Anarchism and State Violence in Sydney and Melbourne
An argument about Australian labor history.
By Dr Bob James
[With one possible exception] the trial of the eight Chicago anarchists is the most dramatic in all labor history.Ernie Lane, Dawn to Dusk
In the late nineteenth century ferment of urbanisation, technological disruption, ideological clash and emotional reaction, passion was inevitable.1 Many of the old values were threatened, even collapsing. Organised religion, in Melbourne in the grip of 'narrow, forceful men' who used their political dominance 'to carry into legislation the social tenets of their churches'2 provoked, as in the northern hemisphere, secular societies and propoganda. In a very short time however a youngish band of free thinkers rebelled against the restrictions of organised Free Thought itself, one result of which was the Melbourne Anarchist Club (MAC).
As in the USA3 and England,4 Free Thought in Australia encompassed breaks with 'traditional' thinking in areas besides religion. With Melbourne as its chief location the Australasian Secular Association [ASA] was a major Free Thought initiative. It was established on 17 July 1882 by James Donovan, Thomas Walker and others. As president, chief lecturer and editor of its journal, The Liberator, the Association had, from February 1884, Joseph Symes who came to Melbourne from England.5 The first Symes' editorial, 1 June 1884, began with a pronouncement any anarchist would have rejoiced to see:
This paper is started in the interests of freedom, not licence, not lawlessness, but such freedom as is consistent with the rights of all.
Almost all the executive positions on the Liberator Publishing Coy at its launch, as were ASA posts throughout its early years, were filled by men who later turned to anarchism, the most prominent being the Andrade brothers,6 Fred Upham,7 Donovan8 and George Newberry. Other secularists who went from the ASA to play prominent parts in anarchist history included John William Fleming, Rose Stone, William McNamara and John Andrews. David Andrade and Will Andrade were born 30 April 1860 and 12 October 1863 respectively in Victoria to Abram and Maria da Costa Andrade from Middlesex, England. They supported themselves as salesmen after their father died and took advantage of the Working Men's College [now RMIT]. David married Emily Anders in 1881 and lived at South Yarra near his mother who supported herself as a dressmaker.
'Chummy' Fleming9 had arrived in Australia two years before Symes. His family had a long history of 'working class' militancy, and he had been introduced at age 10 to factory work which profoundly impaired his health.10 Fleming attended Free Thought lectures before coming to Australia at an uncle's invitation and getting short-lived employment as a bootmaker. He attended the 1884 Second Annual Secular Conference in Sydney and in 1885 was Secretary of the Ballarat branch of the ASA where he may have met Rose Stone, another secularist being harassed by town bigots.11 A very staunch free-thinker, she moved to Melbourne, became an ASA Sunday school teacher and lecturess before marrying an older clothing manufacturer and, as Mrs Summerfield,12 moving to Sydney. Fleming had begun militant organising almost as soon as he arrived in Australia, similarly beginning his association with courts and short prison terms. He began selling radical papers on Queens Wharf, soon graduating to a speaker's role. In August 1886 he organised what he called the first Anarchist meeting on the Wharf to publicise arrests of unemployed demonstrators and to raise money for them.13 This was a whole area of politics virtually unknown to and unheeded by the Andrades who tended to despise those who appeared unable to make their own way, and had to ask 'the Government' for assistance. Herein lay the seed for future conflict.
Being largely self-taught, leading radicals knew the value of written materials and while many worked on newspapers or journals others maintained newsagencies. Symes helped his income along with a newsagency at the corner of Bourke and Queen Streets.14 In those days readers' interests were decidedly international and not surprisingly the ASA began receiving specifically anarchist literature from overseas around 1884-1885. There was no home-grown product before 1887.
