Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow

Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow: Left-Libertarian Thought and British Writers from William Morris to Colin Ward

Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow
    Book Description:

    From William Morris to Oscar Wilde to George Orwell, left-libertarian thought has long been an important but neglected part of British cultural and political history. In Anarchist Seeds beneath the Snow, David Goodway seeks to recover and revitalize that indigenous anarchist tradition. This book succeeds as simultaneously a cultural history of left-libertarian thought in Britain and a demonstration of the applicability of that history to current politics. Goodway argues that a recovered anarchist tradition could – and should – be a touchstone for contemporary political radicals. Moving seamlessly from Aldous Huxley and John Cowper Powys to the war in Iraq, this challenging volume will energize leftist movements throughout Britain and the rest of the world.

    eISBN: 978-1-84631-255-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. x-xii)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    This book was strongly recommended to the commissioning editor of one of Britain’s best-known firms by a reputable historian whose latest work he was publishing. The editor replied that personally he would be extremely interested but he would never dare to take it to his editorial board. The problem presumably lay in my subject, for anarchism continues to engender at the beginning of the twenty-first century the passionate opposition it aroused at the end of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries when it became irretrievably associated with bomb-throwing and violence, a violence that has re-erupted in recent years with the widely...

  6. 2 Anarchism and libertarian socialism in Britain: William Morris and the background, 1880–1920
    (pp. 15-34)

    The first indigenous anarchist groups and journals in Britain only date from the 1880s and the belated revival of socialism – ‘revival’ because Owenite socialism had flourished in the 1830s and 1840s. London, in particular, afforded sanctuary in the late–Victorian and Edwardian decades for militants from continental Europe fleeing repression by their governments and there was much interaction between them and the tiny numbers of local anarchists, whom initially they often converted. Henry Seymour, a Proudhonist and admirer of Tucker, brought out theAnarchistin 1885—6. Kropotkin, who from 1877 had lived in Switzerland and France – moved...

  7. 3 Edward Carpenter
    (pp. 35-61)

    Edward Carpenter’s first significant works,Towards Democracy, England’s IdealandCivilization: Its Cause and Cure, appeared in the 1880s and from the 1890s the second two – above allCivilization: Its Cause and Cure– and later titles were selling extremely well. By 1919 16,000 copies ofEngland’s Idealhad been printed and 21,000 ofCivilization: Its Cause and Cure, and by 1921 no fewer than 30,000 of the complete edition ofTowards Democracy, which had been published only as recently as 1905, whileLove’s Coming-of-Ageof 1896 reached 14,000 with Allen & Unwin by 1916 and had gone into a...

  8. 4 Oscar Wilde
    (pp. 62-92)

    Forty to fifty years ago Oscar Wilde’s reputation in Britain depended largely on his dazzling wit, dandyism and brilliant plays. Since then the movement for and the attainment of homosexual liberation in Western Europe and North America have led, particularly given the brutality of his two years’ imprisonment with hard labour, to his canonization as a gay ‘icon’; but the same period has additionally seen his acceptance as a major all-round writer. This second process began with the publication in 1962 of Rupert Hart-Davis’s magisterial edition of Wilde’s correspondence, not only printing for the first time the full text of...

  9. 5 John Cowper Powys I: His life-philosophy and individualist anarchism
    (pp. 93-122)

    Two chapters in this book are devoted to John Cowper Powys, whom most readers are likely to consider an improbable choice for even one. Such attention is justified for three reasons: the originality and importance of his life-philosophy and its contribution to anarchist thought; the reformulation of his socio-political outlook as a result of the Spanish Revolution and the resultant impact on his fiction and other writings; and the still insufficient appreciation of his literary achievement.

    Between 1929 and 1951 Powys published a series of major novels:Wolf Solent, A Glastonbury Romance, Weymouth Sands, Maiden Castle, Owen GlendowerandPorius....

  10. 6 The Spanish Revolution and Civil War – and the case of George Orwell
    (pp. 123-148)

    On the first day of 1936 Emma Goldman wrote to John Cowper Powys from London, having been given his address in North Wales by their mutual friend, Maurice Browne, the English founder of the important avant-garde Chicago Little Theatre.¹ Goldman had been born in 1869 in Lithuania, and at the age of sixteen emigrated with a sister from St Petersburg to the USA. On her arrival three years later in New York she was converted to anarchism by the German Johann Most and met Alexander Berkman, a fellow Lithuanian Jew, who became first her lover and later her lifelong intimate....

  11. 7 John Cowper Powys II: The impact of Emma Goldman and Spain
    (pp. 149-174)

    How well, it needs to be asked, did Emma Goldman and John Cowper Powys know one another before 1936? And how and when did they first meet? The evidence, printed and unprinted, is tantalizingly sparse. Goldman, in an early letter after contact was re-established, recalled finding his sister ‘once when I came to see you… at work on lace-making’.¹ This was Marian Powys, who had travelled from England to New York in December 1913, was shortly to share apartments with her brother on West 12th Street in Greenwich Village, went on to open a lace shop in Washington Square, and...

