Anarchism and State Violence in Sydney and Melbourne
An argument about Australian labor history.
By Dr Bob James
Freedom, love and truth must be the moving principles of every dweller in an anarchical community.-George Black, in
Australian Radical, 3 November 1888
John Arthur Andrews 1 is the most important member of the group which came together in the Melbourne Anarchist Club. His was a wide ranging imagination and a strong intellect; he was a gifted theoretician, poet, inventor and historian and he has left a lot of material on which he can be judged. Unfortunately, in addition to having used pseudonyms early on, much of his material has been scattered or, being published in very low budget papers, is difficult to obtain. He grew up a rather sickly and protected child who developed introspective and intellectual ways to cope with a world which tormented him, firstly as a youth at Kew State School and then in the Victorian Public Service, which he joined at 17 in 1882.2 He later described himself then as an ambitious young man, working on various literary projects simultaneously while in a Young Men's Literary Society,3 which included William Astley (Price Warung).
Andrews has said that he joined the MAC in 1886 but his first recorded appearance is for 2 January 1887. He apparently took over from a Mr Blake, as secretary of the Co-operative Printing company for a few weeks around May 1887 and has his name on the second and third issues of Honesty. He then went to Dunolly, rural Victoria, for a period of employment with a solicitor, May 1887 tó May 1888, during which his health improved and his allegedly bad stutter diminished. He returned to Melbourne to find the mutualists arguing among themselves about the best methods to measure labor time and labor products to ensure equity and independence. Andrews' response to this, the first split, was to reassess his own views which he then articulated as communistanarchism, precipitating the second split towards the end of 1888.4 He has claimed to be the first person anywhere to have synthesised anarchist-communism. He speaks of contacts with French comrades with similar ideas, but his claim rests on the feeling that 'his' philosophy was unique not that he was ignorant of what Kropotkin and others had been calling communist-anarchism for perhaps a decade.
On 3 June 1888 the Club had heard Upham on 'The Anarchism of Prince Kropotkin'. Using Kropotkin's recent articles in the Nineteenth Century,5 he summarised the major points emphasising the need for voluntary communes to protect the species against the war and 'terrible inequalities' attendant upon 'the increased powers of production in recent years'.6 The first response by Kaufmann on the question of aggression and human nature took Beattie and Peter McNaught away from Kropotkin and David Andrade intervened to bring the discussion 'back to the point'. He did this by reading a speech on 'Communist Anarchism' delivered on 15 March that year, he said by Kropotkin, wherein:
an uprising of the masses and forcible expropriation of the present proprietors was advocated; houses, machinery, food, clothing, etc were to be seized by the people divided amongst themselves and a Commune proclaimed.
While admiring Kropotkin as a destroyer, Andrade said he had no sympathy with his methods which would destroy individuality, cause the innocent to suffer and leave the labor problem practically unsolved. Petrie was sorry to hear Kropotkin opposed. In this country it may be possible to effect a revolution on individualistic lines, but he considered that in Europe forcible expropriation will be necessary. Newberry and . Upham both supported expropriation, the latter in particular showing his .conversion to what he called voluntary communism, a label used earlier by Beattie.7
The following week Petrie introduced 'Anarchy and the Coming Revolution'.8 He spent some time summarising indicators of the European movement towards socialism and concluded: 'All these things point to revolution ... and meanwhile we must not waste time saying how we will destroy governments, but always keep fraternity in view'. Donovan agreed that 'the present discontent is more widespread' than ever before and hoped that in revolution 'we may stop short of the all pervading tyranny of State-Socialism'. Andrews urged education of the people 'by precept and example' which Beattie supported:
Moral suasion and example are the best weapons ... force should never be resorted to if possible.
Fryer asked if it was not inconsistent for anarchists to want a new organisation like the Co-operation, just then being mooted by the Andradeans, but productive of and foundering in the different opinions generated, when they wanted to abolish the State. Newberry pointed out to the confused Fryer that the Melbourne Co-operation No. l was a step to 'practical anarchy'. Anarchists, he said, are striving to substitute a voluntary system in place of the present system of force. 'If force would more certainly achieve the end, he should advocate it'.
