Burgmann has emphasised the widespread 1890’s expectation that a socialist society was more than possible, it was imminent, but she did not follow through to the obvious consequence, the political dynamic this must have set up within ‘the movement’ and around it. Many ‘socialists’ were desperate to see that Australian cities did not emulate Chicago, or the numerous European cities seemingly besieged by ‘bloodthirsty anarchists’ in the years following and recoiled at the juxtaposition. Others thought that the northern hemisphere was showing the way forward. They argued, exchanged books and tried to co-ordinate their thinking with their acting. An agitation to get government work for unemployed Sydney men begun in January by a ‘J Gardner’, persisted and grew to a point where ASL personnel took it over. Their public face ‘W Lee’ was asked on 11th February about rumours going round about insecure banks to which he said he replied that he’d heard them but hoped they weren’t true. The next morning’s newspapers blamed him for causing a run on the Savings Bank of NSW begun the previous day and had resulted in 50,000 pounds worth of gold leaving with anxious customers. Lee, a delegate to the TLC was harassed and humiliated by Brennan and other Council heavies, apparently for causing unnecessary panic. The run had started hours before Lee spoke at the statue, but the incident highlighted the tension between the LEL and the TLC which was, particularly, opposed to any activity on behalf of the unemployed. It also highlighted how the tremulous nature of public affairs was being shaped and fought over in the press. A reporter from the Illustrated Sydney News supposedly going home from work around 9.00pm passed on at that hour what he claimed to hear a statue speaker say about the need for account holders to withdraw their money from ‘a Bank in Barrack street’. This was apparently enough for the next day’s dailies, for Dibbs to be asked questions in parliament and out, for the Bank to issue a number of statements and for Lee to be taken severely to task. The unfortunate unemployed, variously described as ‘anarchists’, ‘ruffians’ and ‘loafers’, received free rail passes to leave town and the bank ‘returned to normal’.
The ‘beat-ups’ and the lurid headlines made local manifestations of anarchy or anarchism a major problem for everyone in ‘the movement’. The undeniable, negative use of the terms has overshadowed their positive use and the widespread interest in the local personalities engaging with the same dilemmas. Whether being cursed, praised or manipulated, ‘anarchism’ or ‘anarchy’ were words which everyone thought they knew something about. The overseas reports fed into crowd energies and gave direction to agitation. When Queensland Cabinet members alleged assassination plots against them in July, claims they later said resulted from overwork, they were playing inside that socialist/anarchist dynamic. When The Sydney Morning Herald attached local ‘revolutionary’ speeches to ‘sensational’ 1st May messages from Europe, it did so with purpose:
Extensive Precautions in Paris The City In a State of Siege
The Shops Everywhere Closed Extensive Military Precautions
Numerous Arrests of Anarchists…
The SMH could not know that while it was exploiting what it thought was a short-term phenomenon it was adding to the drama around ‘May Day’ and ensuring its longevity. In Melbourne, Fleming’s approach emphasised parades and self-help, the libertarian alternative to disciplined workers and lectures of industrial production. He reminded his audience of the sense of celebration the first May Day parade in Chicago had had in 1886 – ‘marching bands of un-uniformed working men and women’ in ‘great festivals and musical pageants through garlanded streets and pleasure gardens’. Meals were cooked and served by the unemployed themselves on the banks of the Yarra using a system of meal tickets. Women were prominent and held their own meetings. Doubtless this is where the romance between McNamara and the woman later designated the ‘mother of Australian socialism’ developed. ‘The Salvage Corps’ – groups of unemployed, dodging bullets on at least one occasion – forcibly returned furniture to people evicted or forced to give up furniture to bailiffs in lieu of rent. The police regularly intervened against the daily and nightly demonstrations, ‘banners flying and torches flaring’. Sixty officers and men shepherded one, and a plain-clothes Constable Wardley was permanently on surveillance duty. Reports quote Fleming, Mellor and Flinn urging the poor to take what they wanted, squat in houses, smash windows, visit Toorak and St Kilda and ‘drop a bob’. John White, urging ‘one man, one rifle’ was supposedly ‘of little consequence’ yet he was often arrested, usually on flimsy charges, eg, on 11 July 1892 for handing out Andrews’s manifesto which, it was claimed, had no publisher’s imprint.
Andrews has left striking descriptions of the hovels he and Fleming shared, hovels made a little cheaper by the anti-rent agitation. Fleming perhaps fancied himself a parliamentary billet and was speaking regularly on behalf of the Single Tax. The Workman in February suggested he, in Fitzroy, and Rosa and Flinn in South Carlton could all get PPL nominations, the same month incidentally that Winspear became a Hamilton (NSW) town councillor. In March, Melbourne Punch attacked the labor movement in general with a collection of outrageous cartoons, and text, about ‘King Working Man’. The Argus reported the Fitzroy PPL ballot for pre-selection going to Rosa and Moffatt after two ballots, with Fleming third. Editorially, the paper called Rosa a ‘journeyman agitator’, ‘anarchist’ and ‘perhaps the worst example of the destructive communist we have in our midst’. Rosa retorted that his speeches were echoing Cardinal Manning’s words that the starving were justified in breaking the law. His nomination was then rejected by the Central Executive of the PPL because of the furore and because a letter came from Fitzroy PPL. He then blamed Fleming for the loss of the nomination and had him, Fleming, deposed as president of Fitzroy PPL. Fleming then publicly abused Rosa from his Yarra Bank ‘stand’ and the dispute became physical.