  12. 8 Herbert Read
    (pp. 175-201)

    John Cowper Powys was a prodigious original, as idiosyncratic in his politics – and his expression of them – as in everything else. Herbert Read was his opposite, admiring the works of Flaubert and James and the novella, certainly not the big, baggy monsters that Powys loved and produced, and reticent and unobtrusive other than in his roles as the most prominent British advocate for modern art as well as the best-known anarchist of his day.

    It was the impact of the Spanish Revolution that caused Read to declare for anarchism in 1937 – at first extremely mutedly in the...

  13. 9 War and pacifism
    (pp. 202-211)

    Herbert Read was a military hero who had seriously considered in 1918 staying in the army and making his career there; but his opinions changed dramatically in the course of the succeeding decade and he was eventually to become an advocate of Gandhian non–violence. In this he was not exceptional, a significant minority, some of them also former soldiers, reaching similar conclusions during the interwar years.

    Almost 700,000 Britons had been killed during the First World War, and to this figure needs to be added 200,000 (almost a third of them Indian) from various parts of the empire. Another...

  14. 10 Aldous Huxley
    (pp. 212-237)

    Aldous Huxley was born in 1894 into what Noel Annan has influentially analyzed as ‘the intellectual aristocracy’. His grandfather, the biologist Thomas Henry Huxley, was ‘Darwin’s bulldog’; and his father Leonard, Charles Darwin’s godson and T.H. Huxley’s biographer, was to become in the early-twentieth century editor of Thackeray’sCornhill Magazine, albeit long after its Victorian prime. On his mother’s side, one great-uncle was the poet and critic Matthew Arnold, another great-uncle W.E. Forster, the Liberal politician responsible for the Education Act of 1870, his great-grandfather Dr Thomas Arnold of Rugby, and his aunt Mrs Humphrey Ward, author ofRobert Elsmere...

  15. 11 Alex Comfort
    (pp. 238-259)

    At first sight it may seem bathetic to follow a chapter on Aldous Huxley with a discussion of Alex Comfort, that theirs is a grossly unequal proximity: Huxley one of the most admired and widely read novelists of the first half of the twentieth century and Comfort a mere sexologist. Yet although the brilliant dystopianBrave New Worldcontinues to impress, Huxley’s formerly vastly admired novels of the 1920s –Crome Yellow, Antic Hay, Those Barren Leaves, Point Counter Point– hold up much less well. On the other hand, Comfort’s achievements as a pioneering scientist and acclaimed creative writer...

  16. 12 Nuclear disarmament, the New Left – and the case of E.P. Thompson
    (pp. 260-287)

    The Second World War culminated with the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The twin problems which were now to confront both pacifists and pacificists were nuclear weapons and the Cold War; but a surprisingly long time was to elapse before sustained campaigns against the testing and possession of nuclear weapons got under way in the late 1950s. As early as 1945 Alex Comfort observed: ‘The atomic bomb is not different in kind or in result from the other weapons and methods of war which characterize contemporary society…’¹ To most participants in the future nuclear disarmament movement this...

  17. 13 Christopher Pallis
    (pp. 288-308)

    Christopher Pallis was the principal writer, translator and thinker of the Solidarity Group, which was at its most active and exerted greatest influence in Britain during the 1960s and the first half of the 1970s. It was a section of the Old Left which broke away to become, it can now be seen, part of the New Left, although it has never been accepted as such – especially since it almost immediately passed beyond any recognizable Marxism to a fully left-libertarian position, while largely holding back from the self-description of ‘anarchist’. Pallis, in particular, was always extremely critical of anarchism...

  18. 14 Colin Ward
    (pp. 309-325)

    Colin Ward is one of the great radical figures of the past half-century, but his impact has been subterranean. His name is little mentioned by commentators and is scarcely known to the wider, intelligent public, even in his native Britain. A striking indication of his intellectual and institutional marginality is that he does not even possess a regular commercial publisher. In aFestschriftintended at least in part to remedy this unsatisfactory state of affairs, the editor, Ken Worpole, ably demonstrated the correspondence between Ward’s concerns and contemporary debates and problems.¹ I suspect that Ward himself would contend that this...

  19. 15 Conclusion
    (pp. 326-338)

    Mass, working-class anarchism had flourished throughout Europe and the Americas from the 1860s down to the First World War, and then principally in the Hispanic world until the calamitous defeat of the Spanish Revolution, more by Stalinist counter-revolution than by the ultimate triumph of Francoism. Thereafter only isolated pockets seem – the historical record is as yet extremely unclear – to have survived as, for example, in Cuba until that movement was hounded into extinction after the Revolution of 1959.¹

    It has been seen that in Britain pure anarchism – unlike the broader libertarianism during the second decade of the...

  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 339-381)
  21. Index
    (pp. 382-401)