In November 1888 Andrews explained the meaning of a label he often applied to himself, 'nihilist' - not in the sense of wanting to level everything as the papers and the privileged would have it, but that of doing away with existent institutions; conceptually denying them not physically destroying them.9
As the final conflict within the Club heated the atmosphere to explosive point, Petrie in December delivered a paper on the important topic of equity. Andrews' report10 said Petrie:
introduced the moot points between 'individualist' and communist sections. An earnest and useful debate following, in which the matter at issue was reduced to whether a man producing for the simple sake of satisfying his activity, is justified in acquiring thereby a monopoly of the raw material, affected by his labor, which he does not require to consume or use. Mr Andrade maintained that the fact of labor gave him that right absolutely whilst with the except of Mr McNaught [may be either Peter or John] the other speakers unanimously held that having produced gives no title outside of the liberty to use, and that if that liberty is not exerted, the matter should be as available as any other untouched resources to all comers.
Andrews' notes also record the bitterness of what appears to have been the next and final physical confrontation within the Club of the two anarchist tendencies. Andrews opened a debate on 'Revolution'11 arguing that:
all evolution not accompanied by the forcible reclamation and defence of liberty, so long as that was being encroached upon, must be in the direction of loss, and of the development of a master-race and a slave-race. (The speaker) quoted statistics partly worked out by La Revolte and partly by himself showing that at least 10,000 lives are lost every day solely by the pressure of the existing system and tending to prove that should a revolution ... be even as bloody as any war has been, it would be a direct saving of life. Violence against persons was of no use; the idea of the Revolution would be the seizure and maintenance of free access of all things necessary to liberty; still that could not be expected to pass without fighting ...
Comrades White, Petrie and Rosa strongly supported the paper as also did Comrade Fleming subject to the proviso that there should be no rash loss of life or wasted force, while Comrade McNaught (was) more cautious because he feared that the effect of warfare would be to degrade the reform party ...
Violent opposition was made to the revolutionary doctrine by Mr Andrade who said that the 'blood-thirsty Communist-Anarchists' wanted 'perpetual massacre'.
Thus, the willingness of communist-anarchists to speak of the reality of social conflict was turned by Andrade into advocacy of that thing they specifically wished to avoid. Andrews and those who sided with him walked out of the Albert Park Co-operative house which the Club had moved to in July,1888, and out of the Club.12
David Andrade then tried to keep the Club going, with some assistance from Fleming and unnamed others. Merrifield suggests the Club went into recess for sixteen months after the thirteenth issue of Honesty in February 1889 until 9 July 1890 when a Reunion was held. This attracted the two Andrades, Rose 13, Anstey, Newberry, McMillan, Fleming and Goodlet. Meetings were thence held fortnightly at the Temperance Hall until 4 December 1890.14 David Andrade had established a newsagency and printery in Sydney Road, Brunswick and it is probable that an affiliated group met there until sometime in 1892 when he established 'Liberty Hall' in Russell Street, Melbourne. Andrade appears to have continued as secretary throughout.
The communist-anarchists met as part of the ASL (Melbourne), formally established 12 March 1889, and as a specifically anarchist group at the Golden Fleece hotel in Russell Street until banned from there on police initiative. They then met outside it. Andrews was 'secretary' of the first group until Rosa and others changed the constitution in July 1889 to turn it into a Social Democratic League. The communist-anarchists then moved to establish their own organisation but this does not seem to have succeeded. A Knights of Labour Assembly was established and this drew off some of the available energy. Andrews disparaged the Knights but others of 'his' group did not, also involving themselves in Land Nationalisation and Single-Tax initiatives. In addition to papers already mentioned Andrews now wrote for two Portuguese-language anarchist journals and Tucker's Liberty. Enormous amounts of his copy for the Radical during 1889 made possible the channelling of anarchist material into the Sydney labor movement.
