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Saturday, March 15, 2014 at 19 Tory Street, Wellington.

Local, national, and international speakers! Books, books and more books! A week of anarchist fun, make your plans now! More information coming soon!

If you are interested in booking a table or organising  an event please get in touch, wellingtonanarchistbookfair at gmail dot com.

The website is here: http://wellingtonanarchistbookfair.com/

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Join us on Friday June 20th at 7pm to watch An Injury To One, screening at the Peoples Cinema, Wellington (57 Manners St).

AN INJURY TO ONE provides an absolutely compelling glimpse of a particularly volatile moment in early 20th century American labor history and the effects of mining on the community of Butte, Montana.

The Anaconda mine in Butte has become the largest environmental disaster site in the United States. It’s open pit is a cocktail of contaminated materials: a century after the era of intensive mining and smelting the area around the city remains an environmental issue. Arsenic and heavy metals such as lead are found in high concentrations in some spots affected by old mining, and for a period of time in the 1990s the tap water was unsafe to drink due to poor filtration and decades-old wooden supply pipes. AN INJURY TO ONE looks at this disaster through it’s history of labour struggle — the mysterious death of Wobbly organizer Frank Little and the Speculator Fire of 1917. Much of the extant evidence is inscribed upon the landscape of Butte and its surroundings. Thus, a connection is drawn between the unsolved murder of Little, and the attempted murder of the town by a company in search of profit.

Archival footage mixes with deftly deployed intertitles, while the lyrics to traditional mining songs are accompanied by music from Bonnie Prince Billy, Jim O’Rourke, The Dirty Three and Low, producing an appropriately moody, effulgent, and strangely out-of-time soundtrack. The result is a unique film/video hybrid that combines painterly images, incisive writing, and a bold graphic sensibility to produce an articulate example of the aesthetic and political possibilities offered by filmmaking in the digital age.

“An astonishing document: part art and part speculative inquiry, buzzing with ambition and dedication. Takes us from the 19th century to the eve of the 21st, from Butte as land of frontier promise to Butte as land of death and environmental destruction. Travis wields avant-garde graphics and archival ephemera like a lasso, and his shots of modern-day Butte are allusive still-lifes that defy time and place. This is stirring, must-see stuff.“— Austin Chronicle

Entry is Koha!

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‘Sewing Freedom: Philip Josephs, Transnationalism & Early New Zealand Anarchism’ can now be purchased online at www.sewingfreedom.org.

‘Sewing Freedom’ is the first in-depth study of anarchism in New Zealand during the turbulent years of the early 20th century—a time of wildcat strikes, industrial warfare and a radical working class counter-culture. Interweaving biography, cultural history and an array of archival sources, this engaging account unravels the anarchist-cum-bomber stereotype by piecing together the life of Philip Josephs—a Latvian-born Jewish tailor, anti-militarist and founder of the Wellington Freedom Group. Anarchists like Josephs not only existed in the ‘Workingman’s Paradise’ that was New Zealand, but were a lively part of its labour movement and the class struggle that swept through the country, imparting uncredited influence and ideas. ‘Sewing Freedom’ places this neglected movement within the global anarchist upsurge, and unearths the colourful activities of New Zealand’s most radical advocates for social and economic change.

Published by AK Press (USA/UK), the book includes illustrations by Alec Icky Dunn (Justseeds), and a foreword by Barry Pateman (Kate Sharpley Library, Emma Goldman Papers).
A visual sampler of the book, MP3s and video, endorsements, and more, is also available at www.sewingfreedom.org.
Sewing_Freedom_launch

Jared Davidson, AK Press, and the Museum of Wellington City & Sea invite you to the launch of Sewing Freedom, a new book on early anarchism and labour history in New Zealand.

