To Hell with Culture: Anarchism and Twentieth-Century British Literature

To Hell with Culture: Anarchism and Twentieth-Century British Literature

To Hell with Culture: Anarchism and Twentieth-Century British Literature

To Hell with Culture: Anarchism and Twentieth-Century British Literature

Synopsis

The ways in which anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism have made an impact in British 20th-century literature are explored in this collection of critical essays. This radical and thus far under-considered topic is up for review now that traditional paradigms of leftist and radical thought are under reexamination and the Marxist tradition is being seen as an imposition on a situation that was always more various and complex than typical descriptions have admitted. These essays investigate the theory that in the early 20th century there were several currents of anarchist thought, ranging from extreme radicalism to effective conservativism, and that a good deal of the thinking and writing that has been classed as Marxist is in fact more accurately described as anarchist.

Excerpt

But there is one field about which you don't have to know anything, where you
can be certain that you will never make a fool of yourself even though you may
pronounce the most outrageous nonsense. This is anarchism and its doctrine.

John Henry Mackay, an expatriate Scot, author of a roman-à-clef about anarchism, was only slightly exaggerating when, in 1932, he was looking back at an embattled life as a propagandist for the cause in Germany; and his observation has lost nothing of its pertinence. The confusions about anarchism, ranging from its equation with terrorism to its identification with disruption and chaos, are legion. The flak it has taken from the two dominant forces of the labour movement, state communism and Social Democracy, has not helped either. For the one, anarchism came to embody the 'infantile disorder' (Lenin) of left-wing communism; for the other, it was a mix-up of lofty ideas by dreamers: unpractical, unrealistic, irresponsible.

The only allowance one can make for the continued existence of such lazy notions about the movement is that the 'river of anarchy' (Marshall) is fed by many different sources and tributaries. No one thinker can command undisputed allegiance among its followers. To the old catch-phrase 'Ni Dieu ni maître' one could add 'ni maïtre-penseur'. The various, but also complementary, schools and positions to be found under the anarchist umbrella ought to be read in conjunction, so as to distil the essence of the creed.

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