Friday 31 December 2021

Many Cries of Pain

The Rhyme for Reciting entitled Many Cries of Pain was written by Murray McGrath well before the onset of the Covidvirus lockdowns in 2020. It raises many current issues and is presented here as a tribute to Murray, who died in December 2020.

Many Cries of Pain

The good Earth revolves and flies out through space

It's beauty and magic show ultimate grace.

The wonder of nature blooms and blossoms all round,

The birds of the air offer colour and sound.

The creatures that crawl, swim, wriggle and run

Living together since time had begun.

And each with its needs for surviving and giving,

Enough is enough for community living.

Then along came humanity, sure of its role,

To conquer the Earth spirit, body and soul.

Such a fabulous source of pride and of pleasure

Was enough to corrupt man's greed, beyond measure.

No more satisfaction from having enough,

The demands of the ego want more and more stuff.

In the civilised world, it's money that matters.

Cash in on the living and leave it in tatters.

A great source of profit, mass production of meat.

We'll pay through the nose for a nice tasty treat.

Who cares for poor creatures who suffer and die

In disgusting conditions, we turn a blind eye.

But we suffer too, in so many ways.

A diet of death that handsomely pays,

Is promoted and treated to taste quite delicious.

When reality is, it's just not nutritious.

On a diet like that you're bound to get ill.

But the doctor's on hand, and the right sort of pill

Will soon have you better and up to your tricks.

Modern medicine works well with its technical fix.

We're lucky it seems, to have such a service,

But a much closer look might make you feel nervous.

Corporate corruption takes advantage of trust.

With an evidence base you'd think that it must

Be the best you can get for keeping you well.

But vaccines and drugs make big profits to sell,

So keeping you ill, is what suits them best.

Big money for them, tough luck for the rest.

So they mess with the evidence, distort the conclusions,

Select the results, create healing illusions

Spend lots of money, promote and conceal

That they don't do the job, don't really heal.

Poor doctors are victims of this grand deceit

Their ways come from evidence, all they have to treat.

Well trained and brainwashed, conditioned to do

What science prescribes, it's not about you.

But the Earth keeps on turning sadly knowing its fate,

And the suffering cries into space, radiate.

The universe weeps and wonders, looks on

The magic, the beauty, might soon all be gone.

So we've got a planet and creatures to save

We can do it, let's do it, but we must be brave.

From Rhymes for Reciting by Murray McGrath (2019)

Wednesday 22 December 2021

The Catholic Worker Movement

As facts and figures float across our consciousness through the various news media that technology has made available to us, it is very difficult to focus our minds on what is happening in order to judge what appropriate action we might take. One silly example could quite possibly assist in bringing present events into the wider context of historical events.

Apparently 90% of the world's physical trading freight is carried by sea. This has given rise to the addled notion that removal of those freight ships from the sea would, according to the Archimedes principle, cause sea levels to fall, mitigating the effects of rising sea levels due to global warming. The nonsensical thought leads to a vastly more interesting one. If 90% of the world's physical trade did indeed cease forthwith, all our Households would be dramatically affected. There would be no bananas in our fruit bowls. Many of the items presently in stock in our fridges, freezers and kitchen cupboards, bedrooms, wardrobes, sitting rooms, garages and offices would simply not be there. As the world's ecological, political and economic systems stand on the brink of collapse, it is high time we explored some fundamental questions about our present lifestyle priorities. Fortunately, we do not have to start from scratch. In the mid-twentieth century the Catholic Worker movement blazed a trail for us to follow.

Led by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, the Catholic Worker movement embraced people of all faiths and none, including people from all walks of life, of all ages, rich and poor, highly educated and totally unschooled, people with homes to go to and people with nowhere to lay their heads but the pavement. The term 'catholic' means universal, embracing all. But it has the further connotation of being based upon the moral and ethical social teachings of the universal church. Those values pervade and inform the writings of the authors of universally-read books that were household names throughout the English speaking world and beyond. They were read and discussed by homeless down-and-outs like Peter Maurin, who was said to be the best read man in America. His Easy Essays are full of references to the names of key social philosophers, whose relevance continues to the present day. Many of those names appeared in Commonweal, the influential journal on social issues that is still in publication. Contrast these writings with the political psychology and mass manipulation through fear that is driving the world population into totalitarianism. (See UK Column News for sources)

Contrast also the term 'worker' as used in 'Catholic Worker. In producing the Catholic Worker newspaper, Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin took on board the battles of the urban, industrial workers with their low wages, strikes, lock-downs, unemployment, inadequate living accommodation and homelessness. However, they also promoted the dignity of labour and the love of good work that is to be found in peasant farming communities the world over. All work on homes and communities, including the art and architecture of churches, cathedrals and community infrastructures, brings respect to the worker. Above all, work on the land brings the physical and spiritual well-being that is so sadly absent from waged and salaried employment and many an urban household divorced entirely from the land and nature.

The history of the Catholic Worker movement has been documented in various ways, often alongside records of similar movements seeking to create communities based on a living relationship with the land and the natural world. (See Dan McKanan's work.) It is becoming increasingly apparent that self-organisation based upon self-education will become central to creating a viable social order based upon a just relationships between humanity and the land. In this, the Catholic Worker movement has a great deal to teach us.

In writing the following, Peter Maurin took a leaf out of the writings of Arthur Penty and other guild socialist writers.

Outdoor Universities

The machine

is not an improvement

on man's skill;

it is an imitation

of man's skill.

Read Post-Industrialism

by Arthur Penty.

The best means

are the pure means

and the pure means

are the heroic means.

Read Freedom in the Modern World

by Jacques Maritain.

The future of the Church

is on the land,

not in the city;

for a child

is an asset

on the land

and a liability

in the city.

Read The Church and the Land

by Father Vincent McNabb, 0.P.

See also earlier blogs, including An Agricultural Act (12 December) Voluntary Poverty (18 November)

Thursday 16 December 2021

The Agronomic Revolution

As "The-War-To-End-All-Wars"(1914-18) ended a century ago, Spanish Flu took millions of lives on top of those lost in the war Although many worked hard to build a safer, saner world, they failed, and, as a result, we inherit a sorry history. The founding of the Soviet Union totalitarian state led to the death of untold millions of peasant farmers. It was followed by the rise of Hitler's Nazi Germany, Mussolini's fascist Italy, the Spanish Civil War, World War II, the bombing of Dresden, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Vietnam, Korea, Afghaninstan and so on, on and on. In the meantime, humanity made war against the natural world destroying rainforests, and replacing sustainable peasant farming techniques with financially profitable agribusiness that suits neither man nor beast. Presently we are seeing the frightful isolation of the elderly and dying, the injecting, masking and isolation of children, and the evaporation of basic human rights, all in the name of scientific and technological 'progress'. At the heart of the matter is the economic system. The world of finance forces us to sell our time for money to the highest bidder in order to buy the necessities of life.

According to the text books, economics is the "study of the allocation of scarce resources to infinite wants". But this leads to the 'diamond/water paradox. Water is essential for life, but it is plentiful. Diamonds are a luxury, but they are scarce. Hence diamonds sell for a high price, whilst water sells for a low price. The paradox invites us to consider the two basic forms of economy, the financial economy that is driven by finance and competition, and the real-life economy through which we manage our lives in cooperation with others and using the resources of the natural world. The financial economy that presently rampages across the world is, to put it simply, out of control because it is beyond the comprehension of rich and poor alike. It does not have to be that way. All that is necessary is to take a long, hard, unbiased look at what is actually happening.

