Issue of Anarchy magazine from April 1963
- The last Aldermaston (Charles Radcliffe),
- What has it got to do with the bomb? (Brian Richardson),
- The factory for peace (Tom McAlpine),
- How to sell your way to slavery (Ian Sainsbury),
- Thoreau's politics of the upright man (Richard Drinnon)
The Last Aldermaston
THE LAST ALDERMASTON, the last great united humanitarian-and-left-wing unity rite, is upon us. It seems a suitable time to examine some of the discernible trends in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament which organises this four-day martial beanfeast.
The most encouraging thing about the CND has been its lack of rigidity, either in organisation or policy. Anarchists, pacifists, marxists have all been able to join on their own terms, local groups have had the freedom to act as they feel fit regardless of the wishes of the encrusted bureaucracy of CND HQ. The 'better' groups have managed a minimum of rigidity, a maximum of tolerance and co-operation. In such groups there has been a genuine and important dialogue between adherents of widely differing ideologies.
The CND has always had its fair share of hired thinkers and bureaucratic centralisers and it looks as though these people are about to win the day. So far the only factor which seems to have held CND back from formal membership was the belief that the Labour Party was the 'correct sphere of influence for unilateralists who were REALISTIC' and that the institution of formal membership by CND might lead to the dreaded stigma of proscription. However CND's new policy statement, the infamous Steps Towards Peace, is a notable retreat, amounting in effect to self-inflicted castration, and it is doubtful whether a Labour Party headed by the 'radical' Mr. Harold Wilson and acutely anxious to get 'into power', would deem it worthwhile proscribing CND should it become a "membership organisation". I feel that there is a tendency towards this and that it will happen fairly soon. There will be heresy hunts and loyalty oaths and the like (all conducted in best social democrat tradition). The whole tendency is to increased control wherever possible over supporters and the logic of this is Membership. At the time of writing (mid-March) CND are attempting to get us to
CHARLES RADCLIFFE, born 1941, worked as a journalist in the North East before moving to London. He was a member of various CND groups in Yorkshire and Durham and is a former convenor for the North East Committee of 100 in the South West Durham area.
march without banners of 'a political nature', and turn us into a liberal-minded procession of lollipop luggers.
CND has the features of many a membership organisation already. For example the 1962 Conference ended passing a motion in favour of proposed industrial action against the bomb. When this received publicity the Executive of CND equivocated at enormous length and finally admitted this disgustingly 'revolutionary' act when pressed to do so by the militant fringe. Pat Arrowsmith and the Rev. Michael Scott, the CND's two respectable "radicals" left the executive in protest. All this came well from an organisation which protested against the Parliamentary Labour Party's reaction to those who accepted conference decisions!
In many local groups the control which I visualise already exists and it may be relatively easy to transfer this from a local to national basis. I know of groups where Committee of 100 supporters have been excluded from local CND working committees, where decisions were made, thus preventing the airing of views in favour of direct action. Another group in my experience takes all policy decisions at local committee level and merely produces them in a gust of hot air for ratification by the wider circle of supporters at a (deliberately?) badly publicised and poorly attended 'public meeting'. The meeting was permitted to throw out any motion but not to replace any (Democratic centralism). Other democratic incidents spring to mind. A town was daubed with anti-nuclear 'positive neutralist' slogans and the secretary of the CND group called a meeting some time later and put out a cliché-ridden statement, condemning the daubing, which was intended to be endorsed by the meeting. The meeting rebelled, coming out in favour of daubing as a breakthrough policy, a defiant gesture in the midst of apathy might shock people into thinking (it did just that) but their view was never recorded and what apparently went on the group's records was something to the effect of "disapproval, unendorsed because of time lag between event and condemnation". Again in this group all the motions for annual conference were decided by a small committee and unknown by the rank and file until after the conference when they were presented as fait accompli.
Obviously there are going to be groups which will continue as thriving cells whatever CND decides. These are the groups which might form the basis, along with other similar 'growths' of a militant and radical body of social and political dissent. These groups are already disaffiliated in all but name and would obviously take the Open Letters in Tribune and so on, as a matter of course. Such groups as these are not my concern here.
This move towards membership may not happen. As I see it the other logical alternative would be for CND to attempt to impose such control on supporters that many of those who give fringe support to CND, such as radical pacifists, anarchists and not-east-nor-west 'communists' (as well as those who feel no emotional attachment to any political creed and are alike only in their common feeling of disgust at the politicians who are turning their world into a lunatic asylum) would be forced to leave active campaigning in the CND aegis. They will continue to hold their strong views but will probably find themselves without an organisation in which to practise them, since many of them will simply not be able to afford to support the Committee of 100.
I doubt whether my experience has been unique. I have worked in bad groups, good groups and mediocre groups, the latter being the majority. Even the Guardian has approvingly noted the trend towards greater central control, away from group and, even more so, individual autonomy. CND has changed a lot since the early days — it has now got to a stage where its leaders look at the world through the same spectacles as the power politicians, where it can impose a tight discipline on supporters, where it can effectively isolate the 'left'.
There has been 'rebellion' against this dominant line of thinking. I have heard of 'loyal' groups which have sent CND 'officials' packing at group meetings when official CND policy on such matters as the Russian bomb or the Aldermaston march has been put forward, telling them either to shut up or get out. But once the formal membership is imposed these groups are going to be powerless — they will be the first victims of the heresy hunt, disaffiliated (oh, dear!) for their pains. The same thing will happen to individuals. To start with there may be a sizeable individual 'exodus' though this may be compensated by other liberal-minded folk who feel a revulsion towards the atomic bomb and are prepared to join a polite movement when they wouldn't dream of being associated with the admirable beats, 'degenerates' and so on who make up an Aldermaston march. It is not the purpose here to say what will happen to such people but I believe many will be attracted towards anarchism and it is our duty to let them know about it. CND has praised and presupposed the fact that people can do their own thinking. For many who support CND it has needed a big mental breakthrough. I don't believe that these people have forgotten how to think and they may be sympathetic to anarchist ideas presented well — something perhaps on the lines of "Betrayed people need Anarchism".
Whats it Got to do with the Bomb?
WHEN THE LONDON COMMITTEE OF 100 was exploring the idea of attacking the government's defence policy at its weakest link, it decided that the Civil Defence service presented the most manifest fraud. Perhaps the worst aspect of it was the perversion of the humanitarian impulses of civil defence workers who were persuaded that they were training to relieve human suffering after the next war whereas in reality they were being used by the politicians to help make their threats of nuclear retaliation credible.
It seemed possible to the Committee that approaches could be made to local councils, who have to administer the civil defence service and help to pay for it from rates, with the suggestion that their efforts were being misdirected and their concern with post-war survival was leading them to neglect welfare needs now.
A supporters' meeting was called in London last October to discuss this idea, and was attended by some people (known to us through their contributions to the Solidarity pamphlet Homeless!) who had first-hand knowledge of the results of finding themselves homeless, and having to rely on the benevolence of the authorities to sustain them at the reception centres and 'half way' houses.
The suffering they described at the meeting confirmed the unease many people had been feeling at the existence of institutions like Newington Lodge, one of the main reception centres, and the civil defence issue was overshadowed by the need that was felt to bring about some public awareness of the housing situation and the predicament of the homeless.
This feeling found expression in the Public Assembly called by the South-East London working group of the Committee of 100, outside Newington Lodge, on the 19th of January. The theme of the assembly was "Is there a connection between the conditions of the homeless and our nuclear war preparations?", and the priorities of conventional "law-and-order" society were attacked by speaker after speaker who protested
BRIAN RICHARDSON, born at Catford, 1927, is an architect who is active in Sevenoaks CND and in the South East working group of the London Committee of 100.
at the expenditure of countless millions of pounds on weapons to give an illusion of defence while basic human needs were being inadequately provided for.
It was an interesting meeting, but in terms of the Committee of 100's belief in applying non-violent direct action it did not go very far. Apart from the groundwork that had gone into the demonstration beforehand, when people from the working group got into the Lodge, saw conditions for themselves and discussed the proposed assembly with some of the inhabitants), there was no direct confrontation of the authorities other than having the meeting on their doorstep.
The working group is still engaged in developing ideas that came from the assembly and from recent writings on the subject, into plans for action. Our imaginations were stirred by the account in ANARCHY 23 of the astonishing Squatters' Movement of 1946, and it does seem possible that something of the same sort could be done now to rectify the absurd situation where people are in over-crowded conditions at the reception centres while there is empty property at hand.* It is just that nobody is taking the responsibility of seeing that an available accommodation is being used in this emergency. Perhaps we should do this, and by labelling and, if necessary, picketing, identify to the public these potential homes.
If a new wave of "squatting" should take these places over, we should be ready to support them by reinforcing their unconstitutional action with more of our own. Other things we can do are to continue to expose the civil defence anomaly of providing welfare after it is too late, and attempt to persuade the personnel to take on relief work among today's homeless, and continue to protest at the gross mis-spending of public funds on the government's futile but sinister defence programme.
