Recent events in the Middle East and rapid developments in the way we protest here in the UK have shown that Social Networking can be a powerful tool for Social Justice.

Hopefully modern communications technology may yet help to save the life of heroic Benghazi citizen Iman al-Obeidi. Obeidi was held captive for two days by the henchmen of Libyan dictator, Maummar Gaddafi; during which time she was raped, beaten and urinated on. Bravely, upon her release, she refused to remain silent and told journalists what had happened to her, only to be kidnapped by armed thugs right in front of those journalists.

Within hours, news of the kidnapping of Iman al-Obeidi spread around the world, with video and photos going viral on the Internet. Twitter hash-tags appeared with varied spellings of Obeidi’s name #EmanAlObeidy, #EmanAlObeidi, #EmanAlObaidy and #WhereIsEmanAlObeidy, and two Facebook pages began on the same day; the English language Free Iman al-Obeidi and the Arabic كلنا أهل إيمان العبيدي (We are all people of faith-Obeidi).

Clearly the Internet and Social Networking sites are important tools for anyone fighting for liberty, but we should never forget that these Social Networks are themselves corporations, each with their own agenda. Facebook has a particularly bad track record when it comes to political activism, as Philippe Rivière outlined in December 2010 edition of Le Monde diplomatique:

Sensitive pages – such as those created by a support group for Bradley Manning, the US soldier accused of having passed military secrets on the war in Iraq to WikiLeaks – are occasionally suspended, then reinstated a few days later, without any explanation. To help prevent spamming, members are invited to report nuisance messages: Facebook then suspends the nuisance user’s account. All kinds of activists have used this manoeuvre to get their political adversaries suspended. Facebook also occasionally succumbs to the temptation of censorship, blocking links to file-sharing, artistic or political websites – or sites such as such as, which tells users how to delete their information and leave Facebook.

Indeed in the run up to yesterday’s half-a-million strong ‘March for the Alternative’ in London many Facebook pages, such as Resist 26, were suspended with a message stating that the event had been canceled!

Not a bad turnout for a 'canceled' event

And although the advertising is not ‘in your face’, so to speak, Facebook is also an incredibly powerful marketing tool; Rivière again:

The personal data supplied so freely by Facebook users are highly coveted. They allow far more precisely targeted marketing – by gender, age, date of birth, language, country, city, educational background, interests, etc – than traditional media surveys, to audiences approaching the size of those commanded by television. … Among the most popular pages are those of brands such as Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Oreo, which attract audiences of 10-25 million.

Just as marketing data is rich pickings for corporations, your political and social views are of great interest to governments. The wise, of course, are guarded in their comments and postings, but in perhaps the scariest paragraph of his column Philippe Rivière hints at what the future may hold for us all:

At the Techonomy conference on 4 August 2010, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt said: “Show us 14 photos of yourself and we can identify who you are. You think you don’t have 14 photos of yourself on the internet? You’ve got Facebook photos!” This state of affairs was not only irrevocable but also, in his eyes, necessary: “In a world of asymmetric threats, true anonymity is too dangerous… You need a name service for humans… governments are going to require it.”

Although it is still possible to cheat, it will be increasingly difficult to do so in the future. The world’s most powerful online architects and its political leaders plan to “civilise” the free internet, which they still see as a lawless zone. If they succeed in domesticating the internet, stating your real identity will be the price you have to pay in order to enjoy full access. The word “web” was originally an image used to describe a decentralised system of interconnected information networks. Nobody imagined that a spider would actually take up residence at its centre and start spying on the activities of all internet users.

For further details on Facebook we recommend Tom Hodgkinson’s pamphlet ‘We Want Everyone: Facebook and the New American Right‘, beautifully produced by printing/design genius, Christian Brett, it is available either directly from Bracket Press or as a signed edition from The Idler.


With the emergence fantastic projects like the Really Free School, the School of Everything, Space Makers, Appropedia and The Idler Academy (to name but a few), we are witnessing an important meme-shift in attitudes towards learning, creativity and knowledge. But they are by no means the first projects of their kind.

The Ferrer Modern School movement of the early 20th Century attempted to educate the working class from a secular, anarchist, class-conscious perspective. There were kid’s classes through the day and adult classes at night. High costs and external pressures ultimately forced the abandonment of the Modern School movement (luckily communications technology may help save modern counterparts from the same fate), but the schools and the extraordinary life of Francisco Ferrer are still of importance to anyone seeking an alternative to state controlled education.

Perhaps one of the best introductions to Fransisco Ferrer was written by Emma Goldman (originally published in Anarchism & Other Essays):

Francisco Ferrer and the Modern School

by Emma Goldman

Experience has come to be considered the best school of life.  The man or woman who does not learn some vital lesson in that school is looked upon as a dunce indeed.  Yet strange to say, that though organized institutions continue perpetrating errors, though they learn nothing from experience, we acquiesce, as a matter of course.

There lived and worked in Barcelona a man by the name of Francisco Ferrer.  A teacher of children he was, known and loved by his people.  Outside of Spain only the cultured few knew of Francisco Ferrer’s work.  To the world at large this teacher was non-existent.

On the first of September, 1909, the Spanish government–at the behest of the Catholic Church–arrested Francisco Ferrer.On the thirteenth of October, after a mock trial, he was placed in the ditch at Montjuich prison, against the hideous wall of many sighs, and shot dead. Instantly Ferrer, the obscure teacher, became a universal figure, blazing forth the indignation and wrath of the whole civilized world against the wanton murder.

The killing of Francisco Ferrer was not the first crime committed by the Spanish government and the Catholic Church. The history of these institutions is one long stream of fire and blood.  Still they have not learned through experience, nor yet come to realize that every frail being slain by Church and State grows and grows into a mighty giant, who will some day free humanity from their perilous hold.

Francisco Ferrer was born in 1859, of humble parents.  They were Catholics, and therefore hoped to raise their son in the same faith.  They did not know that the boy was to become the harbinger of a great truth, that his mind would refuse to travel in the old path.  At an early age Ferrer began to question the faith of his fathers.  He demanded to know how it is that the God who spoke to him of goodness and love would mar the sleep of the innocent child with dread and awe of tortures, of suffering, of hell.  Alert and of a vivid and investigating mind, it did not take him long to discover the hideousness of that black monster, the Catholic Church.  He would have none of it.

