1967, May – Letter to “Broadsheet” (Sydney, AU)

The following letter was published in Broadsheet No. 51, May 1967. Broadsheet was published by the Libertarian Society at Sydney University. Broadsheet was published 1957-1979. It was continued by Heraclitus 1980-2006 and that continued by The Sydney Realist 2005- (current).
Scans of the original journal were provided by Voluntary Committee of Sydney Realists.

Dear Editors,

However “sociological” people like W. Dwyer (Broadsheet No. 50) claim to be, the arguments they use still follow in the well-worn tracks of utopians like Kropotkin. In order to give a “scientific” foundation to his dreams of a heaven on earth Kropotkin used to quote tirelessly examples of voluntary co-operation in primitive and medie­val societies, in red cross, militia and trade organisations and so on. After presenting this evidence for the “creativity” of the masses, he assured his readers that the “ten­dencies” of the times were in the direction of his “free communist society”. He lived to see the start of a spawn of modern dictatorships ably supported by his beloved masses.

Dwyer’s examples of Summerhill and the Peckham Health Centre are about as valuable in proving the possibility of his “free society”.

Summerhill is not a functioning anarchy as many have said. It is an experiment in permissive democracy under the benevolent despotism of A. S. Neill. I use the word “despotism” deliberately because Neill has the final word in who works or is educa­ted at the school. It is his prop­erty to do with as he wants.

As for the Peckham Health Centre, what happened to all the “anarchists” who spontaneously brought themselves “to order” after the Centre was clo­sed? Did they continue to function in an anarchic way after the doctors had been defeated? I once lived a few yards from where the Centre had been (the building is still there) but I neither saw nor heard of any anarchic behaviour on the part of the people amongst whom the experi­ment had existed for so long. In other words, once the intellectual “elite” had withdrawn the “mass” re­lapsed into their usual servility.

Utopians always look for some factor outside their individual in­terest to support or sanction them in their wishful thinking. The class struggle, war, non-violence, biology, psychology, ecology and na­turism are among the nostrums which are to cure the ills of mankind. Now Mr. Dwyer brings in cybernetics as “fresh support” for “workers’ con­trol”. However, some New York “anarchists” (i.e. evangelical social­ists) now announce that the cyberne­tical “revolution” will create uto­pia for us without the workers. You presses your button and you takes your choice…


S.E. Parker, London.