Taking a deeper look at the housing situation lying behind the immediate problem of homelessness, we were impressed by the discussion in ANARCHY 23 of the unnecessary restriction of choice in this country of the types of housing available. Because of the Tory Rent Act, privately owned property to let at low rents is fast disappearing, and the young family man is faced with the alternatives of becoming an owner-occupier or a council house tenant.
Supposing decent standards, the first is going to be impossibly expensive for most. In itself it is in many ways desirable, but even if finance can be found, it is not an ideal arrangement for everybody because of the loss of mobility implied by the expense of buying and selling and because of the pressure on a man with a heavy mortgage to settle down at his job and devote himself assiduously to the "rat race".
As for local authority housing, as Stanley Alderson says in his new Penguin book Housing, "the difficulty is in becoming a council tenant. The man who set about it efficiently would get an essential
*Census figures published on 12/3/63 show that of 937,834 houses in the County of London, 20,439 — or 2.2 per cent. are wholly vacant.
job, marry young, father a child a year, find himself a slum flat, share it with another family, and develop chronic ill-health. With all these qualifications he could even expect to get a house before he was thirty. In addition to the price he paid in inconvenience (and indeed in the expense of a large family), he would have to resign himself to immobility before as well as after he got his house … the local authority is likely to require several years' residence in the district before it will put him on its waiting list."
Like the owner occupier, the lucky council tenant is put under pressure; he has to conform to the regulations of an official landlord who knows what is best for him and who controls his environment.
The choice that we haven't got (but which is much more common on the continent) is to be able to 'rent' co-operatively owned homes. These can be as cheap as council houses, but have the great advantage that the share-holders can have a direct say in the management of the property. They will tend to identify themselves with the upkeep of the whole corporately-owned group of dwellings and be able to exert an influence on the quality of their surroundings.
No-one, not even the government, denies that a much larger proportion of our new housing should be supplied through the agency of various sorts of voluntary associations, and the principle of financial backing from public as well as private funds has been conceded. The initial organisation of groups of members and the launching of building projects is a complex business, but there exists an excellent body, the National Federation of Housing Societies, 12 Suffolk Street, London, S.W.l., who can give expert advice on these problems and who deserve our active support. The main pressure an aware public needs to bring on the authorities is to obtain the release of sufficient funds for co-operative housing schemes to go on in significant numbers.
Is all this too far from the original idea of the Committee of 100 as a mass movement of civil disobedience against nuclear war? Our bad housing and welfare arrangements come out of the same society, based on the violent enforcement of law and order, as the bomb does. The bomb is not an aberration, but the logical outcome of a way of life largely controlled by arbitrary authority backed by violent sanctions, constitutionally applied.
I suggest that an active response to the day-to-day issues such as housing, by people who are aware of society's mortal disease (of which the bomb is the most alarming, but not the only symptom), and who are committed to non-violent resistance, far from dissipating the effort of the anti-nuclear campaign is necessary for it to go forward.
It has become clear that we cannot shock people into changing their conventional attitudes to life by exposing the danger and immorality of the bomb alone, even though we tell them that their very survival is at stake. This has been attempted, and though the campaign itself still survives, it has not succeeded in getting the profound changes in personal and public attitudes, which are needed.
If the lucid and brilliant exposition of the nuclear situation in the leaflet Act or Perish, with its persuasive exhortation to civil disobedience, and the resolution of the original committee, failed to stimulate massive public support; then the predisposition of the public mind towards constitutional forms and an acceptance of the status quo must be too strong to be overcome by a dramatic challenge on the single issue of the bomb itself, the pinnacle of violence. There must be complementary activity to build a public awareness of the wrongs running right through society, to explode the fallacy of law-and-order obtained by threats of violence and to show new and constructive ways of approaching social problems.
Galbraith's 'private affluence and public squalor' are all round us; we have subtopia; unemployment; homelessness and barbaric prisons, but unlimited expenditure on armaments that can do no good to anyone except (in the short term) their manufacturers. A typical example of the subjection of the welfare state to the warfare state is provided by the pitiful condition that many old age pensioners have sunk to in this country. Peter Townsend's report on the existing institutions for old people, The Last Refuge, was reviewed by a welfare officer of a local authority in his trade-union journal Public Service. (Townsend's book reveals the horrifying conditions in the former work-houses still being used to accommodate old people, and advocates that proper services should be made available to old people in their own homes among the rest of the community). The welfare officer gives grudging praise to the proposals for a family help service to visit all pensioners, plan and manage sheltered housing schemes, improve sub-standard housing, provide shopping, laundry, meals, night attendance facilities and so on, and says, "obviously these proposals are based on the assumption that adequate resources will be available. But it is doubtful whether any section of the social services has ever reached this stage or is likely to do so in the foreseeable future."
People seem to accept it as inevitable that only paltry sums can be made available by the government for the satisfaction of human needs, and fail to react when it is disclosed that fantastic sums are wasted on weapons that are obsolete by the time they are made. It was mentioned in the banned Granada TV programme on defence that found its way on to the BBC, that Sea Slug, for instance, was originally estimated to cost two million pounds, and came into service four months ago, already obsolete, having cost seventy million pounds.
More distressing that the mis-spending of our money is the picture that emerges of a society whose whole system of priorities is upside-down. The people who are not seething with indignation at this sort of injustice are so insensitive to human values that the continued existence of the bomb is not significant for them. We must work for a change of heart and a change in attitudes right through society and at all levels of public activity, from housing to defence.
Factory for Peace - Tom McAlpine
An article by Tom McAlpine on his utopian "Factory For Peace" in Glasgow from 1963.
You start with a slogan, "Ban the Bomb," and very quickly you find that you cannot take a stand on this one isolated issue without taking a stand on many other issues as well. You begin to look for the causes of war and try to think of ways of eliminating these causes, and you soon find that you have to make your mind up about race relations, the Common Market, industrial conditions, housing schemes, and everything else that concerns society and the state. You try to think of ways that, for example, the economic problems caused by disarmament will be solved. And you begin to realise that you can't solve one problem without solving a lot of others at the same time.
—RICHARD BOSTON in Peace News.
OUR HISTORY SHOWS that in the main, social and political progress has come about when men or groups have recognised the dangers and evils in society at any particular time and have taken steps to counter them.
Still, many of the problems in our complex modern world appear to be beyond the ordinary individual. Bad human relations in industry, increasing materialistic pressures, lack of concern for the individual, the waste of man's creative powers, the speed of the "rat race", all overwhelm us. Our society seems to be unaware that man's work must be a natural part of the richer, fuller life which is essential for a stable, happy world.
Internationally we are continually faced with the problem of war and peace. Many of us campaign as unilateralists but much of our work appears negative to the general public and yet multilateralist or unilateralist, all agree that we must half the arms race and gear industry to peaceful production.
We in the West are slowly beginning to realise that we live in luxury compared with many of the underdeveloped countries where hunger and misery are ever present. Do we realise, however, that the amount of money we have been giving to such countries has been more than taken up by the fall in value of raw materials from these nations? The gap is in fact widening and our help is ever more urgently required.
Some of us feel that something practical should be done immediately. In Scotland, therefore, where unemployment is acute, some members of the Iona Community Industrial Committee, together with others from the Scottish Unilateralist movement decided to start a factory which will aim at reducing some of the problems outlined above.
With five people, all Trade Union members, we intend to try new industrial experiments in co-operative ownership where all workers will have equal say in decisions affecting wages, new products, profits and other policy matters. This presents problems but we are convinced that workers' participation is vital. Failures as well as successes will be of use in the long run because we hope to pass back anything we learn to Trade Unions, political parties, Church groups, industrialists, individual donors, in fact anyone who will listen.
Our products will be customer-ordered sheet metal and general engineering work, reinforced plastics and electric furnaces. No goods which may be used directly for war purposes will be produced. The profits will go to underdeveloped countries through such movements as War on Want and to further the cause of peace. We would hope, for instance, to train a volunteer in one of our products, send him to an underdeveloped country and with additional financial assistance, start a factory there. An Advisory Body has been set up to ensure that these and other principles are maintained. Premises are available, markets assured and contracts promised.
Before launching a general appeal we circularised a number of ordinary people requesting donations and have so far raised £2,000. Confident that we can now proceed we have launched a national appeal in an endeavour to raise the £10,000 capital we require, to enable us to buy the necessary capital equipment, pay salaries and get us off on a sound business footing.
We are prepared, however, to buy some of the necessary plant and to start working part-time before the complete sum is received.
The response to this appeal has been most encouraging, and about £1,000 was raised in the first month of the national appeal.
It has also been most interesting to see that in Britain others are prepared to begin similar ventures and that abroad several are in progress. It may interest your readers to know of the Polaris action farm in Voluntown, USA, where several anti-Polaris demonstrators co-operate in running a farm, the profits of which assist them in maintaining action against Polaris.
It was very interesting to read in Peace News recently of the work-shop co-operative of Negro families in Tennessee, and I would agree with the comments that home industries like this are essential to the development of anti-war efforts and progress in under-developed countries.
Our factory project, however, has a dual function. In addition to our concern for peace, much of the peace movement in Britain is equally concerned about the "new society". In our factory, therefore, we intend to experiment with workers' control, where wages, policy, profits, etc., are determined by the workpeople. To achieve this aim it is necessary to have working conditions, products and premises similar to normal industrial concerns. Hence, unfortunately, the need for such a high capital.
