In the December 1st issue of 1898 of the Tocsin, the first advertisement for Andrade's Bookshop in Melbourne appeared, and the accompanying paragraph gives some idea of the shop.
The opening of a new bookshop in Melbourne is always of interest to the few people in this benighted State who may be described as thinkers, but when that shop boldly displays radical literature in the window, it calls for special notice. Will Andrade, who till recently was a dealer in progressive works in Sydney, has commenced business opposite the Waxworks in Bourke Street, where his effective display of books always commands a crowd. Besides an assortment of general books, he carries a stock of labour literature, and is agent for the Tocsin, Clarion, Reynolds Newspaper and other advanced papers. We note, by the way, that he is the first newsagent to sell our bright English contemporary, the Clarion, for the modest penny.
When Perc married, it suited him to get a regular job and it was providential for him and for the movement that there was a man like Will Andrade, who owned a bookshop and who heard Perc speak at a meeting. After hearing Perc speak at the Bijou Theatre one night, he came up to him and asked if he would like to work in the shop at 201 Bourke Street, and Perc accepted.
Andrade was a Free Thinker, Rationalist and Philosopher. He was a liberal in the old sense of the word. In his younger days he was a foundation member of the Anarchist Club, together with his brother David, who became its secretary, in 1886. Andrade wanted to sell radical literature—rationalist, free-thinker, anarchist, socialist and progressive books on all social questions (i.e. contraception, sex, venereal disease, etc.). His manager boycotted progressive literature. Percy soon became the manager of the shop. It was the beginning of a fruitful period of literature importing and publication; the shop became the main radical literature distribution centre in Australasia, with sales to New Zealand and other countries. It also became an organising centre of the movement. The only other big centre for distribution and publication was also in Melbourne. Ross's Book Service at 184 Exhibition Street, run by Bob Ross, secretary for many years of the VSP, and editor of Truth and Flame, Broken Hill, Maoriland Worker, N.Z., and Socialist in Melbourne.
IWW influence was growing and American literature appealed more than English literature. Charles Kerr publications predominated in the imported books. Works of Eugene Debs, Big Bill Haywood, Jack London, Upton Sinclair were in great demand, as were all publications of the American Socialist Party and the Revolutionary Socialist Party of America. There were many subscribers to the Chicago magazine, International Socialist and Daniel De Leon's The People, organ of the Socialist Labour Party, sold in large numbers.
In the days of strict censorship Laidler was happy to become friendly with the Inspector in charge of Publications in the Customs & Excise Department, Ivo Hammet. He knew he could rely upon him for the best possible treatment and that all books which could possibly be released were released, and speedily. Unsympathetic officers could easily delay until a publication was no longer topical. Ivo Hammet and his brother Rollo are now well known as being amongst the biggest book collectors of Australians.
Local publication flourished after the Russian Revolution when all members of the many splinter groups, parties and sects, had in common the search for information about the revolution and about its leaders.
Sparse knowledge was not a monopoly of the labour movement—a Melbourne daily paper referred to "General Bolshevik" wrongly interpreting the meaning of a cable containing a message about the movement of the bolsheviks.
In 1922 Andrades advertised—"Send for our list of literature on the Russian Revolution. Its theory and practice. Its difficulties and accomplishments (over 30 titles in stock)." Here are titles printed in Melbourne, and information on some of them.
IN RUSSIA by Professor Goode—an edition of 7,500 copies published by Andrade on March 7, 1920, being a report on a visit in 1919 as special correspondent of the Manchester Guardian. Printer, Smithson—Foreword, P. Laidler. (Prof. Goode had difficulty in getting back from Russia, and alleged British Foreign Office agents tried to murder him.)
RED RUSSIA—as seen by George Lansbury. Lansbury was then editor of the Daily Herald, the Labour daily paper and this was a report to 10,000 people in the Albert Hall, London, made on March 21, 1920. Published by Ross's Book Service with foreword by R. S. Ross. Printer, Fraser & Jenkinson.
VICTORIOUS RUSSIA, a verbatim report of a conversation with Isaac McBride—Sociological journalist in U.S.A. Andrade/Smithson. Foreword, Moses Baritz (visiting English debater), published April 3, 1920.
INSIDE SOVIET RUSSIA, being letters of Captain Jacques Sadoul, member of the Allied Military Mission in Moscow, a report made in Moscow on July 25, 1918. Ross's Book Service/Fraser & Jenkinson, January 1920.
A PLEA FOR RUSSIA. A Boycotted Article by Upton Sinclair. Andrade published and F. A. Holland printed. Foreword by R. S. Ross.
