Anarchism and science fiction: O


John October (pseudonym of Christopher Portway): The Anarchy Pedlars (1976)

Despite the title, has nothing to do with anarchism.

 

 

Chad Oliver: 'The Ant and the Eye' (1953)

The disarming of a future Hitler before anyone knows of him. One feature of the developing social context is, obscurely, "a spurt in membership in the Anarchist Party" (William F. Sloane: Stories for Tomorrow, London, 1955, p273)


George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)

Orwell had considerable knowledge of anarchism and anarchists, most notably from his period as a combatant in the Spanish Civil War, described in Homage to Catalonia (1938 & 1953), where the anarchists are described very favourably. Though after 1939 he distanced himself from anarchist views, he became a good friend to anarchists. During and after the Second World War he came into personal contact with the anarchist movement in Britain, mixing with them at Freedom Bookshop and in pubs, and developing friendships with well-known British anarchists of the day; in 1946 he was billed to speak to the London Anarchist Group on Russian foreign policy (though it's not certain the talk took place); he contributed a book review to Freedom, and in 1949 donated a typewriter to Freedom Press, also giving financial support to NOW, George Woodcock's anarchist publication. "At most, he was an anarchist fellow-traveller, but he was one of the best." (NW 1981: 4; Goodway: 346-7) In an unexpected tribute, Class War's Ian Bone has written that "Orwell's kind of pipe-smoking English radicalism was a greater influence than Bakunin or Kropotkin." (Bone)

   Nineteen Eighty-Four has been seen by some anarchists as a vindication of Bakunin's opposition to the Marxist view of the state (Woodcock 1966: 49). Like most people, anarchists have seen the novel as a masterpiece (Woodcock 1953: 150, P.S. 1983). For Herbert Read it was "the most terrifying warning that a man has ever uttered" (Read 1950: 105). For Woodcock "what gives 1984 its peculiar force is the way in which it accepts Zamiatin's hints of the continuity between the present and the possible Utopian future, and shows that these may be not merely signs of direction, but actual parts of a new social structure even now forming around us." (Woodcock 1956: 97) Anarchist writing as the year itself approached and passed noted how accurate some of Orwell's prognosis had been, especially how Britain had indeed become no more than Airstrip One, an eastern outpost of the American Empire (PS 1983, Albon 1984). "The most important insight of Nineteen Eighty-Four, which he shared with the anarchists, that the urge to power is more durable and more dangerous than all ideologies, has been abundantly borne out with the decay of ideology in Russia and the increase in the number of regimes in the modern world that depend wholly on naked power." (Woodcock 1984: 20) The anarchist activist Albert Meltzer, who admittedly only met Orwell once, was less impressed with his writings: "To be honest, I thought Orwell a lot wittier than his writings, which I found usually, and at that time always, a dreadful bore. Such an opinion became literary heresy." (Meltzer 1996)

   The book tied for the Libertarian Futurist Society Hall of Fame Award in 1984.

 

 

 


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