Political and social progress has always been made by experiment as well as theory. Since the attempts of Robert Owen at New Lanark (1800-1825) there has been a dearth of social/industrial experiment, although there are signs of a spirited revival. This great man later became the inspiration and one of the leaders of our Trade Union movement. The most practicable monument to Mr. Dale, Owen's father-in-law who built New Lanark, and to Owen himself who extended it, is that the Mill is still in operation today and the houses are fully occupied (not 20 miles from the site of our factory), 160 years after their erection!
In joining in on this venture, the five members of the factory personnel are giving up reasonably secure jobs. They are, however, convinced, as was Robert Owen, that new experiments must be tried. We in turn ask you to share with us in this exciting new experiment.
If you wish to help us, your donation, however small, will be gratefully received. Please send to Rev. James W. Sim, Community House, 214 Clyde Street, Glasgow, C.l., who is the Hon. Treasurer for this project. The writer will also be pleased to answer any requests for further information which should be sent to the same address.
TOM McALPINE, born 1930, is convenor for the Factory for Peace. Until recently he was chief development engineer with an industrial concern in Scotland. He is a member of the Scottish Committee of 100.
How to Sell Your Way to Slavery
IN A RECENT "NEW STATESMAN" SURVEY OF THE WORLD OF HP, Ruth Adam wrote of, "… the Demon King of the consumer-credit world, the door-to-door salesman". Of course the door-to-door salesman is a special case, a casual labourer who can afford to be casual in his methods because he will be off somewhere else before his sins can find him out. The more firmly established salesman who sells repetitively to commerce — where sales resistance is presumably stronger than on the door-step — who has a more solid background and uses less dubious methods of persuasion, is not usually thought of as a demon. But while he may not be to his customers, five years' experience of both kinds of selling — and they don't differ all that much in the end — have led me to the conclusion that he probably is to society and certainly is to himself. He is the victim of the very circumstances that created his job.
What kind of man becomes a salesman? It is important here to distinguish between the salesman and the "technical rep." — between the man who has been trained to sell and can apply his training to anything from brushes to telephone systems, and the man who is, say, a qualified engineer but only incidentally a vendor of engineering products or equipment. This distinction is reflected in the situations vacant columns; out of 72 employers who advertised for salesmen in one issue of a national daily, only 39 stipulated either previous selling experience or knowledge of the product. It is much more common to find certain personal qualities desiderated: drive, energy, initiative, ambition, keenness, enthusiasm. Education usually brings up the rear, coupled with "good appearance and address", and in this context is to be understood in terms of socially acceptable characteristics. "It was, I suppose, inevitable that I should soon be selling somebody something," wrote Esmond Romilly in Boadilla. "I belong to that very large class of unskilled labourers with a public school accent."
In return for the exercise of these qualities, the salesman is variously
IAN SAINSBURY is a 36-year old Irishman. As well as his five years in selling, he has had ten years in the theatre, and two as a full-time writer. He has held the by now obligatory collection of odd jobs — labourer, store-keeper, swimming-bath attendant — and is now driving a taxi.
offered "security", "a higher standard of living for yourself and your family" and more specifically, "a four-figure income". This means a three-figure salary, with the balance made up from commission and bonuses; which is exactly what attracts people to selling: that their earnings can be commensurate with their own efforts and abilities, quite independently of qualifications or connections. It finds its recruits among those who have no formal qualifications, or those whose experience is a drug on the market; a man stuck in a routine office job, a regular officer who has been axed. They feel that their personal qualities and innate ability entitle them to better things, and selling gives them a chance to prove it.
At an interview for a sales job, the candidate will be judged mainly by his speech, his appearance, and his answers to two key questions: What is your ultimate goal in this organisation?" and "Do you like people?". The correct answers are: "Your job, sir," (given with a modest smirk which implies that while this is what the interviewee wants he cannot really see himself on a level with the interviewer) and: "Oh yes". They involve assent to two propositions: one, that no one could or should be content to remain at any given level of income or status: two, that there is no conceivable relationship with another human being that excludes the possibility of making money out of him.
The sales manager will then deliver a brief homily on the golden opportunity only waiting to be grasped, the importance of industry and sobriety, always wearing a waistcoat and a hat and not importuning young women met in the course of employment; and the candidate finds himself accepted for training. This is generally given by someone who has to neglect his own work in order to do it, and to that extent is perfunctory and spasmodic. It takes the form of exhortation rather than instruction.
The new salesman now goes out "into the field". If he doesn't start bringing in orders pretty quickly he goes out on his ear too. If he starts to bring in what seems to him a reasonable number for a beginner, he is reminded that he has a quota to meet. If he achieves his quota, it is increased. It is at this stage that the gilt begins to come off the gingerbread, for from the day he gets his first order, the salesman is never allowed to feel that he is doing his job properly. His clothes and his manners, his character and efficiency, will be constantly criticised ("Nothing personal, you understand"). If his spirits droop under these attacks, he will be advised to study the works of philosophers like Norman Vincent Peale and Dale Carnegie, whose systems of non-thought (in which unqualified assertions in apposition to each other take the place of argument, Panglossianism the place of faith, and money the place of virtue) are free from any taint of unhealthy scepticism that might cause the salesman to question the wisdom of his superiors. If he works for one well-known domestic appliance firms he will be obliged to wear a company tie and sing a company song. In extreme cases he may even be told that the world's greatest salesman was called Jesus Christ.
The wage and administrative structure of the sales organisation —both pyramidical — are carefully designed to ensure that no member of it is ever off the hook. One firm of office-equipment manufacturers divides the country into a number of areas under the control of a manager and supervisor, the area being divided in turn into two territories with a salesman to each. The salesmen get £500 a year and 5% commission on all orders from their respective territories, the supervisor gets £750 a year and 2½ % on all orders from the area, and the manager gets £1,000 a year and 1% on all orders from the area.
Thus the manager and supervisor have a direct interest in raising the salesman's turnover. They do this by going out and getting orders on his territory — on which he will get his full commission and for which he will be made to feel a sense of obligation to them — but also by exerting pressure on him. This is called working as a team. The pressure is turned on at conferences (held outside business hours so as not to reduce selling time and of course encroaching on everybody's leisure) at which there will be more exhortation, minute analysis of the occasions when orders were lost (but if he had done so-and-so he would have got them) and veiled threats ("we may have to think very seriously indeed about your future with this company"). If he shows any resentment at this, he will be told that it is in his own interest, as tending to increase his selling power.
Anyone who takes up selling so that, free from immediate financial anxiety, he can devote himself to more congenial if less remunerative work, to spending more time with his family, or simply to raising hell, is going to find that he has run his head into a noose. He must keep running to stay where he is; he must earn more, not because he wants to, but to keep his job; and what energy he has left after selling and being talked at about selling will be dissipated in worrying about the selling he has yet to do. To be happy in his work he must be able to accept the nagging and the browbeating, and even to like it; his human dignity must be less important to him than the possibility of being richer.
A successful salesman can make a great deal of money, but he will find it more difficult to realise his own concept of a satisfying life. He has to accept one imposed on him, expressed in terms of constantly increasing effort and constantly increasing financial rewards. He can afford to spend money on the tools for good living, but not time on using them. His possessions are not there for enjoyment, they are symbols to reassure himself that he is doing all right. To show the world too; he can only identify himself by the gleam of envy or admiration in the eyes of others.
In the same way that he exploits his customer, nagging him continually to buy, to replace, to buy again, the salesman is exploited by his employers, who nag him to sell so as to get rich, to sell again to stay rich. His security is in jeopardy between one order and the next. Just as the warder is said to be as much a prisoner as the convict, so the salesman is exploited as much as the gullible housewife, because he endorses and accepts his relationship with her. He is caught up in machinery he can't control; he is both the hammer and the anvil.
This raises the question, What effect does the salesman have on the society he lives in? He may contribute to economic expansion, but he also encourages the acceptance of attitudes like these:
“WHAT DO YOU NEED TO MAKE A MILLION SALES?
I say that there are several qualities and the first of these is toughness.
BE TOUGH. Be so tough that sentiment has no place in your life. Be so tough that if your dearest friend stands in the way of business, you can sweep him aside. Give no mercy to competitors. Insist on iron discipline in yourself.
BE AMBITIOUS. Be so ambitious that it becomes an over-riding consideration in your life. Determine to be richer, stronger, more powerful than your fellows. Smash your way onwards as if everyone were your foe to be trampled on in the jungle of selling, and preferably wear hobnailed boots for the job.
DEVELOP A TRADING SENSE. Seize the chances before the other man can get them. If he complains that you took advantage of his simplicity, ignore his complaints, and damn the consequences.
APPLY YOUR MIND TO YOUR JOB. Forget about football. Throw the TV set in the dustbin — provided you have finished the hire-purchase payments. Stop reading detective stories. Think day and night about selling. Live with it, dream about it, talk about it. Those, I declare, are the qualities you need. It does not matter whether you are short and fat or whether you are a teetotaller or a potential dipsomaniac. What does matter, and matters supremely, is that you should be utterly devoted to one aim and utterly ruthless in its prosecution. Then the world will be your oyster and the bank manager your servant.”