In 1889 Winspear and Andrews spelled out in a deceptively calm way their repective views on 'Revolution and Physical Force'. Andrews had asked Winspear to debate him on the subject and Winspear, in a rather fine essay, supported the gradual education of the masses to a need for change at which time the old order would collapse and be replaced. Winspear argued that a physical force revolution was as likely to extend tyranny as end it:
... on the morrow of the revolution we would want to go peacefully to work and would desire to live in liberty and equality, without government or authority, but it is safe to say that new governments would be formed and new standards erected and robbery and inequality would commence afresh, from the simple fact that mankind do not yet possess a knowledge of the evils to be wiped out...
We wish to make men free, and the method we adopt is punishment. We say that government has encroached too much, yet we call into existence a machinery which enforces its will with ten times the rigor that it did. Before proceeding further we may well ask whether we must enslave ourselves to make us free? and whether a display of terror is the readiest mode for making men wiser, fearless, equitable and independent?15
Andrews, in response, doesn't answer these claims directly, rather he argues that within the revolutionary ferment there would be a great germination of discussion and blossoming of ideas which could prevent the new tyranny. He quotes Kropotkin to show that just prior to the 1789 French Revolution, the peasants and bourgeoisie showed few signs of unrest, then again to support by implication the paralleling of his ideas with Winspear's that the use of force in an unprepared situation `would be counter-productive, that education should proceed until there has been more infiltration of the masses by the ideas. He qualified this by suggesting that 'the masses' are more likely to go along with someone whose actions they know and trust rather than someone who is known only from his or her talk. His view of revolution was crucially different to Winspear's. It was:
... the refusal to pay rent, the resistance to eviction, the persistent entry upon lands, upon factories, machines, magazines, the reiterated practice of working and keeping the whole produce, of leaving employment and not leaving work or the workshop.
Although Andrews said that 'sometimes no force would be necessary' to carry out these measures, Winspear saw his views as anti-people and so disregarding the evidence of evolution which shows people to be progressing throught the use of intellect to a more civilised state. He agreed that few other people seemed to accept this idea, though this may be because as individuals must fight in their own way against government we may not hear of these separate initiatives. 16
Andrews agreed that the exploiters might fade away without the need for a pitched conflict, but in that situation fear is being used as a weapon by the majority and cannot be any more or less brutalising than actual violence. He points out that this is precisely the present situation:
... it is these same 'peaceful' measures adopted by our oppressors from which we suffer far more than from their direct use of arms, because if they were not in reserve the 'peaceful' measures would be ineffectual ...Certainly the propaganda to which we attach the greatest importance will greatly diminish the extent and the severity of the struggle ... The Revolution is no war in the common interpretation of the term ... We know very well that if it simply rested with us we could not create it ... It is more than cosmopolitan -it is a cosmical movement of which we are not the motive power but the index. We are not the wind moving the straw, we are the straw moved by the wind, and behind us is the hurricane in its fury. 17
With Fleming at the Richmond Young Mens Society18 Andrews responded to a Mr Harvie who delivered a paper condemning the Chicago anarchists as 'socialist bombers' and made what appear to be informed remarks about bombs:
If our comrades ... were such experts in explosives as we are told, they would not have used a fuse-bomb, which is both dangerous to the thrower and unreliable altogether, but a percussion bomb. If, as urged, they had wanted to provoke a conflict with the police, they would not have thrown a bomb at all, which unless the majority of the enormous crowd were perfectly aware it was going to be thrown, would have stupefied and disorganised them even more than the police,and thus spoilt their own ends. 19
It is clear from reports of this meeting that Andrews was already seeing the local police as capable of the perfidy that featured their Chicago brethren, and that he was already concerned about spies, fake bomb scares and the like.
