JA Andrews, forgotten Australian radical intellectual
1865 JA Andrews (John Arthur Andrews; Jack Andrews; d. 1903), Australian anarchist writer and pamphleteer, probably the most important of the group which came together in the Melbourne Anarchist Club. Henry Lawson knew him (c. 1892) when Andrews was 27 and campaigning in Sydney (for which he ended up in Parramatta Gaol).
Australian historian Bob James has researched and written on Andrews and tells us that during 1889 much of Andrews's writing was published in Bob Winspear’s The Radical. He couldn't afford a metal type printing press, but managed to publish The Anarchist (1891) and various tracts on a home-made contraption made from a tobacco tin, using a wooden font carved for the purpose. He was associated with Joe Schellenberg and the Smithfield communist anarchists while in Sydney from late-1890, helping to establish the Communist-Anarchist Group of Central Cumberland operations centre there. His writings were highly philosophical (he was probably the most intellectual of the anarchists, indeed of the labour movement at the time), but he was also a hard-working activist. Some of what we know about the Active Service Brigade was written by him in Tocsin in 1900. He spent time in prison for his activities, round 1894-5, for sedition and other crimes such as not having a correct imprint on his magazine. After his early death from tuberculosis he was compared to Tolstoi, Kropotkin, Thoreau and Verlaine, among others.
William Lane’s brother Ernie described him, in Dawn to Dusk, in these words: “... Clothed in an overcoat to cover his sometimes shirtless body and tattered clothes, Andrews would proceed to the Domain. Tying a large pole with a small black flag attached to an over- head tree he would deliver a two or three hours' exposition of philosophic anarchy to the proverbial ... two men and a dog ... Andrews obviously spoke right over the heads of the crowd ...”
Bertram Stevens said Andrews “was as gentle as a grub and looked like Christ”.
Categories: australia, radical, anarchism, labor, history