George Woodcock


Canadian Poet, Critic, Playwright, Anarchist Thinker, Essayist and Literary Critic

Author Quotes

Orwell was the sort of man who was full of grievances. He was very loyal. Once he got to know you, he was extremely loyal. He hated passionately and irrationally.

Proudhon goes on to suggest that the real laws by which society functions have nothing to do with authority; they are not imposed from above, but stem from the nature of society itself. He sees the free emergence of such laws as the goal of social endeavour. … Proudhon conceiving a natural law of balance operating within society, rejects authority as an enemy and not a friend of order, and throws back at the authoritarians the accusations leveled at anarchists; in the process he adopts the title he hopes to have cleared of obloquy.

Proudhon was a voluntary hermit in the political world of the nineteenth century. He sought no followers, indignantly rebuffed suggestions that he had created as system of any kind, and almost certainly rejoiced in the fact that he accepted the title anarchist in virtual isolation.

They decided that unpaid leave could only be granted through the decision of a council that consisted almost entirely of scientists who couldn't understand my reasons for wanting to go so. They said no, no unpaid. So I immediately resigned.

What I'm going to be given I gather is not the key to the city, which in many cities is the case. It's the freedom medal, and for me freedom has always been associated traditionally within the city.

When I die let the black rag fly raven falling from the sky.

When you act dramatically in that way it often has a consequence that is very negative.

While we can doubtless look to some wide changes in the shapes of social relationships as a result of contemporary libertarian movements, and especially to an increase in workers' involvement in decision-making at the place of work and in the development of forms of democracy more direct and more sensitive to modern conditions, it is unlikely that the general outcome will be the wholly non-governmental society of which libertarians now and in the past have dreamed. The value of anarchism is likely to remain primarily in its force as an inspiring idea, an activating vision…

Whoever denies authority and fights against it is an anarchist, said Sebastien Faure. The definition is tempting in its simplicity, but simplicity is the first thing to guard against in writing a history of anarchism. Few doctrines or movements have been so confusedly understood in the public mind, and few have presented in their own variety of approach and action so much excuse for confusion.

You can be bound by physical things, as I am by certain sicknesses, but nevertheless you can still be free to recognize that all initiatives really come from yourself if you don't depend upon structures of government or structures of any kind.

Like such titles as Christian and Quaker, "anarchist" was in the end proudly adopted by one of those against whom it had been used in condemnation. In 1840, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, that stormy, argumentative individualist who prided himself on being a man of paradox and a provoker of contradiction, published the work that established him as a pioneer libertarian thinker. It was What Is Property?, in which he gave his own question the celebrated answer: "Property is theft." In the same book he became the first man willingly to claim the title of anarchist. Undoubtedly Proudhon did this partly in defiance, and partly in order to exploit the word's paradoxical qualities. He had recognized the ambiguity of the Greek anarchos, and had gone back to it for that very reason — to emphasize that the criticism of authority on which he was about to embark need not necessarily imply an advocacy of disorder. The passages in which he introduces "anarchist" and "anarchy" are historically important enough to merit quotation, since they not merely show these words being used for the first time in a socially positive sense, but also contain in germ the justification by natural law which anarchists have in general applied to their arguments for a non-authoritarian society. What is to be the form of government in the future? … I hear some of my readers reply: "Why, how can you ask such a question? You — are a republican." A republican! Yes, but that word specifies nothing. Res publico; that is, the public thing. Now, whoever is interested in public affairs — no matter under what form of government, may call himself a republican. Even kings are republicans. "Well, you are a democrat." No ... "Then what are you?" I am an anarchist!

Much in his career remains unexplained if we forget his insistence that religion and politics were bound inextricably in the common search for Truth. "To me," he said, "Truth is God and there is no way to find Truth except the way of nonviolence." Truth conceived as God is of course the Absolute. Truth perceived by man must always be relative, changing according to human contacts developing as men understand better each other, their circumstances and themselves. Gandhi never set out to develop a fixed and final doctrine, but emphasized that his practice of ahimsa, or nonviolence, was always experimental, that his political struggle like his personal life was part of a continuing quest for Truth as manifested existentially, a quest that could never end because human understanding was incapable of comprehending the Absolute. The identification of Truth as the goal of political action, as well as of religious devotion, and the refusal to distinguish between religion and politics, form the background to the great divergences between Gandhi's revolutionary ideas and techniques and those of other contemporary revolutionists … Unorthodox though he might be, Gandhi fitted into the traditional pattern of the sanyassi who practices non attachment in the search for Truth; he was the karma yogin, the man who perfects and purifies himself through action. Yogic disciplines of all kinds are held in India to confer power over destiny, and Gandhi believed that positive action — love and nonviolence — could intangibly influence men and therefore events. With Truth as the goal and at the same time as the principle of action (for in Gandhian terms ends are emergent from means and hence virtually indistinguishable from them), there was no place in Gandhi's idea of revolution for conspiratorial methods or guerrilla activities.

My early wounds were the English school system among other things. It wasn't merely the discipline, it was the ways in which boys got what was called the school spirit.

My split with the university was over the fact that I had become involved with helping Tibetans in India.

Now I am a writer who can command fairly good payments from magazines with large circulations, I very often refuse to write for them and still write sometimes for small magazines for nothing.

Orwell can only be understood as an essentially quixotic man. … He defended, passionately and as a matter of principle, unpopular causes. Often without regard to reason he would strike out against anything which offended his conceptions of right, justice and decency, yet, as many who crossed lances with him had reason to know, he could be a very chivalrous opponent, impelled by a sense of fair play that would lead to public recantation of accusations he had eventually decided were unfair. In his own way he was a man of the left, but he attacked its holy images as fervently as he did those of the right. And however much he might on occasion find himself in uneasy and temporary alliance with others, he was — in the end — as much a man in isolation as Don Quixote. His was the isolation of every man who seeks the truth diligently, no matter how unpleasant its implications may be to others or even to himself.

I believe in that connection between freedom and the city.

I don't believe in kicking away ladders. By that, I mean the ladders by which I ascended as a young writer, small magazines that didn't pay anything, and that sort of thing.

I like to move among painters, mathematicians, psychologists, people who can tell me something.

I suppose I'm led to do so by the fact of what happened to my contemporaries - people whom I've admired, people who I thought were ten times better than me when I was in my twenties and early thirties. I may have been right.

I was allowed to wander where I could. Here is a case in which you search for your independence and allow something creative to come out of that.

I was editing Canadian Literature. I didn't want to let Canadian Literature go, so they reached a nice compromise by which I received half a professor's salary.

I was unpopular at school just because I was an intellectual. I always answered all the questions off the top of my head but they nevertheless resented because of that.

It doesn't really mean a great deal of difference to a life. You live as you wish to do and if a job is oppressing, you leave it. I've done it on several occasions.

It even has the same phraseology as the English orders of knighthood, companions and this sort of thing.

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Canadian Poet, Critic, Playwright, Anarchist Thinker, Essayist and Literary Critic