Anarchy #019

Issue of Anarchy magazine from September 1962

Submitted by Reddebrek on June 24, 2016
  • Theatre: anger and anarchy (Nicolas Walter)
  • Where civilisation begins (Arnold Wesker)
  • Room to move about (David Markham)
  • The language of persuasion (Harold Drasdo)
  • To start wagging and stop tampering (Roger Bray)
  • Were they way out, way back? (Sam Weiner & H. W. Morton)
  • More about freedom of access (Donald Rooum, Eric Hughes)
  • On the idea of anarchy (Jeremy Westall)


AnarchyNo.19.epub (99.86 KB) (124.61 KB)


Theatre: Anger and Anarchy

Submitted by Reddebrek on September 5, 2016

EIGHTEEN MONTHS AGO, in the first number of ANARCHY, I tried to describe what I called the "new wave" in English literature; what I want to do now is to discuss the new drama in more detail, and fortunately I can do this in the light of a recent book on the subject: John Russell Taylor's Anger and After (Methuen, 30s.). This is a good book — better, for example, than Kenneth Allsop's The Angry Decade (Owen, 21s.), which appeared four years ago and gave a rather journalistic account of the writers chosen by the literary editor of the Daily Mail to illustrate his rather journalistic theme. Taylor isn't such a clever journalist, but he is certainly a better critic, and his book will probably become a standard source.

He begins by suggesting that "the whole picture of writing in this country has undergone a transformation in the last five years or so, and the event which marks 'then' off decisively from 'now' is the first performance of Look Back in Anger on 8 May, 1956." Hence the title of this book. But before dealing with the "revolution" of that night, he casts a rapid eye over the dramatic scene in 1955, when there was something pretty rotten on the stage of Britain. Rattigan and Fry in front and Noël Coward and J. B. Priestley behind, intruders like Graham Greene and T. S. Eliot dashing across the footlights and youngsters like Peter Ustinov and Denis Cannan providing a dash of "promise". But there was already the disturbing talent of John Whiting, whose Saint's Day had won the Festival of Britain play competition in 1951 and stirred up a storm of controversy; and, more important, there was the Theatre Workshop which had taken the Theatre Royal at Stratford, E.15 in 1953, and there was the English Stage Company which was just about to take the Royal Court in Sloane Square. The "new wave" — or revival or rejuvenation or renaissance or whatever it was that hit the British theatre in the late 'fifties — owes more to theatrical companies like these than will ever be exactly known, and Taylor rightly takes the new dramatists not in schools or trends but in groups based on their place of origin.

This is where Look Back in Anger comes in, because it happened to be the first new play by a new writer which the English Stage Company put on, and for some reason it exploded. Of course 1956 was quite a year, with Suez and Hungary and all that, but even so the tremendous success of John Osborne's play looks odd now — Shelagh Delaney is surely right when she calls it a "bloody awful play". But hindsight shows that it was in fact a decisive change in direction.

It was not just another play by another young writer, staged in a fit of enterprise by a provincial rep and then forgotten; it was something much more, something suspiciously like big business, and for the first time the idea got around that there might be money in young dramatists and young drama … Theatres began to feel differently about young writers, and with a new willingness to consider staging new plays by new and unknown writers came, not surprisingly, the new and unknown writers to supply the plays.

Taylor is under no illusions about the quality of the new drama that ensued. "Not all the plays which have emerged have been good, of course, or even interesting, and the mere fact that a playwright is under forty can hardly be regarded as a guarantee of quality by even the most optimistic." On the other hand, "there is a hard core of exciting new writing in the theatre, almost entirely from writers under forty, and quite often from writers under thirty." (Taylor, by the way, is well under thirty himself.) He distinguishes two factors the new dramatists have in common, apart from relative youth — "their tremendous variety and patent unwillingness to fall neatly behind any one standard or leader; and the fact that the great majority of them have working-class origins" — factors which stand out all the more because of the middle-class conventions which used to dominate the British theatre. Before 1956 it would have been all too easy to quote Roy Campbell's cruel little epigram:

They use the snaffle and the curb all right,

But where's the bloody horse?

After 1956 the bloody horse could be seen all over the bloody place.

It is true that the Theatre Workshop company had been trying to get rid of the snaffle and the curb since the war, but its best work had always been not in contemporary "people's" drama but in classical revivals. So it was the English Stage Company which actually began the breakthrough, though The Quare Fella was put on only a couple of weeks after Look Back in Anger. The English Stage Company, unlike the Theatre Workshop, had no particular "line", except that of giving new dramatists their head. It is more or less a philanthropic venture, something like the English Opera Group, and its artistic success, such as it is, has not meant that it has been anything like a commercial success. When George Devine, its artistic director, gave an account of its work after six years, he pointed out that the whole thing depended on only "about a thousand people” and was in fact kept going by classical revivals and foreign imports and by the occasional West End transfer or sale of film rights in one of its own plays. The average operating deficit at the Royal Court has been about £26,000 a year. The only new English plays which paid their way were The Long and the Short and the Tall (which Taylor rather unkindly calls "a variation on the Osborne formula of 'angry' drama concocted by an efficient commercial artist, but that is about all"), One Way Pendulum (a sort of extended Goon Show) and Look Back in Anger, The Entertainer and Luther. As Devine remarked, "the presence of Osborne has clearly been a sine qua non", for without him the company would have had to pack up or at least lower its sights by about 45 degrees several years ago. This points to the real achievement of the English Stage Company, which is not so much that it has found new dramatists and given them a chance — though this is important enough — as that it has gone on giving them a chance afterwards. Asked for the most important thing done by the Royal Court, Devine echoes Tony Richardson, one of his best directors: "The right to fail." This most precious right is infringed so often that its occasional recognition is worth noting. No dramatist can write a commercial or an artistic success (let alone both) every time he writes a play, but Royal Court dramatists have been able to write what they wanted to write because they knew they wouldn't be let down.

Consider Osborne, who must be one of the most uneven dramatists alive. After Look Back in Anger, which made a fat profit, the Royal Court put on an earlier effort, Epitaph for George Dillon (written in collaboration with Anthony Creighton), which is surely Osborne's best play but made a fat loss, then they put on The Entertainer, which made another fat profit, then The World of Paul Slickey, which was a horrible mess and made another loss, then Luther, another horrible mess which made a profit, and now Plays for England, yet another mess. Osborne was left alone to write what he wanted to write, knowing that his plays would be given a chance; he has been given the right to fail in his own way and on his own terms, when it would have been certainly easier to go for commercial success every time and possibly wiser to go for artistic success more of the time, by putting more pressure on the dramatist despite everything. Osborne seems so over-indulged that he has become isolated — how else can one explain A Subject of Scandal and Concern? — and has even lost his single undoubted talent, for the rhetorical tirade. Taylor wonders whether "we must say good-bye to Osborne the innovator and greet instead Osborne the careful craftsman." This would be a pity. Osborne has never written a really satisfactory play, but one had to say he was "a genius, but …" Now one just says but, and turns to the occasional outburst of old anger in, for example, his famous "hate" letter to Tribune last year.

The best-known of the other dramatists backed by the English Stage Company are N. F. Simpson, Ann Jellicoe and John Arden, each of whom gets a chapter in Taylor's book. He is scrupulously fair to Simpson, though I think he is quite right in not being able to take him at all seriously except as an entertaining writer of Goon-type non-sequitur nonsense (which makes me wonder how Spike Milligan would get on in the theatre). He is more than fair to Ann Jellicoe, whose passionate desire to create a total theatrical experience in which the actual text is a sort of libretto or film-script for the whole production hasn't yet been completely fulfilled, but whose remarkable talent has been backed to the hilt by the English Stage Company (which is more than can be said for the Girl Guides' Association, which astonishingly commissioned a script for a cast of about a thousand people and then not so astonishingly rejected the result). So far The Sport of My Mad Mother and The Knack have shown that "her plays are quite unlike anyone else's", and it is possible that she will one day break through as Osborne did.

Another Royal Court writer of idiosyncratic plays who has failed to break through to the public and has nevertheless been similarly backed to the hilt is John Arden, and here I think Taylor has been less than fair. To call this dramatist's view of his characters and situations "unflinchingly amoral" and "quite uncommitted" seems to me to miss the whole point of his work. Arden is no more amoral or uncommitted than many of his contemporaries — such as Ann JeIlicoe, Brendan Behan, Shelagh Delaney, Alun Owen and Harold Pinter — who share his utter refusal to paint people in black and white. The point is that his technique is unfamiliar: he puts his characters into situations of extreme conflict where we are used to extreme commitment one way or the other and then fails to provide such commitment, and also fails to provide the laughs which are often used to replace serious commitment. Arden — unlike Eliot and Fry, but like Shelagh Delaney and Bernard Kops — is a true poet and therefore a true realist. He tells the truth, and the truth of any extreme conflict is not that one side is right and the other side is wrong, but that both sides are right and both sides are wrong and that the conflict between them should generate pity, and "the poetry is in the pity", as Wilfred Owen said a long time ago. Of course he is committed, but his commitment is to people, not ideas; of course there is a moral, but it is a moral you have to draw for yourself, not one you can buy with the price of a posh theatre seat. To me Arden's commitment and morality are significant, because they seem to be essentially anarchist, but this is something everyone will probably disagree about. I should have thought that was a good thing to say about a dramatist; the theatre should be a place of conflict and pity, of human communication, and Arden provides this most powerfully. In fact I think he is one of the best dramatists in the country. And yet his biggest play, Serjeant Musgrave's Dance, surely the finest statement made on the stage about war since the last war, only achieved 28 performances at the Royal Court and lost over £200 a performance. What a country! But it is possible that he too will one day break through as Osborne did — and that would be a real revolution.

