2011 ASSLH conference – Biography and Ideology in the Industrial Workers of the World in Australia 1911-­1922


Biography and Ideology in the Industrial Workers of the World in Australia 1911-­1922: A Brief Review

Frank Cain


The ideas of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) were introduced from Chicago to Australia via Sydney in 1907 by a group of immigrant, English-speaking, itinerant, Marxist, semi-skilled workers.  They dismissed the existing Labor governments as time servers and the Great War as against the interests of the working class. This paper will present short biographies of five of these foreign-born activists and how they adapted their radical IWW ideology that had evolved from the class war in the early 20th century United States.  It will discuss how they made an impact on Australian politics during the Great War and how their work was considered to be such a threat to Australia as to have the IWW legally banned and themselves deported to overseas countries by the Commonwealth government.  

Dr Frank Cain is Visiting Fellow at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of New South Wales in Canberra. He has written widely on the role of Australian political surveillance agencies in their pursuit of local socialist, trade union and other left-wing political groupings commencing with the Industrial Workers of the World to be discussed here. Dr Cain’s most recent book is Terrorism and Intelligence in Australia: A History of ASIO and National Surveillance published by Australian Scholarly Press in Melbourne in 2008.


The ideas of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) were introduced from Chicago to Australia via Sydney in 1907 by a group of immigrant, English-­ speaking, itinerant, Marxist, semi-­skilled workers, who dismissed the existing Labor governments as timeservers, and the Great War as against the interests of the working class. This paper will present short biographies of five of these foreign-­born activists and describe how they adapted their radical IWW ideology, which had evolved from the class war in the early twentieth-­century United States. It will discuss how they made an impact on Australian politics during the Great War and how their work was considered to be such a threat to Australia that the IWW was legally banned and they themselves were deported to overseas countries by the Commonwealth government.

The United States Origins

The existence of trade unions in the United States of America at the end of the nineteenth century faced strong opposition from business corporations, governments and the courts. The big trusts in those years, such as J. P. Morgan in steel, Rockefeller in oil, Gustavus Swift in meat packaging, were supposed to be contained by the Sherman Anti-­Trust Act, but the law was used more by the judiciary and private corporations to attack the trade unions and to imprison their officials. The Frick/Carnegie trust was still attacking the Amalgamated Steel Workers organisation as late as October 1915. Courts considered that industrial actions by workers violated the implied contract with their employers and imposed fines and jail sentences. Injunctions against the workers remained in place for years. Craft unions functioned from earlier times, but they acted more as friendly societies with funeral funds attached. The American Federation of Labor (AFL), established in the 1890s, initially included unions covering the unskilled, Blacks and women, but it gradually excluded these people and soon covered only five per cent of the workers.1

The IWW, formed in Chicago in January 1905, sought to unionise these women workers, non-­English speakers and Blacks, using the new principle of industrial unionism whereby all workers would be in one big industry union, rather than divided over several small unions, in order to win better conditions from the ‘boss class’. The US legislatures were seen by the IWW to be dominated by the employers and to provide no means for the workers to obtain better conditions. Industrial action by strikes was the only weapon available to the workers.2

The IWW arrived in Australia in 1908 and formed its main branch or Local in Sydney. It was sponsored by the Australian Socialist Party and its paper, the International Socialist, demonstrating that in this period before the labour movement gained strong parliamentary representation, the labour brotherhood embraced all left radical groups such as unionists, socialists, nationalists and IWWites.3 The Sydney Local’s organising skills resulted in the opening of club-­ like premises in Sussex Street, where all comers were welcomed to help print the monthly edition of its irreverent newspaper, Direct Action, from January 1914. The paper maintained an audacious cheeky and radical message with savage cartoons drawn by the young Syd Nicholls. It became a weekly in August 1916 and was distributed through the several interstate Locals.4 It reached peak sales of 9,000 per week by the time its press was seized by the New South Wales police in August 1916. It reached a gross weekly income of $80 per week ($800 in present day values), which was used to pay the editors and three travelling organisers. The Sussex Street clubrooms became a hive of activity with talks, lectures and lessons on all topics of interest to workers, including classes for women on birth control.5 A lecture series on economics and Marxism by J. B. King attracted eighty students on the first night and one hundred on the next night.6 Dances were held on Saturday nights and a brass band was formed to give musical concerts.

