Let’s Play (Quasi-)Celebrity Anarchy!

It’s not fair. I’ve noted that Michael Costa, Keith Windschuttle and Paul Owens are ex-Trots, but what about all those ex-anarchists? Well, when I write ‘ex-anarchist’, I really mean those-who-may-once-have-called-themselves-anarchists but who now… well, no longer do. I think.

Here’s a sample:

Wendy Bacon (1946?–) : Thirty years go, Wendy allegedly wrote ‘The Question is not ‘Organisation or no organisation?’ but ‘what sort of organisation?’. And the same goes for structure’. A veteran of The (Sydney) Push, after having battled censors, bosses, developers and more, the structure Wendy currently contends with is UTS.

Van Badham (1978–) : Another student radical and a member of a fraction known as the Non-Aligned Left (NAL), in 1998 Van was also President of the New South Wales branch of the National Union of Students (NUS). Now Van subverts authority by writing plays: “distinctive voice, uncompromising political themes and razor-sharp wit… have become trademarks of her work”.

Michael Duffy (?) : a hack journo, Michael once worked at either Black Rose or Jura Books in Sydney. Well, that’s his story anyway. Nowadays he’s content being a right-wing Phillip Adams for the Pink Mafia at the ABC and an opinionist for the SMH.

John Flaus (1934–) : Another Push veteran, John is “The barefoot anarchist from working class Sydney who once went to the drive-in without a car.” A w e s o m e. After a long stint as a film buff on 3RRR (and a lot more besides), John’s gravelly voice can now be heard flogging stuff on TV (“Ah McCain, you’ve done it again!”). “I do quite a few voice-overs but I rarely get the opportunity to say something I entirely believe in,” he told the Herald. “I spoke from the heart. I didn’t need to enter into a sort of emotional state other than my own, which is what an actor must do when he or she prepares for a role.” Flaus, 72, left school in 1950. He says he has seen the battles the trade union movement has waged over the years to secure recognition, workplace safety and “the thing our current Prime Minister talks about – he likes to use the expression ‘a fair go'”.”

Germaine Greer (1939–) : You may remember Germaine from such seminal texts as The Female Eunuch (1971), The Obstacle Race (1979), Sex and Destiny (1984), Shakespeare and The Madwoman’s Underclothes (1986), Daddy, We Hardly Knew You (1989), The Change (1991), Slip-Shod Sibyls (1995), the whole woman (1999) and last — but by no means least — The Beautiful Boy (2003). Cranky and opinionated, Germaine was once associated with The Push; a far cry from “the flabby intellectual atmosphere of the Melbourne Drift”, apparently. Recently, Germaine sunk the boot into Steve Irwin, to popular, ah, acclaim.

Drew Hutton (1947–) : In the 1960s and ’70s, Drew was a Brisbane libertarian socialist (‘anarchist’). In 1984, he was one of the founders of the Brisbane Green Party, the second party of its kind in Australia. Worse things happen at sea.

Paddy McGuinness (1938–2008) : *groan* Paddy once hung around The Push. Then in 1963 he pissed off to Europe and got a job working for the KGB-front Moscow Narodny Bank, followed by a stint with the OECD. He returned to Australia and spent decades writing dribble.

Frank Moorhouse (1938–) : Author, but not a grave security risk: “By his own admission, writer Frank Moorhouse has benefited from almost every kind of government patronage – grants, awards, “soft diplomacy” jaunts overseas, even an Order of Australia. So he might have been peeved to find the government meanwhile had ASIO watching him, checking who came to his barbecues, what campaigns he mounted, which motions he moved at fringe meetings – exploring whether he was “an enemy of the state”. Not so. What left him “gravely disappointed” as he leafed through the thick file during his research at the National Archives of Australia was that his youthful anarchist activities ultimately weren’t taken seriously enough to make him a “grave security risk”. “I was furious,” he huffs. “They gravely underestimated the Sydney anarchists movement.”

Margot Nash (?) : Winner of the 1973 Award for Best Title for a Political Organisation, Margot was once a member of the Anarcho-Surrealist-Insurrectionary-Feminist (AS IF) collective. Now she’s a screenwriter and a director with a background as a cinematographer, a film editor and an actor. And an academic.

Richard Neville (1941–) : Another product of The Push, Richard is known for his having started (along with Richard Walsh and Martin Sharpe) Oz in Sydney in 1963. It played a very important role in disseminating ‘counter-cultural’ ideas. He’s also known for having appeared on The Mike Walsh Show (1973–1985), and being a ‘futurist’.

