Saturday, May 22, 2010

Colin Ward : the anarchist of everyday life :

Wednesday 9 June at 8pm

The Postmen's Office at the North London Community House,
22 Moorefield Road, London, N17.[The old Post Office]
The venue is just around the corner from Bruce Grove British Rail Station, where Bruce Grove meets the High Road in Tottenham. Any High Road bus is OK. Wheelchair accessible.

Glyn Harries introduces us to the anarchist and social theorist, author of nearly 30 books on a wide range of questions, who died in February of this year. We would like to celebrate his life.
(Selections from the DVD Colin Ward in conversation with Roger Deakin will also be shown.)

Colin Ward was the editor of the newspaper Freedom for a number of years,and was also the founding editor of the influential journal Anarchy from 1961 to 1970, which was described as the most original political/intellectual monthly journal being published at that time.

He became influenced by anarchist ideas after being conscripted into the army and ended up in Glasgow where he saw many of the local anarchist orators in action. In 1945 he was summoned as a witness to the trial of the editors of Freedom who were being prosecuted by the government for 'incitement to disaffection' with the publication of War Commentary. Ward, an avid reader of these anarchist publications, had been found with these in his possession and had to appear at the Old Bailey.

In 1973 his most famous book was published: Anarchy in Action, a work that has been translated into many languages. In this Colin Ward presents an alternative view of anarchism, he says: 'The argument of this book is that an anarchist society, a society which organises itself without authority, is always in existence, like a seed beneath the snow buried under the weight of the state and its bureaucracy....Of the many possible interpretations of anarchism the one presented here suggests that, far from being a speculative vision of a future society, it is a description of a mode of human organisation, rooted in the experience of everyday life....'

This idea is perhaps his most distinctive contribution. He elaborated it in his approach to the welfare state, calling the voluntary, non state option the path not taken, and returned to the theme of social policy several times over the years.

His published books cover a range of topics with perceptive criticisms of the social world and its problems and possible practical anarchist solutions to them. Colin Ward saw his body of work as integral from an anarchist point of view. The topics covered included town planning, housing, vandalism, education, child care, the politics of water etc. He was an acknowledged expert on tenants and housing. He also wrote histories on squatting, self-help housing of the working class, allotments and self-built holiday camps. His prolific writing resulted from what he saw his role as being: essentially that of an anarchist propagandist.

In the 2003 book Talking Anarchy Colin Ward is interviewed by David Goodway in what is an interesting and thought provoking biographical work. His influences from Kropotkin, Landauer and Goodman are clearly shown, as well as how he chose the topics that he wrote about.

The meeting will discuss the ideas and writings of Colin Ward, his achievements and how these can be used by anarchists and libertarians, now and in the future.

Freedom obituary of Colin Ward

Guardian obituary of Colin Ward

1 comment:

  1. The Value of Eye-Witness Accounts
    By Brian Bamford
    CENTRAL to Colin Ward's critique of anarchist analysis and practice in the 1960s, was his belief that it was too obsessed with history and historical accounts. That is too focused on the historical narrative of what had transpired in earlier times, and lacking an awareness of the here and now, and what people like me who have been brought up in anthropological study or ethnomethodology may call 'the missing what-ness'.
    In May 2011, I gave [a] paper at the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair entitled: 'Pro. Preston and George Orwell: The varieties of historical investigation and experience'. It was an attempt to access the qualitative value differing accounts such as that of the academic historian Professor Paul Preston and George Orwell's more ethnographic eye-witness studies and descriptions.
    For more go to