Anarchism and State Violence in Sydney and Melbourne
An argument about Australian labor history.
By Dr Bob James
Please to remember Eleventh November,
Government treason and plot
I don't see the reason
why Government treason
Should ever be forgot.
- Street jingle, 1887
Because radicals have been largely ignored by historians so have the forces arrayed against them. A further result has been that the extent of the imbalance in the contest has not been measured. It is necessary to provide a general account of nineteenth century control measures before resuming the story of the struggle in Sydney and Melbourne.
What is of particular interest in the nineteenth century is that ruling groups moved to neutralise their opposition in ways peculiar to the newly emergent industrial and mercantile processes. Some reformers could be bought off with specific-interest reforms such as the 1832 Reform Bill, whereas others, mainly the 'lower orders' had to be intimidated or removed altogether as had oftentimes been the case previously. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries this required the revamping of the military and the para-military in line with a dynamic which involved increasing centralisation, increasing bureaucratisation and increasing emphasis on administered information, which dynamic eventually provided the even more effective control weapon of self-abnegation.
The process of information gathering to determine and to punish political opponents domestically was not easily distinguishable from the gathering of data for social policy, and not just because police were the collectors of both kinds of information until a certain stage of bureaucratic evolution was reached and 'welfare' information was separated from what is now called 'political' information. Logically, no separation is possible, and before separation occurred the same information was potentially both benign and malignant depending on its use. Monitoring the movements and activities of people and collating the information was so important it was disguised. For example, though Britain has a very long spy tradition, espionage,in the public arena, became a dirty word as part of the illusion of freedom and democracy, and governmental authorities went so far as to deny that home-grown spies, military or other, professional or not, existed at all.
The few authors of books about official surveillance in Australia have confused 'Australian spies' with 'spies in Australia' and have assumed that surveillance networks unlike the ones they know from the late twentieth century are not surveillance networks at all. Academic historians and more popular writers1 have described nineteenth century Australian life as though the only law-breakers were bushrangers or land speculators and the only spies were bushrangers' friends. The most recent example2 has continued the obsession with labor politicians as though these are the only subjects of 'political' surveillance and explicitly claims that the origins of domestic intelligence agencies are to be found in the First World War period.3
As a simple matter of logic the British would have brought with them in the eighteenth century their networks and their surveillance attitudes while the existence of Fenians, Chinese secret societies, fears about the French, the Russians and others, and of home-grown republicans and worse in the nineteenth, should make it obvious that the Australian colonies would have shared in the results of official British thinking about security and law and order.
Hidden by the prevailing ignorance about how civil control procedures and surveillance networks have meshed are a number of almost invisible elements of different significances. The longest serving element within the British tradition, and perhaps the most important, has no popular label as a type, because it has remained hidden despite being the most obvious. When official spy networks began to be established by the British, they grew out of the personal networks of competing members of the royal court. Today, 'vice regal' intelligence gathering draws on the criminalmilitary-domestic networks as appropriate but acts independently when its own needs require. During nineteenth century Australia, the relationship between the Governor(s) and the British Court changed quite a lot, as did the priorities and accoutrements of this network.
Two other important - though not discussed here - and often overlooked elements of the total network are those of the banking houses like Rothschilds4 and of voluntary organisations such as scientific bodies or the Salvation Army.5
What follows is only a summary of surface evidence which marks where the rest is still hidden.