Francisco Ferrer was not only a doubter, a searcher for truth; he was also a rebel.  His spirit would rise in just indignation against the iron regime of his country, and when a band of rebels, led by the brave patriot, General Villacampa, under the banner of the Republican ideal, made an onslaught on that regime, none was more ardent a fighter than young Francisco Ferrer.  The Republican ideal,–I hope no one will confound it with the Republicanism of this country.  Whatever objection I, as an Anarchist, have to the Republicans of Latin countries, I know they tower high above the corrupt and reactionary party which, in America, is destroying every vestige of liberty and justice.  One has but to think of the Mazzinis, the Garibaldis, the scores of others, to realize that their efforts were directed, not merely towards the overthrow of despotism, but particularly against the Catholic Church, which from its very inception has been the enemy of all progress and liberalism.

In America it is just the reverse.  Republicanism stands for vested rights, for imperialism, for graft, for the annihilation of every semblance of liberty.  Its ideal is the oily, creepy respectability of a McKinley, and the brutal arrogance of a Roosevelt.

The Spanish republican rebels were subdued.  It takes more than one brave effort to split the rock of ages, to cut off the head of that hydra monster, the Catholic Church and the Spanish throne.  Arrest, persecution, and punishment followed the heroic attempt of the little band.  Those who could escape the bloodhounds had to flee for safety to foreign shores.  Francisco Ferrer was among the latter.  He went to France.

How his soul must have expanded in the new land!  France, the cradle of liberty, of ideas, of action.  Paris, the ever young, intense Paris, with her pulsating life, after the gloom of his own belated country,–how she must have inspired him.  What opportunities, what a glorious chance for a young idealist.

Francisco Ferrer lost no time.  Like one famished he threw himself into the various liberal movements, met all kinds of people, learned, absorbed, and grew.  While there, he also saw in operation the Modern School, which was to play such an important and fatal part in his life.

The Modern School in France was founded long before Ferrer’s time.  Its originator, though on a small scale, was that sweet spirit, Louise Michel.  Whether consciously or unconsciously, our own great Louise felt long ago that the future belongs to the young generation; that unless the young be rescued from that mind and soul destroying institution, the bourgeois school, social evils will continue to exist.  Perhaps she thought, with Ibsen, that the atmosphere is saturated with ghosts, that the adult man and woman have so many superstitions to overcome.  No sooner do they outgrow the deathlike grip of one spook, lo! they find themselves in the thralldom of ninety-nine other spooks.  Thus but a few reach the mountain peak of complete regeneration.

The child, however, has no traditions to overcome.  Its mind is not burdened with set ideas, its heart has not grown cold with class and caste distinctions.  The child is to the teacher what clay is to the sculptor.  Whether the world will receive a work of art or a wretched imitation, depends to a large extent on the creative power of the teacher.

Louise Michel was pre-eminently qualified to meet the child’s soul cravings.  Was she not herself of a childlike nature, so sweet and tender, unsophisticated and generous.  The soul of Louise burned always at white heat over every social injustice.  She was invariably in the front ranks whenever the people of Paris rebelled against some wrong.  And as she was made to suffer imprisonment for her great devotion to the oppressed, the little school on Montmartre was soon no more.  But the seed was planted, and has since borne fruit in many cities of France.

The most important venture of a Modern School was that of the great, young old man, Paul Robin.  Together with a few friends he established a large school at Cempuis, a beautiful place near Paris.  Paul Robin aimed at a higher ideal than merely modern ideas in education.  He wanted to demonstrate by actual facts that the bourgeois conception of heredity is but a mere pretext to exempt society from its terrible crimes against the young.  The contention that the child must suffer for the sins of the fathers, that it must continue in poverty and filth, that it must grow up a drunkard or criminal, just because its parents left it no other legacy, was too preposterous to the beautiful spirit of Paul Robin.  He believed that whatever part heredity may play, there are other factors equally great, if not greater, that may and will eradicate or minimize the so-called first cause.  Proper economic and social environment, the breath and freedom of nature, healthy exercise, love and sympathy, and, above all, a deep understanding for the needs of the child–these would destroy the cruel, unjust, and criminal stigma imposed on the innocent young.

Paul Robin did not select his children; he did not go to the so-called best parents: he took his material wherever he could find it.  From the street, the hovels, the orphan and foundling asylums, the reformatories, from all those gray and hideous places where a benevolent society hides its victims in order to pacify its guilty conscience.  He gathered all the dirty, filthy, shivering little waifs his place would hold, and brought them to Cempuis.  There, surrounded by nature’s own glory, free and unrestrained, well fed, clean kept, deeply loved and understood, the little human plants began to grow, to blossom, to develop beyond even the expectations of their friend and teacher, Paul Robin.

The children grew and developed into self-reliant, liberty loving men and women.  What greater danger to the institutions that make the poor in order to perpetuate the poor.  Cempuis was closed by the French government on the charge of co-education, which is prohibited in France.  However, Cempuis had been in operation long enough to prove to all advanced educators its tremendous possibilities, and to serve as an impetus for modern methods of education, that are slowly but inevitably undermining the present system.

Cempuis was followed by a great number of other educational attempts,–among them, by Madelaine Vernet, a gifted writer and poet, author of L’AMOUR LIBRE, and Sebastian Faure, with his LA RUCHE, which I visited while in Paris, in 1907.

Several years ago Comrade Faure bought the land on which he built his LA RUCHE.  In a comparatively short time he succeeded in transforming the former wild, uncultivated country into a blooming spot, having all the appearance of a well kept farm.  A large, square court, enclosed by three buildings, and a broad path leading to the garden and orchards, greet the eye of the visitor.  The garden, kept as only a Frenchman knows how, furnishes a large variety of vegetables for LA RUCHE.

Sebastian Faure is of the opinion that if the child is subjected to contradictory influences, its development suffers in consequence.  Only when the material needs, the hygiene of the home, and intellectual environment are harmonious, can the child grow into a healthy, free being.

Referring to his school, Sebastian Faure has this to say:

“I have taken twenty-four children of both sexes, mostly orphans, or those whose parents are too poor to pay.  They are clothed, housed, and educated at my expense.  Till their twelfth year they will receive a sound, elementary education. Between the age of twelve and fifteen–their studies still continuing–they are to be taught some trade, in keeping with their individual disposition and abilities.  After that they are at liberty to leave LA RUCHE to begin life in the outside world, with the assurance that they may at any time return to LA RUCHE, where they will be received with open arms and welcomed as parents do their beloved children.  Then, if they wish to work at our place, they may do so under the following conditions: One third of the product to cover his or her expenses of maintenance, another third to go towards the general fund set aside for accommodating new children, and the last third to be devoted to the personal use of the child, as he or she may see fit.

