Brisbane Anarchism

sayarsan's picture

This is a draught so any suggestions are welcome for the help they can provide for the next rewrite.

“A motivated group working harmoniously and dynamically with a clear understanding of a common goal and a plausible way to achieve it will often achieve that goal”-Anarchism
“After the Paris Commune (1871), Bakunin characterised Marx's ideas as authoritarian, and predicted that if a Marxist party came to power its leaders would end up as bad as the ruling class they had fought against (notably in his Statism and Anarchy). In 1872, the conflict in the First International climaxed with a final split between the two groups at the Hague Congress.”-Wikipedia
Brisbane anarchism got off to a bad start when a popular front demagogue who had been a firebrand speaker during the Vietnam War was invited by the Stalinist trade unions to go to a conference in Prague in 1968. His ability to hold a captive audience spellbound with his antics provided the media with a pinup boy who hammed it well with che drag and beard and he spoke the language too, all the rhetoric about hate, evil, history, justice, war, imperialism, capitalism, marxism, maoism, leninism, and revolution of course which is the catch phrase for when the inevitable arises-“but what should we do?”. As it turned out the Stalinists had invited the young westerners, a select bunch of cadres for the Communist World Revolution who had each shown promise to this hierarchy of tyrants, just in time for them to witness a wonderful example of spontaneous revolt. After proving his bravery at UQ where agitating against the war actually led to push and shove but never a fist fight, our hero is exposed to the reality of what he has been spruiking for at demos and has an epiphany, somewhere along the way he claims he managed to capture a secret agent with a sub-machine gun and comes back to Brisbane a changed man calling himself a Libertarian Communist, after dropping off smuggled papers to an editor for bolshevik (for these purposes ‘bolshevik’ refers to all those radical militants espousing the ideas and methods of the Marxist-Leninist organizations around the world) paper ‘The Guardian’ in England. Anyone who has been on the ground within earshot of guns being fired in earnest knows that the men with them guard them jealously, especially fully automatic weapons, give them names, cleaning them to relieve stress much as sharpening ones sword in ancient times they keep them meticulously maintained and are reluctant at best to be more than a meter or two away in the slightest chance it might be required. Those who are untrained simply keep them, jealously suspicious of anyone who might want to use theirs. There are never enough and they go to those most trusted even in peace let alone during an invasion. How a fresh faced Brisbane boy without a word of Czech and unable to read signs, reeking of privilege and little else but the hands of a priest managed to convince these people that he was a serious ally and not just a stooge on invite from the Stalinists, capable of operating as a serious combatant with the implicit and explicit trust this implies even to the point of being equipped with a rare and deadly commodity along with its precious ammunition was never explained, or queried strangely enough considering not a shred of corroborating evidence was ever produced, and what the young wife and baby daughter were doing while all this happened is anybody’s guess. Perhaps he stripped, cleaned and rebuilt it in under two minutes while blindfolded! But even that wouldn’t be sufficient and anyone with a grain of sense knows it. The fact that none ever challenged this story encouraged his delusion until he had to stick with it and dredged it up once more for an election campaign while running for Lord Mayor decades later. A crippled beginning and anarchism was here. It helps to understand the sort of characters most of the UQ bull rads were. With a worldwide youth movement where change was the dominant subject for discussion it was easier for a bull rad to ‘pull chicks’ than it was for a drug dealer at the time. The shy and socially awkward could brush up on the history of revolutionary thought and be something like an entertainer in a local band and for many this was the primary motivation. One persistent demagogue had put music aside while his libido chased him around the radical left only to pick it up again once punk was ten years old. These were undergraduate males fresh from school where many were borders who moved into college accommodation before gathering the audacity to move into a house after they were married, found a girlfriend or realised what they were missing out on once the billiard table and beer with the boys began to lose its novelty. Their studies in the Arts Faculty; politics, history, psychology and sociology acquainted them with a jargon which they used in much the same way that a doctor will sometimes use it, to impress and worse, to avoid embarrassing questions raised by an acute mind. As the anti-war and civil liberties movements gained support the centre for these activities became the University of Queensland Students Union where elections provided a platform to build support and the sizeable budget was available to be used for those activities decided upon by these student bureaucrats. ‘Jobs for the boys’ and ‘pulling rorts’ were seen as part of the game and the level of debate often took the form of personal slander, character assassination, unfounded claims and patent untruths, all accusations often made to union and political bureaucrats in the wider society. Only the rhetoric was radical for many of these characters and their stance on such issues often ended with their university studies. The sort of attention fawned on them by the media and the hordes of sycophants wanting a spectacle made a thorough mockery of their claims to egalitarian politics and social justice. These terms became the sort of pap phrases used to engage in a political banter with their competitors and very little else. This is not to denigrate social activism nor the people involved there but it is no mystery that those who make a career of it are inevitably preying on the gullible and soft headed idealists that so many young people are, and often are preying on something a lot more cynical than a lust for change. Don’t ever think females are immune to this and at that age are often more precocious than males and equally desperate for that first important stroke to their silly adolescent egos.

