5 November 1886 - 16 October 1963
Alfred Aldred was a British anarchist communist and a prominent member of the Anti-Parliamentary Communist Federation (APCF). He founded the Bakunin Press publishing house and edited five Glasgow-based anarchist periodicals: The Herald of Revolt, The Spur, The Commune, The Council, and The Word, where he worked closely with Ethel MacDonald and his later partner Jenny Patrick.
Aldred was born in Clerkenwell, London.
His father was a 22-year-old lieutenant in the Royal
Navy, and his mother was Ada Caroline Holdsworth, a 19-year-old parasol maker. Although Ada was socially unacceptable to the young naval officer, he married her shortly before Guy's birth. After the wedding, he left her at the church to
return to his mother. Guy Fawkes night, 5 November, gave Guy his forename. Guy was brought up in the home of Ada’s father, Charles Holdsworth, a Victorian radical. He attended the Iron Infant's School in Farringdon Road, later moving to the Hugh Middleton Higher Grade School, where he was presented to
the Prince of Wales because he was the youngest pupil. One of his fellow pupils was the son of Hermann Jung, the Swiss watchmaker and
one-time activist in the First International. His first adventures in propaganda were with the Anti-Nicotine League, the Band of Hope, and the total abstinence movement,
and he remained an abstainer in these respects all his life.
His grandfather, an Anglican, encouraged him to attend the church of St Anne and St Agnes, where he took communion in 1894. However, he soon developed a critical
attitude to the church, even though he was close to his cousin, a curate at Holloway.
At the age of 15 (1902), he was made aware of his London provincialism when Sir Madlio Singh, the Maharaja of Jeypore, visited the city. He became fascinated by the newspaper accounts of the Maharaja moving around with his "travelling god":
|“ ||The Rajah's god was a
substantial fact. It had invaded my petty little world. It had brought home to me the realities of other cities and of other religions. It had made known to me,as no mere study could have done, the fact that Christianity was not the religion of the world. It had brought home to my understanding the fact that there was an Oriental theology beyond the pale of Christian orthodoxy. ||”
Later that year he gained a reputation as a "Boy Preacher", printing and handing out his own leaflets, which were often received with ridicule and disdain. He found employment as an office
boy with theNational Press Agency in Whitefriars House, where he was promoted to sub-editor. Working with an evangelist named McMasters, he co-founded the "Christian Social Mission", opening shortly
after his 16th birthday as the Holloway Boy Preacher. His non-conformist approach aroused concern following his first sermon.
After contacting Charles Voysey, Guy was eventually granted an audience on
20 December 1902. The 74-year-old well-to-do Voysey was surprised to be confronted with a coarse-dressed 16-year-old working class boy. After careful preliminaries on the part of Voysey, the meeting lasted three hours. Their friendship was to continue until
Voysey’s death in 1912.
In January 1903 the Reverend George Martin, an Anglican priest, visited Guy with one of his leaflets, asking to meet the Holloway
Boy Preacher. Martin worked in London’s worst slums, and Guy joined him in his work with London’s poorest. His friendship with Martin lasted six years and influenced Guy strongly. He soon gave his last sermon from the pulpit and left the "Christian
Guy became a speaker at the Institute of Theism, but soon felt it was time to set up his own organisation. In 1904 he founded the Theistic Mission, which met every Sunday. With a considerable, though sometimes boisterous, crowd, Guy was gaining a reputation as a forceful young orator. He was also shifting towards atheism. By August, the meeting banner was changed to read The
Clerkenwell Freethought Mission.
Meetings often generated extreme hostility. On one occasion the crowd charged the platform, knocking Guy to the ground and beating him. Police intervention put an end to the meeting. Around this time he became interested in The Agnostic Journal and became friendly with its editor, "Saladin", a Scotsman. It was at the Journal’s office that he met another Scotsman, John Morrison Davidson, and Guy became more interested in Scottish affairs.
The Indian Sociologist was an Indian
nationalist newspaper edited by Shyamji Krishnavarma. When Krishnavarma left London for Paris, fearing repression by the authorities, the printing of the newspaper was first taken over by Arthur Fletcher Horsley. However, he was arrested and tried for printing
the May, June and July issues. (He was tried and sentenced on the same day as Madan Lal Dhingra, who was convicted of the assassination of Sir William Hutt Curzon Wyllie). At Horseley's prominent trial the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Alverstone, indicated that anyone printing that
sort of material would be liable for prosecution. Nevertheless, Aldred, as an advocate of the free press, published it, bearing his own name. The police obtained a warrant and seized 396 copies of the issue. At the trial the prosecution was led by the Attorney General, Sir William Robson, at the Central Criminal Court. Robson highlighted parts of TIS which Aldred had himself written, particularly focussing on a passage which touched on the execution of Dhingra:
|“ ||In the execution of Dhingra that cloak will be publicly worn, that secret language spoken, that solemn veil employed to conceal the sword of Imperialism by which we are sacrificed to the insatiable idol of
modern despotism, whose ministers are Cromer, Curzon and Morley & Co. Murder - which they would represent to us as a horrible crime, when the murdered is a government flunkey - we see practised by them without repugnance or remorse
when the murdered is a working man, a Nationalist patriot, an Egyptian fellaheen or half-starved victim of despotic society's bloodlust. It was so at Featherstone andDenshawai; it has often been so at Newgate: and it was so with Robert Emmett, the Paris communards, and the Chicago martyrs. Who is more reprehensible than the murderers of these martyrs? The police spies who threw the bomb at Chicago; the ad-hoc tribunal which murdered innocent Egyptians at Denshawai; the Asquith who assumed full responsibility for the murder
of the workers at Feathersone; the assassins of Robert Emmett? Yet these murderers have not been executed! Why then should Dhingra be executed? Because he is not a time-serving executioner, but a Nationalist patriot, who, though his ideals are not their ideals,
is worthy of the admiration of those workers at home, who have as little to gain from the lick-spittle crew of Imperialistic blood-sucking, capitalist parasites at as what the Nationalists have in India. ||”
Aldred also remarked that the Sepoy Mutiny, or Indian
Mutiny, would be described as The Indian War of Independence. Aldred received a sentence of twelve months hard labour.His involvement with The Indian Sociologist brought him into contact with Har Dayal, who combined anarchism with
his Indian Nationalism, based on his view of
ancient Aryan culture