George Walford: Editorial Notes (41)

SUBSCRIPTIONS Contrary as usual, IC reduces its subscription charges. Beginning with this number a subscription for one year (six issues) will cost £2 including postage. Subscriptions outstanding at the old rate will be extended to compensate. (No subsidy yet from the CIA, let alone MI5 or MI6, but we keep hoping.)

When correspondents have asked why IC devotes so much attention to anarchism and anarcho-socialism the answers given have usually been defensive. They should not have been, for IC has never printed a piece of any length devoted exclusively to either of these; the non-anarchists have always been taken into account. To discuss any expression of any ideology is to draw attention, directly or otherwise, to the course of development leading to it, and the development leading to anarchism embraces practically the whole of the ideological range. To discuss anarchism as anarcho-socialism is to discuss, directly or by implication, ideology generally and this, after all, is what IC is for.

THOMAS Arnold formulates the epistatic, the ideology of domination: “What we must look for here is, first, religious and moral principles; secondly, gentlemanly conduct; thirdly, intellectual ability.” (Address to his scholars at Rugby, Oxford Dictionary of Quotations 1974)

HAPPY DAYS: The secret ballot was introduced by Gladstone in 1872. Its supporters had to meet the objection that the new arrangements made it easier for electors to take bribes from both sides. (Martin Pugh, The Making of Modern British Politics 1867-1939 Oxford: Blackwell, 1983, p. 11)

ON BEING reminded that Disraeli was a self-made man, John Bright commented: “And he adores his maker.”

NOTING that the French bourgeois hated and despised the French bourgeois, William Empson remarks that no doubt their feelings did them credit. (He also quotes, from G. S. Fraser, the magical phrase: “Dead Freud in lost Vienna”) [Empson W. 1988 Argufying; Essays on Literature and Culture. London: Hogarth Press pp. 168, 171]

JACK DASH made a name for himself as a docker’s leader in the ’60s. Paul Robeson, a fellow-communist, used to stay with him when in England, and Dash would complain about Robeson’s way of hogging the bathroom in the morning, singing at the top of his voice. [Report in the SOCIALIST STANDARD]. The Tories are right; these communists are never satisfied.

WE ARE constantly reading of leaders; national leaders, trade union leaders, party leaders… The term implies that where the leader goes the rest will follow, but this is repeatedly shown to be not so; former leaders are constantly finding themselves without followings. It is the general body of the people that decides the main course to be followed by society, and those who would lead them have to do so in the way a small boy leads a big dog – watching where it wants to go and keeping in front.

GOD, we are assured, is dead, but the corpse retains its pulling power. 97 per cent of Americans “affirm some belief in the existence of God”; recent surveys show 60 per cent claiming church membership and regular church attendance 20,000 Southern Baptists recently attended a Convention in Las Vegas, and the movement has 14.8 million members. (TLS 9 June 89)

“FIRST there is penetration by anthropologists from the West and afterwards we find other cultures pregnant with meaning” (Kirsten Hastrup, quoted in ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY, August 1989)

READERS feeling, comfortably, that socialism (or communism or anarchism) is winning attention away from the old concerns, are reminded that books and articles on Chaucer (d. 1400 A.D.) are appearing at an average rate of about one every day. A Bibliography of Chaucer, 1974 – 1985, by Baird-Lange and Schnuttgen, contains almost 3,000 entries.

ALAMAGORDO, Uranium, Enola Gay, pleasant words out of context. But western militarism did not originate the threat of an end to life as we have known it. Our Christian forebears managed to survive with Armageddon and the Day of Judgement hanging over them, and some tribal peoples claim powers fully equal to our own. The Avatip of New Guinea believe themselves able to bring down the sky, and they use the threat in their disputes. (ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY August 1989)

Contrasting our firm knowledge with their error makes less difference than at first appears. Physical science checks belief against experiment, but which of us has carried out the nuclear experiments? The Christians learnt of Armageddon, and the Avatip learn of their powers, by believing their wise men. Nearly all of us get our knowledge of nuclear power in the same way and, prior to the event at least, it is the belief rather than the reality that produces effects.