Writing in 1901 retired army officer W. Lee pointed out that prior to the nineteenth century
the idea of preventing or repressing riots by means of a civil police force was hardly considered to fall within the range of practical politics ... [However] the signal manner in which the military had failed to keep order during the Gordon Riots  conclusively demonstrated how unreliable was that arm for the purposes of peace maintenance ...6
Seemingly the circle had been turned by the second decade of the twentieth century:
Systematic military policy-making towards internal security in Great Britain dates from the period following the First World War. It was stimulated above all by widespread fears of possible revolution, sharpened by a belief in the collective incapacity of police forces to deal with civil disorder.7
The kind of academic ignorance displayed in the second quote results from acceptance of the mythology that the British military are not part of the civil control arm, a mythology fostered by the military themselves, to discourage discussion of their competence, but even more because of their unpopularity in the nineteent century. Jeffery quotes Lord Ironsides: '[For] a soldier there is no more distasteful duty than that of aiding the civil power'.8
Paralleling the first is a second mythology about spying: Sir Douglas Haig, General Commanding in Chief, June 1919, said to the Head of Special Branch, Sir Basil Thomson, who was looking forward to getting access to military intelligence:
I said that I would not authorise any men being used as spies. Officers must act straight-forwardly and as Englishmen.9
Richard Deacon's History of the British Secret Service is one of those books that backgrounds the long-term existence of an official spy network, but only in terms of defensive information gathering against external threat. 10 Another part of the shell-game Deacon goes along with is the non-inclusion of Britain within the list of defined police states even though in the nineteenth century it was used as a model by one that is included, that is France.11
A reorganised Home Office from the 1770s had 'run' domestic and external agents who were paid stipends not wages, while the military continued informal and more-or-less formal networks and 'dirty tricks'.12 Co-operation was always possible between these two arms of government for domestic purposes and naked force was used when necessary.13
In line with increasingly bureaucratic requirements the nineteenth century authorities set about introducing a civil police force. Reith has emphasised the importance of this century to the evolution of the 'police-idea'14 and the importance of the civil police as a medium through which the military force and naval force found it necessary to function.15 Thus from 1829, just five years before the British Statistical Society was established, when Peel established the Metropolitan Police they were dully uniformed, they collected information and they mixed with the public in ways armed, brightly coloured soldiers never could. Even so, as pseudo-soldiers they were quartered in barracks, drilled in public and private, armed or not and marched to their 'beats'.16
The cost of a civil body large enough to take over 'the law and order' role as conceived by the military was too great and universal conscription or an armed populace was too dangerous to the hierarchs. So, in addition to the police, special constables, who had been available under other names in previous centuries but rarely used, were revamped by special legislation in 1831, 1835 and 1837.17 Lee concluded his account by describing the legislation as 'an adequate defence against mob violence' and one of the two key advances made during 'the most important decade in our police history'.18
An earlier event showing the converging priorities of the bureaucratising process was the Seditious Meetings Act, 181719 which required that note taking be formalised for court appearances. Then came the 1848 Crown and Government Security Act20 hurried through parliament to build on the 1817 Act by replacing the capital charge of treason, which was hard to succeed with in court, with the felony of sedition which was the same thing made easier to prove. Later again came the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act which had anticonspiracy clauses.21 Out of the changeover to central administration of civil control then came detectives, who as plain-clothes police were the response to the bureaucratic need to legitimise and control spying.22 A small group of these was created from the uniformed ranks in 1842. In 1833 a Parliamentary Committee had expressed the naive opinion:
With respect to the occasional employment of police in plain-clothes, the system affords no just matter of complaint while strictly confined to detecting breaches of the law. At the same time, the Committee would strongly urge the most cautious maintenance of these limits and solemnly deprecate any approach to the emloyment of spies, in the usual acceptance of the term, as a practice most abhorent to the feelings of the people and most alien to the spirit of the Constitution.23
