By Peter Marshall
June 23rd, 2020
I was at the last free festival in Windsor (The Peoples’ Free Festival) in 1974, the theme of which was justice and peace, when the police came at dawn in order to clear the celebrants away by using brute force. A neighbouring farmer sprayed his ripening golden corn with slurry, to create a stench where there was beauty and life. The celebrants not only were interested in exploring and practicing justice and peace but had a love of music, dance, fun and creativity. It was the first time I broke into print in British newspaper ‘The Guardian’ who called my contribution ‘Windsor: A Constable Landscape’ after the painter John Constable.
I was not at the ‘Battle of the Bean Field’ in 1985, which this year is celebrating its 35th anniversary, but I believe a similar violent action took place against a Peace Convoy by the police who wished to prevent a Stonehenge Free Festival.
People should be allowed to enjoy themselves with song and dance and good spirit near the ancient stones, provided, I would add, they don’t harm them or prevent others from enjoying them.
I believe in equality, in sharing the good things on earth, in opposing hierarchy, domination, and arbitrary authority, particularly in the form of the state and government, while advocating communal individuality (the maximum amount of individuality compatible with social solidarity).
I have written a work called ‘Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism’ (published by PM Press) which is often seen as the standard work on the subject. I explain the process of how I reached these views in my recent early memoir ‘Bognor Boy: How I Became an Anarchist’.
I am what I would call a social anarchist or libertarian socialist. As a philosopher and historian and in the long anarchist tradition, I follow William Godwin (also one of my books published by PM Press) who is often called the father of philosophical anarchism, who felt that the use of violence against persons is always a confession of ignorance and weakness, and looked for gradual change to occur through persuasion, education and enlightenment.
I agree with the Russian thinker and geographer Peter Kropotkin who wanted to practice mutual aid, bring Town & Country together in ‘Factories, Fields and Workshops’, or as his subtitle put it, ‘Industry Combined with Agriculture and Brain Work with Manual Work’. He wanted all of us to have enough to eat but realised that people cannot live by bread alone and need the ability to develop their intellectual, moral and spiritual values as well.
The Russian writer Leo Tolstoy in his later life became a vegetarian, pacifist and anarchist like myself and refused to participate in any government since they are all fundamentally based on organized violence. He was particularly opposed to the death penalty and the mistreatment of animals.
Gandhi too believed in what he called ‘enlightened anarchy’ and developed a form of non-violent direct action to bring about change. In this he was highly successful in mobilising Indians to free themselves from British colonial rule.
Sit-ins, occupations, strikes, including a general strike, withdrawal of co-operation, civil disobedience and direct action can all bring about lasting change. I endorse all of these approaches as an alternative to war and violence against beings.
We should create, in place of a wealthy, privileged elite, a more just and peaceful society of equals, of women and men, black and white, indeed of all races, which is particularly apt at this time of turmoil.
We have had enough of fear, terrorism (by the state and its agents or by unenlightened groups or individuals) and war(which finds it ultimate expression in nuclear weapons).
Instead I celebrate the wonderful stone monuments of the ancients orientated towards the heavens like Stonehenge.
I also value any person who celebrates life, joy, fun, tolerance, compassion, dance, song and freedom, – not only at this time of year of midsummer, but always and forever.
As the title of one of my books puts it we are all capable of ‘Riding the Wind’, practicing Liberation Ecology, and having Reverence for Nature as well as being joyous, life-affirming, peaceful, generous, tolerant of different ways of living and beliefs, and above all being free.
I have always in my writing and actions tried to expand the sphere of freedom for all beings, including animals as well as humans.
Love, and do what you will. Light, in the darkest times. Peace, which is everlasting. And Freedom, for one and all.’