There are other dramatists who have been given a chance by the English Stage Company, many of them in the Royal Court Sunday productions. Errol John's Moon on a Rainbow Shawl and Willis Hall's The Long and the Short and the Tall were good examples of unconventional material cast in a conventional mould, Christopher Logue and Doris Lessing have had a rather disappointing go or two, and real promise has been shown by Barry Reckord, Keith Johnstone and Michael Hastings. But during the last year or so the supply has seemed to be drying up, and perhaps the Royal Court has had its day as a catalyst of new drama. All the same, as Encore said last year, "the revival could never have happened without this theatre."

Or without the Theatre Royal, for that matter. Here there has been a much more definite "line" — the creation, or re-creation, of a "people's" drama — and a much more dominant personality — that of Joan Littlewood, who gave up in disgust last year. The reason for her disgust is important. She is, as it were, the Pat Arrowsmith of the theatre world: she had an idea about something important, and instead of telling people that she had an idea she went out and did something about it and went on doing something about it until people really listened to her. What she looked for was "not a finished, tidy, well-written play, but one with at least some spark of life in it from which something, somehow, might be developed"; and she compared this method with that of the old commedia dell'arte in which the actors used to improvise freely round a well-known theme. It would be easy to make other comparisons — to medieval miracle and morality plays, to the circus and the music-hall, to pantomime and even to classical Greek drama — the point always being that she sees the theatre as a social, even political, centre of thought and activity, rather than as a place where some people go to be entertained by other people: the communication should always be reciprocal. This attitude colours all the work produced by the Theatre Royal when she was there, and makes it very difficult to know how good the dramatists whose plays she produced actually are.

Her best known protegés are Brendan Behan and Shelagh Delaney, who need no introduction at all. Behan is clearly a magnificent natural writer with the traditional Irish gift of the gab, as anyone can see in his autobiographical Borstal Boy, but it is impossible to say what sort of dramatist he is. He has never really equalled the promise and punch of The Quare Fella; The Hostage began as a short play in Gaelic, but when it came to the East End of London (and later the West End, too) it was turned into something more like a music-hall romp, and despite its undoubted appeal it seemed to have something of the old devil of Celtic whimsicality which ruins Under Milk Wood. Let us hope that drink and this particular devil don't do for Behan what they did for Dylan Thomas, and that he turns out after all to be what he once looked like — the true successor of Synge and O'Casey, a new bearer of the priceless Irish gift of eloquence and warmth which has kept the British theatre alive before.

There is something Irish about Shelagh Delaney too, but she is really a different sort of writer altogether, though the Theatre Workshop style made her seem similar at first. Her real talent is for impressionism, for conveying atmosphere and the feel of a situation, not for social realism or romantic tragedy, as many left-wing critics imagined when they saw A Taste of Honey. A Lion in Love lacked the force of her first play because it lacked the single theme, but it still created a haunting atmosphere by the use of an impressionistic technique. Whether Shelagh Delaney has a genuine dramatic talent on her own account is still an open question, but she seems to have been the ideal Theatre Workshop writer.

None of the other dramatists whose work appeared at the Theatre Royal has had as much impact as these two. Wolf Mankowitz is a clever professional writer, but his weakness for "good business and sentiment" (as a group of his semi-Yiddish short stories are called) — or shekels and schmaltz in plain language — has ruined his later work. Frank Norman's Fings Ain't Wot They Used t'Be was good dirty fun but not much more; Norman is clearly determined not to be saddled with the character part of the reformed crook, but it is still difficult for him to do anything else. Stephen Lewis and Henry Chapman have painted good impressionistic sketches of life in Stepney and on a building site, but show no particular signs of deeper talent Theatre Workshop seems to be a wonderful place to work and the Theatre Royal is certainly a wonderful place to go, but I think it would be a mistake to consider places like this (and the Unity Theatre in Somers Town as well) in the same terms as the familiar commercial theatre, or to consider writers like Delaney and Behan in the same terms as Osborne or Arden. They were used as script-writers for a collective socially-committed entertainment. The trouble is that we aren't ready for such a theatre, and the proof of this is that the only way the Theatre Royal could keep going was by selling its best work to the West End and in fact by selling its star writers and its rude words to the gutter press. This is the simple reason for Joan Littlewood's disgust.

The remedy for this situation is hard to find. One possible way out is to let the demotic poetry rip, as in plays by two other East End dramatists, Bernard Kops and Henry Livings. Kops is a poetic fantasist, whose most striking plays were The Hamlet of Stepney Green and The Dream of Peter Mann because in them he let his fantasies loose. He clearly needs a firm hand as well as real encouragement. (Taylor suggests that Joan Littlewood would do him a lot of good), and with them he might write something really fine — as, indeed, might Michael Hastings, whose Yes, and After had something of the same Jewish fantastic poetry about it. Livings is also a poetic fantasist, whose genre is what might be called social farce, whose plays are genuinely playful. Five of them have appeared during the last couple of years, each of them full of fun and more than fun, and there is no sign of the supply running out, but there is the obvious danger of getting into a rut; certainly Livings doesn't seem to have developed at all, but perhaps this doesn't matter. Who knows? — he might turn out to have provided the answer, the bridge between the Whitehall Theatre farce and the Unity Theatre document, and to have shown the way towards a true "people's" theatre at last.

Arnold Wesker's answer is very different. Taylor includes him in the group of provincial dramatists because of his connection with the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry, but I think he should be taken in either the Royal Court or the East End group. He is a real problem. He has been very highly praised, but, as Taylor says, "when we look beyond the broad picture, and examine in detail the claims to survival of Wesker's work after the fashionable enthusiasm of the moment has died down, a number of doubts intrude, along with the thought that Wesker's work is, after all, particularly apt to appeal on first acquaintance for quite other than strictly dramatic reasons." There are certainly very convincing reasons why it is impossible to hail him as a genius, or even as a fine dramatist. Among these are the confusion between personal and social difficulties (as in Arthur Miller), the reliance on authentic detail which often isn't really authentic, the sudden changes of mood from extreme naturalism to extreme symbolism, and the use of sentimentality to disguise bad arguments. More irritating are the excessive self-consciousness of both the author and his characters, so that nothing happens without its point being hammered home; the excessive tendency to preach, so that each point is hammered home in the most painful way; the excessive narrowness of vision, so that the other side is never given its say; and the excessive priggishness of the heroes, so that even the right side is never given its proper say. Altogether Wesker is a most imperfect dramatist.

And yet, and yet … and yet Wesker is also a most important dramatist, who may have sold his birthright for a pot of message but who is rightly certain that his message is an important one. At first it was so important that he had to write about it rather than about people, and when he had to write about people he chose his own friends and relatives; but then the message became so important that he couldn't just write about it any more — hence Centre 42. There is a passage in Chips with Everything, his latest and worst play, which is addressed by a cardboard officer to the cardboard rebel but which might all too easily have been addressed to Wesker himself by his middle-class public:

Look, we haven't stiffened, we aren't offended, no one is going to charge you or strike you. In fact we haven't really taken any notice. We listen to you, we let other people listen to you, but we show no offence. Rather, we applaud you, flatter you for your courage and idealism, but it goes right through us. We listen. but we do not hear, we befriend but do not touch you, we applaud but we do not act. To tolerate is to ignore.

It is no longer good enough to say "If you don't care you'll die," to stand on your own two feet, to realise that the world is more than a kitchen, to talk about Jerusalem and do nothing about it. As the good old Bible says, "Faith without works is dead." If you think something should be done, do it yourself. And so Wesker joined the Committee of 100 and founded Centre 42; he has even announced that he has decided to stop writing. Now a cynic could easily say that he has already written about everything he has done and everything half his family have done and hasn't got anything else to write about, and this might easily be true. But the point is that this might just as easily be true of any other young dramatist who was too successful too soon, and it doesn't stop them writing. I find it difficult to make up my mind about Wesker. His plays make me hot with embarrassment and then hot with envy and admiration; parts of I'm Talking about Jerusalem and Chips with Everything are the worst things I have seen on the stage, and parts of The Kitchen and Roots are the best; but all the time I can see what he is trying to do and I can see it is the right thing to try to do. Can he do it, either through plays or through trade unions? I don't know. I wish I did. If he can, people like Ann Jellicoe and John Arden wouldn't have to wonder if we're mad or they are, and people like Brendan Behan and Shelagh Delaney wouldn't have to walk in the gutter to get anywhere. This would be Raymond Williams' "long revolution", and it would be a bloody big one too.

