Science of the Social Credit Measured in Terms of Human Satisfaction
Christian based service movement warning about threats to rights and freedom irrespective of the label, Science of the Social Credit Measured in Terms of Human Satisfaction

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing"
Edmund Burke

Science of the Social Credit Measured in Terms of Human Satisfaction

May 1999: The Life and Work of Anthony Cooney

Every now and again one comes along who is so inimitably himself and so preternaturally stubborn that it is rare that his contemporaries know what to do with him. Anthony Cooney is such a one, and the tragedy of his life is not his tragedy but England's that she made so little use of him. As an essayist, he employs the philosophy of distributism (the individual quest as against the overriding function) to illuminate problems in history, constitutionalism, economics, culture, and art. As a grassroots campaigner he has fought to attain distributist objectives on a variety of issues. In another time and place he would have figured among the great--a Gandhi perhaps (who was also a distributist). But in late twentieth-century England, Cooney simply smiled as one who knows a secret and carried on on the scale that was permitted him.
    How many political efforts have been left unconsummated, their followers routed and demoralized, through setting their sights too high? Cooney has survived forty years by being content with small successes. He took his seat at the foot of the table and, not being invited up, made himself at home there. Yet the record of his life and work reveal, for those who are able to read it, a great soul. He makes his own everything he touches and is original without meaning to be. He can make the horizontal shedding loom or breast-fed waterwheel interesting because he fits them into LIFE with such a sure instinct, as if he cannot think of them apart from it. For every fact he simultaneously sees a dozen tangents and makes it look easy.
    Cooney is an Irish name. Anthony Sr. of Toxteth, Liverpool (on the River Mersey) learned the carpenter's trade of joinery. He served in the army in World War I, and for the rest of his life plied his trade in the employ of the South End Flour Mills. He was a Catholic and became a social crediter in the thirties. Douglas visited the home. Our Anthony Cooney was born in Garston, Liverpool, in July 1932, so will turn sixty-seven this year.
    The elder Cooney remained in Liverpool during World War II but evacuated his family to "Ardd Gron," a leased cottage in Wales. They were soon joined by a friend's family, making in all three women and six children. They stayed there the second half of every year from 1940 until September 1945 (and the whole of 1941). A convent temporarily housed in a castle was their church, which gradually became a large center of worship.
    Young Cooney went to the Welsh school. It was at this time that he read the Penny Catechism, serving him, apart from its religious content, as a primer of Logic. In the land of Arthur he became an avid reader of novels and poetry. The story of Bonnie Prince Charlie inspired Cooney to write a novel set in the future. A descendant of the Bonnie Prince returns to claim the throne, and Britain becomes great again under his beneficent rule.
After the war, Cooney finished his education at night school, while working days in the offices of the Liverpool City Council. He started a student magazine. He discovered modernist poetry and music, which became a lifelong passion.
    For the next eight years, from 1950 to 1958, while making a modest living as a dock clerk (and also completing his two years National Service in the R.A.F.), Cooney embarked on what was to be his life's work as an author and activist. As a member of the Catholic Evidence Guild, he became an outdoor speak- er on behalf of the Faith and a certified catechist. He discovered the distributist ideas of Chesterton and Belloc and wrote a distributist novel of resistance to world tyranny, called The Twelfth Hour, based on a juvenile manuscript incorporating his father's ideas. In 1954 the elder Cooney died at the age of only fifty-six, of lung cancer.
At Liverpool's Pier
Head, "the most famous of all landfalls," a group of intellectuals gathered to debate the ideas of the day, and crowds came to listen. In 1954 "the Pier Head Magazine" Platform was launched by the twenty-one-year-old Cooney and two like-minded comrades, Chris Fitzsimons and Charles McBride. The ideas of Platform were distributist, anticommunist, modernist in the arts, and "subtly pro-Catholic." In 1955 they formed the League of Independent Voters, which, the following year, augmented by newcomers Alex (Anthony) Anderson, Paul Connor, and Ray Gradwell, became the Liverpool Anti-Debt League. From 1955 through 1957 they publicized issues and contested City Council seats. Platform became replaced by a quarterly distributist and social credit journal, Forum. In 1956 Cooney, through the Catholic Evidence Guild, met his future wife, Rita, whom he married two years later. Their home became the center of the social credit movement on Merseyside.
