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Nicolas Hardy Walter (22 November 1934 – 7 March 2000) was a British anarchist and atheist writer, speaker and activist. He was a member of the Committee of 100 and Spies for Peace,[1] and wrote on topics of anarchism and humanism.

Contents

1 Background 2 Peace movement activism 3 Anarchism 4 Rationalism, humanism and secularism 5 Publications 6 References 7 Further reading 8 External links

Background[edit] Nicolas was the son of William Grey Walter, an American-born British neurophysiologist, cybernetician and robotician. His grandfather was Karl Walter (1880-1965), a former anarchist who subsequently supported fascism. Karl married an American woman called Margaret Hardy and lived in the USA from 1908 until the outbreak of the First World War. His maternal grandfather was Samuel Kerkham Ratcliffe (1868-1958), a former member of the executive of the Fabian Society. After his parents divorced in 1945, Monica, his mother subsequently married a Cambridge University scientist with whom she brought up Nicolas.[2] Walter attended Rendcomb College, Cirencester. He served two years National Service in the Royal Air Force, where he learned Russian preparatory to working in Signals Intelligence, and then studied at Exeter College, Oxford. At this time he joined the Labour Party.[3] Peace movement activism[edit] Walter was heavily involved in the peace movement, being a founder member of the Committee of 100.[1] Walter married Ruth Oppenheim, another member of the Committee of 100 in 1962, who was the daughter of refugees from Nazi Germany. The couple had two children, Susannah (born 1965) and Natasha Walter (born 1967), but divorced in 1982.[4] Walter was a member of Spies for Peace, which only became known after he died,[5] along with Ruth, who was happy to be publicly identified by Natasha Walter in 2013.[1][4] In March 1963, the group broke into Regional Seat of Government
Regional Seat of Government
No. 6 (RSG-6), copied documents relating to the Government's plans in the event of nuclear war and distributed 3,000 leaflets revealing their contents.[1][5] In 1966 Walter was imprisoned for two months under the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Act 1860, after a protest against British support for the Vietnam War. As Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Harold Wilson
read the lesson (on the subject of beating swords into ploughshares) at a Labour Party service at the Methodist
Methodist
Church in Brighton, Walter and friends interrupted by shouting "Hypocrite!"[6] In 1987, Walter played a role in the identification of Michael Randle and Pat Pottle as the people who helped George Blake to escape from Wormwood Scrubs in 1966, five years into a 42-year sentence. Walter had told the story of how the escape was organised by Committee of 100 activists to the former MI6
MI6
officer H. Montgomery Hyde, an honorary associate of the Rationalist Press Association, who was writing a biography of Blake. Walter asked Hyde not to reveal the identities of those involved, but The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times
worked it out from clues in Hyde's book and revealed the names. Randle and Pottle eventually wrote their own book, The Blake Escape: How We Freed George Blake and Why (1989). They were subsequently arrested and tried in 1991, after 110 MPs signed a motion calling for their prosecution and the right-wing The Freedom Association threatened to bring a private prosecution. Although Randle and Pottle's guilt was not in doubt, the jury acquitted them. Even though Walter himself had not revealed their names, critics regarded his actions as unacceptable. Albert Meltzer later commented: "on the whole it was safer to be Walter's enemy than his friend".[7] Anarchism[edit] Walter's book About Anarchism
Anarchism
was first published in 1969. It went through many editions and has been translated into many languages. A revised edition was published in 2002, with a foreword by his daughter, the journalist and feminist writer Natasha Walter.[8] Walter had a long association with Freedom Press
Freedom Press
and was a regular contributor to Freedom among other publications. The last writing he did appeared in Freedom. A collection of his writings from Freedom and elsewhere was published in 2007 as The Anarchist Past and other essays, edited by David Goodway. Rationalism, humanism and secularism[edit] Walter was appointed Managing Editor of the Rationalist Press Association in 1975, but his progressive disability and the fact he was not, as Bill Cooke puts it, "a born administrator"[9] led to difficulties. He was a prominent member of the South Place Ethical Society
South Place Ethical Society
and became one of its Appointed Lecturers in 1978.[10] He resigned from this position in 1979 following a special meeting of the Society to consider a paper by Albert Lovecy and vote on the motion "that the Society has no theistic creed and does not practise worship". Peter Cadogan managed to have the motion amended to "does not practise worship of a deity" and it was passed. Walter remarked "many people ... have joined the society as part of their rejection of religion".[10] Walter was editor of the Rationalist Press Association's magazine New Humanist from February 1975 until July 1984, when Jim Herrick took over. In 1989, in the aftermath of the fatwa on Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie
and his book The Satanic Verses, Walter (along with William McIlroy) re-formed The Committee Against Blasphemy Law. It issued a Statement Against Blasphemy Law, signed by more than 200 public figures. Walter and Barbara Smoker
Barbara Smoker
were attacked while counter-demonstrating during a Muslim protest against the book in May 1989. Walter's book "Blasphemy Ancient and Modern" put the Rushdie controversy into historical context. Walter also served as company secretary of G. W. Foote & Co., publishers of The Freethinker, and was a Vice-President of the National Secular Society. Walter occasionally wrote or spoke about how secular humanists might face death – he had done so himself. In a letter to The Guardian in 1993 (16 September, p. 23) he explained:

All of us will die, and most of us will suffer before we do so. "The last act is bloody, however fine the rest of the play may be," said Pascal. Raging against the dying of the light may be good art, but is bad advice. "Why me?" may be a natural question, but it prompts a natural answer: "Why not?" Religion may promise life everlasting, but we should grow up and accept that life has an end as well as a beginning.

Publications[edit]

Humanism: What's in the Word (1997). London: Rationalist Press Association, ISBN 0-301-97001-7. Also published as Humanism: Finding Meaning in the Word by Prometheus Books, 1998, ISBN 1-57392-209-9. Blasphemy, Ancient and Modern (1990). London: Rationalist Press Association, ISBN 0-301-90001-9. About Anarchism
Anarchism
(1969). London: Freedom Press. Updated edition published by Freedom Press
Freedom Press
in 2002, ISBN 0-900384-90-5. Nonviolent Resistance: Men Against War (1963).

References[edit]

^ a b c d Walter, Natasha (13 April 2013). "Protest in an age of optimism: the 60s anarchists who spilled nuclear secrets". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 December 2017.  ^ Goodway, David (2001). "Nicolas Walter1934-2000" (PDF). Ethical record. 107 (6): 3–9. Retrieved 16 December 2017.  ^ Martin, Douglas (19 March 2000). "Nicolas H. Walter Dies at 65; Feisty Atheist and Anarchist". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 December 2017.  ^ a b Walter, Natasha (14 February 2018). "Ruth Walter". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 February 2018.  ^ a b Walter, Natasha (20 May 2002). "The NS Essay - How my father spied for peace". New Statesman. Retrieved 19 December 2017.  ^ O. Chinnappa Reddy, Humpty Dumpty with Alice In the Wonderland of Law, Xlibris Corporation, 2011, p. 182.[self-published source] ^ Meltzer, Albert, I Couldn't Paint Golden Angels, AK Press, 1996. ^ "ABOUT ANARCHISM by Nicolas Walter (with and intro by Natasha Walter)". ChristieBooks. ^ Cooke, Bill (2003), Blasphemy Depot: A Hundred Years of the Rationalist Press Association. London: Rationalist Press Association. ISBN 0-301-00302-5. Published in the United States as The Gathering of Infidels: A Hundred Years of the Rationalist Press Association. New York: Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-59102-196-0 ^ a b MacKillop, I. D. (1986), The British Ethical Societies, Cambridge University Press, [online]. Accessed 13 May 2014.

Further reading[edit]

Rooum, Donald (March 13, 2000). "Nicolas Walter". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. 

External links[edit]

"The Right to Be Wrong". Essay by Nicolas Walter. Libertarian Alliance Political Notes No. 43, 1989. "Nicolas Walter: an appreciation of his contribution to secular humanism". Sheffield Humanist Society, 2000. Nicolas Walter papers at the International Institute of Social History.

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Alan Albon Marie-Louise Berneri Richard Boston Thomas Cantwell George Cores Clifford Harper Thomas Keell Harry Kelly Peter Kropotkin Alfred Marsh Albert Meltzer Arthur Moyse Max Nettlau Vernon Richards Jack Robinson Donald Rooum Philip Sansom John Turner Nicolas Walter Colin Ward Woolf Wess Charlotte Wilson Lilian Wolfe

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WorldCat Identities VIAF: 22713039 LCCN: n86026229 ISNI: 0000 0001 1511 150

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