Taylor misses most of the significance of Wesker's work, I think, because he concentrates too much on his strictly dramatic failures (the theatre isn't after all strictly dramatic), and then goes on to other dramatists from the provinces. He singles out in particular David Campton, James Saunders and David Perry, all of whom are fantasists of one kind or another who may well break through to proper public recognition. But he fails to emphasise the frightening disparity between London and the provinces — when you think how many of the new dramatists come from outside London and how little of the new drama is first played outside London, you can't help feeling that something is wrong, and it is something that the National Theatre, even with Laurence Olivier, will never be able to cure.

Instead Taylor is more interested in dramatists from radio and television, especially Alun Owen and Clive Exton from the latter. Their chief significance is their remarkable mastery of ordinary speech and their ability to breathe life and originality into relatively conventional situations. In this they are symptomatic of a general trend, and I think the influence of film technique is also important here. Another pair of highly skilful dramatists who began on the air are John Mortimer and Peter Shaffer. Mortimer began by writing some brilliant pieces of fantasy and went on to write some equally brilliant pieces dealing with the rôle of fantasy in normal life (Dock Brief and I Spy, then

Call Me a Liar and David and Broccoli), but Taylor is rightly severe about his later degeneration into a sadly conventional dramatist (The Wrong Side of the Park and Two Stars for Comfort) in which fantasy is nothing more than a theatrical gimmick. On the other hand Taylor is strangely full of praise for Shaffer's Five Finger Exercise, which I thought was a very ordinary and even rather silly piece of work.

He is also full of praise for Harold Pinter, who is at the moment the most overrated dramatist in the country (the latest in the line running back through Wesker, Delaney and Behan to Osborne himself). Now Pinter has certainly written two excellent plays, The Caretaker and A Night Out, and many clever sketches for and fragments from other plays, but it remains to be seen whether he will be able to overcome his weakness for private obsessions and gratuitous mystification. Of course a dramatist shouldn't do all the work for his audience, but no talk about the "theatre of the absurd" can disguise a trick as crude as the deliberate contradiction or the deliberate omission of the vital clue for dramatic effect. At his best Pinter writes brilliantly; at his worst he just doodles. No one seems to know what he will do next, himself least of all, and it is impossible to guess what success will do to him. But whatever happens he has done some important things for the British theatre, not because he thought of them, but because he succeeded in doing them and making them acceptable. He has made the ordinary speech of ordinary people familiar to the ordinary playgoer; he has shown man at the end of his short tether without raising his voice or dropping a splashy tear; and he has created an atmosphere of fear and despair as it were out of thin air. Even if he doesn't "turn out to be the greatest of them all" among the other new dramatists, as Taylor suggests, he is certainly one of the cleverest.

There is actually another dramatist whose gifts are similar to Pinter's, though he is also rather like John Mortimer. This is Giles Cooper, whose work has almost all appeared on the radio, where it was always highly effective; unfortunately his first theatre play, Everything in the Garden, seems to have followed the Mortimer line rather than the Pinter one. But he may do something really good one day.

After dealing with Pinter, Taylor runs through a few more commercial dramatists — such as Willis Hall and Robert Bolt — much too quickly to say anything very valuable, and then comes abruptly to a conclusion. He just prophesies that Osborne will get dull, Behan and Delaney will go to pieces, Arden and Campton will break through at last, and that "the long-term staying power will prove to be in the hands of Arden, Owen, Exton and Pinter." This is frankly not good enough. The theatre world is a complicated one, and it can't be discussed entirely in terms of its writers, any more than the television or cinema world could. The real question is what sort of plays people who own and run theatres want to put on, because these will in the end be the sort of plays that get written — or rather the sort of plays that get written and then get produced and published, which is what matters in the end. What we need is a Richard Hoggart or a Raymond Williams of the theatre to discuss the whole problem of "anger and after". Of course the problem isn't just one of anger — anyone can be angry — but of communication — who wants to listen to him? And here the social composition of theatrical audiences, the prejudices of producers and critics, and all sorts of other apparently peripheral questions come in and demand to be answered.

What hope is there? First, there is the fact that it is much easier for a new play by a new author to be considered and even to be produced and properly discussed. Second, there is the fact that new plays in the last five or six years have been about important subjects. Third, commercial success has been far less important than for a very long time. What all this has amounted to is a very considerable degree of anarchy in the theatre world — in the sense that the people who work in theatres and the people who go to theatres have been much freer to do what they want. The old customs and formulas have been broken. More people put songs in their plays and more people sit down during the National Anthem. It is possible to see a kitchen sink as well as a french window on the stage, and there are probably more kitchens than french windows in this country. It is also possible to see a genuine anarchist play from time to time, though the authors often don't realise just how anarchistic they are; of course this is an old trick of ours, but try it for yourself. Live Like Pigs — The Rising Generation — Yes, and After — The Hostage — A Taste of Honey — The Dream of Peter Mann — Stop it, Whoever You Are — Nil Carborundum — I'm Talking about Jerusalem — The Lunatic View — The Caretaker — The Tiger and the Horse — The Long and the Short and the Tall — what a case one could make with that lot to prove that the British theatre is run by a lot of madmen with beards and bombs under their raincoats!

Half a century ago, Emma Goldman wrote a book called The Social Significance of the Modern Drama, which dealt with dramatists like Ibsen, Strindberg, Maeterlinck, Shaw, Galsworthy, Yeats and Chekhov and pointed out that they had in their work "as much of the spiritual and social revolt as is expressed by the most fiery speech of the propagandist." And she added: "More important still, they compel far greater attention." This is surely just as true of our modern drama today. It would be good to see a new book like hers which looked at drama through anarchist eyes — and there must be plenty of people who know their way about the theatre world and could easily write one. Our dramatists, like hers, "represent the social iconoclasts of our time", and our drama, like hers, could be "the dynamite which undermines superstition, shakes the social pillars, and prepares men and women for the reconstruction". At the same time I think it is fair to say that our drama, though perhaps not such great art, is much greater fun. This in fact is what I like best about the plays in the age of anger and after — they really are plays.

I respect kindness to human beings first of all, and kindness to animals. I don't respect the law; I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper, and old men and old women warmer in the winter, and happier in the summer.


Where Civilisation Begins

ARNOLD WESKER, born in Stepney in 1932, is the author of The Kitchen, Chicken Soup with Barley, Roots, I'm Talking about Jerusalem, and Chips with Everything. He is the prime mover in Centre 42, whose origins and hopes he explains in this extract from a broadcast talk.

Submitted by Reddebrek on September 5, 2016

SUCCESS IS SWEET, and suddenly to be taken seriously after years of rejection slips is very flattering; but fortunately, being surrounded by an immediate family and friends that were pretty hard-headed, I managed to keep this all in perspective, and suddenly found myself in a situation where I was writing about experiences that disturbed me, and implied in my writing — as indeed is implied by the writing of so many of us — the fact that something is wrong. I couldn't on the one hand write a play like Roots, highlighting a sort of cultural bankruptcy, a sort of cultural exploitation, and be satisfied simply with having done this. This disturbed me too much and has led me to a situation where I feel that writing is not enough; and I decided to stop, and do something about this.

I think our generation is confronted with all sorts of dilemmas where they feel that something must be done, and this very closely ties up with my participation in the activities of the Committee of 100, where I felt that to march and merely sign petitions was not enough; one had to do something actively and show that one was prepared to sacrifice something, and on this issue I decided to go to prison. This is not a desperately heroic thing; it is not a great sacrifice when you consider the millions of people who spent years and years in concentration and prisoner-of-war camps, but it was a gesture; and the thing about being in prison was that I was able to tie up almost everything, not merely my feelings on CND, but my feelings about my writing in relation to what I was doing. I came to two decisions while in prison: one, as far as the Committee of 100 was concerned, I felt that the protest of sitting and marching was not enough, and that even a month in gaol was certainly not enough, but what in fact is now needed is something like industrial action. And on the other issue, I decided that, not being able to reconcile what I was writing about, I had to stop writing, and find ways and means of doing something about what I had called this terrible cultural bankruptcy and exploitation that exists.

There is no point in writing the plays we do if in fact they are going to be seen by 5 per cent of the population, and these a mixture of the converted and the indifferent. There are so many millions of people outside this 5 per cent who don't know what we are writing about that there really is no point in writing, I would say.

This whole problem is so complex because one is not concerned merely about one thing. This would be simple. It would be easier if one was. There is the problem of the artist's place in society; he is not considered important, and there is a need to re-establish him in a rightful role in society. There is the problem of a vast army of commercial people exploiting what are genuine searchings for beauty, poetry, fun, enjoyment — the number of people I have spoken to who head this so-called entertainment industry; the callous and cynical tones in which they set about their work, and they just start off by treating the public as a moron. These are the terms they use; 'Listen, boys, we're in this for money, we've got to make a packet, now what's the lowest common denominator? There is £9,000,000 that these kids are spending on pop records, well, somehow we've got to get this, so let's make it easier, give 'em an echo chamber, a bit of love and a rhythm and that's it. We can sell these kids anything'. And here you have a picture of a vast army, a generation of youngsters who have lively minds, who have this urge to be alive; they are looking around for something to grab hold of, and all they are confronted with is this conglomeration of cynical, hard, cold-blooded commercial men who are out to exploit the money that this new generation suddenly find they possess. This is another side of the problem.