    In 1959 and 1960 the Anti-Debt League offered a study course called "Money, Society, and the Debt System." Out of this course came the brilliant lectures Cooney later published as Social Credit: Economics and Social Credit: Politics. And Forum was replaced by a monthly sheet, the Liverpool Newsletter.
    The Liverpool Newsletter embarked on a series of issue campaigns, in which, over the years, some seven hundred people participated. The Merseyside Anti-Common Market Committee was formed and leafleted throughout 1962 in opposition to the European Common Market. The St. George's Day Association (later Gild of St. George) was started in 1963 to get April 23 declared a national holiday and to encourage people to fly the red cross and wear a red rose in honor of England's patron saint and martyr. (For these efforts, in 1989, Cooney was awarded the Silver Cross of St. George by This England magazine.) The Anti-Fluoridation Campaign is described below. From 1963 through 1967, Cooney also participated in a mock Parliament, drafting social credit legislation and submitting it to formal debate, part of the transcripts being subsequently published as The Social Credit Papers of the Liverpool Parliamentary Debating Society.
    In 1964 the couple bought their present home, "Rose Cottage" in Lark Lane, Liverpool, where they practiced self-sufficiency and raised two daughters. The following year, at the age of thirty-three, Cooney burnt the Bonnie Prince Charlie novel and The Twelfth Hour. Perhaps it was his way of formally saying good-bye to his father and to his own youth, as he himself matured in fatherhood and intellectually. He also quit the office job he had held for eighteen years, returned to school for a teacher's certificate, and taught primary school from 1971 to his retirement in 1991.
    With the election of Heath in 1970, the European Economic Commission became a live issue again, and the Merseyside Anti-Common Market Committee campaigned against it. They leafleted door-to-door during the 1973 election and again during the 1975 Referendum, with the result that Liverpool returned the highest out vote in mainland Britain. The Committee of Catholics and Anglicans Against the Common Market (first formed in 1963) publicly challenged Christians For Europe's claim that the churches were for the EEC, with the successful result that representatives of both churches denied having any official position. (Cooney's inspired concept of capitalizing on the built-in abstention rate from the European elections by promoting abstention as the only loyal act is recounted below.)
    From the late 1970s Cooney published a poetry magazine, the Old Police Station (including the critical review Witana Gemot, Great Thought). The Liverpool Newsletter saw twelve--then ten--issues per year till 1980 and is today a quarterly review. Articles (sometimes under a pen name) discuss such disparate subjects as Roman Britain, the real St. George, Alfred the Great, the Russian royal family, the Holocaust, antisemitism, medieval painting and architecture, the Pre-Raphaelites, the Arts-and-Crafts movement, Shakespeare, imagism, na- tion/empire, Ireland, South Africa, the "Fascist Grand Council in Brussels," Rerum Novarum, the death penalty, and Standard Time. Since 1995 the Liverpool Newsletter has been produced under the auspices of the Third Way organization, but Cooney's contribution is still decisive. (For subscription information, see panel on p. 2)
    Apart from the works already mentioned, Cooney's literary output includes Social Credit: Obelisks, a tour de force consisting of an original philosophy of history with applications to particular historical problems; a scholarly study of turn-of-the-century poor relief in Toxteth; six books of poetry (one in the University of Salzburg's prestigious English Literature, Poetic Drama, and Poetic Theory series); two plays in verse; critical studies of Douglas, Chesterton, and Belloc; a monograph on St. George; and a children's book.
The best compliment we can pay Anthony Cooney--and the one he would most appreciate--is to build on his work.
