Colin Ward: British Anarchist Writer and Social Historian

August 14, 1924 — February 11, 2010

Revolt Library People Colin Ward

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August 14, 1924 — February 11, 2010


...lived with the title of Britain's most famous anarchist for nearly half a ­century, bemused by this ambivalent sobriquet. In Anarchy in Action (1973), he set out his belief that an anarchist society was not an end goal.

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From : Guardian Obituary


"...the bombs you are worried about are not the bombs which cartoonists attribute to the anarchists, but the bombs which governments have perfected, at your expense."

From : "Anarchism as a Theory of Organization," by Colin Ward, 1966

"It is, after all, the principle of authority which ensures that people will work for someone else for the greater part of their lives, not because they enjoy it or have any control over their work, but because they see it as their only means of livelihood."

From : "Anarchism as a Theory of Organization," by Colin Ward, 1966

"The anarchists, who have always distinguished between the state and society, adhere to the social principle, which can be seen where-ever men link themselves in an association based on a common need or a common interest."

From : "Anarchism as a Theory of Organization," by Colin Ward, 1966


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About Colin Ward

 Colin Ward 1

Colin Ward 1

Colin Ward was one of the editors of Freedom from 1947-1960 and edited the monthly Anarchy from 1961 to 1970.

Personal Information: Family: son of Arnold (a teacher) and Ruby (West) Ward; married Harriet Barry (a teacher), September 9, 1966; children: Ben; stepsons: Barney Unwin, Tom Unwin. Education: Attended Garnett Teachers College, 1964-65. Addresses: Home: 19 Schubert Rd., London S.W.15, England. Agent: David Higham Associates, 5/8 Lower John St., London W.1, England.

Career: Shepheard & Epstein (architects and planners), London, England, senior assistant, 1952-61; Chamberlin, Powell & Bon, London, director of research, 1962-64; Wandsworth Technical College, London, England, lecturer in charge of liberal studies, 1966-71; Town & Country Planning Association (a voluntary organization), London, education officer, 1971--.

From : Anarchy Archives


This person has authored 37 documents, with 166,294 words or 1,083,414 characters.

    Foreword     Chapter 1. Definitions and ancestors     Chapter 2. Revolutionary moments     Chapter 3. States, societies, and the collapse of socialism     Chapter 4. Deflating nationalism and fundamentalism     Chapter 5. Containing deviancy and liberating work     Chapter 6. Freedom in education     Chapter 7. The individualist response     Chapter 8. Quiet revolutions     Chapter 9. The federalist agenda      Chapter 10. Green aspirations and anarchist futures     References   ... (From :
You may think in describing anarchism as a theory of organization I am propounding a deliberate paradox: “anarchy” you may consider to be, by definition, the opposite of organization. In fact, however, “anarchy” means the absence of government, the absence of authority. Can there be social organization without authority, without government? The anarchists claim that there can be, and they also claim that it is desirable that there should be. They claim that, at the basis of our social problems is the principle of government. It is, after all, governments which prepare for war and wage war, even though you are obliged to fight in them and pay for them; the bombs you are worried about are not the bombs which cartoonist... (From :
    The background       Proudhon       Bakunin       Kropotkin     Today     Bibliography The background That minority of children in any European country who were given the opportunity of studying the history of Europe as well as that of their own nations, learned that there were two great events in the last century: the unification of Germany, achieved by Bismarck and Emperor Wilhelm I, and the unification of Italy, achieved by Cavour, Mazzini, Garibaldi and Vittorio Emanuale II. The whole world, which in those days meant the European world, welcomed these triumphs. ... (From :
Everyone has their own definition of anarchism. One I find generally useful is the first three paragraphs of the article Peter Kropotkin was asked to write for the 11 th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica in 1905. This is the collection of volumes which (however repugnant we now find its sales techniques) is the place we look for a working definition of most things. Kropotkin’s first paragraph said that: ANARCHISM (from the Greek, contrary to authority), is the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government — harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded betwe... (From :
The biggest service that governments have done for the cause of penal reform has been in imprisoning war resisters; for its effect has often been to give them a lifelong concern with prison and prisoners; almost all the ameliorations of the prison system in this country in the last forty years can be traced in one way or another to their influence. The imprisonment of conscientious objectors in the first World War led to the formation of an unofficial committee, the Prison System Inquiry Committee, which produced in 1922 an immensely influential report, the 700-page volume English Prisons Today, edited by Stephen Hobhouse and Fenner Brockway. This “bible for the reformers” as Margery Fry called it, was compiled largely from ques... (From :
The prefabs I had come to see in Bethnal Green were put up a month ago by the London County Council on some of the pockets of land awaiting re-development, as a stop-gap measure because of the manifest failure of housing to keep pace with employment in London. The idea is that when the site is permanently re-developed, in, say, five years, the house is picked up and moved elsewhere. (Not with the tenants in: they are expected to have been found accommodation by then). Compared with the prefabs of the immediate postwar years, they struck me as the product of a joinery shop rather than of an aircraft factory. They are better looking, better heated and insulated, but very much smaller. They look like kiosks at the entrance to an exhibit... (From :
No politician of any color likes a nonvoter. Last week Labor MP Tony Banks introduced a bill in an almost empty House of Commons seeking to make voting compulsory .His fellow members had voted with their feet out of the chamber, but he wanted to fine those of us who fail to vote, unless, like absentees from school, we could produce ‘a legitimate reason’. Yet the nonvoters are among the largest of the political groups. Tony Banks reckons that they form 24 per cent of the electorate and he claims that ‘those ten million or so who failed to vote in 1983 have a great deal to answer for to those who did’. His assumption is that all those nonvoters would have made their cross for candidates of whom he approves. ... (From :
Foreword This book is an attempt to explore the relationship between children and their urban environment. It asks whether it is true, as very many believe it to be true, that something has been lost in this relationship, and it speculates about the ways in which the link between city and child can be made more fruitful and enjoyable for both the child and the city. But the title, and perhaps the very concept, are open to criticism because they imply that it is possible to speak in general terms about either children or cities. We need to be reminded, as Margaret Mead never fails to remind us, that “It’s a good thing to think about the child as long as you remember that the child doesn’t exist. Only children ... (From :
Introduction and Acknowledgments Ten years ago I wrote a book, The Child in the City, about the relationship between urban children and their environment. The book was, to my mind, more a celebration of resourcefulness than a catalog of deprivations, but when it was discussed at meetings and conferences of teachers and social workers there was always somebody who would comment that, while we had a whole library of studies of the city child, rural childhood was examined only as a historical phenomenon or through rosy nostalgia. Assumptions of the city deprivation were based on an unstated comparison, it was claimed, with some ideal country environment, yet there were many country children who grew up in conditions of disadvanta... (From :
Executive summary Up to 1945 ‘plotlanders’ were able to make use of small patches of land not needed for agriculture, gradually building up weekend shacks into permanent residences, by using their own time and labor rather than large sums of money. Immediately after the Second World War, homeless people in their thousands squatted in recently-vacated military camps, organizing their own communal services. Then, in the 1960s and 1970s, a similar movement erupted across vacant local-authority properties, evolving into long-term housing cooperatives. Today various kinds of travelers are attempting to settle on their own land, living outside the formal economy and experimenting with a wide range of unc... (From :
THE WORD ANARCHY MEANS “WITHOUT AUTHORITY”, and anarchism as a social theory implies an attempt to provide for social and personal needs from the bottom up, rather than from some government or other authority down, or for some-one else’s profit. It implies an extension of the idea of voluntary associations and autonomous groups to cover the whole field of human activity. The anarchist thus has peculiar difficulties in formulating an approach to questions like housing, in which the initiative is so much in the hands of people with political, financial and economic power, and so little in those of people with none of these things, but simply the need for a roof over their heads. An older generation of anarchists, adop... (From :
THE COMMITTEE OF 100 in convening this series of meetings and in linking the current protests against preparations for nuclear warfare, with the theory and practice of nonviolence, and in treating under this theme, topics as far apart as the way we bring up our children and the structure of our economic life, are recognizing that these are not separate fields of human experience and activity: that they are all bound up together. They are recognizing that nuclear war is not a dreadful aberration of the modern state, but simply the logical and more perfect development of that old-fashioned, incomplete warfare which was, and is, in Randolph Bourne’s famous phrase “the health of the State”. This is why the struggle agai... (From :
The split between life and work is probably the greatest contemporary social problem. You cannot expect men to take a responsible attitude and to display initiative in daily life when their whole working experience deprives them of the chance of initiative and responsibility. The personality cannot be successfully divided into watertight compartments, and even the attempt to do so is dangerous: if a man is taught to rely upon a paternalistic authority within the factory, he will be ready to rely upon one outside. If he is rendered irresponsible at work by lack of opportunity for responsibility, he will be irresponsible when away from work too. The contemporary social trend towards a centralized, paternalistic, authoritarian society only ref... (From :
In his introductory essay to the modern editions of Ebenezer Howard’s book Garden Cities of Tomorrow — the book and the author responsible for the founding of the Town and Country Planning Association at the end of the last century — Lewis Mumford remarks that ‘with his gift for sweet reasonableness Howard hoped to win Tory and Anarchist, single-taxer and socialist, individualist and collectivist, over to his experiment. And his hopes were not altogether discomfited; for in appealing to the English instinct for finding common ground he was utilizing a solid political tradition.’ The Association itself, operating in a political world, has always had to win support from that small number of politicians in ... (From :
When G. D. H. Cole died, I remember being amazed as I read the tributes in the newspapers from people like Hugh Gaitskell and Harold Wilson alleging that their socialism was learned from him here, for it had always seemed to me that his socialism was of an entirely different character from that of the politicians of the Labor Party. Among his obituarists, it was left to a dissident Jugoslav communist, Vladimir Dedijer, to point out what this difference was; remarking on his discovery that Cole “rejected the idea of the continued supremacy of the Slate” and believed that “it was destined to disappear.” For Cole, as for the anarchist philosophers from Godwin onward, I he distinction between society and the state... (From :
I’ve a big agenda of books I would like to read or write and for ordinary reasons, like a low income, I stay at home but get lured abroad when somebody else pays the fares. This explains why anarchists from several countries, like France, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy, have asked me for my opinion on the views of Hakim Bey. [1] It is always an embarrassment since for a long time I had no idea about who this person and his opinions were or are. Plenty of us, including myself, are hesitant about revealing the vast scope of our own ignorance. Two sources have explained to me what these questioners were talking about. One, of course, is Freedom’s invaluable feature ‘Food for Thought ... and Action!’ and the o... (From :
Explaining the British political climate to Lewis Mumford in the summer of 1945, Frederic Osborn wrote that “In the last few weeks there has been organized squatting in empty mansions, with enough public approval to force the government and the authorities into more active requisitioning — a score for the anarchists”. Nearly a quarter of a century later, squatting was revived in the London boroughs because of the scandal of publicly-owned housing left empty for years awaiting future redevelopment that frequently failed to happen. It was met with ruthless mayhem by ‘bailiffs’ employed by councils and the deliberate wrecking by council employes of habitable houses. Then some local authorities aimed at a mo... (From :
There is a word in use among administrators, “institutionalization”, meaning putting people into institutions. It follows that there must be an even more regrettable word “de-institutionalization”, meaning getting them out again. It has only one thing to recommend it : it puts my theme in one word. By institutions, in the general sense, we mean “an established law, custom, usage, practice, organization, or other element in the political or social life of a people”, and in a special sense, we mean “an educational, philanthropic, remedial, or penal establishment in which a building or system of buildings plays a major and central role, e.g., schools, hospitals, orphanages, old people’s homes, ja... (From :
The revival of interest in anarchism at the time of the Spanish Revolution in 1936 led to the publication of Spain and the World, a fortnightly Freedom Press journal which changed to Revolt! in the months between the end of the war in Spain and the beginning of the Second World War. Then War Commentary was started, its name reverting to the traditional Freedom in August 1945. As one of the very few journals which were totally opposed to the war aims of both sides, War Commentary was an obvious candidate for the attentions of the Special Branch, but it was not until the last year of the war that serious persecution began. In November 1944 John Olday, the paper’s cartoonist, was arrested and after a protracted trial was se... (From :
In every industrial country, and probably in every agricultural country, the idea of workers’ control has manifested itself atone time or another—as a demand, an aspiration, a program or a dream. To confine ourselves to this country and this century, it was the basis of two parallel movements in the period around the First World War—Syndicalism and Guild Socialism. These two movements dwindled away in the early nineteen-twenties, and ever since then there have been sporadic and periodic attempts to re-create a movement for workers’ control of industry. In the late ’thirties, following the constructive achievements of the Spanish anarcho-syndicalists in the revolution of 1936, there was an attempt to build a new... (From :


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August 14, 1924
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February 11, 2010
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