Sewing Freedom works on several levels. It is a meticulous biography, a portrait of an era, a sophisticated discussion of anarchist philosophy and activism, and an evocation of radical lives and ideas in their context. Davidson has designed a fresh, crisp book with visual impact, nicely enhanced by Alec Icky Dunn’s wonderful sketches… This beautifully-executed book tells an important story in New Zealand’s political history.” – Chris Brickell, Associate Professor of Gender Studies at Otago University and author of Mates and Lovers


ABOUT THE BOOK:

Sewing Freedom is the first in-depth study of anarchism in New Zealand during the turbulent years of the early 20th century—a time of wildcat strikes, industrial warfare and a radical working class counter-culture. Interweaving biography, cultural history and an array of archival sources, this engaging account unravels the anarchist-cum-bomber stereotype by piecing together the life of Philip Josephs—a Latvian-born Jewish tailor, anti-militarist and founder of the Wellington Freedom Group. Anarchists like Josephs not only existed in the ‘Workingman’s Paradise’ that was New Zealand, but were a lively part of its labour movement and the class struggle that swept through the country, imparting uncredited influence and ideas. Sewing Freedom places this neglected movement within the global anarchist upsurge, and unearths the colourful activities of New Zealand’s most radical advocates for social and economic change.

More information on the book, a sampler, and reviews, can be found at www.sewingfreedom.org


ABOUT THE LAUNCH:

WHEN: Wednesday 15 May – 5.30PM

WHERE: The Boardroom, Museum of Wellington City & Sea, Queens Wharf, Jervois Quay

Books will be on sale for $15 cash on the night.

Free entry. Nibbles and drinks provided.


ABOUT THE SPEAKERS:

Jared Davidson is an archivist at Archives New Zealand, a member of the Labour History Project, and author of Sewing Freedom. His first book, Remains to be Seen: Tracing Joe Hill’s Ashes in New Zealand, was published in 2011.

Barry Pateman is an anarchist historian, Kate Sharpley Library archivist, and Associate Editor of The Emma Goldman Papers (USA). A prolific editor and writer, he has been involved in a number of projects and publications, including Chomsky on Anarchism, A History of the French Anarchist Movement, Emma Goldman: A Documentary History of the American Years, and Anarchist Voices: An Oral History of Anarchism in America.

Mark Derby is the Chair of the Labour History Project and an extensively-published writer and historian, having worked for the Waitangi Tribunal; the PSA; Te Ara, the online encyclopedia of New Zealand; and as South Pacific correspondent for Journal Expresso, Portugal’s leading newspaper. His books include The Prophet and the Policeman: The story of Rua Kenana and John Cullen, and Kiwi Companeros, on New Zealand and the Spanish Civil War.

http://www.akpress.org/
http://www.museumswellington.org.nz/museum-of-wellington-city-and-sea/
http://sewingfreedom.org/

Socialist Cross of Honor #5

 Reproduced from the LHP Newsletter #55.

In July 1911 William Cornish Jnr, a young conscientious objector from Brooklyn, Wellington, stood before Magistrate Riddell on charges of refusing to register under the Defence Act of 1909. Amended in 1910 and finally enforced in April 1911, the Act required compulsory registration of all men between the ages of 14 and 30 as an “attempt to re-organize [New Zealand’s] defence forces along the lines agreed to at the Imperial Naval and Military Conference” held in London in 1909.1 Cornish Jnr, having “no intention of obeying the law” and “prepared to take the consequences,” refused to pay the £4 fine. Instead, he was sentenced to 21 days in jail—becoming, according to Ryan Bodman, the first Pakeha political prisoner in the nation’s history.2

William Cornish Snr shared his son’s sentiment and echoed the rumblings of an antimilitarist movement gathering momentum—a movement angered by creeping militarism and state curtailment of liberty. “What is this terrible offence for which my son is punished?” wrote Cornish Snr to the Evening Post. “He refuses to register himself like a dog. A dog registered and collared!” He concluded defiantly:

My son is told to defend his country. He has got to defend his father’s property. And how much property has his father got? None. Nine-tenths of the working class—the class I belong to—have no property; therefore it means that the ruling class—the capitalists—have got the cheek and impudence to ask the sons of the workers to defend their property… I am happy and proud to be the father of such a noble son who has the courage to say: No! No! No!”3

Harry Cooke, son of the New Zealand Socialist Party’s (NZSP) Christchurch secretary Fred Cooke, was another young objector who said “No! No! No!” to the fine and was sent to jail. He was not the last. Backed by antimilitarist groups like Louise Christie’s Anti-Militarist League and Charles Mackie’s National Peace Council, along with working class bodies such as the NZSP, the Federation of Labor and the Passive Resisters’ Union (PRU), youths across New Zealand were refusing registration and compulsory military training in large numbers. By 1913 the Maoriland Worker, which started a ‘Roll of Honour’ on the jailing of Cornish Jnr, had 94 names listed (many with double sentences), while prosecutions under the Act had reached a figure of 7030.