It is difficult to trace the date of the earliest publication after the revolution but it is commonly considered that Maurice Blackburn was the first Australian to write a pamphlet on the subject. It was entitled "BOLSHEVIKS". Blackburn was then Vice-President of the A.L.P. (Victorian division) and Editor of Labor Call which would suggest the date to be at the end of 1918 or beginning 1919. This was published by Andrade and printed by Smithson.
Overseas pamphlets which may vie for premier publication date in an Australian edition, are:—
RUSSIA—a Report of the Bullitt Mission as delivered to the U.S.A. Senate Committee in September, 1919. Published by Andrade (no imprint). There is no date of publication but there is by way of a foreword "A Comment" by Peter Simonoff dated 27th December, 1919.
THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION by Karl Radek, Ambassador to Berlin, is signed Moscow, September, 1918. "The week in which Lenine, the heart and brain of the World Revolution, fought with death and conquered."
Again, no date of publication but take note of the spelling "Lenine" making it appear a very early print. Andrade/Smithson.
Another claimant could be "N. LENIN, HIS LIFE AND WORK" by Zinovieff. 2,500 copies published by The Proletarian Publishing Association, Melbourne, printer Smithson Bros. Being a speech delivered on the 6th September, 1918, this edition was on sale before the English edition arrived here.
THE SOVIETS AT WORK, a programme address before the Soviets, April 1918 was amongst the first. A letter in Tribune 17th September, 1969 from Tom Feary of Wellington, New Zealand, indicated that he together with Bill Patterson IWW, Alf Coleman IWW later C.P. (Orange) were seamen on a New Zealand ship trading to Pacific coast of U.S. and Canada and in November 1919 they brought in a quantity of Russian works and it was decided by the A.S.P. in Sydney to publish THE SOVIETS AT WORK. The same pamphlet was published by Andrade in Melbourne and a clue to date of publication is provided in the fact that it advertised the forthcoming issue of a monthly marxist periodical The Proletarian Review in June 1920.
The Publisher's note to this pamphlet reads:
This little pamphlet is a working-class classic.
It discusses the problems and difficulties of every kind faced by the Soviet Government of Russia, and which will in the main confront the working class of all countries, after the revolution.
Not so early, but interesting as being a publication of the "Communist Party of Australia (the Australian Section of the Third (Communist) International), 115 Goulburn Street, Sydney, at the Marxian Printing Works, 115 Goulburn Street, Sydney" was "LEFT COMMUNISM: The Infantile Sickness of 'Leftism' in Communism" in May, 1921.
Popular Lenin works were:
THE GREAT INITIATIVE—Speech by Lenin made June 2, 1919, included "Communist Saturdays". Publisher Andrade, printer Fraser & Jenkinson.
BOURGEOIS DEMOCRACY AND PROLETARIAN DICTATORSHIP by N. Lenin, Andrade-Smithson.
THE COLLAPSE OF THE 2ND INTERNATIONAL by Lenin, published by Ross's Book Service.
BOURGEOIS PARLIAMENTS AND REACTIONARY TRADE UNIONS. THE MILITARY PROGRAM OF THE REVOLUTION and WITHIN AND WITHOUT—all works of Lenin published by Andrade.
The site of the shop in the 21st century. 201 Bourke Street is the left half of the KFC fast food outlet. (Photo Alan Walker, 2011.)
The shop became an organising centre. Large sums were collected for the relief of the dependants of the IWW Twelve. It became the meeting place for Melbourne radicals, irrespective of their party beliefs; country radicals and interstate members of the labour movement while in Melbourne. When a Federal Labor Party conference or Interstate Union Congress (later ACTU Congress) was in session delegates would call in and there would be a certain amount of factionalising. Jock Garden was a regular visitor as was the man who got 15 years gaol for uttering 15 words—famous Domain orator, Donald Grant. He became a member of the Legislative Council of N.S.W. When in Melbourne he stayed at Parer's Crystal Palace Hotel, opposite the shop and always came over for a talk. He was a regular visitor around Melbourne Cup time. Jack Gunn as Premier of South Australia called in. The Union leader from Broken Hill, Paddy Lamb, was also a visitor.
Many internationally known socialists, radical writers and others visited the shop. In later years Communist leader J. B. Miles and Tom Wright, General President of the Sheet Metal Workers, were regulars. It was Tom Wright who said, "Percy, you don't need to travel anywhere, sooner or later everyone comes to you."
The shop was raided on several occasions, mainly during the war and anti-conscription campaigns.
A further raid after the war provided good humour for the employees (all radicals) and the customers. In those days the detectives were exceedingly ignorant—brawn was the only acknowledged requirement—educational standards were far, far below those of today.
