Anarchy and Socialism in New South Wales, Sunday Times, 1894

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Author: Sunday Times
Originally Published: 26 May 1895
Retrieved from: Trove Newspaper Archive

ANARCHY AND SOCIALISM IN NEW SOUTH WALES.

SYDNEY ANARCHISTS.
Of course, on tho principle that ‘birds of a feather flock together,’ Sydney Aimrchists have their favorite haunts. They either work undtr the guise of some comparatively meaning less or harmlessly-named society, or, as we have already said, through some existing organisation, such as that of the Socialists.

One recently-formed politico-cumphilanthropic society is nothing more than a group of Anarchists, so far as its leading members are concerned, and they lose no opportunity of preaching their doctrines either covertly in public gatherings or openly to more select aud less public audiences.

A peculiarity about the brotherhood is that most of them have some decided physical as well as mental characteristic. Many of them are cripples or deformed men, and it has been plausibly suggested that iu some cases this fact has generated misanthropical ideas, which in combination with a study of revolutionary literature and quasi-criminal associations, have led to their present views on Social subjects. A considerable number of the Sydney Anarchists are foreigners. They are usually noted also for some corresponding mental twist, and where there is but little genuine aberration of intellect, it is frequently feigned or exaggerated for ulterior purposes, although they usually possess at least one attribute of hydrophobia, inasmuch as they rarely wash themselves.

One of their number quite recently, in addressing a Domain crowd, boasted that he belonged to the great unwashed, and hoped that he always should.

A considerable majority of the Sydney Anarchists are of foreign birth or extraction, particularly Germans, Scandinavians, and iu a lesser pro portion, Frenchmen ; some undoubtedly belong to the actually criminal classes, having been frequently in gaol, and the bulk may be said to be thoroughly unscrupulous, if not utterly reckless.

As a rule, they have no ties or family connections in the country, and wher ever they reside become known as unsocial men, unreliable acquaintances, and bad neighbors. Another notable fact is that they (probably with good reason) profoundly distrust each other. Only two declared Anarchists amongst the New South Wales group are known to occupy any responsible business or social position. One is a suburban publican, and the other a baker, also carrying out business in one of the suburbs, although, of course, there may be others who are secret sympathisers, but from the very nature of their beliefs and objects it is im possible there could be many. Unfortunately, it is amongst the poor, the distressed, and the desperate, who at present represent such a large class here, that the Anarchists find the raw material for their recruits ; and as the numbers of such are necessarily augmented during periods of depression and widespread destitution, it is at such periods that the dangers of an outbreak are most to be feared.

Few of the leaders are men of any education, most of them, in fact, being extremely illiterate, although generally types of low cunning. What books they do read are those devoted to the dissemination of their princplies : also works on chemistry and explosives, dynamite and cognate substances being one of their acknowledged chief means of destruction. Logically, our local Anarchists can give no adequate reason for the faith that is in them; that is as regards the ultimate ends they are striving to achieve. None of them really seem to know what they actually want, but a partial explanation may be found in the fact of such a large proportion hailing from countries where a despotic system of government prevails, and that tliey have been born and bred to be “agin the government.” They can hardly realise the free environment of their new surroundings, and are totally unable to understand the slow constitutional methods adopted by English-speaking people for the re form of abuses.

Others, as we have said, have positively criminal instincts, and doubt less take pleasure in violence, lawlessness, and disorder for their own sakes, whilst the wild hope of gain which may arise from a prospective upheaval of society, and a sort of fresh shuffling of the cards, doubtless actuates others.

The last-named phase of the question derives an illustration from some recent European cable dispatches, in which it was announced that prominent capitalists and aristocrats were actually subsidising the anarchist groups in the shape of blackmail, on the tacit understanding that the donors were not to be included amongst the victims of future destructive and bloodthirsty outrages, thus there is a spoiling of the Egyptians, and the brotherhood are provided with funds to assist them in carrying on the war against society in general.

We should not like to assert that a consideration of this fact has had anything to do with the pseudo patronage in high places of offshoots of the fraternity in this city, but it may at least suggest one reason for their presence amongst us, and the danger of pursuing such a policy the probable result of which scarcely needs dwelling upon. Such playing with fire can only be excused by the pre sumed ignorance of the real character of the beneficiaries on the part of their patrons.

If Anarchists have any ideal of a future condition of society when the present system is destroyed it is purely Communistic. Not only land, but property of all kinds is to be held in common. Marriage will be abolished and free love substituted — the latter doctrine being openly preached by the local leaders of the fraternity, When pressed as to how they expect human beings to live together, and how the needs of humanity are to be supplied under such conditions, Anarchists profess to look forward to a time when men will trust each other implicitly, when wives, machinery, and implements, as well as the produce of labour, being common property, no man will have any desire or disposition to monopolise them, and consequently that they will be equally free and accessible to all. How great undertakings such as the building of a ship or the construction of a railway are to be accomplished they do not try to explain, perhaps thinking that such problems will find their own solution, and as they admit, their aim is to destroy, not to construct — in fact, their avowed motto is : No God, no law, no property.

From the above it will be seen that while the local believers in Anarchy arc not numerically formidable, they ?ire from their character, beliefs, antecedents and connections undoubtedly dangerous, both to the State and to individuals. That they are unscrupulous, irresponsible, reckless, and ruthless there is not the slightest question, nor that they are insidiously and indefatigably sowing tho seeds of their devilish doctrines wherever they can find suitable soil. A political crisis, a general election, a commercial panic, or a big strike alike affords them opportunities which they do not fail to take advantage of, and no doubt when ever they think a fitting opportunity arrives they will be ready to imitate the methods of their confreres in Europe.

The very absence of definite organisation increases the danger of attack, it being, as explained, one of their cardinal principles that each unit is left a perfectly free hand in carrying on the war, so that society is actually at the mercy of any demoniacal inspiration -which may enter the head of an individual fanatic, and what he may carry out, either single-handed or with the too ready assistance of one or more sympathisers. In the light of recent events and discoveries who can doubt that it would be in the power of of a couple of miscreants to blow the General Post-office into fragments, or annihilate a section of the city, by merely igniting a time fuse.

Our inquiries certainly lead us to the conclusion that, without need for panic, a warning as to the possibility of Anarchistic outrage is not misplaced at the present time, and that masses would do well to be on their guard against sympathising with the insidious proposals and sentiments of professed friends of the people, who may or may not be Anarchists in dis guise, but whose teachings when analysed have a decidedly Anarchistic taint and tendency.