When we do so, we discover three basic, interlocked economic systems or networks, all of which are keyed into the money system in their various ways. These are the macro-finance corporate world, the local Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), and the individual Households (upon which everything depends).

The macro-finance corporate economy comprises the massive, world-wide, interlocking networks of transnational corporations that currently rampage across the world playing havoc with every living thing in their path. The networks of finance and Big Pharm corporations control production of armaments, pharmaceutical products, cars, computers, transport systems, agribusiness, mass produced foods, consumer durables, the mass entertainment and information media and, increasingly, the political and legal systems. Corporations include all the familiar names that appear daily in the news media, and whose products are brand names.

The micro- Small and Medium Sized economy consists of a mass of small businesses supplying goods and services to the local community. These include hairdressers, taxis drivers, high street shops, producers of all manner of electrical, plumbing, building, engineering, health care and education services.

The economy of individual Households is crucial to the existence of the other two economies. The full implications of this statement call for much self-help research, discussion and debate in the immediate future. Starting with Your Money or Your Life, leading to Radical Homemakers, Green Housekeeping and the Book of the Home. These point us in the direction of the key issues of food, farming and finance. In short, the Agronomic University of Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin and the Catholic Worker movement as a whole. This is the area where we can all, each one of us, make a contribution that will make all the difference. (More in due course).

Sunday 12 December 2021

An Agricultural Act

In these troubled times we are called to examine our basic assumptions about food and the other necessities of life. A child can assume that food, clothing and accommodation will be provided by a parent figure. An adult cannot. All the necessities of life that we consume come to us at a price paid by others, in the form of soul-destroying work of many kinds. Meanwhile, the processes of packaging, transporting and disposing of the waste is causing untold damage to the natural world. Presently, the financial system allows us to live in childlike dependence upon a motherly market system that we do not understand, and that is rampaging across the corporate world, completely beyond our comprehension or control. It is time to recognise how the act of eating connects us with the land upon which it was grown.

Eating is an agricultural act. Food comes to us when the labour of others is skilfully combined with the produce of nature and the land. In the course of his teaching, Peter Maurin (of the Catholic Worker) drew attention to the work of Guild Socialist Arthur Penty. In Guilds, Trade and Agriculture, Penty argued that the international financial system, based as it is on competition, was the root cause of war, degradation of the land and poverty amidst plenty. The alternative is international cooperation based upon the revival of agriculture.

"The revival of agriculture implies a return to the idea of communities that are as self-contained as circumstances will allow; and such communities inevitably rest upon agriculture. In an earlier chapter I showed that the revival of agriculture was necessary alike to the solution of our unemployed problem and to provide us with food. .... But it is necessary also for another reason: to ensure a healthy population. It came as a surprise to most people in this country that recruiting statistics [for the First World War] revealed the fact- that we had a larger percentage of physical inefficients than any other country at war. But it is not surprising, remembering that no other country in the world has such a large proportion of her population living in crowded towns nor been industrialized for anything like the same length of time. These statistics prove that a town population gradually loses its vitality. In the past this vitality was every generation renewed by a stream of population from the country. In this light a peasantry on the soil is to be regarded as a reservoir from which the towns replenish their stock, and therefore agriculture stands on a different basis to that of any other industry, and its welfare should be protected at all costs.

"From a mercantile point of view it matters little whether the population be engaged in the production of food or motor-cars. But from a national point of view there is all the difference in the world, since the production of food guarantees a nation's future while the production of motor-cars does not. Yet when we remember how big business dominates national policy we cannot be surprised that, being, as we saw, heedless of its own future it should be equally heedless of that of the nation. If, therefore, one aspect of the return to fundamentals is a return to the principles of justice, honesty and fair dealing, the other aspect is a return to the land; to a life lived in closer contact with the elemental forces of nature."

Those words are even more relevant today than they were when first published in 1921, exactly a century ago. They lie behind the Catholic Worker movement's case for agricultural communes, also known as 'agronomic universities' (see previous blogs).

Saturday 11 December 2021

Small and Local is Better

According to an article in The Tablet this week, small, independent local shops are doing well . Former daily commuters, finding themselves with more time on their hands, have started to explore high streets and local farm shops. As more return to their offices, it seems they are continuing to favour local shops.

"It might be a bit of a faff to queue to place an order for a goose or turkey at the local butcher, then to stroll to the greengrocer for the sprouts, turnips and potatoes, but the food will generally be better" and the whole experience is better than using the supermarket. There would seem to be signs of an intriguing new normal, more in line with that envisaged by the guild socialists a century ago. Then, as now, small businesses run by local people to give service to local customers seemed infinitely preferable to dead end jobs in factories and offices (the 'bullshit jobs' of today).

As people were picking up the pieces following the shocks of World War I and the Spanish 'flu, many turned to the works of 19th and early 20th century Guild Socialist thinkers, including John Ruskin, William Morris, Thortsien Veblen, Arthur Penty, distributists such as GK Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc, and the Arts and Crafts movement as a whole. When Dorothy Day (of the Catholic Worker movement) writes disparagingly of the desire to obtain a weekly wage (see Blog for 10 December 21 on Security), she is referring to Peter Maurin's teachings on the works of these writers. The blend of theory and practice offered by guild socialist thinkers has been put into practice in some places, but the dead hand of corporate world finance has been allowed to dominate all three spheres of the social order, providing an illusion of security as it destroys the natural and human world upon which it remains dependent.

The guild socialists coined the term 'wage slavery' to denote the sale of one's time to an employer in return for the money to house, clothe and feed oneself, and raise children to be workers in their turn. For guild socialists, the better option was a network of small business, especially farms, run by and for the local communities, operated by all and run for the benefit of all. Subsequent experiments in 'worker control' such as Mondragon, have floundered because they were merely operating within the corporate capitalist financial system, the workers having good pay and working conditions, and receiving a financial share of the profits, but operating under the moral premises of capitalism. This is an area very much in need of research, study and in-depth discussion - at local level, by local people - with a view to establishing practical alternatives to building up poverty amidst plenty and wrecking the natural world as we do it.

The work of Rudolf Steiner presents some clues. His fundamental social law begins to make sense within the Guild Socialist context.

"Now, the main social law set forth by the science of spirit, is the following: 'The well-being of a total community of human beings working together becomes greater the less the individual demands the products of his achievements for himself, that is, the more of these products he passes on to his fellow workers and the more his own needs are not satisfied out of his own achievements, but out of the achievements of others.' All the conditions within a total community of people which contradict this law must sooner or later produce misery and distress somewhere. This law holds good for social life with absolute necessity and without any exceptions, just as a natural law holds good for a particular sphere of natural processes. But it should not be thought that it is sufficient for this law to be held as a universal moral law, or that it should be translated into the attitude that everyone should work in the service of his fellow men. No, in actual fact the law will be able to exist as it should only if a total community of people succeeds in creating conditions where no one ever can claim the fruits of his own work for himself, but where, if at all possible, these go entirely to the benefit of the community. And he in turn must be maintained by means of the work of his fellow human beings. The important thing is to see that working for one’s fellow human beings and aiming at a particular income are two quite separate things." (See Ilya Zilberberg "The Genesis and Understanding of the Threefold Social Order", New View, Issue 73, Autumn 2014.)

