A brief history of Anarchism in Brisbane
Subversion #1312 broadcasts out of Brisbane. Brisbane is Australia’s third largest city.
Currently the anarchist movement in Brisbane is in what perhaps could be described as a state of flux. New inspiration is needed to reinvigorate the scene.
In the past however anarchists in Brisbane have been more active. Barbara Hart is someone who was involved in Brisbane anarchism in the 70s and 80s.
I had a chat to her about what anarchists got up to in Brisbane in the past.
We also talk about social movements internationally.
Linda: I recently did an interview with a person who does a radio show in America, an anarchist radio show, and so I had to talk about the history of anarchism in Brisbane and the current state of anarchism, and you mentioned the bookstore and there were other initiatives happening then, like anarchists aren’t as active in Brisbane as they were from the time that you’re talking about it or at least it doesn’t seem so.
Barbara: Yes well I don’t think any of the ‘ism’s are, all the left wing groups are much much smaller and I’ve thought about this a lot.
Why is that so? One of the reasons was that the generation from the 70s, 80s, and 90s was getting old of course but we were baby boomer generation so it was a very large group of people but the next large group of people that came along apparently was the late 80s cause I looked at the statistics cause I was trying to work this out one day: Why? Why is this happening?
I thought maybe they had a small population bulge thing but they’re now people who are in their late 20s, early 30s, so when that bulged people who were that age it was quite a bulge in population then for whatever reason, so that wasn’t a reason. The other reason I think is that a lot of people are online and just getting caught up in a sort of echo chamber thing, they just communicate with friends and people they already know, and not so much going out into the street and trying to do things in a material way like in the real world, that’s a problem with a lot of, not just people on the left but in a lot of things and also a big reason, and I have to be honest about this, a big reason is the dole, now when I was young the dole was extremely easy to get and I remember when I moved to Sydney in the 80s I went to the dole office in Newtown and after I’d filled in all the forms and spoken to somebody at the counter I was ushered into a room where a guy who looked like an older hippie guy read me out my rights and I was so surprised because I’d come from Queensland where a lot of it was quite savage.
Even though the dole was ok but because it was in Queensland it was interpreted in a much harsher way than New South Wales so because you actually had that safety net, the money was still terrible, but because you had that safety net there people had the energy to put into creative things like bands, social centres and whereas young people today, and even not so young people who are unemployed or partly employed just it’s so vicious that it’s a constant runaround trying to fulfil all these job network things you know?
And I think it’s very exhausting, and even people who are in part-time work it’s not secure it’s very very exhausting. I think the economic situation has changed and housing was, well compared to what we were getting for the dole housing was still expensive for us but it was more plentiful in the inner city whereas a lot of the housing’s been bought up by well-off affluent people in the inner city.
Linda: Do you think that’s it’s got to do with the fact that things were more oppressive then like the Bjelke-Petersen regime?
Barbara: Oh undoubtedly things are actually more oppressive now in some ways but they’re oppressive in a way that’s hard to make real for new people coming in. You talk about something like globalisation it’s a little bit harder to bring that down to the day to day although it should be done but back then every young and not so young person suffered from the Bjelke-Petersen regime, I mean the police were just so terrible and you’d have a dance, you’d organise a dance and the police would arrive, lock the doors, and not let anyone out unless they walked out in single file and they sort of took your name if they wanted to you know things like that were happening or in the case of a friend of mine you go to a dance and as you spilled out onto the footpath, because the police had arrived you got bashed up so it was very clear to see even for people who hadn’t read any books or anything it was quite visceral you could see what was going on so that was quite clear.
Linda: There’s an uprising in France at the moment and it got me thinking again of this theory I have that where there’s greater concentrations of population it’s more likely that there’s going to be resistance movements.
Barbara: Well that’s right Australia is dominated by outlying you know big suburban sprawl.. Which makes things more difficult but I’ve noticed that the places where there is a lot of rebellion like France, Spain, Greece, Mexico they are all places where during the 20th century or even the 19th century there were big uprisings … big uprisings… you know France 1968 which is now the 50th anniversary coming up … there was a big uprising in the 70s that got rid of the military dictatorship in Greece … Spain of course had the Spanish Civil War, Mexico had the Zapata uprising in the early part of the 20th Century and now it’s got the modern Zapatista movement and also in this century it had the Oaxaca Commune where the teachers union had an uprising and took over the town basically.
So in these places and things are still happening in these provinces in Mexico so I think where there’s a tradition it’s very important for people to keep doing things even when it seems like it’s a really dry period .. activist wise because it all builds up … it’s sort of like a well you know if you’ve got no water in the bottom of the well it’s going to be harder to get water up.
That’s the only thing I can think of but if there’s a little bit there at least it can ….. if people have done things in the past it enriches the whole tradition.