The unsuspecting detectives went through the bookshelves to pull out the seditious items. Every title with the word "Red", "Flame" and other words suggestive of revolution was pulled out for confiscation. As the shop was also a general bookshop a pile of innocent publications, especially of the novelette type were thrown in the heap. Red Passion had to go—Flaming Youth, although a best seller because it suggested sex, was thought by the constabulary to be a report on revolutionary youth.
On the other band weighty tomes with weighty names like The Materialist Conception of History, Historical Materialism remained on the shelves with the pristine pure.
The last raid could hardly be called such. When the Communist Party was declared illegal in 1940, raids were widespread and Perc because of his association with the Communist Party expected a visit. Detective Birch, the chief of the Political Squad, with whom Perc was on affable terms, marched heavy-footed up the stairs and was greeted with, "Oh, there you are Birch—I've got it all tied up and ready for you to take away", with which Perc pointed to several stacks of Moscow News (he had never missed an issue since its inception). Birch, turning on his heel, said, "I don't think I'll bother." End raid.
The shop was also a theatrical shop, selling make-up, conjuring tricks, plays, elocution pieces, ventriloquial dolls, masks, wigs, etc., etc.
There was a fairly large staff when Andrade had the two floors, and the shop assistants derived from the VSP. The best known of these today would be Bert Henley, who worked in the bookshop for about thirty years, successively with Andrade, E. E. Davis and M. Stanley. Bert was in the Socialist Band when he started at Andrades and for a few months, he worked for Andrade in Sydney. A genuine reader, he has also tried his hand at fiction writing with some success. He especially recalls from early days with Andrade, as regular customers, Dr. Maloney, Arthur Calwell, Frank Anstey and Jack Holland. The latter spent a lot of time in the bookshop and also at Roy Rawson's bookshop in Exhibition Street. Two well-known socialist families were represented in Eddie Callard and Theo Farrall.
Theo was a youngster in the socialist band, playing cornet and was a regular medal winner at South Street. One year he was champion cornet player in Victoria.
His family were all active in some sphere. Father was an ALP member, and admirer of Tom Mann. A frequent visitor to the Farrall home was Monty Miller, Eureka veteran.
Roley Farrall was a typical IWW man and a well-known identity in Melbourne noted for his sense of humour. He was a member of the Building Workers' Industrial Union. Roley, brother Bert and a very youthful sister, Lillian were all very active in the anti-conscription campaigns. Bert was travelling on the "Southern Cross" when it disappeared. Lillian has been active in peace movements all her life.
Fred, a cousin, elected to Prahran Council at the age of 71 years, in 1967, with active support from the young Monash students, soon set the Council by the ears. He was responsible for winning a reduction of fifty per cent in Pensioners' rates, issues a regular paper reporting on the Council and stood for the Senate as an independent in 1970.
Eddie was the youngest boy in the Callard family and vividly remembers hearing Tom Mann speaking at the Melbourne Town Hall, although so young that when seated, his legs didn't touch the floor.
Eddie Callard and Roley Farrall, standing at left (identification courtesy of Verity Burgmann), with Percy Laidler, standing at right.
When Andrade opened a shop in Rawson Chambers, Sydney, Eddie was brought over from Melbourne to run the shop.
Moysey Callard, Eddie's father, was an excellent coachmaker—his coaches being regular prize winners at the Royal Show. Mrs. Callard was an active worker in the VSP. Brother, Maurice, became secretary of the Clothing Trades Union and earlier was in charge of literature for the VSP. Brother, Ted, was active in the Free Speech Fight at Prahran. Sister, Amy, was a regular Socialist Party worker and married a good socialist, Leo Bakker. Younger sister, Irene (Rene), was a Queen of the May.
When Simonoff (Soviet Consul) returned to the USSR, leaving his consular position vacant he handed over the Sydney office to Eddie Callard. This office consisted of some correspondence and piles of half-smoked cigarettes.
Eddie was secretary of the IWW in Victoria and, of course, this in no way affected his position working for Andrade.
He eventually went to New Zealand to live but maintains an active interest in the Australian movement.
The books which sold in largest quantities were possibly, Ragged Trousered Philanthropist", R. Tressall, The Jungle, Upton Sinclair, The Gadfly, Jimmy Higgins, The Pit and Jack London's The Iron Heel—as novels.
Charles H Kerr edition of "Socialism Utopian and Scientific" with Andrade sticker on front cover.
