George Walford: Editorial (59)

Although our critics may find it hard to believe, we read them with enjoyment and take account of what they say. Some of the compliments on the cover of this issue cancel out. Can a theory be both mystical and mechanical? Can mere drivel undermine libertarian impulses? The others show a tendency to dismiss us as reactionary (though the word itself seems to be out of fashion), and in one sense this is justified. Advances in thinking do not consist simply of additions, they also comprise rejection of much that was formerly accepted, and in that sense we do react against reformist and revolutionary theories.

It’s time somebody did. The last major development in political thinking was the appearance of anarchism over a century ago; Kropotkin founded Freedom in 1886. Since that time socialists, communists and anarchists have been digging themselves into a pit of self-reference and internecine conflict. We have had two world wars, uncounted smaller ones, unemployment, insecurity, terrorism, repeated attempts at genocide, mass starvation on a scale never known before and one big novelty, the prospect of exterminating ourselves, whether by radioactivity or by wrecking our environment. Having failed to prevent these things, the radicals offer nothing more promising than a continuation of their previous efforts.

One massive attempt at a free and equal society has collapsed in ruins after long agony, another is returning on its tracks, and the observation that neither Russia nor China has ever been a socialist country only strengthens the point: their rulers used every available means to make them so, and they failed. So far as anything ever can be proven in social affairs, it has been proven that the society of freedom and co-operation cannot be imposed; if it is to come it has to be set up by the people themselves and few show any interest; the movements working for it remain among the smallest.

By the mid-1990s conservatism will have been in power in Britain for two-thirds of this century; it has survived all the disasters of modern history and maintained itself against all opposition. Things are much the same in other advanced countries. On the evidence we have to expect the present political structure, with its overwhelming numbers of people accepting or supporting the principles on which society now operates, to be with us for the foreseeable future. We have to live with it, we are likely to do so better with a rational theory than without one, and systematic ideology works to develop this.

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Revolutionaries, from Marx onward, have liked to think that their prospects improve when capitalism gets into difficulties. IC has preferred to go with Quentin Crisp, holding that one function of government and capitalism is to build a walled garden in which anarchism, communism and socialism can flourish. A wholesaler of anarchist books tells us sales have never been as bad as in this slump; let us hope that capitalism will soon recover, so that revolutionary literature may flourish once more.

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Firmly committed to an inclusive stance, IC often finds itself disputing with eidodynamics holding exclusive views. These tend to use the turns of speech customary in their familiar milieu, and our cover shows that these can be vigorous. We don’t complain, asking only that readers accustomed to more urbane exchanges, and feeling that IC has replied harshly, should note the provocation. Rather than getting the retaliation in first, we try to pitch the aggression a shade lower, keeping our end up while avoiding escalation of the verbal violence.

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IC has remarked that the feminists will have won their point when men wear skirts as readily as women now wear trousers. Repeating this in the land of kilts it got shot down – as it now seems, not surprisingly. Yet there does seem to be a point there somewhere. Back when ‘unisex’ had newly made its entrance and one of the Wilson governments had just been defeated, a cartoonist showed Harold and Mary leaving No. 10 over the back garden wall, both of them wearing flowered dresses and big floppy hats, Harold saying “I don’t think this is what they mean by ‘unisex.'”

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In this issue we return to the (Anarcho)-Socialist Party, recently neglected. S.i. gains impetus for its ideology of ideologies by pushing against the repudiativeness of this organisation, and in doing so follows the pattern. Each ideology pushes against the one from which it derives, Principle / Domination against easygoing Expediency, Precision against the flexibility of mere Principle, Reform against the rigidity of Precision, Revolution against the softness of Reform, Repudiation against the prescriptiveness of Revolution, and the Ideology of Ideologies against the exclusiveness of Repudiation.

from Ideological Commentary 59, February 1993.