John Turner (anarchist)

John Turner (anarchist)

John Turner (1865–1934) [Dutt, Rajani Palme. "The Labour Monthly", v.48, 1966, Labour Pub. Co p.532] was an English-born anarchist communist shop steward. He referred to himself as "of semi-Quaker descent." [Turner, John. "The Independent", December 24, 1903.]

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, and later on became general secretary of the Shop Assistants' Union that he founded. [cite book
last = Avrich
first = Paul
authorlink = Paul Avrich
title = Anarchist Portraits
publisher = Princeton University Press
year = 1988
page = 160
isbn = 0691006091
] At one point, the union attempted to nominate Turner for Parliament, but he declined, preferring not to "waste his time in parliamentary debates". [Rocker, Rudolf. "The London Years". AK Press, 2005, pg. 101.] Turner worked on several publications in addition to "Freedom". He was a member of the collective putting out "Commonweal", [Quail, John. "The Slow Burning Fuse", London, Paladin Books, 1978.] and also the editor of "Freedom's" syndicalist journal "The Voice of Labour", which denounced the “blight of respectability” of mainstream labor unions. The paper began as a weekly in 1907, and advocated direct action and the general strike. ["Voice of Labor". February 9th, 1907]

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, formed at the International Anarchist Congress of Amsterdam. Throughout the many changes in "Freedom's" history, Turner was its publisher from the time it was renamed "Freedom: A Journal of Libertarian Thought, Work and Literature" in 1930 until his death in 1934. [McKercher, William Russell. "Freedom and Authority", Black Rose Books, Ltd, 1989, p.214.]

After the Russian Revolution, Turner traveled to Russia as part of the British Labor Delegation, and attempted to help Aaron 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. [Maximoff, Gregori. "The Guillotine at Work: Twenty Years of Terror in Russia", p.543]

Deportation from the United States

Turner had spent 7 months of 1896 (at which time he met Voltairine de Cleyre) lecturing throughout the U.S. [cite book
last = Goldman
first = Emma
authorlink = Emma Goldman
title = Living My Life Vol. 1
publisher = Courier Dover Publications
year = 1970
page = 346
isbn = 0486225437
] He returned to the U.S. in October 1903, just 7 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 giving a lecture at the Murray Hill Lyceum. When 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.cite book
last = Chalberg
first = John
authorlink = John Chalberg
title = Emma Goldman: American Individualist
publisher = Harper Collins
year = 1991
page = 85-86
doi =
isbn = 0673521028
] This was enough to deport him. Turner was held in jail at Ellis Island for three months awaiting appeal of his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Before the final ruling, Turner was released on US$5,000 bail. He then did some lectures around the country, wrongly speculating that the Supreme Court would declare the law unconstitutional [cite news
title=ANARCHIST TURNER TELLS OF HIS FIGHT; Was Stared At on Ellis Island as If a Wild Animal.
work=New York Times
] and returned to England before the judgment came down against him. [cite book
last = Porter Bliss
first = William Dwight
title = The New Encyclopedia of Social Reform: Including All Social-reform Movements
publisher = Funk & Wagnalls
year = 1908
page = 50


Further reading

*" [ ANARCHISTS ARE RAIDED; Murray Hill Lyceum Meeting Goes Wild with Rage. JOHN TURNER TAKEN OFF STAGE Locked Up at Ellis Island on Warrant from Washington, Which Charges Inciting to Anarchy] ", "The New York Times", October 24, 1903, page 1.
*"Anarchism and the Assassination of McKinley", Sidney Fine, "The American Historical Review", Vol. 60, No. 4 (Jul., 1955), pp. 777-799

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