Anarchism, the 1960s-1970s "counter-culture", and mental health practice and activism in the UK

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Jay_the_robot
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Feb 13 2017 15:39
Anarchism, the 1960s-1970s "counter-culture", and mental health practice and activism in the UK

Hi everyone,

I am trying to carry out research on any possible connections between anarchism, the "counter-culture" of the 1960s and 1970s, and mental health practice and activism, in the UK.

This is, admittedly, quite broad, but its intended to be: the research at this point is somewhat nebulous, and, further, I am hoping to get quite a broad overview which may offer inspiration as to what avenues to pursue.

I am under the impression that there was somewhat of a revival of libertarian socialism, leftist-Marxism, anarchism, and the various other 'flavours' of this type of political ideology and activity after the middle of the twentieth century. At the same time - and I suspect that there is a strong connection (i.e. it isn't coincidental) - there was the counter-culture movement, of which anti-psychiatry and reformist psychiatry featured as a prominent element. Disability and mental health activism also started to gain traction at this time (e.g. the creation of the Mental Patients' Union in the 1970s, the forerunner of the Survivors' groups).

In this milieu, some new mental health and penal practices were established, and some pre-existing practices were adapted/refined; practices that involved a shift away from the more conventional - perhaps more paternalistic and repressive - towards the (ostensibly) more democratic, communalistic and permissive. Examples include the 'Hawkspur experiment', the Little Commonwealth, Kingsley Hall, and the Henderson hospital.

There is a connection between these approaches (sometimes referred to as Planned Environment Therapy and/or Therapeutic Communities), and the anti-psychiatry and counter-culture movement of the time, but I am trying to identify a place for anarchism within this history. As a brief example, in "Talking Anarchy" by David Goodway and Colin Ward, Colin Ward, when discussing these planned environment/therapeutic community approaches to the 'treatment' of 'delinquent youngsters' (loaded terminology, but its use makes clear what I am referring to), says that:

"I, of course, was gratified that the connections that I was attempting to build in the journal Anarchy in the 1960s and later in the book Anarchy in Action, between anarchist ideology and the experience of those people who were brave enough to set up self-governing, non-punitive communities of "delinquent" youngsters, were at last recognized outside the anarchist movement." pg. 134.

Colin Ward also makes reference to someone from the (relatively) more mainstream of mental health practice making the same connection in the journal "Therapeutic communities"; this is the quote given in the aforementioned book:
"That reviewer [i.e. the psychotherapist from the more mainstream practice] found that he had the sensation of "meeting people digging a tunnel towards the therapeutic community from another place in society with the same basic idea."" pg. 134.

There is a connection between changes in mental health practice and the anarchist movement being articulated here. As another brief example, this is a letter by David Wills of the Hawkspur camp, this excerpt is about his motivating ideology:

"... one of the things that follows for me, is the good old anarchist slogan ‘No man is good enough to be another man’s master’. Men have no right to order one another about nor to exercise power over one another, but should live together in such a way as to express in themselves, and to encourage expression in others, of what we Quakers call the inner light, or that of God ... So when I got to Hawkspur camp ... shared responsibility was not something that I 'allowed’ the clients to ‘have’. On the contrary it was an inalienable right, of which I had no right (and no wish) to deprive them." (adapted from Diamond J. (2005) Some Strands of a Longer Story – Reflections on the Development of Therapeutic Child Care in Britain. Therapeutic Communities, 26(4): 495–502: pg. 449.)

He explicitly references anarchism. Although it is not suggesting that he identifies as an anarchist, it nonetheless shows a certain affinity between the ideologies that motivated him to adopt the practices that he did and the ideologies present in anarchism (at least in his interpretation, although I think it is fairly accurate, even if the notion of "inner light" is somewhat ambiguous).

Hopefully this gives an impression of what I am looking for. There appears to be a connection between anarchism, both ideology and the movement, and the planned environment therapy/therapeutic community practice of the 1960s and 1970s. My aim is to elucidate this connection, and the connection to mental health practice and activism more broadly. This may be direct (e.g. individuals working in the planned environment therapy/therapeutic community field might identify as anarchists or sympathise with anarchist ideals) or indirect (e.g. through anarchist influence on the counter-culture and anti-psychiatry, which then influenced planned environment therapy/therapeutic community practice).

If anyone has any recommendations or information, such as books, journals, articles, periodicals, individuals, groups, personal experience, and so forth, in relation to anarchism circa the 1960s-1970s that they think would be useful in attempting to explore the connection between anarchism and mental health practice and activism in this period then it would be greatly appreciated. If you know of anyone that has a connection to anarchism and/or the mental health advocacy movement in this period, I would be extremely grateful if you could enquire about any leads I could follow-up on.

Finally (I swear I shall leave it here), if anyone has any recommendations regarding the position of prominent anarchist thinkers and mental health and mental health care, that would also be appreciated.