In addition there is the problem of the arts themselves, which are in a confused state. There are no standards. I think this is why our writings have been so applauded, because there are no standards in the theatre: the theatre was so bad before our emergence that when we came along with a bit of guts, we were applauded. And there are no standards in painting when people can come along with blank canvases of distemper and sell them at fabulous prices. This is a world that is going mad. I think we need a cultural revolution of some sort or other.

I want to form an organisation of artists themselves, who raise the money from their own immediate resources and from any other source outside — governmental, local government, industrial, private means. This is the point at which one can talk about the history of an organisation that we call Centre 42. What is interesting is that this concern with the cultural bankruptcy of this country is a concern that is shared by an important minority of the community, and this is shown by the passing of a resolution in 1960 at the Trades Union Congress, which expressed a concern for the state of the arts and called upon the General Council to make a report. A number of writers and artists got together, sharing the same concern. These artists decided to set up an organisation which would assume control of the cultural framework of this country, to assume responsibility for it and alter it.

Its programme started off by aiming at setting up a centre, a sorting-out house, from which the work of our finest composers, writers, painters, would go out to festivals up and down the country; but in fact when news of our formation was announced in the press we were approached within days by one trades council in Wellingborough, a town of 30,000 people. For us this is a historical town, because it is the first town that approached us and asked us to mount a festival, which we did. The story of Wellingborough is interesting, because rather than talking about our theory and what we plan to do, Wellingborough actually happened; and what happened in Wellingborough demonstratively indicates what we are aiming to do, because Wellingborough was a very modest festival. We were asked to mount it at a time when we were not equipped either financially or organisationally to cope with it. We mounted it, modestly as I say, as a sort of hotch-potch festival, but it worked.

We had Peter Seeger playing in one of the pubs to teenagers who sat goggle-eyed; they who had previously only heard Elvis Presley or some of the others strumming on a guitar on a record, and there they heard an instrumentalist, and they were so excited. This is one of the things that can happen through these festivals. One of the other things that we did was to collect together the work of local artists. The person we had asked to collect this work together said: 'I think there are about five artists here, and I can get their work, but you won't find that there are many more'. When in fact he started, he discovered thirty local artists, and their work was hung in pubs, and one of the pubs said 'you can hang your work here all the year round'; they were so surprised at discovering each other that they formed themselves into a group and they want us to come back again.

One of the interesting things was in setting up the trade union exhibition, which was an exhibition of trade union work. The Woodworkers' Union had their tools and the work the woodworkers produced; alongside it we put the work of a local artist in wood. We worked overnight to set up this exhibition together with the local trade unionists, and one of the most pleasing comments afterwards — I think it was from a man in the Woodworkers' Union — was: 'Well, now I have to revise my idea of what an artist is, I now have to think in entirely different terms', and suddenly there was a contact.

The other element of success is that we have been invited to mount six other festivals in six other cities. You can see that this pattern can grow, that throughout the year you can have festivals under the auspices of trades councils or municipal councils or universities or factories or housing estates, and immediately you have contact with a completely new audience, an audience that is not only attending the events that are presented but is helping to establish them. This is such a simple programme when you think about it, but so far-reaching in its effects. We aim to establish ourselves on a non-profit basis: we are a charity, registered with the Board of Trade. The fact that we have established ourselves in this way means that we can afford to play to half a dozen people in the first year, and twelve in the next year, and perhaps fifty in the year after, and it will grow, because we are establishing a whole tradition throughout the country that is quite new. This is what I mean by a cultural revolution.

In practice everything is marvellous about a welfare state, but the one thing that is wrong is that you have provided a sort of welfare for the ease and leisure of the community but nothing to fill in. All right, they have more leisure, and there is more money and there are better houses, but these are only the beginning — this is where civilisation begins. These are the basic requisites, but you have to fill in this life; and here is where I draw from experience. I have not reached these conclusions theoretically or academically: for me, living in the East End and finally recognising that there was something wrong with these mean streets went hand in hand with listening to music, and the same feeling that I had about the meanness of the streets was balanced by the glory of living that I found expressed in, for instance, a Beethoven symphony. For me this is the connection; if it worked for me, then there must be dozens, hundreds, thousands of other people that it could work for as well. There is a connection between the arts and poverty. It seems to me that it is possible that a man who is capable of being moved, whose sensitivities are sharpened, by a Bach oratorio, is capable of being moved by poverty.

And there's the young audience missing from the theatre. I've just started here — and it's a very long-term thing — to make contact with the schools. In the last few weeks we've had two groups of older children from different schools at the theatre. They come here for a whole week without a teacher. They meet a young director, an actor, an author. They're taken to other theatres, to a designer's studio, to an acting school, to the workshop. They see a rehearsal at the beginning of the week and then again at the end. They have a complete week of theatre. Most of them seem to have been thrilled, and some have written to tell us that it's given them a totally different idea of what the theatre means. One boy said that it had not only affected his feelings about the theatre, but about life in general, to see a group of people working together in this dedicated way …

—GEORGE DEVINE in the Twentieth Century.


Room to Move About

DAVID MARKHAM is an actor who, tired at being type-cast, became a farmer, though he can still be seen fairly frequently on television and heard in radio plays. He is a member of the Committee of 100.

Submitted by Reddebrek on September 5, 2016

I THINK I SHOULD DEFINE ACTING as an imaginative exercise in emotion. Of course, many emotions and characters don't need any imagination; all one does is learn one's lines and deliver them, but I'm thinking of characters with a life you can imagine going on after the curtain falls — Trigorin or Trofimov.

A great deal of acting today is mere drum beating. Don't blame the actor, it's seldom he can afford to choose his material and when at last he can, he's too long in the tooth and short in the wind. That's why most actors over forty are peculiarly modest — or if they're not, should be.

When I started acting in the early 1930's I soon got typed in teen-age parts, thanks to a baby-face and an earnest air. I was soon — too soon — in the West End; and I got married and set up house on a single Long Run. When the war came, I was in a revival of Miles Malleson's anti-war play The Fanatics. I played the son. I think that play is now due for another revival (the father is quite a good part).

After various theatrical curiosities, I joined the Old Vic in a tour of Lancashire cotton and mining towns — giving Ibsen, Sheridan and Tchekov. I had earlier registered as a CO. and was beginning to be harried by various Labour Exchanges. In 1942 they caught up with me. It's twenty years ago, and I can still remember the smell when we emptied our pots in the morning. (But it was much less unpleasant than my first year at a public school).

It was Queen Mary who was finally responsible for rehabilitating me officially as an actor — she had publicly expressed delight at a play I was acting in (Pick-Up Girl), and that carried more weight with the Tribunal than anything I could say. That shows you!

Later on, I became more interested in farming than acting and I shall never again insist on acting as a self-evident right. I cannot comment on the present state of the British theatre, because I rarely go. Still, I suspect the drawing-room and the boarding-house comedy are still the backbone of the London stage.

The best performance I have seen for many years was at Graz last summer. It was a German translation of Calderon's La Vida es Sueño. Part of the reason was that I could not fully understand the language, so that I could only grasp at the meaning of what the actor was saying by what he was also feeling and seeking to convey, beyond the words. Words, sometimes, get terribly in an actor's way. I'm not sure that the emotions, perceptions, intuitions, visions that cannot be conveyed are the only things worth trying to convey. Certainly an actor should be able to express at least two emotions simultaneously. Unfortunately, he seldom gets the opportunity of expressing truly even one.

In a properly organised world, actors would only act for, say, six months: for the rest of the year they would attempt to live at first hand — travelling abroad, working on the land, even doing social work.

A man who is exclusively an actor can be neither an actor nor a man. He feeds on himself, grows flabby; then, when he's out of work, he feels unclean. Or so one told me.

I don't particularly want to act again — certainly not in the theatre. TV has great possibilities — variety of parts, absence of distraction (the audience), the possibility of making a point without cumbrous preparation and "projection". Even a certain subtlety is sometimes possible. Creativity, spontaneity, are stifled by the demands of the programme planners, backed by the advertisers, backed by the greatest philistine of them all, the British Middle-class family.

An actor, or at any rate, an actor like myself, requires of his author a part in which there is room to move around, to muse a little, (as Tchekov says somewhere), yet he also requires ruthless elimination of the cliche and the derivative.

I doubt if a National Theatre would solve very much, even if the Government of the day should divert a few shillings from its 'Defence' programme. I fear it would soon freeze and atrophy as soon as it had become established.

What is there left?

Stanislavsky talked once of the methods by which an actor's imagination could be kindled and excited.. "How can it be done?" he asked. "By relating the subject of the play and its separate moments to real life as it unfolds today before our eyes. Learn to see and hear. Love life, Learn to bring it into art." The advice applies not only to actors, but to playwrights, and audiences: and teachers not least.

—KENNETH TYNAN in Artist Critic & Teacher.


