OBITUARY: Stephen Ellams: Anarchist, Writer, Thinker 1950-2005

It is with great sadness that we learned of the recent death of an anarchist activist, writer & thinker, Stephen (Steve) Ellams. He died suddenly from a heart attack in Toronto, age 54 on January 15, 2005.

Born in Liverpool, England, Steve's family moved to Toronto when he was a teenager. His love of reading lead him to discover the world of anarchist thought. Steve considered himself an anarcho-communist, and was one of the founders & editors of the Toronto based journal for the Anarchist Communist Federation (ACF), 'The North American Anarchist' (from the late 1970's to early 1980's). He wrote brilliant editorials under the pen name Lazarus Jones, and agitated tirelessly for a unified North American anarchist movement. After the ACF folded, Steve, with other comrades,
established and edited another key Canadian anarchist paper called 'Strike.' The paper folded in 1985.

Steve relocated to Montreal in 1981 with his partner Mado, and their young daughter Isabella, to work as an editor at Black Rose Books. During his brief time in Montreal (1981-1985), Steve was quite active in the city's English anarchist scene. He worked on the journal ' Our Generation,' volunteered at The Librairie Alternative anarchist bookshop and participated in local anarchist events. Steve was known for his incisive wit, an infectious laugh, his penchant for debate, and his contribution to clear thinking around current issues absorbing the anarchist community. He never missed a demonstration, would often carry a huge black flag in the anarchist contingent, & enjoyed a beer & all night discussions.

After he was fired from Black Rose Books for protesting working conditions, Steve returned to live in Toronto. In a tragic irony, he recently won a cash prize in a literary contest for writing about the last 15 years of his life. A month later, he died. (His prize-winning short story,' The Twice Delivered Letter,' will be published on-line sometime in February 2005. Please check )

Steve's death comes as a shock to all who knew and loved him. His daughter, Isabella, who still lives in Montreal, has requested that if anyone has copies of her father's anarchist articles, pamphlets, papers or letters (signed either Steve Ellams or Lazarus Jones), she would appreciate the chance to read them. [Please contact Norman Nawrocki if you can help track them down.]

- Norman Nawrocki


Dear comrades,

Please find above a sad piece of news about the untimely death of Steve Ellams of Toronto, Canada. This obituary appeared on a listserv in Montreal, Canada.

As a founding member of the Anarchist Communist Federation of North America (ACF) I remember Steve well. I worked with him both inside the ACF and after the end of the ACF.

I am saddened by his loss. He was a decent person. A straight shooter and you always knew where he was coming from in his views.

For those who may not know about the ACF*, it was the first post world war
Canadian and American continental anarchist-communist federation with a very
strong anarcho-syndicalist predisposition. The ACF was pro-organizational and
class struggle oriented. If my history is correct, the ACF was probably the
first continental federation not organized by, as they used to say, a "language group". That is composed of workers from one overseas country who conducted their work in their native language.

In contemporary times the term anarcho-communism has become more identified with "platformism," "anarquismo especifico" or similar ideas. The ACF was not a platformist organization. I would say we identified more with the communist anarchist ideas of Kropotkin and the syndicalist ideas of the International Workers Association. After years of a "do your own thing" tendency within North American anarchism the ACF was a step in the right direction in bringing together like minded pro-organization, class struggle anarchists. We entered new and unmapped waters when we embarked on this continental federation.

Although this short recollection is not about the ACF, it’s hard for me to separate the two. It was in this is the sphere in which I knew Steve and worked with him.

I can surely say that Steve was right there in the middle of things, sometimes for better, sometimes not. He always had energy. Steve was a hard worker and gave his all to help publish a quality newspaper. And definitely could tip his beer mug with the best of drinkers. And man he could talk endlessly. For sure Steve had a sense of humor. That was one of his endearing traits. I’m not surprised that Steve would go on and pursue his love of writing.

While I may not have always agreed with his views or his style, he knew how to
express himself.

I’m sorry that we lost touch over the years but these things happen. In spite of this loss, I am glad to hear that Steve was still waiving the black flag of anarchy to the end.

- Mitch Miller, Workers Solidarity Alliance

* To read the ACF's Aims and Principles: