Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow: A Publishers Weekly Review

Anarchist Seeds beneath the Snow: Left-Libertarian Thought and British Writers from William Morris to Colin Ward

Publishers Weekly
February 6th, 2012

Known for an enduring fondness for queen and country, the British Isles seem an unlikely place to uncover practicing anarchists. Goodway’s closer inspection, however, reveals a latent but persistent strain of left-libertarian thought stretching from the Victorian era to the Blair years. Alternating seamlessly between literary criticism and social history, this elegant study of militant ideas reveals a rousing and tragic tradition with more than its share of martyrs, sinners, and saints. Though often conflated with terrorism and mere chaos, anarchism, Goodway (editor of Damned Fools in Utopia: And Other Writings on Anarchism and War Resistance) makes clear, has been a positive political philosophy advocated by a variety of writers, scholars, and theorists who represent more of a “community of thought” than a coherent school. Though not exactly comrades—George Orwell denigrates William Morris as a “utopian dreamer”; Morris refers to Oscar Wilde as “an ass”—Goodway effectively joins these and other thinkers into a loose federation of belief, demonstrating their importance to British history and global radicalism. The book is a call to action. “These seeds need to germinate,” Goodway writes, “to put forth shoots and buds, eventually to flower, if there is to be any chance of a decent life for humans in the future.” Spring may finally be approaching.

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