Anarchism and State Violence in Sydney and Melbourne
An argument about Australian labor history.
By Dr Bob James
He produced a number of pieces of piping which he alleged were bombs of his own manufacture and set out with a friend of his own kidney and two dupes to drop these down the funnels of certain steamers then lying at the wharves.-Anon, Australian Workman, 28 August, 1897.
There were many rumors and allegations of plots to do violence during the 1890 Strike. There is one of particular significance to this study.
The allegation in question, a part of which is quoted above, is that Edwin J. Brady, later well-known poet and writer, attempted at least once, with three others, to blow up ships in Sydney Harbour during the Strike. The direct evidence for such an attempt is non-existent, the claim is anonymous and Brady is not named. Why then am I interested? There are four reasons: firstly, there is strong circumstantial evidence; secondly, whether true or not, the story of which it is only part is a good example of the stigmatising process in action, in this case in two directions at once; thirdly, the whole story has important implications for both the usual accounts of ALP evolution in the 1890s, and for the themes being developed here, in particular the themes of the relative capacity for and propensity to violence of anarchists and the State, and the importance of anti-parliamentarianism to public life of this period; and lastly, this initial event is relevant to an understanding of what follows.
Brady, a young enthusiastic convert to Marx,1 and experienced with explosives,2 was for personal as well as more publicly political reasons 'at war with the world' from August 1890 when he was fired from Dalgety's where his father also worked, to early 1893: 'I then gave anarchy a wide berth'.3 Before losing his clerical job he 'laboured in an atmosphere of petty tyranny and cowardly insult ... there was one overlord who put murder in my mind ... he demonstrated to me what wage-slavery really means'. The ambiguity and apparent confusing here of Marx and anarchy is partly a hindrance and partly an aid to analysis.
Dismissed allegedly for refusing to enrol as a special constable4 he broke with his family and their religion, Catholicism, joined the ASL and began writing poetry, of which 'Vive Anarchy' is a sample:
Pallid forms, by famine shrunken,
Helots, harlots, ribald drunken,
Wine and blood-wet, onward thro' the torch-lit highways sweep,
Through a city disunited,
Through a city flame-ignited,
To the sound of song and trumpet, and the cannons deep,
Through the gloom,
While the fire-fiend madly leaps from tower to temple steep.5
Although it is totally about a very bloody insurrection it does not clearly label the violence or the upheaval as 'anarchy' and its conclusion of 'Vive Anarchy' could refer to the new society. By his own account he could have been dismissed from Dalgety's for drinking on company time or for being part of a revolutionary conspiracy which he, however, makes out was a joke. In late 1891-early 1892, having been repudiated by certain sections of the emergent ALP as 'up-to-the-knees-in-blood, barricade fighter Brady'6 and 'an anarchist', he counter-attacked by claiming considerable anarchist influence on 'the Party' already weakened by parasitic opportunists.7 In later articles, in 1894, still anonymously, he claimed a rapacious, blood-thirsty anarchist network, centred on Sydney, fully informed about and sympathetic toward overseas assassins, was moving to do murderous things. He warned, he said, in order that it be stopped.8 An obscure more moderate, piece, in 1897, probably the last of his articles on this theme,9 attracted the anonymous response referred to in the second paragraph (above).10 That is, six years after, it refers, without naming Brady, to aspects of someone's career in 1890 and 1891 which can be identified as Brady's:
|THE ANONYMOUS 1897 ARTICLE||BRADY'S CAREER|
|'the loss of a thirty bob billet'||September 1890, fired by Dalgety's|
|'a political and economic organisation'||Female Employees Association, same time 11|
|'a league of sedentary workers'||December 1890 to June 1891, the Clerical and Mercantile Workers Union 12|
|'a Labor candidate'||The June 1891 election13|
|'a responsible labor position'||AW editor, September-December 189114|
This 1897 article also says 'Brady' and his friend left the two 'dupes' on the wharves with the dynamite bombs when they found detectives shadowing them:
[Surviving] the surveillance of the detectives [the dupes] carried the tale to some shrewder spirits who quickly came to the conclusion that the bomb manufacturer ['Brady'] was a police pimp and an AGENT PROVOCATEUR.
A further Brady memory was contained in a letter to Muir Holborn: 15
Why I escaped the hangman at that time I don't know!
He has not in any of his memoirs acknowledged any such attempt as that alleged, nor indicated any other event for which he might have expected the noose.
In contemplation of the list of candidates for the three other positions in the 1890 episode it is necessary to explore a much wider canvas and to look closely at the credibility of a number of informers and at the source of certain information. What comes to light is a tangled web of evidence involving equal parts of smear campaign and struggle for personal advancement caught up with the hysteria of popular reaction to social upheaval. The involvement of Brady, Rosa and Andrews provides the means of tracking initiative and response in this web. They are all accused at various times of being 'anarchist', yet they are in conflict with one another.
It must be kept in mind how reasonable it is to assume that declarations of support for anarchism or for direct action would ring urgent bells in conservative clubrooms, whether the members understood anarchism in its real or debased form. It also seems reasonable to assume such bells would produce more than just wariness or more of the same diatribes about the need for law and order and police surveillance. And we must remember that it was Andrews and his fellow-agitators who stood to be jailed or hanged. He had no reason to believe the Chicago authorities were any worse than those in Sydney.
Andrews' account of and responses to the anti-anarchist pressures in NSW, 1890-1894, is the major insider evidence for the position of the militants.16 He does not refer directly to the 1890 wharf-bombing incident, probably because he was not in Sydney at the time, but he does report a conversation that appears relevant. There are other gaps in his account and a number of questions left unanswered even when his information is augmented.