“The health of the children who are now in my care is perfect.  Pure air, nutritious food, physical exercise in the open, long walks, observation of hygienic rules, the short and interesting method of instruction, and, above all, our affectionate understanding and care of the children, have produced admirable physical and mental results.

“It would be unjust to claim that our pupils have accomplished wonders; yet, considering that they belong to the average, having had no previous opportunities, the results are very gratifying indeed.  The most important thing they have acquired–a rare trait with ordinary school children–is the love of study, the desire to know, to be informed.  They have learned a new method of work, one that quickens the memory and stimulates the imagination.  We make a particular effort to awaken the child’s interest in his surroundings, to make him realize the importance of observation, investigation, and reflection, so that when the children reach maturity, they would not be deaf and blind to the things about them.  Our children never accept anything in blind faith, without inquiry as to why and wherefore; nor do they feel satisfied until their questions are thoroughly answered.  Thus their minds are free from doubts and fear resultant from incomplete or untruthful replies; it is the latter which warp the growth of the child, and create a lack of confidence in himself and those about him.

“It is surprising how frank and kind and affectionate our little ones are to each other.  The harmony between themselves and the adults at LA RUCHE is highly encouraging.  We should feel at fault if the children were to fear or honor us merely because we are their elders.  We leave nothing undone to gain their confidence and love; that accomplished, understanding will replace duty; confidence, fear; and affection, severity.

“No one has yet fully realized the wealth of sympathy, kindness, and generosity hidden in the soul of the child.  The effort of every true educator should be to unlock that treasure–to stimulate the child’s impulses, and call forth the best and noblest tendencies.  What greater reward can there be for one whose life-work is to watch over the growth of the human plant, than to see its nature unfold its petals, and to observe it develop into a true individuality.  My comrades at LA RUCHE look for no greater reward, and it is due to them and their efforts, even more than to my own, that our human garden promises to bear beautiful fruit.”

Regarding the subject of history and the prevailing old methods of instruction, Sebastian Faure said:

“We explain to our children that true history is yet to be written,–the story of those who have died, unknown, in the effort to aid humanity to greater achievement.”

Francisco Ferrer could not escape this great wave of Modern School attempts.  He saw its possibilities, not merely in theoretic form, but in their practical application to every-day needs.  He must have realized that Spain, more than any other country, stands in need of just such schools, if it is ever to throw off the double yoke of priest and soldier.

When we consider that the entire system of education in Spain is in the hands of the Catholic Church, and when we further remember the Catholic formula, “To inculcate Catholicism in the mind of the child until it is nine years of age is to ruin it forever for any other idea,” we will understand the tremendous task of Ferrer in bringing the new light to his people.  Fate soon assisted him in realizing his great dream.

Mlle. Meunier, a pupil of Francisco Ferrer, and a lady of wealth, became interested in the Modern School project.  When she died, she left Ferrer some valuable property and twelve thousand francs yearly income for the School.

It is said that mean souls can conceive of naught but mean ideas.  If so, the contemptible methods of the Catholic Church to blackguard Ferrer’s character, in order to justify her own black crime, can readily be explained.  Thus the lie was spread in American Catholic papers, that Ferrer used his intimacy with Mlle. Meunier to get possession of her money.

Personally, I hold that the intimacy, of whatever nature, between a man and a woman, is their own affair, their sacred own.  I would therefore not lose a word in referring to the matter, if it were not one of the many dastardly lies circulated about Ferrer.  Of course, those who know the purity of the Catholic clergy will understand the insinuation.  Have the Catholic priests ever looked upon woman as anything but a sex commodity?  The historical data regarding the discoveries in the cloisters and monasteries will bear me out in that.  How, then, are they to understand the co-operation of a man and a woman, except on a sex basis?

As a matter of fact, Mlle. Meunier was considerably Ferrer’s senior.  Having spent her childhood and girlhood with a miserly father and a submissive mother, she could easily appreciate the necessity of love and joy in child life.  She must have seen that Francisco Ferrer was a teacher, not college, machine, or diploma-made, but one endowed with genius for that calling.

Equipped with knowledge, with experience, and with the necessary means; above all, imbued with the divine fire of his mission, our Comrade came back to Spain, and there began his life’s work.  On the ninth of September, 1901, the first Modern School was opened.  It was enthusiastically received by the people of Barcelona, who pledged their support.  In a short address at the opening of the School, Ferrer submitted his program to his friends.  He said: “I am not a speaker, not a propagandist, not a fighter.  I am a teacher; I love children above everything.  I think I understand them.  I want my contribution to the cause of liberty to be a young generation ready to meet a new era.”

He was cautioned by his friends to be careful in his opposition to the Catholic Church.  They knew to what lengths she would go to dispose of an enemy.  Ferrer, too, knew.  But, like Brand, he believed in all or nothing.  He would not erect the Modern School on the same old lie.  He would be frank and honest and open with the children.

Francisco Ferrer became a marked man.  From the very first day of the opening of the School, he was shadowed.  The school building was watched, his little home in Mangat was watched.  He was followed every step, even when he went to France or England to confer with his colleagues.  He was a marked man, and it was only a question of time when the lurking enemy would tighten the noose.

It succeeded, almost, in 1906, when Ferrer was implicated in the attempt on the life of Alfonso.  The evidence exonerating him was too strong even for the black crows;* they had to let him go–not for good, however.  They waited.  Oh, they can wait, when they have set themselves to trap a victim.

The moment came at last, during the anti-military uprising in Spain, in July, 1909.  One will have to search in vain the annals of revolutionary history to find a more remarkable protest against militarism.  Having been soldier-ridden for centuries, the people of Spain could stand the yoke no longer.  They would refuse to participate in useless slaughter.  They saw no reason for aiding a despotic government in subduing and oppressing a small people fighting for their independence, as did the brave Riffs.  No, they would not bear arms against them.

For eighteen hundred years the Catholic Church has preached the gospel of peace.  Yet, when the people actually wanted to make this gospel a living reality, she urged the authorities to force them to bear arms.  Thus the dynasty of Spain followed the murderous methods of the Russian dynasty,–the people were forced to the battlefield.

Then, and not until then, was their power of endurance at an end.  Then, and not until then, did the workers of Spain turn against their masters, against those who, like leeches, had drained their strength, their very life-blood.  Yes, they attacked the churches and the priests, but if the latter had a thousand lives, they could not possibly pay for the terrible outrages and crimes perpetrated upon the Spanish people.