    It is useful to think of distributism (the philosophy of the individual quest as against the overriding function) as the larger concept into which social credit fits. Berkeley, Jefferson, Cobbett, Leo XIII, Ruskin, Tolstoy, Morris, Gandhi, Belloc, Douglas, Orage, and Chesterton were all distributists, but only Douglas and Orage would be called social crediters. Distributism attracts people who are happiest minding their own business and who would not be bothering with politics if politics hadn't bothered them first. It does not attract people who enjoy being part of something big and feel powerful when they rally and shout in unison, nor does it attract people who are not happy unless they are saving the world. It is therefore par for the course that its methods of activism are different from others.
    Cooney took his cue from Douglas, who wrote: "Fix your objective in relation to your resources. This is rather more than to say concentrate on a narrow front--it means narrowing your front until you must break through. There are hundreds of spots in the present position which are vulnerable to quite weak forces. The Housewives face many of them" (Development of World Dominion 132). There is nothing shameful about being a "weak force," and the British Housewives League proved to be one of Cooney's most valuable allies.
    Belloc expressed the idea in a pretty metaphor:

When you are considering how a fortress may be attacked with the means at your disposal it is your first business to ask where its weak points are to be found. The weakness may seem slight, the opportunity of action against such great and highly organized strength may seem negligible, but the very first business is to find out, at least, where there is an opportunity, even on a small scale, for beginning. . . . The process may be compared to the killing of a tree by one who must attack with some instru- ment--say, shears--too feeble for cutting the tree down, let alone for uprooting it; too feeble even for inflicting a serious wound upon its trunk; too feeble for cutting off main branches or perhaps even secondary branches, but not too feeble for clipping leaves. Now, if you cut enough leaves off a tree ["for several springs" --Cooney] the tree dies" (Essay on the Restoration of Property, pp. 39-40 out of 86).

    The greatest obstacle to this method, says Cooney, is the Little Pigs Syndrome: "The little pigs who could only say 'wee, wee, wee', heard the big pigs saying 'umph, umph, umph', and determined to do likewise. When they found they couldn't say 'umph, umph, umph', they refused to say 'wee, wee, wee', and as a result burst apart with frustration. There are any number of journals and groups . . . who, in fact, cannot say 'umph, umph, umph', but refuse our constant advice to say 'wee, wee, wee'" (Oct. 95, p. 14; all such citations are to Liverpool Newsletter).
    This relates to "the Conspiracy," on which subject Cooney offers these wise words: "Liverpool Newsletter does not reject the conspiracy theory; it merely finds it boring. . . . We are being realistic. The Conspiracy Theory vitiates initiative. It induces people to beat their bosoms and cry 'Woe! Woe!'--and then do nothing! After all, what can be done against an all-powerful, all pervasive force which has backed every horse in the race? It may be said, 'Well at least we can expose it'. But the exposure, repeated with ever greater urgency, merely intensifies its vitiating effect, for how can such diabolical cunning be out-witted and how can its aims be thwarted, by a few dozen men armed with nothing more lethal than ball point pens and whose entire commissariate is a pocketful of leaflets? . . . There is no need to 'expose the Conspiracy' [in order] to launch a local 'Anti-Fluoridation Committee' or an 'Abstain Committee' in Yurrophart elections. Indeed it would be counter-productive, requiring that time and resources be devoted to convincing sceptical people before actually getting them to join in the work. It need hardly be said that a 'Committee to defeat the World Conspiracy' is simply ludicrous!" (Dec. 94, p. 3).
    Has wee, wee, wee ever worked? Cooney tells how Norwegians fought the Nazis with paper clips: "After the German occupation of Norway people began to wear paper binders in their lapels; brass paper binders are after all cheap and plentiful enough, a few coppers for a box of a hundred. The German occupying authority could not determine what this rash of paper binders to be seen in thousands in lapels, on the street, in the shops, in offices, in factories, signified, and in a sense nobody could tell them. There is no law, after all, against wearing a paper binder in your lapel, and any Government or Authority which tried to pass a law against it would simply appear ridiculous. As there was no organization behind, or centre to, the 'Paper binder movement' there was no one the Germans could prosecute or imprison--'Are you urging people to wear paper-binders in their lapels?' is an absurd question even for a German!