The rumour that MENSA members sit in a circle, contemplating their IQ’s, is doubtless false. Back in the when Harold Walsby was disputing with the (A-)SPGB, before IC moved in to keep them company in their loneliness, one field of battle was the question whether IQ was mainly acquired or mainly innate. The issue was hardly crucial as between the two approaches since Walsby emphasised from the start that high ideological development was not the same as, and did not depend upon, high intelligence. IC of course agrees with this; the Party stands high in the ideological pyramid but it is not suggested that “socialists” are more intelligent than non-“socialists.” We hardly would suggest that, would we?

The Party, sharing with the left wing from Robert Owen onwards a belief in perfectibility (meaning that they credit the rest of us with the ability of coming to understand as much as they do, God help us all), held IQ to be predominantly an effect of social circumstance. Against this Walsby pointed out that the weight of authoritative opinion, meaning most of the people who had actually investigated the issue, held the contrary view. Prominent among these stood Sir Cyril Burt, recognised through the fifties as the greatest British psychologist of the period, who had done a great deal of work on intelligence in identical twins.

Things were going nicely, with the two sides solidly dug in and neither showing any effects from the other’s missiles, when the equivalent of a nuclear explosion took place. After his death in 1971 Burt was accused, on good evidence, of having faked some of his later data. This of course made the Party cock-a-hoop; it seemed they had got something right for once. It was useless pointing out to them, as was done at the time, that Walsby’s criticism of their arguments did not depend at all upon the IQ issue, or that Burt’s earlier work (which his doubtful data confirmed and extended) continued to hold its place.

Now Robert B. Joynson has issued The Burt Affair (Routledge), exhuming the case. There is still a strange smell around Burt, but on the main issue he seems to have been cleared. To quote Stuart Sutherland: “Burt’s results have been largely replicated, and if IQ is not in considerable part inherited, it would be the only such trait.” (OBSERVER 23)

Patrick Collinson speaks of “the enormity of the change, located primarily in the Sixteenth Century… which substituted the written word for the miracle-working image.” (TLS 9 June 89) He is writing of religion, and even in that context the validity of the remark is questionable. Witness the continuing popularity of images among Roman Catholics and, among Anglicans, the persistence of special costume for the clergy and their performance of mystic rites. When a robed and collared clergyman performs one of the sacraments, what have we but a miracle-working image?

In any wider connection, the idea that the sequential rationality implied by print has displaced the more direct response to a sensuous, visual appeal, is put out of court by the overwhelming popularity of television.

If we are to have completely free speech, then Salman Rushdie is entitled to say what he likes about the Muslims, their religion and their God, and the Muslims are entitled to speak as they wish about Rushdie, the Ayatollah pronouncing the death sentence and his followers demanding that it be carried out. Killing cannot, of course, be condoned, but to talk of killing, or to urge that somebody be killed, is not to kill but to exercise freedom of speech. Such use of the freedom may induce killing, but what of that? Full freedom of speech has to include freedom to make statements which produce effects; to say that speech shall be free except when it is likely to produce effects would be to render this freedom meaningless.

“As a working anthropologist, my job is to make sense of the data I encounter ‘in the field,’ in my reading and in the rest of my life.” (Warren Shapiro in ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY, April)

To make sense of anything is to integrate it with one’s pre-existing system of ideas, beliefs, assumptions etc., in short, with one’s ideology.

“The regression analysis showed that interest in the past is the most important precondition for visiting museums.” But in case you didn’t understand that – after all, there are some big words in it – the passage continues: “In other words, this simply means that those placing no value on the past do not go to museums.” ANTHROPOLOGY TODAY, April, p. 15

IT HAS long been a puzzle to know how they match the news to the newspaper; day after day, year after year, never an empty page and never (as far as we are told) an item left over. Recently a new problemhas appeared. Occasionally the television services are affected by something known as “industrial action,” (meaning that less action is performed than usual) and the bulletins are abbreviated. How do they stop important things happening on those days?

from Ideological Commentary 41, September 1989.