Francisco Ferrer was arrested on the first of September, 1909.  Until October first, his friends and comrades did not even know what had become of him.  On that day a letter was received by L’HUMANITE, from which can be learned the whole mockery of the trial.  And the next day his companion, Soledad Villafranca, received the following letter:

“No reason to worry; you know I am absolutely innocent.  Today I am particularly hopeful and joyous.  It is the first time I can write to you, and the first time since my arrest that I can bathe in the rays of the sun, streaming generously through my cell window.  You, too, must be joyous.”

How pathetic that Ferrer should have believed, as late as October fourth, that he would not be condemned to death.  Even more pathetic that his friends and comrades should once more have made the blunder in crediting the enemy with a sense of justice.  Time and again they had placed faith in the judicial powers, only to see their brothers killed before their very eyes.  They made no preparation to rescue Ferrer, not even a protest of any extent; nothing.  “Why, it is impossible to condemn Ferrer; he is innocent.”  But everything is possible with the Catholic Church.  Is she not a practiced henchman, whose trials of her enemies are the worst mockery of justice?

On October fourth Ferrer sent the following letter to L’HUMANITE:

The Prison Cell, Oct. 4, 1909.

My dear Friends–Notwithstanding most absolute innocence, the prosecutor demands the death penalty, based on denunciations of the police, representing me as the chief of the world’s Anarchists, directing the labor syndicates of France, and guilty of conspiracies and insurrections everywhere, and declaring that my voyages to London and Paris were undertaken with no other object.

With such infamous lies they are trying to kill me.

The messenger is about to depart and I have not time for more. All the evidence presented to the investigating judge by the police is nothing but a tissue of lies and calumnious insinuations.  But no proofs against me, having done nothing at all.


October thirteenth, 1909, Ferrer’s heart, so brave, so staunch, so loyal, was stilled.  Poor fools!  The last agonized throb of that heart had barely died away when it began to beat a hundredfold in the hearts of the civilized world, until it grew into terrific thunder, hurling forth its malediction upon the instigators of the black crime.  Murderers of black garb and pious mien, to the bar of justice!

Did Francisco Ferrer participate in the anti-military uprising?  According to the first indictment, which appeared in a Catholic paper in Madrid, signed by the Bishop and all the prelates of Barcelona, he was not even accused of participation.  The indictment was to the effect that Francisco Ferrer was guilty of having organized godless schools, and having circulated godless literature.  But in the twentieth century men can not be burned merely for their godless beliefs.  Something else had to be devised; hence the charge of instigating the uprising.

In no authentic source so far investigated could a single proof be found to connect Ferrer with the uprising.  But then, no proofs were wanted, or accepted, by the authorities.  There were seventy-two witnesses, to be sure, but their testimony was taken on paper.  They never were confronted with Ferrer, or he with them.

Is it psychologically possible that Ferrer should have participated?  I do not believe it is, and here are my reasons.  Francisco Ferrer was not only a great teacher, but he was also undoubtedly a marvelous organizer.  In eight years, between 1901-1909, he had organized in Spain one hundred and nine schools, besides inducing the liberal element of his country to organize three hundred and eight other schools.  In connection with his own school work, Ferrer had equipped a modern printing plant, organized a staff of translators, and spread broadcast one hundred and fifty thousand copies of modern scientific and sociologic works, not to forget the large quantity of rationalist text books.  Surely none but the most methodical and efficient organizer could have accomplished such a feat.

On the other hand, it was absolutely proven that the anti-military uprising was not at all organized; that it came as a surprise to the people themselves, like a great many revolutionary waves on previous occasions.  The people of Barcelona, for instance, had the city in their control for four days, and, according to the statement of tourists, greater order and peace never prevailed.  Of course, the people were so little prepared that when the time came, they did not know what to do.  In this regard they were like the people of Paris during the Commune of 1871.  They, too, were unprepared.  While they were starving, they protected the warehouses, filled to the brim with provisions.  They placed sentinels to guard the Bank of France, where the bourgeoisie kept the stolen money.  The workers of Barcelona, too, watched over the spoils of their masters.

How pathetic is the stupidity of the underdog; how terribly tragic!  But, then, have not his fetters been forged so deeply into his flesh, that he would not, even if he could, break them?  The awe of authority, of law, of private property, hundredfold burned into his soul,–how is he to throw it off unprepared, unexpectedly?

Can anyone assume for a moment that a man like Ferrer would affiliate himself with such a spontaneous, unorganized effort?  Would he not have known that it would result in a defeat, a disastrous defeat for the people?  And is it not more likely that if he would have taken part, he, the experienced ENTREPRENEUR, would have thoroughly organized the attempt?  If all other proofs were lacking, that one factor would be sufficient to exonerate Francisco Ferrer.  But there are others equally convincing.

For the very date of the outbreak, July twenty-fifth, Ferrer had called a conference of his teachers and members of the League of Rational Education.  It was to consider the autumn work, and particularly the publication of Elisee Reclus’ great book, L’HOMME ET LA TERRE, and Peter Kropotkin’s GREAT FRENCH REVOLUTION.  Is it at all likely, is it at all plausible that Ferrer, knowing of the uprising, being a party to it, would in cold blood invite his friends and colleagues to Barcelona for the day on which he realized their lives would be endangered?  Surely, only the criminal, vicious mind of a Jesuit could credit such deliberate murder.

Francisco Ferrer had his life-work mapped out; he had everything to lose and nothing to gain, except ruin and disaster, were he to lend assistance to the outbreak.  Not that he doubted the justice of the people’s wrath; but his work, his hope, his very nature was directed toward another goal.

In vain are the frantic efforts of the Catholic Church, her lies, falsehoods, calumnies.  She stands condemned by the awakened human conscience of having once more repeated the foul crimes of the past.

Francisco Ferrer is accused of teaching the children the most blood-curdling ideas,–to hate God, for instance.  Horrors!  Francisco Ferrer did not believe in the existence of a God.  Why teach the child to hate something which does not exist?  Is it not more likely that he took the children out into the open, that he showed them the splendor of the sunset, the brilliancy of the starry heavens, the awe-inspiring wonder of the mountains and seas; that he explained to them in his simple, direct way the law of growth, of development, of the interrelation of all life?  In so doing he made it forever impossible for the poisonous weeds of the Catholic Church to take root in the child’s mind.

It has been stated that Ferrer prepared the children to destroy the rich.  Ghost stories of old maids.  Is it not more likely that he prepared them to succor the poor?  That he taught them the humiliation, the degradation, the awfulness of poverty, which is a vice and not a virtue; that he taught the dignity and importance of all creative efforts, which alone sustain life and build character.  Is it not the best and most effective way of bringing into the proper light the absolute uselessness and injury of parasitism?