As Zilbergerg explains, every individual has a series of basic needs that must be satisfied. Hence we have to examine more closely both the needs themselves and the body social from which their satisfaction comes. Basically, the numerous and diverse individual human needs fall, by their very nature, into three distinct categories. Now the satisfaction of these three categories of needs comes, respectively, from three different sources, which constitute three distinct spheres of the body social – the economic sphere (the production, distribution and consumption of commodities), the cultural sphere (education, science, art, religion, etc.) and the legal-judicial sphere (the province of legislature, government and politics).

Every single human being living on the planet remains utterly dependent upon everybody else. Hence we are obliged, of necessity, to play a responsible part in all three aspects of the threefold social order. And that means moving beyond the child-like dependence upon the technological, increasingly transhumanist Brave New World that is being imposed upon us. It is now necessary to consciously train ourselves, as adults, to draw upon our common birthright of the universal cultural heritage of humanity. And the only place for that to be done is locally, on a small scale, following the logic and the model of the Catholic Worker movement.

Friday 10 December 2021

Dorothy Day on Security

NOTE: The following passage is taken from Dorothy Day: Selected Writings, Edited by Robert Ellsberg, (2005) pp69-70. It is highly relevant today, not in the least dated with the passage of time. What is needed now is a revival of interest and practical action in the fields of food, farming, home, family, health care, the care of the land, the arts and true sciences, politics, culture and economics. And the place to start is Round-table Discussions on the lines advocated and practiced by Peter Maurin, Dorothy Day and the world-wide Catholic Worker movement. See The Catholic Worker and the Land, Blog 17th October 21.

Dorothy Day on Security

Christ told Peter to put aside his nets and follow him. He told the rich young man to sell what he had and give to the poor and follow Him. He said that those who lost their lives for His sake should find them. He told his followers that if anyone begged for their coats to give up their cloaks, too. He spoke of feeding the poor, sheltering the homeless, of visiting those in prison and the sick, and also of instructing the ignorant. He said: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." He said: "Be ye therefore perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect."

But the usual comment is: "You must distinguish between counsel and precept. You forget that He said also: 'All men take not this word, but they to whom it is given.' 'He that can take it, let him take it.' "

Paul Claudel said that young people have a hunger for the heroic, and too long they have been told: "Be moderate, be prudent."

Too long have we had moderation and prudence. Today is a time of crisis and struggle. Within our generation, Russia has rejected Christianity, Germany his rejected it, Mexico fights to exterminate it, in Spain there has been a war against religion, in Italy Fascism has exalted the idea of the state and, rejecting the Kingship of Christ, has now a perverted idea of authority.

In this present situation when people are starving to death because there is an overabundance of food, when religion is being warred upon throughout the world, our Catholic young people still come from schools and colleges and talk about looking for security, a weekly wage.

They ignore the counsels of the Gospels as though they had never heard of them, and those who are troubled in conscience regarding them speak of them as being impractical.

Why they think a weekly wage is going to give them security is a mystery. Do they have security on any job nowadays? If they try to save, the bank fails; if they invest their money, the bottom of the market drops out. If they trust to worldly practicality, in other words, they are out of luck.

If they sell their labour, they are prostituting the talents God gave them. College girls who work at Macey's - is this what their expensive training was for? - boys who go into business looking for profits - is this what their Catholic principles taught them? - are hovering on the brink of a precipice. They have no security and they know it. The only security comes in the following of the precepts and counsels of the Gospels.

If each unemployed nurse went to her pastor and got a list of the sick and gave up the idea of working for wages and gave her services to the poor of the parish, is there not security in the faith that God will provide? This is but one instance of using the talents and abilities that God has go to each one of us.

What right has any one of us to security when God's poor are suffering? What right have I to sleep in a comfortable bed when so many are sleeping in the shadows of buildings here in this neighborhood of the Catholic Worker office? What right have we to food when many are hungry, or to liberty when the Scottsboro boys and so many labor organizers are in jail?

To those in whose minds these questions are stirring, there are those words directed:

"Today if you shall hear My voice, harden not your hearts."

July—August 1935

Friday 3 December 2021


 The season of Lent always reminds me of my childhood, especially the years between the ages of four and ten which were spent in Headingley, Leeds. At that time I became increasingly aware of a cultural gap between my family and the families of my school friends. For them December was the time of preparation for a materialistic Christmas of getting and spending, with a few Christmas carols thrown in. What Santa would bring you was increasingly, even at that time, the question asked of children by passing adults and other children. There was none of that in my household.

In my family, as Christmas approached, past Christmases of poverty and war came increasingly to mind. My mother introduced us children to the spirit of Advent, the time of coming to midwinter and the signs of hope in the greenery of the advent wreath, the four advent candles and the story of advent told through the advent calendar. The birth of the Saviour and the traditional rights, anticipating the birth of new life in nature in approaching spring, are still celebrated across the Continent of Europe.

During those early formative years of early childhood I attended a Church of England primary school and a Methodist Sunday School. there I learned the story of the birth, death and resurrection of the Saviour, Jesus. Later in life I learned the story of the Christian Church, its teachings based on loving and giving were corrupted by the quest for power, domination and the perpetration of evil. Even later in life I became a Roman Catholic and learned great wisdom from the parish priest, Canon Patrick Delaney. He was firm in his faith. The teaching of the Church is quite clear: "love God and love thy neighbour as thyself". But, when all is said and done, God is Divine. The Church, on the other hand, is a human institution, with its weaknesses and failings.

On reflection it becomes clear that the purely materialistic culture under which we are presently condemned to live is neither divine nor human. A society based primarily upon self-interest - my pay, my house, my bank account, my clothes, food, holidays and dog come first. Charity comes as an afterthought. Even, sadly, the child becomes a personal possession.

Advent is, perhaps, a time when we may start to face up to the fact that we are in the final stages of a materialistic nightmare that looks set to engulf humanity and eliminate it from the face of the earth.

It need not be that way. But if change is to come about, it will not come from a decree from above, from the scientists, the politicians or the technical experts. It will come, and can only come, from the ordinary people everywhere. The music, poetry, hymns and stories learned in childhood and rehearsed throughout adult life remain our most precious resource. They are a resource that can endure, is highly sustainable, and can be shared by all, once basic needs are met. (To be continued)

Thursday 18 November 2021

Voluntary Poverty

NOTE: Murray McGrath's poem (see last Blog) portrays Money as a useful tool, but nothing more. The following passage is taken from Kate Hennessy's biography of her grandmother. Dorothy Day worked in collaboration with Peter Maurin to promote Catholic Radicalism through the Catholic Worker. (See previous blogs) Peter took is cue from the Irish seanachie, the story teller:

"He ... liked to speak in verse with a cadence. Dorothy's brother John came to call his verses Easy Essays, and the title stuck. He liked to shout out one-liners: "Everyone take less so that others can have more! Freedom is a duty more than a right! Workers should be scholars and scholars should be workers! Fire the bosses!" He said we need to get away from thinking solely in terms of a job or a wage. Everyone has a vocation, and we must find the work we are best suited for, what we are called to do, and then do it single-mindedly. Artists and musicians do this. They are willing to risk poverty in order to do what they must do, what they love. Not only did Peter believe in a philosophy of work that spoke of love of work rather than work ethic, he also believed that we must have a philosophy of poverty. True reform begins with oneself, he would say, and voluntary poverty and manual labor are where we begin. Proud of being a peasant, Peter worked as a day laborer on the railroads and in mills or smashing rock to build roads. He had no home and owned nothing but the clothes on his back and the books in his pockets. When Dorothy met him he was a laborer at a Catholic boys' camp in upstate New York earning five dollars a week.

