When I contacted David Miller in Australia for reminiscences of Sidney E.Parker, the first thing he offered was his own memorial to one of their mutual friends, and a fascinating figure, Paddy McGuinness. While the “Necrology” section was intended to be items written by Sid, I think it’s perfectly appropriate, when given the opportunity, to include those written by comrades about others in the Minus One/Ego circles.
This was written for the Sydney Libertarians’ newsletter, but Mr. Miller is unsure if it made it to print. —Kevin
Remembering Paddy McGuinness by David Miller
“Read James Burnham and Wilhelm Reich”, George Molnar told me. He had arrived at the Sydney rendezvous in early 1959 together with another chap whose name I can’t remember.
One of the Melbourne Anarchists, the artist John Olday, had given me a copy of Libertarian No.1. Its political standpoint was just what I needed. I had recently lost my faith in the Marxist concept of the “revolutionary vanguard”. But, more significantly, I had also lost my faith in the “masses”, a faith the Anarchists still retain.
“Go along to the Royal George and meet the Sydney Push”, George had suggested. I took a few steps inside the Pub and froze. I wasn’t into alcohol, and the sight of the lurching bodies and the sound of the raucous voices rendering, “Rock, rock, rock everybody”, as “F- -k, f- -k, f- -k everybody”, was more than I could stand. I turned and fled.
The Sydney Libertarians would have found me a pain in the neck. I was far too serious. Although I had lost my fixation on fighting, and perhaps dying, for the Revolution, I had replaced it with the desire to participate in the armed struggle of an oppressed people against their imperialist overlords. By this stage I was including the Hungarians and Tibetans in my list of the oppressed.
I leapt on my Vincent HRD Rapide and motorcycled back towards Melbourne, where I jumped on a ship to Europe. On reaching London I read Burnham’s Managerial Revolution and Reich’s Mass Psychology of Fascism. So when terror gripped me and undermined my emotional commitment during my attempt to volunteer for the Algerian Freedom Fighters, I had no ‘ideology’ on which to fall back. What was the point of sacrificing oneself in order to install a local ruling class in the place of a colonial one? I hit the bottle.
After a number of years of alcoholic mind-suicide, I became serious again and found myself gravitating toward a tiny faction on the fringe of the London Anarchist Group. These were the Conscious Egoists, the followers of Max Stirner (1805-1856), a philosopher whose ideas Nietzsche is accused of plagiarizing. We mistakenly labelled ourselves as Individualist Anarchists. Our leading light was Sid Parker, editor of Minus One and Ego. Around 1965 our Egoist group was joined by Paddy McGuinness. At the time I found Paddy’s beery frivolity to be quite tedious.
I remember an incident in 1967 at which I could have cheerfully strangled Paddy. He had managed somehow to make himself the Chairman of the London Anarchist Group and as such was amusing himself by imposing on them an evening of extracts from the Marquis de Sade, read out by Paddy in an ever louder voice to drown out the protests. I particularly remember squirming through Paddy’s gleeful rendition of the story of the young lady who is tied up and a VD infected guy is brought in to rape her and she is then sown up. Unfortunately I had enticed a new girlfriend to the meeting by promising her that the LAG had “interesting” discussions.
In 1971, a few years after returning to Australia, I created the Existentialist Society (www.existentialistmelbourne.org). Inscribed across the Society’s masthead is the statement, “For those who despairingly ponder whether one can live without self-deception or without hedonistic escapism; yet who, despite the anguish of life’s futility and meaninglessness, still seek purpose and an authentic existence.” The hedonistic escapism was a reference to the Sydney Libertarians; the self-deceiver was myself.
My one and only meeting with Paddy since those London days was in 1996 at the Australian Skeptics Convention in Newcastle where he was one of the keynote speakers. “Remember that evening, forty years ago, at the LAG when…” I had said, retelling the “incident”. He gasped, “Forty years! Surely it’s no more than thirty. No, I don’t recall it. Perhaps it was just a prank of mine.”