The mutually antagonistic aspects that marked USA labour relationships were not repeated in Australia because a variety of unions for skilled and semiskilled workers, including women, were established in the late nineteenth century, in both rural and metropolitan regions. Wages boards were established, and arbitration courts, where the workers were represented by the union leaders, were used to settle disputes. Another major difference with America was that the public enterprises such as railways, water, electricity and telephones were provided by government-­owned instrumentalities, financed with loans mostly raised by the State governments in London. These big government departments provided employment for a large permanent and unionized work force 7

The most significant impact of IWWism in Australia was in the mining town of Broken Hill, where a system close to industrial unionism had already been established by the Amalgamated Miners’ Association (AMA), with strong resemblances to the American situation.8 The mines were in a hard-­rock ore body; many miners were foreigners who appreciated the IWW foreign language material; and most were working-­class radicals. For these men, the extracts from the western USA Wobbly paper, Industrial Worker in Direct Action had relevance.

However, the AMA was more successful than the American unions in its struggles with the mine owners. When seeking an underground working week of forty-­four hours, the miners were locked out, and in January 1916 all 6,000 workers went on strike. The Arbitration Court granted the demands of the AMA, which the mine owners, now enriched with contracts for large sales of lead to British munitions manufacturers, accepted. The success of this `direct action’ encouraged the IWW Local to change into an industrial union, swallowing the AMA in a move that was publicised by the printing of a special edition of Direct Action that sold over 2,000 copies locally. There was resistance from the local unions, but it was soon superseded by popular opposition to the banning of the IWW and support for the Defence and Release Committee formed to assist the imprisoned `Sydney Twelve’. Over 319 supporters rallied and sixty single members at Broken Hill volunteered to stage a free-­speech fight. Thirty-­eight miners were jailed for six months for being members of the IWW.

Direct Actionism

At the turn of the twentieth century, the Australian left activists were optimistic about the making of a new society based on the adoption of trade protectionism by the new Commonwealth government and the growth of trade unionism. An educated working class debated the means for controlling the levers of power, including the establishment of state socialism. There was great theorising about how wages could be set by arbitration, the role of trade unions, the potentiality of Labor Party governments and the control of monopolies. By 1910 Labor governments were in power in the Commonwealth and in NSW and theory was replaced by political pragmatism. IWWism clung to its theory of `direct action’ and regarded the institutions of government as shibboleths leading the workers to false dawns. The labour movement was the main target of IWW attack, particularly the trade unions which, it said, only ameliorated the harshness of capitalism rather than overthrowing it. Unions fought against each other to gain a small advantage and failed to deliver gains. The Victorian unions, for example, celebrated the founding of the Eight Hours movement, said Direct Action, although only three unions out of 116 had won that benefit for their members. Arbitration courts too were considered an anathema by the IWW, which said that they were a device to benefit the employer and actually authorised, in some cases, the reduction in wages and conditions.

Parliaments too were condemned by the IWW (in spite of Labor’s wins), because they were controlled by the capitalist forces to whom the Labor Party would be beholden. If Labor refused to conform to the demands of capitalism, it said, they could be dismissed by the governor who could then introduce martial law. This scenario sounded wildly exaggerated, but the governor’s dismissal of the NSW Lang-­led Labor government in 1932 was to show otherwise.