Last, but not least, Ferrer is charged with undermining the army by inculcating anti-military ideas.  Indeed?  He must have believed with Tolstoy that war is legalized slaughter, that it perpetuates hatred and arrogance, that it eats away the heart of nations, and turns them into raving maniacs.

However, we have Ferrer’s own word regarding his ideas of modern education:

“I would like to call the attention of my readers to this idea: All the value of education rests in the respect for the physical, intellectual, and moral will of the child.  Just as in science no demonstration is possible save by facts, just so there is no real education save that which is exempt from all dogmatism, which leaves to the child itself the direction of its effort, and confines itself to the seconding of its effort.  Now, there is nothing easier than to alter this purpose, and nothing harder than to respect it.  Education is always imposing, violating, constraining; the real educator is he who can best protect the child against his (the teacher’s) own ideas, his peculiar whims; he who can best appeal to the child’s own energies.

“We are convinced that the education of the future will be of an entirely spontaneous nature; certainly we can not as yet realize it, but the evolution of methods in the direction of a wider comprehension of the phenomena of life, and the fact that all advances toward perfection mean the overcoming of restraint,–all this indicates that we are in the right when we hope for the deliverance of the child through science.

“Let us not fear to say that we want men capable of evolving without stopping, capable of destroying and renewing their environments without cessation, of renewing themselves also;  men, whose intellectual independence will be their greatest force, who will attach themselves to nothing, always ready to accept what is best, happy in the triumph of new ideas, aspiring to live multiple lives in one life.  Society fears such men; we therefore must not hope that it will ever want an education able to give them to us.

“We shall follow the labors of the scientists who study the child with the greatest attention, and we shall eagerly seek for means of applying their experience to the education which we want to build up, in the direction of an ever fuller liberation of the individual.  But how can we attain our end?  Shall it not be by putting ourselves directly to the work favoring the foundation of new schools, which shall be ruled as much as possible by this spirit of liberty, which we forefeel will dominate the entire work of education in the future?

“A trial has been made, which, for the present, has already given excellent results.  We can destroy all which in the present school answers to the organization of constraint, the artificial surroundings by which children are separated from nature and life, the intellectual and moral discipline made use of to impose ready-made ideas upon them, beliefs which deprave and annihilate natural bent.  Without fear of deceiving ourselves, we can restore the child to the environment which entices it, the environment of nature in which he will be in contact with all that he loves, and in which impressions of life will replace fastidious book-learning.  If we did no more than that, we should already have prepared in great part the deliverance of the child.

“In such conditions we might already freely apply the data of science and labor most fruitfully.

“I know very well we could not thus realize all our hopes, that we should often be forced, for lack of knowledge, to employ undesirable methods; but a certitude would sustain us in our efforts–namely, that even without reaching our aim completely we should do more and better in our still imperfect work than the present school accomplishes.  I like the free spontaneity of a child who knows nothing, better than the world-knowledge and intellectual deformity of a child who has been subjected to our present education.”

Had Ferrer actually organized the riots, had he fought on the barricades, had he hurled a hundred bombs, he could not have been so dangerous to the Catholic Church and to despotism, as with his opposition to discipline and restraint.  Discipline and restraint–are they not back of all the evils in the world?  Slavery, submission, poverty, all misery, all social iniquities result from discipline and restraint.  Indeed, Ferrer was dangerous.  Therefore he had to die, October thirteenth, 1909, in the ditch of Montjuich.  Yet who dare say his death was in vain?  In view of the tempestuous rise of universal indignation: Italy naming streets in memory of Francisco Ferrer, Belgium inaugurating a movement to erect a memorial; France calling to the front her most illustrious men to resume the heritage of the martyr; England being the first to issue a biography:–all countries uniting in perpetuating the great work of Francisco Ferrer; America, even, tardy always in progressive ideas, giving birth to a Francisco Ferrer Association, its aim being to publish a complete life of Ferrer and to organize Modern Schools all over the country; in the face of this international revolutionary wave, who is there to say Ferrer died in vain?

That death at Montjuich,–how wonderful, how dramatic it was, how it stirs the human soul.  Proud and erect, the inner eye turned toward the light, Francisco Ferrer needed no lying priests to give him courage, nor did he upbraid a phantom for forsaking him.  The consciousness that his executioners represented a dying age, and that his was the living truth, sustained him in the last heroic moments.

A dying age and a living truth,
The living burying the dead.

The following conversation between Alan Moore and Margeret Killjoy was originally posted on Infoshop and is included in Margeret’s excellent collection of interviews with Anarchist writers, Mythmakers and Lawbreakers: Anarchist Writers on Fiction. It was this interview, perhaps more than anything else, which inspired me to create this blog.

Strangers in a Tangled  Wilderness have released each of the interviews in zine format, and I’ll include links to the Alan Moore pdfs at the end of this post – enjoy…

Authors on Anarchism – an Interview with Alan Moore

An Interview by Margaret Killjoy

MK: I’ll start with the basics: What are your associations with anarchism? Do you consider yourself an anarchist? How did you first get involved in radical politics?

AM: Well I suppose I first got involved in radical politics as a matter of course, during the late 1960s when it was a part of the culture. The counterculture, as we called it then, was very eclectic and all embracing. It included fashions of dress, styles of music, philosophical positions, and, inevitably, political positions. And although there would be various political leanings coming to the fore from time to time, I suppose that the overall consensus political standpoint was probably an anarchist one. Although probably back in those days, when I was a very young teenager, I didn’t necessarily put it into those terms. I was probably not familiar enough with the concepts of anarchy to actually label myself as such. It was later, as I went into my twenties and started to think about things more seriously that I came to a conclusion that basically the only political standpoint that I could possibly adhere to would be an anarchist one.

It furthermore occurred to me that, basically, anarchy is in fact the only political position that is actually possible. I believe that all other political states are in fact variations or outgrowths of a basic state of anarchy; after all, when you mention the idea of anarchy to most people they will tell you what a bad idea it is because the biggest gang would just take over. Which is pretty much how I see contemporary society. We live in a badly developed anarchist situation in which the biggest gang has taken over and have declared that it is not an anarchist situation—that it is a capitalist or a communist situation. But I tend to think that anarchy is the most natural form of politics for a human being to actually practice. All it means, the word, is no leaders. An-archon. No leaders.