    "The 'Paper-binders Against Tyranny' (an 'understood' label which appeared nowhere in writing) drove the Germans crazy with frustration! They ran round in circles confiscating paper-binders which made them appear ridiculous. They resorted to arresting people for wearing a paper-binder, but not only were there too many for all to be arrested, the very action engendered greater hostility" (Apr. 98, p. 4).
    Of course, the paper binder movement didn't just happen. Some anonymous hero started it, and the idea was so simple and demanding so little investment of time and trouble that it caught on. Cooney has devoted his career to elaborating and perfecting methods of Political Activity for the Weak.
    The Anti-Fluoridation Campaign throughout the sixties sidestepped all argument about the safety or benefits of fluoridation, sticking instead to one simple point: "Our opposition to fluoridation was based firmly upon the principle that fluoridation is mass medication; that it is a claim by a public authority to have the Right to medicate people en masse, against the stated objections of some and in spite of the expressed fears of others. The concession of such a Right to a local authority establishes a Precedent in English Law which we saw as dangerous, even sinister. This case against fluoridation stands whether or not it is eventually proven that fluoridation has no harmful effects and has all the beneficial effects claimed for it.
    "In this campaign we applied Social Credit principles--Policy is the domain of the individual. Dispute over the 'safety' of fluoridation we saw as a dangerous red herring. Probably not one in ten-thousand people has a qualification to determine which side of the argument is right, and the balance of credibility must always rest on the side of the public authority's 'experts'. On the other hand sovereignty of Policy--in this case what medicine I will or will not take, rests wholly, entirely and properly with the individual. We were successful in having fluoridation rejected by every local council on Merseyside, however often the fluoridation lobby brought the matter up. The seeds sown then have continued to bear fruit in a determined opposition to fluoridation whenever it has been proposed" (Dec. 94, p. 11).
    The most ambitious campaign of Cooney's career was his attempt to mobilize a National Abstain Campaign against elections to the Strasbourg Assembly (European "Parliament"). After the 1994 elections, in which (as Cooney had predicted) 37 of 43 anti-E.U. candidates suffered the humiliation of losing their deposits, Cooney lamented the opportunity lost: "Imagine! Early in 1994 [two or more of the four main anti-E.U. parties] come together. They say, 'We have a common policy--to get Britain out. To have a common means we must choose the simplest means. The sanction to hand is the combined indifference and hostility of the British people to the E.U. This expresses itself as a massive abstention in so-called 'Euro-elections'.
    "We will advise our combined memberships throughout the country to set up local National Abstain Campaign Committees for the purpose of canvassing abstention by leafleting, posters, car stickers, letters to the press, and, when the time comes, press statements to local papers. . . . In doing this we do not in any way surrender our separate identities nor compromise our post-election emergence from the ad hoc organization. . . . After the election we will issue a triumphant statement claiming victory for the British people, repudiating the claim of those elected to represent anybody but themselves and calling upon the Government to denounce the Treaties by which Great Britain is a member of the E.U." (July/Aug./Sept. 94, p. 10; actual abstention rates were 68% for 1979, 72% for 1984, and 63.8% for 1989 and 1994).
    Who is the local branch? You are! "A branch need be no more than one person (this also has been field tested, never mind when) provided that person is not too inhibited to put his/her name and address on a branch letter-head. This, and not money or detailed organization, our experience shows, is the chief difficulty" (Dec. 94, p. 4).
    Cooney illumines his gospel of Political Action for the Weak under the appealing heading "You Are the Branches": "If a National Abstain Campaign is launched, how can one start a village or town branch without waiting around to see if someone else has pushed the boat out, or someone 'on high' has requested it? Nothing is simpler. You need a branch letter-head and an address. If you have a few bob to spare you can get a P.O. Box. If not you can use your own address. . . .
    "Next you must send out a press release to your local newspapers and free-sheets . . . worded more or less as follows: 'At a recent well-attended Meeting a -------- branch of the National Abstain Campaign was formed. Mr. -------- Miss -------- was appointed Hon. Sec. All those attending pledged that they would abstain from voting in the forthcoming elections for the so-called European Parliament . . . and by mass-leafleting would persuade the electors to do likewise, for the following reasons'. . . .