The final IWW attack was on the Labor governments themselves. The IWW said that they provided jobs for Labor activists unable to find work elsewhere and while the party promised radical solutions to Labor voters before elections, these were cast aside after the elections were won. The split in the federal Labor government in 1916 over conscription, it said, demonstrated the divisions existing in Labor governments and the dictatorial nature of its leaders.9

The IWW urged the adoption of two direct-­action tactics, that is, sabotage, defined as `playing dumb, harassing the boss to the point of granting his workers’ demands’ and, secondly, demanding a greater share of the surplus value from the employing class, roughly defined as the employer’s ill-­gained profit.10

The Great War

It was in its opposition to the conduct of the First World War that the IWW and Direct Action secured a continuing place in Australian history. Their resistance (together with other left groups) helped turn what was strong support for the war into a significant opposition against it by late in 1916. The IWW in the USA had long denigrated its military as anti-­working class for its use by employers and governments in the breaking of strikes and attacks on labour activists. The Australian military were precluded by the constitution from such engagements, but the IWW transposed its American material to the local setting. Working men were urged by the IWW not to enlist and told that it was a capitalists’ war fought to defend the assets and wealth of the local property owners, who themselves were unprepared to enlist. The IWW added that the war was conducted mainly for the benefit of the arms manufacturers such as Krupps in Germany or Armstrong-­Whitworth in Britain. The distressing picture of workers returning wounded, with missing limbs and finding no boss to employ them, was presented. The IWW said that just as the German working class was pushed into war by German Prussianism so were the Australian workers driven to war by their antipodean `Prussian class’.

Biographies of IWW Leaders

Tom Barker

Being footloose and unmarried was characteristic of the IWW leadership figures. Most were born in Britain and sailed to Australia via South Africa or New Zealand and continued to travel about the globe thereafter. Tom Barker was born in Britain in 1887, the son of a farm labourer, and after five years in the British army he migrated to Auckland, New Zealand in 1909. He worked there on the trams and joined its union and, after becoming convinced of the advantages of industrial unionism, joined the IWW. His involvement in the Wellington general strike in 1913 lead to serious brushes with the law that compelled him to migrate to Sydney early in 1914. There he wrote articles for Direct Action about industrial affairs in New Zealand, became its editor in September 1914 and expanded it into a weekly publication by October 1915.

Barker’s editorial style was marked by a biting radicalism that pricked the pomposity of the federal and State Labor leaders and of the capitalist class. He particularly enjoyed ridiculing the capitalist press, its editors and owners. When the Sydney Bulletin attacked the `slow down’ policy of the IWW as being akin to treachery in wartime, Barker lampooned its editors, ridiculing them as `white feather pen pushers of the Bulletin’ whom, he said, keenly refused to exchange their comfortable Sydney offices for the frozen trenches in France and Belgium:

Now, when I was younger, I wasn’t quite as wise as I am now, and I joined a cavalry regiment and served for five years. And five years as a trooper and N.C.O decided me that a newspaper office is much healthier than a frozen Belgium trench, or a malodorous Egyptian bazaar…Carried to its logical conclusion [slow-­down action] will stop all wars and bundle Bulletin, Mikado and the Kaiser on to the end of a long-­handled shovel.11

In his campaign to ridicule those men and women who pushed the young to enlist while they remained as the `stay-­at-­home-­patriots’, Barker put up posters in Sydney that jokingly urged men to follow the example of their `landlords, capitalists, parsons, and editors’ when they enlisted in the army to fight in the trenches—but not before then. He escaped conviction on this occasion, but was fined £100 ($200) for publishing Syd Nicholl’s gruesome cartoon in Direct Action of December 1915, showing the war profiteer financially benefiting from the sacrifice of the dead soldier.12 He accepted the alternative, a jail sentence of twelve months, but was released in August 1916 by Hugh Mahon, the acting Attorney-­General and Irish nationalist sympathiser.13 The IWW’s anti-­war propaganda was attracting general support when Prime Minister Hughes returned from London on 7 July 1916, determined to halt it. In conjunction with the NSW Labor premier, W. A. Holman, a plan was apparently drawn up to arrest the five IWW leaders along with floor members, thereby crippling the union’s anti-­war program. On 23 September 1916, the NSW police arrested twelve members of the IWW and charged them, on the falsified evidence of police informers, with conspiracy to burn down Sydney. They were subsequently jailed for between five and fifteen years. Barker, now released, buoyed up those still jailed with letters containing news on how the IWW’s anti-­war campaign was flourishing and how finance and support was flooding in. The postal Censor sent Barker’s intercepted mail to Hughes, who became determined to legally prohibit the IWW. 14

