Reviews

About Anarchism Nicolas Walter

Nicolas Walter was born in England in 1934 to a family of dissenters. He wrote or edited for a number of radical rags in the early ‘60s until he retired in the early ‘00s. Although the following story is a digression I think it might best exemplify the author’s credentials as mentioned in his daughter’s preface.

In 1963 Walter, his wife Ruth, and other members of the peace movement had come to find that their protests and sit-ins were getting good press but having little effect on the English government. One of them remembered a “friend of a friend” who had worked in a “secret bunker near Reading”. They drove out and walked around for hours in snow and ice trying to find the bunker. Finally they came to a fenced off hut and climbed the fence. They thought it would be locked but tried the door anyway and to their surprise it was open. Once inside they found another unlocked door and a long staircase leading underground. They ran down the stairs and took whatever papers they could get their hands on before leaving with much haste one imagines. 

What they had discovered was “a secret government headquarters called the Regional Seat of Government Number 6,” and found plans their government was making, “for the survival not of the ordinary but of a political elite.”Walter and his friends called themselves the Spies for Peace and set off to the bunker a second time, this time with a plan. One of them took photos, another made copies of documents, and still another searched high and low for more information. 

They made some 3,000 leaflets with the material and carefully sent out packages, from different addresses and wearing gloves, to newspapers and other sympathizers. Afterward they burned the original material and threw the typewriter they had used in a river. The newspapers were instructed not to print any of the material but they ignored this and did it anyway. Days later it was in “every newspaper”.

As Natasha Walter points out this act did not accomplish very much in the long run outside of more protests yet, in a way it accomplished plenty by making sure people knew “about the secret military preparations of their government.” Which Natasha believes, “found fertile ground in changing society.”

About Anarchism was written in 1968. It was first published as a pamphlet. By 1977 it had gone through five printings. When it went out of print in the early ‘80s Freedom Press wanted to reprint it again but Walter said he had to revise it first. Those revisions, which would address feminism and environmentalism, were never finished by Walter. They were later incorporated into the 2002 edition and are also included here. 

This small book, about 50 pages, as Walter himself points out is not comprehensive but it does appear to lay a nice groundwork for anarchic thought and ideals. It is broken up into four sections: “What Anarchists Believe”, “How Anarchists Differ”, “What Anarchists Want” and “What Anarchists Do.” Each section’s title is relatively self explanatory and the reading follows those headings. 

The entire text is put forth in a relatively plain spoken and humble way and only the last section, “What Anarchists Do” has any issue. These issues arise from the same problems any ideological text would have which is the issue of proselytizing and propaganda.  That is to say this writer takes issue with this section, but also the book does appear to lose scope a little in the section. 

The first three sections seem almost to be writing to those who know nothing about anarchism or have misled ideas about anarchists. With that in mind this might make for a good first jaunt into the subject or a Christmas present for your parents so they don’t think you’re trying to live in some Thunderdome world unless you are and then maybe you should read this too.