I only wish that someone had told this 17 year old hopeful what a laughable game it was. To be honesat I was told but the first step in joining a cu7lt is to be alienated from your friends, family and associates unless they can be recruited also. This was not the intentions of most group members but it was a stark parallel just the same. It does explain why the only figure coming from Brisbane to make any great contribution to Australian Anarchism so far has been living in Melbourne since he finished med school. To do anything serious with Anarchism in Brisbane will mean dealing with a demagogue or two and it is much better to just start somewhere serious like Melbourne, which he did and the Anarchist Media Institute, and more, grew from his work and would perhaps have done so in Brisbane had he stayed, or would it? It seems a bit fanciful to pin this as the beginning, there were others who had claimed themselves as anarchist before but none took the big step of creating an organization to propagate the ideas like the reconstructed bolshevik in the above. With the cache he gained by haranguing the masses at rallies he attracted some loyal help from militants in the anti-war movement, the RSP (Revolutionary Socialist Party) was an early organisation from which members were recruited and the simple good sense in libertarian ideas did the rest, a no brainer really. The method of organization employed by bolsheviks is the same as any used by authoritarian structures around the world which is why they were the predominant model for so long. The concepts require little thought or understanding by those espousing them as they barely challenge any existing ideas about authority. Such was the soil which proved so fertile to our hero that in many ways the formula was barely changed except in principle. In fact our hero maintained thorough ideological hegemony (like it? It means that the ideas being discussed and espoused are those concurrent with the alpha ideologue, our hero) on the basis of Libertarian logic alone but that didn’t stop him hamming it up for the young militants with stories about guns and a ‘Military Cell’ which seemed to amount to him and his wife under the supervision of an army mechanic putting a few rounds through a shotgun while the militants cleared the noxious weeds on the property, which was in retrospect, the most likely reason for us being there in the first place. The truly relevant article was The Red and the Black Bookshop situated in a pleasant, bohemian arcade with a waterbed shop, health foods, a tobacconist, second hand bookstore, import records there were always young people especially on weekends when they competed with greasy perverts and raucous schoolboys eager to see the dirty books on sale as an easy earner and of course ‘anti-censorship’. Poster sales were a big earner too in the days of u.v. light and dayglo for when people were stoned or tripping plus the tasteful nudes where some vaseline on the lens and a camisole top lent an air of sophistication that even made them popular amongst women until feminism came along. While all the other left groups had places no closer to town than Fortitude Valley this bookshop became the pre-eminent radical bookshop in Brisbane by default. It was more than ably run by a prominent Trotskyist and affable good chap who couldn’t change with the times and was ostracized accordingly but never in its history did it function as a centre of libertarian thought where groups and individuals from anywhere in the world could communicate with similar minds here. Especially in Brisbane the group was always sectarian and never sought to make friends and this was driven home to me and others when we attended a national anarchist conference in 1974. The Self-Management Group(SMG) had a reputation for being rigid, authoritarian, sectarian and of course sexist by then. I responded to these criticisms by saying “you shouldn’t judge everybody in the group on the image it has interstate” and by the end of the conference and a week or more just enjoying Sydney from a big terrace house in Glebe I had made a lot of friends and had already decided to move there permanently. Our hero didn’t attend on the grounds that it was irrelevant but the real reason, I feel certain now, was because he wasn’t up to the sort of debate the conference promised. The demagogue is always best when playing to a home crowd and our hero never played to any other. He refused to attend because he risked exposure in front of his own militants, he couldn’t deal with people like Wendy Bacon for example about whom he could say anything from Brisbane but in person she was and is a formidable intellect which our hero couldn’t hope to match. I didn’t stop then to think that a group like this should be finding allies instead of making enemies. When a group is inward, sectarian, willing to argue but not discuss then it is bankrupt, it is at the very essence of revolutionary thought, even human existence to be quite conscious of being affirmative instead of negative and this is not a state of mind it is a state of being so that even the cruellest defeat might be a lesson at least, maybe more if you have the wisdom to learn it. A demagogue will learn but behaves as if it always has the answer, it is never interested in the truth for its own sake and this is why they finish up so close to where they started without really going anywhere in between. They live in constant fear of being exposed and reveal this in sometimes sad, sometimes hilarious ways. The whole charade would be no different from showbiz except the commodities are youth, hope, justice, progress, which not long ago were the domain of religion which explains the messianic zeal with which the young will agitate for change. Ultimately these aspects of life are important social themes and our hero cut a Christ like figure with a small beard, hair about the ears, sandals and attendant acolytes so that argument was never necessary when others would do it for practice.

While Europe has a tradition in Anarchism that pre-dates Marxism, Brisbane has a tradition of Marxism and Leninism (Bolshevism) which predates Anarchism a typical state of affairs for a colonial backwater where everything arrives from overseas in the wrong order. Our hero who has gained assistance from earlier allies is now riding on the crest of new ideas and is attracting people from different radical groups in town who have become disillusioned with the style of change proposed by the bolsheviks with a central committee, a vanguard, and a secret police, all too reminiscent of the world they were seeking to change with an organizational structure that is redundant in the modern world. The simplicity of it lent a messianic tinge to his crusade and adherents were tagged ‘Laverite’ by bolsheviks who saw the ground going from beneath their monopoly of radical politics. A most important lesson to be learned by all idealists is that wide eyed enthusiasm is a dangerous state of mind which must be addressed as soon as possible, verging on delusion it is not far from total dissociation in some then psychosis and radical politics is frequently visited by a madness born of the frustration between seeing such good sense and being unable to communicate it. It doesn’t do these people any good to associate with demagogues who are always competing for your version of the truth. Demagogues tramp over delicate sensibilities in their rush to build a following and this was the nature of growth in the Self-Management Group(SMG) which proved far more dangerous to impressionable minds than drugs are. A very awkward name for a very simple idea, it was soon the most dynamic radical group in town boasting more than 50 members and a score or more associates with a unique ‘cell structure’ (you heard it first here) where the novel idea of people regulating themselves was put into practice while a general meeting took place yearly to review the work of the cells and take policy decisions. In practice a wonderful way to organise and soon to become the template for radical groups around the world and made famous by Al-Qaeda.