Even though it often claims the opposite,24 published research clearly shows a continuing use of surveillance of political agitators and of their correspondence25 in Britain throughout the nineteenth century. By the 1880s a 'Special Branch' was formally in place within the CID at Scotland Yard26 and meetings of Irish, socialists and anarchists were obvious places to find police spies. Official French and Russian government records show their use of spies, inflammatory newspapers and 'black' information groups in Britain to destabilise the radical movement, to turn public opinions against anarchists in particular and to force the UK government to turn political refugees and emigres back to the jurisdiction of mainland authorities.27 Oliver's statement that the Home Office recorded its feeling that it was 'no offence to be an anarchist, but was if anarchism was enforced by crime' is very misleading, for since the 1890 case of 'R.v. Castioni' refugee European anarchists were not regarded as 'political refugees' and therefore could be extradited on demand, that is, under the criminal code. 'Political' crimes were defined in Britain after 1890 as those carried out in conflict for State power; thus anarchists were discriminated, against because they were anarchists. The British 'secret service' or, at least, its masters were not sympathetic to these foreign attempts to stir up the anarchists, an attitude which brought them, Home Office officials, into conflict with the ordinary police on occasion. The Home Office believed that Angiolillo, killer of Canovas del Castillo, had turned assassin because of harassment following his use as a police spy and his being dumped.28 Personal memoirs of certain individual 'special branch' detectives clearly show, however, the fervor displayed when they were set upon an anarchist trail. Xenophobia29 mixed with Victorian morality, the myth of British civilisation and a firming belief in crime detection as an heroic science bordering on if not becoming an obsession. Anarchists to Melville, CID superintendent during the 1890s, were 'sewer - rats',30 which only goes some way towards explaining why his favorite disguise was that of a sanitary inspector.31 Elsewhere in Gribble's portrayal of Melville anarchists are 'like animals', 'ludicrous', 'wildly fantastic', 'melodramatic', 'unsavoury', 'creature[s] with [a] tricky mind', 'murder-minded internationalists', 'gangsters', and 'fashionable scourge of crooks'[?]. Melville is variously described as 'resourceful', 'plucky', 'determined', 'scrupulous', 'cheerful', 'physically strong' and 'an inspiration to his men'.32
Dixon regards the anti-spying attitude as 'a thinly-veiled expression of one aspect of Victorian prudery' and finds it totally understandable that non-conforming and eccentric amateurs such as Kavanagh and Burton were among the most successful of nineteenth century British spies and that Burton combined his espionage with 'an obsessive interest in sexual phenomena'.33 The point here is that the century's apparent anti-spy feeling was only an attitude change, and only temporary. Whether at the same time amateurs were used more extensively or not, they were being used as they had always been used, their use at any time merely indicating their particular advantages to their masters in certain situations, for example, overseas, in 'friendly' countries.
Griffiths applauds Charles Dickens's part in turning suspicion of detectives into admiration.34 So successful was the British organisation seen to be, in 1907 the Spanish government engaged Chief-Inspector Arrow of the CID 'to organise and direct a secret detective service in Spain to deal with the numerous bomb outrages there'.35
Detectives in sixty years or so had become a major exemplar of the archetypal British (white, male) hero. Their success in preventing Fenians, anarchists and labor agitators shooting royalty, burning down the Bank of England or blowing up the Houses of Parliament, that is, all that was ever best, was largely responsible for their exalted image. The fact that no attempts were made by anarchists to do these things was considered irrelevant when denunciations were being handed out.
On the basis of the still incomplete evidence it is clear that in the British model plain-clothes police among other things operated officially as secret political police during the nineteenth century and were regarded as such. In the twentieth century, spies became sufficiently specialised and de-stigmatised to be given their own administrative structures. In that later change international espionage was again emphasised and domestic surveillance again dropped out of sight.
The argument presented above of spy/detective correspondence holds for the Australian colonies, even before the plain-clothes arms of constituted authority were officially termed detectives, something which similarly happened around mid-century.
Captain Arthur Phillip brought military and domestic surveillance to bear immediately he arrived.36 He could not have carried out his job otherwise. He appointed twelve watchmen in August 1789 to be the colony's first constabulary.37 The first professional 'thief-taker' was ex-convict Israel Chapman appointed 1827,38 yet before the 1830s changes in Britain greatly manifested themselves in New South Wales, the constabulary had unquestioned power, especially in outlying areas, to detain at will or report even those officials considered to be shirking work.39 Quite apart from the power held by such officers and their level of competence their need to collect information on all sorts of social phenomena is clear. Later administraive changes only formalised this collection of statistics on, for example, numbers of Chinamen, sanitary facilities, single women and unemployed mechanics in regions and districts.40
An 1833 Act empowered the Governor to appoint two or more Justices of the Peace to act as Police Magistrates, their duties being 'to; suppress all riots, tumults, affrays or breaches of the peace and all public: nuisances, vagrancies and offences against the law'. They appointedconstables and determined conditions. Uniforms were introduced in, 1834.41 The Colonial Secretary issued instructions in that year asking; the Police Magistrates to 'furnish confidential reports on crime, police, convicts and any other matters in their districts which it might be useful for the Government to know about'.42 At this stage, the networks were still, in the main, based on London and government correspondents are partly public servants gathering welfare statistics, partly secret agents attempting to head off threats, partly lobbyists for special causes and partly self-serving propagandists.
