William Thompson (1775 - 1833) - Introduction to the writings of William Thompson

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  • user warning: Table './external/cache_views_data' is marked as crashed and last (automatic?) repair failed query: UPDATE cache_views_data SET data = 'a:3:{s:6:\"result\";a:6:{i:0;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8499\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:46:\"Elections: Shouldn\'t We \'Fight on All Fronts\'?\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:1445:\"<div data-contents=\"true\">\r\n <div data-block=\"true\" data-editor=\"c9jab\" data-offset-key=\"cfk4-0-0\">\r\n <div class=\"_1mf _1mj\" data-offset-key=\"cfk4-0-0\">\r\n <span data-offset-key=\"cfk4-0-0\"><span data-text=\"true\">Anarchists are in favour of grassroots organising rather than engaging in electioneering. <span data-offset-key=\"cfk4-0-0\"><span data-text=\"true\"><em><img alt=\"\" src=\"/sites/default/files/strike.png\" style=\"width: 400px; height: 321px; border-width: 1px; border-style: solid; margin: 3px; float: right;\" /></em></span></span>Some crticise this position, stating something along the lines of:<br />\r\n <br />\r\n &#39;<em>But what about social housing, free education, and an increased minimum wage? That&#39;s change which will make a big difference to people&#39;s lives. And electoralism and grassroots organising aren&#39;t mutually exclusive. We shouldn&#39;t concede that ground to the right, we should fight on all fronts&#39;.</em></span></span><br />\r\n <br />\r\n <span data-offset-key=\"cfk4-0-0\"><span data-text=\"true\">Social housing, free education, increased minimum wage - there are worthwhile reforms which might be achieved by a left wing government, or might not, but they&#39;re fairly beside the point. It&#39;s worth remarking though that the best way even to achieve reforms through the state is by having strong social movements which can apply pressure to politicians.</span></span></div>\r\n </div>\r\n</div>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1497286800\";}i:1;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8470\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:73:\"WSM Points of Unity Explained: 1 - Class Struggle and Leadership of Ideas\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:778:\"<p><em>&#39;1. Anarchism will be created by the class struggle between the vast majority of society (the working class) and the tiny minority that currently rule. A successful revolution will require that anarchist ideas become the leading ideas within the working class. This will not happen spontaneously. Our role is to make anarchist ideas the leading ideas or, as it is sometimes expressed, to become a &#39;&#39;leadership of ideas&#39;&#39;.&rsquo;</em></p>\r\n<p>We&#39;re usually told that class society is a thing of the past. After all, aren&#39;t we all middle class now? But this is false, and there still very much exists a severe division between people based on property and work, a hierarchy which is a basic fact of the economic system known as capitalism.</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1491552000\";}i:2;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8471\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:51:\"WSM Points of Unity Explained: 2 - Power Structures\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:560:\"<p><em>&#39;2. We reject the idea that society can be changed through &#39;good people&#39; gaining control of the power structures. This means we reject both the electoral strategy of the social democratic and green parties and the &#39;revolutionary&#39; strategy of the various left groups.&#39;</em></p>\r\n<p>The WSM is working towards a free, equal, democratic society. We believe the only way to achieve this is by people taking their destinies into their own hands, forming grassroots mass movements, and creating new truly democratic institutions.</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1491552000\";}i:3;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8472\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:50:\"WSM Points of Unity Explained: 3 - Platformism (1)\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:495:\"<p><em>&#39;3. We identify ourselves as anarchists and with the &quot;platformist&quot;, anarchist-communist or especifista tradition of anarchism. We broadly identify with the theoretical base of this tradition and the organisational practice it argues for, but not necessarily everything else it has done or said, so it is a starting point for our politics and not an end point.&rsquo;</em></p>\r\n<p>The WSM practices a form of anarchism which strives to be highly organised and coherent.