At a later meeting when he spoke on the 1871 Commune in Paris he was partially supported by one W.A. Holman newly arrived from England.20
Having left the Co-operative Home in November 1888, Andrews experienced what he later said was about the hardest time of his life, often going without any food at all for up to four days. To save money he slept in parks, in water tanks, in doss houses, or walked the night streets. He foraged for wild food on the river bank strengthening his theories of self-sufficiency and belief in himself with practice. His total income was usually that derived from sale of the Radical which activity and that of unemployed agitation earned him constant police harassment,21 especially during the winter of 1889 when his group fully expected riots and possibly bloodshed.
In riding the fine line between potential and real violence the anarchists found governments and employers prepared to ride with them and equally prepared to wager the unemployed on the contest. Until 1894 the issue was constantly and continuously in doubt.
Fleming and John White were the most consistent mainstays of the Melbourne unemployed struggle, being involved from at least 1885 to well into the 1900s. Their approach was simple and direct - castigate the capitalist 'robbers' and demand the government underwrite expansion of the labor market. They cajoled and lectured, led march after march on Parliament House and assisted deputation after deputation to lobby appropriate politicians. This seeming dependence on Government resulted from a realisation that education towards self-management needed time. In the interim there was starvation and homelessness.
Although prepared to stand alongside Symes for freedom of speech22 Chummy eventually realised that the approach of the Liberator's editor was to brow-beat 'Thomas Workman' about self-help. Andrade's approach to 'the labor question' was to speak from on high. Reporting a meeting of 700 unemployed he wrote:23
much to their discredit they did nothing beyond complaining of the taunt an MP had given them, and resolving to ask the government to nationalise the land (poor deluded people) ... their lack of employment is not to be wondered at, when they show such pitiable ignorance of the cause of their misery.
The next issue of Honesty reported the 'disastrous' end to a New South Wales shearers' strike to which truculent squatters had responded with fines, jailings and threats of conspiracy charges. The only constructive or retaliatory suggestion the writer (presumably D.A. Andrade) offers, however, is that 'the law', clearly on the sides of the anti-shearer forces, 'must be opposed'.24
As part of the 1888 Northumberland coalminers' strike a riot was alleged by the police at New Lambton (Newcastle) and the Sydney Morning Herald editorially demanded that guns and other strong measures be used against the rioters. A Bulletin respondent preferred to speak of 'a small disturbance'. Nevertheless the Parkes government25 took alarm and despatched twenty-four 'high military officers' and privates who found on arrival with 'an expensive cannon and other panoply of glorious war' that the belligerents had 'gone home to tea'. The Bulletin's facts don't tally with those recited elsewhere, but thinking three arrested miners were released on bail it quoted, quite accurately, a despatch from Parkes to the 'offending justices' via Critchett Walk, Principal Under-Secretary. Chief Justice Darly had written to Parkes very exercised about 'the impropriety of granting bail' in such a serious case as this. Parkes in sending the Newcastle magistrates a copy of this letter reminds them that 'the first duty of the justice of the peace is at all times to conserve the interests of peace, to support all in authority in the maintenance of the law, and to do his utmost to preserve the good order of society'.
So quickly and easily could justice, let alone common sense, be pushed aside.
In asking the magistrates for what explanation they could possibly have for granting bail Parkes reached the nub of his defensive authoritarianism and came into contempt of sub judice rules by assuming 'the persons offending voluntarily put themselves in the wrong'. He wrote also that any social position the arrested men might have only aggravated the offence, a claim reversing the point of character references entertained as normal procedure by courts.26
The tension of the government's use of the military was evident in at least two elements: members of the 'free laborers' they were 'protecting' proved to be as capable of engaging in drunken brawls as any, and it was pointed out 'that any use of the Nordenfeldt, indeed any shooting of a striker' could have resulted in the 'vast majority of working men (flying) to arms'.27 Perhaps unfortunately luck held for the various governments involved, but there was certainly no certainty that 'the flower of Australian manhood' would have done anything. When shootings did occur later, it could be said that lack of clarity about the circumstances dispersed the potential impact, but in any event there was no rising.