In 1839, following the separation of the police from the magistrates, W.A. Miles came to the Colony as Superintendent of Police with 'the intention of modelling the Sydney force more closely on the London Metropolitan Force', that is, updating the model. Despite his feeling that shortages of numbers and funds blocked Miles, O'Brien concluded that ultimately in all colonies 'the example set by England in instituting an effective police force was followed ... the character and methods of the original being closely copied' 43
After a 'riot' in 1850 in Sydney a Board of Enquiry was appointed to look into civil control methods used. O'Brien records a contemporary comment that it 'was not unusual for ... the crowd to be dispersed by troops'.44 Out of the enquiry came an Inspector - General of Police responsible for all NSW constabulary. Then the gold rushes began, producing a mammoth influx which required a rapid expansion of effort, up to and including the 1862 Police Regulation Act, hurried in after the Lambing Flat uproar45 and which continued the centralisation trends46 It is little known that the public service grew three times faster than the population in this period.47
A Victorian Select Committee, July 1852, looking to express its autonomy from NSW had recommended the recruitment of not less than eight hundred police including two hundred 'experienced' men from England. The Legislative Council subsequently repudiated the NSW Act, passing its own and organising the force 'on its present basis'.48 Walter Rendale came out from England in May 1853 with Inspector Samuel Freeman and a party of volunteers, and was designated Detective49 Nine mounted detectives, including two officers, were also employed in 1853. Dressed as bushmen they patrolled roads disadvantaged by the inappropriate military-style discipline and organisation, and isolated from the general population.50 The incongruous mixture of swords and disguises continued for some mounted police in both Victoria and New South Wales to the 1880s.51
Detective-Inspector Christie's account52 indicates a distinct Detective Office in Victoria by 1865.53 Superintendent Nicolson, who was consulted before Christie was appointed an 'official' but private detective by a law firm, became Christie's boss, that is, Superintendent of Detectives, in that decade. Ex-Superintendent Sadlier speaks of 'secret agents' in this period, no doubt informers, and Nicolson's skilful and patient use of them. Sadleir refers to them as 'scouts' and says each had a secret sign.54
The only difference in form between the reports on dissidents which now come forward from both detectives and uniformed police and the reports made explicitly for military intelligence during the first World War is the opening sentence indicating who it is for.55
On 9 March 1868 a memorandum from Superintendent Nicolson to the Chief Commissioner concluded a report on Fenianism in Australia with:
I have no reason to believe there is as yet any organisation of the kind apprehended [Irish National League or similar] in this colony. It may be in contemplation.
The memorandum refers to a cabman at Hotham [Melbourne] as 'said to be a disguised Headcentre Fenian from the States', that is, the USA.56
In 1869 Christie was summoned by the Duke of Edinburgh, who had been shot in Sydney, to be his bodyguard for the rest of the colonial; tour.57 Following the receipt of information that Fenians intended to kidnap the Duke in New Zealand, an intended tour of the Otira Gorge f was abandoned.58 Christie was asked to join the Detective Branch of the Royal Household but he declined, preferring to become a professional athlete. Twenty-three years after the event, Sydney Truth59 exploring Sir Henry Parkes's part in social unrest spoke of him using O'Farrell's attempt on the Duke's life as an excuse to introduce the Treason Felony Act. Parkes had claimed at the time that he knew before the assassination attempt that a plot existed and the newspaper coverage of this plus the legislation during a great public outcry did not hurt his career. Truth pointed out the lack of evidence at O'Farrell's trial about a plot and concluded that Parkes was either a liar or an accessory. A third explanation is that some information was available but not enough to prevent the attempt. Afterwards, embarrassed spies, the judiciary and Parkes assisted with a cover-up of not only the evidence but of the surveillance network itself.