Andrews had arrived in Sydney close to the end of 1890 having walked from Melbourne,17 soon gravitating to the ASL. Rosa arrived from Melbourne at about the same time but by train. It is Rosa, however, who quickly makes a name for himself as the ASL's 'foremost advocate of revolutionary socialism'. The first lecture he gave to the ASL was on the French Revolution about which he spoke again in May recording his ideas in a letter to the Australian Workman newspaper from which the following is an extract:
Many of the most important events with the fall of the Bastille ... were the work, not of conspirators but of those aggregations of individuals ... who reposed confidence not in ... leaders but apparently in themselves. 18
This among an expanding membership said to be learning about socialism from 'a philosophical book on anarchism', in itself indicates Rosa's ambiguity as well as the centrality of real anarchist beliefs in a forum that was the major centre of labor debate outside the TLC. 'In 1891,' when Tom Batho joined, the ASL was '1/4 philosophical anarchist, 1/4 physical force anarchist, 1/4 State Socialist and 1/4 laborite'.19 This wasn't announced at the time of course, and only a few statements of support were made publicly. W.J.Sharples, colleague of Andrews in Melbourne and now President of the NSW Boot-Trade Union spoke from an individualistic anarchist20 view, while for George Garton, long-time Sydney/NSW activist against Chinese immigration and on other issues, rational, philosophic anarchism was the ideal.21 The ASL library was 'chiefly revolutionary and ranged from Portuguese 'anarchist journals to the works of Thorold Rogers and William Morris'.22
The long term influence of the ASL has been played down on the basis of its small numbers, Gollan suggesting less than 100 before 1890. After the down-turn in late 1889-early 1890 however, the ASL had been infused with new blood, eager to do battle. New members soon to become well-known included William Holman, Billy Hughes, Creo Stanley, Ernie Lane, Henry Lawson and J.D.Fitzgerald.
The League became the site of the intensest political discussions these centring on direct action as an agent of social change, on the question of participation in parliamentary politics and on what policies: free trade, protection, the Single Tax or what Rosa called 'straight out Socialism'. The membership of the ASL was enthusiastic and idealistic and was poised to play a crucial, radical part in the politics of eastern Australia. For various reasons now to be canvassed, that potential was dissipated.
Sir Henry Parkes radical ASL as he decreed in January 1891 that a special permit from him, the Chief Secretary, was necessary before Sunday-night lectures, a popular radical outing at the time, could be held. A deputation of McNamara, Blackwell, Healy and Higgs to Parkes23 was unsuccessful but it appears that lectures ultimately continued without permit under the disguise of the regular Sunday-night concerts at Mr. West's Leigh House Academy, a dancehall and theatre above which Castlereagh Street, meeting rooms eventually became known as just Leigh House.
Parkes may also have realised that a specific danger represented by the ASL was its potential for coalescing anti-Parliamentary forces into a substantial power base outside the confines of the 'House' and its strictures.
Dibbs, Opposition leader, declared just before the first election contested by what became the Australian Labor Party, where he saw the Labor Electoral Leagues (LEL) coming from:
This gang of sweat-rag politicians, this aggregation of anarchists, hooligans and revolutionaries who have neither followers, funds or even loyalty.24
The atmoshere in the city was of course still tense. The major sites of the labor-capital struggle were in the rural districts but non-union labor supplied from the cities was still the key. The ASL in Sydney took up the issue of the unemployed and this and the question of 'sweating' practices were major campaigns in early 1891 around which numerous rallies and marches were organised. Red flags, burning effigies and torch-lit oratory abounded. Glebe Town Hall was the location of one of the rowdiest indoor meetings, as one might expect when Bruce Smith, appears to have recognised the threat posed by the also unpopular with labor supporters appeared, on the 1st February, with McMillan.
ASL members, Rosa, Higgs, Brady, Lindsay and Horkins, tried to get McMillan a hearing from the jeering, hooting crowd, in order to answer him 'in a socialist way' but the crowd persisted. One wordsmith reported:
Healy ... captain of the Gipps Street push, one of the most desperate larrikin bands in Sydney persistently roused the crowd. He told the reporter "This affairs all organised ... we won't let him be heard. See what he's made us suffer. We've got plenty of blue-metal with us. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity." ... Lashing himself to the full height of his revolutionary mission and pointing to Mr Smith (he) screeched out in frenzied tones. "There he s ... Ecce Homo!" a classic effort which seemed to threaten him with an apoplectic stroke.5
At this point the reporter tells of Smith offering Healy a glass of water, the crowd began to rush the platform and the Smith-McMillan group fled.
Brady's account tells of would-be ejectors rushing the ASL group 'as a scared little linen-draper on stage advocated machine-guns' against the Queensland strikers. The crowd erupted, fighting became general and Brady says he was forced towards the stage by the forward charge, that he was saved from a broken skull by a comrade preventing the impact of a table-leg being wielded by someone on the other side and that momentum carried him over the stage into unconsciousness.26 Subsequently, Con Lindsay and 'his militants' took charge of the reconvened meeting, which may mean he was also a push leader but his background is not that of a larrikin. Born in Canada, the son of a noncommissioned officer in the British Army, he had spent some years in India and studied at Calcutta University. A boot-trade delegate to the TLC he was on the Executive Committee of the ASL, having joined at about the same time as Holman, Rosa, etc. and was a member of the small group elected by the Trades Hall to draw up the first Labor Political Platform. A master of platform satire, drink and other bohemian pursuits later overtook him.27
With him in the chair, Healy moved that both McMillan and Smith be called on to resign. Rosa seconded, Higgs supported before the motion was rapturously passed. Rosa who had had some success previous to this meeting at quieting crowds but who was unsuccessful on this occasion, then called for three cheers for the ASL, Schey (MP) spoke from the balcony complimenting the crowd, which then dispersed, just as the police arrived.
The larrikin 'push' as a possible power-base or even seed=bed for politicians either formal or informal has not been seriously considered by historians. This neglect flows directly from an unwillingness to face up to the question of violence and the connections between it and the need for organisation.