"Dorothy liked to refer to Peter as the leader of the Catholic Worker, but he was not a man to tell anyone what to do. He offered his vision and ideas to provoke people into thinking for themselves, but it was up to them to take it or leave it. He did not offer practical ways to achieve things, and when people asked him what they should do, he answered, "I am not a question box; I am a chatterbox." But he spoke of a philosophy of action that Dorothy could understand, and he had one ambition—to change the hearts and minds of men and give them a vision of a world where it was easier to be good.

"Peter's program, which was simple, direct, and Catholic, and therefore caught Dorothy's attention, began with roundtable discussions where people could contribute their ideas and where there would be 'clarification of thought'. He wanted people to be well-read and articulate, and he believed this was within everyone's grasp no matter the level of education or state of mind. All who asked deserved to be taught the best and to be treated as equal scholars, as everyone could and should have a philosophy to live by. He included even the mentally ill who, through their illnesses, could sometimes wring out every bit of his own vitality in his effort to give them his full attention and respect.

"Second in his program was the establishment of houses of hospitality with priests at their head, based on the bishops' hospices for wayfarers in the middle ages. Then those at the houses of hospitality would form farming communes, or "agronomic universities," as he liked to call them, where workers and scholars together would rebuild society in the shell of the old, and where people could find their vocations and no longer would need to work in factories or for corporations.

"There's no unemployment on the land," he'd say, and to lessen the need for money we needed "to grow what you eat and eat what you grow."

Extract from Kate Hennessy, (2017) Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved By Beauty. An Intimate Portrait of My Grandmother, Scribner, pp70-71)

Money by Murray McGrath

Money, money, money,

What does it do for us?

It lets us do the shopping,

And travel on the bus.

It's how we get the things we want

Or that's the way it feels.

We need it to evaluate

And consider doing deals.

So all in all, when chips are down

It is important stuff.

But although I can accumulate,

I never have enough!

There's something funny going on,

Enough for what I need

Should do, to keep me happy,

The rest must just be greed.

What do I really want in life?

I'm tempted, when the ads

Promise instant satisfaction,

And all the latest fads.

With the latest gadget in my hand

More important I will be

This one will not be like the rest

It'll last for years, you'll see!

But soon I want another one

To keep me up to date.

It's a hopeless, never ending quest

To be in such a state

But what about those things in life

We want, that don't cost money,

Like love and friendship, days of joy,

When weather's warm and sunny?

Walking in the moonlight

Under clear and starry sky

Does more to keep me happy

Than something I can buy.

The beauty that's in nature,

Is available to all.

But maybe that's the trouble.

Whether rich or small,

Value status and possessions

More than spiritual matters

We'll get the same old sad result,

Our happiness in tatters.

COMMENT: The poem Money is by our dear friend Murray McGrath, who died late last year. I include it as a slight diversion from the series of autobiographical entries. He would certainly have fully approved of its inclusion at this point.

Tuesday 16 November 2021

Common Wealth

Of my first four years of life, lived in London under the shadow of war, I have very little recollection. Yet, like the rest of the Class of '53, my life was shaped by the experiences of my parents' generation, who grew to maturity in the English-speaking world of the 1920s and 1930s. From the very beginning of the 20th century the written word in the form of books and journals facilitated study and discussion of literature, the arts, religion, society and politics on an unprecedented scale. We hear tell of the evils of enclosure of the land, the rise of employment/waged slavery in the mills, mines and factories of the industrial towns, of slavery and empire. But we hear little of the working class movements, of the Diggers, the Chartists,William Cobbett, John Ruskin, William Morris, GK Chesterton, George Orwell, and so many, many others Their thinking, in part, served to shape the formation of the 20th century Welfare State. In the aftermath of the two World Wars the population as a whole found itself shrouded in a cosy blanket of materialism, tucked in by the Nanny State.

Presently we are being swept along on a tidal wave of misleading assumptions about how society is organised, how it came to be as it is, and how it might be in the future. The quest is for freedom. Freedom from the fake future of transhumanism to which technological 'progress' is leading us. And freedom from the blind acceptance of elite authoritarianism, where legal limitations on civil liberties are accepted by the majority who seek a quiet life. It is all too easy to assume that scientific progress is motivated by the desire of scientists to further the common good, whereas, all too often, the self-interested quest for an income is the dominant motivation. Similarly, The unquestioning observance of laws, rules and regulations laid down in the past can seem the right thing to do. Yet, all too often, laws set by church, state and military authorities may corrupt human interaction in unexpected ways. The health and educational services of the Welfare State, based on rules and regulations considered as necessary for promoting the common good of the whole, provide many examples of such provisions. We have only to read George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm to see how the slavish following of orders by the military and civilian police can lead to the totalitarian State. After all, as a young man, he fought in the Spanish Civil War, as did William Krehm, a remarkable character of my acquaintance who edited COMer for many a long year (see back numbers of The Social Artist).

Orwell is just one of a very large number of names of authors of the 19th and 20th centuries who became household names. Their writings were to be found on the shelves of municipal and university libraries, and in household collections across the British Isles and throughout the English-speaking world. The literary works, works of fiction and non-fiction were reviewed and discussed in innumerable periodicals, many of which circulated across the continents. To take just one example, the Catholic journal Commonweal, which is still published today (see Wikipedia), is described thus:

"Commonweal has published the writing of Fran├žois Mauriac, Georges Bernanos, Hannah Arendt, G. K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Jacques Maritain, Dorothy Day, Robert Bellah, Graham Greene, Emmanuel Mounier, Conor Cruise O'Brien, Thomas Merton, Wilfrid Sheed, Paul Ramsey, Joseph Bernardin, Abigail McCarthy, Christopher Lasch, Walter Kerr, Marilynne Robinson, Luke Timothy Johnson, Terry Eagleton, Elizabeth Johnson, and Andrew Bacevich. It has printed the short fiction of Evelyn Waugh, J. F. Powers, Alice McDermott, and Valerie Sayers; the poetry of W. H. Auden, Robert Lowell, Theodore Roethke, John Updike, Les Murray, John Berryman, and Marie Ponsot; and the artwork of Jean Charlot, Rita Corbin, Fritz Eichenberg, and Emil Antonucci."

The journal, described as "A Review of Religion, Politics, and Culture", is run as a not-for-profit enterprise. The word "commonweal" is a reference to an important term in the political philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, who argued that legitimate leaders must prioritize "the common good" or "the commonweal" in making political decisions.