The dilemma of the pre-psychotic, how to communicate a good idea to a disinterested listener, finally surfaced at an institutional level or, in this case at a general meeting. The group would have gone into a state of steady decline like all the others if it hadn’t been for a sudden influx of secondary students which plausibly delayed the decline by opening up a new area of focus and attracting new blood. There were already teachers who made excellent allies by providing a much needed sensibility to the naiveté of students and a systematic campaign of distributing libertarian propaganda into Brisbane high schools was undertaken and 100,000 copies of an offset printed, broadsheet sized collection of articles and cartoons was a shining example of revolutionary agitprop including, or until a team was intercepted by police after the teachers at several schools had proved powerless to deal with the intrusions. The driver of the car was planted with pethidine and syringes but his impeccable revolutionary credentials were well known and a blood test confirmed he hadn’t been taking the stuff and he got off. The presence of younger participants in the workings of the group seemed to provide an interesting diversion for this predominantly staid male clique of clumsy intellectuals who were delighted by the presence of fresh flesh and sources of drugs. In many ways the group was little more than an expression of people’s inability to function in the wider society which explains the sectarian nature of the organization and the complete neglect of outside contact. With the glow of the high school campaign wearing off the dilemma of how to maintain constant growth once again surfaced but without the sudden influx of new blood there was nowhere new to focus new activity. The messianic zeal with which we had blindly disseminated the ideas of an intellectual obscure even in Paris(Paul Cardin) who wrote ‘Modern Capitalism and Revolution’, published by Solidarity in English along with ‘Socialisme ou Barbarie’ etal and imported by our hero as an argument against Marxism that was every bit as unreadable and ultimately meaningless as Marx himself in the latter half of the 20C made us a textbook case of a cult. As an organisation Solidarity had none of the vitality or eminence we had been led to assume and this became apparent when other members of the group travelled to London and saw what we had been working for so slavishly. A rather lonely bunch of alienated middle class and middle aged pipe smoking intellectuals as remote from the people as they were from the Great Barrier Reef, the image of ageing demagogues themselves probably. Some members began looking at the mechanics for social change and referred to psychology for inspiration and a split began to emerge along these lines with a tendency following the primary demagogue, our hero from above citing Erich Fromm a Neo-Freudian, and a secondary demagogue citing Perls and Gestalt. This could have been the grounds for some seriously enlightening thought but instead became the grounds for a split and a large group of hard working and seriously committed libertarians was sacrificed for the sake of two demagogues who needed to compete for the truth. The evils of capitalism explained by Fromm adjusted to include the proposition that it is ‘our moral responsibility to start a revolution’ or a method of better coping with the alienation of modern life explained by Gestalt became the grounds for irreconcilable differences and anyone who didn’t take sides was viewed with suspicion by both demagogues. The split gave rise to two groups under two demagogues both of which proved totally inept at doing anything much at all and sank into complete oblivion just as anarchism was becoming fashionable. One failed to manage the bookshop out of the waning interest in world revolution while the other failed to create a viable printing venture despite the presence of people both capable and willing. I can’t say what happened to the 50 and more people who had worked in a positive and generally cheerful manner with few disputes and almost without argument while we assembled our own writings and drawings, acquired ample supplies of paper, roneo copied it and distributed it. At least a couple are very committed to the Greens and have proved a valuable asset there, another is committed to the Refugee Action Coalition and has proved valuable there, our early example in Melbourne anarchism are the prominent ones but nobody continued with the charade if they had any choice. The roneo was replaced by the Circle A Press under the control of a single demagogue who is motivated more by the influence a press can wield than anything else. One of their posters was recognised by the State Government much to the gratification of our beta demagogue but the output of agitprop was hampered by an inability to perform tasks set by a meeting, the photographer/graphic artist moved to Sydney and the printer went into a serious venture and has maintained his boyish charm and his brains while facing the stark reality of trying to be a libertarian and prosper in this world, an admirable project considering the beginnings. The beta demagogue still hasn’t learned the importance of cleaning rollers after a print job and has resigned itself to the oblivion it spent most of its life seeking still incapable of fixing even the simplest mechanical problem on a press. No doubt he has a framed copy of the acclaimed work on his bedroom wall to prove to himself and anyone gullible that he was an agitator, the new boss says so.
This is the type of behaviour that passed as ‘revolutionary’ in the lack lustre 70’s. A period during which those who felt they had come late to a movement met those who were too slow to adapt and the dull began leading the naïve into what became years and years of the same tired routine while anyone with any sense of adventure left town. This was no option for our demagogues who have a lot more baggage than honest folk, the hero from above was fortunate to have a cousin who did well as an international tennis player and no doubt Brisbane would have been well rid of him had it not been for the unfortunate death of this cousin. With nothing innate or learned to sustain him he retreated back to this little backwater where his absurd posturing found favour with a new crop of hopeful young social consciences, yuppie housewives whose children needed coaching, and any young thing he might be able to entice with promises of a good time. Brisbane came of age in 1988, not because of the change in government but because of Expo ’88, it was palpable and the change of government was simply a rubber stamp to facilitate development which was initially focused on Brisbane’s inner south. The popular euphoria at the change of government was understandable but for a serious anarchist it was not the time to fall for the gag. The change was to the benefit of overseas finance and there were plenty talking about it including our demagogues of course because it gave them a platform.