A partial exception to the academic neglect and popular abuse is McLachlan who provided some insights and contemporary comments on the sociology of the 'push', in particular on the resemblances this male bonding group bore to those involving bush workers.28 Among more popular accounts James Murray had concluded without providing the evidence, that pushes were engaged in extortion, protection rackets, thievery and murder and speculated why 'law and order' was not invoked against them. Although leniency from courts towards streetviolence is not supported by the evidence, he suggested political connivance by members of the NSW Lower House especially labor members who were eager to excuse and not displease the pushes in return for push solidarity in 'political or economic bargaining'. He made the pub the location of much of the transaction, election meetings often resulting in broken heads and bloodied noses, and court appearances:
... the fact was that (push) terrorist activities not only stopped election meetings, but made the chances of unpopular candidates in their areas negligible.29
Pratt, who ascribed, in 1902, the highest level of political consciousness to a push of any commentator, nevertheless regards the bulk of the members as mere mercenaries or even unwilling fodder in the schemes of a small, inner circle. In Pratt's book, the push-leader's experiences lead him to conclude that all politicians could be bought and sold, thus he set out to get one of his number elected.30 From a contemporary observer, George Black, there is little useful information Chief opposition to the Labor Electoral Leagues (LEL) when they began to appear from 4 April, 1891, came, according to Black, from protectionist-oriented unionists, who used tomatoes (in season) and blue-metal sometimes, to put their point of view. He refers specifically to factory hands 'who thought that the formation of a third party would force some of them out of employment and would certainly lower their wages'.31 Elsewhere he refers to flour and rotten eggs being used against 'supporters of law and order' to the extent that Alfred Deakin wore a special surtout known as his 'ova-coat' while unionists Flower and Higgs, standing for South Sydney in 1891, were known as 'Flour and Eggs'.
The Truth debated the Daily Telegraph as to whether disturbances of political meetings were organised, and claimed to see disruption of tort' meetings as 'the spontaneous noise of rejection'.32 Here again, this curious blind-spot about organisation.
Michael Healy, known as 'Meek and Mild' from his initials, seems a politically-wise larrikin, and a worthy subject for further research Sydney-born, and already 30 years old in 1884 he was arrested with 2 others in that year for his part in what was known as the Bondi Boxing Day Riot, in which push members battled police.33 He was sentenced to 14 years jail, but seems to have been released around October, 1890 when poems of his appear in print describing prison-life.34 On the 26 and 27 December, 1890, he and McNamara were delegates to the 1 st Annual Conference of the Amalgamated Navvies and General Laborers Union.35 In May he is the Secretary of South Sydney LEL.36 He is also a member of various deputations and demonstrations with many of the better-known political agitators.
Even with him, the 'labor' campaign in mid-1891 was the point at which the parliamentary choice became crystal clear and polarised the participants. The difficulties any consistent anti-parliamentary or nonparliamentary adherents had was that the position of their opponents was so simply made and carried out. The alternative road required then and requires now a great deal of effort beyond the choice itself if it is to appear more than just a negative rejection.
For the historian this is also the point at which the choice has to be made again about Andrews - malignant organiser secretly plotting terrorism or isolated theoretician, a 'philosophic' anarchist. For both choices, one then, one now, the answer to the question of what the nonparliamentary choice involves is the key.
In April, Andrews had joined Joseph Schellenberg, refugee from Bismarck's Germany and early member of the ASL, Whitthread and an unknown number of others in establishing some kind of operations centre at Schellenberg's flower and vegetable farm at Smithfield, about an hour's ride from Sydney proper. The group living there called themselves the Communist-Anarchist Group of Central Cumberland37 and invited others to join them in discussion and activities. Initially, there must have been quite widespread interest in radical circles. McNamara, for example, after handing the ASL Secretaryship to Brady in March had asked for his mail to be forwarded to the Smithfield address. He left a copy of the February, 1891, U.K. anarchist paper Freedom there38.
A.G.Yewen, another early member of the ASL, friend of the Lanes and in the UK of William Morris, described Schellenberg as 'our friend and comrade' in a May letter from Brisbane to McNamara (who by then was in Gippsland) with best wishes on behalf of himself, Henry Lawson and Ralph Baynham.39 Yewen was not enthusiastic about a Smithfield collective and 'operations centre' about which he had just then heard from Schellenberg and to whom he had written for more information.
While still having only a vague outline of what Schellenberg and Andrews had in mind he had decided it was impractical and 'Quixotic' just as Anarchism and Communism to him were as 'substanceless superstitions as Christianity', and Andrews too utopian:
The use of physical force when intelligently applied I am in favour of, but that does not constitute Anarchism or lead us to its cloudlands.
Yewen's remarks show his agreement with Andrews on one thing at
The Shearers' strike is pretty tame now [and] if the supineness continues utter collapse must inevitably ensue: The ALF [Australian Labor Federation] is like the Socialist League, it sacrifices everything to numbers.
He discloses that he advocates, not outright revolt, but depreciating 'the value of the property of the enemy' and this he says the bush workers were doing until counselled out of it by the town leaders:
Seymour was despatched to Barcaldine [ a Queensland strike camp] a second time, and since then - Well! Let us hide our tears.
He is scathing, as is Andrews, about the ASL considering that 'Socialism and its practical working out is becoming as foreign to the Australian Socialist League as gaity [sic] and joyousness is to our capitalistic, anti-social life'. He is well-informed about gambling in the ASL rooms, Rosa's irrelevant lectures on Greek Civilisation and the Fall of Rome, the unprofitable concerts, and the League's administration being in the hands of a 'collection of well-meaning incapables and boodlers' through letters from Sydney and visits from people like Baynham, apparently just concluding an 'overland tour'.
Letters from the Cumberland group had by May appeared in the Sydney press as did the account of selective discrimination against them by the 1890 Maritime Strike Commission, which refused them a hearing preferring to treat their offer of advice as a hoax.40 There is no indication that the 'operations centre' was ever more than a place for discussion and distribution centre for literature.
