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Anarchism in Sydney 1982-2002
Anarchism in two bookshops



1989 Black Rose Poster advertising the move to Newtown     Jura Poster advertising 110 Crystal St
1989 Black Rose Poster advertising the move to Newtown and the 1989? Jura Poster advertising 110 Crystal St Petersham
by John Englart, July 2002

Anarchism in Sydney 1975-1981 covered some of the events and major conflicts in the years 1975 to 1981 within anarchism in Australia, and Sydney in particular. John Englart continues the story of Anarchism in Sydney in documenting the split in the Jura Books Collective during 1982 and in this article, brief details of the two anarchist bookshops, Jura Books and Blackrose, up to 2002.

It is appropriate to examine this history as Jura Books celebrates its 25th anniversary in August 2002, while Blackrose celebrates its 20th anniversary in September 2002. The anarchist movement in Sydney is more than the two bookshops and their collective members, but they have provided a pivotal focus for educational and direct action activities for the movement over the last two decades.

Takver, August 2002


Contents

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Two Sydney Anarchist Bookshops 1982-2002

Black Rose

The first year of the Black Rose Collective were spent on collective processes and setting up bookshop work systems. The collective was often an intense commitment, but was not without benefits to members often involving substantial personal growth and acquisition of personal, collective and business skills.

In 1983, on the first anniversary of Black Rose opening, the collective ran bookstalls at gigs of San Fransisco punk band 'The Dead Kennedys'. The band were asked to do a benefit gig for the bookshop. They rang back to give the go ahead with just 48 hours notice with a stipulation that the venue be accessible to all ages - ie no alcohol licence restrictions on who could attend. The Black Rose Collective managed to organise a successful benefit at the Settlement in Chipendale.

Black Rose collective with Darren and Jello from Dead Kennedys September 1983 - Black Rose Collective celebrating 1st birthday with the Dead Kennedys
L to R: Diane, Jello, Lyn, Alan, Darren, Richard, Greg, John, Margaret.

In June 1984 members of the Jura Collective and others decided to organise a conference: 1984 and Social Control. Blackrose was approached to contribute to the program. Blackrose discussed the conference and offered to organise an alternative stream of workshops on collectivity, consenus decision making, working in small groups. The conference organisers rejected this proposal, and said only individual workshops would be accepted. This was rejected by the Black Rose collective. Which is why no workshops were organised by Blackrose members, though we did attend with a bookstall along with Jura Books. In more recent accounts in the Anarchist Network Newsletter in the 1990s this censorship is denied by Sid Parissi.

Music was an important content in Black Rose from the start, with large shipments of anarchist and punk records from England, including the records by anarchist bands CRASS, Poison Girls, Chumbawumba, Flux of Pink Indians, MDC, Subhumans etc. The music attracted a young audience, and helped politicise many. In 1983 and again in 1984 Blackrose organised the Crassart exhibition at the Art Unit, a local gallery and performance space. The exhibition also travelled to Brisbane and Melbourne at the behest of local anarchist groups and was displayed in the Performing Arts Museum in Melbourne.

As BlackRose in the early years was located close to the aboriginal community in Redfern, emphasis was also placed on books on the invasion, colonisation, exploitation and oppression of indigenous Australians.

Black Rose at Confest - 1983 December 1983 - Black Rose tent in the Self Management Village at Down to Earth Confest near Wangarratta
During the early years, the Blackrose collective was a major contributor to Confests organised by Victorian Down to Earth Foundation. Black Rose organised the self-management village at several festivals, assisted with security, provided a Sydney outlet for tickets, and contributed many workshops on collectives, self-management, anarchism, sexuality, etc.

In 1986, the collective devoted much time to a differential analysis of its own practice and other autonomous collectives and groups (both anarchist and campaign or project oriented). This document: The Aims and objectives of the anarchist movement, was presented in part at the Australian Anarchist Centenary conference in Melbourne in May 1986.

By 1989 all the original founding members had left the collective. The shop had been forced to move to 583a King street Newtown. The collective had trouble keeping the shop open, paying the rent, and in acquiring new stock. A fire in the shop took its toll in damaging some stock. Yet the shop still provided a focus for activity and community.

In April 1995 the media room project was expelled from the Jura Books building, which subsequently relocated to Black Rose as the Catalyst collective. The Catalyst collective has been instrumental in developing the computer code for the International Indymedia websites (www.indymedia.org) and the Active calendar websites (www.active.org.au) in Australia.