Popular propaganda works that sold in quantity were the books of Frank Anstey MHR, Red Europe and Money Power and the pamphlet "Arbitration and the Strike", by Percy Laidler. The four marxist classics most publicized and urged on the public at lectures, classes, street meetings and on the Yarra Bank, by Laidler, were "COMMUNIST MANIFESTO", by Marx and Engels; "WAGE–LABOUR AND CAPITAL", by Marx; "VALUE PRICE AND PROFIT", by Marx and "SOCIALISM, UTOPIAN AND SCIENTIFIC", by Engels. "CAPITAL", by Marx, translated by Untermann, was imported mainly in the Kerr edition and sold for a considerable period at the rate of six full sets of the 3 volumes per month. It sold at £2.5.0 a set, £2.6.6 posted. A good many sets found their way to Broken Hill which, as the heart of the industrial movement of Australia in earlier days, was one of the best customers Andrade had. The workers at the Barrier were not only direct-actionists, but they set out to grasp theory and to understand the implications of their own struggles. Queensland, too, was a good book-buying State. A great number of weekly and monthly periodicals published here and abroad, were sold.
Although Andrade had been a idealist, by the time Laidler was fully launched in the publication of radical literature, Andrade was middle-aged and interested in the business mainly as a "business".
The radical literature had become the mainstay of the business and this provided a good reason for non-interference. In fact, Andrade personally played no part and left it entirely to the judgment of Laidler in regard both to publication and the importing of radical literature. Laidler and Callard regarded the work in the nature of a political task to be fulfilled by them personally, and whilst Andrade religiously went home at 5 p.m. they frequently stayed until after the shop was shut and worked on into the night, and sometimes worked on Sundays—all without pay. Proof-reading could not possibly be done during the hours the shop was open and had to be performed in other time. All the socialist employees in the shop were of similar outlook—the job was not just an ordinary capitalist job, some of the work was a labour of love.
By about 1922 Andrade had lost interest to the extent of selling the bookshop, retaining only the first floor as a theatrical shop.
From time to time particular people made the shop their second, or spiritual home, and spent considerable time there every day. Guido Baracchi was one such. He was a young man of independent means with no active connections with the organised political movement until late in the war.
The effort of the Billy Hughes Government to introduce conscription and the successful campaign against it stirred up the biggest movement ever of Australian people against the Government and one stirred up was Baracchi.
Guido's father, Pietro Baracchi, was a distinguished scholar. He was appointed Government Astronomer in 1900. Born in Florence, Italy, on 25th February, 1851, he studied mathematics and astronomy under Padre Antonelli. Subsequently he took courses in civil engineering and, obtaining his degree, served in the Royal Engineers for a short period and conducted survey work in connection with roads and railroads. Coming to Victoria in 1876, he at once received an appointment with the Lands Department. In 1880 he passed an examination and became a surveyor connected with the Melbourne Observatory, and in the same year conducted an expedition to Port Darwin at the expense of all colonies, to determine the longitude of Australia by the exchange of telegraphic signals along the cable between Port Darwin and Singapore. Major Darwin, son of Charles, was the astronomer who took the corresponding observations at Singapore.
King Humbert in 1897 conferred on Pietro Baracchi, the Order of Knight Commander of the Crown of Italy. Guido was born in 1887.
He began to take interest in society around him in 1910 when the Labor Party was first returned in the Federal sphere. He had been a conformist and he remembers standing outside the Argus office where election results were pasted up. A middle-aged man and woman were in front of him. The woman said, "Ooh—what will happen now?" The man replied quite positively, "Capital will leave the country." This incident caused Guido to consider politics. He was a student at Melbourne Grammar School. Co-pupil was Stanley Melbourne Bruce (who became Prime Minister).
Guido used to "wag it" and stand all day in wonderful Coles Book Arcade, which stretched from Bourke to Collins Street, whose owner E. W. Cole was a secularist liberal. In this shop you were never asked to buy and freely allowed to read. It is alleged a greater number of books were stolen there than in any shop in the world.
The young Baracchi came to read George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells who influenced him to Fabianism.
At Melbourne University his subjects were Law and Arts. In 1912 he contributed two articles with socialist bias to Fleur de Lis, journal of Church of England's Trinity College. In 1913 he was made editor of the paper and secretary of Trinity College Dialectical Society—a debating society.
He soon got into trouble by inviting Dr. William Maloney (the "little Doctor"), a Labor member of Parliament to address the Society. The Warden would not allow such desecration. Baracchi engaged a hall in Parkville. The Warden then insisted on a counter-speaker. Charlie Duffy (Judge), son of Gavan Duffy, Chief Justice of the High Court, was supposed to be the counter-speaker though Guido says he covertly supported Maloney. Fifty students attended to hear the militant Labor leader. Charlie Duffy remarked that Maloney had more oratory in his little finger than "the whole pack of us put together".
The Warden (Leeper) called a meeting which censured Baracchi for publishing material in Fleur de Lis which was not in harmony with the tone of the College.