Whether piqued at not gaining preselection, Fleming continued the activities that had earned him the label of ‘uncrowned king of the unemployed’. He was beaten again, this time by ‘pugilists’ hired by ‘liberal’ candidate and lawyer Best and was in bed for a week. He wrote that: ’If force had been used at a Labor candidate’s meeting we would never have heard the end of it.’ The Commonweal and Workers Advocate (C & WA – Aug 1891-Oct 1892), the official organ of the Victorian TLC, was supportive of Fleming and contemptuous of Rosa. In April, the Argus re-printed a long, critical editorial titled ‘History of the Trades Hall Political Movement’ as a pamphlet. In it ‘socialist Rosa’ is one of a group of ‘rash and mischievous men who are a danger to society’. Using him as the measure and ‘one man-one vote’ as the alleged strategy, the item insists that the election of any of these men would result in a series of frightening consequences:
No strike can be successful so long as order is preserved, therefore the intention is to manacle the executive in view of coming fights between capital and labour …If the Trades-Hall is opposed there will be bloodshed, and all the time the police and the military will be kept in barracks.
At a meeting he initiated and chaired as the first open air ‘May Day’ meeting in Melbourne, ‘Chummy’ (Fleming) jokingly moved a resolution thanking the National Association of the Patriotic League and the Employers’ Union for ‘the valuable revolutionary and democratic work’ they had done during recent Victorian and Queensland elections by moving to exclude thousands of working men from the electoral rolls. He saw these attempts as argument for ‘universal labor federation and national co-operation’. His motion was seconded by ‘Mr Lee of Sydney’ and supported by Knights of Labor missionary from the USA, WW Lyght. The first resolution, expressing solidarity with workers internationally and protesting the plutocratic policy of ‘bayonets, bullets, police plots and wholesale disenfranchisements’, was moved by McNamara and seconded by Dr Maloney MP. McNamara spoke against anarchists and for socialism, while Maloney said he himself was not an anarchist but deeply respected Kropotkin and Spencer, who were. Trenwith, newly-elected leader of the Victorian ‘labor’ MPs was publicly repudiated at Fleming-chaired meetings:
Dr Maloney and D.R. Wylie are the only labor members that really assist the unemployed. Trenwith who wears a bell-topper, says the leaders are not respectable.
The Bulletin maintained its cynical, but anti-authority approach:
As matters stand at present, there have been about three genuine Anarchist plots discovered, and two of them were apparently fomented and created by Government spies …Also several police officers have ‘found bombs’ in several places and been rewarded for their courage and vigilance, and so long as the rewards hold out, they will continue to discover bombs…
Lawson wrote of ‘May Day in Europe’ for this issue of The Bulletin. One verse ran:
This is not the petty struggle of a State against a State,
But a Universal Rising of the victims of the Great!
Here they Come!
Oh! Here they Come!
They have lived, my God! and suffered in the cabin and the slum!
Here they Come!
Petrie’s motion was the first put at a day-time meeting organised by the ASL but boycotted by the TLC where he asked the crowd to affirm the 1889 Paris resolution of the International Labour Congress suggesting 1 May be celebrated throughout the world.
Petrie, Sceusa, Fleming and White, among other advocates of ‘May Day’, have not become labour history ‘darlings’ because of it being in conflict for hearts and minds with the longer-standing celebration of ‘eight hours day’ by trade unionists. For all the TLC’s knew, May 1 may have been a conspiracy by labour’s enemies to undermine their struggle for better working conditions. (I have detailed the broader conflict in my PhD thesis, Carnival and Labour History…etc, Newcastle U, 1994) This reaction was understandable if short-sighted and unhealthy when solidarity was required. There was also the difficult fact that the advocates of May Day were defining industrial struggle differently, and where that class analysis was being modified, by the Webbs, for example, the gap between what the TUs might except and what the May Day lot were claiming, widened not narrowed. The rank-and-file trade union activist just about got his head around the debates over political representation but his organisation was a protective fraternal society, not an outward-looking universal faith. Getting a stable, competent TLC up was hard enough, get me a shorter working day and I’ll think about what comes next.
The labour wannabes who had little or no urban trade union background were almost as foreign to a rank-and-file unionist as a non-english language speaker and Hughes, Holman and the rest had to work very hard to be accepted as possible representatives, but in the meantime, they had to keep the ‘May Dayers’ on side since their’s was the more attractive ideology, and they had the energy.