</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1491552000\";}i:4;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8473\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:50:\"WSM Points of Unity Explained: 4 - Platformism (2)\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:1238:\"<p>&#39;<em>4. The core ideas of this tradition that we identify with are the need for anarchist political organisations that seek to develop:</em></p>\r\n<ol>\r\n <li>\r\n <em>Theoretical Unity</em></li>\r\n <li>\r\n <em>Tactical Unity&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </em></li>\r\n <li>\r\n <em>Collective Action and Discipline&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </em></li>\r\n <li>\r\n <em>Federalism&rsquo;</em></li>\r\n</ol>\r\n<p>Federalism is an organisational structure based on &ldquo;the free agreement of individuals and organisations to work collectively towards a common objective&rdquo;. It is finding the best balance between independence and coherence. All decisions are made by those affected by them as opposed to centralism, where decisions are made by a central committee for those affected by them. This means, for example, that while all WSM branches are united under a common national policy, they are also autonomous, i.e they can make their own local decisions. It also means that we have no leaders or officials with higher authority than others. Rather, we have &#39;officers&#39; who are delegated temporary authority to perform certain tasks as mandated by the membership (for instance, to be treasurer).</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1491552000\";}i:5;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8474\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:57:\"WSM Points of Unity Explained: 6 - (Other) Mass Movements\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:1309:\"<p><em>&#39;6. We also see it as vital to work in struggles that happen outside the unions and the workplace. These include struggles against particular oppressions, imperialism and indeed the struggles of the working class for a decent place and environment in which to live. Our general approach to these, like our approach to the unions, is to involve ourselves with mass movements and within these movements, in order to promote anarchist methods of organisation involving direct democracy and direct action.&#39;</em></p>\r\n<p>While the workplace is of course a critical site of political activity, there is a much broader terrain on which to strive for our liberty. Ultimately, we want a world where people are free and content. So, everywhere that we are ripped off, suppressed, attacked, sidelined, or degraded, is a place for us to fight back and band together with others. In a social order which thrives on us keeping our heads down and being passive, resistance in its many forms is to be encouraged and supported. Whether or not that resistance is as radical or as &#39;pure&#39; as we&#39;d like we should engage, of course with our anarchist heads screwed on. While being a purist sect on the sidelines can feel satisfying to the initiated, ultimately it is a redundant way to make change.</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1491552000\";}}s:10:\"total_rows\";i:1531;s:5:\"pager\";a:5:{s:9:\"use_pager\";s:1:\"0\";s:14:\"items_per_page\";i:6;s:7:\"element\";i:0;s:6:\"offset\";i:0;s:12:\"current_page\";i:0;}}', created = 1498188333, expire = 1498188633, headers = '', serialized = 1 WHERE cid = 'wsm_only:block_1:results:692e0a14e0b7ab966d18830fa49232e2' in /var/www/public/includes/cache.inc on line 112.
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  • user warning: Table './external/cache_views_data' is marked as crashed and last (automatic?) repair failed query: UPDATE cache_views_data SET data = 'a:3:{s:6:\"result\";a:6:{i:0;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8414\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:108:\"Minister for homelessness says beware of neighbours filling swimming pools in piss poor divide and rule move\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:288:\"<p>You can tell a lot about someone from what they worry about. The Housing Minister Simon Coveney isn&rsquo;t so much worried about people sleeping on the streets at the moment. He is losing sleep about the thought that other people might fill their swimming pools with free water!</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1483808884\";}i:1;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8403\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:23:\"Class and Exploitation \";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:440:\"<p><strong>What this paper does... &nbsp;</strong><br />\r\n The left talks about class in ways that are often contradictory and confusing.&nbsp; This paper represented our collective use of class and how we understand exploitation. The scope of what we cover means that it necessarily makes sweeping generalisations but the goal is to sketch what our collective perspective is around these, not to be an educational resource in itself.</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1481573672\";}i:2;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8402\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:40:\"Perspectives for Struggle and Revolution\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:891:\"<p><strong>What this paper is</strong>&nbsp;<br />\r\n What we summarise below is what the WSM has collectively agreed are the prospects for struggle in the short and medium term both in terms of global and local capitalism but more importantly of the existing movements and struggles and those we think are coming into existence.