of
freedom. He was punished with solitary
confinement and half rations up to January
1921
The campaign to secure his
release continued. Finally in
1930 after 20 years of hell,
Radowitzky was released.
Expelled from Argentina, he
took refuge in neighbouring
Uruguay, again taking up the
work of a mechanic. His
involvement with the anarchist
movement there and the
struggle against the dictator
Gabriel Terras in 1933 led to
his arrest and deportation to
the isolated Isla de Flores.
When the Spanish revolution
broke out, Simon headed for
Spain in 1936. By now he was
in his mid-forties and in poor
health. He went to the Aragon
front where he fought with the
anarchist 28th Division led by
Gregorio Jover. Here he met
Antonio Casanova, originally
from Galicia in North Spain,
who had emigrated to
Argentina at an early age and
had been one of the founders
of the Federación Anarco-
Comunista Argentina in 1935.
The two became good friends.
Later Simon worked in
Barcelona for the cultural
division of the mass anarcho-
syndicalist union, the CNT. At
a time of strict rationing he
happened to get hold of a
bottle of milk that he
immediately gave to a pregnant
woman that he felt needed it
more than him.
With Franco's victory, he had
to flee to France, where like so
many others, he was interned
in the concentration camp at
St. Cyprien. From there, he got
away to Mexico. Here, a poet
managed to get him a job as a
clerk at the Uruguayan
Consulate. At the end of the
World War, he worked in the
Mexican branch of the
International Rescue and
Relief Committee to help
political refugees in Europe,
alongside the German
anarchist Augustin Souchy,
sending CARE food packages.
He wrote for anarchist
publications in Mexico.
Simon's last years were plagued
by ill health. The prison years
had taken their toll. When not
in hospital, he lived in a shabby
attic of an apartment building.
He died of a heart attack on
February 29, 1956 whilst
working in a toy factory.
"With Radowitzky's passing one
of the last social revolutionaries
of the Russian Revolution of
1905, one of the finest idealists
of the international labour
movement was gone." Augustin
Souchy.

Postscript: In November 2003, a
popular assembly, meeting in the
Plaza named after Ramon Falcon,
voted to change its name to that of
Simonpublications in Mexico.
Simon's last years were plagued
by ill health. The prison years
had taken their toll. When not
in hospital, he lived in a shabby
attic of an apartment building.
He died of a heart attack on
February 29, 1956 whilst
working in a toy factory.
"With Radowitzky's passing one
of the last social revolutionaries
of the Russian Revolution of
1905, one of the finest idealists
of the international labour
movement was gone." Augustin
Souchy.
Postscript: In November 2003, a
popular assembly, meeting in the
Plaza named after Ramon Falcon,
voted to change its name to that of
Simon Radowitzky.

======================================
* Buletin of AF - Anarchist Federation - Britain


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