Outside the anarchist student activism in the universities (see Melbourne Anarchist Archives Vol 1), the other major anarchist current in Melbourne was what was loosely termed 'carnival anarchism'. It revolved around the Solidarity (1969-1970?), Assassin and Outlaw (1972) magazines, the Collingwood Freestore (1971-1972), Working Peoples Association and Dingo newspaper, and the Feminist Self Management Group who morphed into the Anarcho Surrealist Insurrectionary Feminists.
Some early activities are reported in these documents from the Melbourne Anarchist Archives in 1970:
Outlaw magazine was a combination of poetry, color artwork and short texts on surrealism, anarchism, and situationism. In many ways it prefigured the 925 poetry magazine and the creative energy of Melbourne's street poety scene of the late 1970s and later.
Issue 2 came out in November 1972 and contained pictures of Arthur Rimbaud, Mikhail Bakunin and Danny Cohn-Bendit on the front cover. It included the following:
The following inormation on contributors was included: Suzy Sarovich, anarchist poet; Tim Pigott, anarchist poet; Werner Pick, anarchist poet; and Gale Shin, eurasian artist and anarcho/buddhist.
Issue One - July 1972
The lead article thundered against "Lynch's Laws", laws that the Liberal National Party passed in Parliament in late 1972 to "introduce compulsory secret ballots, voluntary unionism and jailing clauses for strikes. The main difference between 1972 and 1999 is that this time the changes in industrial laws that have led to the present difficult situation for Australian workers was supported by the Labor Party and the Democrats.
The next article examined the link between Ecology and Revolution, the author lamented that the Ecology movement didn't seem to understand the link between nuclear power and the power of the State. This was followed by an article on Black Rights, the author of the article encouraged people to support black rights by joining a demonstration in Melbourne on the 14th of July 1972.
The first issue of Dingo had a full page supplement on Education, the paper examined Universities and the student struggles. The newspaper had a full page article on the formation of a Working Peoples Association and invited readers to attend a meeting in Collingwood to organise such an Association. This article was followed by a rant on police, people, law and lawyers. The tenor of the article could be summed up in one of the articles headlines "when tyranny is low revolution is order".
The inside back cover of the first issue of Dingo was taken up by a full page cartoon who's sentiments were summed up in the captions:-
"A certain shepherd oppressed the sheep with cruel laws.
1. Sheep will be shorn and wool confiscated.
2. Sheep with poor wool yields will be slaughtered.
3. Sheep may not speak except to say BAAA.
The sheep became unmanageable so the shepherd was replaced.
The new shepherd gave his flock a new charter of Freedom.
1. Citizens have the right to be freed of wool.
2. Citizens lacking wool will be post humorously honoured.
3. Citizens have absolute freedom of speech.
And all the sheep together voiced a loyal BAAA".
Sentiments that haven't changed much since 1972.
Issue Three - November 1972
In the November 1972 issue (the final issue), the lead article examined the dispute at Yallourn. Dingo's editors travelled to Yallourn to learn first hand from the men who had been sacked about their struggles and the unions' response to their sackings. A small article about a group of Melbourne's Western Suburbs rank and file unionists shared space with the lead article on the sacking of the construction workers at the Victorian Yallourn power site.
In a classical piece of investigative journalism, Dingo's editors broke the story of the Green Van what's it up to? In this article which is illustrated by a number of incriminating photographs. Dingo exposes how Fitzroy Council Parks officers, aided and abetted by the Victorian Police, harassed, illegally arrested, and imprisoned Fitzroy's down and outs.
The next two pages are taken up by articles on the Crimes Act - The Crimes Act is gonna get you and you and you too - - - - - - - this story is followed by an article on Dingo's Free Store at 42 Smith Street Collingwood - You can't steal from the Free Store and a no holds barred report on the 1972 Pentridge Riots. November's Dingo contained a four page supplement on crime and punishment. This was followed by an article on Forms of Freedom.
Two pages of International News canvassed events in Spain, Italy and Palestine. An article on the Black Cross gives readers an insight into projects the Anarchists Black Cross participated in, in 1972.
The last three pages of the newspaper are taken up with an article on abortion and corruption in the Victorian Police Force, a modern day parable on respecting authority for authorities sake and a back page poster that was directed at the election that saw the Labor Party under Gough Whitlam, win power after Labor had spent over twenty years in the political wilderness - you guessed it, the poster encouraged electors to vote for Guy Fawkes - the only man ever to enter parliament with honest intentions.
Over the course of a dizzy twelve months, the Melbourne based Working People's Association embarked on a course that continues to still impact on mainstream society. The first issue of Dingo, July 1972, floated the idea of forming the Working People's Association. The inaugural meeting of the group was held at 8pm on the 21st July, 1972 at the Collingwood Free Store at 42 Smith St, Collingwood, Melbourne.
"We at Dingo believe that the fundamental mental block against basic social change is brought about by a gradual sapping of a person's confidence to organise himself as a individual or a class."
"Individuals must develop a faith in themselves before there can be revolutionary change."
"In the re-development of the ego, the individual will come to a true collective consciousness."
"Recognising these factors and accepting this strategy, we have decided to form a group with the aim of fostering self-help in the community."
True to their word, Dingo became the paper of the Working People's Association. Two more issues were produced before the end of 1972. The W.P.A. set up the first legal aid centre in Australia at Collingwood Free Store. Legal advice was available on Wednesday morning and Saturday afternoon. They set up a free medical advice centre which was conducted on Monday morning at the Free Store. The Free Store was open seven days a week and ran under the slogan - "You can't steal from the Free Store". They held open meetings at the Free Store every Sunday afternoon. The W.P.A. also became heavily involved in the prison reform movement and promoted squatting as an alternative to tenancy.
