Anarcho-syndicalism in Melbourne and Sydney - Conal Thwaite

Thesis attempting to explain the origins of anarcho-syndicalism in Australia by the late 1980s.

Submitted by Lugius on June 24, 2013



10 years 11 months ago

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Submitted by Steven. on June 25, 2013

Thanks for posting. Have added an explanatory introduction and picture. If you can please do this for anything you submit in future, cheers


10 years 11 months ago

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Submitted by Lugius on June 26, 2013

Thanks Steven.


1 year 9 months ago

Submitted by asn on August 21, 2022

The thesis presents more of a fantasy than an adequate discussion of the development of a-s in Melb. and Sydney. There is definitely inadequate research and a focus on organisational 'formalism' informed by vanguardism and sect building perhaps informed by the author's immersion in the leftist milieu.
He doesn't discuss the profound impact on the left in Oz of the CPA (Communist Party of Australia) in its high Stalinist phase for 3-4-5 decades in the 20th Century and subsequent mushrooming of Trot groups informed by this legacy. Surrounding and heavily affecting so called anarchist groups and the ASF particularly in Melb. often composed of few militant workers but often students/middle class/long term unemployed elements in sharp contrast of the social of syndicalist movements in the early 20th century. The author provides a completely inadequate discussion of the industrial scene in Melb and Sydney in these years and before. An important reason for the impact of Melb. based Sparks is the militant traditions of PT workers in Vic - 1946 Vic Rail Strike and Melb/Vic PT was the focus of the 1969 Clarrie O'Shea jailing Atlantean bus dispute general strikes with the left ALP faction being predominant in the Vic Unions. Whilst in Sydney and NSW the situation in PT was much harsher with little militancy since the great strike of 1917 defeat and Right ALP Faction controlling most of the unions. A certain former ASF member came to Sydney and while working in the most militant STA bus depot as part of Sydney based Sparks - he put his name on an article in it and was immediately harassed by the bosses and the union rep presumably a stooge of the ALP Right aligned union bosses refused to help him. With regard to the Melb based Sparks workers had articles in it with their names on it without any harassment except one in the railways.
My and others in Sydney impressions of many in Melb, which became ASF after 1986 conference was that they had little knowledge of the subject and little or no interest in doing any research into its history and associated historical precedents! Definitely they displayed no grasp of a realistic strategy for establishing a-s union movement in Australia. Many seemed to have a grossly simplistic Trot sect like approach based on "build the ASF" and recruitment to the ASF micro bureaucracy. A more realistic strategy which the author seems oblivious toward due to grossly inadequate research and lack of industrial experience would focus on long term strategic industrial organising regarding launching strike waves across industries leading to major splits from the corporate unions and transitional steps toward the formation of an a-s union centre. With a-s's acting as "catalytic" networks assisting militants on the job and subsequent breakaways.
After the Tram dispute and the ASF split - which showed the increasing influence of Trot/Stalinist legacy ways - a fake local Melb. ASF was formed it appears as part of "stacking" the coming ASF congress - very much in line with notorious manipulative Trot ways. Also there seemed a "Stalinist legacy informed climate" regarding aspects of industrial activity - associated with the unrealistic notion in today's situation of only workers editing or publishing industrial papers eg such as Sparks - this notion was seen as quasi sacred and "beyond debate and discussion" like the line of the Stalinist CPA after coming down from Moscow and Joe Stalin. Following the Trammie defeat - most of the few ASF public transport workers dropped out of the industry - they couldn't cope with shift work. Lacking much understanding of A-S - many dropped out of alleged a-s activity and became involved in rural alternative life style stuff and single issue stuff etc. As a result of such factors the Melb based Sparks ceased publication - it should have been kept going with outside the job organisation working together with on the job contacts/networks. Subsequently using this type of model Sydney based Sparks developed regular section for an important sector of the Victorian railways. However development of sections in other Vic. transport sectors has been obstructed by the above "sacred" notions and subsequent spawning of what became an extreme sect or cult - ASF No.2. heavily influenced by the Stalinist legacy - associated with the great acceleration of the above manipulative ways and peddling of duplicity re non existent industrial activity and fake ASF unions which could meet in large phone booths if they existed at all as part of the massaging of the macro bureaucracy of the IWA (International Workers Association). The IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) in Melb . must also be seen in the sect spectrum but not in any way as extreme as the ASF No.2. The IWW has been drawn into the "smoke and mirrors" performances of the corporate unions at community pickets associated with enterprise bargaining sell outs and assisting workers in marginal sectors also similar to ways eg acting as lobbyists/IR advisors (ASF No.2 has done the same re Domino's dispute re underpaid workers - however there was no direct action by these workers in the dispute) of the corporate unions and not in anyway facilitating the massive industrial upsurges and strike waves we need to realise mass syndicalist unionism .
For a discussion of this organisational formalism and vanguardist ways in the ASF and alleged a-s's in Melb.

See Rebel Worker "Two sides of the coin of Class Struggle" and 'Rebel Worker pamphlet review "Anarchism is Australia Today" via google search and via archive section on It also must be noted in the early 20th Century such 'formal' organisations like the Chicago Line IWW which existed in Oz certainly were not dysfunctional re serious syndicalist industrial organising like ASF No.2 and IWW - because of the high level of workers militancy in those days, lack of predominance of the corporate media, before the rise of mass Stalinism and the Bolshevik Coup in Russia in 1917 etc and those militant worker elements were predominating in the Chicago line IWW locals in Oz. A differnt social base to ASF No.2 and the IWW.