The quest is for ordinary people to take charge of their destiny by becoming culturally, politically and spiritually informed citizens. Self-education - adult education - is not a preparation for unquestioning service to the corporate world. On the contrary, the corporate world holds sway over the political, cultural and economic spheres by deluding their workers into absorbing passive entertainment, watching films and documentaries under the illusion they are being well-informed. The time has come to investigate the local history of books. What books are to be found in the homes, private collections, libraries, bookshops, cafes, places of worship, and meeting rooms of our immediate locality? How did they get there? Who is conserving books now as one of our most valuable resources? Second only to the ability to care for the land itself, books are our most important cultural heritage, to be treasured like gold. (To be continued ...)

Thursday 11 November 2021

Wedding on the Eve of War

The question now arises - how did my parents meet? How was it that they came to be married on 28th August 1939, literally on the eve of a war in which their friends and families were on opposite sides? They did not meet in the beautiful city of Salzburg, where my mother was born in 1917. And they did not meet on my Dad's home territory of the slums of Leeds. It all came about as follows.

Brought up on bread and dripping, often without the dripping, my Dad had to leave school at 12 years of age to earn enough money to buy food and to pay the rent of the one-up-one down back-to-back terrace house (toilets five doors down the road) where his dad and younger brother lived. He worked as a wheelwright for his uncle (which didn't last long) and as a butcher's boy delivering meat on a bicycle, which didn't last long either, though he never stopped talking about it until he died at the age of 95. There were no computers in those far off days, so when the local bank manager asked the headmistress of the local school if she knew anybody who was good at figures, she recommended teenager John Huddleston. He became a bank clerk and never looked back. After working all day he attended a series of evening classes, taking every opportunity to broaden his education and working within the Labour and cooperative movements. At the mature age of 28 he registered for undergraduate study in economics at the University of Leeds. At this point he was taken in by the local labour MP. Lewis John Edwards and his wife Dorothy remained lifelong friends of the family. On graduation, JH became a member of the teaching staff at the university, whilst engaged in post-graduate study of the history of adult education in Germany.

When on holiday in Jersey, JH met my mother, Amalia Katerina, Keilwerth. Born in Salzburg, AK had won a scholarship to the top girls' boarding school in Vienna. There she received a full classical education that included the reading of the works of major literary figures in their original languages. In those days the to-be mothers of the elite were well educated. Able to speak and read in German, French and English, she never quite got to grips with the ways and customs of the working class in the North of England. AK spent some time as au pair to the Edwards family, before returning to work in a newspaper office in Salzburg. In the course of his studies JH travelled to Germany and attended a Nuremberg Rally and was profoundly shocked at the gullibility of otherwise sane people in the face of a totalitarian regime. In his view, the Catholic Church in Germany had one hell of a lot to answer for in their failure to oppose Nazism outright.

Of my infancy I remember little, save that Christmas in my family was always a time of great sadness. For my mother, being in a foreign country with very different customs, whilst separated from her family by a terrible war, must have been hard to bear.

(To be continued ...)


Tuesday 9 November 2021


It all began with Wilkie's phone call on the eve of my 80th birthday. We reflected on the history of the year group that started to attend Chester-le-Street Grammar School in 1953 and who have kept in touch ever since. Over the years we have shared reminiscences and celebrations of our life stories. Some died tragically young, all met success and adversity. All who remain will be 80 this academic year, and have so much to offer those entering adult life today. The battle is to swim and not to sink into cosy illusions of going along with the crowd. After all, it is the dead fish who swim with the tide.

On the morning of the day itself I enjoyed opening cards and presents, receiving calls from immediate family, and gathering up fallen apples in the autumn sunshine. Just before Mass Arlene, whose birthday is the same day as mine, told the priest, Fr Michael, how old I was, and he handed me a copy of a ten-page document entitled "A Guide to Catholic Funeral Rites in the Diocese of Leeds: Including Instructions for My Funeral Liturgy". That made me chuckle - I had asked for it a while back. I was even more amused when he announced from the altar at the end of Mass - a lovely Mass it was, too - that it was my 80th and that the Guide was available for all. My delight turned to sadness as so many fearful faces, many of them masked, mumbled their personal greetings with downcast eyes. Although the sermon had been about the widow's mite and trusting in the Lord, only Arlene and Fr Michael retained the spirit of joy. Even Sean, who brought us into the Church, and who would always burst into song at the drop of a hat, even he was down, overwhelmed by the pandemic. Later in the day a family quiz took place on Zoom. Here is an attempt at summarising my life story as it emerged from the Quiz questions about 'Mum', 'Grandma', 'my sister', wife etc.

Like all the class at Chester-le-Street Grammar School, I was born during World War II. Those were terrible times. Cities full of civilians were being bombed in night-time air raid attacks. Families, including my own, sheltered underground during those raids, many lost homes and family members, all were issued with gas masks (which I remembered as a child when I was removed from home for three months when my sister was born). Things were far worse in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as the tragedy of war ended. What were my parents doing living in London during a 'World War'. Why didn't they just move out? That is a crucial question, and the answer is obvious - my Dad's job was in London. No employment, no income.

So here we have a diversion into the lives of my parents. Both their families had experienced life in the First World War and its aftermath, a period of sadness, sorrow and apprehension that led almost inevitably to further world war. (There are many books written, glorifying and deploring war. Read Warhorse, for example.) At the end of the First World War my mother's family were living in the beautiful city of Salzburg, Austria, home town of Mozart. My father's family lived in dire poverty in the back streets of the industrial city of Leeds. My grandmother died in 1912, at the age of 38 years, when my Dad was seven years old. Both my grandfathers were conscripted into the army, but on opposite sides. Born in 1905, my Dad and his schoolfriends grew into their teens during the years of depression and unemployment that preceded the 'War To End All Wars". They had seen their older brothers going off to war full of optimism. The money to pay them, kit them out and send them off to war, suddenly and mysteriously appeared from nowhere. Some under age - you had to be 16 to go to the trenches - lied about their age, went off to war and were killed. One close friend of my parents, later in life, told of her brother who died in the trenches, leaving his widowed mother and his sister penniless. These were the people who, during the 1930s and 1940s, educated themselves, went into politics and fought for for the Welfare State (health, welfare and education for all).

Thursday 4 November 2021

What Everybody Really Wants to Know

EVERY day I am bombarded with messages calling my attention to protests, petitions, videos and articles on what's going wrong in the world and what we ought to be doing about it. As I mused upon the latest batch of contributions, I fell to re-reading one of my early books. Written at a time of great optimism, when totalitarianism appeared to be a thing of the past, and 9/11 and Covid were yet to happen, What Everybody Really Wants to Know About Money seems, to me anyway, to offer scope for Round-Table discussions on the lines advocated and practised by Peter Maurin, Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement (see recent Blogs). Slightly updated, the following text appears on the back cover of my book.

* * * *

What Everybody Really Wants to Know About Money

by Frances Hutchinson

Jon Carpenter,1998, ISBN: 1-897766-33-5. 2006 pp, £12

Money makes the world go round – but in ever diminishing circles. It's the driving force behind most of the world's problems: global warming, habitat destruction, homelessness, ethnic and religious conflict, the widening poverty gap within and between countries, debt and homelessness, to name but a few. Thanks to money, the world is a nastier place by the day.

There seems to be no alternative to social injustice and environmental destruction, simply because there is no money for anything else. We all use money every day, but we don't understand where it comes from, who creates it, and most importantly, why.