In May, 1891, Brady was probably writing Truth editorials since Norton was in court defending his case against Black before 29 June and on an extended ‘booze-up’ afterwards, but the paper’s anti-anarchist rhetoric retains the same style throughout. That of 1 May 1892, a long piece called ‘Socialism and Anarchy’, must feature in any collection of the tawdriest of anti-anarchist polemics. It held that the police were probably paying people to betray socialism and that the most likely place to find such people was among those talking anarchy:
(All) ignorant and vicious people are Anarchists. … [most] prisoners in gaol are Anarchists and most Anarchists who are not in gaol ought to be. Socialists properly speaking are, for the most part, radical social reformers; of a most extreme type, if you will, but nevertheless peaceful Revolutionists.
In June, another long Truth article, ‘One Man, One Rifle versus One Man, One Gatling’, agreed with a Bulletin comment that calls for ‘one man, one rifle’ were absurd since the opposition controlled the cannon and was prepared to use them. It quoted the Scientific American at length on ‘The Mob Queller’ or ‘police-gun’, designed to fit on a patrol wagon, alongside material from Ignatius Donnelly’s Caesar’s Column describing the use of the military by ruling groups to control society. The article’s message seemed to be:
As soon as Democracy can seize the political machine it will be strong enough to seize the military machine; and when it is strong enough to do that, it won’t need to use it.
Truth rejected McNamara’s Melbourne items at this time on the grounds that they were too fiery – ‘more like the contribution of a madman’ – and teeming with libels. In June, Truth reprinted part of a handbill distributed in the city by an unnamed person, but clearly Andrews, said to be part of ‘the Smithfield group’. It is printed as it appeared in the rough type of the Anarchy newsletters prepared by Andrews and Schellenberg for distribution in November 1891 and January 1892:
… we don’t advocate any organised conspiracy to overthrow the existing powers, as such is likely to be disappointing and contains the germs of new authority. We can simply advise each to make as many converts as he can do without more risk than he is prepared to incur, till the extension of our ideas among the people makes it easier to act more boldly. And at length, in answer to some act of tyranny, will come the spontaneous irresistible man-storm of revolution that will sweep want and oppression from the land, and the martyrs of the past will be avenged by victory…
Truth accurately described the Cumberland group’s location and its history and went on to say that such pamphlets had been handed out in the Domain over the last twelve months or so on Sunday afternoons or at polling booths, often headed ‘Neither God, nor Law nor Property’. The paper described the group as consisting of the handbill’s author, ‘The Messiah of the Coming Revolution’, and eight followers, and spoke of the type being cut from floor-boards with a knife and the handbills being printed with condensed milk. Below a portrait of Andrews, on 10 July it provided his response and a particularly lucid exposition of anarchism. Towards the end he wrote:
I know nothing of the present Smithfield group and some of the literature circulated was written and produced by the primitive processes mentioned, altogether independently of me. My only connection with any other anarchists is that of friendly correspondence and such co-operation in the propaganda as is occasionally practicable … we all work separately. [There are] now numerous communist anarchists in all the colonies and at least a dozen earnest propagandists at work far and wide … Anarchy has no Messiahs, for it comes not to death but to life …
In the same issue a further letter from Andrews arguing against the use of bombs and explosives by revolutionists is turned into an article by the use of a heading, ‘Bombs and Explosives’. He concluded:
Hence, let revolutionists think as much as they like about means of personal and collective security in cases of emergency, but to study armaments of warfare as their enemies do is to my mind both useless and absurd.
On 17 July Truth continued the assault with a column purportedly of recipes for chemical explosives widely distributed by a ‘Sydney anarchist’ said to be one of the Central Cumberland Anarchist Group on his way to Broken Hill to speak about ‘anarchist methods’ to miners on strike there since 4 July. On 24 July a letter from Andrews dated 19 July at Notting Hill Road, Rookwood (west of Sydney) appeared saying that members of the group would doubtless like to go to Broken Hill, but it was most unlikely that they would go to blow up something. Firstly, it was not anarchist philosophy, secondly, either the miners were already convinced or not of the need to blow something up, either way ‘dynamitards’ won’t change their minds, and, thirdly, the miners had their own dynamite. The letter points out that someone else must have given Truth the recipes which were from a Johan Most pamphlet available in many places. A new French-language weekly, Courier Australien had provided the ‘Anarchist’ formula of 75 parts of nitro-glycerine, 15 parts of powdered charcoal and 10 parts of nitrate of potash reduced to powder, while elsewhere, in English, it taught people how to read French.
In mid-year, probably late-July, Brady was sacked from Truth by incoming editor, Traill, and turned to the Sunday Times and the Bird O’Freedom which Andrews believed were ‘practically produced in the police office’.