Hughes quit the Labor Party in November 1916 and, as leader of non-­Labor, legislated the ban under the Unlawful Associations Act in December 1916 and again in July 1917. Barker was thereby jailed for six months for being a member of the IWW and, because he was not born in Australia, he was deported to Chile along with other Wobblies caught in this net of suppression.15 After surviving exciting events in South America, he returned to Britain where he worked with Russian Oil Products Ltd, a Soviet government agency selling Soviet petrol to Europe, Britain and Australia. He was sent to Sydney as its agent in the early 1930s, during the Great Depression, and witnessed the annual Anzac Day parade. Returned men, whom he had probably warned against enlisting, dressed in shabby clothes and wearing sandshoes, were now unemployed and living on handouts, with no prospect of relief from their penniless State. He expressed regret for these unfortunates and soon after, with his Polish-­born wife, Bertha, left Australia for the last time in 1933 on an Italian motor vessel bound for Venice. He later became the mayor of St. Pancras Borough and died in London in April 1970.16

Tom Glynn

Tom Glynn, another globe-­wandering working-­class radical, found himself in Australia and attracted to the militancy of the IWW. Born in Ireland in 1881, he migrated in 1900 to Australia, where he enlisted in the third contingent of the 1st Victorian Bushmen to fight in the Boer War. He joined the Transvaal police after the war, rising to sergeant in the pay and correspondence section, reflecting his skill in writing and penmanship. After mergers in the police forces, he switched to working on the trams in Johannesburg and helped to organise a strike in 1911. He was jailed for three months for leading the strike, but was freed on appeal and joined the IWW, convinced of the benefits of direct action and industrial unionism.17 He sailed to Ireland and later to Canada. In the USA he visited IWW Locals from New York to Salt Lake City, which confirmed him in the belief that the working class of the world could succeed only if it adopted the IWW tactics of `direct action’ against its numerous capitalist enemies.

On returning to Australia in 1912, Glynn joined the Sydney Local and became the founding editor of Direct Action on 31 January 1914 and later the paid secretary of the Local. By February 1915 the paper was selling 4,500 copies. He viewed the World War in Marxist terms as `a locomotive for change’ through which the working class could `overthrow their capitalist exploiters’. He directed special venom at Prime Minister Hughes (the hammer of the IWW), whom he branded as `the dwarfish popinjay who is Labor Prime Minister of Australia, and whose sole claim to eminence and notoriety is the “gift of the gab”’. The labour movement was splitting apart at this stage over the policies of Hughes that were expanding the Australian army beyond the numbers that the nation could support, and over his attacks on those on the left who questioned the government’s policies on recruitment. Glynn warned of the necessity for the IWW to maintain its attacks against the employers after the war `with force’ by quoting Hughes, in his usual taunting style, as an exemplar:

Those who are looking towards the war to achieve some psychological miracle with regard to the attitude of the employing class towards exploitation are living in a fool’s paradise. In the immortal words of Billy Hughes, when denouncing the I.W.W., ‘the only thing that appeals to these people is force’. Hughes was right: so are we. All things must give way to force. And the only force which shall sweep the capitalist system into oblivion is that of an industrially organized working class.18

