Adam Kossoff, The Anarchist Rabbi (2014), 44 minutes.

Author:Kinna, Ruth
Position:Movie review

Adam Kossoff, The Anarchist Rabbi (2014), 44 minutes.

Adam Kossoff's marvellous film tells the story of Rudolf Rocker's London years, his involvement in the Jewish anarchist movement and the development of anarchist communism and anarcho-syndicalism. Steven Berkoff speaks as the narrator, taking us through Rocker's activities. We follow Rocker through his involvement in labour agitation--notably the 1912 Jewish tailors' strike--his internment during the war and his enthusiasm for the Russian Revolution. We see Dunstan Dwellings, his house in Stepney Green, and are given a sense of bonds that held his family together as well as a flavour of his anarchism: the film begins and ends with his belief that anarchism has no final goal.

Seamlessly interwoven with this narrative is the story of Jewish workers, gloriously captured by the sound of a hand-operated sewing machine and an infectious resistance song Ale Gasn, which features a foot-tappin' chorus Hey, hey, down with thepolice!/Down with the autocracy in Russia! The workers' heretical stance--There is no God!--appears on screen to mark the outcome of one tumultuous meeting. The religious community's furious response was to pay Bessarabian regulars of a Rumanian restaurant in Settle Street to attack the anarchists.

The spirit of William Fishman's The Streets of East London--a source for the film--invigorates the story-telling. We see what remains of old Jewish anarchist haunts in Hanbury Street, the location of the Sugar Loaf pub, and clubs in Berner Street and Jubilee Street--the first now the site of a school and the second a residential block. Berkoff tells us that London became a 'clearing house' for the establishment of a network of activists in Europe and America. Between 1880 and 1914, 150,000 Jews arrived in London to escape pogroms, finding work in sweat shops. Growing anti-Semitism stimulated first by the Ripper murders and subsequently by fears of anarchist terrorism...

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