The struggle had moved from the workplace to the community by now because the workplace was becoming less and less populated while those in it are less inclined to challenge the status quo. When it used to be easy to distribute a few thousand leaflets each while standing at the gate to a large factory site not so far away it was now quite difficult to distribute a fraction as many. Enter ‘Neighbourhood News’, edited by our hero who has now softened his hard line libertarian purity to accommodate Marxism, black nationalism, advertising, management committees and an assumption that it was the voice of the suburb where many don’t even speak English. Distributed free of course around the suburb it was a handy coaster, disposable work surface, source of gossip and outrage but largely worthless at making any impression at all with the public imagination, not explicitly anarchist in case it scared people it contained such pedestrian, suburban fare it completely belied the bohemian flavour it sought to stimulate. Anarchism was conspicuous by its irrelevance. Even in a grand bunker vacated by the Commonwealth Bank, room for a library, meetings, media events and a bookshop, there were no real gains made by anarchism while our hero ran for Lord Mayor complete with his ‘war story’ and earlier history as a bull rad he polled accordingly then went on to mismanage the last of the West End Street Festivals which had been a defining expression of the people and the suburb since its inception more than a decade before. The beer sales were managed expertly by the man assigned the task while our hero arranged for the stocks to be bought cold in the morning and allowed to stand unrefrigerated in a box all day in the summer sun. The cardboard disintegrated so the supplier would not accept returns and the major source of Festival revenue was drunk by hangers on, yours truly and our hero plus a score of others and for those he looked kindly upon our hero had reef fish and seafood, boutique beers, all the spoils accorded those who have been in on a good rort. Anyone present who had a prior experience of just such matters was seen as disruptive while in a haste to rent sites for stalls he gave away his monopoly on alcohol sales which was already eroded by the two hotels, one on site and one around the corner. All comments on this were met with derision and suspicion and the only discussions were strictly top down as a mature version of our tearaway revolutionary from Prague settled back into its bolshevik mould and all interest in the Czechs became entirely carnal. The bank became too big an overhead and his ego was forced into a smaller enclosure off the main street, this time with a Sanskrit flavour to the name as if he is predicting a coming enlightenment. A natural death to an unnatural ego and anarchism is no better for it other than the sorry experience of those foolish enough to take these things seriously.

By this stage the ‘Circle A’ brand has been corrupted by the media just like the swastika was corrupted by the Nazis so it finally became not only quite safe but also very fashionable to now embrace the symbol which had been embarrassing some years previously to those who came from a Marxist viewpoint. The challenger at our dispute at the Annual General Meeting has now moved a little to accommodate the rigours of youth which he had patronized with such relish as a university student. Our demagogue has become trendy and a former Marxist now uses the circle A brand with a characteristic lack of imagination. It’s currently the brand for a website where he recounts his career as a recording artist which didn’t exist much outside his own mind and those few he managed to collect around him for a brief period, anarchism is conspicuous by its absence. Such a degree of delusional thinking and complete lack of imagination are a balm for my soul. His competitiveness is tinged with the characteristic obsequiousness of the sycophant but still the patronizing behaviour remains its trademark and evidence of skill, experience i.e. readiness to work are still absent. Set up a squat and sleep cosy with the main squeeze on the other side of town, a printing press which accepts an assignment from a collective meeting only to unilaterally down tools on the grounds that it was “not didactic enough” (didactic means informative or educative) for a few hundred words encouraging school kids to an anti-nuclear rally. Not to be melodramatic but under other circumstances such behaviour has cost terribly. I was encouraged to work in a newsroom which soon proved another delusion. It was in fact a complacent demagogue with his acolyte trolling through the most reviled newspaper in town and making guffaws at each other’s jokes over news which listeners had already read and often had no desire to revisit. There was no space for a news room to physically exist but worse there was no clear idea of what do we constitute as news, where do we find it, how is this done, who can, should, will do it. The acolyte was the one who suffered apart from the listeners of course. He learned more about anarchism from books than from this overbearing nuisance and through no fault of his own save for youth he lost interest entirely. Such issues were ritually ignored as people chugalugged on plonk and toked on joints brought by yours truly. I take my share of the blame but in return I did provide a steady supply of news on as many topics as I could find from a wide variety of respectable and reliable journals from Australia and overseas for two three hour news shifts by myself. Anybody who wanted to do news was heartily welcome but when there wasn’t any we still went to air with a full stomach instead of a full bowel. The real heroes were the people who came in to panel for the show and with a sensibility for what is going on, an ability to question, and best of all to often find a truly funny, incisive or relevant remark. Those with noses buried in newspapers and glasses often ignored these important people and there were a few. There’s nothing more bankrupt than someone who assumes precedence over those they work with for whatever reason but coming from a professed libertarian this sort of behaviour is diagnostic of a very troublesome and ultimately dishonest personality type that will stoop to sly remarks about dear friends and old acquaintances in a desperate attempt to do something quite perverse. Anarchism is not a recipe for a new world. Anyone who continues to imply it is will prove to be dishonest, stupid or worse. It is a bottom line from which basic principles can be applied so that people might live lives harmonious with the world and each other. It is not a political ideology and those who pretend otherwise are invariably hoping to win an election for the comforts it brings. It is something that exists as, for and part of collective activity and once this activity loses its vigour anarchism is thereafter absent. By definition it is a process and the best writer on the topic Piotr Kropotkin was not only an aristocrat in Czarist Russia but also a brilliant geographer in the Army for the Czar and a researcher even while imprisoned. In the Self-Management Group I came away well acquainted with the life stories of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky while writers like Kropotkin and all the anarchists were absent from all discussions.
