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David Andrade 1859-1928

P.D. Gardner
The biography of David Andrade was provided by the Question Mark Collective as part of a forthcoming anthology on Australian Troublemakers to be published by Melbourne based Scam Publications.

David Andrade - Melbourne's first Anarchist Bookseller
Available Writings of David Andrade

In May 1886 David Andrade, his brother Will and half a dozen others formed the Melbourne Anarchist Club - as far as I am aware the first anarchist organisation in Australia. Andrade became the MAC secretary and one of its main propagandists. The club produced the journal Honesty which gave club news as well as publishing theoretical articles and Andrade was a regular contributor. Along with his brother, David Andrade followed the booksellers trade. In a news agency at Brunswick and later in Liberty Hall, Russell St. Melbourne the brothers operated the first anarchist book shops in Australia. Here they loaned and sold anarchist publications with their publicity noting that "Socialistic Literature of all kinds (both Communist, Collectivist and Anarchist) are well represented, both in books and pamphlets, and newspapers supplied from all parts of the world".

Andrade was an energetic and flamboyant personality who deeply immersed himself in the anarchist activities of the day and was a writer, publisher, printer, distributor, organiser, general propagandist and activist for the anarchist cause. Aside from his contributions to Honesty Andrade's writings were published in a "wide variety of local and overseas journals". His main works include "Money: a study of the currency question" (1887), "Our Social System" (n.d.) which was an attack on monopoly in both land ownership and usury, and "An Anarchist Plan of Campaign" (1888). In 1892 he published the "realistic" novel 'The Melbourne Riots and how Harry Holdfast and his friends emancipated the workers'. Both The Melbourne Riots and David Andrade have been recently described as "utopian".

Andrade was a major participant in the split(1) in MAC in 1888 and was in conflict with J.A. Andrews and other anarcho-communists. The cause of the split in the MAC was over the "forcible reclamation and defence of liberty" - in other words violence. Andrade has been variously described as a "Proudhonist" and a "mutualist" and was at this time and afterwards vehemently opposed to any form of violence. He appears to have been isolated by the split and the publication of Honesty ceased with Andrade taking control of the plant. MAC member and anarcho communist Larry Petrie later described the club as basically "Tolstoyan".

After the split Andrade continued his work writing, publishing and bookselling. In the early 1890s he was the secretary of the Unemployed Workers Association in Richmond and in 1893 as an outspoken member of a deputation of the unemployed bitterly attacked the system of representative government "We are ruled by a lot of robbers, and when I see a man go into Parliament I feel sorry for him, for he only makes another of the nest of vermin... Our legislators are more degraded than a person who abuses a woman or a child and I have no confidence in them."

Later that year he had taken up a small selection of 10 acres in the Dandenong Ranges where he began clearing the land, building a house and working as a storekeeper and a mailman. His second son Proudhon Andrade was born here in a rough shelter the same year. Andrade persisted in this lifestyle for five years but was burnt out in the disastrous 1898 fires. He appears to have been financially ruined and mentally broken by this event. In 1903 he was admitted to the Yarra Bend Asylum and he lived for the rest of his life in asylums. He died in 1928 and in later years was described as a kind man with a smile on his face.

In an article by B. Scates entitled "The Utopians - And Early Socialists Who Lost Their Way" (Journal, RHSV 54:4: 1983 ppl926) the career of Andrade is partly examined. Scates described him as "An energetic and versatile reformer, he launched several ambitious projects throughout the 1890s, among them a village settlement, a cooperative scheme, a radical bookshop and a vegetarian restaurant". And of his anarchism, "For David Andrade socialism was a matter of justice. It acknowledged the rights of the poor to dignity and self determination, promulgating co-operation as the cure for the wrongs of capitalism. It condemned also the oppression and exploitation of women by the family and social system as a whole. He sought to end not only the tyranny of man over woman, rich over poor, but also the tyranny of man over nature. He declared that animals had rights - a courageous enough statement even for today". Scates classified Andrade as a 'Utopian' and concluded, "But those who never escaped Utopia suffered a still greater tragedy. David Andrade's ambitious ventures threw him into bankruptcy. In 1894 he joined a village settlement in Kallista only to face greater hardships. Finally, after the death of his sons, that magnificent spirit was broken. David Andrade died in 1928 in the Ballarat mental asylum"(2)

While both Scates article, and his treatment of Andrade, is admirable his inclusion in an essay on 'Utopianism' seems unfair. Something 'utopian' is an ideal state or system that is both unattainable and impractical whereas almost all Andrade's schemes were practical. These schemes he devoted more than 12 years of his life to with varying degrees of success and failure. Above all he was caught up with the various means by which the idea could be turned into practice. Andrade's life was unfortunately complicated by tragic circumstance. This, more than anything else, most probably led to his mental collapse.

Despite all these seeming failures of so called 'utopian' projects and his apparent 'insanity' Andrade is one of only a small number of anarchists who are included in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. He was a pioneer in his chosen philosophy in many ways - as an anarchist propagandist, organiser, publisher and above all by practicing what he preached - and as one who, figuratively speaking, once flew the black flag over Brunswick.

David Andrade - Melbourne's first Anarchist Bookseller

In 1887, David Andrade, who a year previously had helped found the Melbourne Anarchist Club and served as its founding secretary, established a newsagency, stationers and printing business at 729 Sydney Road, North Brunswick.

In his articles and books he criticised the government and the capitalist system. E.W. Cole published his Essay on Truth in 1880 and Our Social System and how it affects those who work for their Living appeared about 1887.

His other writings include Money: A study of the Currency Question (1887), Our Social System (n.d.), An Anarchist Plan of Campaign (1888) and a utopian novel The Melbourne Riots and how Harry Holfast and his friends emancipated the workers (1892). He contributed articles to the journal Commonweal and Workers' Advocate which appeared in the years 1891-1893 and for which his shop acted as an agency.

By 1892 Andrade's shop advertised a free library and a vegetarian restaurant. His operations shifted to 'Liberty Hall' at 213 Russell Street for a brief period in 1893 before his business failed and he went on to the land.

From Page 18, Melbourne's Radical Bookshops by John Sendy,
Published 1983, International Bookshop Pty Ltd


1. See P.77 of What Is Communism, ed. Bob James, Backyard Press. James suggests there was a spilt prior to the final one in December 1888. According to Merrifield papers Andrews was using Andrade's Sydney Rd Newsagency as his address in 1889.
2. Note Andrade was "certified" in 1903, well before the death of his sons in 1909 and 1913.

Available writings by David Andrade

From 'A Reader of Australian Anarchism 1886-1896 .... edited by Bob James

From 'Anarchism in Australia: An Anthology 1886-1986' ....edited by Bob James

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Last modified: November 28, 2000

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