Emilio Costa

Editorial data

With the beginning of the First World War, the international anarchist movement – that was relatively unified around the ideas of libertarian communism, modern pedagogy, and social revolutionarism – was confronted with the dilemma of continuing the internationalist and antimilitarist propaganda or toning down its radicalism and supporting the war effort led by liberal democracies against the imperial crowns.

The repercussions of this rift were quickly felt in Portuguese anarchist circles. The dominant position corresponded to Errico Malatesta’s alignment, and only in early 1915, with the newspaper Germinal, was the interventionist position represented by a periodical, published by the Grupo de Estudos Sociais Germinal, that had commenced its propaganda activities in April 1914. Its director, Emílio Costa, became the foremost spokesman for the guerrista faction, through the permanent ‘Os anarquistas e a guerra europeia’ section, present in 11 of 19 issues, which served not only to divulge the interventionist anarchist line of reasoning, but also to debate A Aurora, a Porto newspaper representing the majority tendency.

On 30th May, the final issue was published, and the social unrest caused by the May 14th revolt, that ‘kept the audience away from newspapers promoting the propaganda of ideas’, was highlighted as the main reason for this suspension. To continue the publication of Germinal would be nothing more than a waste of time, energy, and money, as stated in the editorial of issue nr. 19. Meanwhile, however, the first brochure of the Figuras da Social collection was published by editor Augusto Machado, in an attempt to maintain the group’s propaganda activities. It was a leaflet containing biographical information on Élisée Reclus, and was intended as the first of a series dedicated to historical figures of modern socialism. This undertaking also failed and went no further than the initial publication.

It would take until February 1916 to see the rebirth of the collective’s militant labour, with the reappearance of Germinal, now in magazine format. With 32 pages per issue, the monthly publication dedicated to workers insisted on the divergences revealed by the war, but also encouraged discussion around the subject of libertarian pedagogy, besides reinforcing the attention given to scientific and historiographical information. The editorial team remained the same: Emílio Costa as director and Mário Costa as editor. Printing was still carried out in a workshop located at 81 Rua do Poço dos Negros. The administration’s address would continue at Rua da Barroca for a while longer.

As determined in the editorial of the magazine’s first issue, the ideological orientation was the same. Germinal thus continued to be isolated in Portugal, relying on the modest support of some foreign periodicals with whom some doctrinarian affinities were shared, such as La Libre Fédération, from Geneva, and Acción Libertaria, from Gijón. This context became even more unfavourable after the publication of the Manifesto of the Sixteen, whose content was denounced by the internationalist majority all over the world. Germinal rekindled the controversy with A Aurora, by printing the full manifesto in issue nr. 3. This second phase of the polemic, however, did not represent an honest discussion of conflicting ideas; rather, collaborators of both periodicals viciously attacked one another with insults that most likely stemmed from past personal bickering.

To make matters worse, the magazine’s financial situation was similar to other contemporary anarchist publications, subjected to high living costs that affected not only the editors but also readers; the selling price of the periodical remained 5 centavos throughout its existence. But unlike those other titles, receiving some support from dedicated workers and militants, we are led to believe that Germinal found it difficult to garner further backing, given its isolation inside the already limited ideological circle of anarchism. The increasingly less frequent information about magazine exchanges hint at this. In February 1917, one of the first consequences of this situation was the change in the administration’s address to the first floor of 55 Travessa da Água da Flor. From then on, all remaining issues included an appeal for help and the voluntary subscription of the magazine, revealing the financial desperation of the editorial group. The 28$00 collected were insufficient to prevent Germinal’s definitive suspension in July 1917, after the publication of double issue 17/18 and 522 pages of propaganda.

António Baião