At the end of 1998, with the gentrification of King Street Newtown and rising rents, Black Rose had to move again, into a warehouse at 17 Lord street, Newtown, opposite St Peters station.

In the last few years Black Rose has faced difficult times: rent increases, drop in sales and fluctuation in the collective. The repercussion of this being: not open regularly; decline in stock; collective members burning out; losing connection with the community.

We received word that a like minded group of environmental activist were setting up a ware-house in the area. After some discussion we arrived at an agreement. Unfortunately due to council regulations on the use of the ware-houses, it has become apparent that Black Rose will not be able to operate as a bookshop. This has forced Black Rose to reassess it's direction. As a result of this Black Rose will change it's focus from a bookshop to:

  1. Anarchist info and resource center, which will incorporate an extensive library and information on current issues, as well as such resources as community access computer and photocopier.
  2. a mail order service
  3. meeting place.
Black Rose late 20th century Catalogue

April 2002 - Black Rose Bookshop on Regent Street
April 2002 - Black Rose Bookshop on Regent Street
They moved in by February 1999 to share this space with other progressive groups such as Friends of the Earth and Catalyst/Sydney Indymedia.

In November 2001, the bookshop moved to 83 Regent Street, Chippendale. This is located close to Broadway, Central Station and the Sydney University of Technology Main Tower block. Regent street also has the Freethought Bookshop run by the Rationalists Association.

Over the years the Black Rose range of stock has declined, partly due to restrictions on trading at Lord street. The period at Lord street did build up membership of the Library at Black Rose to over a 100 members. The present location of Black Rose promises a revival of collective activity for the future. Black Rose collective members were instrumental in organising the From Resurgence to Insurgence - Sydney Anarchist & Autonomist Conference in April 2002, and did a bookstall at this conference.


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Jura Books

Jura Books has continued. In the years after the split, it was often difficult to staff the shop for full business hours. Many people assisted by just staffing the shop, without attending business meetings or undertaking the back room jobs associated with the shop. Antonio Jimenez and Jack Grancharoff are prominent examples of anarchists who helped keep Jura Books open during this period and later.

In 1987 the landlord announced that he intended to put the building up for sale. Jura Books decided to launch an appeal to raise the estimated $85,000 required to buy the building, or an appropriate other building for a permanent home. By June 1988 nearly $50,000 had been raised by donations and pledges, a building to purchase had been found at 110 Crystal Street Petersham, and a bank loan for $68,000 was organised. A registered non-profit body, Anarchist Resources Incorporated, was formed to be the building owner which would then lease it to the Jura Collective.

Jura Poster advertising 110 Crystal St
1989? Jura Poster advertising 110 Crystal St Petersham
The new building was on a busy road with little passing pedestrian traffic. A lack of people to do shifts resulted in the shop being open for limited hours. In 1991 a May Day picnic was organised and jointly sponsored with Black Rose Bookshop. The following four years saw increasing rapprochement between the two anarchist bookshops and their milieus. Peter McGregor comments:

While Jura was stronger monetarily ('capital'), Black Rose was stronger in people ('labor') power. Common projects were launched through this rapprochement: quarterly gatherings (Pow Wows), a quarterly newsletter, an anarchist information/media room facility (initially located, by mutual agreement, at 110 Crystal St.) and a conference ('Visions of Freedom', in January 1995) However, within Jura hostility developed as the terms of a specific collaboration between Jura and Black Rose were discussed openly. A 'faction' in Jura refused to participate in, or even allow the holding of a Jura meeting, called specifically to discuss whether Jura and Black Rose would in turn hold a meeting to discuss collaboration.

Peter went on to criticize collective processes:

While Jura may call itself anarchist because of the content of the material it sells, its process can't even pretend to be anarchistic. Mark and Graham - you can't have a collective without some collective processes --occasional, if not regular meetings, and / or other common, shared, egalitarian interactions.
Open letter to Sydney (& other) anarchists by Peter McGregor 26 Sep 1995

In April 1995 Mark McGuire and Graham Purchase expelled the media room project from the Jura Books building, which subsequently relocated to Black Rose as the Catalyst collective.