At this stage Baracchi's Law Professor, Harrison Moore, had a talk with him and advised he go overseas and attend the London School of Economics—if only for a term. He told him to mention that Prof. Harrison Moore thought he should have a special short course. Guido did this and during his short time there, changed from Fabian Socialism to Guild Socialism, half-way between State Socialism and Syndicalism.
Trinity College had an annual Prelector Address on social questions in the Chapter House at St. Paul's Cathedral. The Governor was always invited and three or four other speakers were there to discuss the address of the Prelector. In 1913 Guido was elected to present the paper for 1914. This he prepared on "Guild Socialism" on board ship returning from England. The vessel was in the Red Sea when war began.
The Governor was in the chair; Harrison Moore, Lance Wilkinson (a well-known economist), Frank Carse (well-known lawyer) and Des Duffy (younger son of Gavan Duffy) made the fourth.
Baracchi recalls he began with a slight suggestion of anti-war nature by saying something to the effect that to people who were not born-soldiers this subject was much more important than what was happening in the battlefront.
Privately the Warden said it was one of the best papers ever presented although he did not agree with any of the sentiments. However trouble loomed again for Baracchi.
The Melbourne University paper Farrago on June 27, 1969 printed as follows:
In 1917 an article published in Melbourne University Magazine opposed Australia's participation in World War I in extremely strong terms. While the government censor considered the article harmless the University's professorial board was angered by the opening paragraph. "The war, whatever the jingoes and pinkers may tell us, is not primarily our affair. Essentially it is an European war, fought by the allies against Germany to maintain the balance of European power. And Australia is not Europe."
The author, Guido Baracchi, was summoned before the professorial board and censured for misconduct. Subsequently he attacked the attitudes of university people in a letter published in the Argus. He was again called before the professorial board and under threat of expulsion swore an oath of loyalty to the British Empire. This satisfied the professors but not the students who threw the unfortunate dissident in the lake (which preceded the Commerce lawns which preceded the mud patch). Eventually he was accused of sedition, fined and jailed. It almost makes the current protest against the Vietnam War seem tame.
This report was incorrect in two points, one the word "pinkers" should read "Junkers", a common term used to designate warmongers in that particular war. The second mistake is in saying that he swore an oath of allegiance, this he did not do.
He was carpeted and censured for one article sent to MUM (which article had passed the Government censors), and then Baracchi submitted a second article which ended with the words "the trade unions are the hope of the world". The Board decided not to publish it and requested him to apologise for the article which was not published. He thereupon wrote a letter apologising not for writing the article but "for submitting it to MUM which had proved itself an unfortunate place to publish it because of the illiberalism of the magazine".
The editorial board did not publish this letter but announced that it had received an apology for publishing the article in the previous number of the magazine.
• • •
When the trouble began with the University, Harry Minogue (to become a prominent barrister) suggested that Baracchi go along and get advice from Dr. Mannix and offered to introduce him. Dr. Mannix was one of the leading figures in the anti-conscription campaign and strongly anti-British.
The interview impressed Guido that no man more than Mannix, could by the way in which he said a thing, and the expression of his face and body, convey so much more than the actual words used.
He had been told that Baracchi was accused of disloyalty to the British Empire.
Dr. Mannix said to Baracchi in his own peculiar way, "You don't want to be disloyal to the British Empire, do you?"
Baracchi tried to match him in reply, saying, "No, that is not my direct object."
• • •
It may be asked were there no liberals at the University at this time. It was a period of intense jingoism, equal to that of any other country in the world.
Baracchi was slightly defended by Harrison Moore. Philosophy Professor Boyce Gibson said "Glad to see some of the fellows reading Hegel" (Guido quoted Hegel in article.) Robert Gordon Menzies was a law student: he didn't take part, and is reputed to have said that he was totally opposed to Baracchi's views but thought he should be allowed to express them.
As to the lake incident, when asked if he had no friends or supporters amongst the students, the reply was "Yes, but I don't suppose they wanted to be chucked in too."
Extra curricular life was fairly vacuous—lack of intellectual stimuli amongst his fellows aided his progress to political activities outside the University.
Social life consisted of pub crawls, dinner and supper parties, at popular haunts. The finest flounder in Melbourne could be had at Grundens, Bourke Street (later Elizabeth Street), Hosies was popular for its meats and the beer was drunk from pewter pots. The Savoy in Little Collins Street was for flash occasions. A large grandfather clock adorned the Savoy, and once Baracchi was present when a young grazier of the Fawkner family entered, pulled out a gun and shot the clock. He was not a student. The students thought it pretty hilarious to hurl hard bread rolls at the stiff dress shirts of diners as they came in—it made a fine ringing sound.
Supper parties after the theatre were the thing, and much more so when livened with chorus girls picked up at the stage door. The Francatelli and The Vienna in Collins Street were patronised.