As this book shows, most economists do not have a clue what's going on, and that is partly because they make all sorts of assumptions about human nature that are manifestly nonsense. Since economists have little understanding of the nature of money, they assume it is just a convenient neutral alternative to barter. In fact, money is now traded for its own ends, and has become the universal measure of good and bad. To bring about today's global capitalist free market, work has been devalued to a form of slavery, and people everywhere have been denied access to their natural and basic means of survival: the land.

Frances Hutchinson shows why this situation has arisen, and explains many of the basic errors of the orthodox economics upon which all politicians rely. After discussing the powerful body of ideas that originated in guild socialism and were popularised across the world by the social credit movement in the 1920s and 1930s, she applies these insights to develop a 'home economics' which can be introduced by groups of people in their own localities anywhere in the world.

With a chapter by Alan Freeman on the World Trade Organisation and the globalisation of world trade, together with intellectual property rights and the privatisation of public and traditional knowledge.

"An excellent summary! It should help in demystifying money and awaken us all to the opportunities that lie beyond the false philosophy of economism." HAZEL HENDERSON. Author of Paradigms in Progress and Building a Win-Win World.

"A fascinating journey that helps us explore our historical relationship to land, food, labour, status gathering, spiritual culture and money. Orthodox economists beware! This book may be harmful to your career." GUY DAUNCEY, author of After the Crash: The Emergence of the Rainbow Economy. 

At the time of publication of What Everybody Really Wants to Know About Money FRANCES HUTCHINSON was an economic historian at Bradford University, UK. Her previous books included Environmental Business Management: Sustainable Development in the New Millennium (with Andrew Hutchinson) McGraw Hill (1997), and The Political Economy of Social Credit and Guild Socialism (with Brian Burkitt), Routledge (1997). Her later works include The Politics of Money: Towards Sustainability and Economic Democracy (with Mary Mellor and Wendy Olsen), Pluto Press (2002), and Understanding the Financial System: Social Credit Rediscovered, Jon Carpenter (2010). She edited The Social Crediter/ The Social Artist from 2002 to 2020.

The full text of What Everybody Really Wants to Know About Money is available electronically on the FRANCES HUTCHINSON page of Use search to find references, eg to Bill Gates (yes, in 1998) and genetic engineering.

Hard copy can be purchased from the PUBLICATIONS page of the same website.

Friday 29 October 2021

Voluntary Poverty

During the interwar years of the last century (1918 - 1939) malaise, depression, disease, poverty and loneliness were rampant. As the First World War ended the Spanish Flu pandemic brought sudden death to millions. Soldiers returned from the War-to-End-All-Wars permanently damaged physically and mentally. Economic Depression and totalitarian regimes followed. Out of those devastating times many initiatives arose, as men and women sought ways to work together to bring an end to poverty amidst plenty. In these days of sickness, confusion and loneliness, the story of The Catholic Worker, a story that continues to this day, is encouraging and enlightening.

Accounts of the founding of The Catholic Worker in 1933 by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin are many and varied. A good starting point is Wikipedia. The paper promoted justice and peace, and reported on strikes, demonstrations and court cases arising therefrom. The paper promoted intelligent discussion of current affairs by men and women of all faiths and all walks of life, rich and poor, scholars, farm and factory workers. Peter Maurin's three point programme was simple and direct. It comprised Round-table Discussions, Houses of Hospitality, Agronomic Universities.

Round-table Discussions: The starting point was discussions where people can contribute their ideas and clarify their thoughts. People need to be well read and articulate, and Peter "believed this was within everyone's grasp no matter the level of education or state of mind. All who asked deserved to be taught the best and to be treated as equal scholars, as everyone could and should have a philosophy to live by". (Kate Hennessy Dorothy Day, The World Will Be Saved by Beauty (Scribner, 2017. p71)

Houses of Hospitality: Houses of hospitality are organised to provide the destitute in urban areas with shelter, food and clothing. Peter Maurin based his vision of such establishments on the bishop's hospices for wayfarers in the middle ages.

Agronomic Universities: Those at the Houses of Hospitality could, and did, move on to form farming communes, or 'agronomic universities' where workers and scholars together could rebuild society within the shell of the old. There people could find their vocations, no longer needing to become waged and salaried slaves of the multi-national corporations. Agronomics is the branch of economy dealing with the distribution, management and distribution of land. As Peter Maurin observed, there's no unemployment on the land. To lessen the need for money, you need to "grow what you eat, and eat what you grow." using organic farming methods.

In summary, Catholic Radicalism goes to the root of the problem. It supports individuals in their quest to work with others on their own terms. It enables young people to adopt a lifestyle of voluntary poverty, which is very different from destitution, by working and developing their skills sustainable communities. Central to such a programme is a ready supply of books and hard copy literature in libraries which can be maintained to be accessible to all.


Lincoln Steffens says:

"The social problem

is not a political problem;

it is an economic problem.

Kropotkin says:

"The economic problem

is not an economic problem;

it is an ethical problem."

Thorstein Veblen says:

"There are no ethics in modern society."

R. H. Tawney says:

"There were high ethics

in society

when the Canon Law

was the law of the land."

The high ethics

of the Canon Law

are embodied in the encyclicals

of Pius XI and Leo XIII

on the social problem.

To apply the ethics

of the encyclicals

to the problems of today,

such is the purpose

of Catholic Action.

Peter Maurin

If the named authors are unfamiliar, we can check them on Wikipedia. But that is no substitute for study in hard copy. When he wrote the 'Easy Essay' above, Peter Maurin was referring to books and articles written by each of the named authors, that he had read for himself.

NOTE: See earlier blogs for more information on this topic. See Easy Essays on the SOCIAL ART page of

Wednesday 27 October 2021

Thinking Allowed

"We must help each other". So said Brian Gerrish in a recent edition of UK Column News, the news channel that seeks to understand the causes of social malaise. Those words put me in mind of the 1st September entry on this Understanding Life and Debt blog and the story of the Bonesetter. In the immediate aftermath of the Second World War he turns up to accept, with great dignity, a charity handout of food. Bonesetters were traditional healers who, like priests, teachers, parents, carers and farmers, gave service outside the money economy. Their work was informed by the common cultural heritage of traditional learning and skills, built up over untold generations. They supported, and were supported by, the community as a whole. This raises a host of highly discussable questions.

The notion of being trained to give service has given way to the necessity to be trained to perform specific tasks in return for a money wage or salary. Those tasks are specified by a system that is beyond the comprehension or control of even the most senior economists, historians, philosophers and academics. The young men and women of today are being trained to produce and administer, pharmaceutical, agribusiness and technological products that the world economy demands by virtue of its control over finance in all its guises.

At the end of a very long article on modern medicine in New View (Autumn 2021) Dr. Thomas Hardtmuth describes an event that took place earlier this year in Germany:

"On 1 August 2021, I took part in a demonstration against the corona measures in Berlin, and I have never seen so many peaceful and relaxed people, families with children, pensioners, artists, musicians, intellectuals,and even clowns – all from the middle-class echelons of society. I couldn’t find a single ‘Nazi’ or other so-called (rightist) ‘radical’, as they are so often presented in our German media! Talking to some of the participants,it was so pleasant for me to experience how many sympathetic, courageous and also educated people there are in our country – a modern, colourful society, as one would basically like to see.