Yet despite the statistics, antimilitarist ‘shirkers’ and ‘anti-defenders’ were in the minority—a movement on the margins of a highly conformist culture. They were often ridiculed by the mainstream press—“we have precious little sympathy with the silly, notoriety-craving youths,” wrote one scathing editor.4 Therefore, the support of collective associations like the NZSP and the PRU formed an important part of resisting militarism in its various forms, and dealing with the reprisals. With the creation of these associations came a working class counterculture with its own institutions, values and symbols, a “means of defining and winning space within the social structure.”5 Newspapers, banners, badges, slogans, songs, social events, physical spaces and social relationships were just some of the ways working people expressed their solidarity. PRU members wore distinctive red, white and gold badges on their jackets, published the spritely Repeal and had their own hockey team “with bright red uniforms and big crowds to watch them on Saturday which highlights the popularity of their cause.”6 The NZSP had its halls, Sunday schools, stationery (“the red flag and Socialist motto being very prominent”) and in 1912 even considered purchasing their own van.7

So when Cornish Jnr and Harry Cooke were imprisoned, the communities of which they were a part rallied together in true countercultural fashion. Although a demonstration planned at the prison gates was foiled when Cornish Jnr was released an hour early, the Wellington socialists threw two receptions for him at the Socialist Hall. The first, attended by a crowd of over 300, saw Cornish Jnr receive a medal from the Runanga Anti-Conscription League—possibly the first celebratory medal of its kind in the history of the New Zealand labour movement. Speaking on behalf of the League, Robert Semple “congratulated Cornish on defying an immoral law” before presenting him “with a handsome gold medal, which bears the following inscription:—‘Presented to W. Cornish, junr., by the Runanga Anti-Conscription League. 26/7/11.’”8 The following night saw Cornish Jnr receive a second medal – the Socialist Cross of Honor:

The design of this cross is based on the Victoria Cross. On the centre shield are engraved the name of the NZ Socialist Party, the number and the name of the boy. In the centre are a red flag and the words ‘Anti-Militarism’ and at the bottom is written ‘For Courage’”9

Cooke received his Socialist Cross in a similar ceremony a month later, presented by the Christchurch NZSP in front of a crowd of 200.

Cornish Jnr, as pictured by Bloomfield

Cartoonist William Blomfield, well known for his anti-socialist satire, was quick to jump on the paradox of anti-militarists receiving medals. His drawing of a menacing Cornish Jnr—medals abreast and Union Jack torn in his hands—is like a patriotic poster gone awry. All the elements are there: flags, conscription posters and medals portrayed in a way to stir even the mildest patriot, but for all the wrong reasons. The paradox was not lost on the NZSP. “Many may ask why the Socialist Party is initiating the military authorities and their barbaric symbols of slaughter,” wrote Fred Cooke. “We answer that our cross is symbolical of peace and brotherhood, and in after life the boys who have gained them can justly boast of striking a blow for liberty and fraternity.”10 Indeed, as the British cultural theorist Raymond Williams has pointed out, the crucial difference between the elite and the working class in cultural terms was not “language, not dress, not leisure… but between alternative ideas of the nature of social relationships.”11 The Socialist Cross may have been a medal originally based on militarist conquest, but in the hands of the working class its social value was immensely different.

It is not known how many of these unique medals were produced. By mid-1912 the NZSP was appealing for funds to keep the practice going: “there are a number of crosses in the course of being finished, and by appearances we shall require a larger number than was anticipated.”12 References to the Socialist Cross disappear from the Maoriland Worker after June 1912 and they are missing from collectors-catalogues such as Leon Morel’s Catalogue of Medals, Medalets, Medallions of New Zealand, 1865-1940. It appears none are held in any cultural heritage institutions, making them even rarer.

So imagine my surprise when, after giving a talk on New Zealand’s labour movement at Occupy Christchurch (in walking distance of the PRU’s former headquarters, the Addington Railway Workshops), I was approached by a man named Walter Dobbs claiming to have PRU badges in his possession. At that stage I had no idea any such medals existed, and assumed Walter simply meant the gold PRU badges worn by its members. Instead, in his Addington storage unit, he presented me with not one but two Socialist Crosses. A cross with the faded inscription #24 was in poor condition, but the Socialist Cross of Honor #5, given to PRU founder James Kirkwood Worrall after imprisonment on 5 March 1912, was as good as new.