And I think that if we actually look at nature without prejudice, we find that this is the state of affairs that usually pertains. I mean, previous naturalists have looked at groups of animals and have said: “ah yes this animal is the alpha male, so he is the leader of the group.” Whereas later research tends to suggest that this is simply the researcher projecting his own social visions onto a group of animals, and that if you observe them more closely you will find out that, yes there is this big tough male that seems to handle most of the fights, but that the most important member of the herd is probably this female at the back that everybody seems to gather around during any conflict. There are other animals within the herd that might have an importance in terms of finding new territory. In fact the herd does not actually structure itself in terms of hierarchies; every animal seems to have its own position within the herd.

And actually, if you look at most natural human groupings of people, such as a family or a group of friends, you will find that again, we don’t have leaders. Unless you’re talking about some incredibly rigid Victorian family, there is nobody that could be said to be the leader of the family; everybody has their own function. And it seems to me that anarchy is the state that most naturally obtains when you’re talking about ordinary human beings living their lives in a natural way. Its only when you get these fairly alien structures of order that are represented by our major political schools of thought, that you start to get these terrible problems arising—problems regarding our status within the hierarchy, the uncertainties and insecurities that are the result of that. You get these jealousies, these power struggles, which by and large, don’t really afflict the rest of the animal kingdom. It seems to me that the idea of leaders is an unnatural one that was probably thought up by a leader at some point in antiquity; leaders have been brutally enforcing that idea ever since, to the point where most people cannot conceive of an alternative.

This is one of the things about anarchy: if we were to take out all the leaders tomorrow, and put them up against a wall and shoot them— and it’s a lovely thought, so let me just dwell on that for a moment before I dismiss it—but if we were to do that, society would probably collapse, because the majority of people have had thousands of years of being conditioned to depend upon leadership from a source outside themselves. That has become a crutch to an awful lot of people, and if you were to simply kick it away, then those people would simply fall over and take society with them. In order for any workable and realistic state of anarchy to be achieved, you will obviously have to educate people—and educate them massively—towards a state where they could actually take responsibility for their own actions and simultaneously be aware that they are acting in a wider group: that they must allow other people within that group to take responsibility for their own actions. Which on a small scale, as it works in families or in groups of friends, doesn’t seem to be that implausible, but it would take an awful lot of education to get people to think about living their lives in that way. And obviously, no government, no state, is ever going to educate people to the point where the state itself would become irrelevant. So if people are going to be educated to the point where they can take responsibility for their own laws and their own actions and become, to my mind, fully actualized human beings, then it will have to come from some source other than the state or government.

There have been underground traditions, both underground political traditions and underground spiritual traditions. There have been people such as John Bunyan, who spent almost 30 years in prison in nearby Bedford. This is the author of “The Pilgrim’s Progress” who spent nearly 30 years in prison because the spiritual ideas he was espousing were so incendiary. This was a part of a movement; around the 17th century in England there were all sorts of strange ideas bubbling to the surface, particularly around the area where I live, in the midlands. You’ve got all of these religions—although they were often considered heretical—which were stating that there was no need for priests, that there was no need for leaders; they were hoping to announce a nation of saints. That everybody would become a saint, and that they would become mechanic philosophers. People could work all day, as say a tinker, but that in the evening they could stand up and preach the word of the Lord with as much authority as any person in a pulpit. This looks to be a glorious idea, but you can see how it would have terrified the authorities at the time.

And indeed it was during the 17th century that, partly fueled by similar ideas, Oliver Cromwell rose up and commenced the British civil war, which eventually led to the beheading of Charles I. I mean it was, in the phrase of one of the best books about the period, “literally a case of the world turned upside down.” There have been these underground traditions, whether they are spiritual or purely political, that have expressed anarchist ideas for centuries, and these days there is even more potential for the dissemination of ideas like that. With the growth of the internet and the growth of communication in general, these ideas are much harder to suppress. Simply putting John Bunyan in jail for 30 years isn’t really going to cut it anymore. Also, the internet does suggest possibilities for throwing off centralized state control.

There was a very interesting piece, a 10 minute television broadcast, made over here by a gentleman from the London school of economics, a lecturer who looked like the least threatening man that you can imagine. He didn’t look like an apocalyptic political firebrand by any means; he looked like and was an accountant and an economist. And yet the actual picture he was painting was quite compelling. He was saying that the only reason that governments are governments is that they control the currency; they don’t actually do anything for us that we don’t pay for, other than expose us to the threat of foreign wars by their reckless actions. They don’t actually really even govern us; all they do is control the currency and rake off the proceeds.

Now in the past, if you wanted to get yourself thrown into jail forever than the best way of going about it woulda been not to have molested children or gone on a serial killing spree or something like that, the best way would have been to try to establish your own currency. Because the nature of currency is a kind of magic: these pieces of metal or pieces of paper only have value as long as people believe that they do. If somebody were to introduce another kind of piece of metal or piece of paper, and if people were to start believing in that form of currency more than yours, then all of your wealth would suddenly vanish. So attempts to introduce alternative currencies in the past have been ruthlessly stamped out. And with the internet, that is no longer anywhere near as easy. In fact, a lot of modern companies have rewards schemes; supermarkets run reward schemes that are in certain senses like a form of currency. A lot of companies have schemes in which workers will be paid in credits which can be redeemed from almost anything from a house to a tin of beans at the company store. There are also green economies that are starting up here and there whereby you’ll have say, an underprivileged place in England where you have an out-of-work mechanic who wants his house decorated. He will, as an out-of-work mechanic, have accumulated green credits by doing the odd job around the neighborhood—fixing peoples cars, stuff like that—and he will be able to spend those credits by getting in touch with an out-of-work decorator who will come and paint his house for him.

Now again, schemes like this are increasingly difficult to control, and what this lecturer from the London school of economics was saying is that in the future we would have to be prepared a situation in which we have firstly, no currency, and secondly, as a result of that, no government. So there are ways in which technology itself and the ways in which we respond to technology—the ways in which we adapt our culture and our way of living to accommodate breakthroughs and movements in technology—might give us a way to move around government. To evolve around government to a point where such a thing is no longer necessary or desirable. That is perhaps an optimistic vision, but it’s one of the only realistic ways I can see it happening.

