Title: Review: A One-Man Manifesto and Writings Against Power and Death
Subtitle: A One-Man Manifesto and Other Writings for Freedom Press. Herbert Read. 212 pages. Freedom Press. £6.
Writings Against Power and Death. Alex Comfort. 168 pages. Freedom Press. £5.
Date: 1997
Source: Retrieved on May 13, 2013 from web.archive.org
Notes: Published in Organise! Issue 46 — Summer 1997.

Both these books appeared in 1994, and are anthologies of a couple of intellectuals associated with the anarchist movement in this country from the late thirties until the fifties. Read declared anarchism in 1937 as a result of his observations of the Spanish Revolution and Civil War- quite an effort when you consider that many British intellectuals had rallied to the Soviet lie-machine ( an experience that was to be repeated with a passing adulation among some for the ‘achievements’ of Maoist China). Both he and Comfort were to provide articles and sometimes speak at public meetings, although neither involved themselves in day-to-day practical activity like the production of propaganda. Read saw the future society as anarchist communist, but along with many others of the day, thought that this would be achieved through a syndicalist strategy. “On his return from the United States...he came to see me and talked mostly about supermarkets, which he had seen for the first time, and which interested him because people took what they wanted from the shelves; it seemed to him that, if only the cash desks at the entrances could be removed, the supermarket would be the perfect model for free anarchist communist distribution...” (Recollection of George Woodcock, quote in Read book). Certainly Read’s early writings collected here are staunchly revolutionary in particular his The Method of Revolution. However by 1947, Read’s revolutionism was beginning to wane and he turned increasingly to the quietist, non-violent ideas that were beginning to emerge within the movement, that would sap it (and continue to sap it) for many a year. Take for example his Anarchism Past and Future, a lecture delivered to the London anarchists in 1947. “The word revolution should largely disappear from our propaganda, to be replaced by the word education...”. He goes on to call for the discarding of the romantic conceptions of anarchism, including insurrection and the arming of the working class. “All that kind of futile agitation has long been obsolete: but it was finally blown into oblivion by the atomic bomb. The power of the State, of our enemy, is now absolute. We cannot struggle against it on the plane of force, on the material plane. Our action must be piecemeal, non-violent, insidious and universally pervasive.”