Academic journal article Anarchist Studies

Introduction: Colin Ward (1924-2010)

Academic journal article Anarchist Studies

Introduction: Colin Ward (1924-2010)

Article excerpt

I am personally not waiting for concerted action, for I am in my own person concerted action! I am not waiting for the revolution, for I am myself the revolution! Before the revolution comes, you must have the revolutionary. Before you consolidate the masses you must be sure of the individual.

From the papers of Sapper Colin Ward, December 1944 1

This special issue oí Anarchist Studies is dedicated to the life and thought of Colin Ward, one of the most significant thinkers and activists in the British anarchist movement in the second half of the twentieth century. Born into a Labour family (his father a primary school teacher and later headmaster and his mother a shorthand typist) in suburban Essex, Ward became an anarchist during the Second World War in that most authoritarian of institutions, the army.2 Stationed in Scotland, he discovered the vibrant anarchist sub-culture of Glasgow, where he read Herbert Read and George Barrett.3 He was swept up in the War Commentary trial of 1945, in which a group of anarchists (Marie Louise Berneri, John Hewetson, Vernon Richards and Philip Sansom) were accused of disaffecting troops, and Ward acted as a rather cagey witness (for years after he was ribbed as 'not categorically ward'). But from the trial he met a group of lifelong friends, who would later form part of the Freedom Press Group.

Ward did not prosper in school and started to work at the age of fifteen. His formative job was with the architect Sidney Caulfield, who acted as living link with the Arts and Crafts movement and the memory of William Morris. He became a draughtsman and worked in the 1950s and 1960s for a series of architects who specialized in schools and municipal housing. In the mid-1960s he retrained as a further education teacher and taught at Wandsworth Technical College; later he became education officer for the Town and County Planning Association (founded by Ebenezer Howard as the Garden City Association), and edited BEE (Bulletin of Environmental Education) for it. He was a prolific journalist, not only in anarchist circles (Freedom and then Anarchy [1961-1970] - perhaps the best Anglophone anarchist magazine ever), but also for New Society, the New Statesman, the Guardian, etc. His published books for adults (he also wrote two books aimed at teenagers, Violence and Work) started with the very successful Anarchy in Action (1973) (symptomatically, he wanted to call it Anarchy as a Theory of Organization), which summarized twenty years of journalism. From the 1970s to the 200Os he published (many times as a co-author) a series of books and pamphlets on modern urban life, the modern human environment (water), housing, squatters, cotters and campers, children and their urban environment, transport, education and play.4 Although he produced books that focused on anarchism directly, not least his Oxford University Press, Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction (2004), he excelled in using the anarchist and libertarian method to address everyday life or the quotidian in the social history of Britain.

Ward was the product of a Britain that no longer exists, where a lower middle or working class individual could progress into a professional and intellectual career, without having pursued a university degree. His introduction to avant-garde thought, modernist literature and the contemporary arts was through political and friendship circles. But he was cognizant of the changes in education, and by the 1960s realized that a new generation of beneficiaries of higher education were the target readership for Anarchy. A generation older than the Baby Boomers, he nevertheless grew into middle age in the midst of the growth of the welfare state and the Great Boom of the 1950s and 1960s. Ward, the anarchist, was a fierce critic of the post-war welfare state. He argued that it ingrained inequalities and undermined the self-organised institutions of working-class welfare. It produced well-fed and relatively healthy fodder for the hierarchical capitalist system, where a veneer of social welfare kept the social peace but did not ensure social justice. …

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