The seal on his acceptance in the broad streams of the labour movement was affixed when in 1918 he was made a guest of His Majesty at Pentridge for three months on a charge of sedition. There he read the second volume of Capital.
Despite his rather upperclass background, he quickly became absorbed in, and was absorbed by, the radical movement.
His formal education, knowledge of language, ability to study and leisure so to do, gave him a great advantage over all others. He could have contented himself with the theoretical study of Marx but he went further, he contributed the results of his advantages to the movement, and became an active force in the conditions then existent.
His first political venture was as a foundation member of the Victorian Labor College in July, 1917. Co-founders were W. P. Earsman (one of the first Australian delegates to the Communist International Congress, in 1921); Maurice Blackburn (who became famous for his independence and honesty as an M.H.R.); Rev. Frederick Sinclaire and Frank Hyett.
Baracchi considers that Frank Hyett fathered the Labor College.
Hyett, an outstanding man, who was a member and the first Secretary of the VSP, became Secretary of the Victorian Railways Union (later Australian Railways Union) in 1910. He was a fine man—zealous and efficient in his work and imbued with indomitable courage. He was almost too good to be true.
He was a thinker, speaker, debater, writer and organiser. His first article after election in the VRU, stated his policy, "one union for each industry".
Hyett was a member of the Carlton Football Club and Carlton Cricket Team and played Interstate Cricket for Victoria.
Whilst building the union membership from 2,000 to 12,000 in nine years, and representing the VRU on the THC and numerous other bodies, he found time to carry out Socialist Party work and was a leader of the anti-conscription campaign.
He was fatally struck down in the post-war pneumonic influenza epidemic, on the 24th April, 1919.
The whole labour movement was grief stricken at losing its most-loved leader, at the age of only 37 years. He had the greatest funeral of a labour leader, ever witnessed in Melbourne. The cortege with coffin draped with red flag left Unity Hall (founded by Hyett) for Box Hill cemetery. As well as mourning coaches, one hundred cars and cabs, there was a special train for mourners. As the train approached the Glenferrie Sports Ground the driver sounded his whistle. A game of football was in progress and at the sound of the train whistle all players stood to attention and spectators removed their hats. The estimated attendance at the funeral was 5,000. Bob Ross and Harry Smith were allowed out of gaol to attend the funeral.
Pall bearers were Frank Tudor MHR, leader of the Labor Party, G. Prendergast MLA, leader of the State opposition, J. N. Rees, Railways' Commissioner, Messrs. J. Evans, President of the VRU, A. Robins, Harry Scott-Bennett.
Scott-Bennett delivered a great peroration and the Red Flag was sung.
The Football League, Victorian Cricket Association, Carlton Cricket Club and Carlton Football Club were all represented. A Frank Hyett Memorium Fund was opened.
The epidemic killed other ALP and Socialist people, in particular a fine worker, Arthur Roth.
The Railways' Union Gazette put out a special twelve-page memorial supplement on May 22nd, 1919.
Godfrey Bullen, an unwavering socialist himself, wrote in Recorder, 1966—"Even now after many moons have passed, when I think of his early demise in 1919, I can easily shed tears of deep regret about it all."
The Labor College was based on the principle of independent working class education and it combated the Workers' Education Association which was regarded as a bourgeois appendage, imitating the University and discouraging independent working class thought. Classes were held and a bookstall opened in the Trades Hall lobby. The College still exists more than half a century later.
Classes were first held in the Unity Hall, and later transferred to the Trades Hall, which facilitated union affiliations and attendance. Subjects of classes were Industrial History (Blackburn), Literature (Sinclaire), Economics (Baracchi). Earsman was the driving force in organising the College.
Plans to start a magazine, Australia Felix, for the second anti-conscription campaign fell through, when a deputation consisting of Baracchi, Earsman and Vance Palmer, to the Trades Hall Council, requesting support was rebuffed.
Guido Baracchi, second from left, with Chris O'Sullivan and the Laidler family: Perc, Billy, Chris and Bertha.
Baracchi first heard of Laidler when Lesbia Keogh, the poet, talked about him, saying that she supported Laidler's syndicalist ideas and was opposed to the ideas of Baracchi and Earsman.
It was natural Baracchi and Laidler should become closely associated, and for them to embark on a joint venture. Baracchi's opinion of Laidler was expressed in 1968 in a long verse-letter written to Frederick Macartney.
Meanwhile, a Bourke Street bookshop had
A manager who could by gad!
Join realism with revolution,
A concept to its execution,
Whose thinking bold appeared to me
Alien quite from phantasy.