Brady had only just begun his public career when he became Secretary of the League. An eye-witness account of a Brady pubbalcony speech illustrates difficulties with the parliamentary choice beginners brought on themselves
A fair-haired youth ... the most enthusiastic I ever heard addressing a meeting ... absolutely no idea of elocution ... (he) entered immediately into the Theory of Values ... showed in quite technical terms that (it) and the Universal Brotherhood of Man - excluding the Chinese, were inseparable. He predicted in loud, prophetic tones that the Revolution was coming. He hinted that it might even be expected at any moment, and he concluded with a long quotation from Shelley bidding the gaping knot of wharfmen and boozers to:
Rise like lions after slumber In unvanquishable number ...and so on for 12 or 14 verses.41
His youthful enthusiasm, which so captivated Ernie Lane, included a recognition of a need for secrecy in organisation which he apparently managed quite well. Concern about spies and retaliation had meant that 'all ... meetings [of the Clerical and Mercantile Workers Association of NSW which he convened in 1890, and of which George Black was a member] were secret and shrouded in an air of the most intense mystery'.42 He and Lane were living together in Wooloomooloo (Sydney) in May 1891 when Lane is supposedly on the staff of the Brisbane Boomerang and Brady only reluctantly admitted after Lane's memoirs had appeared, that the two had visited the Smithfield Centre.43 Lane, who remembered Andrews fondly, also revealed his belief that a revolutionary situation existed, centred on the League and Brady's Secretaryship, a view which doesn't fit with those of Yewen or the anarchists quoted above. Lane, however, appears to be referring to something which the rest of the ASL executive knew little about. Few details have so far surfaced, Brady acknowledging only his part in a secret courier service to southern sympathisers from the Queensland strike organisation, a network he says went through, not the ASL, but the office of the C-MWA which he maintained till late 1891 44
One is reminded of Spence's fear of 'civil war', of the events described in William Lane's 'Working Man's Paradise' which is largely about a strike-courier from Queensland in Sydney, and of the older Lane's naming of Jim Mooney, Sydney agent for the Australian Shearers Union (ASU) during the strike as a committed communist-anarchist. (see below)45 All of this might suggest that the rumours relating William Lane's masterminding of a revolutionary plot using Queensland bushmen in 1891 were true. Brady is probably in the best position to judge. He later recalled those long, tedious conversations Lane had in Sydney, and no doubt elsewhere and suggests strongly the older Lane was not directly involved in the world of his younger brother:
People who know nothing and could know nothing of what was happening underneath the surface of industrial agitation at that period have credited William Lane, with being the centre of a conspiratorial plot to overthrow the existing order and establish a socialist republic in Australia. Lane was a theorist, a Utopian dreamer, an Englishman of the William Morris school and far removed from that revolutionary type which accepts revolution as either an Art or a Science 46
Intriguingly, the anecdotal evidence says that the older Lane was, wing the 1891 strike talking 'wild, Irishmen' out of precipitate action, and pricing rifles, while hard evidence shows him endorsing Anarchism its the highest possible social ideal.
The conclusion would seem to be that Brady and the younger Lane became disillusioned with various people in radical circles for reasons that varied from case to case and were perhaps mutually exclusive. That Yewen and perhaps McNamara and Ernie Lane saw Andrews' approach as being anti-organisation is probably fair enough. That Brady posits cooperation in opposition to anarchism simply records his ignorance, but he displays a curious ambivalence which is returned to below.
Parkes may have called this June election, then, and instituted the payment of members, which made the 'labor' party possible, as one way of heading off a radical coalition before it became too strong, by drawing off those 'labor' men more easily seduced, a result which would have for him the added benefit of fragmenting the union forces, by setting egos and ambitions against one another in the election scramble. Whether deliberate ploy or not, in a world of few opportunities there were bound to be more losers than winners and resentments were bound to be multiplied in the hot-house atmosphere of campaigning, especially when candidates were youthful, inexperienced and idealistic. More experienced politicians were able to exploit the conceptual divergences in a grouping which thought it could encompass the two needs in social policy, of 'freedom' and 'welfare' ('doing for oneself or 'being done for'). These two will only overlap in certain circumstances. Further, when in dispute, the means to resolution is decision-making, thus the overarching priority in discussion of process and of policy content is the determination of the location and organisation of that decision-making power. The two possible arrangements thrown up in the labor debate, real democracy, involving decentralised decision-making and delegated or representative democracy, cannot be made to overlap. They are positions on a spectrum measuring the location of decision-making power. Factions and splits within the Labor Party for example were inevitable when it attempted to encompass the irreconcilable extremities of policy and of decision-making, not just within itself but within groupings such as 'the single taxers' or 'the protectionists' which involve policies each capable of libertarian (decentralised) and hierarchical (centralised) interpretations.47 I am not suggesting here that self-labelled anarchists like Andrews or Schellenberg were parliamentary candidates but rather that numerous budding politicians carried with them ideas of decentralising approaches. The electoral process was however winnowing out the larger incompatibilities
Healy's police record was leaked to the press in May where one could read allegations that in his speeches he was suggesting Queensland strikers adopt guerilla war techniques, and that the unemployed use the iron fences around Hyde Park for weapons and to make bombs and grenades.48 Rumours of his impending arrest for sedition circulated and other agitators attempting to stop the drift of NSW unemployed to strikebound shearing sheds are warned not to lead marches near Parliament.
On the other hand, one May meeting in particular nearly 'turned into a fiasco' when the announced ASL speakers, Healy, Rosa and others, who had been 'so loud in their advocacy of physical force', began to funk over the matter. Andrews and Schellenberg (see below) who were visiting Sydney that day and had come along 'to see the fun' had to start proceedings for the 5,000 or so present:
As no-one else seemed inclined Comrade Andrews mounted the stump and addressed the crowd from an Anarchist standpoint, at the conclusion of his speech calling for three cheers for the Social Revolution, which were given with a surprising energy considering it was the first time any meeting in Sydney had ever been addressed by an Anarchist. [He must mean the first outdoor meeting.] The 'Alleged Socialists' present seeing that things went along smoothly now came forward evidently being afraid of losing their hold upon the people, the latter [seeming] to enjoy the anarchist sentiments ... S.A.Rosa and J.D.Fitzgerald deeming it expedient to disavow any connection with the Anarchists and the latter, after declining just before to fill the breach, [now tried] to deny the right of Anarchists to speak upon any Socialist platform and even went so far as to tell the people they must respect law and order .... At the conclusion, having called for Andrews to lead them in his translation of the Marseillaise the majority of the crowd marched in procession through the principal streets led by the red banner and singing the Marseillaise and other revolutionary songs.49
The next week 2000 people moved towards the House defying a police warning that the ASL speakers, Healy, Brady and Cummings (from the Moree shearers) would be arrested. On its return the crowd again dispersed quietly despite military provocation. The troops' commanders were especially concerned because Parliament was being re-opened for a new session. A 'Detachment of the Permanent Artillery' had accompanied the procession as did a large number of police, detectives and soldiers, mounted and foot, with more at Parliament House. An officer, Captain Savage, 'scuffed' a man calmly surveying a cannon, 'the crowd rushed', police intervened but nothing came of it.50 During the ceremony a strong body of police was concealed in the Mint Building. That this level of preparation was possible for the opening of Parliament, reflects back onto the likelihood of the Nordenfelds having been mobilised in September, 1890, but kept out of sight as Gillies in Victoria had intended but failed to do.