On 20 October in an atmosphere enlivened by great Establishment drumbeating28 the Bulletin editorialised:
The Revolt Has Begun
Were it not so what need of the ... military preparations on behalf of Capital? What need of Nordenfeldts and armies if it were not recognised that this strike differed from the rest in proclaiming war, not against individuals but against a System? .... And already the workers are steadily, silently making their preparations ... to nullify all these schemes of oppression and possess themselves, once and for all peaceably, if it be possible, but by any means and at any cost , of the full heritage of men. [My emphasis]
This acceptance of the possibility of physical violence is no different to anarchist statements or those of Symes or many other observers and activists. However, its vainglorious element could not assist strikers, at Northumberland or anywhere else, to achieve success, since it whips up contempt for the authorities on the false bases of trivialising the enemy and inflating the strength of their own people. The chain of circumstances leading to the Maritime Strike of 1890 and the later generalised strikes and disruptions shows no cause for selfcongratulation by the union organisation, a sentiment claimed by many commentators as a precipitating factor. Whether successful or not the overriding lesson to be learnt before August 1890 was that the weight of arms, whether used or not, was bound to be with the status quo. Obscuring this for observers and participants on both sides was that the display of military arms was considered to be a manifestation of something different to a display of unionist arms.
Also gone totally unobserved was the change in one hundred years or so from a time when the nobility of North American colonists was measured by their willingness to bear arms for freedom. Certainly there were sufficient straws in the winds of 1889.
The kidnapping of unionists in a train at Cowra (NSW) by railway officials ostensibly to 'protect 2 non-union men and pastoralists' agents' was treated differently to the kidnapping at Koroit (Victoria) of nonunion shearers who were released twelve miles away and after the relevant grazier was disarmed by shearers. The Koroit kidnappers, unionists, finished up in court, the railway officials who also released their victims away from the scene of contention, were applauded.29 More obscurely perhaps, whereas the Glebe and Wallsend 'rioters' (coalminers) were released after a month in jail, Minister for Justice Gould refused release of the Brookong 'rioters' (shearers) after six months on the grounds that their camp had been organised, they had patrolled the roads, had had guns and people had been intimidated. Clearly the more closely the protestors resembled the troops the more anxious the authorities became. Demonstrated in the original Brookong judgement was the ease with which subjectivity could be glossed as even-handed justice:
If a man's liberty were interfered with, if his life were threatened by overwhelming numbers, he and every other honest man is entitled to protect himself by taking the lives of those who come upon him. This in law is deemed justifiable homicide. On the other hand if lawless persons took life they were guilty of murder. [My emphasis]
Andrews in 1894 attempted to expose the value judgements hiding behind this juxtapositioning of 'honest' and 'lawless' in Sir W. Windeyer's judgement when a variation was offered by another eminent judge (below).30
John Deasey, County Mayo MP in Australia to raise funds for Irish eviction victims complained his mail was being tampered with, and upon getting agreement from the New South Wales Postmaster General, O'Connor, that the envelopes looked tampered with, a Royal Commission was established. For some reason Deasey destroyed the envelopes concerned whereupon the Royal Commissioner insisted the contents of the letters had to be produced in evidence. Failing that, Commissioner Pilcher found the charges 'could not be sustained'.31 The Sydney Morning Herald agreed that:
It is no uncommon thing for Governments to open letters to obtain information that they desire, as in the case of suspected treason, in time of war, and of great peril from anarchical or other causes.
