Interchange – The Martyrdom of Francisco Ferrer: A Conversation with Mark Bray

February 20th, 2019

Francisco Ferrer, whom the New York Times called a “philosophical anarchist,” was executed in Spain in 1909 for suspicion of insurrection against the Spanish King and he quickly became an international martyr to the cause of free thought in opposition to religious dogma and compulsory education at the hands of the state and the church. In the wake of his death Modern Schools based on his pedagogical design sprouted across Europe and the United States and extended as far as Brazil, China, Mexico, and Poland.

Though it’s probable Ferrer had no hand in the insurrection of the so-called “Tragic Week,” Emma Goldman made plain that

Had Ferrer actually organized the riots, had he fought on the barricades, had he hurled a hundred bombs, he could not have been so dangerous to the Catholic Church and to despotism, as with his opposition to discipline and restraint. Discipline and restraint–are they not back of all the evils in the world? Slavery, submission, poverty, all misery, all social iniquities result from discipline and restraint. Indeed, Ferrer was dangerous. Therefore he had to die, October thirteenth, 1909, in the ditch of Montjuich.

As discussed last week in our show on Anarchy and Education, we know our schools not only model but teach authoritarianism, patriotism and nationalism, and prize abstraction. Our children learn “canons” of approved thought – We learn OF our so-called National heroes and founders without critical insight. We study wars we claim no responsibility for, praise the great discoveries of lone white men whose innovations first chain us to factory labor and then modernize us out of our jobs. We learn nothing of socialism, communism, the labor movement, or the very history of labor struggle in the US. These are practical lessons of conscious LIVING in the USA that are absolutely ignored and actively kept out of sight in order to assure a future of worker/citizen compliance. You literally pledge allegiance, FIRST to a flag, then a nation, and then a thing called “republic” and all of it “under” a mythical construction of belief.

The Martyrdom of Ferrer would appear to have been for naught.

But the Modern School Movement was not new pedagogy; we have known its truths for as long as governments have forced children into rows and rote learning. We learn best by doing; by experience, by first hand knowledge. That education must be based on freedom and love rather than on tyranny and fear.

Today’s GUEST via Skype is Mark Bray, a political organizer and historian of human rights, terrorism, and political radicalism in Modern Europe. He is the author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook (Melville House 2017), and most recently, the co-editor of Anarchist Education and the Modern School: A Francisco Ferrer Reader (PM Press 2018). He is currently a lecturer at Dartmouth College.

Our music today comes entirely from the live album Bells by American free jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler recorded at The Town Hall in New York City in 1965. It just makes sound sense for this show.

Back to Francisco Ferrer’s Author Page | Back to Mark Bray’s Author Page | Back to Robert H. Haworth’s Page