Suspicion of Rosa, no doubt entertained by Andrews within the ASL blossomed as a result of the competition engendered by Parkes' astute move.
Though Secretary of East Sydney LEL Rosa nominated for West Sydney electorate as did Brady, both applications financed by Brady's pawning a gold watch. Both lost, the experience proving divisive. Rosa, now opts totally for the ranks of 'the respectables'. This change from revolutionary spokesperson is the same behaviour he used in Melbourne but now, in Sydney, is not just a strategy but a stark concretisation of the choice facing the whole reform movement. Brady 's disillusion with him and subsequent struggle for legitimacy in the argument over strategy can be taken as representative of those people who recognised the need to clarify, not disguise the alternatives as Rosa is doing. Unfortunately, Brady's wasn't clear about the options either and in later life he tried to disguise his confusion by simplifying the situation. Claiming for himself the non-anarchist side, he recalled 'the months of angry discussion, quarrels, expulsions, secessions and overheated debate' which went on between the 'constructively socialistic group' and the 'other ... influenced by Communist or Anarchist philosophy'.51 However, this implies that Brady and Rosa were on the same side or that it was Rosa who was on the 'destructive' side.
Just before the election Rosa was simultaneously the subject of a whispering campaign ('Who is this Rosa?') by a scandal sheet, 'The Dead Bird' and gearing up to represent NSW with Holman in Melbourne for the Intercolonial Debating Tournament on the Federation Bill.52 After the election Truth's editor Norton, turns on Rosa whom he previously supported, and supports Brady who also had been electorally unsuccessful. There is no indication that Norton knew or cared anything about anarchism, and Truth appears to support the parliamentary option However he has been blamed by Black, who had gained a seat, for being the major if not the sole cause for the 'party' splits in 1891.53 One thing that can be said is that he, Norton, must have chosen to disregard stories of Brady's 'pimping [ie. in bomb plots] proclivities'54 which were circulating apparently to discredit his candidacy, and which with all that follows, were perhaps circulated by Rosa in response to the rumours about him. This may be the initial reason for the split with Brady and for the revival of anti-Rosa suspicions. McNamara spoke later on the negative impact Rosa had had:
Before the adventship of Rosa in its councils (the ASL) had on its membership rolls members of nearly all the unions of NSW.55
Schellenberg had a similar view. The League had, he said, adopted a political platform and issued a manifesto which made it much better known and attracted
'a number of political mountebanks who saw a chance of making use of the League as a political machine for their own purposes. The most windy customers were selected to form a so-called executive-committee consisting for the most part of trades unionists who could not raise themselves above the ordinary routine of mere trades unionism, with the result that the League was made a mere appendix to the Trades and Labor Council. '56
Immediately after the June election which resulted in wins for approximately 36 'labor' candidates, a 'J. Coll' put a motion to the ASL that all professed anarchists withdraw. This was one part of the Rosa/Fitzgerald moves to take over a radical organisation as Rosa had done in Melbourne in 1889. The other parts of the package introduced were: To discontinue the unemployed agitation, to prevent anyone having any criminal record from speaking on an ASL Platform, and to exclude all 'revolutionary' language from ASL platforms.
Early in July 1891, possibly the same day Coll produced his motion, Andrews had publicly denounced union opposition to strikes or to direct action which he called 'the only means of securing, for the mass of the people who do not seek to oppress each other, liberty, equality and fraternity'.57
Consequently I agree ... in condemning many labor leaders as [seek] to bamboozle the people into further yielding to 'law and order' and to reliance on legislative means the very negation of the principle of liberty.
At the first discussion of the 'anarchist motion' there was a large attendance of ASL members and each speaker spoke for approximately half an hour.58 A split appeared inevitable. On the second occasion 'the motion which has caused a good deal of interest in Labor circles' was carried. Andrews, Whitthread, Schellenberg and others 'declared their intention of forming an Anarchist Group in Sydney'.59 Rosa, who spoke for exclusion, became ASL Secretary.
In Parliament, Premier Parkes, free trader, had found among the 1891 newcomers laborite free traders prepared to support him in order to keep those policies pre-eminent. The viability of such a 'coalition' required minimal intervention by the forces of law and order in the shearing troubles then petering out in western NSW but still emotive enough to provide the Dibbs-Opposition with a strong weapon if a flareup, say at Bourke, occurred.60 Thus in the ASL (and elsewhere), for those LEL members who sought influence in the legislature, suppression of the rowdier ASL elements was vital. The quid pro quo for their support of Parkes was his jettisoning of the extreme anti-labor units in his 'party'. On the heels of the ASL vote came a vote for Parkes in parliament by some of the newly-elected labor MPs, a vote which Rosa applauded61 even though it split the labor 'party', while almost immediately hard-liner McMillan resigned62 from the Parkes Cabinet.
Brady, who Rosa claimed had made a strong speech supportive of the anarchists,63 was not even an ASL member according to him [Brady] in one place,64 yet in another he claimed he 'was in the [ASL] chair when the first Parliamentary cleavage [in the Party] took place'.65 Brady's poetry and his statement that it was not till 1893 that he 'gave anarchy a wide berth' could be taken to mean that his denials and his stated political preference, Marxist-Fabian, were just for public consumption and that those who thought him an anarchist knew more about his private life than he wished. In his support for Creo Stanley and as editor of the Australian Workman, September-December, 1891, he appears to have reflected a bias towards 'real' anarchism but there is another possible explanation. This is that his support for 'Anarchism' was more a result of his generally militant attitudes than a whole-hearted support for the specific philosophy about which he appears confused. Having lost out in the election and with the examples of those who got in to contemplate, he turned to attacking those he saw as opportunists, like Rosa, and to encouraging non-Parliamentary politics. This involved him in an alliance with other anti-Rosa forces, such as Norton and Andrews who were both inclined to see Rosa as perhaps more dangerous than just an opportunist. It also involved him in 'underground' discussions (of which more shortly) for which he was labelled 'anarchist'. This is by no means clear-cut. Andrews described the Workman as a 'socialist' paper then 'anarchist' on the 'personal bias' of an editor who appears to be Brady.66 The second pre-Brady editor, Higgs, however, is another of those militants who was labelled 'anarchist' without substantiation being provided by his reactionary labellers. Leading historians have repeated the claim unchecked. A striking statement given the context is that of the Strike Defence Committee Report on the Maritime Strike, Higgs as probable author:
It would be hard to say there are no honest politicians. There must be. But this the Labor Defence Committee recognised from the first; that politics as generally understood when stripped of its drapery is merely a game of self-advancement.67
That view, however widespread, -could produce different conclusions: expediency, a heightening of determination that 'labor' MPs be different and better, or a shunning of the parliamentary road altogether. Higgs left for Queensland after failing in the election himself.