Clerical attacks on Free Thought in general and Symes and the ASA in particular, reprinted in the Liberator, helped to show the geographic penetration of Free Thought propaganda, as well as the strength and interconnectedness of the decentralised press of the time, another outlet now lost for independence. For example, the Launceston Examiner and the Queensland Evangelical Standard are quoted on 22 June 1884.15 A listing of Liberator agents shows it was sold throughout New Zealand, in all colonies except Western Australia, and as far north as Cairns. Papers and correspondence indicate how keenly rural Australia followed the paper debates.16 Thirty country towns, in Victoria for example, had distribution outlets.17
Will Andrade's earliest piece for the Liberator, 'The Basis of Morality' ('self-control is the key-stone') appeared on 29 June 1884. Many others followed. In October 1885 he was appointed delegate to the Annual Conference in Melbourne by the Picton (NZ) Secular Society, and secretary of the Liberator Publishing Coy. In January 1886 he resigned the latter position to prepare for his wedding of 6 February to Emma Wickham. One of his last articles as secretary was a biography of W.W. Collins, just arrived from England, and to work for whom he moved his family to Sydney in May, just after the first MAC meeting. Before leaving Melbourne he contended in debate that Symes' actions in defying the government were not consistent with his support that night for the procedure of changing laws through the ballot box:
The people at present put barriers to their own freedom by having governments. Anarchy was what the world needed and progress could only be obtained by individual freedom.18
Symes, ebullient and forward-looking when he arrived in Australi was by the end of 1885 exhibiting erratic behaviour as bouts of self-pity gave way to self-glorification. The struggle to close him and the ASA down by State and clerical hierarchs ebbed and flowed. In many places he suffered abuse and intimidation, in a number he risked physical harm. On a trip to Newcastle in September 1885 he compained of damage to his health, but the danger and discomfort also sharpened his reluctance to compromise. He was not the only victim of the puritanical bigotry of bible-supporters. Lee, replacing Fleming in Ballarat, was punched, kicked, stoned and chased by 2,000 people in September: 'during the time that we were being ill-used the police stood and did not interfere'.19
These attacks from outside made possible campaign offensives which temporarily covered over differences within the free speech camp.20 However, it was only a matter of time before the 'atheism of politics'21 emerged formally, while only Symes' stubbornness and interest in a parliamentary career and the furore over the Haymarket explosion spreading to Australia prevented him and the Liberator converging with the anarchist line22 and paralleling Tucker, Bostonian editor of the influential 'anarchist and free thought' journal Liberty.23 His age was against him as the older Donovan showed in moving during 1885 and 1886 through a minimal Statism24 to Tucker-Andrade anarchism.
Symes was particularly concerned about the possibility of observers thinking the ASA had begun the MAC deliberately and officially. His residual authoritarianisms, a hefty element of his character, and his concern for a 'respectable' parliamentary career prevented him from considering the case calmly once it was raised publicly. The publicity,25 ironically, attracted quite a few visitors to the Club where basic meeting procedures were observed and the obvious concern for decorum meant that few left with bad impressions26 on that score.
As Symes tried to cast anarchism out, efforts to reorient him and/or the ASA became a struggle for control of the Association, a struggle which continued after the Club moved to separate premises and began its own journal Honesty.
The details of the internal ASA debate are not relevant here but a few points are. The number of people in opposition to Symes grew fairly quickly to around half the original Council and a sizeable part, at least half, of the membership. Only seven Councillors were prepared to call themselves anarchist at any time, these being Nichols, Upham, Peter McNaught, Brookhouse, John White, McMillan and Donovan. Others such as Fryer and 'Monty' Miller are referred to as anarchists by the Symes group but it seems only on the basis of rebelliousness. These nine were, after Symes, the most active members of the ASA, thus it can be seen that Symes was progressively alienating the Association's strongest elements. While isolated martyr may have been an attractive role to him, progressive issues suffered. Speaking at Queen's Wharf David Andrade denounced him as a greedy, self-seeking despot though Symes was also speaking there as part of a free-speech struggle. Andrade further charged him later on with having 'tried to have the Melbourne Anarchists murdered as they were in Chicago'.27 An Andrade letter in the Radical which Symes refused to print argued that Symes, in their last debating encounter, October 1887:
studiously avoided discussion of the subject b?fore us [either fearing to commit yourself, or else feeling ignorant of it] and tried to draw me off ... treating this most serious of all problems ... of human relations ... as though you were the clown in the pantomime.28
Symes claimed that the anarchist section of the ASA were trying to 'burst up' the Association in order to use the funds to buy dynamite. Sinnott, Symes' sympathetic biographer, uses Upham's words to justify the first claim but fails to substantiate the second. Upham had said in November 1887 that:
Secularism has outlived its usefulness. Our hope ... [lies] in Anarchy which is based on rebellion against authority.29
Upham appears to have been the dominant figure very early in the Club's life, delivering the first lecture specifically on 'Anarchism to the ASA in October 1885,30 and helping to organise the Club's first meeting on 1 May 1886.