The end of this radical egalitarian meteorite came sooner rather than later. In their original meeting they decided to work mainly with "the inner urban lumpet proletaroit and other groups of dispossessed people" and work with them they did.
By the end of 1972 the organisation was coming apart at the seams. A developing association with some of Melbourne's professional criminals, an increasing interest in heroin as a lifestyle option and constant police surveillance and harassment led to the demise of the W.P.A. and the Collingwood Free Store in 1973.
"You Cant' Steal From the Free Store. We live in a consumer society which forces people to relate to one another on a monetary, rather than a human level."
These were the sentiments that led to the creation of the Free Store at 42 Smith Street, Collingwood in Melbourne 1971. The Free Store was set up by a number of Melbourne Anarchists as a practical example of common storehouse economics. When anarchists talk about a "moneyless" society, many people automatically assume they are talking about a society based on barter. A barter system is essentially a primitive form of capitalist economics. Anarchist common storehouse economics relies on the principle that people take what they need and leave their surplus produce in a common storehouse.
The Free Store attempted to create an anarchist economic oasis in a capitalist desert. It attempted to replace the fear and competition that is such an integral part of capitalist society with mutual aid and co-operation.
"The Free Store works on the basis of mutual aid and co-operation - on people's genuine needs, not their mass produced desires which have little in common with people's real needs and desires."
The people from the Working People's Association who ran the Collingwood Free Store understood the limitations of their example. They wanted to create a network of Free Stores across the city.
"Obviously one small Free Store can do little by itself and the effects mentioned in the article are on a small scale, but if similar stores sprang up in every area of the city, the effects would be magnified incredibly. This is a practical exercise in free socialism, which provides a basis for people to learn the real meaning of, from each according to his ability to each according to his need."
In late 1971 the Freestore was raided and two people from Perth who were crashing there, Julian Ripley and Rupert Gerretson, were taken to Russell St Police Station for questioning and arrest. Both these people were taken back to Perth to stand trial for 'causing an explosion' at the Department of Labour and National Service in Perth. Julian Ripley claimed he had been verballed and intimidated into signing the statement of interview at Russell St Police Headquarters. He was convicted and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment with a one year non-parole period. Did the present (2002) WA Minister for Health, Bob Kucera, frame Julian 30 years ago?
The Collingwood Free Store closed down in late 1972. As the store's principal activists became involved in other activities, and their lives disintegrated around them, the pool of people that was required to run the Free Store dwindled and the store eventually closed its doors.
The first group in Australia to set up a free legal aid service were a group of Melbourne anarchists. In 1972 a group of Melbourne anarchists, including veteran Spanish anarchist, Vicente Ruiz, set up a store front free legal aid service at the Free Store at 42 Smith Street, Collingwood. They set up this part time free legal service with the help of two sympathetic part-time lawyers.
Both lawyers provided a free service to anyone who required legal assistance. In 1972 legal assistance was only available to those who could afford it. The great majority of people were not able to obtain representation and took their chances within the legal system without legal representation. Melbourne Anarchists set up the forerunner of the modern Australian legal aid system.
Their practical example encouraged other people to set up similar centres. Eventually the example of direct community service they set up was taken up by the Whitlam Labor government. Their example lay the ground for the introduction of free legal aid to the rest of Australia. This is just one example of the influence anarchists have had on Australian society.
In June 1973, a number of women in Melbourne decided to create AS IF. We came together through the desire to come to accept responsibility for who we are, and as such to discover and express the totality of human experiences available to us.
We shall build our barricades with reinforced steel, and reinforced dreams ...we shall fight with poetry and guns ....
ALL POWER TO THE IMAGINATION
The Melbourne Anarchist Black Cross was formed in 1973, initially by a number of Spanish Anarchists in exile in Melbourne around Vicente Ruiz. Franco was still alive, anarchists were still being garrotted and Spain was still a dictatorship. The Melbourne branch of the A.B.C. initially put out a journal ACRACIA in Spanish. Within a few short months a number of Melbourne anarchists joined the A.B.C. and Acracia became bilingual.
The Melbourne A.B.C. attempted and on many occasions assisted the underground anarchist movement in Spain. Although Franco had been in power for almost thirty five years, the Spanish dictatorship was still being attacked by anarchists. A new generation of anarchist militants began to fill Franco's jails. The A.B.C. was an organisation that was formed in Melbourne to assist the struggle to overthrow the Franco regime and help anarchists in Spanish prisons.
It struck at the very heart of the Spanish dictatorship. Forty issues of Acracia were produced within three short years. The journal helped to focus the Anarchist Black Cross's work. It provided a link for Spanish anarchists in exile with what was going on in Spain. The history of emigre anarchists in exile has been one of isolation. In the three short years it existed Acracia became a very real example of how cultural and language barriers between anarchists can be overcome.
I remember meeting some of the people involved in Acracia and the Melbourne Black Cross in 1974. I was impressed by the intergenerational and cultural collaboration between Spanish activists in their sixties and fresh young activists in their teens and early twenties. Both seemed to work well together. Both groups worked together pursuing the common objective of having anarchist prisoners released from fascist Spanish prisons. The death of Franco and the expected collapse of the dictatorship in Spain spelled the death knell of the Melbourne A.B.C. and Acracia. By the end of 1975 the Melbourne branch of the Anarchist Black Cross disbanded and no further issues of the Acracia appeared.
Joe Toscano, Anarchist Age Weekly Review
The Anarchist Black Cross was restarted in Melbourne in the early 1990s.
Traces the theoretical development of anarchism in Melbourne, and documents the activism and development of anarchists at Melbourne and La Trobe Universities for this period.
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Last modified: August 1, 2002