Reading Talking Anarchy

I’m reading a little book called Talking Anarchy which is an extended interview with a guy named Colin Ward, because Danny is obsessed with him right now and made me watch a documentary about New Towns with him in it. This book looked a little boring, but in the good way that’s great once you get into it, like Moby Dick, but much shorter and with more breaks to look up people’s names in Wikipedia. So far I’m enjoying:

– Ward’s comments on cooperatives and anarchasocialism (that having somewhat of a Kropotkin-y socialist bent doesn’t mean you love giant centralized state authorities)

– His strategy for dealing with overly fervent nationalists who won’t listen to any criticisms of their favorite country: mockery is the only thing that works. (For whatever definition of “works”… which I guess is, makes you feel better and they don’t shoot you for it)

– His optimism about not everything being an enormous Ford like conglomerate. Sadly this is the bit where I turned to the front of the book to check the date (2003) Things seem to continue turning more toward enormous conglomerates (agriculture… shipping… etc) This is not the homebrew industrial revolutiony future we had hoped for.

– His description of Marie Louise Berneri‘s outrage at not being jailed for her pacifist crimes because of sexist law that she and her husband were one person and so he went to jail and she didn’t

– So far, his lack of sexist douchery, so rare and precious, that he is a guy who doesn’t discount women automatically on every possible ground and instead whole heartedly appears to have engaged with women anarchists and describes them with respect as important in the movement and in public discourse

– For example I really want to know more about Lilian Wolfe who ran the Freedom Press office for 25 years and sounds like a great person. I will just quote this bit, because I really liked it.

In 1943, Lilian Wolfe, who had been running a food shop in Stroud, Gloucestershire, abandoned it at the age of sixty-seven, in order to manage the office of Freedom Press in London. She died at ninety-eight in 1974, and Nicolas Walter explained how “For more than twenty-five years Lilian Wolfe was the centre of the administration of Freedom Press at its various premises in London. She was the person on whom every organization depends — the completely reliable worker who runs the office, opening and closing the shop, answering the telephone and the post, doing accounts and keeping people in touch. She maintained personal contact with the thousands of people who read the paper…” This was certainly true in my case. When I wrote, obscurely, from a military address, she would reply and would send me copies of journals from overseas, like La Protesta from Buenos Aires and L’Adunata from New York.

Ward talks about Wolfe a lot throughout the interviews but hasn’t gotten to the part where she goes to prison in 1916 for being a pacifist anarchist along with the Freedom Press folks. (She did not just pop up whole and pure out of the food shop in Stroud, obviously). I’d like to read a whole biography of her!

Last night reading the introduction I was delightfully derailed by two casual mentions of people (thus the long Wikipedia rabbit hole journey)

– Ward’s English teacher, or maybe just AN English teacher at the high school he went to, was “(…the father of the well-known poet and critic, Kathleen Raine, who was to write venomously and extremely snobbishly of him, the school, and Ilford in her first volume of autobiography, Farewell Happy Fields) ” I am tempted to look for that book! Anyone so venomous as to deserve three adverbs in one sentence must be great.

– Another charmingly parenthetical person, his next door office neighbor’s relative… “Next door to his office, Caulfield — who was brother-in-law to Britain’s solitary Futurist painter, C.R.W. Nevinson — let a flat at 28 Emperor’s Gate to Miron Grindea, the Romanian editor of the long-running little magazine, Adam.” OMG. Britain’s only Futurist painter sounds so very lonely! When I looked him up, he wasn’t really, it was just that he was thrown out of the Vorticists by Wyndham Lewis for writing a manifesto and publishing it all their names without consulting anyone. I like his paintings, but he sounds awfully cranky.

Miron Grindea, also fabulous. He sounds like a kindred spirit.

A connection made, too, where I realized I own a copy of BLAST, the Vorticist magazine. And also I suddenly imagined Nevinson the lonely Futurist as a character in Dance to the Music of Time (which, god knows, he’s probably in there, everyone else is.)

Danny not really obsessed with Colin Ward but, good god, if I find out the revolution I wanted was in my Houston backyard I would also be mad. Actually it sort of was and I was pissed off even in 1986 about not personally being part of the Legion of Doom. You are always just THAT CLOSE to the thing you want and maybe you are even IT — right now.

I’m sure this should be more about my theories of anarchy than about gossip about dead people, but gossip is part of my daily praxis. So there. Office managers of the world, unite.

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