At Brady's invitation while he was Secretary, someone with a particular interest in this question Creo Stanley, became the first woman to chair an ASL meeting.68 They had met sometime around August, 1890, and had established the Female Employees Association together.
In mid-1891 she stepped up her energetic championing of laundresses and badgered the TLC to allow female delegates from female unions. On 20 July she was elected Secretary of the Female Employees Society69 and immediately began to poach members from other specific unions such as the Laundresses, despite the FES having a manifesto setting out a co-ordinating rather than a recruiting role. During the subsequent skirmishing, Stanley became the first female delegate to the TLC (appointed 1 August,1891) which endorsed her approach to organisation.70 Follow-up anti-sweating meetings were organised by a TLC which continued to divide on female representation, but wherever possible Stanley highlighted certain exemplar laundries such as Skinners.71 Brady saw to it that her ideas, for example for a Cooperative Laundry and a Co-operative Needlework and Millinery Establishment72 were highlighted in the Workman, when he succeeded Higgs.
Out of the strike, which ensued at Skinners came a chance to put her ideas into practice and she established a co-operative laundry in Pyrmont.73 But her enemies struck back, and she and Brady found themselves increasingly isolated.
Brady during his four months in the chair, August-December, extended the range of the paper's coverage but shared Higg's strong antagonism toward all Single Taxers, who were seen as conspirators and not as members of an ideologically legitimate labor faction.74 Generally Brady's period is marked by a quite different lay out and more theoretical tone. Kropotkin's 'Appeal to the Young' was serialised, a contributor ors 21 November 1891 knew enough to point out that Most's Freiheit, and Tucker's Liberty represented two quite different schools of US anarchism, and names of labor outsiders and independent activists crop up quite often for praise: for example Peter McNaught, Stanley, Lindsay at the ASL and Leichardt LEL, Francis Sceusa,75 Healy, and Winspear in Newcastle.
An important paragraph in the Workman of an anarchist gathering at Smithfield appeared in early October. It is written in such a way as to blur the line between correspondent (Andrews?) and editor (Brady):
[A] conference of anarchists was held on Tuesday night, 13th, at the group operating centre at Smithfield to take into consideration matters connected with the propaganda. It was resolved in view of the enlargement of operations to establish a distinct propagandist group apart from all other considerations. The Mildura (Vic) group forwarded the sum of 10/- towards the propaganda fund. Since the initiation of the movement about 5000 leaflets of various sorts, some of which have received considerable notice have been distributed. The local ' centre has been supplied with numerous selections of anarchist literature and a good deal of foreign sources is on the road. It was decided to hold a conference of those interested in the anarchist movement, whether connected with the group or not, every second Tuesday, commencing on the 27th inst., and also a special conference at an early date to provide for the fitting celebration of the 11th November. The meeting concluded with the singing of anarchist songs. We are given to understand that the anarchists are strengthening their numbers, in order, as our enthusiastic correspondent put it 'to take active measures on a more extensive scale'.76
Parkes lost office in October when some of the 'Labor Party' supported Dibbs to try to get the Coal Mines Regulation Bill adopted against Parkes' wishes. Then Dibbs and Reid, the new leader of the Free Trade Party, manipulated a split in 'labor' ranks over the question of a land-value taxation. Brady as editor of a paper supposedly the TLC house-journal and supposedly himself a protectionist, found himself assailed by single-taxers, by TLC officials and by the ASL-repectables. Faced with the loss of another position he made it difficult for anarchists to support him by suggesting they were dangerously impetuous and totally negative:
... When the man at the margin of civilisation [the proletariat] sees that civilisation as it exists, is an unmitigated curse to the great bulk of the human race, he will probably, Samson-like, be inclined to destroy the whole structure and himself with it ... The man at the margin, when educated, is ... almost invariably a violent revolutionist ... The Anarchist demands the retribution of a bloody revolution and after that cares no further - is even content to be a social suicide ... If we do not wish to see a bloody epilogue terminate the drama of human events we should endeavour to work for a peaceable alteration of social conditions [through] ... the principles of co-operation.77
There is a whiff of evidence that single taxers with whom Black and Rosa appear to be flirting, and anarchists were 'running a joint combination'78 just before all this became a public dispute, and there is the following statement of George Black which, if nothing else, displays the widespread interest in decentralised organisation:
[If] every man were employed by the community in the interests of the community, if employers were employed by the community as organisers and superintendents, the work of the community would be considerably better done than it is now, the hours of labor would be fewer and the wages greater.79
While it is possible that Brady thought the anarchists were involved in the plotting of the group opposed to him and perhaps they were, there is no evidence of any positive, direct connection between Andrews and either Black or Rosa. Black, under severe personal attack from Norton almost certainly was looking for some way to answer his attacker editorially.
The Workman's sudden repudiation of revolt follows publication of the anarchist conference report and an ASL protest, first by letter80 and ;then by deputation to the AW Board asking about editorial policy and Maiming that a Brady report of an ASL executive meeting was untrue. Sinclair who had spoken against the anarchists in July, now informed Brady81 that Rosa would provide ASL reports in future.
Thus one could easily come to the conclusion that Brady had by favouring anarchism disturbed the LEL-TLC moderates, and had then attempted to appease them.