But 'we are in no danger from Mr Deasey' therefore 'our Government could not have tampered with his letters! '32
In Melbourne Colonel Tom Price was to be reprimanded not courtmartialled for calling out the Mounted Rifles without going through the proper channels. In the same Age that his reported reasoning was published was an item on attempted press censorship by the military, while in Sydney the Bulletin commented on a speech by Parkes in parliament on the Imperial Mutiny Act (UK) in force in New South Wales. This law meant, it was believed, that any soldeir asked to fire on 'the mob' and refusing could be court-martialled and perhaps shot. 33 In a separate incident Parkes recommended a complainant 'be hanged on the next lamp-post' and was not asked to alter his language by the Speaker.34
A Free Trade meeting in Sydney on behalf of Minister Carruthers was 'protected' from interruption by Sub-Inspector Mackay, one senior sergeant, ten uniform and several plain-clothes police, Sandy Ross and other pugilists.35
The protectionist Australian Star obviously had an interest in applauding worker unrest in free trade areas as indicative of failed economic policies and it attacked government and free trade MP Bruce Smith for not supporting the London dock strikers and for suggesting they were not worth sixpence an hour.36 A further Australian Star editorial is, however, more fundamentally enlightening:
Time was when the present movement at the London docks would have been suppressed by ruthless force, while all over the world that action, if noticed at all, would have been applauded. But times have changed ... education has literally created a new mankind in a new world. Labor's methods of righting its wrongs are no longer those of the savage beast, for the masses have learned the use of moral weapons and the power of moral discipline.30
This is an amazingly clear example of blaming the victim for being 'suppressed with ruthless force'. Now that labor no longer acts in a way that requires it to be harshly treated it can be rewarded by not being harshly treated. It is also a clear example of setting 'self-restraint and patient endurance'38 on a higher ethical plane than force but only for the masses.
Against this background of some 1889 events, incidents involving anarchists which would otherwise be discarded by historians can be noted and assessed.
The Australian Radical of 5 January 1889 recorded Fleming jailed again for seven days for merely speaking on Queens Wharf.39 The Liberator of the same date has a letter from Fleming with a firsthand account of the Harbour Trust's attempts to close the wharf being assisted by the police. Varley, another 'agitator', spoke to 4-500 people, when a hale of hay, often used for seats or platforms on the wharf, was set on -fire probably by 'roughs'. Fleming's advertisement had appeared in the Herald providing due warning he was to test the ban and when he tried to do so he was repeatedly punched and jostled off the wharf on to the roadway. He eventually retaliated, the crowd cheered, and the police finally moved to ask 'the roughs' to desist.40
Samuel Albert Rosa, recently back from overseas, had joined the communist anarchist group and helped form a Melbourne ASL after appearing one Sunday on the wharf. Strongly urging revolution, he had money though unemployed and constantly shifted allegiances, all three elements creating suspicion.41 Nevertheless agitational work continued for free speech, to spread 'socialist' ideas and for discussion of labor disputes locally or abroad. Amongst the unemployed who attended in their hundreds to join in the agitation, Andrews perceived many who were prepared 'for sterner business'. 'Defy the police' was the watchword 'but extreme order was maintained'. He found also that the only short-term expedient possible given that people were starving was to ask the government for work.42 Local charity was being organised, of course, yet in insufficient quantities and kinds to prevent the desperation of the poor turning their slow starvation into quick selfmurder. Up to four bodies a day were being found in the Yarra, often with a pawn ticket their only possession. Beattie's gift for irony produced a suggestion that the poorest get together as a 'Suicidal Saviours Association'. Every midnight they would cast lots, the unlucky member to force himself or herself into the'odouriferous mud', his or her nearest relative or friend 'to have the privilege of finding the body' and thus be entitled to ten shillings, five other members to be employed as jurors at the inquest, and paid four shillings each.43
Late in June Andrews reported that from that date he intended to be at Studley Park, a more suburban location, on Sundays rather than at the wharf and requested assistance from others.44 In August he considered that:
The numbers of persons reached by some form of socialist propaganda in Melbourne is certainly not less than 3000 weekly .... The party of Anarchy is become too large to form a circle of acquaintances under any condition.45
This claim makes the lack of an anarchist organisation in Melbourne difficult to understand. The answer Andrews provided years later was that the need to leave Melbourne for work was so great it was impossible to hold any organisation together. Out of the ASL (Melbourne) by August 1889 however had come a Social Democratic League, a transient Communist-Anarchist grouping, a Knights of Labour group, a Land Values Tax Society and a loosely connected network of others espousing an assortment of civil libertarian and personal politics issues.