It amounts to a truly demoralising experience for the hopeful who are vulnerable when young when attempts to incorporate a sense of justice into their lives lead them into becoming not just labourers but something like fags for these parasitic intellects who were never educated or trained in how to actually create much less command. Never educated or trained in anything at all to be quite frank. The senior figure had completed an undergraduate arts degree which equipped him for nothing more than more time at university, the younger did likewise but failing to enter academia he was encouraged by the dole office to train as a school teacher and here lies the primary reason why teachers are generally substandard. Fortunately youth has a way of taking care of itself and those who can keep it might also continue to apply themselves while the demagogue, instead of following their curiosity or desire to achieve some sense of worth in life is a miserable slave to the social medium it depends on. With a near total inability to adapt to changing trends and ideas the demagogue is short sighted, peering through thick spectacles at its world and never really connecting in a true exchange of anything. Music is something to be learned from a book and practised in private so that the social aspect is more likely to be a conversation than a song or a dance. A form of dyslexia that probably went undiagnosed in a childhood spent with Christian Brothers who favoured such spasticity in their charges personalities. The all too familiar psychic breakdown between passivity and aggression is what eats every demagogue and it reveals itself as they play sycophant to those they dare not offend and patronise all the rest. This behaviour reveals itself in public and private and is a characteristic personality trait. Even a private game of chess becomes a desperate battle to dominate a perceived opponent and an opportunity to abandon the rules in favour of a shallow victory that only he can see. Truly pathetic, but absolutely necessary to this incomplete person who owes his opponent the flat where the game is played, everything in the flat, all the work he is doing, his excuse for going into debt to friends, his expectations to make quick easy money out of something he sneered at loudly and publicly in the past. Fashion changed and heroin was now an opportunity to win friends and influence people so the demagogue has come to yours truly to find out just how easy it is, feels himself crumbling under the burden and slinks back to Brisbin to explain his losses after a few weeks when I had spent five years supporting myself and a lovely wife in a manner many wish to become accustomed to but not before spending a year including seven months in prison doing research and development, before I ever had a product. At this point his whole existence is predicated on a person he can only beat at chess by cheating. The cheating isn’t needed to win the game of chess but it is needed to make a perverted display of dominance for this demagogue who practiced on his kid brothers all his life and knows no other way to relate. Desperately lonely because it has to be at the top, the demagogue will do anything to maintain the illusion it creates and this extends to all it touches. With no ability to build the demagogue will happily attach itself to a source of gratification as long as it continues to provide only to leave it broken and disrupted with no guidance, structure, or progress ever having been made. To talk of friendship at this point or any other is complete madness and an attitude of derision was always there on my part which is just as well for me but hardly an excuse for that sort of behaviour. It was quite interesting being witness to such behaviour while I was studying Clinical Psychology and I can only reiterate the remark about school teachers and the reasons why schools are such dysfunctional institutions. Everything is a competition starting in infancy for parental approval for the second born of four sons where the eldest inherits the dominant spot and the second competes with the others for what’s left and the youngest find their own lives in music and art which both are good at. Number one is and always will be while number two tries to be something but never figures out what setting it on a lifetime course of envy, competition and failure. Society is to blame to anyone who will listen to the dogma while the real story is something so mundane it needs an ad break. Its entire life is no more than a sob in the wee hours when age has dictated its most important lesson.
When the first organization died of boredom the youngsters were lucky to find a new wave of music just as they were becoming proficient on their instruments and in a rather confined but energetic milieu a few bands were spawned which provided a much needed diversion from what was becoming truly problematic in radical politics, the extinction of the workforce as we knew it. It was like an ice age had made all the fodder dry up and like all herbivores, they were dumbstruck. The two demagogues took no notice of a recent cultural aberration. They had been arguing, demanding an end to wage slavery and when it came they were redundant. Even the one who claimed to be a musician was quite happy to laugh at the efforts of his ‘comrades’, bands in which people played, in a characteristic display of derision which went completely unnoticed due to his irrelevance. Unperturbed he simply ignored this wonderful opportunity to be involved in the social life of a sad backwater mainly because of the police presence which is probably what prevented him from buying any pot too. After ten years when everything had become formularised to the point where even the voters were ready for a change our spontaneous revolutionary gathers a few local musicians and his brother to record a novelty song which gets saturation airplay by the people who recorded it and our demagogue is reinvigorated and bloated to the point where he is the news room, the drug campaigner, the pop star of choice by the new boss and anarchist ideologue while being incompetent at them all. People who get into the public eye are often wary, many of the most solid people in the field soon learn to avoid it but a one hit wonder has no talent, no gift to pass on, only the hype which it believes at its peril. The demagogue rushes in but not while there was a police state of course, the demagogue prefers to wait for the wisdom of old age, or is it an assumed respectability, before it commits any acts of bravery, youth is for cowardice.
The public radio station became a cause celebre and a mecca for the lost in 1988 when the student union at UQ became too conservative to continue bankrolling a radio that continually ridiculed the people who owned the premises. It had a simple choice; to continue as a mouthpiece of the conservative union pretty much like it had begun as a mouthpiece for a radical union, or to survive on its own terms. At the time when the station was under attack by the union there was an appalling lack of cohesion amongst those interested in the future of the station and this cohesion was never developed, I arrived with my gal to weld up the back gate between the station and the upstairs which housed the hostile union and was praised for my initiative only to be told an hour or so later that the collective “was worried because it blocked a fire escape”. What collective? There was no collective just a rabble who argued about anything that came up. The fire escape had already been effectively blocked by others who had piled lockers in the corridor while the weld was a single spot that a sharp kick would dislodge. Two hours later it was forgotten and a bunch of spectators were sitting guard while they drank beer. Two years later decisions were still being made by a collective that existed in the minds of those who talked about it and nowhere else. The only cohesion amongst workers was the cohesion that exists on every job where a task needs doing and people do it. There is nothing special, let alone revolutionary in this unless you are the sort of incompetent individual who has no history of accomplishment. The demagogue spends more time on the collective than it does on the work and in typical fashion relies on others to do the work while jealously guarding the hot seat. After two years the radio station was battling to stay on air because of financial problems that could have easily been avoided if older heads had been wiser. The decision to pay for shop space in commercial Toowong for no reason other than it was born in St. Lucia was an early burden which was superbly handled by the finance coordinator at the time. The station claimed it was ‘Like no other station’ and was as long as it was the voice of the subscribers and a resource for them to stay in touch and this made the newsroom the most critical part of the station after funding, licensing, and keeping the signal going. Many people had assumed the station couldn’t survive outside the umbrella of the university and gave it up as lost. When the ABC youth station JJJ went national the station again was expected to succumb to an inevitable death but this also proved unfounded until new premises were found and before long the station had enough room to accommodate all the useless mugwumps, idle hangers on, predators, and grant writers who could take up the space. It was quite dramatic in retrospect how quickly a radio station that had worked on the proverbial smell but still managed to satisfy the listeners, quickly began to attract people who previously would have demurred. The lesson relevant to anarchism here is that the workers are a collective and should make decisions that way without interference from outsiders whose only interest is their opinion. To hold weekly collective meetings where any subscriber, anybody in fact, could throw the discussion in any direction is not at all productive and not anarchist. Regular collective meetings of the regular workers, including announcers who should be mindful of how much time they spend working there compared with others, in conjunction with monthly or bi-monthly station meetings open to all workers and subscribers would have prevented a management committee ever being considered much less taking over the station. When the station was at Toowong there were several anarchists who had been involved with the station for years but this simple principle had never been voiced mainly because the anarchism was born of a popular fashion, none of them had ever seen or tried the principals in practice so as long as their egos weren’t being threatened there was no need for improvement. It is important for anarchists to avoid any loss of focus when it comes to achieving tasks and risking your popularity is far preferable to risking your principles. The adoption of the management committee is a huge loss for anarchism and the Anarchy Show makes up for nothing while it peddlers popular front sentiments and spends more time advertising demos than ideas.