At first sight this curious document might seem to have an ironic intention. If so, it has signally failed to achieve it, for it is distributed by at least one manager to his sales force. Its injunctions are almost as difficult to obey as "Love thy neighbour", but few salesmen are perceptive enough as a rule to see that it is self-defeating even on its own terms, or to envisage the wifeless friendless salesman, deprived of the consolations of TV, football and detective stories, wondering, while his bank-manager licks his boots, just what he is going to do next.
If the salesman is a demon king, he is also his own victim. Commerce depends on him; advertising sprays buckshot round the consumer, but the salesman is an arrow to the heart. This unskilled labourer with the right accent is probably overpaid by comparison with nurses and teachers, but there is not enough money to compensate for the damage he must do to himself. He is like a spy; his masters encourage him to break the rules, and disown him if he gets caught. But he is still their creature, and a creature who accepts the values of "What Do You Need To Make a Million Sales?" is no help to a society which depends in the end on the quality of individuals.
The salesman lives under pressure which he must transmit to others or go under. He carries fear with him like a germ. There are no souls on his report-sheet, only prospects and customers. He has been taught to treat people like things. He may not see that he is being treated like a thing himself.
Thoreau's politics of the UPRIGHT man
"IN IMAGINATION I HIE ME TO GREECE as to an enchanted ground," Thoreau declared in his Journal and then proved himself as good as his word in his lecture on "The Rights & Duties of the Individual in relation to Government." There was not a major figure in the classical background of anarchism on whom Thoreau did not draw in some way. Though he may have been unaware of Zeno's strictures against Plato's omnicompetent state, he assuredly honoured the Stoic for his individualism, his use of paradox, perhaps his belief in transcendent universal laws, certainly his serenity — "play high, play low," Thoreau observed with delight, "rain, sleet, or snow — it's all the same with the Stoic." He read Ovid with pleasure, used a quotation from the Metamorphoses as an epigraph for his Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, and must have been well aware of Ovid's nostalgia for a time when there was no state and "everyone of his own will kept faith and did the right." But he found the most dramatic presentation of libertarian views in the Antigone of Sophocles. In this great drama of rebellion the central conflict was between the spirited Antigone and her uncle Creon, a not unkind man who had just ascended the throne of Thebes. Corrupted a little already by his power, blinded more than a little already by bureaucratic definitions of right and wrong, and advancing specious reasons of state as justification for his actions, Creon forbade the burial of the dead traitor Polynices. Driven by love for her slain brother and more by her awareness of the unambiguous commands of the gods to bury the dead, Antigone defied Creon's order. When she was brought before the king, she proudly avowed her defiance:
For it was not Zeus who proclaimed these to me, nor Justice who dwells with the gods below; it was not they who established these laws among men. Nor did I think that your proclamations were so strong, as, being a mortal, to be able to transcend the unwritten and immovable laws of the gods. For not something now and
RICHARD DRINNON, before becoming Bruern Fellow in American Civilisation at the University of Leeds, was an instructor in the social sciences at the University of Minnesota and assistant professor of history at the University of California. His biography of the American anarchist Emma Goldman, Rebel in Paradise was published in 1961.
yesterday, but forever these live, and no one knows from what time they appeared. I was not about to pay the penalty of violating these to the gods, fearing the presumption of any man.1
In his lecture on the individual and the state, which became the essay printed first as "Resistance to Civil Government" and later under the famous title "Civil Disobedience," Thoreau echoed Antigone's magnificent lines in his admission that "it costs me less in every sense to incur the penalty of disobedience to the State than it would to obey" and in his declaration that "they only can force me who obey a higher law than I." Like Sophocles' heroine, Thoreau made quite clear his rejection of the Periclean argument of Creon that the highest responsibility of the individual must be to the state and his rejection of the later Platonic assumption of a pleasing harmony between the laws of man and the laws of the gods. The kernel of Thoreau's politics was his belief in a natural or higher law; for the formulation of his essay on this subject, his indebtedness to the Greek tragedian was considerable.
Yet no single work provided Thoreau with his key concept.2 In his day the doctrine of a fundamental law still covered Massachusetts like a ground fog. It had survived the classical period, had become the eternal law of Aquinas, the anti-papal fundamental law of Wycliffe, and, through Calvin, Milton, and Locke, had flowed across the Atlantic to furnish the colonists with their indispensable "Word of God." The more secular emphasis of the eighteenth century on the "unalienable Rights" possessed by every individual in a state of nature made little difference in end result — little difference at least in doctrine, for all along men had thought it natural for a higher law to be the basis for legislation. In nineteenth-century Massachusetts the existence of a fundamental, higher law was accepted by radicals such as Alcott and Garrison, by liberals such as William Ellery Channing, and by conservatives such as Justice Joseph Story. These older countrymen of Thoreau were joined by Emerson, whose essay on "Politics," published five years before "Civil Disobedience," had a more direct influence on the young rebel. To be sure, Emerson approached the crass Toryism of Chancellor Kent in discussing "higher law" by attaching it to the power of property. But Emerson was usually much better — at his worst he could sound like an early incarnation of Bruce Barton — than his lines on wealth and property would suggest; most of "Politics" was on the higher ground of a radical Jeffersonianism:
Hence the less government we have the better — the fewer laws and the less confided power. The antidote to this abuse of formal government is the influence of private character, the growth of the Individual … the appearance of the wise man; of whom the existing government is, it must be owned, but a shabby imitation … To educate the wise man the State exists, and with the appearance of the wise man the State expires. The appearance of character makes the State unnecessary. The wise man is the State.3
Emerson even averred that "good men must not obey the laws too well."
The similarity of Emerson's point of view and even his language to Thoreau's must be clear to anyone who has carefully read "Civil Disobedience." Living where he did when he did, Thoreau could hardly have escaped the doctrine of a higher law. It was hardly fortuitous that all the most notable American individualist anarchists — Josiah Warren, Ezra Heywood, William B. Greene, Joshua K. Ingalls, Stephen Pearl Andrews, Lysander Spooner, and Benjamin Tucker — came from Thoreau's home state of Massachusetts and were his contemporaries. Tying the development of American anarchism to native traditions and conditions, Tucker uttered only a little white exaggeration when he clamed that he and his fellow anarchists were "simply unterrified Jeffersonian democrats."4
Thus the doctrine of higher law, as Benjamin Wright once remarked, logically leads to philosophical anarchism. True, but this truth can be misleading without the warning note that the logic has to be followed out to the end. Half-way covenants can lead to something very different. John Cotton, for instance, believed in a higher law, yet came down on the side of authority and the Massachusetts estab-lishment; Roger Williams believed no less in a higher law, yet came down on the side of freedom and the individual. Like all ideas, that of a higher law could become a weapon in the hands of groups and institutions. For Thomas Aquinas lex aeterna meant the supremacy of the church, for Thomas Hobbes the "Law of Nature'' meant the supremacy of the state. For Jefferson and Paine, natural law meant revolution and the establishment of a counter state. But for Thoreau it meant no supremacy of church over state or vice versa, or of one state over another, or of one group over another. It meant rather the logical last step of individual action. Belief in higher law plus practice of individual direct action equal anarchism. "I must conclude that Conscience, if that be the name of it," wrote Thoreau in the Week, "was not given us for no purpose, or for a hindrance." From Antigone to Bronson, Alcott, Thoreau, and Benjamin Tucker, the individuals who acted on the imperatives of their consciences, "cost what it may," were anarchists.5
So much for the main sources and the master pillars of Thoreau's political position. I have argued that in those crucial matters in which expediency was not applicable, it added up to anarchism. But the question of whether this made, him a workaday anarchist lands us in the middle of a tangle. Was Thoreau really an individualist, an anarchist, or both, or neither? Emma Goldman defined anarchism as "the philosophy of a new social order based on liberty unrestricted by man-made law" and once spent an evening in Concord vainly trying to persuade Franklin Sanborn that under this definition Thoreau was an anarchist. Joseph Wood Krutch doubts that Thoreau felt a direct responsibility for any social order, old or new, and stresses his "defiant individualism."6 Sherman Paul, on the other hand, laments that "one of the most persistent errors concerning Thoreau that has never been sufficiently dispelled is that Thoreau was an anarchical individualist."7 Still, "Thoreau was not an anarchist but an individualist," argues John Haynes Holmes.8 The tangle becomes impassable with Paul's additional observation that Thoreau "was not objecting to government but to what we now call the State."