By the end of the year Jura was again the centre of a crisis which involved the broader anarchist community in Sydney and even further abroad. Here is an open letter circulated about the crisis, published in full:

An Open Letter About The Situation At Jura Books, Sydney (Australia)

The statement you are now reading is endorsed by the undersigned and includes a list of those willing to take on the development of a functioning anarchist collective from the ruins of Jura. An alternative collective made up of people nominated by Sid, Erst, Jamie, Julie, Leanne &/or other Jura/ARI people would be equally acceptable. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear Friends,

At the moment the Sydney anarchist community is in crisis due to a growing problem at Jura Bookshop. We feel that you should be informed of recent events as we are aware that you deal with Jura commercially, and that you are anarchists yourselves.

This statement was initially presented to ARI/Jura supporters, & now since their response has been to reject our analysis herein, we are issuing it to Jura's suppliers/ customers / etc., and anarchists at large (eg. via submitting it as an open letter to anarchist media).

Many people feel that the shop should be boycotted because it is under the control of a small self-interested clique who alienate potential collective members and deny the community access to the shop's resources. Not only do new people find it impossible to participate meaningfully or completely in the collective, but a number of ex-members will testify to being excluded from the collective through various means. For instance, although the shop calls its management a collective, during 1994 it operated without a collective meeting for five months. We gather there were very few meetings during 1995 (see Jura's Minutes from its Communications Book.)

Anarchist processes & methods of organisation are absent or over-ruled. For instance, in spite of a minuted agreement at a meeting, that book orders must be approved by the collective before dispatch, Graham Purchase continued to make orders unilaterally. This is indicative of his personal style which is bullying and autocratic.

Then there is Mark McGuire, whose politics and inability/ refusal to communicate with people on an individual level make him anathema to the majority of Sydney @s. Communications have been received indicating that MM's standing with his anarcho-syndicalist comrades in Melbourne and other cities is no better. Questions remain concerning his longstanding monopolisation of printing facilities connected with Jura.

Attempts have been made to put it to Sid Parissi and other ARI (Anarchist Resources Incorporated) members that: the Jura Books Collective (JBC) is being used as a vehicle for the projects of two individuals, that their relationship with the rest of the community is at best poor at worse hostile, and that ARI's statements of non-hierarchical processes are being violated.

Note that ARI is an incorporated non-profit entity with the primary purpose of buying 110 Crystal St., Petersham as premises for Jura, an anarchist bookshop collective. They are effectively JBC's landlords.The members of ARI had been - until very recently - GP, MM & Joanne D (all of the JBC), & only three others.

While even capitalist corporations conduct elections (of a sort), & provide annual reports to their constituencies, neither Jura nor ARI practice such minimal accountability. Nevertheless, ARI's incorporation with the Corporate Affairs Commission (NSW) does involve a 'constitution' of Objects ('aims') & Rules. There is no membership of ARI other than the 6 people who at any point of time are ARI. ARI would appear to be seriously flawed, both as a self-proclaimed anarchist 'association', operating without anarchist processes; & also as a supposedly community organisation, operating without its community ("(ARI) shall be comprised of known anarchists of long standing."(Object 1)). Most such community organisations are expected - both as a legal requirement, & as accountability to their membership /community - to hold AGMs where they firstly present financial, secretarial & other reports; & then, in order to carry out the work of the organisation for the forthcoming year, conduct an election for office bearers.

While the ARI AGM (21/10/1995) went through the motions of the former procedure, there wasn't even a pretense at the latter; the AGM Minutes confirm this.

Yet the Rules of ARI specify that 2 members shall be elected (by the existing members (!), at each AGM. Should there be no other nominations (!), the incumbents can be declared re-elected, for a maximum of 3 consecutive terms for any member (!). Not having elections is a clear breach of the Rules of incorporation, & it allows the existing members to maintain control; thus trampling upon both (i) the principles of the organisation, let alone of anarchism, & (ii) the trust of the supporters of Jura & ARI who have contributed financially & in other ways, to Jura's existence over the last 18 years.

The Rules indicate which 2 of the 6 members were due to stand down (ie., who was up for re-election). We hereby call upon ARI to explain such breaches of its constitution, including the naming of the 2 relevant members. (We've just heard that MM has been replaced on ARI - the constitutionality of this is unclear - see above.)

Until very recently (published on 24 Jan 1996 on ausanet), Jura had no written 'constitution'. However, these published 'Aims & Principles' are roughly equivalent to the previous unwritten constitution/rules. Just as over the last 2 or so years the practices of the Jura Books Collective have been almost the opposite of such aims/principles, what guarantee/proof/evidence is there that Jura has now changed & will practice these principles?