The Club's Prospectus:
To the People of Australasia
The Melbourne Anarchists' Club extends its greetings to the liberty loving citizens of these young colonies and appeals to them to assist its members in their efforts to remove those public sentiments and public institutions, which have been transplanted here from the northern hemispheres, retard social progress and happiness; and to substitute in their place the enabling principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity!
The objects of the Melbourne Anarchists' Club are:
- To foster public interest in the great social questions of the day, by promoting inquiry in every possible way; to promote free public discussions of all social questions; and to circulate and publish literature, throwing light upon existing evils of society, and the methods necessary for their removal.
- To foster and extend the principles of Self Reliance, Self Help and a Spirit of Independence amongst the people.
- To uphold and maintain the principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. By Liberty we mean 'the equal liberty of each, limited alone by the equal liberty of all'. By Equality we mean 'the equality of opportunity for each individual'. And by Fraternity we mean 'that principle which denies national and class distinctions, asserts the Brotherhood of Man and says "The world is my country"'.
- To advocate, and seek to achieve, the abolition of all monopolies and despotisms which destroy the Freedom of the Individual and which thereby check social progress and prosperity.
- To expose and oppose that colossal swindle, Government and to advocate Abstention from Voting, Resistance to Taxation, and Private Co-operation or Individual Action.
- To foster Mutual Trust and Fraternity amongst the working s.people of all ranks, and to turn their attention to their common foes: the Priests and the Politicians, and their co-adjutors, attacking principles rather than individuals.
- To invite the co-operation of all, who have realised the innate evils of our governing institutions, and desire their speedy dissolution for the general benefit of Humanity.
- To promote the formation of voluntary institutions similar to the Melbourne Anarchist Club throughtout Victoria and the neighbouring colonies, and, with their consent, to eventually unite with them forming the Australasian Association of Anarchists.31
David Andrade has claimed authorship of this Manifesto.32 He and the bulk of the early propagandists of the MAC were influenced by Bakunnin and Proudhon through the so-called 'native American' tendency as set out in Tucker's Liberty and Moses Harman's Lucifer. Tucker is credited with being the provider of the first explicitly anarchist material to England33 where the connection with the MAC and for the early years of the Sydney Australian Socialist League was not William Morris as Kenafick has suggested34 and as O'Farrell35 and Mansfield36 have assumed, but Henry Seymour, secretary of the National Secular Society at Tunbridge Wells where he kept a Science Library.37 Seymour's path to anarchism through secularism brought him into conflict with Bradlaugh, English Free Thought patriarch and MP, who preferred to see, by September 1884, the negative image of anti-authoritarianism.38 Seymour published Bakunin's God and the State in 1883, the year Tucker completed its translation into English.39 Much more influential on Tucker and thus on those influenced by him was Proudhon, the advocate of small proprietorship and independent artisans within voluntary co-operative schemes. Tucker referred to Proudhon as 'the chief authority of our system'40 and had set himself to translate Proudhon's entire output. He produced engravings for sale at 50c of Proudhon and Bakunin, that of Proudhon being the only illustration in the first twelve issues of Honesty, the MAC newsletter41 Tucker's paper was available in English secular reading rooms from 1881 and Seymour's The Anarchist followed the Bostonian in most predilections from its beginning in May 1885. The 'English Anarchist Circle' formed around the paper and produced the 1885 election manifesto which Andrade read out at the second Club meeting on 16 May 1886.42
At that meeting, the first ,publicly advertised, Upham as chairperson read the Prospectus, then Elisee Reclus' Futility of Voting. Andrade read an article 'Might and Right' from Liberty and J. McMillan read from Edmund Burke's 'The Inherent Evils of All State Governments'. In its first issue in April 1887, Honesty advertised books by Bakunin ['Founder of Nihilism and apostle of anarchism'], Proudhon, Spencer and Tchernychewsky's What Is To Be Done?43 Auberon Herbert, Fowler, Emerson and Reclus also had titles mentioned. In 1888 when the paper was advertising Liberty, Lucifer, Freedom (London), The Anarchist, and Le Revolte (Paris), Tucker assessed that Melbourne was taking in excess of one-eighth of his 'book and pamphlet patronage'44 This implies 1887 was a year of increased activity as only 'a small quantity' had been imported by the end of 1886.45
Andrade early on wrote that whereas he might differ with Tucker about capital and profit, he was 'at one' with the Bostonian on laws and government. As Tucker did, and as did some observers such as Charlotte Wilson who went from The Anarchist to co-edit Freedom with Kropotkin, Andrade referred to his philosophy as individualism. This is reflected in the Manifesto. He also saw his philosophy, as did Tucker, as socialist.46 In the years that followed Tucker regarded the MAC, Australian anarchism and David Andrade as virtually synonymous. In advertising Honesty in Liberty Tucker wrote:
It is a sufficient description of Honesty's principles to say that they are substantially the same as those championed by Liberty in America.47
Truth-Seeker, a New York rationalist magazine said of Honesty's writers that they were converts to the exteme individualistic views of Michael Bakounine and Herbert Spencer: 'They are hot-headedly wrong like our loved friend Tucker but they are able'.48
In Honesty, the first editorial, by David Andrade, set out the paper's aims and methods without pointing out the change that the Haymarket affair had wrought:
And it will show how this evil institution [the State] can be peacefully and successfully eliminated ... and how society can pursue a course of orderly prosperity without any utopian reconstruction ...
It immediately began serialising Proudhon's 'Idea of a Revolution', which also set out to soothe:
... Reader, calm yourself: I am no agent of discord, no fire-brand of sedition.
The revolution, of course, was to be 'in human ideas' which was also the substance of a Gregory paper to the Club in July 1887, 'An Anarchist Bomb'. In January 1887 Andrade spoke on the Chicago trials and sponsored a resolution to the Illinois State Governor deploring the results. The February 1888 editorial and a feature article strongly attacked the proceedings which lead to the execution of four of 'humanity's truest friends'.49
Tucker was a powerful synthesiser of anti-government arguments expounded over the previous sixty years or so, many of which were from Liberty's own contributors. Economics was emphasised as both the realm of the chief impediments to liberty and of liberty's 'first application' if it was to be effective.50 The four monopolies of land, credit, tariffs and of patent and copyrights were 'productive of all the evils of society'. Abolition of compulsory taxation and of the four monopolies formed the two main themes of Tucker's writing and that of his contributors over three decades.51
However the composition and priorities of this body of contributors changed as Tucker's did. One shift in particular, that towards a more Stirner-influenced view, was apparent from the late 1880s.52 This paralleled a lessening regard for Spencer who in 1892 repudiated both Proudhon whom he regarded as a communist53 and his earlier own antiStatist views.54
The transition to egoism via Josiah Warren's individual sovereignty shaved of its notion of 'natural' rights which was seen as a myth, meant for Tucker, that only contracts voluntarily entered into and maintained could provide a basis for a new society. In the absence of altruism,55 this merging of ethics with economics was the only possible alternative to force and violence of every kind:
Contract is the voluntary suspension of the right of might, the power secured by such suspension we may call the right of contract. These two rights ... are the only rights that ever have been or ever can be.56
A little earlier he had written:
Mankind is approaching the real social contract, which is not, as Rousseau thought, the origin of society, but rather the outcome of a long social experience .... It is obvious that this contract, this social law, developed to its perfection excludes all aggression, all violation of equality of liberty, all invasion of every kind.57
All of this, from the 1890s, is substantially different to that expressed ten years before. For at least three years from 1881 Tucker held indiscriminate admiration for those 'who do not assent'58 to oppression, in particular the Russian nihilists, justifying their use of dynamite as selfdefence. The Haymarket events, dynamite at home, overwhelmingly bad press for end suppression of anarchists brought to a head his changing attitude, but whether this change was principally against communism or violent rebellion was not immediately clear. What was clear was a change in his language. Gone was the ringing tone and the heroics:
The Chicago Communists [whom he considered State Socialists disguised as anarchists] have chosen the violent course and the result is to be foreseen. Their predicament is due to a resort to methods that Liberty emphatically disapproves.59
He defended them against 'the State' and believed them innocent, even Johann Most, whom he described as 'a quack'. Martin believes there was no doubt in Tucker's mind as to the righteousness of resistance to oppression by recourse to violence but that his concern now was with expedience. In any case, the questions remained as they did before: What was to be considered oppression? Was it to be appropriately combatted with blood-letting strategies, and who decided these matters? Like so many others Tucker was for a while ambivalent, applauding successful applications of rebellious violence on occasion or certain hypothetical situations if it was going to be successful. As we have seen, by 1892, the time of the Berkman attempt to shoot steelworks Manager Frick, Tucker had resolved that 'violence is the power of darkness'.60 Thus, it can be concluded that subsequent to the Haymarket Tucker became far less positive about violence while adopting a Stirner-influenced philosophy, a development which contradicts interpretations of Stirner as simply an advocate of 'Might is Right'.