There are two main reasons for this muddle. Thoreau was himself partially responsible. His sly satire, his liking for wide margins for his writing, and his fondness for paradox provided ammunition for widely divergent interpretations of "Civil Disobedience." Thus, governments being but experiments, he looks forward to a day when men will be prepared for the motto: "That government is best which governs not at all." The reader proceeds through some lines highly critical of the American government, only to be brought up sharp, in the third paragraph, by the sweet reasonableness of the author: "But, to speak practically and as a citizen, unlike those who call themselves no-government men, I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government." Those who discount Thoreau's radicalism snap up this sentence which seems clear on the face of it: Do not think me an extremist like the Garrisonians and anarchists, he seems to be saying, but think of me as one who moderately desires a better government now. But is this all he wants? Might he not favour, a little later, no government? Shattered by this doubt, the reader is thrown forward into another bitter attack on the American government and on the generic state. It becomes increasingly clear that critics who have tried to put together a governmentalist from Thoreau's writings on politics have humourlessly missed the point. He does indeed say that he will take what he can get from the state, but he also twits himself a little for inconsistency: "In fact, I quietly declare war with the State, after my fashion, though I will still make what use and get what advantage of her I can, as is usual in such cases." Compare Thoreau's wry position here with that of Alex Comfort, the English anarchist, written a hundred years later: "We do not refuse to drive on the left hand side of the road or to subscribe to national health insurance. The sphere of our disobedience is limited to the sphere in which society exceeds its powers and its usefulness …"9 But let us back up a bit. What was the nature of the "better government" he wanted at once? Obviously it was one that would stay strictly in its place and ungrow — progressively cease to exist. What was the "best government" he could imagine? He has already told us and the essay as a whole supports his declaration: a government "which governs not at all."
But the main obstacle to any clear cut identification of Thoreau's politics has been the uncertain shifting borders of anarchism, liberalism, and socialism in the nineteenth century and after. No series of definitions has succeeded in decisively marking out their frontiers. Stephen Pearl Andrews, for instance, the erudite contemporary of Thoreau, conceived of himself as at one and the same time a believer in the socialism of Charles Fourier and the anarchism of Josiah Warren. The intermingling of socialism and anarchism is further illustrated by Mikhail Bakunin, the founder of communist anarchism, who thought of himself as a socialist and fought Marx for the control of the First International. Even Marx has been called an ultimate anarchist, in the sense that he presumably favoured anarchism after the state withered away. But perhaps the closest analogue to Thoreau was William Morris. Working closely with Peter Kropotkin for a number of years, Morris rejected the parliamentarians and joined forces with the libertarians in the Socialist League of the 1880's — the League was eventually taken over completely by anarchists! — and wrote News from Nowhere which was anarchist in tone and sentiment. Yet his explanation of why he refused to call himself an anarchist was obviously confused and showed that he was rejecting individualist anarchism and not Kropotkin's communist anarchism.10
A somewhat comparable confusion mars a recent attempt to analyze Thoreau's position. He was not "an anarchical individualist," argues Paul, because he went to Walden not "for himself alone but to serve mankind." It would be easy to quote passages from Walden which seem to call this contention into question. One example: "What good I do, in the common sense of that word, must be aside from my main path, and for the most part wholly unintended." Another: "While my townsmen and women are devoted in so many ways to the good of their fellows, I trust that one at least may be spared to other and less humane pursuits."11 Yet this would be to read Thoreau literally. Unquestionably, as he informed us in "Civil Disobedience," he was "as desirous of being a good neighbour as I am of being a bad subject." The distinction was crucial. Though he served the state by declaring war on it, in his own way, he served society for a lifetime by trying to understand and explain Concord to itself. The manageable unit of society — unlike the vast abstraction in Washington or even Boston — was drawn to the human scale of Concord and other villages. If men lived simply and as neighbours, informal patterns of voluntary agreement would be established, there would be no need for police and military protection, since "thieving and robbery would be unknown,"12 and there would be freedom and leisure to turn to the things that matter. Thoreau's community consciousness was the essential, dialectical other of his individuality. Consider the following from Walden:
It is time that villages were universities, and their elder inhabitants the fellows of universities, with leisure … to pursue liberal studies the rest of their lives. Shall the world be confined to one Paris or one Oxford forever? Cannot students be boarded here and get a liberal education under the skies of Concord? … Why should our life be in any respect provincial? If we will read newspapers, why not skip the gossip of Boston and take the best newspaper in the world at once … As the nobleman of cultivated taste surrounds himself with whatever conduces to his culture — genius — learning — wit — books — paintings — statuary — music — philosophical instruments and the like; so let the village do … To act collectively is according to the spirit of our institutions … Instead of noblemen, let us have noble villages of men.13
One nobleman who also agitated for noble villages was the anarchist Kropotkin. He could have agreed completely with Thoreau's preoccupation with his locality and his readiness to act collectively "in the spirit of our institutions." In Mutual Aid (1902), Kropotkin celebrated the vital growth of society in the ancient Greek and medieval cities; he sadly outlined the consequences of the rise of centralization when the state "took possession, in the interest of minorities, of all the judicial, economical, and administrative functions which the village community already had exercised in the interest of all." Like Thoreau, Kropotkin advocated that the community's power be restored and that local individuality and creativity be left free to develop. The closeness of their views — though Kropotkin must have thought Thoreau too much an individualist like Ibsen! — points up the mistake of Sherman Paul and others in equating the "anti-social" with the "anarchical". Society and the state, as Thoreau and Kropotkin were very much aware, should not be confused or identified.
The definition of Emma Goldman quoted above will have to do for our purposes, then, though we must keep in mind its approximate nature and the greased-pole slipperiness of the political theory from which Thoreau's views are so often confidently said to have differed. Under this definition Thoreau was always an anarchist in matters of conscience, an ultimate anarchist for a time "when men are prepared for it," and in the meanwhile an anarchical decentralist. But enough of this attempt to stuff the poet and mystic in one political slot. Actually Thoreau's writings may yet help to explode all our conventional political categories.
"We scarcely know whether to call him the last of an older race of men, or the first of one that is to come," admitted an English critic in The Times Literary Supplement for 12 July, 1917. "He had the toughness, the stoicism, the unspoilt senses of an Indian, combined with the self-consciousness, the exacting discontent, the susceptibility of the most modern. At times he seems to reach beyond our human powers in what he perceives upon the horizon of humanity." With remarkable insight, the writer had perceived Thoreau's perplexing doubleness and had even touched the edge of his higher, profoundly exciting unity.
Of Thoreau's "unspoilt senses of an Indian" and his passion for the primitive there can be no question. "There is in my nature, methinks," he declared in the Week, "a singular yearning toward all wildness." To the end he was convinced that "life consists with wildness." But this conviction did not rest on a sentimental-romantic view of our "rude forefathers." The crude relics of the North American tribes, their improvident carelessness even in the woods, and their "coarse and imperfect use" of nature repelled him. His unpleasant experience of a moose-hunt in Maine led to the reflection: "No wonder that their race is so soon exterminated. I already, and for weeks afterwards, felt my nature the coarser for this part of my woodland experience, and was reminded that our life should be lived as tenderly and daintily as one would pluck a flower."14 Yet Thoreau never gave up his conviction that, standing so close, Indians had a particularly intimate and vital relationship with nature. "We talk of civilizing the Indian," he wrote in the Week, "but that is not the name for his improvement. By the wary independence and aloofness of his dim forest life he preserves his intercourse with his native gods, and is admitted from time to time to a rare and peculiar society with nature. He has glances of starry recognition to which our saloons are strangers."
By way of contrast, "the white man comes, pale as the dawn, with a load of thought, with a slumbering intelligence as a fire raked up, knowing well what he does, not guessing but calculating; strong in community, yielding obedience to authority; of experienced race; of wonderful, wonderful common sense; dull but capable, slow but persevering, severe but just, of little humour but genuine; a labouring man, despising game and sport; building a house that endures, a framed house. He buys the Indian's moccasins and baskets, then buys his hunting-grounds, and at length forgets where he is buried and ploughs up his bones."15 In this list of the bourgeois virtues, the keen, far-reaching social criticism of "Life Without Principle" — first entitled "Higher Law" — and indeed of Walden itself is anticipated. Calculating for the main chance, this obedient white man had cut his way through thousands of Indians in order to rush to the gold diggings in California, "reflect the greatest disgrace on mankind," and "live by luck, and so get the means of commanding the labour of others less lucky, without contributing any value to society! And that is called enterprise! I know of no more startling development of the immorality of trade … The hog that gets his living by rooting, stirring up the soil so, would be ashamed of such company."16 In this powerful essay on "Life Without Principle," he concluded that "there is nothing, not even crime, more opposed to poetry, to philosophy, ay, to life itself, than this incessant business." An economist of importance, as the first chapter of Walden may yet prove to a skeptical world, Thoreau saw clearly that the accumulation of wealth really leads to the cheapening of life, to the substitution for man of the less-than-hog-like creature who calculates and lays up money and even fails to root up the soil in the process. "What is called politics," he wrote in "Life Without Principle," "is comparatively something so superficial and unhuman, that practically I have never fairly recognized that it concerns me at all." The war against Mexico, the scramble for territory and power, and other debauches in nationalism were, he trusted, a different manifest destiny from his own. In his letter to Parker Pillsbury on the eve of the fighting at Fort Sumter, he reported that he did "not so much regret the present condition of things in this country (provided I regret it at all) as I do that I ever heard of it. I know one or two who have this year, for the first time, read a president's message; but they do not see that this implies a fall in themselves, rather than a rise in the president. Blessed were the days before you read a president's message. Blessed are the young for they do not read the president's message."17 Yet, despite all these devastating shafts aimed at the institutions reared up by the "pale as dawn" white man, Thoreau honoured learning as much or more than any man in America. Far from advocating a return to some preliterate bliss, he advocated, in his chapter on "Reading" in Walden, a study of "the oldest and the best" books, whose "authors are a natural and irresistible aristocracy in every society, and, more than kings or emperors, exert an influence on mankind."