Glynn was an obvious leader to be seized under the Hughes/Holman plan for demolishing the anti-­war policy of the IWW. He was arrested along with the IWW Twelve on 23 September. His alibi, proving he had not attended the alleged plotters’ meeting, was artlessly dismissed by the judge.19  The fifteen-­year jail sentences led to loud protests and the newly elected NSW Labor government under John Storey released them on 3 August 1920, following an inquiry conducted by Mr Justice Ewing. Glynn joined the newly established Australian Communist Party in the hope that this new international working-­class body might be more successful in establishing industrial unionism. In this new mood of enthusiasm, Glynn re-­established Direct Action, which the ACP recognised as a communist paper. Still dedicated to industrial unionism, he was concerned that the ACP’s notion of industrial unionism, as embraced by the Moscow model of the Red International of Labor Unions, was too bureaucratic for his liking and he left the party.20 He died in Sydney in December 1934.21

Charles Reeve

In both the USA and Australia, the role of organiser was important for expanding the ideals of the IWW, collecting dues, issuing new membership cards and selling printed material. It was an advantage when living this mobile life to be unmarried and to have few close family connections. Gay and a keen traveller, Charles Reeve met both criteria. He was born in England in November 1887 and migrated to Sydney in 1907. He travelled to New Zealand, where he met Tom Barker through IWW circles and was sent to Sydney to aid its Local. Working as an underpaid IWW organiser, he spent much time on the road, which seemed to endow him with the capacity to sense where industrial action would erupt next. Reeve was a short lean man with brown hair, who dressed in smart clothes and bore tattoos on his legs and arms. He was well-­read in socialist and Marxist material and was complimented for his skill in easily explaining economics and the principles of the IWW.22

In June 1914 Reeve conducted a recruiting trip to South Australia that included Adelaide, Broken Hill and its linked ore-­smelting town of Port Pirie. The start of the Great War created unemployment in the mining industry through lack of shipping and at his factory-­gate meetings (conducted thrice daily) in Port Pirie he enrolled sixty new members for its Local. The town’s council responded by prosecuting and jailing him and five others from the Local for street-­speaking. A free-­speech fight was called by the Local, resulting in seventeen men coming from Broken Hill, two from Adelaide and one from Melbourne. The jailings continued and 3,000 people were attracted to the free-­ speech fights each night, including a Russian who spoke in his own language. The prosperous Broken Hill Local paid the costs of the bails, the fines and the transport for the fighters to return to their homes. Direct Action concluded its report of the fight with the mayor of Port Pirie requesting the police `to cease prosecutions’.23

Reeve travelled to Western Australia to help promote the IWW in the mines there and then to Newcastle to do the same in the black-­coal mining region. His capacities as leader were recognised by the NSW police in the Hughes/Holman plans to break up the IWW by jailing its ring leaders. He was recorded by the police at the IWW Sunday Sydney Domain meetings as saying that Hughes and his Defence Minister, George Pearce, had been elected `to voice the grievances of the workers in Parliament’, but that they had `sold their birth-­right for a mess of pottage. Lousy Billy Hughes and scabby Mr Pearce have torn the entrails out of labour’.24 He was prosecuted for `uttering abusive words at a public meeting’ and served time in the Long Bay gaol. Arrested with the Twelve on arson charges, he claimed at the trial that he was being released from jail at the time he was said to have been at a meeting of arsonists in the IWW clubrooms. But his evidence was dismissed by the judge, who said that the policemen had mistaken their dates. Reeve was jailed for fifteen years and, although released in November 1921, he was barred from living in NSW for five years. He revived the IWW in Melbourne and in Adelaide in the 1920s, but in contrast to the other IWW leaders, he did not join the newly established Communist Party and indeed condemned it. He conducted one-­man free-­speech fights in Adelaide that resulted in him passing in and out of the Adelaide jail. After five years he returned to Sydney and was bashed by the local police while public speaking. He opened a bookshop in Sydney in the 1930s and died there in June 1942.25