"In fact, the planned demonstration on the 'Strasse des 17 Juni’ and in the government district had been banned, so that the estimated 200,000 people dispersed in numerous smaller marches throughout the centre of Berlin. What was frightening was the massive extent of the brutality and show of force with which the police acted. Endless squadrons of emergency vehicles raced through the city with sirens blaring and blue lights flashing – actually, completely senseless – generating a catastrophic kind of mood for which there was no justification at all. Countless police squads in black uniforms, with helmets, visors, batons, tear gas, firearms, knee and elbow pads (as if they wanted to win a war) obviously had orders from ‘above’ to stop and disperse the demonstration marches by means of numerous road-blocks. Some of the violence used was so martial that the UN Special Representative for Human Rights Violations has since intervened with an enquiry to the government.

At one point, we were directly confronted by a chain of police officers. On closer inspection, the pale faces of totally over strained and completely insecure young people, including many young women in their early twenties, who were sweating with fear, were partially hidden in these threatening-looking suits of armour; how grotesque! An older woman next to me obviously also made a similar observation, stepping forward and shouting to them, ‘Why don’t you take off your helmets – we won’t hurt you!’. After this ‘disarming’ sentence, there was a short silence; it was one of those small profound moments where it brought tears to some people’s eyes because this simple sentence had such a strong impact.

Dr. Hardtmuth asks the fundamental question of our times: "Where does this aggression and accompanying fear come from, which threatens to divide society more and more at the moment, and which has already destroyed so many relationships in private life?"

It is a question that can only be answered by all of us living today. As we go about our daily business, as adults young and old, the task is to maximise what we can do for others in the real economy - outside the financial economy - whilst seeking to rationalise our relationship with the financial economy. (See resources on the website

Wednesday 20 October 2021

Blowing the Dynamite



Writing about the Catholic Church,

a radical writer says:

"Rome will have to do more

than to play a waiting game;

she will have to use

some of the dynamite

inherent in her message.

"To blow the dynamite

of a message

is the only way

to make the message dynamic.

If the Catholic Church

is not today

the dominant social dynamic force,

it is because Catholic scholars

have failed to blow the dynamite of the Church.

Catholic scholars

have taken the dynamite

of the Church,

have wrapped it up

in nice phraseology,

placed it in an hermetic container

and sat on the lid.

It is about time to blow the lid off

so the Catholic Church

may again become

the dominant social dynamic force.

Peter Maurin

"Blowing the Dynamite" is one of Peter Maurin's Easy Essays on Catholic Radicalism. How these essays, and several books on Peter Maurin, Dorothy Day and The Catholic Worker, came to be on my library shelves I have no idea. But I suspect it came about in the following way.

About ten years ago I was part of a small group of parishioners at the local St. Anne's Parish RC Church in in the centre of Keighley, Yorkshire. We took over the near-derelict premises of the old Catholic Club and, for a few years, ran the two-storey, double-fronted premises as a community centre. Donations to the bric-a-brac stall included many wonderful books on church history, arts, lives of saints, social history, prayer, devotion, philosophy and so on. We bought bookshelves and formed an ever-expanding library. Two of our number took charge of the library, which became quite naturally a place to linger and chat over coffee. When a change of regime took the premises out of our hands - we were quite literally locked out of the premises - we managed to rescue some of the books. Those about the Catholic Worker movement may well have come from there. What happened to the rest of the books, I have no idea.

Over its time as a community centre, the building as a whole was a good place to be. The upper floor, with its bar and catering facilities, provided for a range of low-cost social gatherings, including musical events, parties, weddings and funeral teas, and it could be booked by outside organisations. In addition to the library, the ground floor provided light refreshments for all manner of small groups, from mother and toddlers to afternoon teas with entertainment for the elderly, coffee mornings, prayer groups, study groups, meditation, ecumenical and inter-faith discussions, groups of disabled (wheelchair access) and so on. The whole place was enthused by Catholic social teaching. Its weakness and vulnerability was due to our insistence upon an all-volunteer management team.

For a place like that to survive, in pre-Covid days, it was necessary to find funding to pay a manager a salary to maintain the premises, whilst constantly seeking out sources of funds to continue to pay the employee. Our merry band of total volunteers was doomed to failure in the long run.

Things are very different now. In these days of Lockdowns, masks and covid passports, we may now fruitfully explore the literature of the Catholic Worker movement. Founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in the USA during the Depression years of the 1930s, the movement enabled thousands of young people to share voluntary poverty in the cause of a just, loving and peaceful society.

Over the course of its existence, the Keighley Catholic Community Centre provided support for so many people, support that was never quantified, measured or recorded. It just happened quietly, behind the scenes, as people came in to book funeral teas or sit with others over coffee. One group of 'craft and chats' were mothers of ex-military sons who had been traumatised by their experiences. They provided mutual support to each other. I would suggest that every locality in the UK could provide some form of community centre, self-organised by volunteers, based in a range of premises such as municipal libraries, faith centres and community halls. Indeed, much work is already being done along those lines. It just needs to be transformed from stop-gap to mainstream. At the heart of the Catholic Worker movement is the full commitment of the young to a life of voluntary poverty. Voluntary poverty can be shared by all, scholars, workers and carers alike. It does not mean destitution.


Dorothy Day The Long Loneliness

Fritz Eichenberg Works of Mercy

Peter Maurin Catholic Radicalism (text on SOCIAL ART page of

Sunday 17 October 2021

The Catholic Worker and the Land

For those who have put to us the question "What have you to offer in the way of 'a constructive program for a new social order?" we have replied over and over, "Peter Maurin's three-point program of Round-table Discussions, Houses of Hospitality, Farming Communes." This program is so simple as to be unsatisfactory to most, who look for something to be so complicated before it can be successful. Remembering the words of St. Francis that we cannot know what we have not practiced, we have tried not only to publish a paper but to put our program into practice. From the very beginning we have sought clarification of thought through The Catholic Worker, through round-table discussions, forums, through circulating literature. We have had a workers' school where the finest scholars of the Church have come to teach. We have had a House of Hospitality now for two years, where we gave shelter to the homeless, fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and cared for the sick. We have tried, all of us, to be workers and scholars, and to combine work and prayer according to the Benedictine ideal. We have tried to imitate St. Francis in his holy poverty. Our aim has been to combat the atheism of the day by our devotion to the liturgical movement; to combat the bourgeois spirit by the Franciscan spirit; to oppose to class-war technique the performance of the works of mercy.

We have not altogether neglected the farming commune idea, inasmuch as we had a halfway house in Staten Island where children were given vacations, weekend conferences were held and the sick cared for, and a garden cultivated.

March 1st will see the start of a serious attempt to put into practice the third point in our program. We are going to move out on a farm, within a few hours of New York, and start there a true farming commune.

We are making this move because we do not feel that we can talk in the paper about something we are not practicing. We believe that our words will have more weight, our writings will carry more conviction, if we ourselves are engaged in making a better life on the land.