Perc Laidler was a mate of mine:
We hit it off together fine,
On more than most we could agree
In politics and humanly
Speaking, so that he could see a
Prospect for the bright idea
Of a new monthly magazine
Published by him, myself foreseen
As editor, the which would span
Marxism writ plain for Mary Ann
And Mick, The Proletarian.
It was the first Marxist Journal in Australia. They decided to call it The Proletarian Review, and issue it monthly as a 16 page magazine selling at 3/6 per year posted. The first issue came out in June 1920 and the name was changed in the October issue to The Proletarian, which was what everybody called it, anyhow. The content was mainly educational—teaching Marxism but there was some content on current struggles. It encouraged the formation of a Communist Party in Australia.
The way in which editor and publisher regarded it could be summed up in an advertisement appearing on the back cover of Proletarian Revolution, as follows:—
REASONS why you should read the PROLETARIAN Edited by G. Baracchi.
BECAUSE it is for the Revolutionary Working Class.
BECAUSE it will keep you in touch with Revolutionary thought.
BECAUSE it panders to no sect.
BECAUSE it is a Marxian Magazine.
BECAUSE it will guide you to the best books of the Movement.
It had regular features under headings, "A Proletarian Library" (book reviews) and "Proletarian Comment" (events abroad and at home). Cartoons were reproduced from the American Liberator. There were articles written by local people and reprints of European marxists and speeches by Lenin and other Russian leaders.
Sales were approximately 2,000, obtained through all the usual Andrade channels in Australia and New Zealand. Andrade had a double-paged advertisement, which helped finance the journal, despite this, when advertising the forthcoming first issue of The Proletarian Review on the cover of "Soviets at Work" (published by Andrade) readers were advised that copies were "Obtainable from Socialist Parties and Radical Booksellers, or from Andrade's Bookshop, 201 Bourke Street, Melbourne." Similarly on the back of Blackburn's "Bolsheviks" (published Andrade) a list of books advertised, has as footnote, "If you cannot obtain the above Books from the nearest Socialist Party or Industrial Propaganda Group, send to Will Andrade."
The journal continued to be published regularly. In June 1921 Baracchi travelled abroad and Laidler carried on as both editor and publisher. In May 1922 it was transferred to Sydney and under the editorship of Carl Baker, became the "theoretical organ" of the Communist Party. Laidler felt that the Communist Party which had been formed in October 1920 (towards whose formation Baracchi felt, The Proletarian had done much preparatory work in its few months of existence) was the logical organisation to produce the only marxist periodical in the country, and Baker and the CP were eager to take over.
However, it changed character to a great degree and after the May 1922 issue did not appear again until January 1923. It continued regularly until July of that year and then faded out.
Baracchi went abroad in 1923 and was in Germany during the abortive revolt in that year. He was one of the two English-language editors of Inprecorr (International Press Correspondence). The other English representative was an Englishman named Clarke, who had been in gaol as a Conscientious Objector, along with Bertrand Russell. Guido was also a member of the German Communist Party.
In the postwar turmoil, revolution was very close in the big cities of Germany and in the Ruhr. At a meeting of Inprecorr workers volunteers were asked to go on the streets if the need arose. All volunteered and when they asked for arms were told there were no arms. When things were getting hot it was decided to move the Inprecorr office to Vienna to ensure continuity of world publication. Clarke was chosen to go when only one English speaking man was required. A rising had been planned for the whole country but occurred only in Hamburg as the revolutionaries there did not get the order countermanding the revolt. The results were disastrous. It was suggested to Guido that he pose as a businessman as a cover for a radio station in Scandinavia, but he pointed out he was the worst possible poser of a businessman that could be imagined. He then went to England.
Later he was to return to Australia and play a further part in the movement.
Another regular caller at the shop was H. E. (Bert) Payne. Bert had been a stretcher-bearer during the war and when he returned to Australia was interested in social questions. He was friendly with Baracchi and Asche. He first met Laidler when coming into the shop to buy a copy of Das Kapital for the Labor College. The man who served him apparently went to Laidler and told him a strange man was buying Marx. Percy came down to see him and sound him out. Apparently, according to Bert, he would try to organise anyone buying solid literature. Bert was active in the LPG, on the THC and secretary of the Labor College when Laidler was president of the College. He has had a long career in the ALP, was elected a Councillor on the Broadmeadows Council and served a term as mayor. He is a great book collector.
Jim Garvey was another constant visitor. A member of the ARU since 1922, in later years he was president of the Clerical Section at Flinders Street. He was always a keen student and book buyer, and relates that when he went to the shop Perc always introduced him to interesting people. He first met Tom Wright there and Ralph Gibson before Ralph made up his mind to join the CP. At this stage Ralph said his heart was in it but not yet his mind.