Thus Thoreau's doubleness, of which he was well aware: "I find an instinct in me conducting to a mystic spiritual life, and also another to a primitive savage life." It was one of his great achievements to go beyond the polarities of "Civilization and Barbarism" — alternatively attractive poles which drew most of Thoreau's contemporaries helplessly back and forth like metal particles — to come close to a creative fusion: "We go eastward to realize history and study the works of art and literature, retracing the steps of the race," he wrote in the serene summary of his walks. "We go westward as into the future, with a spirit of enterprise and adventure." Thoreau wanted the best for his countrymen from both nature and civilization, past and present. He perceived clearly the meaning of America. It was an opportunity for new beginnings: "The Atlantic is a Lethean stream, in our passage over which we have bad an opportunity to forget the Old World and its institutions. If we do not succeed this time, there is perhaps one more chance for the race left before it arrives on the banks of the Styx; and that is in the Lethe of the Pacific, which is three times as wide." Had he lived with unflagging powers for another decade or so, he might have used his laboriously accumulated notebooks of "Extracts relating to the Indians" to show why the aborigines enjoyed "a rare and peculiar society with nature."18 It is indisputable that his interest in classical mythology, ancient societies, and contemporary tribes was an anthropological concern for the enduring features of life in groups. His interest in savages was much like that of Claude Levi-Strauss and might have been expressed in the latter's words: "The study of these savages does not reveal a Utopian state in Nature; nor does it make us aware of a perfect society hidden deep in the forests. It helps us to construct a theoretical model of society which corresponds to none that can be observed in reality, but will help us to disentangle 'what in the present nature of Man is original, and what is artificial'."19 Thoreau's theoretical model, which came from all his efforts to drive life into a corner and get its measurements, made it clear that the efforts of his neighbours to live for the superfluous made their lives superfluous. Through careful inspection of his model, he was able to see, years before Lenin, that at bottom the state is a club. To co-operate with it, especially in matters of importance, is to deny life, for the state, like a standing army, is organized power and at the disposal of hate. "You must get your living by loving," confidently declared this supposedly narrow village eccentric. Clearly, he aspired to create for his countrymen a "new heaven and a new earth," just as each of Greece's sons had done for her. The look of this new heaven is suggested by a passage in the Week. On Saturday, after he and John had made the long pull from Ball's Hill to Carlisle Bridge, they saw "men haying far off in the meadow, their heads waving like the grass which they cut. In the distance the wind seemed to bend all alike. As the night stole over, such a freshness was wafted across the meadow that every blade of cut grass seemed to teem with life."
To this feeling of the correspondence of man to nature, "so that he is at home in her," Thoreau added poetic intuitions of an individualism to come. With his common sense, he realized that the notorious common sense of his countrymen was insane. The important questions were buried under daily rounds of trivia. Living was constantly deferred. No joyful exuberance was allowed to slip by prudence. Thoreau could have joined William Blake in his belief that "Prudence is a rich, ugly old maid, courted by Incapacity." The incapacity was partly the result of a split between the head and the heart, thought and feeling, and the absurd belief that the intellect alone enables man to meet life. In his final summing up, in the essay "Walking," he warned that the most we can hope to achieve is "Sympathy with Intelligence … a discovery that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy." But his neighbours not only had an overfaith in abstract reasoning and in the general efficacy of the intellect; they also distrusted the body. William Blake could thrust through the prudishness of his time to rediscover the body; hemmed in by the moral sentimentalism of his family, by Emersonian etherealness, and his own confirmed virginity, Thoreau had more difficulty. His embarrassing admission — "what the essential difference between man and woman is, that they should be thus attracted to one another, no one has satisfactorily answered" — is indeed, as Krutch points out, "a real howler."20 Nevertheless, he took a sensuous delight in his body, claiming in the Week that "we need pray for no higher heaven than the pure senses can furnish, a purely sensuous life. Our present senses are but rudiments of what they are destined to become." Here is a body mysticism which placed Thoreau in the tradition of Jacob Boehme and William Blake. It presupposed, Norman Brown observes, that “the consciousness strong enough to endure full life would be no longer Apollonian but Dionysian-consciousness which does not negate any more.”21 Shocked by phallic forms in nature, the stiff-backed Thoreau yet remarked that he worshipped most constantly at the shrine of Pan — Pan, the upright man of the Arcadian fertility cult, famous for his Dionysiac revels with the mountain nymphs! 22 The vision of indivi-duals with spiritual development and the simple animal strength to affirm their bodies was one of the important contributions of this paradoxical celibate. It was a vision sensed and acted upon, in their own ways, by Isadora Duncan and Emma Goldman and Randolph Bourne and Frank Lloyd Wright. It exerts its appeal to the poetic libertarian strain in radicalism, to men as diverse as e. e. cummings, Karl Shapiro, Henry Miller, Paul Goodman, Kenneth Patchen, Herbert Read, the late Albert Camus and Nicolas Berdyaev. A recent, rather extravagant form is perhaps Allen Ginsberg's notion of "Socialist-Co-op Anarchism." In any form it is revolutionary.
"One thing about Thoreau keeps him very near to me," Walt Whitman remarked. "I refer to his lawlessness — his dissent —his going his absolute own road let hell blaze all it chooses."23 Thousands of young people know exactly what Whitman meant. A few perhaps can see that Thoreau's death was his greatest achievement, for it showed that his philosophy had taught him how to die — and therefore how to live. Some can appreciate and understand his two years at Walden Pond. But many are ready, like the young Indian lawyer in South Africa in 1907, to be impressed that Thoreau "taught nothing he was not prepared to practice in himself."24 Like Gandhi, they are ready to draw on Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" for "a new way" of handling political conflict. Thoreau thereby made another major contribution to radical politics, for anarchism and socialism have traditionally been strong on ends and weak or worse on means. It is true that Thoreau was himself unclear about violence, as his splendid tribute to John Brown and his occasional callow observations on war show — "it is a pity," he wrote a correspondent in 1855, "that we seem to require war from time to time to assure us that there is any manhood still left in man."25 Yet he went farther than most in thinking his way through this problem. More importantly, like Antigone he left us the powerful, burning, irresistible appeal of his example. It is as timely as the banner "Unjust Law Exists" which marched beside Camus' "Neither Victims Nor Executioners" in the recent Washington youth demonstrations. It is as timely as Bertrand Russell's sit-down in Trafalgar Square.
It may even help us survive the disease called modern history.
1 Thoreau's sturdy prose translations in the Week, Writings (1906), I, 139-40, may be compared with Gilbert Murray's rhyming verse translation of Antigone (London: Allen & Unwin, 1914), 37-38. As Murray remarked in the introduction, Sophocles seemed to have created the ideal virgin martyr of Greek tragedy almost in spite of his intention; it is highly improbable that he set out to create an anarchist heroine. Yet she demonstrated unforgettably a specific instance of the possible gap between justice and state law and the final responsibility the individual owes to those laws which are above and beyond the Creons of this world. In this ultimate sense Antigone was an anarchist heroine — with reason Henry Nevinson pointed this out years ago in an essay on "An Anarchist Play", Essays in Freedom (London: Duckworth, 1911), 209-14.
2 Thanks to the careful researches of Ethel Seybold, Thoreau: The Quest and the Classics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1951), 16, 17, 24, 66, 75, we know that Thoreau read the Antigone at Harvard and probably twice thereafter, once at the time he was working up his lecture on the dangers of civil obedience and once in the 1850's. Unfortunately Miss Seybold overstates her case by making the Antigone "probably responsible for one whole section of Thoreau's thought and public expression. From it must have come his concept of the divine law as superior to the civil law, of human right as greater than legal right." I say "unfortunately," because her overstatement has allowed some students to dismiss her valid points with rather fatuous pronouncements that Thoreau was merely an "involuntary classicist," that he was a "romanticist" by nature-whatever all this means. That Thoreau could find plenty of "romance" in the revels of the great god Pan, the mysticism of Orpheus, and the naturalness of Homer seems clear to me. In any event, one major inspiration for "Civil Disobedience" was Sophocles' work, first presented about 441 B.C., well in advance of Etienne de Boétie's Discourse sur la Servitude Voluntaire, published in 1577 and suggested as the earliest important source by Edward L. Tinker, New York Times Book Review, 29 March 1942.