Paul Norton (?) : Used to be a young anarchist; turned into a not-quite-so-young Green… academic.

Jamie Parker (?) : A student activist and student union official (Chairperson) at Macquarie University and NUS (NSW State President, 1995; National Environment Officer, 1996), Jamie has since gone on to forge a career with the Greens, and sits on the Leichhardt Council. (He’s also been known to flog Horny Goat Weed.)

Christos Tsiolkas (1965–) : Christos barracks for Richmond. Despite this handicap, he’s somehow managed to become a writer, among a number of other titles co-authoring Jump Cuts (1996) with Sasha Soldatow (1947–2006). “Soldatow had been drawn to Sydney specifically by the anarchist libertarian tradition, which didn’t exist in Melbourne…”.

Marcus Westbury (1974–) : Culture vulture, TV personality and festival organiser extraordinaire, as a student Marcus was a member of the NAL, whose glorious victory in NUS elections in 1996 was trumpeted in the Workers’ Solidarity Movement paper (No.47, Spring 1996), much to the bemusement of local anarchists.

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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14 Responses to Let’s Play (Quasi-)Celebrity Anarchy!

  1. lumpnboy says:

    Out of curiosity, do you have any reason to think that John Flaus doesn’t still call himself an anarchist? I don’t know the man, but I have recollections of a certain Melbourne anarchist named Caedmon discussing John’s anarchism… though that would have been maybe 1989 or so… Still, no point living in the past, you can’t go back…

  2. @ndy says:

    No, I don’t. He may well. When Barricade organised a screening of two @ docos at Trades Hall in 2002, he was there, so it appears he still maintains an interest. And yeah, I know Cad, but I’ve never spoken to him about Flaus or his anarchism. And remember, as Mike Brady says: Wherever you go, there you are.

    Food for thought.

  3. dj says:

    You are an evil man Andy!

  4. grumpy cat says:

    1978 is not Van’s year of birth. No fucking way.

    I thought Tsiolkas was always a Stalinist of sorts. Amazing writer.

  5. @ndy says:

    I dunno. But that’s what the Wikipedia entry reads, and it cites AustLit Agent, which also states 1978 as being her birthdate. Her bio on doollee says only that she was born in Sydney. Her myspace page also claims that she is 29 years old.

    Is there any reason you doubt her age grumpy?

    As for Christos, I’ve never heard him described as a Stalinist. Jump Cuts contains a series of rather fractured discussions between he and Sasha, and my recollection from having read it is that he was fairly libertarian in his political perspectives. In ‘A capitalist faggot at the end of the millennium: musings on the disappointments of politics’, his contribution to the 1999/2000 edition of the annual compilation of essays published by the Australian Fabian Society, Christos writes that, in the context of a discussion on social equality, “I believe that Marxist and post-Marxist politics still have an important part to play”. For what it’s worth, I also seem to remember Christos as being one of a small number of writers, artists and musicians who had a brief flirtation with the IWW.

    Plus: On January 31, 2007, Christos spoke at the launch of Jeff Sparrow’s book Communism: A Love Story (MUP, 2007): “Emma Goldman’s “If I can’t dance I don’t want to be part of your revolution” always sounded to my ears much more stirring than any Leninist call to arms”. In fact, his speech appears to suggest that Christos is not a Stalinist, but someone, like yourself, who remains deeply interested in the potential of the communist project.

    Is Communism dead? Are the politics and ethics that Guido Baracchi dedicated his life to now as moribund and lifeless as the entombed corpse of Lenin? Jeff Sparrow wisely directs us away from that particular question to I think a more interesting one. What could Communism possibly mean to the future of the Left? Burying Communism in itself does not mean the struggles around class, labour, property and money disappear. A week before starting the book my friend asked me a very good question. He is younger than me, engaged in anti-racism politics, furious at the insanity that is the occupation of Iraq, wondering how he can reconcile antiglobalisation with his fears and distrust of nationalism. He was confused by what seemed to him to be the endless splits and fractures within the Left. The answer I gave him was glib, sarcastic. After reading Jeff’s book I want to go back to my friend and answer his question seriously. Better yet, I will give him the book to read. Of course the historic splits and arguments within the Communist Left can be reduced to a joke. Am I a Marxist? Yes, the Groucho-Chico tendency. But Jeff’s book reminded me that the arguments within Communism were also evidence of courage, of women and men refusing to accept the official line, who were willing to face ostracisation from their peers and comrades in order to speak a truth to power. Guido Baracchi did just that. If the Left is to be revived this history of courage must not be forgotten. If the Left is to speak to both hearts and minds it will have to be a Left in which dissent is possible within and without. The dissenting voices that speak from within the pages of Communism: A Love Story address some of the very questions that now obsess my friend: how to counter nationalism, how to create a language of class-consciousness beyond borders. These questions might even be more urgent now.