I don’t believe that a violent revolution is ever going to work, simply on the grounds that it never has in the past. I mean, speaking as a resident of Northampton, during the English civil war we backed Cromwell—we provided all the boots for his army—and we were a center of antiroyalist sentiment. Incidentally, we provided all the boots to the Confederates as well, so obviously we know how to pick a winner. Cromwell’s revolution? I guess it succeeded. The king was beheaded, which was quite early in the day for beheading; amongst the European monarchy, I think we can claim to have kicked off that trend. But give it another ten years; as it turned out, Cromwell himself was a monster. He was every bit the monster that Charles I had been. In some ways he was worse. When Cromwell died, the restoration happened. Charles II came to power and was so pissed off with the people of Northampton that he pulled down our castle. And the status quo was restored. I really don’t think that a violent revolution is ever going to provide a long-term solution to the problems of the ordinary person. I think that is something that we had best handle ourselves, and which we are most likely to achieve by the simple evolution of western society. But that might take quite a while, and whether we have that amount of time is, of course, open to debate.

So I suppose that those are my principal thoughts upon anarchy. They’ve been with me for a long time. Way back in the early 80s, when I was first kicking off writing V for Vendetta for the English magazine Warrior, the story was very much a result of me actually sitting down and thinking about what the real extreme poles of politics were. Because it struck me that simple capitalism and communism were not the two poles around which the whole of political thinking revolved. It struck me that two much more representative extremes were to be found in fascism and anarchy.

Fascism is a complete abdication of personal responsibility. You are surrendering all responsibility for your own actions to the state on the belief that in unity there is strength, which was the definition of fascism represented by the original roman symbol of the bundle of bound twigs. Yes, it is a very persuasive argument: “In unity there is strength.” But inevitably people tend to come to a conclusion that the bundle of bound twigs will be much stronger if all the twigs are of a uniform size and shape, that there aren’t any oddly shaped or bent twigs that are disturbing the bundle. So it goes from “in unity there is strength” to “in uniformity there is strength” and from there it proceeds to the excesses of fascism as we’ve seen them exercised throughout the 20th century and into the 21st.

Now anarchy, on the other hand, is almost starting from the principle that “in diversity, there is strength,” which makes much more sense from the point of view of looking at the natural world. Nature, and the forces of evolution—if you happen to be living in a country where they still believe in the forces of evolution, of course —did not really see fit to follow that “in unity and in uniformity there is strength” idea. If you want to talk about successful species, then you’re talking about bats and beetles; there are thousands of different varieties of different bat and beetle. Certain sorts of tree and bush have diversified so splendidly that there are now thousands of different examples of this basic species. Now you contrast that to something like horses or humans, where there’s one basic type of human, and two maybe three basic types of horses. In terms of the evolutionary tree, we are very bare, denuded branches. The whole program of evolution seems to be to diversify, because in diversity there is strength.

And if you apply that on a social level, then you get something like anarchy. Everybody is recognized as having their own abilities, their own particular agendas, and everybody has their own need to work cooperatively with other people. So it’s conceivable that the same kind of circumstances that obtain in a small human grouping, like a family or like a collection of friends, could be made to obtain in a wider human grouping like a civilization.

So I suppose those are pretty much my thoughts at the moment upon anarchy. Although of course with anarchy, it’s a fairly shifting commodity, so if you ask me tomorrow I might have a different idea.

MK: In “writing for comics” you write about how stories can have relevance to the world around us, how stories can be “useful” in some way. How do you think that stories can be useful? And how do politics inform your work?

AM: Well, I think that stories are probably more than just useful; they are probably vital. I think that if you actually examine the relationship between real life and fiction, you’ll find that we most often predicate our real lives upon fictions that we have applied from somewhere. From our earliest days in the caves I’m certain we have, when assembling our own personalities, tried to borrow qualities —perhaps from real people that we admire, but as often as not from some completely mythical person, some god or some hero, some character from a storybook. Whether this is a good idea or not, this tends to be what we do. The way that we talk, the way that we act, the way that we behave, we’re probably taking our example from some fiction or prototype. Even if it’s a real person who’s inspiring us, it may be that they were partly inspired by fictional examples. And given that, it is quite easy to see that in a sense, our entire lives— individually or as a culture—are a kind of narrative.

It’s a kind of fiction, it is not a reality in the sense that it is something concrete and fixed; we constantly fictionalize our own experience. We edit our own experience. There are bits of it that we simply misremember, and there are bits of it that we deliberately edit out because they’re not of interest to us or perhaps they show us in a bad light. So we’re constantly revising, both as individuals and as nations, our own past. We’re turning it moment by moment into a kind of fiction, that is the way that we assemble our daily reality. We are not experiencing reality directly, we are simply experiencing our perception of reality. All of these signals pulsing down optic nerves, and in the tympanums of our ears, from those we compose, moment by moment, our view of reality. And inevitably, because people’s perceptions are different, and the constructions that people put on things are different, then there is no such thing as a cold, objective reality that is solid and fixed and not open to interpretation. Inevitably, we are to some extent creating a fiction every second of our lives, the fiction of who we are, the fiction of what our lives are about, the meanings that we give to things.

So to some degree, stories are at the absolute center of human existence. Sometimes to disastrous effect; if you think about how various ancient religious stories—that may have been intended at the time as no more than fables—have led to so many devastating wars up to and including the present day. Obviously there are some occasions when the fictions that we base our lives upon lead us into some terrifying territory. So yes, I think that stories have a great part to play, in some ways more than the development of laws or the development of any other kind of sociological marker. I think that it is the development of our fictions and the development of our stories that tend to be the real measure of our progress. I tend to think that when we look back at culture, we’re generally looking at art as the measure of the high points of our culture. We’re not looking at war, or the major, benign political events. We’re generally looking at cultural highpoints, such as a story.

As to how politics relate to the storytelling process, I’d say that it’s probably in the same way that politics relate to everything. I mean, as the old feminist maxim used to go, “the personal is the political.” We don’t really live in an existence where the different aspects of our society are compartmentalized in the way that they are in bookshops. In a bookshop, you’ll have a section that is about history, that is about politics, that is about the contemporary living, or the environment, or modern thinking, modern attitudes. All of these things are political. All of these things are not compartmentalized; they’re all mixed up together. And I think that inevitably there is going to be a political element in everything that we do or don’t do. In everything we believe, or do not believe.

I mean, in terms of politics I think that it’s important to remember what the word actually means. Politics sometimes sells itself as having an ethical dimension, as if there was good politics and bad politics. As far as I understand it, the word actually has the same root as the word polite. It is the art of conveying information in a politic way, in a way that will be discrete and diplomatic and will offend the least people. And basically we’re talking about spin. Rather than being purely a late 20th, early 21st century term, it’s obvious that politics have always been nothing but spin. But, that said, it is the system which is interwoven with our everyday lives, so every aspect our lives is bound to have a political element, including writing fiction.