This does not mean that we are going to abandon the city, which we realize is above all the home of the dispossessed, of the forgotten. We shall keep a group in New York City and the work of the apostolate of labor will go on. We shall also be sending out apostles of labor from the farm, to scenes of industrial conflict, to factories and to lodging houses, to live and work with the poor. The columns of the paper will be filled as usual with industrial news, discussion of unionism, the cooperative movement, maternity guilds, relief, public and private. But there will be more space devoted to rural life problems, and you will hear from month to month how the work of the farming commune is progressing, the difficulties, the mistakes, and the progress of the work.

Help us in this venture, which is your venture, too. And pray with us we get out of the city by March 1.

Dorothy Day, January 1936

COMMENT: This blog serves to introduce the Catholic Worker, and Peter Maurin's concept of agronomic universities. More to follow. See also the earlier blogs, and the Easy Essays on the SOCIAL ART page of . See also Does anybody know what form the "maternity guilds" (mentioned above) took in the 1930s?

Friday 15 October 2021

Introducing Peter Maurin's Easy Essays

 NOTE: In 1975 Stanley Vishnewski wrote the following introduction to Peter Maurin's Easy Essays The Essays are reproduced on the SOCIAL ART page of

ter Maurin's Easy Essays were never meant to be written. His Essays were intended to be declaimed in public. Peter did not consider himself to be a writer. He was inclined to look upon himself as a modern Troubadour. One who would tour the length of this industrial society preaching in his singsong method the thoughts that he had painstakingly gleaned from his voluminous readings and studies.

It was only when people would refuse to listen that Peter went to the trouble of writing out his Essays and leaving them with people who he thought would be interested.

Peter was a classic example of not judging a man by his appearance. I recall one evening when I was with Peter in the auditorium of a church where a forum on Social Justice was being conducted. I remember how the chairman persistently refused to recognize Peter because of Peter's shabby appearance. But somehow Peter managed to get to speak and in a few minutes he had the audience enthralled as he recited his Easy Essays and the applause was thunderous.

Peter was a thinker and a synthesizer of history. He had a great grasp of history -- a knowledge that caused Father Parsons S.J., then editor of America, to comment that Peter was the best read man that he had ever met.

Peter was a man with a message. It was a simple message, so simple that it was a stumbling block to many who wanted a complicated program of action. Peter's teachings were based upon Cult, Culture, and Cultivation.

By Cult, Peter meant the Liturgical Cycle of the Church with its yearly cycle of festivals and ceremonials. A worship of God that would use the whole man (the holy man) in the worship and adoration of God.

By Culture, Peter meant the study of literature and the great classics. The cultivation of the mind by the intimate knowledge of literature.

By Cultivation, Peter meant the return to the soil -- The Green Revolution. The establishment of Community Life in a strongly individualistic society.

When Peter Maurin met Dorothy Day in 1932, during the depths of the Great Depression, he came with a program of action based upon his message. Peter, in his wisdom, realised the futility of preaching to men who were homeless and had empty stomachs. ("You can't preach to a man on an empty stomach," a saint was reported to have said.) So the first plank in his program was the establishing of Houses of Hospitality. These would be centres (many times store fronts) where those in need would receive help from those who came to serve them at a personal sacrifice.

Once the needs of people were taken care of and they no longer had to worry about their next meal or a place to sleep then it was time, Peter taught, to start the second part of his program, which was Round-Table Discussions. By means of discussions, talks, leaflets, papers, people were to be given an understanding of history. People were to be led to understand for themselves what there was nf history that led up to the Great Depression and was the cause of unemployment, war and their own misery. Once they understood this, then by studying the present they could slowly prepare the groundwork for a new social order.

The Catholic Worker paper was established to carry out the second part of Peter's program. The first issue of 2500 copies was launched by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in May, 1933. From this small beginning the paper, as the organ of The Catholic Worker Movement, spread throughout the world. Today (1975) some 90,000 copies a month are printed.

A great deal of controversy surrounded the publication of the Catholic Worker. The issues of land reform, unionisation, war and peace, industrialism vs agrarianism filled the pages of the paper.

But there was little controversy on the first part of the program: Houses of Hospitality. The ideal of taking care of the poor and the needy at a personal sacrifice appealed to hundreds of young men and women -- many of whom gave up comfortable homes and good jobs to live with the poor. It was Peter's idea that the voluntary poor should live with the involuntary poor to give them hope and love.

Before long there were 35 Hospices in the United States -- most of them falling victim to the slum clearance that followed the Second World War. But today as I write (1975) there has been a complete resurgence of the Hospices and Dorothy Day tells me that there are now 46 Hospices, with new ones coming into existence from time to time.

The third part of Peter's program was more visionary. It was the establishment of Farming Communities. Peter dreamed of a society where it would be easier for men to be good. He dreamed of Farming Communes where those unemployed would find work and security. Peter wanted to restore the ideal of Community in a Church that had forgotten the ideal -- and because Churchmen had lost the ideal, the heresy of Communism had sprung up.

Peter's philosophy of action, as he was the first to admit it, was not a new philosophy at all, but one so old that people had actually forgotten it. The Church, Peter taught, had a message that was so revolutionary that to preach it would rock the social order from one end to the other. But what had happened was that Catholic scholars had sealed the message in pious tracts and that it was now the mission of the Catholic Worker to explode the dynamite that was inherent in the teachings of the Church. These thoughts of Peter are here in this slender volume of Easy Essays that the Chicago Catholic Worker Hospice had reprinted. They will bear careful reading and studying. They are the distillation of a lifetime of serious studying and thinking of the problems of our age. The money from the sale of this book will be used for the work of the Chicago Hospice and I am happy to be able to add these words of mine to the memory of a man whose greatness will one day be recognized. Stanley Vishnewski, Catholic Worker Farm, Tivoli, New York (1975)

NOTE: The Easy Essays are reproduced on the SOCIAL ART page of

Saturday 9 October 2021

Stop, Read and Listen

 In former days, when life was slower and calmer, a child would be told to pause at the roadside, to "Stop! Look! and Listen!" before proceeding to cross.

In a similar way Ernst Wolff's address to the Wachstum Erde Frieden Freiheit – (‘Growth’, ‘Earth’, ‘Peace’, ‘Freedom’) in Davos, Switzerland demands our full attention. Presented on 21st August 2021 and now available in German, with English subtitles, the speech is being widely circulated in print.

Whatever you may be doing, it is time to put it aside (Stop), look at the printed version (Read) and then to watch the recorded version (with English sub-titles) in the original German (Listen) before selecting some of the salient points to discuss with your circle of colleagues.

1. Uncovering the Corona Narrative. The title speaks volumes. We are being fed a pack of lies. The question is - why?

2. "Nothing happens accidentally in politics ..." The use of the word "alarming" is not OTT.

3. " ... problems are not being addressed and solved, but magnified and multiplied ... "

4. Note what is said about the "premeditated change of power in Afghanistan .."

5. The whole section on the power of the "digital-financial complex" gives much food for thought.

6. "The IT industry is nothing other than a tumour ... stands far above all governments ..."

7. In short ..." They will drive society into chaos in order to present the introduction of digital central bank money as the solution to all problems. Namely, in the form of a Universal Basic Income (UBI)."

The whole gives plenty of food for thought. There are no easy answers, no short cuts to easy solutions that would enable us to go back to the Old Normal of business as usual. But at least we have a basis for informed discussion.

Ernst Wolff - Uncovering the Corona Narrative - Aug 2021

The full text is available in the Michaelmas 2021 issue of New View.