The Language of Persuasion

Submitted by Reddebrek on September 5, 2016

IN THE CONCLUSION TO HIS ESSAY ON POWER, Bertrand Russell says: 'just as we teach children to avoid being destroyed by motor cars if they can, so we should teach them to avoid being destroyed by cruel fanatics, and to this end we should seek to produce independence of mind, somewhat sceptical and wholly scientific …' Such a cast of mind has for a long time been recognised as essential in scientific studies; but as general aims educators have usually tended to emphasise the development of receptive rather than defensive attitudes. And similarly we find that the teaching of English, 'the central subject', hardly ever seems to start from the fact that language is today used with more and more significance and force as an instrument of persuasion, a means by which to shape ideas and tastes; and that wherever there is violence, hatred or ill intentions attempts are made to cloak, to justify or to inflame with words. Russell's essay was written twenty-five years ago and whilst this period has seen changes in the social structure and the decline of religious pressures the influence which political and commercial groups can exercise has grown steadily: on the one hand through the increasing skill of the contenders in manipulating public opinion by means of the newer media; and on the other by virtue of the abandonment of standards of honesty and responsibility, encouraged and accelerated by the more severe competition.

It seems naïve to say that if "democracy" is to mean anything the common man ought to be equipped to recognise methods of persuasion and signs of undue influence; for in theory this is agreed but in practice the political parties themselves, whilst asserting democratic values, increasingly exploit and focus the very methods and pressures of which we complain. Happily, we do not have to adduce reasons for wanting the provide the ordinary man, and therefore the secondary modern schoolchild, with some defences since, at present, lip-service is paid to the attitude we would have him show. It is good by definition and it is unlikely, in Britain at the moment, that anyone would dare come forward to object to a programme in the schools designed to help foster this "independence of mind". What we are advocating is simply the development of a critical and objective attitude to the language of everyday life. From one point of view it might be called better reading. But nowadays the child needs not only to learn his lines; he has to be able to read between them.

It might be objected here that English, as it is already taught, is intended anyway to instil just such sense of discrimination as we are urging. To this we have to reply that in the significant majority, at least, it never achieves this objective — the whole character of everyday life testifies to that. Or it might be suggested that the attitude we commend is simply the exercise of common sense. We have to say again that the quality of daily life shows how uncommon common sense is. So the question which arises is: how can we improve standards of evaluation?

The first possibility is that we might make the very ambitious attempt to teach some sort of theoretical framework, beginning with the nature of language itself, in order to help classify and interpret linguistic behaviour. We should find our principles, if at all, in semantics — using the word in the wide contemporary sense: the study of affairs pertaining to the relationship between words and whatever they represent. This approach would have the general disadvantage of introducing unnecessary, perhaps insuperable, difficulties and it would involve in any case problems of choice since semantics is still in its infancy and is not so much a coherent discipline as a number of schools. Indeed, it might not have occurred to us to make appeal to it at all were it not that its students have repeatedly raised our hopes by promising that their findings would have important consequences. Even when, sixty years ago, Lady Welby was drawing attention to the problems the word-thing relationship poses "in all forms of mental activity, including logic" she already saw "significs", as she called it, as ultimately becoming both a science and an educational method — "semantics" was then restricted solely to the study of historical changes in meaning. Unfortunately, in spite of an always increasing interest, these promises have not been fulfilled. The different analyses are still diverging and cannot easily be co-ordinated. And the clarifying of relationships with philosophy and psychology has taken attention away from the tasks of attempting to unite these analyses, of establishing an acceptable terminology, of trying to inspect the limits of language and of suggesting practical applications. So an attempt to find a theoretical framework for use by the teacher of English must involve an enormous amount of very difficult reading apart from the problem of deciding which approach might be most rewarding. Few secondary modern teachers would have the time or the inclination for this undertaking.

However, of those writers who have attempted comprehensive descriptions of language, two have distinguished themselves further in that their work has relevance at levels lower than the university: I. A. Richards and Alfred Korzybski. Richards, though by far the more familiar to teachers in England, is for our purpose the less important since the average or dull child never engaged his attention. The Meaning of Meaning, a study of 'the science of symbolism' written in collaboration with C. K. Ogden, the inventor of Basic English, even offended writers on language by its difficulty. Then came the well-known books on the theory and practice of literary criticism and applications in higher education; these books are full of ideas which we cannot avoid using. More recently, he has been associated with a series of paperbacks in which an attempt is made to teach foreign languages by an interesting pictorial method, without resort to grammar.

Korzybski, a Polish mathematician who settled in America, had quite different interests. He claimed that many of our linguistic habits are misleading and represent the real world inaccurately; that 'linguistic maladjustment' is almost universal and is a serious threat to sanity and to the safety of society; and that simple safeguards, usable in everyday life, can be devised for improving communication. He believed his work to constitute an epoch-making advance and called his theory and practice, rather unfortunately perhaps, General Semantics. Some points of weakness in the presuppositions of General Semantics must be ignored here. What is important is that Korzybski would have claimed that his system, correctly taught, would secure exactly the attitudes Russell required; and that it has been taught in America at all levels but, most significantly, to children comparable with our secondary modern children, over considerable periods of time. The course of study in one such programme, including theoretical background and practical work, may be examined in Caroline Minteer's Words and what they do to you. The main failing of this programme seems to be that, perhaps in attempting to relate the material as closely as possible to the children's lives, it doesn't deal sufficiently directly with the quarters from which the gigantic pressures come and it keeps collapsing into Interpersonal Relations — the examples sometimes seem rather strange to an English reader. One also senses a tendency to encourage a person to fit in, to adjust himself to his condition, rather than, after evaluation, to consider what changes in the environment are called for and how they might best be effected. At the same time the book gives an interesting scheme of work and the presentation is admirable, a model of helpfulness to the teacher. The claims made at the front of the book for the success of the course look extravagant though it is improper to say so without experiment. At any rate, developments in this field are certainly worth watching. Korzybski's work has been found valuable in the most surprising studies and through the agency of the Institute of General Semantics, the International Society for General Semantics and such liberal-minded expositors as S. I. Hayakawa, Wendell Johnson and Irving J. Lee it is reaching a wider public.

The second and more promising possibility is that we might start at the simplest descriptive levels and gradually provide common sense with a minimal vocabulary with which to describe practical situations efficiently: on the principle that to have a name for a thing makes recognition, definition and handling easier. This approach would remain close to the examination of the mass media and simple questioning about ways and purposes. Simpler terms would have to be invented to replace several of the expressions at present in use — this calls for a good deal of circumspection. This sort of programme might aim to cover as much as possible of the following ground: statements of fact, checking, mistakes, lies, inferences, statements of opinion; promises, requests, commands; emotive and 'loaded' words and phrases; slanting by selection of facts, of words, of both; persuasion by flattery, threats, rhetoric, etc.; evasion, irrelevance, verbosity; either/or choices, hidden assumptions, contradictions, non-sequiturs, etc.; beliefs, stock responses, guilt-by-association; 'levels of abstraction and high-order abstractions', identification; arguments about names; nonsense questions; over and under generalisation. It is true that some of the ideas involved in this programme — verification and the emotive use of language, for instance — have been the subjects of furious academic battles but they can be used without embarrassment at the simple levels at which this work begins. If a well-ordered progression could be devised and suitable terms established it ought to be possible to cover a good deal of this programme with children of low verbal intelligence, using examples and material incomparably more interesting than that found in the average text-book for English studies. And as this work progressed it ought to be possible to talk meaningfully about the mass media, beginning with analyses of space in newspapers and magazines and going on to examine advertising methods, reports, public announcements, propaganda techniques and those form of persuasion which are partly or wholly non-verbal.

We don't go far enough with this sort of work for reasons any secondary modern teacher can list. And, in several directions, a great deal of help might be given. What is needed is, firstly, a teacher's book on the lines of Caroline Minteer's: one that in each chapter bridges the gap between a defined theoretical principle or aim and the actual words that a teacher might consider using. The translation of theory into practice is an exacting job and it is impertinent to expect practising teachers to examine masses of generalised prescriptions. Secondly, we need a range of children's text-books loaded with useful and interesting suggestions, rich in diverting and elegant exercises and devoted entirely to this aspect of English. This is necessary in order to save time and mental energy and because in this work it is very easy to make up examples which illustrate a point but very hard to make up examples which isolate that point satisfactorily. It is easier to adapt than to invent. Thirdly, we need a clearing-house to bring together details, at the lesson level, of any really successful work and to make note of any relevant literature. Fourthly, we need to be able to get adequate supplies of topical material without administrative difficulty and without incessant begging from the children. In this, the BBC schools programmes could give valuable help.

Finally, and above all we have to encourage an interest in this approach with the teachers, presumably by developing the study of communication and persuasion much more intensively at the Training Colleges. A stimulating beginning might be to let the student teacher start his language studies by examining the extreme views of Benjamin Lee Whorf: the hypothesis that our languages shape and actually distort our views of the world and that the background phenomena of a particular language or family of languages are not evident to its speakers. The truth is that many teachers of English have not even thought about these affairs and so are hardly likely to assist much in the development of independent-minded children. As teachers we want men and women who are not only able to look critically at the language of the mass media and to see the ideas and intentions in suspension in it but who also feel some spirit of inquiry about language itself. 'To ask about the meanings of words is to ask about everything.'