We are a loose affinity group that has taken as its aim the maintenance of pressure on ARI/Jura's corrupt management group. Its concern is not a take over or an exercise in the acquisition/accumulation of resources. Indeed our critique has clearly stated from the outset that such abuses could be simply prevented in the establishment of a viable collective. We have been variously characterised as: a plot by Peter McGregor, a plot by Black Rose (the other anarchist bookshop in Sydney) and most recently a group that simply wants to physically injure MM. If only it was that simple ! Such claims will continue to be made no matter how obviously false. Bitchy personal exchanges allow Jura/ARI to conceal the real debate in the same way that capitalist social relationships are concealed in economics. In addition to this they perform a diversionary role with respect to the main game, which reached a point of no return in the events at the Jura OPEN DAY (9/12/1995).

We don't have the time or space for a blow by blow account here. The objectives of the group that met at a local pub were varied. Some had been invited to observe, others wanted to lend moral support and most had agreed to distribute a collectively produced leaflet. This had not been copied in time for the Open Day and Dominic Doyle went off to do so, while the rest of the group walked up for Bernhard's talk ( Open Day began with Bernhard Huber on - somewhat ironically - 'Censorship, the Internet & the Ultra-right'.) Let us make clear from the outset that we do not view it as destructive for anarchists, or anyone for that matter, to raise genuine questions, even problems/criticisms at an open day. You might even say that a vigorous group would welcome this in good faith.

This was not the case with Jura however and even before the arrival of the belated leaflet, genuine questions had taken on a threatening aura for MM. This precipitated his attempt to manage questions and culminated in his bizarre attempt to strangle Peter McGregor. With the eventual arrival of the leaflet all pretensions of civility were dropped. Harry was knocked to the ground by GP, who then told everybody to get out; attempting to herd Harry and anyone else in front of him out of the shop by pushing and yelling "Everyone out!". His disturbance was minor but led to increased tension with most people including members of the public, obviously checking out exits. Shortly after this MM emerged from behind the (Jura) shop counter with a three foot mattock handle. He moved toward the centre of the room with this raised over his right shoulder. MM was quickly disarmed and the mattock handle was removed from the building. These incidents are the most disturbing developments thus far and probably did the most damage in the eyes of the public and former supporters. It must be said however that the general mood was better following MM's being disarmed. A violent and dangerous confrontation had been averted by the calm co-operative actions of those in the crowd with each other's safety foremost in their minds. Four or more people closest to MM had co-operated in his being disarmed. These same individuals then demonstrated enormous restraint by making no further move toward MM. Heated verbal exchanges that occurred at this time have been used by Jura to characterise individuals as having had violent intentions from the outset. (*)

A number of changes are necessary to allow Jura to again function fully in the anarchist community. Firstly, both Mark and Graham should cease their involvement in the collective as they have become intolerable to work with. Besides this, their methods and ways of relating are anathema to anarchist principles and as such damage the credibility of the bookshop (and by extension, the community) inestimably. We would like to stress that our main goal is to see a functioning collective put in place, and not to effect a 'takeover' of the shop ourselves. It is immaterial to us who runs the shop, given that those people use collective processes and adhere to anarchist politics in their practice: needless to say (?) this would include mechanisms for resolving conflicts. After much discussion and concern within the community, a number of people have come forward and expressed commitment to running the shop effectively in the absence of Mark and Graham. These people are Harry, Dominic, Paul, Rose and Suzanne. Three of these people have already been members of the Jura collective and, as far as they were allowed to participate, are aware of the necessary shop processes. Alternatively, people could be called upon to nominate themselves; we would be willing to support a collective suggested by Jura/ARI, on the condition that it either excludes Mark and Graham, or at least suspends them until they provide evidence of changed behaviour/attitudes. Reforms of ARI are also justified/needed.

Finally we would like to point out that this letter is written independently of Black Rose, and is based on the experiences & observations of a diverse range of people. At the moment the tactic Jura is using to discredit the protests of the community has been to blame Peter individually, initially as a 'lifestylist infiltrator', or more recently as a 'liar', & 'trotskyist', or to characterise Black Rose as attempting to take control of the shop. On the contrary, we are a loosely affiliated group of anarchists who have come together over this issue.

While we welcome, in principle, the recent offer (25 January) by the Anarchist Media Institute (Melbourne) to act as a mediator of this dispute, we reiterate it is people within the Jura/ARI milieu who have previously refused to engage in debate/dialogue. Although ARI has now endorsed mediation, we have doubts about its viability, at this stage.

