Libro - Como vivimos_PostIn order to realize how cynical we have become thinking how smart we are, we must read William Morris; if only to find out how our capacity for imagination and surprise has been destroyed (by hegemony!, Gramsci would say) by our belief that we know how everything works. That early and vain self-reliance, the dangerous flip side of the contemporary man which manifests itself when one day you hear the denial of value and beauty of philosophy and ideas; and what is more, often resorting to the tired nothing-is-going-to-change argument. It is not about believing the opposite, nor following to the letter the certainly oneiric socialist society model proposed by Morris – a proposal which, on the other hand, has many good things: cooperation, free moral theologies, beauty as a negotiable objective of any activity –, simply and definitely, it is about trying not to be a dick.

Indeed, while reading these lectures, anyone could pretend to ensure vehemently that it is a utopia. Yet, William Morris’ utopia may be as unattainable as those macroeconomic indicators that nobody understands but by which we will live better. That was precisely the author’s interest: finding a system of social organization that benefited us ALL, that would allow us to fulfill ourselves, through our work, not only spiritually but also physically. And in order to do that, he threw himself into all his ingenuity and his passion as a poet in order to create an ideal setting in which there operate values very different from those proposed by the current system (which Morris described as “cannibalism”), such as partnership – rather than competition – or crafts – rather than assembly lines. An epicurean world in which, as Estela Schindel said in the introduction, “technique is also a kind of ethics, and not the altar erected to progress on which humanity is sacrificed.” The reading of this dream, I tell you now, is rewarding as well as educational.

You see, Morris had to be a great guy. An unfortunate humanist, because he was born in the ugly and dirty Victorian England that consolidated industrial capitalism, a wreck of a world, you’d say, where hygiene was conspicuous by its absence. His hatred towards modern civilizations comes from there, and from his own culture and craftsmanship ethics. Morris was devoted to textile design and decorative arts, but also to literature and especially poetry and translation of great medieval works. However, he earned his reputation in this field when he became, with the novel News from Nowhere (1890), the revitalizing factor of the fantastical genre that would later be explored by authors like Tolkien, who, as you may know, is quite in vogue today. Though born into a wealthy family, as years passed Morris moved towards socialism, up to the point of founding, in 1885 and in his fifties, the Socialist League, a pro-Marxist split from the English socialist party of the time.

The group had the support of people like Friedrich Engels or Marx’s daughter, and Morris even decided to start a newspaper, the Commonweal, and finance it out of his own pocket. Towards the end of the decade, however, a disagreement with other leaders who veered towards more anarchist postures led Morris to disappointment, so he left the party and focused on writing (fantasy novels) until the end of his days. The lectures that you will read in this volume – recovered by Pepitas de Calabaza editorial: the best thing you can find in Logroño since Tato Abbaye – belong to Morris’ glorious period of political philosophy in the Socialist League, the stage where his Pre-Raphaelite and medievalist dreams mixed with his great imagination and his talent as an architect and designer to create an ideal world: a beautiful socialist utopia which – and this is the best part – will someday come about thanks to CLASS STRUGGLE. It is the only way, defended Morris wholeheartedly, with that mixture of philanthropy and confidence in the final and inexorable pursuit of workers’ revolution, shouting from the pulpits of the English universities. Indeed, I feel like going outside to burn things and banks.

About a century later another Englishman, also great and vociferous, expressed that powerfully in his song Walls come tumbling down: I know we’ve always been taught to rely / upon those in authority / but you never know until you try / how things just might be / if we came together so strongly.