David Andrade echoed Tucker's emphases on individual liberty, economics and voluntary contracts. Looking at Honesty's mutualist contributors, one finds that Donovan espoused natural rights, but also enlightened self-interest, Brookhouse advocated the latter while David Andrade and Upham appear the most strongly Stirner-influenced. Yarros, the Stirner-Spencer integrator for Liberty from 1887-1893, provided, according to Andrade in 1888, 'one of the clearest and most concise expositions of anarchism'.61 Andrade also initially defended certain uses of dynamite:
Anarchy comes along and says to the stupid voter: 'Wake up! ... You have got a State tape-worm inside of you, and you are feeding that instead: take an emetic in the form of a healthy mental revolution; if it doesn't act after a time try a stronger dose - mix a little dynamite with it . ... [Our] political system is Christian to the core: it stinks of humility and slavery. But the new Terrorism overturns all that. Tyrannicide becomes a virtue and slavery a crime.62
Just three weeks before the Haymarket explosion, in convincing Donovan, Brookhouse and many others of the correctness of Herbert Spencer's anti-State arguments he had argued that this English philosopher did not go far enough:
Social liberty can only be realised by granting individual liberty. And if it cannot be got by peaceable means, throught the obstruction of physical force, physical force must be employed to secure it. Dynamite is one of the best friends of toiling humanity.63
Only Upham shared this view,64 and also only until the Haymarket reality penetrated his abstactions. Ironically it was Andrade's communist-anarchist opponents' use of a more moderate form of the same argument two and a half years later when he had long abandoned it which split the Club for the second time, this time irrevocably.
Despite the Liberator's apparent success throughout the Australian colonies, a success which is of course very limited compared to mainstream papers and magazines, in Sydney the ASA was in great danger of dying out in 1886, beng engaged in mutually destructive struggles with the Australian Free Thought Union and the Sunday Platform Group.65 Nevertheless a group of young enthusiasts began to make a name for themselves as journalists and travelling lecturers for secularism and subjects like Irish Home Rule. Will Andrade's frustration with 'weak-kneed Freethinkers' and his calls for a Sydney Anarchist Club66 bore unanticipated fruit when W.H. McNamara and six others met as a socialist group on 4 May 1887 and began taking members.67 After a number of Sunday debates68 their attention was diverted into open air meetings by 'the Jubilee insanity' one result of which was McNamara's establishment with George Black and Thomas Walker of the Republican League.