I suppose any form of art can be said to be propaganda for a state of mind. Inevitably, if you are creating a painting, or writing a story, you are making propaganda, in a sense, for the way that you feel, the way that you think, the way that you see the world. You are trying to express your own view of reality and existence, and that is inevitably going to be a political action—especially if your view of existence is too far removed from the mainstream view of existence. Which is how an awful lot of writers have gotten into terrible trouble in the past.

MK: Have you run into any problems with your publishers, owing to your radical politics?

AM: Well, no, surprisingly. I largely got into comics under the influence of the American underground comics; that was probably the background that I was coming from, a kind of adulation of American underground culture, including its comic strips. Now that background was always very, very political. So right from the start there would probably always be some politically satirical element, at least from time to time. When it was necessary, or felt right for the story, there would be some satirical political element creeping in to my work right from the earliest days. A lot of the very early little short stories I did for 2000AD, little twist-ending science-fiction tales. When it was possible I would try to get some kind of political moral, or simply moral, into stories like that. Simply because it made them better stories, and it made me feel better about writing them because I was expressing my own beliefs.

Now because those stories were popular, because they sold more comics, I never had any problem at all. Even if the people publishing the books didn’t share my beliefs or politics—and in most instances their politics would have been 180 degrees away from mine—they at least understood their own sales figures. And they seemed to be able to live with that, with publishing views to which they themselves they did not subscribe, so long as the readers were buying the books in large numbers. They are prepared to forgive you anything if you’re making enough money for them. I think that’s the general message that I’ve taken from my career in comics; that if you’re good enough, if you’re popular enough, if you’re making enough money, then they will quite cheerfully allow you to use their publishing facilities to disseminate ideas that perhaps are very, very radical. Perhaps even in some contexts, potentially dangerous. This is the beauty of capitalism: there is an inherent greed that is more concerned with raking in the money than in whatever message might be being circulated. So no, I’ve never really had any problems with that.

MK: Can you point to any effect that your stories have had on the world?

AM: I can’t think that many positive ones. I would like to think that some of my work has opened up people’s thinking about certain areas. On a very primitive level, it would be nice to think that people thought a little bit differently about the comics medium as a result of my work, and saw greater possibility in it. And realized what a useful tool for disseminating information it was. That would be an accomplishment. That would have added a very useful implement to the arsenal of people who are seeking social change, because comics can be an incredibly useful tool in that regard. I’d also like to think that perhaps, on a higher level, that some of my work has the potential to radically change enough people’s ideas upon a subject. To perhaps, eventually, decades after my own death, affect some kind of minor change in the way that people see and organize society. Some of my magical work that I’ve done is an attempt to get people to see reality and it’s possibilities in a different light. I’d like to think that that might have some kind of impact eventually. I’d like to think that Lost Girls, with its attempt to rehabilitate the whole notion of pornography, might have some benign effects. That people will be able to potentially come up with a form of pornography which is not ugly, which is intelligent, and which potentially makes pornography into a kind of beautiful, welcoming arena in which our most closely guarded sexual secrets can be discussed in an open and healthy way. Where our shameful fantasies are not left to fester and to turn into something monstrous in the dark inside us. It would be nice to think that maybe stuff like Lost Girls and the magical material might have the potential to actually change the way people think.

With relation to the magic, I can remember one the last conversations I had with my very dear and much missed friend, the writer Kathy Acker. This was very soon after I had just become interested and involved with magic. I was saying to her how the way I was then seeing things was that basically magic was about the last and best bastion of revolution. The political revolution, the sexual revolution, these things had their part and had their limits, whereas the idea of a magical revolution would revolve around actually changing people’s consciousnesses, which is to say, actually changing the nature of perceived reality. Kathy agreed with that completely—it sort of followed on some of her own experiences—and I still think that that is true. In some ways, magic is the most political of all of the areas that I’m involved with.

For example, we were talking earlier—well I was talking earlier— about anarchy and fascism being the two poles of politics. On one hand you’ve got fascism, with the bound bundle of twigs, the idea that in unity and uniformity there is strength; on the other you have anarchy, which is completely determined by the individual, and where the individual determines his or her own life. Now if you move that into the spiritual domain, then in religion, I find very much the spiritual equivalent of fascism. The word “religion” comes from the root word ligare, which is the same root word as ligature, and ligament, and basically means “bound together in one belief.” It’s basically the same as the idea behind fascism; there’s not even necessarily a spiritual component it. Everything from the Republican Party to the Girl Guides could be seen as a religion, in that they are bound together in one belief. So to me, like I said, religion becomes very much the spiritual equivalent of fascism. And by the same token, magic becomes the spiritual equivalent of anarchy, in that it is purely about self-determination, with the magician simply a human being writ large, and in more dramatic terms, standing at the center of his or her own universe. Which I think is a kind of a spiritual statement of the basic anarchist position. I find an awful lot in common between anarchist politics and the pursuit of magic, that there’s a great sympathy there.

MK: Have you heard of the A for Anarchy project that happened in New York City with the release of the movie version of V for Vendetta?

AM: No I haven’t, please go on, inform me.

MK: Some anarchist activist types started tabling outside of the movie showings with information about how Hollywood had taken the politics out of the movie.

AM: Ah, now that is fantastic, that is really good to hear, because that’s one of the things that had distressed me. What had originally been a straightforward battle of ideas between anarchy and fascism had been turned into a kind of ham-fisted parable of 9-11 and the war against terror, in which the words anarchy and fascism appear nowhere. I mean, at the time I was thinking: look, if they wanted to protest about George Bush and the way that American society is going since 9-11—which would completely understandable—then why don’t they do what I did back in the 1980s when I didn’t like the way that England was going under Margaret Thatcher, which is to do a story in my own country, that was clearly about events that were happening right then in my own country, and kind of make it obvious that that’s what you’re talking about. It struck me that for Hollywood to make V for Vendetta, it was a way for thwarted and impotent American liberals to feel that they were making some kind of statement about how pissed off they were with the current situation without really risking anything. It’s all set in England, which I think that probably, in most American eyes, is kind of a fairytale kingdom where we still perhaps still have giants. It doesn’t really exist; it might as well be in the Land of Oz for most Americans. So you can get set your political parable in this fantasy environment called England, and then you can vent your spleen against George Bush and the neo- conservatives. Those were my feelings, and I must admit those are completely based upon not having seen the film even once, but having read a certain amount of the screenplay. That was enough.

But that’s really interesting about the A for Anarchy demonstrations. That’s fantastic.

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