For much of what follows the focus shifts to Sydney and further north but there is a continuing presence in Melbourne through David Andrade, Fleming and John White in particular. The activities of those already clearly established as believing themselves anarchists becomes less clear after 1889 though their significance is greater - not in themselves, or in what they achieve, though this is notable, but in what is done to them as this bears out their contentions about the secret and repressive aspects of government, and the low level of social maturity present.
The activities of certain non-anarchists have in crucial cases also been covered. A third area or group, the most difficult to delineate, consists of those who don't publically refer to themselves as anarchists, are not seen as such in 'popular' estimation, ie. in terms of the debased definition, but are considered to be anarchist by virtue of the definition being argued for here. Most of these are invisible altogether, having little or no public profile. Some appear herein but only very reluctantly.
For those already mentioned who go north or in some cases went on to New Zealand, the evidence for Andrews is most complete as he recorded it himself, and for Rosa up until 1892 as others were suspicious and recorded it for him. For Petrie and Beattie there is something like a two-year gap, 1890-91, then Petrie, at least, becomes very visible. For what are at the moment minor Melbourne figures, Upham, Mulcahy, the McMillans, Nichols, Varley, Newberry, Brookhouse and many others there is virtually nothing. Perhaps the stakes suddenly become too high, or perhaps the energy spent on surviving left nothing over for agitation. A clear reason for the lack of information is the non-publication of movement papers, the loss of many of those that published sympathetic material, and the lack of critical reporting of State-initiatives by establishment papers.
In June 1890, Fleming renewed agitation on behalf of the unemployed but spirits were low, loafers were just as likely to be disruptive while the bias of the newspapers and the apparent implacability of the government made Rosa, by his own account,46 think twice before becoming involved. But he, Flinn and others joined the effort, Rosa in particular attracting attention by continuing and expanding his provocative talk of the year before. The newspapers berated and blustered and the police were ordered by the Chief Secretary to keep the leading speakers 'under surveillance'.47
Over a thousand people on occasion listened daily to suggestions, usually from Rosa, that they had the right to loot, or that they reserve part of any money they did get to purchase muskets. Their attention was also directed to the uses of melinite, dynamite and nitro-glycerine.
Then from 9 July he moderated his language and took to directing the straggling processions used previously to interview prominent personages, such as clerics and the Governor-General.48 These invited speculation and ultimately debate on the floor of the House. The government was pressured to find funds for work schemes, with the agitators' audiences approaching 10,000 and arrests beginning for whatever the police could manage.
In the first week of August Rosa showed signs of nervousness that the situation was getting out or control. The burning of effigies was turning into pitched battles between policemen using batons and an assortment of malcontents. Troops were 'in readiness' but out of sight. Checks were being made of guns available to the constabulary and the gaps looked to, but not necessarily with much success. A newspaper description shows the sort of personal armament being turned on the largely bald-headed Rosa:
a piratical-looking man, with a big Punch-looking nose, and red hanging mustachios, matching his shock of redhair, always grinding his teeth, like boar tusks.49
Symes attacked 'the violent and reckless demagogues' leading the unemployed but said of Fleming that he was 'a hard working, well meaning man' but why won't he give up his 'stupid anarchy?' Could not he see that the anarchists 'would gladly reduce Melbourne to ashes for the sake of the scramble and the fiendish gratification it would give them?' Rosa nevertheless saw labor spokesperson Trenwith as his 'most unscrupulous opponent'.50
Rosa claimed that pressure of business forced him to drop the effort after 20 August and in Serle's account this meant the movement quickly collapsed.51 A more accurate rendering than either of these, notes that mid-August saw the unemployed agitation transpose into the Maritime Strike, whereupon the unemployed found themselves rushed with offers of work, the hostility of the THC bureaucrats to 'his' troops52 intensified and Rosa found his simplistic call for jobs for the unemployed 'or else' turned into a weapon against those he was trying to impress, namely labor organisers and voters prepared to support 'labor' candidates. The reverse, of course, is also true - that having repudiated Rosa, his methods and any attempt to come to grips with 'the unemployed question' the THC found themselves with nowhere to go when those unemployed turned on them.