However, other evidence indicates that he certainly had not caved in to Rosa and Co, in fact the public fighting became more intense.
In November 1891 Lindsay brought charges in the ASL against Rosa, alleging his complicity in the betrayal of the Chicago anarchists ';:and for using the SDF in Melbourne to get money.82 Lindsay was expelled, however, when he was unable to produce any evidence during the hearing on which Brady and Norton were both asked to speak. Rosa, who claimed Brady feared he was after the editorship of the Workman, that he 'was never an anarchist and never belonged to any anarchist organisation', went on:
In the next place Mr Brady was the paid Secretary of the Socialist League until domestic matters caused him to resign. He still retained his membership and became the champion and protagonist of the Anarchists in whose favor he writes doggerel, and on the night of their expulsion he made a special rhetorical effort on their behalf, but was defeated owing to the speeches of J.D. Fitzgerald and myself. Mr Edwin J. Brady and the other anarchists attribute the expulsion mainly to what I said against the wild, visionary and impracticable tactics of the Anarchists ...
Rosa said he was in Chicago for only half a day in 1886, that he 'was never in any police force, public or private', that he was 'never at any time openly or secretly in relations with the anarchists in Chicago or elsewhere', but that he 'took a prominent part in attempting to organise the forcible release of the anarchists'. Believing in their innocence he, with others, attempted to organise an armed expedition to Chicago of 10,000 men in detachments of 500, moving to surround the jail on a specific date and freeing the prisoners. The scheme was not carried out because of its impracticality, the antipathy of native Americans and English-speaking immigrants to the condemned men, and lack of funds. He denied that he had changed his name since his English Social Democratic days, claimed that he made speeches in California defending the anarchists and he showed membership cards for the Knights of Labor and the Socialist Labor Party of America.83
In a speech to the ASL, he said that if he 'favoured any anarchism it was the communist kind. But the whole theory was unscientific and absolutely impracticable, as long as men were constituted and moulded as at present'.84 He said he was against physical force unless it was going to succeed! In the United States in 1886, he said, the anarchists, except for Parsons, only talked revolution.
Andrews does not appear to have been involved in the secret courier service, nor very close to any of the major players in the strike or election campaign. Those militants who do appear to be in contact with him at this stage do not seem to have benefitted greatly from his particular approach. His 'Anarchy' No.l, produced with Schellenberg to commemorate 11 November and to publicise the exposure of Schaak and Bonfield could have reached only a very small audience. But he was also striking out on yet another unique path. Late in 1891, he was drawing up in formal language requests to legislators for consideration of decentralised social structures. Only fragments survive but his idea seems to be to attempt introduction of a discussion of people's rights, in the areas of food, housing and work, leading to more abstract notions of freedom through petitioning Parliament to pass a Bill incorporating both a National Employment Service and what he calls 'universal discretionary rights' which turn out to be the hallmarks of anarchist-communism. The only way such an amalgam would work is with a massive decentralisation of decision-making power as here being discussed by others, so that the 'State' occupies a co-ordinating role, not an initiating and controlling one. Andrews' suggested Bill had as its various provisions:
There are various difficulties involved in determining the position held by specific people towards decentralised decision-making, quite apart from an individual's unwillingness to be labelled something as controversial as 'anarchist'. There is the context which influences the precise form of the words and concepts for which we are looking; secondly, few public figures spelled out their whole position, and thirdly, the same words meant different things to different people. One example of this is at the heart of this discussion, keeping in mind the historical location of this debate means understanding that the whole struggle for 'labor' parties, for 'one man,[sic] one vote', and for unionisation, was for a significant decentralisation of power, from what was previously the case. Quite crucially therefore it must be understood that 'the State' and 'the community' were often used interchangeably by democrats when they discussed the future. They didn't have the examples of the 20th century from which we draw lessons. They had a great faith in the democratic process which they were struggling to implement, but this by no means necessarily meant Parliamentary representation either. Many were totally opposed to parliamentary involvement. With others the distinction between direct and representative democracy was often not perceived, and many had the first in mind when arguing, on the face of it, for the second.
There was also a negative view of this wider definition of 'the State'. This was derived from Spencer and had been arrived at by MAC anarchists at least
[For] Andrade 'the State' meant not only the centralising influence which makes the law for an entire society, but any sort of aggression that a man or men exercise against other men... For all the party (i.e. the anarchists) 'the State' personnified the governmental idea in all its forms86
Not all labor spokespeople were unaware of, or hostile to centralised State socialism, indeed this became increasingly the standard socialism, but ambiguities within many public statements can be better understood if the above conceptual context is kept in mind.
This realisation changes the way talk of 'labor' governments as employer, in particular should be interpreted. The New Zealand 'Labor ' Government appeared to be showing the way for the transition to democratic forms. It directly employed men:
[who] get the job at schedule prices, are advanced tools, etc, elect their own foreman, and work together as mates, or as a co-operative company and thus save the contractor's profits and bossing.87
Higgs, as Workman editor in February 1891, wrote:
If you workers weren't saturated with reverence for persons in authority and want of confidence in your own abilities, we, by extending the principle of the State as an employer, would soon abolish the sweaters and substitute a healthy, moral state of society, in which everyone who would work, would be well fed and wellclothed.88
Extending the same idea, Plank 11 of the NSW LEL Platform, 26 January, 1892, was 'Local Government and Decentralisation' -in detail: 'The extension of the principle of the Government as an employer, through the medium of local self-governing bodies.' Plank 12 advocated the replacement of 'the present Defence Forces' with a purely voluntary system.
