Pacifism, Violence and Aesthetics: George Woodcocks Anarchist Sojourn, 1940-1950

Spring 2015

‘Art is antithetical to violence’ – so claimed George Woodcock (1912-1995) in his opening editorial for the first edition of the literary journal Now, which he edited from late March 1940 to fall 1947.1 In the third issue of Now (Fall, 1940) Woodcock lent nuance to this declaration by announcing his principled opposition to military service, stating that recruitment into the army in wartime Britain was ‘incompatible with my whole conception of morality and service to mankind, and entirely opposed to the function of the artist’.2 Shortly after this statement appeared Woodcock went before a government tribunal and received conscientious objector status, but unlike his close friend the poet and Christian anarchist Derek. S. Savage (who was granted an unconditional exemption) Woodcock was required to join the War Agricultural Committee (WAC) and work the land.3


  1. George Woodcock, ‘Introduction’, Now No. 1 (Easter, 1940), p1.
  2. George Woodcock, ‘’Crouchy’ Poets’, Now No. 2 (Fall 1940), p8.
  3. Derek Savage, ‘Crouchy Poets’, Now No.2 (Fall 1940), 7; George Fetherling, The Gentle Anarchist: A Life of George Woodcock (Subway Books: Vancouver, 2003), p20. 


Anarchist Studies Vol 23 No 1