    "Did such a meeting take place? Of course it did. You were there. You didn't wait around for the pussy-foot patriots to arrive; you stood in front of the mirror, nominated yourself secretary and passed all the resolutions. When asked 'how strong is the branch' you reply 'The party traitors will find that out soon enough when we begin leafleting'. Surely through-out the country one thousand people can be found to make this stand at a cost of a few £pounds each? L.N.L. has been doing it for thirty years" (Oct./ Nov. 93, pp. 1-2). It is not necessary for the local activity to be great. Local activity merely supports the entity in place to claim credit for a two-thirds majority: "The local activity proves that there was a campaign, the result proves that it was successful" (July/Aug./Sept. 94, p. 15).
    To the objection that abstention is a negative thing, even an admission of defeat, the prophet of Political Action for the Weak simply says yes: "We are an occupied, if not yet defeated, country. . . . We must look to the weapons we have, and the first such weapon is the 70% abstention. It may largely arise from the venality and bovinity of the British, but it is a fact. Its significance as a weapon would have been immediately apparent to Gandhi or Michael Collins. It is apparent to the occupying forces, that is why they made a multi-million pound slush fund available to the establishment parties to finance their efforts 'to get out the vote'. If they see abstention as a threat to their hegemony, why do we persist in regarding it as a poor substitute for the adrenaline rush of 'fighting a seat'? Both Gandhi and Michael Collins based their liberation strategy upon non-co-operation with the occupying power. Our non-co-operation begins, and can only begin, with ignoring the mechanisms by which the Brussels Fascist Grand Council seeks to validate its rule" (Feb. 98, pp. 2-3).
    It is to be noted that the "Strasbourg Debating Society" is not a real Parliament because it lacks the power of the Purse. In fact, no Government either emerges from it or depends on its support: "The 'Government' of the E.U. is in fact the Fascist Grand Council in Brussels, humorously called 'The Commission' but in fact a combined Legislature, Executive and Administration, irremovable and self-perpetuating. The Strasbourg Debating Society is merely a Body Which Receives Reports" (Dec. 98, p. 1).
    The anti-E.U. parties have yet to take up Cooney's suggestion that they form a National Abstain Campaign. After their 1994 humiliation, Cooney urged "carrying the war to the enemy." How about a front organization to make obnoxious but logical demands? Spanish motorbikes are noisy, Greek plumbing cloggy: demand European standards. There are archaic frontiers in Europe that don't make sense; for instance, Belgium was created as a buffer zone and as such is no longer needed: demand rational frontiers. ("The French-speaking areas must be reabsorbed into France and the Vlaams-speaking areas into Holland.") The British "beerage" count on British Customs' right to seize foreign beer that is not for personal use.
    No treaty knows of any such right. So inform the press and bring in a few crates declaring they are not for personal use. If Customs seizes them, the ensuing court case will be informative to everyone. If they do nothing, the door is open to any quantity, and you have cultivated and involved the "beerage" in your struggle (July/Aug./Sept. 94, pp. 13-14; Oct./Nov. 94, p. 15).
    These various efforts have in common that they are interestingly counterintuitive. They depending on noticing and making use of the negative, the mere background, that the average person sees but does not see. That is also why they strike us as humorous. The Nazis knew the paper binders had to mean something, and the secret of the paper binder movement was that they didn't mean anything at all. (The Nazis might have countered by wearing paper binders themselves, but if they could have thought of that, they wouldn't be the Nazis.) Everyone had an opinion about the alleged benefits of fluoridation, and the fact that the public authority's right to confer a benefit was the weakest point almost went unnoticed. Everyone is so caught up in the voting that the abstentions just don't register.
    Every individual is a minority of one, and one is, by definition, weak. Therefore, Political Action for the Weak is Political Action for the Individual. In true distributist fashion and with genuine charity (that is, good cheer), Anthony Cooney shows us how to do more by doing less.