Stephen Marletta (1907-1989)

From Ego No 11:

My old friend and collaborator, Stephen Marletta, died at his home in Glasgow, Scotland, on January 26th 1989. He was 81 years of age. Stephen had been a generous supporter of, and an occasional contributor to, Minus One, Ego and The Egoist for over 25 years. On the day of his death he wrote me a typically lively letter which he gave to his nephew to post for him.

From Ego No 12:

Stephen Marletta was born of Italian parents in Greenock, Scotland, which was also the birthplace of John Henry Mackay and the childhood home of the Nietzschean poet John Davidson. He went to study at the Glasgow Infirmary and St Mungo School of Anatomy and qualified as a physio­-therapist. He worked for over 38 years, at first full-time and then later, due to ill health, part-time, at the Glasgow Orthopedic and Rheumatism Clinic until he finally retired at the age of 70. Between the two world wars he appears to have traveled quite a lot. He spent some time in the USA and was in Berlin in 1933 — the year Hitler came to power. During the 1939-1945 war he was sent to prison for refusing to be conscripted in to the armed forces and there underwent an ordeal of which he later would not speak.

It was around this time that he became friendly with two outstanding open-air speakers, Eddie Shaw and Jimmy Raeside,1)Shaw was undoubtedly a great crowd-puller, but Raeside had the better and subtler mind. During the 1950 London Anarchist Summer School and Conference I had a long argument with him during which 1 got very carried away – only to be brought to and abrupt stop when he said that he agreed with what I had said, but had opposed me simply to find out how well I could argue. As Father James he would have made a good Jesuit…. What became of Raeside and Shaw after they went into voluntary exile is a mystery. To my knowledge, they were not heard from again. Stephen, who was one of the few to whom Shaw confided his intention to leave, found it very puzzling that Shaw did not contact him after he left. who were leading members of the then Glasgow Anarchist Group, Shaw was a natural comic and attracted huge audiences at his weekly meetings just off Sauchiehall Street. He and Raeside were great admirers of Stirner’s The Ego and His Own and sought, unsuccessfully in my view, to synthesize his ideas with anarchist communism. The result that for several years during the 1940s and early 1950s Stirner’s name became well-known among many working class radicals in Glasgow and Shaw’s interpretation of his ideas shook some of them out of their traditional idealism and “class-war” attitudes. Stephen tried to point out the fatuity of communism to Shaw, Raeside and their followers, but his efforts came to nothing. After the departure of Shaw to Canada and Raeside to Australia during the atomic war scare of the mid 1950s, Stephen no longer took any part in anarchist activity and eventually came to regard anarchism a just another “religion.” During the same period and after he was also on friendly terms with Guy Aldred, the editor of The Word, and Henry Meulen, the editor of The Individualist.

In 1947 Stephen married Gilda Verrecchia who shared his love of music — she had studied at the Glasgow Atheneum and was an accomplished pianist, whilst he played the violin. Gilda died from cancer in 1972.

I do not know when Stephen first became interested in egoism, but it may have been towards the end of the second world war. He once wrote to me that in his youth “Kropotkin and Malatesta filled my mind with dreams. When I came upon the American school of individualism and Tucker’s book (Instead of a Book) their ‘natural law’ and ‘non-invasion’ (seemed) clearer and more acceptable, but they were in a way mere dreams. The real liberator had still to come.” In another letter he wrote “I was very keen to obtain Stirner’s book because of the ‘quotes’ I was coming across. Involved in music and being very fond of Wagner, I knew of Nietzsche and regarded him as a liberating force, but with Stirner I recognized the liberating force.” And a few months before he died he remarked “The greatness of Stirner is that the revolution takes place in the head. The day I overturned and chucked out the ghosts was one of joyous liberation.”

I first met Stephen in 1965 when spending a few days in Glasgow, although we had been corresponding for two or three years before then. From this first meeting we were friends and he always generously supported the reviews I published, contributing a few pieces and translating material from the
Italian. We did not always see eye to eye (what egoists do?) but we enjoyed each other’s company the half dozen or so times that we met. I will miss his frequent letters and his encouragement. I knew for many years that he suffered from a defective heart and often had to take things quietly, but his liveliness and determination to wrest from life what he could, still made his going a shock.

Letters from Stephen Marletta

References   [ + ]

1. Shaw was undoubtedly a great crowd-puller, but Raeside had the better and subtler mind. During the 1950 London Anarchist Summer School and Conference I had a long argument with him during which 1 got very carried away – only to be brought to and abrupt stop when he said that he agreed with what I had said, but had opposed me simply to find out how well I could argue. As Father James he would have made a good Jesuit…. What became of Raeside and Shaw after they went into voluntary exile is a mystery. To my knowledge, they were not heard from again. Stephen, who was one of the few to whom Shaw confided his intention to leave, found it very puzzling that Shaw did not contact him after he left.