3 The Complete Essays (New York: Modern Library, 1940), 431.
4 Quoted in Rudolf Rocker, Pioneers of American Freedom (Los Angeles: Rocker Publications Committee, 1949), 150. A more recent and helpful study of early American anarchism is James J. Martin, Men Against the State (DeKalb, Illinois: Adrian Allen Associates, 1953). The native American anarchists shared with Thoreau yet another Yankee characteristic: they were all members of an entrepreneurial professional middle-class which was integral to a relatively simple economy based on farming and trade. Not unnaturally they tended to assume that the interests of all would be best promoted if the individual were left absolutely free to pursue his self-interest. That is to say, just as they developed higher law doctrine to its logical conclusion, so did they take laissez faire theory beyond the liberals to advocate a marketplace literally without political controls. Fortunately Thoreau did not join these anarchists in their preoccupation with currency manipulation, free banking, economic competition. Aside from being more interesting, the trail Thoreau cut for himself promised to lead somewhere.
5 In 1875 Tucker followed Thoreau's example and refused to pay the poll tax of the town of Princeton, Massachusetts; he was imprisoned in Worcester a short while for his refusal — see Martin, Men against the State, pp. 203-04. It had almost become a habit in the area. Three years before Thoreau spent his night in jail, Alcott was arrested for not paying his poll tax. Thoreau was probably influenced by his example and by the civil disobedience agitation of William Lloyd Garrison and his followers — see Wendell Glick, " 'Civil Disobedience': Thoreau's Attack upon Relativism," Western Humanities Review, VII (Winter, 1952-53), 35-42.
6 Krutch, Henry David Thoreau (New York: William Sloane, 1948), 133-35.
7 Paul, The Shores of America: Thoreau's Inward Exploration (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1958), 75/80, 377. Paul emphasizes Thoreau's willingness to have "governmental interference for the general welfare."
8 Hilmes, "Thoreau's 'Civil Disobedience,''' Christian Century, LXVI (January-June 1949), 787-89.
9 Quoted by Nicolas Walter, "Disobedience and the New Pacifism," Anarchy No. 14 (April 1962), 113. It is worth noting that Walter thinks "Thoreau wasn't an anarchist," though he believes that "the implications of his action and his essay are purely anarchist …" I am sure that Thoreau would have chuckled or perhaps laughed in his full free way had he known this question would still be debated a hundred years after his death.
10 George Woodcock and Ivan Avakumovic, The Anarchist Prince (London: T. V. Boardman, 1950), 216-19. Thoreau's great influence on the English left dates back to this period when many were filled with idealism and with admiration for the "sublime doctrine" of anarchism.
11 Since I have marked up my copy of Walden (New York: Modern Library, 1937), all my citations will be to this edition rather than to the appropriate Walden volume (II) of his Works. Here the quotations are from pp. 65,66.
12 Walden, 156.
13 Walden, 98-100. By all means see Lewis Mumford's fine discussion of Thoreau in his chapter on "Renewal of the Landscape," in The Brown Decades (New York: Dover Publications, 1955), 64-72. Mumford credits Thoreau with the achievement of helping "to acclimate the mind of highly sensitive and civilized men to the natural possibilities of the environment" and gives him a major place in the history of regional planning in America. The influence of Thoreau on Paul Goodman, who describes himself as a "community anarchist", is apparent to anyone who has read his and his brother Percival's Communitas (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1947).
14 Quoted in Albert Keiser, The Indian in American Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1933), 227.
15 Works, I, 52-53; see also 55.
16 "Life without Principle," in Walden, 717.
17 His reference to "manifest destiny" appeared in his letter to H. G. O. Blake, 27 February, 1853; his letter to Pillsbury was dated 10 April, 1861 — The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau, eds. Walter Harding and Carl Bode (New York: New York University Press, 1958), 296, 611.
18 Keiser, The Indian in American Literature, 217-18, "cannot but believe that cruel fate robbed the world of a great work dealing in a sanely realistic yet sympathetic … manner with the child of nature on the American continent …" Perhaps, though it is possible that the Civil War might have undone Thoreau along with so many others. It should be noted that Thoreau shows, in many passages, an intuitive sense of the distinction, made by such modern students as Mircea Eliade, between cyclical archaic time and progressive, cumulative modern time. His works were organized around the former. Indeed the Week might be interpreted as an extended defense of Parmenides's thesis of the permanence of the universe against the Heraclitean progressivism of a nation of boosters (see esp. 54-56, 60, 128, 239, 347, 416). His constant return to the problem of time and its obvious importance for his understanding of man in nature invite a careful, systematic inquiry.
19 Levi-Strauss, "Tristes Aropiques," Encounter, XC (April 1961), 40.
20 Krutch, Thoreau, 207.
21 Brown, Life against Death (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1959), 308-11.
22 Works, I, 65. I should not place any great reliance on this passage, which apparently was valued in part for its shock value, if it stood alone. It does not.
23 Quoted by Walter Harding, A Thoreau Handbook (New York: New York University Press, 1959), 201.
24 Quoted by George Hendrick, "The Influence of Thoreau's 'Civil Disobedience' on Gandhi's Satyagraha," New England Quarterly, XXIX (1956), 464.
25 Letter to Thomas Cholmondeley, 7 February 1855 — see Correspondence of Thoreau, 371.
On Anarchy 25: Science and Technology
NEVER HAVING BEEN AN electronic digital computer programmer or even a hominid palaeontologist, I do indeed yearn for my little womb of pristine safety and simplicity when trying to wade through the multiplicity of artefacts and linguistic symbolism in ANARCHY (for the title and one other word well-known in the movement at least I don't have to lunge for a dictionary). Perhaps I have an anal-sadistic complex or suffered disaster from a fully elective education but, while this can only be probablistic rather than deterministic, and in spite of the elegance of binary arithmetic and the obscurity of Boolean algebra, I am rapidly reaching the conclusion that science has bred a race of ignoramuses. Neurophysiologists will tell us that this is all due to a superstitious fear of teleology but I think with subliminal perception that it is all ball-cock. There is some relief in being assured that we have no oligarchic ganglia and one can only go on to hope that the electronic oscillatory resonant circuit has no more than a transcendental influence.
Cogito, or I try to, ergo sum. But what with all that rotary scansion converting spatial patterns into temporal sequences, not to mention Bionics, biomathematical convergence, habituation, occlusion and homeostasis — Comrades, you see my problem?
Enfield. TONY SMYTHE.
Freedom and Technology
HARRY BAECKER'S CRITICISM OF ANARCHISM in ANARCHY 25, is based on the common misconception that anarchists oppose society. Allied to this misconception is another, that anarchism is a metaphysical doctrine.
It was not an anarchist, but Rousseau, who wrote "Man is born free but is everywhere in chains", which may well have been a logical statement for him, since he was a metaphysical thinker who believed in such abstractions as "the general will"; etc., and for him the word "freedom" had a metaphysical meaning quite different from that which the anarchist gives to the word.
The doctrine of anarchism takes its name from an-archos (Greek) meaning no rule or government. It is based upon the belief that men and women are capable spontaneously of co-operating and working together. If you are a Kropotkinian you will probably believe that each individual will voluntarily limit his freedom or action when he sees that he is harming the interests of his fellows. On the other hand, if you are a disciple of Stirner you will probably believe that the free society is one where individuals conflict with each other, but, since they all have strongly developed egos, including the strength that knows when to give way, the result is a harmonious tension.
Harry Baecker may well regard these ideals as impossibly utopian, and he may well be right, but I am told that he is in sympathy with the general tendency of "Anarchy", which I find surprising, since much of what he writes is not far from extreme Right-wing authoritarianism. (I avoid the word "fascism" because of its emotional force). Like all such authoritarians he has to have a minority group to direct his attacks upon, who have to be represented in an utterly unsympathetic and indeed fantastic way. The anti-semite represents the Jew as dark and greasy, a money-grubber and exploiter, an ugly little devil with whom no-one can have sympathy. No doubt such Jews do exist, just as there are many non-Jews who would answer this description. But in general the anti-semite's Jew is a creation of fantasy. So is Mr. Baecker's "simple lifer."
I don't suppose there is space to describe the various "simple life" doctrines, which are legion, still less to defend them, or some of them, or pick out the good bits and reject the cranky aspects. It would be difficult indeed to define a "simple lifer", much more difficult than to define an anarchist.
There is Thoreau, to go no further back in history, and there is Edward Carpenter with his "simplification of life", and perhaps William Morris would be included by some people, and there are innumerable food-reformers, vegetarians, vegans, naturists and various religious groups; and all are so different that it would be difficult to think of a definition that would cover them all. Yet all could be described as "simple lifers".
On the other hand, though some anarchists are "simple lifers", many are as much believers in technology as Harry Baecker. There is no necessary connection between anarchism, as defined above, and either advanced or primitive technology. One can visualise an anarchist society making use of advanced techniques or of relatively primitive ones, Personally I am more sympathetic to the ideas of the "simple life" than to the attitude which sees in technological progress an end in itself, but what I oppose, and I think many others whom 'Harry Baecker attacks also oppose, is the abuse of technology by commercial and military interests.
Is Harry Baecker also opposed to this? I have my doubts. His finger itches for the trigger. He will shoot people who wander on airfields, if necessary to save the lives of people in an airliner although such a contingency is unlikely in the extreme. More serious is his statement "… and if we find that we could put your corner of paradise to more congenial use we shall probably wrest it from you without pity or remorse." True, he then goes on to apologise by describing violence as the "last resort of the incompetent", but there is no doubt he means to use it. This is the logic of Cortez when he gunned down the Aztecs.