John Benjamin King

The IWW leaders discoursed mostly on the curse of capitalism in the past and present times, but John Benjamin King spoke on the dangers of capitalism in the future, when advancing technology would make many thousands of jobs obsolete. King was an engine-­driver who had migrated from Canada via New Zealand in 1911, then aged 41. In Canada, he had assisted in organising the strike by the Teamsters’ Union in British Colombia, where he was regarded as an excellent speaker. Aware from his engineering background of the importance of the diesel engine, he spoke of the engine as displacing the use of coal, thus leading to large unemployment in mines and ancillary industries such as railways and shipping. He persuaded the IWW to publish the booklet, The Diesel Motor, Its Economic Significance, by Barbara Lily Frankenthal (1911) for sale at one cent a copy. In his lectures on Marxian economics, he stressed how mechanisation would deskill workers, make more of them tenders of machines, lower labour costs and increase surplus production. The proper use for these new machines, he said, was to improve the lot of the workers by reducing the daily hours of work, shortening the working week and providing more leisure. But the workers would only gain these advantages, King said, if they organised through the industrial union system or the One Big Union. The NSW police remained convinced that he was an IWW agent sent from the Chicago headquarters to strengthen the movement throughout Australia. He spoke eloquently in his Canadian accent, dressed fashionably and wore a disarming smile. The suspicions of the NSW police never faded and they sent his fingerprints to numerous State police forces in the USA, but with no result. He was reputed to own a motor car and the police scanned car registration records again with negative results.26 When the Sydney police visited the clubrooms on 8 August 1914, just four days after war commenced, to warn the Local not to `criticize or denounce the war at their public meetings’ they spoke to King who refused to give such an undertaking. He said that IWW members would speak about the war `and if there is trouble we are willing to take a pummelling’.27 They escaped an attack on that day but thereafter they were often assaulted by soldiers from the Liverpool army camp.

In August 1916 King was sent to help with a shearers’ strike at Moree, NSW, that was opposed by the shearers’ own union, the Australian Workers’ Union. 28 The pastoralists were receiving a 60 per cent increase in the price of wool due to the war, but the AWU never pressed for its share. King distributed funds collected by public subscription in Sydney and Broken Hill to aid the strikers and when the pastoralists broke ranks over increasing the wages, the shearers won the day.29 In August 1916 King was arrested for acting as the cook for a gang forging £5 bank notes and was jailed for two years. He was still in jail when the initial members of the Sydney Twelve were arrested on 23 September 1916, but because he was a conspicuous leader, he was brought from jail and the police added his name to make up the Twelve to be prosecuted. He was charged with seditious conspiracy and, with his well-­honed speaking talents, conducted his own defence submitting that there was no evidence against him. The judge rejected his plea and he was jailed for sixteen years. Thanks to Justice Ewing’s review, he was released in September 1921. He joined the Communist Party in the expectation of seeing it embrace industrial unionism, but later resigned. However, in 1930 he rejoined the party and was sent to the Soviet Union whence he returned in 1936 and dropped all interest in politics.30

Donald Grant

The IWW leaders who emerged from the NSW jails in the early 1920s were toughened men. Their anti-­capitalist ideals had been confirmed and they were naturally attracted to the Communist Party. The one exception was the Wobbly leader and public speaker, Donald Grant. After serving his four-­year jail sentence (foreshortened by Justice Ewing’s report) he joined the Australian Labor Party. Grant was born in February 1888 in Inverness, Scotland, the son of an insurance agent. After study at Inverness High School he was apprenticed to a dental mechanic, and joined the Independent Labor Party in Britain, but migrated to Sydney in 1910 to work in a paper mill. Identifying with the opponents of `Boy Conscription’, that is, compulsory military training for all boys, he joined the Australian Freedom League, becoming joint treasurer. Also his membership of the International Socialists led him to join the non-­political IWW Local on its establishment in 1911. He was a popular speaker who attracted large crowds with his tall figure, flaming red hair and an attractive strong Scot’s burr. He had the quickness of mind to deal wittily with interjectors and enlivened his remarks with excerpts from Robert Burns poetry. He urged his listeners to demonstrate their working-­class power by `going slow’ at work, not enlisting for the war and practising a little sabotage on the profits of the boss. On 27 August he spoke of the jailing of Barker on 4 May 1916, remarking that `for every day that Tom Barker is in gaol it will cost the capitalistic class [$20,000].31 Ironically, Barker was released by the federal Attorney-­General on 3 August, but the police believed that the threat of the `Free Barker’ campaign remained the cause of the arson attempts.