On 9 July, 1892 McNamara married Matilda Kalkstein, now known as ‘Bertha McNamara’ in Melbourne. She is a major, missing link in this story. That she has not been treated as important to ‘the origin story of the ALP’ means there are still numerous questions. To quote her ADB biographer, Verity Burgmann, the death of her first husband in 1888 had left her ‘with few resources…At this difficult time in her life, she turned to radical politics. In Hobart in 1891…she published Home Talk on Socialism, one of the earliest socialist pamphlets produced in Australia…After their wedding, the pair travelled to Sydney, where they opened a bookshop in Castlereagh Street that became a famous gathering-point for radicals.’ Setting up and stocking the shop with the many thousands of ‘progressive titles’ they reportedly kept would have required a deal of money. Burgman says that ‘Bertha ran a boarding house in conjunction with the shop’ but any income from that would have taken time to accumulate. In any event, her importance to ‘the movement’ in general and to the anarchist section in particular was that she was from overseas and no doubt knew numerous languages: ‘Practical and kind, she fed and housed many new migrants from Europe until they found employment.’ Andrews wrote later:
In Sydney, the anarchists…were nearly all foreigners, German, English Chartists or from Victoria, the only agitator of any fame born [in NSW] was of Swiss extraction. Even now the anarchist movement remains in Sydney a foreign movement … for the most part French by birth or by extraction. The anarchist movement of Queensland which is due to agitations created in NSW is mostly…of native Queenslanders…In South Australia … there are now a large number of German anarchists.
There are other scattered references to non-Anglo radicals. Before John Wren became a rich and powerful figure in Melbourne’s 20th century underworld he was trailed in the 1890’s by police informers paid 5/6d per day. He recalled ‘a voluble Russian-Finn, who claimed he was an anarchist (addressing) a wild Friday night meeting in Russell Street’ saying that he’d smash ‘every street light in the city’ to protest the government’s treatment of the unemployed. Ernie Lane in Dawn to Dusk remembered that the ASL displayed mainly foreign language magazines. Not surprisingly, ‘The (McNamara bookshop’s) backroom and the reading room above the shop were scenes of almost constant activity and discussion.’ Extended, it became the barracks for the Active Service Brigade. Bertha herself:
‘advocated a decentralized form of socialism, where working-class people would create a better society by assuming control of their immediate environment, as producers and as consumers. Only when socialism had already been built up from below would it be safe to direct the state to nationalize the means of production, distribution and exchange. Labor politicians could not be trusted.’
At some stage, Petrie had moved to Wagga Wagga and worked with WW Head and Rae on The Hummer, and for the General Labourers’ Union. First issued on 19 October 1891, the paper was set up by the local branch of the ASU. Head, secretary of the Wagga Branch of the ASU in 1891 circulated to farmers’ organisations information about the US Knights sharing resources and agendas with such bodies. In early 1892, Petrie was noted doing ‘good work’ for the GLU and for the LEL Organising Committee, Murrumbidgee Branch, for which he was a delegate to the Sydney January conference. He attended a committee meeting for the ASU, Wagga Branch, on 10 April and in the same month he was appointed secretary-organiser for the GLU in Sydney. When the GLU shifted offices to Sydney in May it became the AWU and Petrie’s services were ‘no longer required’ and he had gone into the country with a mate, the latter doing odd jobs, sharpening saws etc, while Petrie secured the customers. Petrie said they found little work so they returned to Sydney. There he was engaged by the AWU to organise seamen, sewerage workers and miners. He worked with Rose Summerfield on social get-togethers and an independent labour bureau for the unskilled, semi-skilled and un-organised. She was appointed a female organiser from 1 August, and she contributed to Hummer and its successor, The (Sydney) Worker.
Creo Stanley was being subjected to constant male harassment. Her running of a Co-operative Laundry in Sydney’s backstreets at Pyrmont was subjected to two TLC inquiries both of which found against her for what appear to be unreasonable reasons. She and her supporters refused to appear or to turn over the Co-op books to anyone but Truth, that is, Brady. She described the laundry’s workings as ‘communistic’:
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.
In February, Truth described a TLC meeting at which argument between the LELs and the TLC included a reference to Brady being refused entry to an LEL because he was an anarchist. Subsequently he gained admission as a storeman delegate, after Watson and Roche supported him. In March 1892, he was named by AW as Truth’s ‘theatre critic’. Not long after, claiming considerable anarchist influence on ‘the Party’ which, he said was already weakened by parasitic opportunists, he and Stanley left ‘the movement’. Disgusted by those with their ‘fingers in the dish’, they moved in with her mother in Redfern. They were married in 1895, the day after divorce from his first marriage was completed. Some have read this to mean that Brady left politics behind in 1891 and became a writer of non-political topics. They forget that in his own words it was not till ‘early 1893’ that he ‘gave anarchy a wide berth.’ He was involved with Truth from December, 1891 until approximately July 1892 and as we will show continued his polemical jousting.