Mr. Baecker might reflect however that even technologically backward people are sometimes remarkably good at defending themselves, as were the Red Indians and the African Negroes, and it is quite possible that he and his technological conquistadors would burn their hands badly, even though they finally succeeded in grabbing the "corner of paradise".
I have found in arguments with people who consider technology a sort of new religion, a bitter intolerance of any who dissent. In creating the imaginary "simple lifer" and then knocking him down, like Aunt Sally, Mr. Baecker does what the Nazis did with the Jews, and I fear that in his technological utopia dissenters might well end in the concentration camp, or equivalent institution. His implicit nihilism has the ring of despair, so often found among militaristic authoritarians. Like Churchill and Pizzarro (who originated the phrase I believe) he offers us blood, toil, tears and sweat, though we know not whence we come or whither we go. (Is it not possible that we go to our destruction through the abuse of technology?). This is not science, it is not rationalism, it is the life vision of a barbarian raider, who lives for the day and to Hell with the morrow.
It may well be that reason, social harmony, freedom, love, tenderness and a just and equal relationship between people are impossible of permanent realisation. It may even be that they are not desirable. What is "Anarchy" for then, if this is so?
I don't know how many anarchists would agree with me, probably many would, when I say that I am quite sure that there will always be enough suffering in the world, from one cause or another, to prevent human beings becoming "soft". This however is a very different thing from offering suffering as something exciting and jolly good fun, as Mr. Baecker seems to do. Again, even without war, even without an authoritarian ruling class, there will always be conflict in the world, occasionally even leading to violence perhaps. This is neither to be deplored necessarily, nor to be a subject of congratulation. The aim of humanity though should always be towards reducing the cruelty of life. Mr. Baecker may rest assured that this effort will be interminable.
To take people's lands from them, to tell them how they must live,
this is not anarchism, or certainly not the sort of anarchism I am interested in. This is the philosophy of the robber not the libertarian.
London. ARTHUR W. ULOTH.
Implications of Freedom
I WOULD LIKE TO SAY ONE OR TWO WORDS ABOUT FREEDOM: not that I think there is any need to defend freedom itself, but, perhaps, people sometimes need to be defended from, or set free of, the misapprehensions concerning freedom to which they are liable. I thought Harry Baecker's article on Homo Aedificans contained a very stimulating analysis of man's commitment to The Machine; but in my eyes it seemed that he held freedom in very low esteem. In his argument the myth of the dispensability of freedom appears again. He says (I think this is a fair summary) that man cannot be truly social unless he understands that he is not entirely free. I would reply that a man cannot be truly social unless he understands that he is entirely free. (N.B. — There are two negatives in the first, and only one in the second). Freedom has two characteristics: it may easily, always be denied; and it is always there. If I introduce the concept of coercion I might be able to make my meaning clearer. Freedom implies, not the absence of coercion, but its impossibility. To be forced to do something ordinarily means to do something, not because one feels or understands its rightness and necessity, but out of fear of the consequences of not doing it (or, which is psychologically not much different, out of desire for the reward for doing it): thus the insuperable difficulty to which coercion is bound by its very nature (and which philosophically invalidates it as an absolute concept) is the impossibility of eliminating what I will call the alternative action. If there were no alternative action, "coercion" as I have described it above would not be necessary. In a philosophical sense, there is a quality of absolute coercion (i.e. determinism) about every action. But the psychological significance or content of every action is its freedom: every action a man performs is a statement concerning himself, it is the declaration (not necessarily conscious) of allegiance to an authority which he himself at some point selected. Thus to be forced to do something is to declare allegiance to one's own fear (or desire) or rather to one's own idea of fear: it is not an allegiance created by "coercion", but merely one revealed by it. If we see history as the continuing endeavour (never absolutely abandoned) of man to stomach his freedom as a fact of life, then we can say that it is not the duty of education (which is indeed concerned with the growth of social responsibility) to be free. (I agree that "A fully elective education would be a disaster for the child" — mainly because it would be impossible) — the duty of education is, not to obscure freedom. All human relationships are threatened by laziness, and authority, which involves the attempt to repress entirely (not necessarily with any deliberate malevolence) any idea of "alternative allegiance", is a considerable danger to the development of the child's consciousness of freedom, that is of his own responsibility for selecting the allegiance his actions declare. (Vide the quotation from Lewin's essay on "Education for Reality" in
ANARCHY 20, p. 317; and chapter III — "The Consciousness of Freedom" — of The informed heart by Bruno Bettelheim (Thames & Hudson 1961) for a discussion of "autonomous decision making".)
The conclusion is, that freedom does possess a certain quality of dangerousness; but it is dangerous, not to man himself, but — in the same way that truth is dangerous to illusion — to the delusions concerning freedom to which man has bound himself. To fear freedom is to fear truth, and to fear truth is to prize illusion above life itself: the consequences are not far to seek.
Elgin, Scotland. MARTIN SMALL.
Cybernetics, errors and anarchism
I WOULD LIKE TO BE ABLE to decipher part of p. 88 of ANARCHY 25 which appears to be a bit mixed up. Line 22 ("control, since the President …") following the line which ends "leading to a slow", seems to have been inserted by mistake, in place of the correct line.
I would be grateful if you could let me know how the article should read in this region, since I'm interested in this question of the cybernetic approach to social organisation, and have for some time considered that it's particularly significant for anarchists. Especially some concerning self-organising systems, and criticisms of rigid hierarchic decision mechanisms, I've heard from leading lights in the field. Unfortunately Grey Walter didn't really go into these questions.
But I find Grey Walter's concluding paragraph very comforting, and would very much like to know exactly what he did say in the part mentioned above.
Manchester. JOHN MCEWAN.
THE EDITOR writes: Sorry, Line 22, p. 88 should read:
oscillation of party majorities. The classic phrase "Government of the
GREY WALTER writes: "I wish I had had time to bring out the anti-political overtones rather more.
Taking pornography seriously
READING MARTIN DANIEL'S ARTICLE on Shock Tactics and Pornography in ANARCHY 25 I felt that there was something missing, and re-reading it I saw more clearly (I think) what that thing was. To describe it briefly, I should say that there is a failure to take pornography seriously. (Remembering that there is virtue in taking everything seriously — everything, that is, except this strange habit of taking things seriously …) To begin: sex is one thing, pornography is another. It is possible to go further: there is sex, and there is thinking about sex, and to be addicted (or at least, to be liable) to thinking in terms of "pornography or not pornography" is to think unrealistically about sex.
Martin Daniel describes the state of homeostasis — "the balanced equilibrium between tension and the release of tension which governs the activity of animals …" (Norman Brown). But the point is that homeostasis is not at the moment a prevalent condition of man The realism of those who fear pornography and demand the suppression of any "tendency to deprave and corrupt" is the realism of those who fear that there is a tendency to be depraved and corrupted: it is an implicit recognition that the equilibrium that they fear will be disrupted is not an equilibrium resting upon tension and the release of tension but upon the suppression of tension — that the "order" which they preserve by law is an order achieved not through the education of understanding and feeling by life but upon the repression of understanding and feeling by an idea, a prejudice, calling itself life. At this point, enter anarchist realism, disguised as a frenzied libertine. The claim of anarchist realism is that the order which is defended against "anarchy" by the public guardians of our moral and spiritual welfare (the order, that is, which is inflicted upon all those who ask for and rely upon this defence) is not only nothing more than a fear of disorder, but that, even worse, it is merely a concealment of disorders: for what works more chaos than the repression of our feeling and understanding out of fear of the consequences of accepting them? There is no point in denying that to reveal disorder is not the same as to establish the true order of life, but
…Man who man would be,
Must rule the empire of himself; in it
Must be supreme, establishing his throne
On vanquished will, quelling the anarchy
Of hopes and fears, being himself alone. (SHELLEY)
To the man who is slave to his idea of the pornographic this idea may appear to him to the very meaning of life: if, in Martin Daniel's words, "one must admit sex to be mysteriously close to the springs of life", may we not understand that those who wish to ban pornography are afraid that, to abandon their idea of pornography would be to relinquish contact with the springs of life — in fact, perhaps it is even part of the obsessive fear of castration? Purveyors, devotees, adherents, enemies and slaves of pornography must understand that their attitude to sex (their belief in pornography) is something other than sex itself, and that the abandonment of the former is not a threat to the latter but rather a prerequisite to appreciating it fully. And this is a part of the great battle to demonstrate to people that life is greater than any attitudes to life, and that while the latter are of more importance to men than life itself fear for their destruction will rule our lives and prostitute the qualities of freedom, truth and love in the service of this fear. (Like Freud, I doubt whether art can ever be more than what, at its greatest, it has always been — the delineation of the events of the battle, the record of defeats and the expression of the unconquerable hope of victory: and sometimes, when its sound has been most beautiful, a cry of despair in this hope which may not be conquered). But, if we wish to go beyond the rule of fear, we must not deny fear: we must suggest, by in our own lives practising, a re-evaluation.
Moray. P. PLUSCARDEN.