When the NSW police decided to jail the IWW leadership on charges of arson they particularly wished to catch Grant. They noted that he was to commence a speaking tour at Broken Hill on 17 September; they planned to raid the Sydney club rooms on Saturday 23 September. In a coded telegram, they ordered the Broken Hill police to record his speech on 17 September in shorthand and then arrest him on 25 September in the IWW hall, if possible in possession of fire-­ making materials such as cotton waste and phosphorous.32 The local arrest was made, but the police could not obtain phosphorous locally and without the incriminating incendiary material, he was transported to Sydney in handcuffs and leg irons. Under changed police arrangements, he was charged with conspiracy to cause sedition, based on his comment about Barker’s jailing costing the capitalist class $20,000, and he was jailed for fifteen years. The motto of `fifteen years for fifteen words’ was used by Henry Boote in his conduct of the long campaign to release the Sydney Twelve. Grant was moved from one jail to another and while in Long Bay was chained to the wall. One prisoner, sentenced for an offence under the War Precautions Act, recognised him there as the orator, Donald Grant, whom he had heard many times and `whose eloquence had stirred the very souls of tens of thousands’. He saw him now as the dejected `Convict B.59’. In an attempt to cheer him, he suggested that he might get an early release to which Grant replied with a weary smile `yes, in 1931’. During his lengthy incarceration, Grant was punished for making complaints about the poor food and about the bashing `of a Negro prisoner by warders’.33

On his release, Grant returned to the public speaker’s platform and unsuccessfully contested a State parliamentary seat in 1922. He lost again as an ALP candidate for the Senate in 1925. He was elected to the Sydney Municipal Council from 1931 until 1944 and was an ALP member of the NSW Legislative Council from 1931 until 1940, when he resigned. In 1943 he was elected to the Senate, but lost nomination in 1956. During this time he mixed with the rich and famous while attending the Paris Peace Conference in July 1946 and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference at Nairobi in 1954. But his most pleasing visit was to Scotland, where he was entertained by the Inverness Town Council. He was twice married (his first wife died), and in June 1970 he died in Darlinghurst, Sydney.34


IWWism arrived too late in Australia with its policy of `direct action’ and industrial unionism to have any marked effect on ideological formation of the labour movement. The economy of Australia was very much smaller than that of the USA and the powerful political and economic forces that dominated the American scene were absent in Australia. This smallness contributed to making the IWW policies even more inappropriate. The IWW immigrant leaders were capable men with talents in organising socialist bodies and had they arrived a decade earlier, they could have found positions as union leaders and perhaps more of them would have become Labor Party parliamentarians, as did Donald Grant. Their opposition to the conduct of the war rescued the IWW from being just a footnote in Australian history. Their anti-­capitalist fanaticism led them to hold to the anti-­war cause long after other opponents of the war had gone into abeyance. By jailing them and deporting the non-­Australian born, Hughes only scotched the broad anti-­war movement in Australia, but did not kill it. Opposition continued to mount with the second conscription referendum and opponents within the militant unions in the labor movement continued to expand until the war ended. The IWW and its Direct Action remained their powerful inspiration in that cause.