Indicative of the internal debate is AW’s material in 1892 during the tenures of both Higgs and Brady. One was a Kropotkin ‘Domestic Slavery’ article, another was Ernie Lane’s memorial column on ‘the Chicago Anarchists’, a third was Ravachol’s trial speech in France, made available to AW by Alphonse Muller, himself anti-anarchist. This speech was also printed in the Brisbane Workman and the Tasmanian Democrat. The Workman accompanied the mention of this repetition with a Freedom (UK)-derived piece on Ravachol which is totally positive about this alleged grave-robber and murderer of old men whom French anarchists were uneasy about supporting. ‘Greatness of character in the man’ is just one example of the tribute to which the Workman attaches no diminishing caveat. In April of 1892 when the first stories of Ravachol were appearing William Lane described him as ‘the great Anarchist leader’, reprinted two anarchist leaflets in full, and made the first of his public announcements about the extent of anarchist influence on local radicals. The reader who probably responded to this view of Ravachol as hero was Larry Petrie. ‘I have known many rebels’ said Ernie Lane, ‘but Petrie …was in the super-class’:
In the Domain, on street-corners and all the time Petrie passionately called on the workers of Sydney to take up arms and man the barricades.
According to Lane, his public declarations were considered a joke by the police who saw only a one-armed man and did not interfere. Petrie no doubt applauded when Lawson, writing for Truth, albeit disguised, wrote in March, 1892:
One man one vote it may not be, but if the wealthy trifle
With labor’s rights and God’s decree we’ll try ‘One man one rifle’.
We have another boat afloat, and plenty hands to pull it,
And if it ain’t ‘One Man One Vote’, ’twill be ‘One Man One Bullet’.
A group of fell-mongers [hide-workers] picked up at the Sydney Labour Bureau in February were driven from their work site by ‘a horde of roughs, known as the “Rocks Push”. In the Protectionist paper which was O’Sullivan’s power base, The Queanbeyan Age, the ‘horde’ was not a random mob looking for trouble but was made up of men who had previously worked at the site and who had downed tools when the contractor insisted on lowering their pay. That is, they were ‘striking unionists’ protesting against ‘strike-breakers’. A follow-up included:
At a mass meeting of the unemployed held on Wednesday evening the labour bureau was the chief topic touched upon, the speakers seemed equally divided regarding the actions of the Government. Those who opposed the bureau said it would tend to weaken trades-unionism by supplying cheap labour, and in filling vacancies, during strikes, with non-union men.
Lawson had worked with Wm Lane at the Boomerang and for The Worker, off and on. Back in Sydney where he ‘hung out with difficulty in a restaurant’, he wrote occasionally for The Bulletin. When work failed, he said ‘I used to write a column of socialistic and libellous political rhymes for Truth. I still believed in revolutions.’ Norton helped him out on occasion, as did Brady. By ‘revolution’ he probably meant an unsophisticated uprising which he labelled ‘anarchy’ in his most intense poems.
With hundreds of Sydney police guarding the strike-breakers at ‘the Hill’, the coastal city’s gangs came out to play: ‘(The) larrikins are taking every possible advantage of the withdrawal of so many of the metropolitan police in connection with the Broken Hill strike.’ In September, with 300 of the force of 800 still away, the gangs were ‘parading’ with impunity. This editor concluded with an appropriate question:
Is it not regrettable that such a state of affairs should be allowed to exist, simply because deference to hollow sentiment precluded the sending of some of the military to Broken Hill?’
A Disorderly Conduct Suppression Bill had been introduced into the House in mid-year, observers thinking that it would sail through unopposed. It stalled and was still not passed years later.
It is probable that many movement messages were intercepted, and/or destroyed upon receipt. A few only have survived. In the Sir Edmund Barton papers at the Mitchell Library there are some belonging to or relating to Sir David Maughan, banker, which include, with partial copies of Andrews’s Anarchy for November 1891 and January 1892, two translations from the French, signed ‘J.P. Rochaix, Detective’.. The first is a letter from J. Ricard, ‘a leading French anarchist’. It contains a reference to a trial at Chambles, which I take to mean the Ravachol trial held in a town of that name in June 1892. It concludes: ‘Rulliere and all our friends wish to be remembered to you and your friends at Smithfield.’ The second item, also translated by Rochaix, is headed ‘Extract from the Pamphlet entitled the Organisation of Revolutionary Propaganda‘. It lists eleven points. The last is:
- Let us imagine the help it would give our cause when, let us say, the dead body of a capitalist would be found at the corner of a street with a short note: ‘to our Exploiter – His employees’ or during a strike a fire was set to a factory or some other establishment that had been boycotted (mis a l’index). All this done in a mysterious manner each deed the act of isolated groups unknown to the Police.
