Matthew S. Adams
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Mutualism in the trenches
Anarchism, militarism and the lessons of the First World War
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As his political thinking matured against the backdrop of the Spanish Revolution and the post-war decades that seemed to herald 'the long-expected death of the capitalist system', Herbert Read began to reassess his involvement in the First World War. What emerged was an anarchistic reading of his military life that offered a novel model of socialist militarism, one that looked to small-group 'fidelity' as an abiding lesson of the war, rather than the power of collectivism. Read argued that he remained committed to the 'broad basic principles of socialism', and noted that his anarchism developed during the war years. He also argued that fidelity was a 'social virtue', and was thereby 'inculcated, not by precept, but by example and habit'. The bonds of reciprocity and mutual support that made life in combat endurable could similarly under-pin a society organised horizontally, but in neither situation would they exist without conscious nurturing.

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Anarchism, 1914–18

Internationalism, anti-militarism and war

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