A series of letters involving the Victorian Chief Commissioner, the Victorian Chief Secretary, the Victorian Governor, a naval commander, Commodore Stirling, and the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty provide some parameters of the network. Concerned with another threat to the Duke's life from one Bertini, it organised surveillance of the suspect by 'a member of the Detective Force' not just residing in the same hotel as Bertini but sharing the same bedroom - as what today is called an under-cover agent.60 Records indicate this same British Admiralty-Detective Branch network operating in 1894.61 Concerns included coastal defences, ability to mobilize for war, and surveillance of foreign vessels.62
Christie rejoined government employ later as a Customs Detective. In rural Victoria often engaged in searching out illicit stills or smugglers working across the NSW-Victorian border he donned disguises, used secret telegraph codes63 and opened personal mail. Disguises as extensions of plain-clothes are documented elsewhere in the pursuit of bushrangers64 as is the use of plain clothes as disguise by special constables.65
There can be no doubt that these undercover methods were official policy or of the standing of the people involved. In 1901 Christie was engaged as royal bodyguard and co-ordinator of 'a plan of supervision' on the occasion of the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall. The evidence available indicates all colonies followed a similar pattern.66
The 1880s, according to O'Brien, 'ushered in a more difficult era for Australian detectives'. There were 'new criminals', young colonials 'who were more dangerous in every respect':
Some particular duties were the serving of bi-weekly stolen property lists to pawn-brokers and dealers, acquainting themselves with the whereabouts of criminals, suspects and prostitutes and furnishing a surveillance return every six months.67
Official Victorian police records show an extensive range of tasks also included 'rigidly inspecting' mail at the central post office where one detective was always on duty. The material shows the continued surveillance of Fenians, of the Russian Consul's visits to the Mint and co-operation with Scotland Yard on 'a case of Imperial Importance'.68
Many of the police and detective functions derived from what Grabosky described as the coming to dominance in latenineteenth century parliaments of commercial and professional interests strongly grounded in the dominant climate of Victorian morality. His statistics show that in the early 1880's arrest was readily employed as social; control and that prisons served as warehouses for drunkards, vagrants, aged and infirm and lunatics as well as the more conventional offenders, to a degree unsurpassed before or since.69 The inevitable corruption of force members dependent upon success to achieve material improvement took on appropriate forms: promotion of burglaries so that rewards= could be obtained, paying of witnesses to 'induce them to keep to the; statement they at first furnished', the InspectorGeneral misleading parliament by withholding information about strikes.70
The same morality, bent as required in the service of a greater good welcomed Dr Gatling's 'police-gun' designed for use in riots. It could deliver 1,000 shots a minute in any direction, sideways or up and down.71 Such is the background against which anarchist activity must be considered.
The disposition of military forces and their control is also of particular interest. Troops in all colonies were part of the British Imperial Forces up to the 1850s when the establishment of volunteer corps signalled the beginning of the move to local, that is, Australian, control.72 Comments made on the British movement appearr relevant:
[Volunteering] would not only end the danger of invasion ... it would also impart into the youth of the nation obedience, promptitude, and self-respect and provide a safe and salutary occupation for the increasing hours of leisure at men's disposal.73
The 1887 Imperial Conference discussed local control but heard a strong reaffirmation by Britain of the need for control to be firmly in non-colonial hands. Australia was after all 'a rich and tempting prize' according to the British Army,74 but another reason for the slowness of the independence movement was the immaturity of Australian white native-born. A break in the telegraph cable, considered sufficiently alarming to put Victoria on a war footing,75 is an often-quoted example, used to imply that rather comical 1880's colonists were desperate in their isolation for reassurance that Mother had not left them. The New Zealand Premier Seddon told the Victorian Premier in 1894 that his government had no plan of mobilization for New Zealand's defence, indicating a lower level of anxiety.76
The War Office, which since the 1870s had been urging greatly increased information on the defences of all Australian colonies be sent to them, promised in 1887 that an Inspecting Officer for all Australian troops would be appointed to 'advise' colonial governments.77 When colonial governments were forced to examine more closely the use of the military in domestic strike situations, the question of control appeared not to be an issue, argument surfacing only in Queensland. Yet it was not an issue only because of the mutuality of interests of the governments concerned,78 and because of the degree to which secrecy shrouded the details. What did become an issue was legitimacy (see Chapter Six).
Another kind of surveillance agent the status quo had in its employ and which the opposition rarely had, was the newspaper reporter paid to ferret out the plans, faction fights and difficulties of the opposition and paid not to disclose those of its own side. In addition, from their beginnings, the large circulation dailies have provided almost all the information on which 'the public' bases its definitions of desirable behaviours. In the case of the post-Haymarket debate, contrary and proanarchist information and argument had initially to be provided by new outlets which duly appeared but in very small print runs, only to be: weakened by too-energetic debate over principles and personality disputes, or suppressed by status-quo influence. Even when better: established channels like the Bulletin began to see through the subterfuge the imbalance of forces was still too great.
