Friday, 2 September 2016

Remembering Christopher John Smith of Abertillery - Workers Freedom Group opposition to First World War

The Welsh coal miner Christopher John Smith, very active in Abertillery in the Workers Freedom Group there, had his house visited by a police inspector whilst he was at work on March 22nd 1916, and anarchist literature there was confiscated.

As Freedom noted on his trial “our militant comrade at Abertillery, Chris Smith, has now been singled out for distinction for thinking aloud”.

In court he described himself as an Anarchist Communist. He was sentenced to six months imprisonment on 12th April 1916 for advocating a down-tools policy to the prejudice of the national interest, translated by Freedom as “the heinous crime of distributing leaflets among the miners”.

He was also charged with sending a letter to a newspaper calculated to prejudice recruiting. Judgement was reserved on the latter charge.

Smith told the court he had been a soldier in the Boer War but had since changed his mind about militarism.

On August 5th, 1916 the socialist paper The Merthyr Pioneer reported:

"The case of Chris Smith, about four months ago sentenced at Abertillery to six months' imprisonment under the Defence of the Realm Act, will be well remembered by many Pioneer readers.

A week last Monday his wife and other relatives and friends visited him at Usk Prison, where he is confined. They found him in good health and spirits, and also looking well and strong.

He was by no means down-hearted, but rather his optimism was marked. Prison life has not modified his opinions, neither lessened his determination to continue service in the people's cause. The cell does not suppress a man's spirit nor his mentality it only strengthens the revolutionary."


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