An Unnatural Obsession with the Spartacist League?

I’d love to write a more substantial piece on the Spartacist League of Australia, but despite their theoretical commitment to ‘progress’, there doesn’t appear to be much available of their history by way of the Internet. Then again, maybe this is just a reflection of the Spartacists’ overall political marginality? Well, like, whatever; I’m taking a leaf outta bell hooks‘ work on feminism and moving the Spartacists from margin to… some other margin: this one. With that in mind…

FOR THE DEFEAT OF IGNORANCE CONCERNING THE SPARTACIST LEAGUE OF AUSTRALIA – FROM THE NEAR EAST, TO IRELAND, THE CARIBBEAN AND NEW CALEDONIA!

REBUILD THE SPARTACIST-TRAINSPOTTING TENDENCY!

BREAK FROM THE [insert name|s here] LEADERSHIP!

FOR THE WORLD PARTAY OF SOCIALIST REVOLUTION!

The Early Years

The International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) (ICL/FI) — formerly the international Spartacist tendency (iSt) — was founded in 1964 and is one of scores of Trotskyist ‘internationals’: the ‘Spartacist League of Australia’ is the Australian section. The SLA was founded c. 1974 when ‘Big’ Bill Logan and ‘Mad’ Adaire Hannah — well-known in Auckland as much for their extreme dedication to progressive rock idols Dragon as they were for their fanatical devotion to the teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin & Trotsky — read the writing on the wall and re-located to Australia a year before their heroes, too, said a sad but expectant farewell to New Zealand’s shores.

(NB: the SLA was actually preceeded by the formation of the New Zealand Spartacist League (NZSL) in 1970. These two groups were known collectively as the SL/ANZ. The Communist Workers’ Group of New Zealand claims that “the NZSL split in 1972 in a dispute between Owen Gager and Bill Logan and Adaire Hannah essentially over joining the SL-US… Gager went on to form the Communist Left of Australia (CLA) in 1974 while Logan and Hannah set up a Spartacist group also in Australia… The CLA split over a tactical difference with Gager in the mid-1980s. Gager left and moved towards anarcho-communism.” In fact, Owen is now a well-known local Melbourne anarchist. As a further aside, it’s worth noting that Raiders of the Left Ark is credited as having been authored by the CLA by this source.)

1975 was a big year for Dragon; so too the Spartacist League: “[a]lways a lightning rod for controversy, [Dragon] was rocked by the heroin-overdose death of [drummer Neil] Storey only weeks after arriving in Australia, and their original manager was also deported back to New Zealand on drugs charges. By then, founding member [Ray] Goodwin had left the group.” While for the Spartacists, “George Foster (deputy National Chairman of the SL/US) visited the SL/ANZ for about three weeks in April 1975”. (Hey, if you knew George Foster like the Spartacists did, you’d agree that this was indeed ‘big news’.)

On a happier note, 1975 also witnessed the release of Dragon’s second album, Scented Gardens for the Blind.

The Seventies

According to the International Bolshevik Tendency, “Bill Logan was the National Chairman of the… (SL/ANZ) from 1972 to 1977. Hannah, then his companion, was the National Secretary. Under their leadership, the SL/ANZ grew from a handful of relatively inexperienced youth into the strongest Spartacist section outside the U.S. In 1977 the couple was transferred to London at the behest of the Spartacist international leadership, where they were instrumental in winning an important layer of cadres from opponent organizations, and launching the Spartacist League/Britain (SL/B).”

Unfortunately, both ‘Big’ Bill Logan [fan, Dragon; member, SLNZ, 1970-; founding National Chairman, SLA/NZ; founding National Chairman, SL/B; founding member of the International Executive Committee of the iSt] and ‘Mad’ Adaire Hannah [fan, Dragon; member, SLNZ, 1970-; founding National Secretary, SLA/NZ; founding National Secretary, SL/B; founding member of the International Executive Committee of the iSt] were both expelled from the iSt. ‘Big’ Bill for “gross moral turpitude” and ‘Mad’ Adaire Hannah for “no stated cause” in 1979.

As for Dragon, the 70s were a crazy decade too:

Storey was replaced by Kerry Jacobsen and between 1975 and 1979, Dragon scored a string of major hits on the Australian pop charts with songs including “April Sun in Cuba,” “Are You Old Enough” and “Still In Love With You” and the albums Sunshine and O Zambezi. There were high hopes of an American breakthrough but these were scuttled by a disastrous American tour, in which Marc Hunter incited an Austin, Texas crowd (calling all Texans “faggots”) and the band had to dodge flying beer bottles. By the time Dragon returned to Australia in 1979 Marc Hunter and Paul Hewson were maintaining heavy-duty heroin habits; around this time the group was reportedly mentioned in evidence given to a major Australian royal commission into drugs, due to their links (as customers) with a major heroin-dealing ring. Marc Hunter was eventually sacked by his brother Todd in 1979, due to his spiralling drug habit, which was by then seriously affecting his performances. A new singer in Richard Lee was recruited and the group recorded the lacklustre Powerplay LP before breaking up in 1979.

Coincidence? I think not.

To be continued…

For a Class-Struggle Fight to Defeat Howard’s Union Busting!
Down With Nationalist Protectionist Poison!
Break With Laborism—For a Revolutionary Workers Party!
Join the SPARTACIST LEAGUE OF AUSTRALIA!

Local Directory
E-mail address: [email protected]

Melbourne
GPO Box 2339
Melbourne Vic 3001
Australia
Phone: (03) 9654 4315

Sydney
GPO Box 3473
Sydney NSW 2001
Australia
Phone: (02) 9281 2181

[PS. Note also a possible addition to the 2006 Trot Guide: the League for a Revolutionary Party. Apparently, they have a representative in Melbourne, whom I seem to recall actually having met some time in the mid-90s. Details: COFI-Australia, League Press, PO Box 539, North Melbourne, Victoria, 3051 (Communist Organization for the Fourth International (COFI).]

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2021 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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