To Start Wagging and to Stop Tampering

Passages quoted are from "Chuang Tzu" by H. A. Giles, Quartitch, London, "The Wisdom of Laotze" by Lin Yutang, The Modern Library. New York, and "The Way and Its Power" by Arthur Waley, Grove Press, New York.

Submitted by Reddebrek on September 5, 2016

IF TAOIST THOUGHT ON THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF GOVERNING MANKIND is to be heeded, one might look at other aspects of this thought. Such as the consistent warning against cunning craftsmen, pernicious contrivances, and labour-saving devices in general.

A gardener was asked why he would not use a well-sweep. Thereupon he flushed and said, "I have heard from my teacher that those who have cunning implements are cunning in their dealings, and that those who are cunning in their dealings have cunning in their hearts". The cunning in heart are not pure and incorrupt, are restless in spirit, and not fit vehicles for Tao. The gardener concluded, "It is not that I do not know of these things. I should be ashamed to use them." A people who understand the Way might have devices requiring 10 to 100 times less labour and would not use them. "There might still be boats and carriages, but no one would go in them; there might still be weapons of war but no one would drill with them".

In 1949, Robert Bek-gran wrote in Retort that Lao Tzu "would probably think it wise to abandon a scientific technology if it provided better housing and bigger machines of destruction in the same breath". Today, the machines of destruction are nearly or altogether capable of total human annihilation and it is very probable that they will be used. It may be best, then, to abandon the whole industrial-military economy. Start with the most pernicious contrivances — rockets and jet planes, atomic weapons and reactors, electronic computers and television. Remove the works from the T.V., caulk the seams and watch fish through the picture screen. The rest will follow naturally — conventional aircraft, radio, and railway trains, then carriages and coaches. As people move out of the cities, the land will be intensively farmed for subsistence. Even in the cities, while the transition is occurring, gardening on rooftops, in streets and vacant lots will supply needed foodstuffs (much food was produced this way in World War II). Automobiles and buses can be driven into the country and used as living quarters until houses are built. Or left in the cities as unnoticed blobs, their hoods up, the motor filled with dirt, and sweet potatoes climbing up the auto aerial. Image a skyscraper with every window filled with window boxes, leaves and flowers — the hanging gardens of Manhattan.

And formal knowledge should cease. "The people should have no use for any form of writing save knotted ropes" (like a knotted handkerchief to aid memory), Warning against formal knowledge appears in many chapters of the Tao Te Ching. "Banish learning, and there will be no more grieving." "When knowledge and cleverness appeared, great hypocrisy followed in its wake." The injunction against learning would apply not only to modern scientific technology, but to theoretic science itself. Since no man can control the use of his scientific creations, it were better he never let them be known. So abandon the universities, the laboratories, the libraries. Deliberately forget all one has known of physics, chemistry, biology, the social sciences, and speak of these things to none, lest he deduce new science from your conversation. "Learning consists in adding to one's stock day by day, the practice of Tao consists in subtracting day by day, subtracting and yet again subtracting till one has reached inactivity,"

And morality and moral judgment should cease. After Tao was lost came "power", then human kindness, then morality, then ritual. "Now ritual is the mere husk of loyalty and promise-keeping and is indeed the first step towards brawling". "It is because every one under Heaven recognizes beauty as beauty, that the idea of ugliness exists. And equally if everyone recognized virtue as virtue, this would merely create fresh conceptions of wickedness." "He who knows the always-so has room in him for everything; he who has room in him for everything is without prejudice." None should judge, not ever. Not judge, as Sonia in Crime and Punishment. Only accept.

And speech should be at a minimum. "To be always talking is against nature." Even about disarmament. "It was when the family was no longer at peace, that there was talk of 'dutiful sons'." "To love the people is the beginning of hurting them. To plan disarmament in the cause of righteousness is the beginning of rearmament." It follows, as Lin Yutang asserts, "When it becomes necessary to talk of disarmament, all plans of disarmament must fail, as man has learned today". This Taoist concept is similar to that of present libertarian thinking. Disarmament under social conditions in which rearmament is possible is meaningless, Without replacement of national states by a cosmopolitan libertarian socialist society, war is almost certain. The idea of of national states may be too ingrained to be changed before disaster. These states are now more powerful than ever, and there is apparently less feeling of international solidarity among workers and scholars than there was before World War I.

Then a withdrawal should occur, out of the state, science, and industrial society, into self-enquiry and self-subsistence, into poverty (by modern standards), into silence and joy in small things. Having heard what is outside, we listen in our hearts to what is inside. "Without leaving his door, he knows everything under heaven. Without looking out of his window, he knows all the ways to heaven."

Of such withdrawal there will be the usual critics, from political right to left, because of belief in the upwards and onwards theory, the bright face of tomorrow.

All men, indeed, are wreathed in smiles
"All men, indeed, are wreathed in smiles
… I alone am inert, like a child that has not yet given sign.
… All men have enough and to spare
I alone seem to have lost everything
The world is full of people that shine
I alone am dark
… But wherein I most am different from men
Is that I prize no sustenance that comes not from the Mother's breast."

Thoreau is out of step because he is listening to the music of a different drummer, and Kafka's Hunger Artist couldn't find the food that he liked. "If I had found it, believe me, I should have made no fuss and stuffed myself like you or anyone else." Yuan Hsien lived in a shack with a leaky green grass roof, a damp floor and a window stuffed with rags. But he sat properly on his floor playing a string instrument. A successful diplomat wearing fancy clothes came to see him in a carriage so wide it couldn't enter Yuan Hsien's alley. Yuan Hsien in his hemp cap and shoes without heels came to meet the diplomat. "Alack-a-day, What ails you?" cried the diplomat. "Nothing ails me," replied Yian Hsien. "I have heard that to have no money is called poverty, but to know the truth and not be able to follow it is called a disease. I am poor but not sick."

Two high government officials called upon Chuang Tzu when he was fishing and asked him to become a government administrator. Chuang Tzu noted that in the emperor's temple there is a turtle which died at 3,000 years of age and is stored in a chest. "Now would this tortoise rather be dead and have its remains venerated, or would it rather be alive and wagging its tail in the mud?" "Rather alive and wagging," replied the two officials. "Begone," cried Chuang Tzu. "I too will wag my tail in the mud."

If a person can't do anything else, he might start wagging and stop tampering. "For that which is under heaven is like a holy vessel, dangerous to tamper with." Still it were better not to make any rules, even about tampering, for the Sage "discards the absolute, the all-inclusive, the extreme."

Then in a hut, growing vegetables, we try to govern ourselves:

"To understand others is to have knowledge
To understand oneself is to be illumined
To conquer others needs strength
To conquer oneself is harder still
… He who moves through violence may get his way
But only he who does not lose his centre endures."

And what of influencing other people and creating a more humane society? "Value in action that is actionless, few indeed can understand." "So the Sage by his limpid calm, puts right everything under heaven." Almost all Taoist writing is in some sense an explanation of how a man may become a vehicle of the Way "who remains calm and quiet and thus becomes the guide for the universe".


Were They Way Out, Way Back?

Sam Weiner and H. W. Morton are New York anarchists.

Submitted by Reddebrek on September 5, 2016

SOME ANARCHISTS FEEL THAT THE IDEAS of our 19th Century theoreticians have little or no practical validity as a solution to present-day problems. Let us examine a few of the thoughts of two — Proudhon and Kropotkin — to see if this is actually the case.

Pierre Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865) advocated the establishment of a network of producers' and consumers' co-operatives, and mutual workshops, as well as mutual banks with free credit. These were to be federated on a local, provincial, national and international basis from below upwards. In these co-operatives all wages, profits, rent, interest, speculation and every other form of exploitation were to be eliminated. Instead there would be a system of non-profit free agreement. These were some of his specific suggestions to meet the conditions which obtained in his own day. As it happened many similar organisations were already functioning successfully in France in Proudhon's time so he proposed that they merely be federated and expanded in order to comprise a parallel counter-society right within, and competing with, the existing framework of France's financial-industrial feudalism. By the example of their own success these counter-societies would attract an ever-increasing number of adherents. He assumed, quite logically, that as these federations expanded, the authoritarian institutions around them would become progressively weakened. In his view the latter would eventually go bankrupt entirely, a process he intended to accelerate by popular solidarity and complete non-co-operation with the State. The moribund State would thereupon be replaced by political federation on a territorial basis (national and international) so that services of a public nature (e.g. the post office, libraries, health measures, etc.) could be provided. Thus the world wide, stateless, classless society could be attained Non-Violently. "I want the peaceable revolution," he wrote.

