WUDWAS: A missing chapter

3. 8. 2012 // // Kategorie Randnotizen 2012

When Isabelle Fremeaux and I published our book/film Paths Through Utopias following our trip through postcapitalist experiments in Europe, we had to leave an important part of the experience out – unwritten, unfilmed. During the journey something unexpected happened, something that we have been unable to mention before. We met a secret society, WUDWAS, which has been working internationally in absolute clandestinity since 1812, under the motto: Only people serving an apprenticeship to nature can ever be trusted with machines.”

The WUDWAS was founded in 1812 by two English Luddites, who had found political refuge in mainland Europe following the violent repression of Luddism by the British State. Named after a mythical leader Ned Ludd (sometimes known as King Ludd), the Luddite uprising was the first popular resistance against industrial capitalism and the notion of unrestrained progress” Artisan cloth workers smashed machines, which were destroying their trades, undercutting wages and forcing them into chosing life inside a factory or unemployment and destitution. They saw their common way of life being destroyed by the new culture of industrial capitalism and they vowed to resist all machinery harmful to commonality. Described by Charlotte Bronte as a sort of moral earthquake, the Luddites were not against the machines but what they stood for, a world where the weavers no longer had control of their own time, where they were forced to succumb to forces outside of their control, where they lost touch with community and place. Ultimately it was a struggle for autonomy.The founders of the WUDWAS aimed to keep the spirit of the Luddite movement alive following the repression of the original movement.

Organised as a secret society the Luddites had oaths and rituals and trust was built on webs of close local friendship. To become a Luddite and part of the secret non hierarchical society you would have to swear an oath of secrecy (during a twisted in ceremony based on ancient craft-guild oaths) in which you promised an uncompromising allegiance to the cause, any betrayal, naming of other Luddites or speaking to the authorities would be punishable by death.Despite this secrecy, the they experienced violent and extremely successful state repression which stamped out the movement within 15 months.

The movement was destroyed, with a range of weapons, from government spies to new terror” laws being passed, midnight raids to numerous hangings, and the mobilisation of more soldiers than had been sent to fight Napoleon. What historian of the Luddite movement Kirk Patrick Sale calls a spasm of repression” was unleashed, to make sure that the radical challenge to the industrial revolution and its new forms of political economy was snipped in the bud.

When the Luddite refugees set up the WUDWAS, they wanted to make sure that history was never repeated, that they could avoid repression yet continue the work. Clauses were added to the oath including one of that promised that nothing would ever be written down or recorded about the WUDWAS. All communication had to be face to face, transmitted orally. This was 1812, over a decade before the invention of photography and other forms of recording and surveillance devices. All action had to be at night without faces or organised without anyone knowing that it was WUDWAS who were responsible.

Incredibly, for 200 years the WUDWAS have managed to remain out of the public eye and its membership unknown. Communicating without trace and organizing in complex forms of clandestine underground horizontal networks the WUDWAS claim that they have been the substrata of resistance movements worldwide.

The reason the WUDWAS decided to come public on the 24th of August 2012 is that they recognize that the first stage of their mission has been accomplished, and they are preparing to embark on the next stage to celebrate their 200th anniversary. A number of groups and collectives have been contacted to be part of the coming out ceremony, The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination (The labofii) is using its invitation to the Hamburg Kampnagle summer festival to help the process of WUDWAS’s breaking out.

At La r.O.n.c.e our postcapitalist community in Brittany, over the last few weeks the Labofii have been preparing for the event, working with WUDWAS members and other artists, scientists and activists. Here are some pictures.

1- storyboard

Story board time.


Mycelium leaping.

8-group harvest

A day after the harvest.




Edible costumes preparation.


The best things grow in the dark.


Harvest over !


Keep fit comrade.

22-mushrooms pins

Pins appear.


The stables studio


Summer reading

19-moving nest

Colony moving.

23-posted ant

Tools of resistance breeding.

24-ant hands

And preparing.

26-shrooms fruit


Fruiting !

6- yurt night