The Worrall brothers wearing their PRU ribbons

Walter also had transcribed copies of Worrall’s letters from Ripapa Island in Lyttelton Harbour, an internment camp for conscientious objectors. Marched through Lyttelton at the point of bayonets, Worrall and other resisters were shipped to the island in June 1913 where they soon refused to clean weaponry and carry out military drill. “They were placed on half-rations, to which ten of the PRU members responded with a hunger strike.”13 As well as letters to his mother describing the hunger strike and island conditions, Worrall and Reg Williams managed to get an impassioned plea to the Labour Unity Conference being held in Wellington, causing the entire group of over 400 delegates to march on Parliament and demand a hearing with Prime Minster William Massey:

It is now the morning of July 2, and ten of us have refused the fifth meal offered us. Three of our number are ill, one seriously. It makes no difference, however, as we have decided that unless we are allowed to return to the barrack room and given our full rations, we will be carried off the island dead, or as near dead as our tormentors will allow us to get… Our message to you, our comrades, is to fight hard. No quarter! No compromise! No surrender! We are prepared to play the game to the last: all we ask is for you to do the same. Let the world know that this little country is game enough to challenge the power of the military autocracy which is threatening to overwhelm the world, and is ruining the workers of the world.14

Massey called an immediate Cabinet meeting and the following day promised the conference that conditions on the island would be improved, military drill would not be enforced and inquiries into all complaints would be made. Although not the unconditional release originally demanded, the hunger strikers and resulting publicity had won their point.15

These letters give a rare insight into the fraught activity of antimilitarists like Worrall and highlight the importance of both collective and family support, the latter being a key but under-examined institution.16 “With your letters time passes fairly quickly,” wrote Worrall to his mother, just after the hunger strike,

I received Father’s note, and was very disappointed that he could not come across… I hope that Father left the fruit across there, because I feel fit to eat some. Perhaps you may be able to come another day this week—try, anyway, because I want Father to see the place. Don’t forget to make things hot outside. I will write more soon. Don’t worry, we will win yet. Don’t forget the fruit. W Hooper and I are waiting for it.17

Likewise, the Socialist Cross and corresponding letters shown to me by Walter highlight how much important archival material relating to the labour movement exists in private collections, its value often unknown to their owners. Sadly, in a time of cuts and mergers, archival outreach is often the last thing on a heritage minister’s mind. That is why labour history and accounts of our working past are important—the continuation of a working class counter-culture held dear to those that struggled to create it. As Fred Cooke wrote in 1911, “in the future, when working-class history comes to be written, our Cross will be held in high esteem.”18

ENDNOTES

1. R.L. Weitzel, ‘Pacifists and Anti-militarists, 1909–1914’, New Zealand Journal of History, 1973, p.128.
2. Maoriland Worker, 14 July 1911; Ryan Bodman, “‘Don’t be a Conscript, be a Man!’ A History of the Passive Resisters’ Union, 1912-1914”, Masters Dissertation, University of Auckland, 2010, p.8.
3. Evening Post, 10 July 1911.
4. Marlborough Express, 7 April 1913.
5. Bill Osgerby, as cited by Alan Howkins. ‘Labour and Culture: mapping the field’ in John Martin & Kerry Taylor, (eds.), Culture and the Labour Movement: essays in New Zealand Labour History, Dunmore Press, 1991, p.26.
6. Maoriland Worker, 28 June 1912. Special thanks to Ryan Bodman for pointing this out to me.
7. NZ Truth, 5 August 1911.
8. Maoriland Worker, 11 August 1911.
9. Maoriland Worker, 25 August 1911.
10. Maoriland Worker, 12 April 1912.
11. Howkins. ‘Labour and Culture: mapping the field’, p.25.
12. Maoriland Worker, 12 April 1912.
13. Bodman, ‘Don’t be a Conscript, be a Man!’, p.21.
14. NZ Truth, 5 July 1913.
15. Bert Roth, ‘The Prisoners of Ripa Island’, Here and Now, November 1954, p.18.
16. Melanie Nolan, ‘Family and Culture: Jack and Maggie McCullough and the Christchurch Skilled Working Class, 1880s-1920s’ in Culture and the Labour Movement, p.164.
17. James Worrall, letter to his mother, 2 July 1913, private collection.
18. Maoriland Worker, 25 August 1911.