Although he underestimated the tenacity of the vested interests of his day and although some of his ideas are no longer applicable, Proudhon's basic principles-Non-Violence, Federation, Solidarity, Co-operation, Decentralisation, Free Contract, and Workers' Control — still offer as eminently feasible alternatives to the Statist approach. Even the brilliant but startling concept of a rival inner society is viable. In fact we can offer an excellent recent example: the Negro Bus Boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. Here the Negroes unwittingly utilized every one of the above Proudhon ideas and scored a magnificent victory over segregated bus seating. As everyone knows they applied only Non-Violent methods, although they attributed them to Gandhi instead of to Proudhon, But also they Federated their civic and church organizations into a Montgomery Improvement Association; and of course they employed Solidarity and Co-operation. Above all however they created a phenomenally successful, Decentralized Motor Pool based on Free Contract and Workers' Control — an entire transportation collective comprising 48 dispatch stations and 42 pick-up stations, whose schedule and, more important, whose revolutionary purpose they publicized by thousands of mimeographed leaflets. This was Proudhon's exact concept of a rival counter-organization right within the framework of existing society: an Anarchistic transportation system competing with the city-franchised bus company. The Negroes' triumph provides a fine object lesson on the practicality of these Proudhonian concepts.

Turning now to Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921), we find the theory that Anarchist Communism would be achieved only as the culmination of a series of deep-going social revolutions, each following a gestationary period of evolution. The revolutions he envisaged would be mass uprisings in which both industrial and agricultural workers would overthrow the existing governments and seize the factories, mines, mills and land just as they had usually done in the past. Such revolutions come in and of themselves whether or not Anarchists or anybody else want them to. No vanguard group can plan, nor even predict them. In other words Anarchists cannot conspire to cause a revolution; all they can hope to do is to encourage one to begin, and then try to influence it in an Anarchist direction. The revolution itself is always spontaneously generated by the accumulated bitterness and discontent resulting from starvation, injustice, oppression, wars and the internal depravity of the ruling classes.

Is it utopistic to argue that revolutions will come with or without Anarchist aid? Certainly not. Nor are revolutions passé by any means. In the last ten years alone there have been revolutions of every stripe all over the globe: popular in Hungary, authoritarian in Cuba, nationalistic in Africa, etc. Indeed most of Latin America, Asia, and Africa is in ferment right now. However in the popular (or social) revolution another factor enters: the rebellious people spontaneously develop new organizations and radicalize old ones. For example in the French Revolution of 1789 the people created their own Districts and Communes; a century later in 1871 they established Communes again in Paris, Lyons and other cities; in 1917 at the beginning of the Russian Revolution they spontaneously organized Factory Committees, as well as Soviets of Workers, Peasants and Soldiers; in the Spanish Revolution of 1936 they formed Collectives; and in both the Polish Uprising and the Hungarian Revolution in the 1950's they devised Peasants' and Workers' Councils.

We cite these historical examples as irrefutable proof that people have an inherent ability to combine, co-operate and co-ordinate without leaders. They can improvise any necessary organization in a non-authoritarian, or Anarchistic manner if left to themselves. They do this whether or not they've ever heard of Anarchism. Certainly the Montgomery Negroes were unaware of Proudhon, yet reflect on their methods. Co-operation, or Mutual Aid, is a biological, social, psychological and physiological capacity and necessity of mankind. Anarchists did not invent this capacity (it has always existed) but we lay great stress on it.

Every radical recognizes the existence, justification and undeniable rectitude of the Class Struggle. The infinitestimal ruling-class owns or controls all the land; owns or controls all the natural resources; owns or controls all the wealth; owns or controls all the patents on thousands of years of scientific and technological advance. Anyone who considers this an exaggeration or a distortion had best read a few books. The Power Elite, by C. Wright Mills (Oxford University Press, 1956) would be an excellent beginning. Another would be Changes in the Share of Wealth held by Top Wealth-Holders, 1922-1956, by Robert J. Lampman (National Bureau of Economic Research, 1960). The latter demonstrates that 1% of the population of the United States now owns outright 28% of the entire national wealth. This, incidentally, is exactly 3/10ths of 1% less than they owned when Roosevelt inaugurated his double-shuffle, the New Deal. In addition, 1.6% of the population owns 80% of all corporate stock and virtually 100% of all state and municipal bonds in the country. Remember that merely owning 5 or 10% of the stock in a given corporation allows a person or a group to control the entire assets of that corporation. Similarly this financial leverage factor enables the consolidated 28% of the national wealth to dominate the remaining 72%, and then to pyramid that control up to the international level. It must also be remembered that Lampman is considering only owners of legal record, an indefinite number of whom would be wives, widows, minor children and other nominal owners with no political interests whatsoever. By default the power of their wealth is wielded by the politically aggressive members of their class. Thus it is safe to assume that a mere fraction of 1% of the United States population literally owns and / or controls the country outright, manipulating its State Department so as to affect and jeopardize the lives and destinies of millions all over the world.

How did this fraction of 1% get to own control all these exclusive assets, sanctified by the Church and defended by the State, engendering the situation whereby the rest of us are forced to produce for them on their terms in order to earn enough of their devalued currency to buy back a few of their shoddy commodities, eat their adulterated foods, live in their miserable houses, be subject to brutality and extortion from their graft-ridden police, ever comforted by their lying newspapers and their voodoo churches, but always discouraged from looking heavenward with any scrutiny lest we notice the God-Damoclean sword of their nuclear bombs. Their explanation is that they legally bought (or inveigled) everything from the preceding owners, who in turn got it from the owners before them, and the ones before them, all the way back through time. But how did the original owners get everything? Did they buy it from God? Then let somebody show us a valid Celestial Bill of Sale. Until that is produced, the rest of us, the vast majority, have every right to stop begging for crumbs and try instead to get back our full share of this planet's stolen wealth. Thanks to the ubiquitous nuclear threat this is no longer the simple moral obligation it was twenty years ago — it is a matter of life and death.

So far all radicals agree, but from here on we differ. The authoritarians believe that people are absolutely hopeless, that they will have to be led by the nose to retrieve their rightful portion, and thereafter subjected to temporary governmental control lest they lose everything again. Anarchists, on the other hand, contend that any revolution which begins with leaders and followers will end with rulers and subjects. We feel that no "transitional government" can ever wither away because never in all history has any ruling, owning or even bureaucratic class ever relinquished power and privilege voluntarily. Furthermore the likelihood of this ever occurring in some future benevolent "Workers' State" is nil because as Errico Malatesta pointed out: though evil men want to remain in authority for their own power and graft, honest and sincere men also want to remain in authority — they believe it's their duty "for the benefit of the people." Come what may Anarchists contend that this whole argument is academic anyway because we need not even take this risk: if we leave people alone — merely free them for their obscene obeisance to the authority principle — they themselves will spontaneously create any organizational forms necessary for a new society, precisely as they did in France, later in Paris, Russia, Spain, Poland, Hungary, and Montgomery.

Furthermore we contend that any organization people create for themselves would be far more practical, imaginative, flexible, and ardently supported than something superimposed from above. This contention has also been proven in every popular revolution so far. For example even the White Citizens Council in Montgomery had to admit that the lowly "Nigras" had solved a transportation problem in a few nights which the professional managers of the franchised bus company had been grappling with for years. Then too, concomitant with mediocrity any superimposed organization is fraught with authoritarian and bureaucratic dangers. Thus even if popularly created organizations could be proven demonstrably less efficient, no amount of increased efficiency could offset the price of the freedom lost in the authoritarian approach.

We might add that this popular capacity for spontaneous organization, or Mutual Aid, is such a basic and powerful component of human nature that it can only be stifled, subdued or safely channelled by constant ruling class pressure in the form of economic or political threats and/or psychological manipulation. When the pressure is relaxed even slightly this basic urge bursts forth into multiple spontaneous organizations each expressing a political, economic or social will to freedom, invariably in direct conflict with the will to power of the authoritarian State. The will to power is of necessity stagnant, always operating to "keep things as they are" if not to make them worse. On the other hand the will to freedom is creative and revolutionary, striving inevitably toward progress and reduction of authority. Thus the will to freedom has been the cause of every single political, economic and social advance ever made. Beginning with the invention of the wheel, every instance of human progress without exception has been achieved only as a result of winning a battle over the combined forces of authority, reaction and the status quo. Kropotkin discovered this enabling factor and gave it the name Mutual Aid, a phrase borrowed from a Russian zoologist.

In view of Mutual Aid he suggested the practical function of the Anarchist is to encourage any and all revolutionary ferment, imbue people with Anarchist ideas both by words and example, but above all urge that if the government is overthrown the people retain their conquests for themselves instead of handing them over on a silver platter to another government. Consequently Anarchists should never create artificial organizations which in turn create an artificial revolution. They merely stimulate, inspire and assist the natural Mutual Aid tendencies in society to emerge.

Granting that no man is omniscient and that some of Kropotkin's ideas are inapplicable today, his major teachings still withstand the test of time just as do Proudhon's. Consider for example what Lewis Mumford wrote about the principle of industrial decentralization (in The Culture of Cities, Harcourt Brace, 1938, p.340): "What was bold prophecy when [Kropotkin] first published Fields, Factories and Workshops has now become a definite movement, as the technical means of economic regionalism and the social impulses that gave it direction have converged." Ashley Montague, Bertrand Russell, Martin Buber, Albert Camus, Albert Einstein, Erich Fromm, and a host of others from various schools of thought have all acknowledged the influence of Kropotkin as well as Proudhon, and have applied the ideas of both men to the practical solution of current social problems.