Things must have been quite out of hand long before I ever noticed if former worker Jim Beetson felt it necessary to rescue the station from the evil influence that had kept it alive and kicking these past years. What better ally against junkies than John Boy the archetype that spent more time running after smack than he ever did on news. With no room whatsoever at Toowong the newsroom ceased to exist but the entire station continued with the delusion that it was there. Invited to “help in the newsroom” I went along hoping to meet journalism students so I might learn only to find the bloated ego and its acolyte sitting in a makeshift studio with a newspaper, reading verbatim from stories they hadn’t even perused. It was more than disappointing it was a disgrace. Two professed anarchists using the most reviled newspaper in town as a script to introduce a string of tired old political lines that were outdated in the mid-seventies. How did this happen? Through neglect of course, the demagogue has been posturing about his politics and anarchism to the detriment of the news while the acolyte is uninclined or unable to go against the tide while alone he probably would have done well. The same obnoxious scenario I had been seeing since I first began associating with such cripples and no real challenge. I was cohabiting with one whose ego was in need of reinforcement and my nights were spent with a pile of various periodicals and a highlighter, ‘New Scientist’, ‘Scientific American’, ‘New Internationalist’, ‘Choice’, ‘Consuming Interest’, ‘The Guardian Weekly’, ‘The Economist’, and Fairfax dailies were the staple diet but more than twice as many titles were used over the few years I was doing it. In a month I was invited to be ‘News Co-ordinator’ by some conscientious workers at the station but I demurred for lack of experience and lack of a news room. After a few years there was competition for the job especially after I had started and grew a news fund with over $700 in it. Hell knows no wrath like a woman scorned and I was duly reminded yet again and thrown out for my industry. I knew there were people about who make no distinction between stealing from public radio and stealing from finance companies, I was accused of stealing from my own news fund which was disproved by Jim Beetson himself, then I was offered a ticket overseas.
Why I still don’t know. There was no sense to it, no planning, everything was so rushed I can see in retrospect what a trap it was but not one to look a gift horse in the mouth I went. From this point it adds up to nothing more than a cheap and easy solution to my embarrassing presence. The devil knows whose idea it was but it certainly didn’t come from me. My father was going to die in a couple of years and I knew I would finally have the opportunity to go somewhere under my own steam, in my own time and do what I wanted, perchance to finally grow up. Some people hop on planes without any fuss and pass through a foreign country picking up what they want and ignoring the rest until their itinerary tells them to come home. This is no big deal, it’s all part of savoire faire isn’t it, to be unaffected by all and sundry? Something that should have been an important milestone in a life, something that held promise was perverted into a cynical exercise in subterfuge to assuage some unidentified ego while I made the biggest mistake in my life; to trust someone. Whoever has the arrogance to think that they can make a present of something like that simply with money is a danger to others and shows precious little consideration for anything except their own desire to feel important. I left with the intention of staying and establishing a news desk and made arrangements accordingly which were all ignored. Not a soul at ZZZ made any attempt at all to ensure the reports went to air. The person answering the phone was not only hostile but incapable of being on time and I was left with the impression that the whole escapade was totally undermined before I got on the plane and nobody has spoken to me about it since. Not a single person after working there consistently for four years full time. The only money I ever got from the station was in return for tools I provided at half price, I never applied for a grant because I value my independence and that of the news while most of the grant went to the recipient not to the station. I had been on a truly monstrous dose (180mg/day) of methadone to avoid the temptation to use heroin which was all around. I don’t recall ever having a taste neither at the station nor with the junkie with whom I cohabited all that time, not to say it didn't happen but rather so rarely as to be negligible. Not only was I unpopular with the prohibitionists I had no friends among the users who were suspicious of me and often found me hostile because I didn’t like them. If my actions did anything to help scatter them from the station I’m happy for that but don’t think this was anything to do with anarchism. Where was our demagogue who had invited me to ‘help’ with the news? He simply stopped coming in because there was no room anymore on a show that valued news more than self-indulgent comment and the same went for his acolyte who at least had the sense to study medicine.