Andrews, the probable addressee, would surely have destroyed these if he had received them. He had no reason to believe local authorities were any less ruthless than those in Chicago and we must remember that he and his associates were the ones most likely to be jailed or hanged if events matched the Chicago precedent. In his recollections he named the year, September, 1892 – September, 1893, ‘The Dynamite Period’. In these later, first hand accounts, he said that Dibbs policies provoked two responses – ‘self-defence by armed force’ groups, and ‘strenuous’ detective work and counter strategies. Against the usual narrative this sounds like good evidence that Andrews was paranoid and delusional except that everything else known about the time supports his claims. Together, his memoirs contain approximately 20,000 words. They are valuable sources because they can be verified but because they are partly dramatised and because he has disguised participants they are difficult to handle. I am satisfied that I have correctly matched most of the fake names with real persons, newspapers and places:
His Substitute Names
O’Grady = EJ Brady
Landseer = Brown(e)
Meyrick = JA Andrews
Esdaile = Arthur Desmond, aka ‘Ragnar Redbeard’
Mountain = ‘Larry’ Petrie
Rigby = ‘Tommy’ Dodd
Vermont = Holland or Holman?
Britten = Arthur Rae
Way = Ernie Lane
Masterman = Premier Dibbs
Young Masterman, Manager Metropolitan = Thos A Dibbs, Gen Manager, Commercial
and Rural Bank Commercial Banking Coy. of Sydney
Duitsch = Hughes?
Ellerman = Holman?
Scott = Treasurer McMillan
Seth Sniders = Enoch Taylors
Fr O’Leary = ? Moran ?
King = Robinson
‘Paddy’ = Fitzgerald MP?
The Toiler = Australian Workman
The Hour = The Sunday Times
Cobboras = The Aramac
The War Contingent = Active Service Brigade
Ready Money = Hard Cash
Workers Political Association = Labour Electoral League
In four separate places in these essays he shows his own preference for non-violent responses even to provocation, and his apprehension of, not preparation for, civil war. In one place he says explicitly: ‘I have never so much as seen any dynamite, nor favoured any other physical force than straightforward manly disobedience to tyranny.’ However, Ernie Lane and Petrie were sleeping in the AWU office and multigraphing leaflets appealing to the workers to take their courage in their hands and storm the capitalist stronghold. At night, Lane said, they pasted these up around Sydney. Andrews, Beattie and Schellenberg were among others involved. Arthur Desmond after his arrival on 10 Oct 1892 was another. Petrie, in particular, was running out of patience. In July, he noted the distress and competition for jobs compelling seamen to sign on at one shilling per month and keep, when their usual rate was £4.10s. Somebody ‘who evidently aspires to be an Australian Ravachol’ handed out the following broadsheet in the Domain in September:
Men of Australia!
Why do we work and sweat and force ourselves into premature graves, that our masters may revel in blind luxury, and pass their lives in idleness and splendour? We toil, not for ourselves, but for them, and while our children grow into slaves and lackeys, their children get all the riches of the earth, riches that are produced by our labor.
Fellow Workers Arise!
Let us throw off our vile apathy, hurl defiance at our robber landlords, and throw in our lot with those who are fighting for Justice! The cursed robbers that grind us down laugh at our woes and prostitute our daughters. They are heartless, and when cold want comes home to us, they help our starving families by throwing a little charity at them, even as they would at a mongrel – yea, look upon us as mongrels.
They despise us, and would not save us from damnation if it touched their interest in the least.
Agitate! Organise! Revolt!
Justice demands it for the sake of your wives and children.
Long Live the Social Revolution!
Acting-Premier from April to September while Dibbs was overseas being knighted, Edmund Barton (1849-1920) was said to be reluctant to send the military to Broken Hill where some miners were drilling with arms. As Attorney-General he knew the legal situation regarding the use of the military in civil dissent, and the police that could be legally sent were armed and mounted. The day Dibbs returned in September the ministry ordered the arrest of ‘the Hill’s’ strike leaders for conspiracy. At ‘the Hill’, tensions had mounted as barricades and fortifications were thrown up around the mine entrances. Police stayed on alert all one night to guard against a rush after the first lots of ‘free labourers’ had been escorted through picket lines. Dibb’s ADB biographer believed he wanted peace at Broken Hill and an arbitrated solution: ’He was hard on disorder but without vindictiveness, and towards Labor he was neither hostile nor obsequious…(He) condemned demonstrations by the unemployed.’ Barton instructed the crown prosecutor to conduct all cases ‘with absolute fairness’.
The arrests precipitated great excitement in Sydney. Protests were held at which ‘Sovereign people’ ‘humbly’ and ‘vainly beseeched’ for their release. For Andrews this was the first of four, Sydney flash-points where civil war was a possibility. Paraphrasing his words:
At a mass protest meeting at the Queen’s Statue the protest crowd was stirred up and moving towards Parliament House behind a deputation to the Premier. Troops were already in place behind the parliamentary building and waiting for the first instance of ‘riot’ or assault on property. George Black was asked to join a proposed ‘Provisional Government’ but a colleague pointed out the military preparations, so he halted the crowd by making a speech. Andrews confronted one he suspected might know what was afoot and learnt of Brady’s intentions.