Oppositional press also opened up the anti-government ranks to further scrutiny without being able to open up the dynamics of the status quo to equal scrutiny because of the tatter's more strongly established methods and traditions of communication and solidarity. As with the forces of physical repression, the greater capacity to provide information and to suppress it was overwhelmingly with the status quo. It hasp simply been 'forgotten' that whereas Johann Most's articles about; bombs, etc., have earned him the title of 'The Voice of Terror'79 they mainstream press were regularly printing similar pieces including how-to-,, make weapons and advocating dynamite against strikers. Indeed some; of the 'evil' material in the anarchist press was reprinted from that 'respectable' source.80
In Australia from their beginnings daily papers' style of news presentation lent itself to the 'shock, horror, outrage' approach, a style aided and extended in the later 1880s by the way the cables telegraphed: news around the world. Brief headlines were sent days and even weeks ahead of substance, indeed the truth of the item. These cabled summaries were often emotionally and politically charged not just because they were done in the heat of the moment but because of the bias of the person controlling the sending. Readers did not then have an extended report to balance the sensationalised headline as can be the case today. The news, so-called, was often just these headlines. Then as now news ranged the spectrum of importance in implication and in substance. How much local control was possible is not clear.81 For example, the Age seemed moderate and even sympathetic toward what it called 'the rights of the working man'. This could however be merely a more subtle form of the hysterical reaction of other papers,82 and intended to render protestors ineffectual by making respectability more important than struggle. The necessary core of this is that State violence is always respectable, always effective and always necessary. Here is the total of a pre-1886 example of a throwaway Age report covering up the life-death struggle involved:
Serious riots have broken out among the wharf laborers in Montreal. They were suppressed by police with considerable difficulty, and not until they had to make use of their firearms to disperse the rioters.83
A singular exception was a lengthy column by 'Gyges' in the Age on 1 May 1886, which was remarkably appropriate and forwardlooking. Including a fundamentally Spencerian view of anarchism and with references only to Seymour's The Anarchist (UK) and Tucker's Liberty (USA) as anarchist journals, the writer appealed for a positive response to social unrest:
[Anarchist] propaganda must not be overlooked in any review of existing political fermentation if only that it furnishes a sort of raison d'etre of the terrible, inflammatory and explosive Nihilism which from time to time startles the world .... The watchword of the old world was 'obedience' .... The watchword of modern democracy is 'liberty' .... Society must in its evolution, pass through these convulsions but they are birth not death throes ...
The first mention of the Haymarket affair in Australian papers was via publication of identically inaccurate cables on 6 and 7 May in all dailies with international content. These cables were not concerned to single out anarchist involvement. On 10 May the first editorials appeared:
It would be an injustice to the cause of labor to represent the riot and bloodshed ... [in the USA] ... as the natural' and legitimate outcome of the system of combination which labor has in late times adopted as its great hope against the absolute dictation of capital ... the violent measures into which those engaged in a movement, lawful and laudable in itself have been betrayed, have not infrequently alienated public sympathy and thrown back for a long time the cause that those measures were intended to forward.84
The Sydney Morning Herald in reporting a European labor event made a similar point, but much more bluntly:
The disturbances in Belgium are quieting down after fearful excesses on the part of the strikers, or rather the bands of anarchists, convicts, social democrats, thieves and the scum of the populace who joined what were at first legal demonstrations and converted them into a saturnalia of riot, incendiarism and rapine.85
On 6 May, editorialising the US 'labor riots' which preceded the Haymarket the Globe gushed on 'Happy Australia' thus: 'It is for the Australian artisan to remember that through the ballot-box he controls the country ...'. The day before it had reported a procession of Sydney unemployed to interview the Governor. Reports from other parts of the country indicate hundreds of unemployed prepared to labor 'for almost nothing'86. Symes wrote with a perceptiveness that was not to last:
Newspapers may write down the poor, soldiers may be called out to shoot the agitators, advanced or anarchic newspapers may be seized ... what then? Their sufferings will add fuel to the fire and only hasten on the final victory.87
On the day this Symes editorial appeared the first advertised Melbourne Anarchist Club meeting occurred. A brief but accurate report of that meeting appeared in the Age,88 provoking the Herald (also Melbourne) to do an outrageous 'beat-up'. The Herald insisted that the Club's aim was 'to hoist a species of social "black flag", order in a supply of redcaps and go on a rampage'.89 Certain sensitive secularists called on Symes to repudiate the Club which he then did in the exaggerated language in which he specialised:
the name [Anarchist Club] is one of the grimmest jokes conceivable ... Rather despotism ... anarchy means no rule at all, a dissolution of society.90
Cashing in on the tense post-Haymarket atmosphere or perhaps another Symes broadside in what now became the struggle for the ASA, was a sixty-nine page booklet produced in Melbourne, and sub-titled 'The Dance of Death in the Gaol Yard - The Final Act in the Greatest Tragedy of the Age'. Perhaps aimed at an imported pamphlet the MAC was selling, it hysterically misrepresented the Haymarket events, with total blame being put on those hanged or jailed.91 Showing the spreading effect of this kind of distortion, a letter headed 'Land For The People' to the Shearers Record in April 1888 began:
Sir: In reference to the above heading I hurry up to state that I am not an Anarchist, Communist or Nihilist, as some of your readers may imagine to be the case.