    The hopes that Communism promised and then betrayed cannot be resurrected in either a total rejection of its legacy nor in a romantic nostalgic sentimentalisation of the past. Since reading Jeff’s book, I have not been able to stop thinking of my uncle, my mother’s oldest brother, who became a Communist as an adolescent in the Greek Civil War and who died just before this new century began. My uncle – unlike Guido – grew up a poor peasant’s son. He was politicised in the Civil War and never stopped working as an activist and as a unionist. He was imprisoned and tortured for his commitment to these beliefs. I saw him in the early 1990s, broken and disillusioned by the evidence of the Soviet Union’s corruption and collapse. His family thought his commitment to his politics cost them the material pleasures afforded to others in the new Greece of the EU. But I was lucky to visit him again one last time before he died. He had regained his spirit, he was working with the homeless of Athens, he was defending the rights of immigrants and refugees. He told me that if it had not been for Communism he would be a racist and a nationalist. But he knew too much to ever succumb to that kind of moronic thinking, he told me. After his death a cousin showed me a store of books that my uncle had kept with him since his youth. For many years he had to keep them hidden, secreted away in the cellar beneath my grandfather’s cottage. Born into war, a poor man’s son, he never received an education. It was the Communists who taught him, as a young man, how to read and write, how to receive the education that I take for granted. I looked through these books of his, the ones through which he acquired literacy, and I was shocked to find that among them were the works of Josef Stalin. Is it a colossal cosmic joke that the education of a Greek peasant lad depended on learning the words of one of the most intellectually barren of tyrants? Yes it is, but in our bitter laughter at this monstrous joke I don’t want to refute the empowerment, the keen sense of justice, the true spirit of comradeship that my uncle gained from Communism. This is the power of Jeff’s book, that it asks us not to turn away from this history. In reading Jeff’s book I continue an argument, a conversation that remains unfinished, between my uncle and me. Not about what the left was but what the left is and what it can be.

    Jeff’s book invites us to continue this conversation, to not consign this history to the dustbin but to see it as a dynamic that still shapes our world, our politics, our ethics, and our actions.

    In doing so Jeff honours not only Guido Baracchi, but my uncle, and the millions like him.

    Jeff, for creating the space that allows this conversation to continue, for writing this important book, I want to thank you.

    Sample chapter of Communism (PDF).

  6. grumpy cat says:

    Yeah because she is at least 4 years older than me – I was born in ’78. When I started uni in ’96 she was already into her degree. She is early to mid 30s at least.

  7. @ndy says:

    Ah. I guess the only solution is to write her and ask. (Maybe she skipped a year or four?)

  8. grumpy cat says:

    I take back the Stalinist comment. He is an amazing author.

  9. sorry, mate, but i am still an anarchist vegan pacifist.

    john kinsella

  10. @ndy says:

    G’day John,

    Cool. I was gonna throw up the i/view you did in Overland.

    Here is the link:

    feature | John Kinsella and Tracy Ryan
    WEB CONTENT ONLY
    published 24 November 2008
    ON ANARCHISM
    John Kinsella interviewed by Tracy Ryan

  11. Thanks, mate, I appreciate it. Too few anarchists around…

  12. @ndy says:

    Yeah… it is what it is.

    Interested to read yr thoughts on the shit going down in Greece. Not very pacifistic…?

    See for example : http://slackbastard.anarchobase.com/?p=1550

  13. Dr. Cam says:

    Funny that Fred Hollows doesn’t make an appearance on this list.

    I guess you’re just a straight-up tram-stop liar, Andrew Moran.

  14. @ndy says:

    Go practice yr reverse parking you big girl’s blouse.

    Upon his death in 1993 the Chief Minister of the ACT, Rosemary Follett, described Hollows to her parliamentary colleagues as “an egalitarian and a self-named anarcho-syndicalist who wanted to see an end to the economic disparity which exists between the First and Third Worlds and who believed in no power higher than the best expressions of the human spirit found in personal and social relationships”. ~ Rosemary Follett, ACT Parliamentary Hansard, February 16, 1993

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