Long Live Anarchy: An Interview with Robert Anton Wilson (Part 1)

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by Chad Nelson
October 8, 2016
Center for a Stateless Society

At some point in the late fifties or early sixties, Pacifica Radio’s Charlie Hayden interviewed the inimitable Robert Anton Wilson on all things anarchism. Wilson waxes poetic on anarchism’s foundations and answers some challenging questions from a presumable skeptic in Hayden. While the exact date of the interview is unknown, the early to mid-sixties appear to have been Wilson’s most overtly anarchist period. Wilson references Ralph Borsodi’s “School of Living” in the interview without mentioning anything about his position as editor of SoL’s anarchist publication, “Way Out.” This is a good indication that the interview likely occurred prior to the beginning of Wilson’s tenure there in 1962. I maintain that Wilson seemed to be a lifelong anarchist in spirit, despite explicitly shedding that label in favor of the more ambiguous “libertarian” label in his later years.

I purchased access to an audio version of this interview upon finding it in Pacifica’s archives, and with the help of Wilson scholar Nick Helweg-Larsen, have transcribed Part 1 below. Part 2 of the interview will appear at C4SS in the coming days. Enjoy. –cn

Hayden: Today we’re talking to Mr. Robert Anton Wilson who happens to be a freelance writer who’s written for such publications as Fact Magazine, The Realist, Jaguar Mazine and Liberation Magazine. Mr. Wilson also happens to be somewhat of a strange political animal in our particular culture, namely, he calls himself an “individualistic anarchist.” Mr. Wilson, can you explain yourself a little bit on what your political viewpoints are?

Wilson: Well, to begin with, an anarchist is a libertarian socialist. Originally all forms of socialism tended to be anti-state as well as anti-capitalism. There came a point in the development of socialism in which the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat was promulgated and the idea that through the political state, socialism would be implemented as a dictatorship and then the state would wither away — which is the orthodox Marxian theory. The anarchists at this point distinguished themselves by strongly opposing this ideology and insisting that socialism could only be implemented outside of the state that anything implemented through the state could never be socialistic nor could it tend toward socialism.

Hayden: You say “implemented outside the state”… today socialism is at least identified in the public’s mind as statism.

Wilson: Yes, according to the anarchists this is a complete misunderstanding of socialism. The anarchists would say that anything implemented through the state is statism and the direct contrary of socialism. Socialism means a system oriented toward society. The state is not society. The state is a mechanism apart from and above society interfering at all times with the natural functioning of society. The anarchists believe that the only way socialism can be implemented is through free and voluntary associations within society not through the Frankenstein monster of a state above society.

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