Autonomy: The Cover Designs of Anarchy, 1961-1970.

Author:Goodway, David
Position:Book review

Daniel Poyner (ed.), Autonomy: The Cover Designs of Anarchy, 1961-1970

London: Hyphen Press, 2012. ISBN: 978-0907259466.

In 1947 Colin Ward, aged twenty-three and having returned to London after five years as a military conscript, was invited to join the editorial group of the anarchist newspaper, Freedom. For the next fourteen years he and the other editors, never more than some half-a-dozen, brought the paper out weekly, writing the bulk of its contents themselves. It is scarcely surprising that, to break from this punishing regimen, he began to urge the case for a monthly, more reflective Freedom; and finally his fellow editors responded by giving him his head with Anarchy from March 1961, while they continued to bring out Freedom for the other three weeks of each month.

Ward had actually wanted his magazine to be called Autonomy, but this his traditionalist comrades were not prepared to allow--he had already been described as a 'revisionist' and they considered that he was backing away from the talismanic word 'anarchist'--although his subtitle of A Journal of Anarchist Ideas was initially, and now largely redundantly, retained, until ditched from no. 28 by Rufus Segar, the designer of the covers, the subject of the book under review.

118 issues of Anarchy were published, the last appearing in December 1970. The content was always distinctive, blending such traditional anarchist preoccupations as progressive education and crime and punishment with Ward's own interests and enthusiasms: housing and squatting, workers' control, adventure playgrounds and the like. But the real originality lay in anarchism being seen not as a total system to be implemented sometime in the future--after an anarchist revolution--but as present all around us, in everyday human arrangements, in the here-and-now.

Ward was given complete freedom--or autonomy--by Freedom Press to produce each number entirely by himself, laying it out on his kitchen table. A frequent though not uncritical contributor, Nicolas Walter, was to comment: 'Colin almost didn't do anything. He didn't muck it about, didn't really bother to read the proofs. Just shoved them all in. Just let it happen.' (p. 258) Although Ward's ideal was to produce special issues on single themes, most numbers were not. If a promised article failed to materialise, he would be obliged to write it himself, leading to a profusion of pseudonyms.

Daniel Poyner understands the political and intellectual signifi...

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