Other sources tell us that he was talking about the night of 20 September, five days after the strike leaders had been arrested and four labor MPs had chosen to vote for the government and protectionist fiscal policies, which were not being debated at the time, rather than defeat the government over its treatment of the strikers. George Black later confirmed ‘as faithful, if exaggerated’ Andrews’s story of his fateful speech. Sam Smith was the colleague Black names who urged him to calm the crowd already moving towards the barricades. Three deputations had gone to see Dibbs in the space of two-three hours, all fruitlessly. The first included Petrie, the second was Hart, Horkins and Rosa. After it returned, Horkins, Rosa, Lindsay, Williams and Dodd spoke to the crowd and the second deputation went again.
The agent provocateur in the crowd was Browne, ‘Landseer’ in Andrews’ account. Other speakers at the 20 September meeting, chairperson Holland, (1868-1933) and the previous night’s meeting, chairperson Horkins, like Rosa, Kohen and McNamara were comparatively moderate in tone, whereas Browne asked the crowd whether it was ‘willing’ to enforce its will on the government. Browne who was noted among the ASL-expellees the year before, had been making provocative speeches for some time. The SMH of 21 September tells of Browne, Cato and Horkins banded together in ‘The Democratic Alliance’ which possibly included Hepher, Flowers and Hart who was not averse to making oblique references to people having ‘power in their own hands’. On 25 September Browne complained that his ‘jokes’ about dynamite had been taken seriously at the Queen’s Statue meetings. Later a ‘W. Browne’ was appointed to the Government Temporary Staff at £50 p.a. On this fitting together, it seems reasonable to speculate that ‘Landseer’ (Browne) was also ‘0’Grady’s’ (Brady’s) bomb-making accomplice and fellow-scarperer in the 1890 incident.
On 8th October, a second circular was noticed in George Street and along the wharves, this one with ‘the red flag stuck glaringly in the centre’:
No. 2 Leaflet – Fellow workers: Again we urge you to rise from your apathy and fight hard for justice. Force, and force only, can strike fear into the hearts of our oppressors. Moral suasion and constitutional reform? – One is still-born, the other an abortion. Not the ballot box but the rifle and the alone can free us from our degrading slavery. Remember Broken Hill. Behold the force lawless law oppresses us with! Prepare for the Revolution. Seize arms – buy arms. Be not afraid! Be men and organise! Agitate!
Next to it in the same papers was the verbatim text of a speech given in Wellington (NZ) by Arthur Desmond and ‘clipped’ from the Weekly Herald (NZ. On 10th October, the man himself Arthur Desmond, quietly stepped on to Circular Quay from a New Zealand trading vessel. Almost immediately, other positive references to his previous ‘labour career’ appeared in the press, so perhaps he had sought work at these places, or perhaps he was ‘seeding’ the labour field in order to be quickly accepted as a bona fide agitator. New Zealand’s Roth later provided background. It is wildly astray for Desmond’s time in Australia and for post-1895 it invites a deal of scepticism, so there must be doubts about the earlier detail as well. Supposedly a friend and student of Maoris while shearing and droving, Desmond had ‘spouted’ free thought, single tax and labour reforms such as a State Bank Issue, an eight hour day, minimum wages and a ban on foreign labour, all of which feature prominently in later labour platforms in eastern Australia. He seems to have stood twice for parliament while still in his early twenties, both unsuccessfully, in 1884 and 1887. In 1890 he organised the Timber Workers Union which he represented on Auckland Trades Council, the Gum Diggers Union, and was editing his own paper, the Tribune. The AW in 1890 had quoted from a Desmond letter about the Bank of New Zealand threatening plutocrats with ‘French revolution type’ actions, and two weeks later had directed him to Bear’s Bookshop in Sydney for literature he requested. When some ‘unscrupulousness’ was exposed he went to Wellington where for two years he soap-boxed regularly and tried to get a labor party going. All of this resembles the frenetic activities of Australian would-be politicians and his move across the Tasman may be the sign of another personal,fresh start.
He was in Australia little more than two years, and perhaps only half of that in Sydney, the rest in rural NSW. Andrews has the only Sydney-stories about him before mid-1893 when he chose to get himself arrested. Other published anecdotes about him in the memoirs of labour figures refer to the post-arrest period when the establishment press stigmatised him as a ‘bloodthirsty’ anarchist because of the company he seems to have preferred. Andrews referred to him as ‘poet, actuary and revolutionary’, and has dealt chronologically with his activities up to and including the publication, Hard Cash and the armed defense group, the Active Service Brigade (ASB). Neither his known writings nor the political agenda for ‘the movement’ which he articulated in late-1893, were remotely anarchic.