This New Zealand example and the LEL Plank 11 would appear to embrace the confusion of self-governing bodies as government employees, unless the notion of government itself is re-interpreted, as suggested above, in a libertarian way. Pressure for this re-interpretation clearly increased after the 1891-intake of 'labor' politicians showed how much they resembled their non-'labor' counterparts. The Bulletin repeatedly after 1891 expressed hopes that parliamentary politics would `be done away with. One example, in September 1893, was the reprinting of the 'Argument in Favour of the Motion of the Swiss Organisations to the International Socialist Workers Congress, 1893'. The piece is introduced with a statement that the Bulletin doesn't agree with all details, yet recommends it to 'all Democrats', summarising the document and its own belief as follows:
The rule of the people can only come about through the destruction of the present parliamentary system and the substitution of the Initiative and the Referendum.89
These two together are called 'direct legislation by the people'. This paragraph was a reflection of the fact that the International Socialist Workers Congress in Zurich, at which Francis Sceusa was the delegate from Australia, had passed a resolution which said:
(Considering) that the law is the written interest of the law-maker, ... that experience has shown that representative bodies represent capitalists rather than workers, ... that wherever parliamentary government is supreme it had led to corruption and the betrayal of the people; and that only by the direct intervention of the people in the making of the laws will the people come to understand their own strength, (my emphasis) the strength necessary to free the working class - declared that as a preliminary means towards the abolition of all class rule the working class must support ... direct legislation by the people, and that the people shall exercise the right of proposing laws and the right of voting upon the laws proposed.90
Interestingly, as we shall see, Sceusa is one of those involved in secret discussions about revolutionary tactics in 1892 in Sydney.
W.G.Spence, perhaps the most important union leader of the period, advocated the widely-held view of fitness for citizenship being determined by economic and physical independence which clarified this libertarian view:
No people are self-reliant who are under the control of landlords or who depend on another man, for the right to work for daily bread.91
Arthur Rae, a prominent free trader, as 'Hank Morgan' argued for an extension of this principle into autonomous regional union groupings in Australian Labor Federation, the projected forerunner of the ACTU, (ALF):
I believe that the absolute freedom and independence of every unit is the surest and safest guarantee for the cordial and permanent duration of their combination in one grand and effective body.92
Rae could have been quoting Andrews when at a Memorial Meeting for the 1871 Paris Commune he said:
the Commune was simply a desire of Paris to control its affairs, a fight for local self-government. If they [ie. Australians] would avoid discontent, they must establish local self-government.93
A ballot circular issued at the time of the vote to establish Wagga District Council of the ALF and which is probably from him said in part:
While allowing absolute self-government in all centres of population where District Councils are formed, the [projected] scheme provides for a bond of union among the working masses ... which was so lacking ... [in 1890].
His pamphlet 'Land for the People' is extremely libertarian.94
Although the decentralisers would tend to opt not to be involved in Parliamentary politics, it is by no means clear that the reverse was the case -that those interested in Parliamentary careers were uninfluenced by .notions of decentralised power; Black, above, and JD Fitzgerald, a protectionist and careerist, argued for locally-established courts of ?-`.'bitration, one of which officiated in the Pyrmont laundry strike and produced a decision for the staff.95 Similarly but from a different ideological perspective, Frank Cotton argued:
There is no hope for labour until it stands upon its own feet and demands the right to keep the wealth it produces instead of whining about wanting protection.96
It is important to note which side 'Billy' Lane was on. As a highly visible and most articulate labor journalist he reached a larger audience than any other labor spokesperson. He at least was quite clear in early 1890 about the key component, decision making power, in alternative 'socialisms':
A socialist is simply a believer in collectivism, that is , in united social action for common social objects ... The true State Socialist believes that the government should boss the entire show, the true anarchical-socialist holds that co-operation should be always and entirely voluntary.
[The] average socialist holds opinions mid-way between the two considering that some actions are best carried on nationally and compulsorily, and others locally and voluntarily.97
He chose equally clearly his side in the debate about parliamentary representation:
I am myself of opinion that what we call our 'free-born' parliamentary government is simply a grudgingly yielded modification of despotic authority based not on the consent of the governed but on the strength of the brutal conquerors.98
He suggested unemployed demonstrations were ineffective99 and saw the scramble for political positions by the city-based labor movement as another reason for recruiting his 'New Australians' from the country. This he set about doing in late 1891.
In January, 1892, after Black replaced Brady as editor of the Workman, and Brady had joined Norton at Truth, charges were brought by Hickman against Rosa of misappropriation of ASL funds. An enquiry, at the same time as the second TLC attempt to explore Creo Stanley's handling of her Pyrmont co-operative laundry, absolved him of fraud but reported that ASL books were not kept properly. Rosa resigned and went to Melbourne to contest elections there. Two TLC enquiries into her running of the Laundry found against Stanley for what appear to be unreasonable reasons. She and her supporters refused to appear or turn over the books to anyone but Truth, but in print she herself described the laundry's workings as 'communistic' in these terms:
The girls ... [provide] their meals on the premises, living and laboring in harmony without the intervention of unnecessary authority, and dividing equally among themselves weekly the net profits resulting from their labors. 100
She also went to Melbourne, in her case to set up another Cooperative Laundry, but found the going hard and the THC-males unresponsive. She returned to Sydney and to Leigh House for just one last speaking engagement which was on the need for purification and reorganisation of the 'Labor Party'. A 'small but appreciative audience' heard her denounce the 'false priests and traitors' and the parasites with 'their fingers in the dish'. She castigated the TLC for not supporting the Co-operative Laundry, 'the first attempt at genuine co-operation in NSW' and she suggested necessary reforms.101 These have not `survived.
Brady, was, for the Workman at least, the man 'who preaches 'anarchy and writes anarchistic poems' yet 'inconsistently' had taken his estranged wife to court for assault.
Up-to-the-knees in blood, barricade fighter, Brady, the individual who has travelled for 2 years on the alleged loss of a 30s. billet having given evidence of his inability to run Workman is now giving strong testament of his capability to run it down. 102
At the same time Truth was accusing Rosa of being in Melbourne only to organise criminals and others in a militant League of the Just'.
These two attacks, while there may be a logical basis for them, are both smears, and sadly, both use images of violent revolution as the means of denigration. Black, years later, described the persons who brought charges against Rosa as anarchists and revolutionists who were 'agin everything and everybody ... Their charges were without foundation and when they were revived by Truth103 I went into the witness box ... in [Rosa's] favour which extracted an apology from Norton [a damages award of 15 pounds], and an offer of employment for Rosa'.104
The judge's summing up in this case (September 1892) included one of the few reasonable judicial remarks anarchism was to receive in 1890s New South Wales: 'It was quite possible ... to imagine a socialist or an anarchist who would scorn to do a dishonest action, to pick a pocket or be guilty of any act of wrongdoing'.105