1   Jurgen Kuczynski, A Short History of Labor Conditions Under Industrial Capitalism in the USA 17891946, 3rd edition (London: Muller, 1973), chap. 4. Joseph G. Rayback, A History of American Labor, New York: Free Press, 1966), 196-­206.
2   See Phillip Foner, History of the Labor Movement in the United States (New York: International Publishers, 1965), Vol.3? Melvyn Dubofsky, We shall be All: A History of the Industrial Workers of the World (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1969), Part 1.
3   List of members, 25 November 1911, in 772/20 (Hancock Papers, ML)? letters from GEB Adelaide in IWW Correspondence, 2 Vols, A1333-­4, ML.
4   For the popular response to Direct Action see Frank Cain, The Wobblies at War; A History of the IWW and the Great War in Australia (Melbourne: Spectrum Publications, 1993), 63-­70.
5   See Direct Action, 1 October 1914, 6 November 1915, and 3 January 1917 for contributions by women to the Sydney Local.
6   Direct Action, 1 October 1915.
7   For financing of State infrastructure, pre-­ and post-­federation, see Frank Cain, Jack Lang and the Great Depression (Melbourne: ASP, 2005), chap. 1-­2.
8   For a brief review of the IWW in Broken Hill see Cain, The Wobblies, 155-­63.
9   For an elaboration of these four points see Cain, chap. 4.
10   For the Direct Actionists in Australia, see Cain, The Wobblies, chap. 3.
11 Direct Action, 1 January 1915.
12   Ibid., 4 December 1915;? Report by Det. Moore on Tom Barker in NSW Police Department, Special Bundle concerning the International (sic) Workers of the World. 1917-­23, Archives Authority of NSW, hereafter NSW Police IWW Papers.
13   Direct Action, 29 March 1916, 22 July 1916.
14   Frank Cain, The Origins of Political Surveillance in Australia (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1983), 154-­61.
15   Tom Barker, ‘How I Did My Time at Albury and Was Deported to Chile’, in Overland, No. 34, May 1966, 43-­4.
16   Eric Fry, `Tom Barker’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 7 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press), 174-­5.
17   Report by Criminal Investigation Dept. South African Police to NSW Police, 5 December 1916? Detective N. Moore surveilled the IWW for Military Intelligence, see Frank Cain, `Nicholas Moore’, ADB, Vol. 10, 569-­70.
18   Direct Action, 22 March 1916.
19   Ian Turner, Sydney’s Burning (Melbourne: Heinemann, 1967), 177-­8.
20   Stuart Macintyre, The Reds: the Communist Party of Australia from Origins to Illegality (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1998), 79-­81.
21   Verity Burgmann, Revolutionary Industrial Unionism Melbourne: Cambridge University Press), 170.
22   Secretary, Sydney Local to Secretary Broken Hill Local, 23 July 1914, box 7/5598, NSW Police IWW Papers.
23   Report by Reeve to Sydney Local, 6 July 1914, box 7/5590, NSW Police IWW Papers; `Free Speech Fight to the Finish’, Direct Action, 1 July 1914.
24   Cain, 203.
25   Burgmann, Revolutionary Industrial Unionism, 263, 273.
26   Report, 12 August 1916, box 7/5596, NSW Police IWW Papers? report of prosecutions, box 7/5590, 4 September 1916, ibid.
27    Police report, 8 August 1914, box 7/5596, ibid.
28   Letter, Barker to Tottenham Local, 14 July 1915, ibid.
29   Direct Action, 12 August 1916, 2 September 1916.
30   Report, Commonwealth Investigation Branch, summary No.7, A3932, NAA; Burgmann, Revolutionary Industrial Unionism, 267, 270.
31   Frank Farrell, `Donald McLennan Grant’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 9 (Melbourne: MUP, 1983) 75-­6? Inverness Courier, 13 September 1946;? speech in Sydney Domain reported by police, 27 August 1946, box 7/5598, in NSW Police IWW Papers,
32   Telegram to Inspector Walter, Broken Hill, 12 September, 25 September 1916, box 7/5590, ibid.
33   Turner, Sydney’s Burning, 212-­3.
34   Frank Farrell, `Donald Grant’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 9 (Melbourne: MUP, 1983), 75-­6.