It strikes me as odd that a person with Beetson’s background as a journalist, his effort to rescue the station involved a plan to source news from a university school of journalism to a station like 4ZZZ. The fact the idea ever got any traction at all is a statement in itself. I was there when the lecturer came to discuss the matter and showed his son around the studios. I wanted no part but because I was never a part of ZZZ I was in no position to argue against it alone and presumed someone would say something without my help. Another bull rad from UQ, Beetson was an old acquaintance of our two demagogues and they had more in common with this anal retentive than with anarchism and we are finally getting to the nub of the problem. At this time there was the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, similarly in Irian Jaya and New Guinea’s claim on Bougainville were in the news at about the same time and all were causes doted on by the left. The first time I went to Thailand my reports were phoned to the station at a set time on the same day. Once Kerryn answered the phone and we had a brief but pleasant chat then Kerryn recorded my report and we spoke a bit more. She suggested I speak more to the locals and I agreed with her this was necessary but not so easy, hoping in time this would happen. Every time after that was met with delays on the phone, exorbitant charges for calls and a complete inability to deal with the simple task required. The person responsible was a new acolyte of our demagogue, a reject from some bolshevik popular front group who played puppy to anyone who tolerated his presence he also frequented the shop run by our hero from Prague. Wearing regulation army shirt and jeans he used to roam West End at night with a walkie talky like some vigilante and no doubt met with frequent hostility from the street people. A timid boy with nowhere to go, no skills or knowledge, no inclination to acquire them I was particularly annoyed by his mispronunciation of the Portuguese Gusmao even after advising him politely. Far better to snub his nose at me than to show a bit of respect to a nearby insurgent commander.
Here we are looking at the problem. My motivation in doing news at the station had initially been to learn off others. In the absence of others I tried to keep the news coming until there was a news room to make me redundant. For well over a year at Toowong nobody showed any interest at all. There was one veteran of the original newsroom who I already new and he was a welcome addition but tired I suppose of the lack of space, equipment, people and vitality. The best way to sort sheep away is to remove the glamour. Remove that, or what passes for it and there is nothing to mesmerise the sheep. They wander away so once again there is a sense of space and stability in which people can work. In anything, to create a good product requires a sense of what you are doing, a methodology to apply to the task, the resources to do it, commitment to see it through, an ability to adapt to circumstances and the ability to step back and see a situation in its entirety. This is no news to any mature individual but it proves to be the biggest frustration facing radical thinking in the course of human history. While living in a collective squat at Pyrmont in Sydney a disparate group of people with a few things in common managed to coexist and prosper well while neighbouring squats were chronically rundown, smelling and leaking often with no amenities at all and while meetings got loud they were always concluded amicably and the work was done without fail. This was the arbiter…..whether or not the work got done. Whoever did the work could claim credit of course and whoever consistently failed to perform knew they were out of favour however popular they might be. Anybody who tried to put a point across needed a lot more than a healthy set of lungs whereas at ZZZ the meetings ran on gas alone. The bulk of the people who came and engaged in the discussions had no involvement in the work yet were accorded the same space which led to frustration. The tolerance of my behaviour and the reason for this tolerance are excellent examples mind you I never got to the point of hitting someone like the vigilante in our tale but I was used to chase off one unpopular parasite. Here is anarchism looking uncomfortably similar to fascism and truth be known they are never far apart. Fascists like anarchists don’t like being told what to do by someone other than of their choosing. Many anarchists are little different from junkies. No god no master is justification for anything just as I’m rattlin’ man is an excuse for anything. Kropotkin was not satisfied with a life of equality on principle not as an aristocrat but because to live life to its fullest one must not compromise principles for the sake of expediency or gratification. An easy life is no life at all but those who become revolutionaries out of a sense that they were given an unfair lot in life when they still haven’t been outside their comfort zone speak with a corpse in their mouth. Equality is doled out while a life must be lived.
It seems wasteful to lay blame when it was a culture more than an individual that was responsible. When the station began it was a brave start and always kept a high standard but that was under the aegis of a student union which was a home for more demagogues than you could count. Triple Z was always home to demagogues which is why I never worked there and when I was asked to work there the biggest demagogue was such an inept individual it was easy to displace him through sheer effort. He was always about half an hour late often more, never prepared and often so intoxicated he could hardly talk and was many times embarrassed into silence. By the time I left to Thailand there were a big news room and people hoping to emulate some media figure they admired from SBS or the ABC. ZZZ was ready to be infected again by the same cult for personality that got Reagan re-elected twice.
I had my money by now and made my own way back to Thailand. My interest in the Shan States goes back to Kipling in my infancy and the coincidental dependence on opiates made little difference to me except it meant that I could travel there without difficulty, much as I could to Afghanistan now. Despite the aura of danger which is cultivated by those media tarts that go there with a team of guides, interpreters, and crew, things aren’t dangerous unless you are extremely foolish. My risk was being incapacitated by withdrawals which is a silly fear to have about a place where opium grows extensively. The drug laws are a western import and the locals often resent them more than I do, I soon learned my biggest danger was being perceived as a junkie and I took steps accordingly. Consuming only opium I was left to my own devices until I bought heroin to ease a broken ankle when I had to travel three days by train to get a new visa. I never made it to the train but I did make it to the local prison where all and sundry could see for themselves how much of an addict I was. You can’t hide much in prison especially one that puts 120 men in about as many square metres for twelve hours a day. Being there was a bit bipolar since it was the best place to be to get the sort of knowledge I was after but my biggest dread was deportation so I was playing a mental game of deluding myself into not thinking about deportation which worked until the inevitable. Even so I knew I had a position with a prestigious publication in France should I return to Australia, not a lot of money but for someone who is investigating drugs a position like this was something I would never have imagined in Australia. As the days passed and I took stock of my situation I was confident that I would spend little more than a year, if that in prison and I probably had enough money to get back anyway so it was with a sense of largesse that I began to compose reports for the prisoners show at ZZZ. The thought of a radical public radio station having a correspondent in the prison on the Thai/Myanmar border which has the highest proportion of refugees, insurgents and hill-tribes in Thailand and major criminals seemed a sure bet for ZZZ and I had no personal grudge against the station but I had no idea who was doing the prisoners show unless it was the GreenPill, our resident vigilante. The GreenPill has never been to prison and in all likelihood assumes it involves being forced to commit fellatio on tattooed monsters plus he had sabotaged my work before. I hadn’t been to the station for about a year so in a cavalier fashion I sent the reports to our demagogues. Addressed to Brian Laver c/- Emma’s Bookshop and inside Dear Tony Kneippe aka gronk aka uncle farts aka ‘call it what you want but if you’re smoking pot don’t bother he’s already drooling on the joint’ free marijuana, so called because he never buys the stuff. True to form, a tennis poof and a cricket legend neither of them know about team work but are always on the lookout for something to voice their silly opinions on. I didn’t receive any replies and none of my wishes were followed, I still don’t know if anyone at the station heard anything let alone read anything. From what I can gather people said I made it up and I should have expected them to! Not bad for someone who had provided most of the station’s news for years without making a mistake. What serious hope did I have of displacing the doyenne(sic) of the newsroom Brendan GreenPill who took the opportunity of my convalescence (the aforementioned broken ankle) to attack me unprovoked at a station meeting. Such was the tone of the establishment and still nobody has ever spoken to me about it while any straight workplace would have debriefed me on both occasions whether I wanted to or not. Poor ZZZ got fooled again. It was a good song but a self-fulfilling prophecy in this game where social conscience becomes an exchange commodity and the real product is some manufactured personality that has made a life out of hiding from the world instead of embracing it. That goes for Beetson as well as Laver, Greenpill, gronk three peas in a little bookshop all more interested in personalities than any of the things they each claim to be fighting for.
