What comes naturally
Nicholas Walter's introduction to Anarchism, reviewed by Colin Ward
Nicolas Walter, who edited this journal for ten of the twenty-four years of his working life with the RPA, had a parallel reputation in the anarchist movement. He had perfected the art of writing letters to editors of the daily and weekly press that were so sharp and succinct that at least 2000 of them were published. When he died in March 2000, his many friends regretted that despite his vast output of articles, reviews, biographical sketches and introductions to classics, Nicolas had written hardly any books. Some kind of perfectionism made him decline invitations from publishers, or to pass them on to less scrupulous authors like the present writer.ABOUT ANARCHISM
£3.50 paperback In this respect the humanists were more fortunate than the anarchists, for he did complete his RPA books on blasphemy, and his Humanism: What's in the Word. His pamphlets on nonviolent resistance and About Anarchism both originated as articles in the monthly Anarchy. The second of these obviously filled a need and was instantly reprinted as a pamphlet in 1969, and had five further reprints by 1977 as well as translations into many languages.
He resisted further reprints until he had revised the text, and this handsome little book incorporates those revisions he had made, but not the ones that were never completed, relating to the impact on anarchism of feminism and environmentalism. His daughter, Natasha Walter, provides an informative and affectionate introduction.
As we would expect, Nicolas presents anarchism as a natural response of ordinary people to the problems presented by the society they are born into. He appeals to reason at every stage. He notes for example, that all states are certainly authoritarian, but that some are more authoritarian than others, "and every normal person would prefer to live under a less authoritarian rather than a more authoritarian one." But he doesn't make this an argument for participation in the machinery of state. He is, rather, arguing for devoting energy to anarchist alternatives.
Similarly, he notes that there are half a dozen varieties of anarchism: individualism, mutualism, anarcho-communism, syndicalism and so on, but that only dogmatists see the distinctions between them as important: "Thus in our private lives we are individualists, doing our own things and choosing our companions and friends for personal reasons; in our social lives we are mutualists, making free agreements with each other, and giving what we have and getting what we need by equal exchanges with each other; in our working lives we would mostly be collectivists, joining our colleagues in producing for the common good and in the management of work we would mostly be syndicalists, joining our colleagues in deciding how the job should be done; in our political lives we would mostly be communists, joining our neighbours in deciding how the community should be run." It's an attractive, persuasive political testament.
About Anarchism is available from Amazon (UK).