More About Freedom of Access

Submitted by Reddebrek on September 5, 2016

ONE OR TWO POINTS NEED TO BE ADDED to the Freedom of Access article in ANARCHY 17.

Naturally I wrote to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Ltd. (of Sydney, NSW) to ask for information about the free passenger railway operated by them in Fiji; but I stupidly sent my letter by surface mail and the Company's (air-mailed) reply did not arrive until ANARCHY 17 was on the press. Their statement tends to confirm and amplify the account of the railway I put together from other sources, although it makes nonsense of my bad guess about "the old Fijians who insisted on a free passenger service as a condition of a railway licence."

They say that "The agreement between the Fiji Government and the C.S.R. Co. Ltd. to run the free railway service is covered by the Rarawaif/Kavanagasau Ordinance. Originally this Ordinance applied to the railway between Rarawai and Navakai in Nadi where the service commenced in 1905 ... Under the Ordinance the company is entitled to charge fares but has never done so. There is no friction between the company and the Fijian public. In fact many people use the train for joy-riding. The 'Free Train', which runs twice a week all the year round, contains seating for about 120 passengers. The train is usually full when it leaves Lautoka but not many passengers travel the full distance."

For the record, control of the free railway will shortly devolve on a wholly-owned subsidiary of C.S.R., South Pacific Sugar Mills Ltd., registered in Fiji last December.

A correspondent tells me sharply that people do not usually remain honest in times of shortage of food, offering as an example the rationing period of the 1939-45 war, when most people (not she, my correspondent modestly adds) dealt on the black market occasionally. But my contention was that people have the sense to behave responsibly in a free access situation, which has as little to do with law-abiding citizenship as initiative has to do with obedience. Perhaps I should have avoided the word "honest".

In times of genuine shortage, I suppose, money (supplemented if necessary by rationing) is useful to those who control the available wealth, enabling them to apportion the wealth to their best advantage more efficiently and humanely than either barter or physical violence. But abundance is now a technological possibility. Indeed, in the nation which is technically most advanced, the United States, there is a perpetual struggle to avoid abundance.

"Built-in obsolescence" has been the policy of American capital-goods manufacturers for over thirty years, and the Federal Tax Depredation Tables have this summer been revised, to presume that things wear out quicker now than they have ever done. Old cars have no commercial value, and are simply abandoned in huge "automobile dumps" on the outskirts of all large cities. Most manufacturers of consumer goods appropriate half their net profits for advertising, largely in the hope of creating new markets and new needs: the two-car family, the swimming-bath and fall-out shelter in every house, the television set in every room. Grain for which there is no market is bought out of taxes and stored or dumped. There are immense war preparations.

The main purpose of all this is to create shortages artificially, because buying and selling is useless except in times of shortage, and the whole social set-up depends on the rate of buying and selling. In the midst of all this affluence, therefore, various classes of people who do not use money much, like the Pueblo Indians, can live in conditions as poor as any in Southern Europe. And there is the dreadful paradoxical danger that the poor will increase in number as fewer and fewer man-hours produce more and more wealth.

President Kennedy has recently observed that in order to keep the increasing population in the buying-and-selling circle (those were not his exact words) the United States "must find twenty-five thousand new jobs a week" (those were). It has been calculated that when the ''population curve" meets the "automation curve", the number of new jobs needed per week will jump to fifty thousand, then rapidly increase to two hundred thousand.

The introduction of the twenty-hour week has been recommended "as a first step" towards meeting this need, but it is urged that this would mean a massive crime wave through teenagers seeking amusement in the streets. (Surely the same people said the same thing about the ten-hour day?). I have not heard so far of an official recommending free access to water, gas, transport, bread, milk, vegetables, sugar or other abundant commodities, so that unemployment need not mean misery; but it may soon happen. The Soviet Union has already promised free water, gas and heating at some unspecified date after 1980, and the United Kingdom has already tried free access to medical supplies advised by physicians, for a couple of years, before the Labour government imposed the first NHS charges.

But freedom of access will always be opposed, with sincere moral fervour, by the lovers of government, the unhappy wretches who long to command and the poor weaklings who long to obey. For the introduction of freedom of access weakens the system of wages and trade, which is the economic foundation of the state, and the evidence of freedom of access in practice weakens the myth of Original Sin, which is the main argument for the state's existence.

Eric Hughes

IN DONALD ROOUM'S EXCELLENT ARTICLE on Freedom of Access, we read the opening statement, "The greatest obstacle to anarchism is the Doctrine of Original Sin". If anarchism is taken to mean the possibility of a free and perfect society without the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, then this is certainly true, Original Sin, and Sin in general, is the greatest obstacle to the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. But the positive aspect of the Gospel is the victory over sin. The "doctrine of original sin" on the other hand, is a proposition of theological science which can be verified by a study of history or an empirical investigation of contemporary humanity. The doctrine is clearly stated in Article 9 of the 39 articles of the Church of England. On the empirical side, Herbert Butterfield's Christianity and History should be consulted. He concludes "What history does is rather to uncover man's universal sin." We are critical of giving power to any section of the community because, due to the tendency to selfishness (power, wealth, etc.), it will be abused. This applies to priestly hierarchies and modern states. Eltzbacher clearly shows (Anarchism, p.201) that anarchistic teachings have in common only this, "that they negate the State for our future."

Donald Rooum writes that "most if not all individuals are inherently anti-social". It is this self-centred bias in all of us, which we inherit from our parents, which is known as original sin. The selfish spirit causes much of the trouble in human relations. For example, industry, which has as its true purpose the efficient satisfaction of human needs, becomes a battle-ground of selfish interests. Industrial democracy is necessary because of original sin. It is equally true that we are born with mutual aid potentialities. Open access systems are based on natural common sense and co-operation. They do not eradicate original sin, but let us have more of them as natural improvements. (Most of us have also had the experience of lending books to friends who never return them even after repeated requests).

Donald Rooum comments: An alternative way of putting "most if not all individuals are inherently anti-social" would be "there is something socially harmful about selfishness." I described this belief as "a bit of the amorphous body of nonsense which any fool knows is true." That Eric Hughes now writes as if I believed it myself, shows that I failed to make my meaning clear.

Empirical evidence tends to show that humans have inherent urges to socially useful behaviour even stronger than those of other gregarious vertebrates, and that much misery results from individuals repressing urges and trying to negate themselves. One is justified, therefore, in supposing that if people concentrated on self-gratification, society might be happier and more harmonious. Anarchism is the striving, not towards the Kingdom of Heaven, but towards a society of sovereign individuals; its greatest obstacle is the pernicious nonsense which makes individuals despise themselves.


On the Idea of Anarchy

ANARCHY MEANS WITHOUT GOVERNMENT OR AUTHORITY, it is derived from the Greek anarchia. Thus a society without government is an anarchist society.

Submitted by Reddebrek on September 5, 2016

Anarchy, however, is universally used to denote disorder and confusion. Owing to the belief that government must be necessary for the organisation of social life, and that consequently a society without government must be disordered, the word anarchy is misused. Such a use of the word anarchy signifies a pre-judgment — it is possible to believe that anarchy would entail disorder, yet it can be argued that anarchy would mean the greatest order. If one is to be objective anarchy must be described unemotionally as a society without government. Anarchists, it should be stressed, do not believe in the absence of order, they believe in a society functioning without the State. They believe in anarchy — no government — they do not believe in or advocate chaos as a social ideal.

The State is the executive committee of the ruling class, it is what may be loosely termed, the Establishment. That collection of political, legislative, judicial, military and financial institutions who manage the affairs of the people are the Establishment. The heads of these institutions are the State, the supreme central administration of a country,

To the anarchist there are two types of society, on the one hand the open life-centred society that must be decentralised and federalist, and on the other the closed power-centred society that is authoritarian and totalitarian. He sees the former as springing from the impulse of love and spontaneity, whilst the latter is rooted in the impulse to coercion, authority and guilt. In social living we find power, fear and guilt or we find love, freedom and spontaneity — the anarchist seeks the latter.

It may be objected that anarchism is desirable but unattainable and impracticable. Yet if this is so then it follows that justice and equality are unattainable. If one rejects anarchism one accepts the institution of government which entails privilege and injustice between those who rule and those who are ruled.

And so the anarchist advocates a social revolution. Yet we must carefully note that this does not mean a coup d'etat, for it would be inconsistent and worthless for an anarchist to capture power. It must be a revolution from the bottom, a grass-roots revolution. Anarchism favours a regionalised society, a free, untidy community. Organisation is only encouraged to achieve ends, there is no particular liking for organisation. In an industrialised society syndicalism and worker's control, with possibly increasing automation and increased leisure, could be the basis for the free society.

If one is to change a society based on threats, fear, competition, guilt and hatred there can only be one way of doing it. Action which rejects these things opposes the system by an alternative way of living. One sets out to engender a different attitude to life, an attitude that in action shows itself to be healthier, more dignified and of greater value.