On my return from prison I caught a cab from the airport and went straight to the bookshop where my reports were sent then made my way to where the demagogue was now running for state parliament on a Legalise Hemp ticket. This is the beta demagogue not the one who fancied himself as Lord Mayor. This proved to be the icing on the cake; working as News Co-ordinator (editor) at ZZZ while getting paid for it by a Commonwealth Government grant, he was also running for election! A dereliction of principle, theory, morals, and ethics all in one while compromising the law and the reputation of the station and still so bone lazy he couldn’t get his deposit back despite running in the most sympathetic electorate. Free Marijuana suffers from the same malaise as anarchism and has failed to generate any support simply because those with any enthusiasm are seen as a nuisance. They have ideas and want to do things which are both contrary to the dispositions of the dominant personalities, so after going to a few meetings they begin to feel alienated and remote from the whole issue and quickly lose enthusiasm which is ironically the role of the mainstream media. Two demagogues both resoundingly rejected by the electorates they chose to run in because that was where they are well known and have a sympathetic following yet neither can poll as high as the looney vote is all the validation I need. Myanmar is still a nightmare and I have work to do.
For me the moral of the story is the importance of good friends. While distracted by the above I allowed some very important friends to become confused and disillusioned about my intentions while spectators probably assumed friendships existed which never were. I had quit politics as a bad thing when I went to Sydney, not to say I didn’t engage in anarchist activity but anarchism in Sydney, despite claims by our demagogues neither of whom have ever lived there, is a different style. Demagogues get little purchase in a big city unless they have something to offer just as second rate bands and musicians find it extremely competitive while Brisbane sustains its own niche market and small outfits like ZZZ make a splash in such a boring landscape. ZZZ was made by and for demagogues to an extent and one of these managed to be flavour of the month while the imaginations of spectators filled in the rest. It has happened more than once in ZZZ’s history and is par for the course in places like this where there is little scope for anything else. Naturally ZZZ fields a constant compliment of astute social commentators more than ready to tell listeners who and what is fashionable, just like they did with punk a year after it started. Anyone who thinks ZZZ starts the trends is so bloody stupid as to beggar belief. To allow sympathy for any school of thought to let you ignore those you know to be friends is a terrible lack of judgement and as I said, I had no friends at ZZZ just a burning desire to work which is the closest thing to ambition I have ever known and goes a long way to explaining my frustrations at the time.
After all this what is there to offer anyone who is attracted to the sentiments espoused by anarchism? Firstly don’t be surprised. There is nothing new under the sun and anarchism is as old as language perhaps older. Secondly read ‘The Revolution of Everyday Life’ by Raoul Vaneigem. Now you are an anarchist! That is the easy part while the hard part is no different from what you have been wondering all your life and hopefully will continue to do so. Practically you should begin doing TaiChi at least and do some reading on Buddhism and the Dao. Anarchism is nothing new, simply the name given by Europeans to a set of principles not so different from those which have been understood and elucidated long, long ago. To do anything in life you must first learn to care for yourself, you are the most important person you know but nobody cares so you must care for yourself. TaiChi will help maintain subtlety, vigour, balance, digestion, breathing, immunity and sleep all for free once you know it. Understand that there is something good about the word ‘spirit’. The slogan ‘no god no master’ is simplified to mean nothing at all and even atheists are proud of their spirit when they have one while those without are suspicious and mean, totally unequipped to breed. Religion has a lot to answer for and it has nothing to do with the spirit. Lapsed Catholics swell the ranks of the revolution to get even with the devil or a god that doesn’t love them not to improve the lot of the world while lapsed Protestants do it as business venture. Buddhists don’t lapse because it isn’t a religion, the precepts are universally accepted and you are allowed to take drugs unless you are a monk. Finally I strongly recommend to all that at some point not too late in life you make a serious effort to connect with another culture, human instinct dictates this because that is the best way to get fresh ideas. All the templates we need exist already but they are disappearing without trace which is far more dangerous than a dictator so make an effort to acquire as much as they can give, you will be rewarded many times over. A second, third and fourth language should also be on the agenda there is no mystery that the two most impressive anarchist writers of the 20C were a linguist and a geographer. Understand that there is nothing wrong with traditions, they exist for a reason and the important thing is to keep them clean and free of neglect. Don’t think too much is the most common piece of advice I was given by Thais, TaiYai, Hmong, Dai, Lhisor, Lhisu, Lahu, Viet and Chinese. You have one life only so don’t waste it worrying or you will end up wondering what might have been when it is too late and that is the ultimate defeat of them all, I did it so can anybody.