Malfew Seklew on “Bernard’s Tour” in “Freedom,” 1898

1845-1945, Malfew Seklew / Monday, June 7th, 2021
The following “scene report” was published under the section header “The Propaganda” and the sub-title of “Barnard’s Tour.” It was appeared in the British anarcho-communism journal Freedom on August 1, 1898 (p. 55). Originally signed “M.W.”, it shows Sirfessor Wilkesbarre’s signature style, including the phrase “demigod of the demidamned” which is unlikely to be penned by anyone else. Malfew Seklew, like his pal Ragnar Redbeard, was a man of many names.

William Francis Barnard was a poet who contributed works to Free Society (1897), Lucifer, the Light Bearer (1883), The Agitator (1910), Liberty (1881), Mother Earth (1906) and other radical journals if the day. Sidney E. Parker relates that Barnard was the editor of The Truthseeker, a secularist journal published in Bradford by J. W. Gott. Gott was imprisoned for Blasphemy, and it seems Barnard may have stood in for a time. The history of that small journal is unclear.

In Manchester, on Sunday July 3rd, Bernard spoke in the afternoon in Stevenson Square — in fact, made his debut as an outdoor speaker here. He did well and agreeably surprised us all. I also spread myself in my own way for about twenty minutes, and also at night at the New Cross; Bernard did not attend this meeting. His meeting at the Forum went fairly well; he disturbed the equinamity of the mentally-maimed mugwumps and Semitic sycophants who assembled there. Anarchists, said one Semitic speaker, were not wanted there; they were too respectable to listen to such tommy-rot as Anarchism.

Bernard is making a good impression wherever he goes, so far; and if he could be prevailed upon to stick to out-door propaganda would be still greater force for good. He spoke three times last week (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings) on “Government” at the Monolith; twice yesterday (Sunday 10th), in the morning at the Monolith and in the afternoon at the Hall of Science on the platform made famous by Charles Bradlaugh; in both lectures government in all its ramifications being criticised unmercifully.

Portrait of William F. Barnard, originally published in To-Morrow, Vol.1 No. 11, November 1905.

The visit of W.F. Barnard to Bradford will be remembered by many for a long time ; for it is the beginning of a new epoch for reformers. His first lecture at Laycock’s Coffee House lecture hall was filled to overflowing, enough turned away to fill the place over again. His lecture was on government: he proved that government per se is exploitation; that it lives on what it steals from the producers, and that is essentially the domination of the stronger over the weaker; that is could not be improved so that it could become innocuous, but must be annihilated, as a cancer in the body must be annihilated if one is to be cured. Government is the cancer of the body politic and must be destroyed before the people or the individual can be free. Government is the root of all evil, that abounds in society today. It creates monopolies, makes criminals and punishes, as Huxley once said, “men for trying to be natural beings.” for the people in jail are there for violation of statute law, which is in itself a violation of natural law. Law creates disorder, chaos and charity. Law is for the plunderers of the people, the privileged classes; it conserves their robberies, preserves their privileges, protects their pleasures and is the instrument that enables the parasites of society to fleece and flim and flam the proletariat scientifically—so insidiously and so subtly that the people don’t know it. Law, like religion, was invented to make people contented, submissive and humble. Politicians are parasites and profession purloiners of the peoples productions.

The House of Commons is a den of thieves, as Cobbett once said; government is fundamentally the cause of all misery, suffering, poverty, destitutions and crime rampant in our midst.

The tin gods of the reformers, the leading lights of those hyphenated hybrids the Social Democrats and the mildew-minded members of the Single Tax school of rainbow-chasers and foam fighters rose in the wrath and tried to counteract the influence of the logical and analytical presentations of Barnard. One great man, who is considered at Laycock’s an orator, a scholar and a critic, asked if Gladstone—the good, the great and the grand—was like unto these politicians described by the lecturer. Gladstone the G.O.M. (meaning the Grand Old Mugwamp, and apt and true title, was an amateur in everything except politics. He was a mediocrity with a good memory, and expert politician who understood his trade thoroughly; and, therefore, was a consummate bamboozler of the people. Altogether Barnard pulled down this demigod of the demidamned, Gladstone, from his pedestal and placed this papier-mache hero before the audience in his true character as a fluent phrasemonger, a superb straddler and a magnificent manipulator of the masses. He will be remembered by the posterity as a carnivorous animal with heavenly hallucinations, famous as a majestic masticator of meat (chewing his meat 29 times before swallowing, as recorded in the papers), a vigorous and virile chopper of wood and a man who had the audacity to part his name, like his principles, exactly in the centre—like a bicyclist who parts his hair in the centre to better maintain his equilibrium.

Altogether, but tell it not in Gath, Bernard flagellated the arguments of the fanatical fossils into fragments and left these deluded decadents wailing and declaiming against the treatment their dogmas, delusions and deities had received at his hands. It was a sight for the gods to see these poor things suffer so severely.

On the night following, Monday, at the request of the several members Barnard was urged to deliver his view re the way to economic salvation. He did so. The hall was again crowded; and he made quite an innovation in dealing with the subject. He took Communist Anarchist view and the Individualist Anarchist conception, graphically depicting both methods, which appeared to interest the audience. The great men of this locality scintillated but poorly in opposition and the lights went out after much light had been thrown on this vexed yet vital subject. We collected 18s., sold many papers and pamphlets of all kinds and were ably assisted by Mr. John Hacking, Mr. Kay, Mr. Tom Joy and Mr. J. W. Gott, the clothier, and founder and proprietor of the Truthseeker. He gave 6s. and entertained Barnard and I at his house. He is a good fellow.—M.W.

Become a patron at Patreon!