In conclusion, while there do seem to be attempts at reform within Jura/ARI, we nevertheless urge anarchists to boycott Jura until it embraces in deeds & practices the kind of anarchist processes we've discussed.

Over to you ...

8th March 1996

--------------------------------------------
(*) George Black ( as a non-aligned, overseas visitor/witness to the Open Day, George merely endorses the account given here of Open Day)

endorsed by the following people (Sydney-based unless otherwise indicated) -

Peter McGregor (ex-Jura)
Harry Robinson (ex-Jura)
Haron Moses (ex-Jura)
Jake Rance (ex-Jura)
Paul Walters (ex-Jura, Black Rose)
Dominic Doyle (ex-Jura, Black Rose)
Stuart Gilmour (Black Rose)
Rose Johnson (Black Rose)
Dan Andrews (Black Rose)
John Jacobs (catalyst media room)
Suzanne Fraser (catalyst)
Caroline Graham
Hans Post (NSW country)
Monique Potts
Val Plumwood (NSW - country)
Chuck
Darcy Waters
Leigh Kendall (founding member of ASF (Aust.) - Melbourne)
Wal Larkin (ex-ASF, IWW - NSW country)
Brenton O'Loughlin( ex-ASF, Angry People - Melbourne)
Ray Elbourne (IWW - NSW country)
Keith Aggro (Angry People)

Crisis at Jura Books - 1995/1996
Downloaded from www.ainfos.ca/A-Infos96/3/0097.html

April 2002 - Jura Books on Parramatta Road
April 2002 - Jura Books on Parramatta Road
In 1998 ARI sold their Crystal street premises and bought a property at 440 Parramatta Road, Leichhardt, a much better street location for Jura Books. They opened at their new location on May Day. But problems continue to occur. In 2000 Guy Westmore, an anarcho-syndicalist from Melbourne worked in Jura for 10 months before being summarily expelled.

I wasn't asked to attend to answer any concerns, criticisms or accusations whatever they may have been, just told about it over the phone. All that was said was that I didn't have any feeling of collectivity!?! I guess I should have seen it coming...Sid TOLD me two weeks ago that my "only reason for moving to Sydney was to subvert and spy on Jura"

This comes on the back of Mark's earlier attempt to have me expelled when I was accused of being an "ultra-sectarian pseudo-tribalist" (again over the phone, not face-to-face).

Strangely enough I'm not that upset. If I'd just been expelled from an anarchist collective, I'd be a bit depressed, but after 10 months at Jura it is more than clear that Jura is neither anarchist nor collective.

I am however, deeply disappointed. I have been encouraging people in Sydney to go to Jura (most anarchists avoid it like the plague) to try and bring it back into the anarchist community. Obviously Jura doesn't want anything to do with the anarchist community. I guess I feel more embarassed than anything else. Apologies to all those older, wiser anarchists who tried to tell me what Jura was like. I didn't really listen because I didn't believe it could be as bad as everyone said. I was wrong. It's worse.

Email from Guy dated 8 November 2000

In August 2002 Jura will celebrate 25 years of operation as a bookshop. Looking at the history, the Jura Collective continues to have problems of informal hierarchy, and individuals using the collective as their private fiefdom. What the 'Synthetic' caucus in Jura warned about twenty years ago in terms of poor collective processes has continued. While Mark McGuire's violence during the split in 1982 attracted no condemnation from the 'Pan' group, it has allowed Mark Maguire to gain confidence that violence is a successful tool to use against comrades that he has ideological conflicts with, such as at the Jura Open Day in December 1995.

When I visited the bookshop in April 2002, the shelves were well stocked, although some of the titles were 'old stock'. The shop is only open very limited hours a few days a week, which reduces its potential for passing trade, and for people to visit. This would seem to indicate the collective is quite small and overcommitted. Periodically a Jura newsletter is published with new titles, discussion evenings, and news on building maintenance and the Jura Collective. It is perhaps saddening that such a resource, initially financed by substantial donations from a cross-section of libertarians and anarchists in Australia, fails in implementing collective processes on an anarchist basis, and is shunned by many local anarchists.

Yet I need to acknowledge that the people that I know who are still involved in Jura have the best intentions. But they also seem to shun dialog with other anarchists: at the Resurgence to Insurgence. Sydney Anarchist & Autonomist Conference in April 2002, a Jura Books stall was notably absent from the event.

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References

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Last modified: August 8, 2002

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