Readers of the Melbourne Daily Telegraph would have had no doubts. They were being educated through such editorials as that for 15 October 1888 which referred to 'the torrent of anarchical democracy ... lately let loose upon England undermining and must ultimately destroy that fabric of military and naval strength upon which our stability as a nation rests'.
Bulletin-style trivialisation didn't help. Cartoons such as the 'Winetard', alternative to the dynamitard,92 'Death the Old Anarchist', full-page by Phil May, and a smaller'the Anarchist' in the same issue,93 just confused the issue. The Reverend Charles Strong showed a keener ear. The December 1888 issue of his small newsletter94 quoted at length from Kropotkin's 'Industrial Village of the Future', while the March issue for 1889 both commented favourably on an Andrew's letter claiming that he and Christ were both nihilists95 and favorably reviewed Tolstoy's anarchism.
This was only the beginning of the struggle for the control of the definitions. Where a serious attempt was made among the more substantial organs to come to terms with diverse forms of socialism and the various overlapping terms, confusion was probably the lasting effect on their audiences. For example, in a long item, one of their first about anarchism, the Bulletin of 24 March 1888 berated a reviewer in the Sydney Morning Herald - 'this fossilised organ of middle-class ignorance' - of Liberty and Law a book by George Lacey, 'not long ago a resident of Sydney and honorary secretary of the Liberal Association of New South Wales' and 'editor of a local journal called the Liberal'. The reviewer had resented Lacey's attempted 'refutation of the individualism of Herbert Spencer apparently', said the Bulletin, in the mistaken belief that 'Spencer is a doughty champion of the Property and Defence League and is being attacked by a totally new brand of socialist'.
The Bulletin writer described Spencer 'like all men of brains who tell the truth about it, who consider the problem of existence and attempt to gauge the position of man in his relation to the cosmos from the standpoint of natural science' as a 'Socialist, a far more scientific and thorough-going Socialist than Mr Lacey'. The writer pointed out Lacey's plagiarism of Gronlund's Co-operative Commonwealth and works by Hyndman, Nordau and Spencer himself. Lacey had attacked Spencer's belief in the axiom that 'everyone has freedom to do all he wills, provided he infringes not the like freedom of every other man'. The Bulletin pointed out to the SMH that it could 'hardly desire a more socialistic utterance' and went on to repudiate the correlation by the Herald of socialism with anarchism here taken to be violent revolution.
This is the point of the whole exercise for both papers. Lacey attacked Spencer because, he claimed 'individualism leads directly to nihilism' [that is, anarchism, that is physical violence]. Spencer was defended by the SMH so that the correlation of socialism, i.e. community control, with nihilism could be made, and the Bulletin attacked both for confusing an issue it said was perfectly clear - socialist writers such as Gronlund and the Avelings had clearly represented anarchism as the very antithesis of socialism. It quoted Aveling's claims of 'violent attacks' on them by anarchists, that is, newspaper articles.
Perhaps typical of these attacks was one in Honesty96 by Will Andrade who drew upon a Liberty expose based not on Dr Aveling's German socialism but on his affluent life-style parasitically drawn off from 'the poor toiler'.