If this is not clear, I am more than happy to clarify anything,
Any help would be really appreciated; even if you are unsure of its relevance, let me know anyway – as mentioned at the beginning, my scope is currently quite broad.

Thanks comrades,
Jay.

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Fozzie
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Feb 14 2017 09:09

Try this?

http://studymore.org.uk/mpu.htm

Lots of info on MH activist groups in the UK.

Mark.
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Feb 14 2017 11:45

You might find something in this:

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.459.5606&rep=rep1&type=pdf

PeterTCA
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Feb 16 2017 10:32

Jay,

"Something Should be Done" was an 8-page supplement in Freedom in the late 70's. In 2014 it was printed as a supplement to "Occupational Hazards" published by Past Tense".
The paper described the activities of an Anarchist inspired group of shop stewards who developed systems of "imaginative industrial action" in a mental hospital.

I was the convener of the above and survived two years before ending up in Crown Court.

Further, in the 80's I was part of a worker's cooperative composed mainly of ex-psychiatric patients.
What was of interest here that sometimes we went hungry and had to work excessive hours to get the job done. People found that their symptoms began to take a second place.

We were involved with the early "Asylum" magazine.

Jay_the_robot
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Feb 16 2017 18:10

Hi all,

Thanks for the responses so far, it is much appreciated.

Thank you to both Mark and Fozzie for those; hopefully, I shall have a few hours of available time to go through them more thoroughly.

PeterTCA wrote:

I was the convener of the above and survived two years before ending up in Crown Court.

Further, in the 80's I was part of a worker's cooperative composed mainly of ex-psychiatric patients.
What was of interest here that sometimes we went hungry and had to work excessive hours to get the job done. People found that their symptoms began to take a second place.

We were involved with the early "Asylum" magazine.

Peter, would you be willing to discuss these initiatives further? The two initiatives you were involved in are of direct relevance to what I am interested in. If you are willing, you can direct message me, and we can communicate that way, or post here, whichever you prefer.

I am going to try and get that publication from Past Tense. I take it that it is possible to visit Past Tense in London?

If you know of any issues of Asylum that would contain relevant info, that would be great, or if you have know where I can find anymore information on the connection between Asylum Magazine and anarchist circles, that would also be extremely helpful.

If anyone has any further avenues that they think would be worth pursuing, let me know. All input is appreciated.

Jay.

Mark.
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Feb 16 2017 18:25

Jay - just to be clear, the account Peter is referring to is included in the link I posted above. It's one I remember reading when it was first published in Freedom. It seemed quite inspiring at the time.

Jay_the_robot
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Feb 16 2017 18:53

Hi Mark,

So it is, that will save me trying to acquire it!

Since you were reading the Freedom newspaper at the time, I am assuming that you had some degree of interaction with anarchist/libertarian socialist/etc movements during this period? Did you get the impression that there was a significant interaction between anarchism and mental health movements (e.g. anti-psychiatry)?

I am in the early stages, as you can probably tell, or finding information on this issue. I didn't come into the world until the end of the 80s, so I don't have any direct experience or feel for the connections between anarchism and the counter-culture, I have to try and piece it together through archives, books, talking to people, and so forth.

Again, this is all greatly appreciated.

Mark.
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Feb 16 2017 19:01

I was very much on the anarcho-syndicalist side of things. I remember reading quite a bit about mental health issues but I didn't really come across people directly involved. That isn't to say that the interaction wasn't there.

PeterTCA
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Feb 17 2017 14:03

Jay,

Sorry I'm hopeless with anything cyberspace. Could you contact me?

Two points. My book "Language for those who have nothing" - the book
is now online - suggests an Anarchist methodology for approaching mental illness.

Second, "The Cunningham Amendment" - which circulates within the Anarchist
movement - makes frequent comments on mental illness.

Jay_the_robot
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Feb 27 2017 20:30

First of all, apologies for the delay, then intervening time has been pretty hectic; hopefully I shall have more time to dedicate to this soon.

Mark: if we could maintain contact, that would be great, I need to try and establish a connection to a network of people who might be able to provide insight, guidance and so forth on this issue. Just from this thread alone I have found new directions to pursue and new information.

PeterTCA: thanks for those, I shall see if I can get a copy of your book. I'll try and piece together some of the information I have so far, so that I have a better idea of what I am doing, and then I'll contact you, around Thursday/Friday, hopefully.

Thanks so much to both of you,
I am hoping to get more time to dedicate to this soon.

Jay.

cactus9
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Feb 27 2017 22:53

Jay_the_robot wrote:

Did you get the impression that there was a significant interaction between anarchism and mental health movements (e.g. anti-psychiatry)?

I'm sure I've seen the anarchist logo on loads of Mad Pride stuff such as gig flyers. Indeed I think it was this that originally sparked my interest in anarchism.

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Steven.
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Feb 28 2017 10:21

Yeah, Mad Pride was definitely heavily anarchist-influenced. However I didn't mention it as that was from the 2000s, and Jay was just asking about the 60s and 70s