&nbsp; It should be read in conjunction with &lsquo;<a href=\"http://www.wsm.ie/c/role-anarchist-organisation-policy\">The Role of the Anarchist Organisation</a>&rsquo; which is the long term strategic view within which these short and medium terms considerations are shaped.&nbsp; Fundamentally we think &lsquo;kick it till it breaks&rsquo; leads to burnout and inactivity. Sustained organising over decades requires a collective understanding and identification of the moments of opportunity scattered through the periods of preparation and experimentation.</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1481573217\";}i:3;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8398\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:70:\"Saoradh, Irish republicanism and the politics of Unfinished Revolution\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:819:\"<p><img alt=\"\" src=\"/sites/default/files/SaoradhUnfinished.jpg\" style=\"width: 400px; height: 400px; margin: 3px; float: right;\" />The launch of Saoradh in the Canal Court Hotel in Newry is the latest republican project to have emerged but is it a fresh departure a break from past mistakes or just simply a re-packaged version of the pre ceasefire Provies?</p>\r\n<p>Since its inception, Saoradh has faced increasing state repression on both sides of the border as it has attempted to establish itself. Many will look upon this crackdown as evidence of a real threat to the status-quo and therefore acclaim the revolutionary potential of Saoradhs&rsquo; version of republicanism, confusing revolution with the reality that the state will always repress those who they perceive question their monopoly over violence.</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1481125350\";}i:4;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8376\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:78:\"Report on “Kurdish Resistance in Turkey and Syria” meeting (November 2016)\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:631:\"<p><img alt=\"\" src=\"/sites/default/files/Rojava%20Solidarity%20meme.jpg\" style=\"width: 350px; height: 263px; border-width: 3px; border-style: solid; margin: 3px; float: right;\" />About 50 people gathered in the Teacher&rsquo;s Club on Monday evening for a public meeting organised by Rojava Calling.</p>\r\n<p>Speaking at the meeting were Faysal Sariyildiz, People&rsquo;s Democratic Party (HDP) MP in Turkey, and Calvin James, a Dublin born DJ and activist who spent 6 months as a volunteer medic in northern Syria in 2016. Faysal joined the meeting by Skype from Brussels as the Turkish state recently cancelled his passport.</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1480328230\";}i:5;O:8:\"stdClass\":5:{s:3:\"nid\";s:4:\"8359\";s:10:\"node_title\";s:82:\"Rojava revolution - Co-operatives & assemblies - video with commentary in the text\";s:21:\"node_revisions_teaser\";s:1445:\"<p><img alt=\"\" src=\"/sites/default/files/DecisionMaking.jpg\" style=\"width: 400px; height: 300px; margin: 3px; float: right;\" />As they have driven ISIS back in northern Syria / Rojava the Kurdish YPG and their allies in the SDF have won increasing visibility in western media. While such reports often mention the key role in this fight played by women in the YPJ, there is otherwise little examination of the revolution happening behind the front lines in Rojava. That revolution is why they stood and fought ISIS rather than fleeing. This can be true of a lot of alternative media coverage. In part this is due to the limited amount of information on what this revolution involves. but it&rsquo;s also in part because photographs of women with guns are judged to be more striking than women workers in a co-operative bakery or a community assembly.</p>\r\n<p>We&rsquo;ve tried to address this imbalance somewhat, both in our coverage and through bringing a number of Kurdish and other speakers over to talk at the Dublin Anarchist Bookfair. They spoke about what is happening behind the front lines. What is it that is being constructed that so many have judged is worth going to the front lines to defend against ISIS? Our speakers this year included Erjan Ayboga author of &lsquo;Revolution in Rojava&rsquo; and US academic Janet Biehl who has visited the region twice since the revolution to investigate what is happening on the ground.</p>\r\n\";s:21:\"node_revisions_format\";s:1:\"2\";s:12:\"node_created\";s:10:\"1474896093\";}}s:10:\"total_rows\";i:716;s:5:\"pager\";a:5:{s:9:\"use_pager\";s:1:\"0\";s:14:\"items_per_page\";i:6;s:7:\"element\";i:0;s:6:\"offset\";i:2;s:12:\"current_page\";i:0;}}', created = 1498188333, expire = 1498188633, headers = '', serialized = 1 WHERE cid = 'not_wsm:block_1:results:6f171fd0922b167e997398452392a596' in /var/www/public/includes/cache.inc on line 112.
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Date:

William Thompson was one of the of the first people to critically engage with political economy and attempt to turn it around to defend the improvement of the condition of the working class and rural poor. He was from a Anglo- Irish landowning family from West Cork and was to become a leading figure in the early Co-operative movement.

 


Extracts from the works of William Thompson (1775 - 1833)

During the nine years from 1824 to the year of his death, William Thompson published four major books, spoke at innumerable public meetings and had many articles published in Co-operative movement periodicals. The task of making the full extent of his works available online is ongoing. In the meantime here are three short selections from his work.

Inquiry: Preliminary Observations

The first piece is the "Preliminary Observations" the introduction to his first, and possibly most important book, the lengthily entitled "An Inquiry into the Principles of the Distribution of Wealth most conducive to human happiness; applied to The Newly Proposed System of Voluntary Equality of Wealth" of 1824. It is this work of which the anarchist historian Max Nettlau remarks: "[this] book, however, discloses his own evolution; having started with a demand for the full product of labour as well as the regulation of distribution, he ended up with his own conversion to communism, that is, unlimited distribution". This preface piece shows signs of being originally written before his own conversion to communist distribution with supplemental additions after that change. In it Thompson lays out his approach of applying the critical method of utilitarianism - the re-examination of all social institutions with an atheist skepticism of all received truths, judging outcomes on the basis of "the greatest happiness for the greatest number" - to the theories of Political Economy. It is a measure of the success of Thompson's approach of using one theoretical pillar of the liberal intelligentsia, utilitarianism, to deconstruct the bourgeois prejudices of their political economy, that John Stuart Mill's "Principles of Political Economy", a work that became the accepted handbook on the subject for a generation, concedes many of the basic points of Thompson's critique in the first chapter of Book II, Distribution, of that work. In passing it is worth mentioning Thompson's introduction of the term "social science" as a name for his approach, a term he takes from the French enlightenment philosophe Condorcet but here introduces into the English language for possibly the first time in print.

Inquiry: Chapter 5

The second piece is the crucial fifth chapter of the Inquiry. This is the turning point of the book where Thompson accepts that his original project of creating a liberatory economics on the basis of classical liberalism, albeit taken far further than any previous exponent had dared, had been overtaken by an acceptance of the limits of even the most perfected system of "free" exchange. This chapter starts with an admission that he has dumped the previous written version for this new departure. In passing he gives the section headings for the original text, covering the demands necessary for the achievement of his original goal of "free exchange". These are notable for the contrast between some fairly innocuous reforms, long since achieved, to others such as the abolishing of inheritance both of property and political title or power, that would still be regarded as transcending liberal possibilism today. However, the crucial section of this chapter (and to a certain extent the whole book) is his dissection of the faults of even the most perfected system of exchange. His seminal framework of 5 points (in fact it is arguable that the last point combines two separate issues) is still capable of enriching contemporary critique of exchange, despite the datedness of some of the problems which have to some extent been mitigated in the intervening 180 or so years by the gains of workers' and women's struggles and the subsequent development of consumer capitalism and the welfare state.

Practical Directions: Explanation of Leading Terms

The third extract is from the opening of Thompson's last book before his untimely death, "Practical Directions for the Speedy and Economical Establishment of Communities, on the Principles of Mutual Co-operation, United Possessions and Equality" of 1830. In the main was a practical "build your own community" manual and the bulk of it was taken up with practical matters. However the necessity of squeezing in a summary of the political and economic bases of the projected community, means that this "Explanation of Leading Terms" at the beginning of the work remains the most abbreviated version of his analysis available.

Finally a note should be made that in the above extracts Thompson's original spellings and punctuation have been retained which may be a little different to the ones current in modern English (whether of the British or American variants) and may look a little odd to our eyes today. It should also be said that many of the modern commentators on Thompson have complained of his overly wordy style and his tendency to thrash each individual point like a dog worrying a bone, to the point of his exhaustive treatment often becoming exhausting to read. They have a point, as anyone reading even the short extracts above will attest. On the other hand, its notable that the compressed nature of the final extract above loses a lot in explanatory power compared to the exploratory thoroughness of the Inquiry, visible even in the relatively short chapter 5 above. In the end it can be argued that the relentlessness of his method, which resulted in the barrier to the widespread popular dissemination of his ideas in his own lifetime, have resulted in the depth of insight that give elements of his ideas and critique relevance that continues to this day.

See also the wikipedia article on Thompson


Audio download introduction to Thompson from the 2007 Anarchist Bookfair. The speaker is Paul Bowman, the download is 9.1 mb MP3 file and just over 41 minutes in
http://www.indymedia.ie/attachments/mar2007/paulonthoms...n.mp3


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