The chief thing about Laidler that Jim Garvey comments on is that he had no affectation. Jim had been a member of the Aborigines Advancement League for over ten years and was president of the James Connolly Association for some years. He is now a member of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History.
Cover of an early edition of Percy Laidler's pamphlet "Arbitration and the Strike".
Laidler wrote this pamphlet feeling it to be the great need of the trade union movement. He felt that the illusions of the workers had to be exploded and he set about a simple, logical exposition of the subject. He underlined "So, as the Court's awards are according to what is necessary to secure Industrial Peace, it follows that the award possible for any union to secure depends upon its ability to cause Industrial War—in other words, upon its ability to strike." The pamphlet was written in 1918 and first printed in 1919. There were several editions and the total sale amounted to 25,000 copies. The whole pamphlet was published in serial form in the Railways Union Gazette, commencing November the 23rd, 1927 and concluding January 10th, 1928. The Railways Union Gazette introduced the first instalment by writing ". . . is a critical survey of the system the A.R.U. is now using."
Read it online
A scanned copy of the pamphlet is available on the website Reason in Revolt: Source Documents of Australian Radicalism.
Towards the end of the pamphlet Laidler states "the working man has been deluded into regarding the Court as a substitute for strikes. Thus, he has been encouraged to rely upon what this pamphlet proves is a broken reed. And inasmuch as he does this he fails to rely upon what is reliable, his Union's capacity to strike."
Firstly called "Arbitration and the Strike", later editions were titled simply "Arbitration". There is a copy in the Mitchell Library and also (as Laidler was happy to learn) in the Marx-Engels Library in Moscow.
It was natural that the bookshop and its environs became a great meeting spot for all those interested in working class politics. Friday night was a late night for the shops. Closing time was 10.30 p.m. and it became 9 p.m. with the exception of Christmas Eve when the shops remained open until 10 p.m. Melbourne was more of a village in those days and crowds of workers enjoying shorter hours on Friday than the poor shop assistants, thronged the shops and pavements spending portion of the weekly pay envelope. Friday was usually pay day. Whilst the elite did the "block" in Collins Street, the workers promenaded Bourke Street, meeting friends and relations on the pavements in the course of so doing.
So, too, came all the active participants in politics—particularly the rank and file, for an exchange of news, and the thrashing out of policies, on the street kerb outside the shop.
Twenty to thirty men and a few women, representing all shades of political opinion, I.W.W., Revolutionary Socialist, Socialist, Anarchist, A.S.P., S.L.P., S.P.G.B., Rationalist, W.I.I.U. and even plain Labor would thrash out rival policies finally splitting up into two, three or four groups as the arguments grew more heated.
In these times the police were mainly foot-police and they patrolled the beat in twos and fours. On Friday night there would be two together in front and a few paces behind another twosome. They would plod along to 201, calling out "Move along there, now move along!" Eventually a group would appear to break up only to reform and by then the next twosome would be there repeating the performance. The "Johnhops" as they were known would walk up to the next block and then turn around and come back and it would be on again.
Some of the regulars outside the shop were: Vic Barber, Jack O'Connor, Jack and Eustace Francis, Ted Dickinson, Bert Sutch, Snipe Aanensen, Stan Willis, Snowy Davis, Paddy Hoyne, Howard Norbury, Bill Downie, L. Pozzi, Ted Protz, A. J. Carozzi, Jack Moran, Viv Crisp, Hill 60, Norman Rancie, Frank and Max Stephanski, Eddie Lyall, Terry Dean, Bill Scott, Lloyd Jones, Bert Wall, Mrs. Blackler, Bert Payne, Phil and Ben Woolf, Jim Grover, Jim Morley, Bill Fox, John Geikie, Cliff Barratt, Roley Farrall, Snowy Bessant, Mrs. Anderson, Jim Bergin, Ted Ford, Jock Bosher, Goff Bullen, George Robson, Leo Bakker, Snowy Martin, Whiskers Hill, Seejam Johnson, Maurie Tilley, Chris Laidler, Jack Temple and Charlie Wardley. A large number were waterside workers—all of whom are dead, and died at a relatively young age. The capitalist press was always describing the wharfies as loafers, but the age of death of the militants seems to prove the heavy nature of their work.
When a fight was on, be it industrial or political, there would be larger numbers come along, and many campaigns to assist the current struggles would emanate from this launching pad.
Especially during strikes, workers of the involved industry would be there. Visitors from other States would know where to go to meet kindred souls. Usually they came into the bookshop during the day and would surely ask, "Do they still meet outside on Friday night?"
After the abolition of Friday night shopping during the last war, there would still be a few lonely stragglers making a nostalgic pilgrimage.
The book Solidarity Forever! is Copyright © the estate of Bertha Walker 1972.
This website is Copyright © Alan Walker 2012.
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