Anderton considered the first Australian Socialist League (ASL) was established on 'State-Socialistic' principles. A second series of meetings productive of a second ASL began on 26 August.69 Commentators thus so far70 have not noticed the major point. This is that the first manifesto of the ASL, produced by the second ASL, the initial draft of which Anderton attributes to Potter and McNamara71 has three paragraphs out of seven word identical with those of the MAC's prospectus and only the differences in one paragraph out of seven are substantial. Both Andrades welcome the League unaware that this deviation marked the beginning of the passing of pre-eminence in Australian anarchism of the Proudhon-Tucker-Andrade line. It further marks the beginning in the wider labour circles of the demarcation of socialism into State-Socialism and the decentralised socialism which was generally indistinguishable from communist anarchism, itself only slowly emerging via Kropotkin and others from a vague anti-authoritarianism and a preference for property-in-common. Taking a line through Kropotkin's Appeal to the Young (1880), the William Morris-drafted Manifesto for the English Socialist League and the most popular expositions of socialism, say Gronlund's Co-operative Commonwealth and Bellamy's Looking Backward (1888), the firming up of concepts and thus their separation one from another is apparent but so is the overall preference for nonhierarchical, non-centralised variants. One result of this was that individualist and economics-oriented anarchists had no trouble seeing themselves as socialists, though they would be least likely to operate in a community-oriented way. The strong, guiding welfare State was seen as desirable by few socialists, who overwhelmingly thought of community ownership and control as feasible. There is great similarity between the mutualist idea of the labourer owning his or her labour product and the communist-anarchist idea expressed in the ESL document, and present but obscured in the ASL, that 'all means of production of wealth' must be treated as 'the common property of all' leading to the worker receiving 'the full value of (his/her) labor.'72 The former is concerned with power of decision making over something one has 'created', and the latter is concerned with equity and fairness. Yet they contain the same idea.
W.R. Winspear, secretary of Newcastle ASA when he married Alice Drake,73 received a legacy shortly thereafter and decided to get 'a socialist' paper going.74 There are many expressions of opinion by ASL members to explain why the Radical was both a channel for anarchism and, for a time after they discovered it in September 188775 considered 'our little organ' by ASL members such as Anderton.76 And why the ASL and Sydney secularists boycotted the Liberator and supported David Andrade against Symes.77 The Radical, later the Australian Radical,78 began in March 1887 and under prompting from Andrade moved fairly rapidly to an anarchist position similar to Tucker's. Correspondence shows rapidly expanding sales to supporters in Adelaide, Melbourne, NSW country and cities, and Brisbane, up to mid 1889. While healthy given the era and the difficulties, at its peak supporters would not have topped one thousand, however. A lively ideological debate, principally about the nature of socialism, encouraged sophistication but became increasingly personal and was limited by defensive posturing. Variants of the debate were going on in French, English and US groups and magazines, as well as in the MAC. McNamara, in responding to an 1888 Tucker attack on him as a StateSocialist and plagiarist claimed the ASL to be more libertarian than the Boston anarchists who after all were 'devotees of unbridled freeenterprise'. He said the ASL advocated:
the abolition of all imposed authority, State or otherwise, and the full liberty of the individual. We advocate harmony and universal co-operation. We call this our system: modern or scientific socialism. We repudiate once and for all 'State Socialists' because we deny all State power and authority.79
McNamara wanted to deny that this position, what he often called 'free communism' was anarchist, while Winspear, Andrade and others wanted to refer to their position as 'evolutionary socialism':
Unlike the state socialists, the modern or scientific socialist endeavours to wean the people from coercion and authority.80
Particularly in the area of education, the argument became one between the freedom to allow consumers to decide what variation would survive out of a number (Winspear, Andrade) and the need to ensure those people that had not had such an opportunity before were provided it through community (co-operative) action (McNamara, etc). From this latter position some of the 'free communists' moved to accept parliamentary reform as the means of expressing community programs. What bothered these collectivists in the ASL was not the association of force with anarchism though they recognised the strength of this association81 but the charge of individualism. As part of the Australian Radical's editorial matter in the 17 August 1889 issue, Winspear showed where his thoughts had led him by anticipating an article from him which would:
be a direct challenge to those who do not believe in individual liberty, laissez-faire, free land, free labor and unrestricted competition.
But before it appeared McNamara had already moved to have the Sydney ASL sever connections with an editor considered to be 'advocating all that real socialists fight tooth and nail against'.
It is not clear how the ASL reached its decision or whether there was any dissension. Non-theoretical elements were certainly involved, e.g. Winspear preferring to print Andrews' 'long effusions' rather than those of Yewen, or Weber, Sydney members, or even ASL reports.82 The Radical, already weakened at its source by the constant struggle to appear, limped on till August 1890. The ASL, also in crisis, was unable to put into effect plans for a League newspaper.