On the other hand, the second period in which Andrews thought civil war was possible coincided with his arrival. Consolidated and paraphrased, Andrew’s accounts amount to this:
‘Landseer’s’ friend ‘O’Grady’ in ‘The Hour’ claimed ‘Meyrick’ had ‘secret controlling influence over unionists’. ‘O’Grady’, once a friend of ‘Meyrick’, had admitted to ‘Meyrick’ his and ‘Landseer’s’ bomb-making. A ‘Dynamite as emancipator’ manifesto appeared in the press to trap two youthful enthusiasts, one of whom is friend of ‘Meyrick’. ‘Landseer’ was suspected of being a police spy and an agent provocateur..(etc).
This translates into:
Browne and Brady were plotting together. Brady informed Dibbs or his detectives that Lane and Petrie were mounting a bomb plot. He then set about provoking these two into doing something that would gain him kudos and blacken the anarchist cause. He urged them to talk publically about plans for a ‘Provisional Government’ and to prepare a dynamite ‘manifesto’ which he then referred to in renewed attacks on ‘the anarchists’.
Again, Andrews has referred only to what he personally experienced, which was in central Sydney, though the manoeuvring is part of the politics around the Broken Hill conflict. The Sydney Morning Herald on 22 Oct agreed that troopers had been ready and under arms during the meeting on the 20th September and that ‘socialist pickets’ saw this and passed word preventing a riot. On 31st October, the SMH was able to provide, as an exclusive, the text of a particularly virulent handbill:
Destroy!!! Destroy!!! Dynamite!!! and Fire!!!
are the great destroyers of property. Once
more the workers have justice (?). Once more has
law and order triumphed. Throw up your hats
you worms and wallow in the mire at your
masters’ feet; or on the other hand are you
prepared to strike for freedom. Destroy property;
this will destroy the power of the oppressor.
Destroy only the property of the rich. Fire
their woolsheds, burn their grass, fire their
factories, destroy their banks and freedom is
yours. Remember Sleath and Ferguson. No more
Sleath and Ferguson were among the arrested leaders of the Broken Hill miners. Police Inspector-General Fosberry in October 1892 suppressed certain detectives’ reports when called upon to release to the parliament ‘all correspondence, papers, [etc] received by the Government’ on this strike. Though many plain-clothes detectives, i.e. spies, had been operating at ‘the Hill’, Fosberry kept back only those describing the large number of armed Italians, Germans and others meeting secretly near the mines and offering their services to the strikers’ cause. The mine owners appear to have been kept informed, as they later excluded ‘the foreigners’ from the mines.
Andrews’ account went on to tell of Brady warning him of a ‘sting’ being prepared which this time was directed at him as the hidden controller of the unionists and as a bomb-maker. Brady then vigorously attacked Andrews in print. Petrie was warned by Andrews’ and counselled to leave town immediately. This he did, whereupon the plot collapsed. Contemporary sources show that on 5th November Petrie advocated the jails be stormed and razed. The SMH responded by attacking him whereupon evidence of him in Sydney ceased, supporting my assertion that he was ‘Mountain’ who left town just as ‘Landseer’ was exposed and thus nullified Brady’s plot. Discussed in the next chapter are the departures of two other activists who seem to have ‘gone bush’ together.
Brady, however, was not yet done. As ‘Amateur Reformer’, he wrote again of anarchist influence in the labour movement in the Sunday Times of 10 December, 1892 as part of a series begun the week before His second article, ‘Bombs and Bombast, Revolution and Roguery’ claimed anarchists had induced the labour movement to follow violent methods and to encourage parasites. One anarchist, described as once a friend but now despised, and who prefers beer to soap, is clearly Andrews.
Andrews’ account continued: ‘Later, meetings at the Queen’s Statue were banned making it impossible for mounted police to charge a riled-up crowd, which was to be the flash-point’. On 17 December, meetings at the Queen’s statue were officially banned. On the same day, AW used a belief by the ‘Central Cumberland Anarchist Group’ in a plot against them to introduce an excellent Andrews’s poem which is at the same time a satire on an effort by Brady – ‘A Bas l’Anarchie – Another Vision of the Future’. Brady’s attacks sparked responses from others. On 3rd, 10th and 17th December, in the Australian Workman, long articles were signed by ‘Society Before Self’ who was probably ‘Price Warung’. He had been one of Andrews’s literary group colleagues in pre-MAC Melbourne and became editor of AW in February 1893 staying till November. The writer defended Andrews as no more a drunkard than ‘Amateur Reformer’ but as someone who ‘has greater intellect, writes better copy, better verse, speaks better, [does] aught that requires brain power better than his slanderer’. The writer then claims that anarchist influence is infinitesimal since there were no more than 500 throughout the Australian continent and they were so powerless that the Dibbs Government ignored them in winning the Broken Hill trials: ‘As a socialist I have little sympathy for anarchy except on intellectual grounds.’