Brisbane’s Radical Books

Radical simply means ‘grasping things at the root.
                                 - Angela Davis
Waterside Worker, Phil O’Brien holding Brian Laver’s right wrist in an attempt to prevent him from mounting the platform of the Vietnam Moratorium in May 1970. George Georges is at the microphone in front of the bearded Laver. Phil O’Brien was a rank and file wharfie and member of the Waterside Workers Federation. Claims that CPA unionists gagged and physically restrained him were not entirely accurate. Phil O’Brien was never a member of the CPA (see below).
Waterside Worker, Phil O’Brien holds Brian Laver’s right wrist in an attempt to prevent him from mounting the platform of the Vietnam Moratorium in May 1970.
George Georges is at the microphone in front of the bearded Laver. Phil O’Brien was a rank and file wharfie and member of the Waterside Workers Federation. Claims that CPA unionists gagged and physically restrained him were not entirely accurate. Phil O’Brien was never a member of the CPA (see below).

“These students believe in democracy and most importantly they believe in the maximum participation for the individual.

Believing that democracy is a continuous process that does not finish at the polls they are prepared at any time to check abuses by working through the legal and administrative channels. However if this does not work they are prepared to commit civil disobedience.

The students believe that our society develops continually an ethos of war, where values of love, sincerity, honesty and respect are sacrificed to a rule of thumb called expedience, which is defined at any time by what group is in power.

The students therefore are united in the belief that our society needs to be re-oriented… to communication of life. The program to do this is found in the American “New Left” students concepts of Grass Roots Democracy”  Brian Laver (1967)

There have been a line of radical bookshops in Brisbane since Mick Healy, Dave Surplus and Gilbert (Geordie) Burns set up the Anvil Bookshop in a rundown premises in Elizabeth street in Brisbane in 1935. There was The East Wind which became The Independence bookshop (Maoist) The Peoples Bookshop previously, the Anvil bookshop, (Communist Party) and The Red & Black (Self Management Group) Bookshop which became Emma’s and until March 2009 became Zapata’s (Anarchist).

The last in this line was Zapata’s run by Brian Laver at AHIMSA house in West End.

Brian Laver at Zapata's
Brian Laver in Zapata’s in West End 2008. Photo: Ian Curr

Brian Laver (shown) says that he chose the name to identify it as a Libertarian Socialist bookshop as distinct from Emma’s which was named after Emma Goldman whom Brian refers to as a Libertarian feminist (thanks to John Tracey for correcting the spelling) .

Zapata’s may well be Brian’s favoured name but that does not prevent it having some of the classics of feminism in the collection. There are overly sexist books there as well.

Brian Laver at KY Rally 1970
Brian Laver at Anti-Vietnam War Rally 1967

With a countless number of books acquired over two generations of the Brisbane Left such an eclectic mix is not surprising.

One could barely believe that Laver, looking every bit the fine old gent of libertarianism, was once the same fiery radical student thrown to the ground and pinned down by wharfies to prevent him from speaking during the 1970 May Moratorium against the Vietnam war in Roma Street Brisbane.

One of the wharfies, Phil O’Brien, not given to either aggression or sectarianism, later apologised to Brian and gave him a signed copy of his book, Peace – a workers journey (published by SHAPE in 1992).

Brian, with no wish to carry a grudge, accepted Phil’s token of regard and placed a $35 price tag on the book thus ensuring that it remain in the bookshop for over 16 years until it was sold with all the other books for a good deal less to Archives Books near the Elizabeth Arcade in the city. Ironically only a few metres from where the Red & Black Bookshop was in its heyday.

by malcolm enright

I found three copies in Archives after Laver called it quits.

The recommended retail price of Dawn to Dusk was originally only $16.95. Not to mention Phil O’Brien motivated by his own brand of socialism was selling the book to fellow workers for $5. I noticed that someone at Zapata’s wavered, rubbed out the pencilled-in price of $35 and had written $10 over the top.

I know this part of history well because I was one of the LeftPress collective that slogged day and night printing Phil’s book. Not to mention the typing, editing, typesetting and proofreading that we all did. It is hard to watch in silence the genuine efforts of a collective exploited by others, no doubt in their minds at least, in the interests of Libertarian or some other brand of socialism. There certainly was not any money in it for Laver or any of the radical bookshop collectives .

There was a wide range of books to be found in Zapata’s, including kids books, science fiction, cookbooks, as well as political books like O’Connell’s Ruling Class Ruling Culture.

Walk beside the boxes and shelves and see authors like Paul Jennings, Nancy Drew, Noam Chomsky, and Le Carre. But I suppose this is what you should expect from the libertarians. Contrast this with the other radical bookshops in Brisbane.

The East Wind on Charlotte Street near Elizabeth arcade in the 1960s and ending up in George Street as the Independence Bookshop, now long gone, was more ‘purist’ politically than the Red and Black, at least this is how Brian Laver put it. Like the Red and Black and the Peoples Bookshop it was attacked by the right, or crazies who pretended being on the right. Perhaps on reflection it was the slow demise of the CPA-ML (Maoist) in particular and the Left in general that led to its closing. Perhaps it was just that people moved elsewhere, away from books, as part of a trend to instant communication on the TV screen. That is all before the invention of the Booker and the Mile Franklin awards that did tend to bring people back to books and led to a revival of both corporate and independent bookstores.

Peoples’ Bookshop, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane

Regardless of its political purity (or perhaps because of it), The East Wind bookshop did not last, even though it could be seen as a mobile bookshop on May Day many years after it closed down its premises in George Street.

In the 1970s and 80s there was also The People’s Bookshop down Barry Parade in the Valley on the ground floor of the Communist Party headquarters (in the 1950s it had been in Brunswick Street). The People’s Bookshop had a wide range of books including one of the best collections of Australiana you’d find anywhere. Brian Laver tells us Billy Sutton, himself a working class writer (Comrade George and Other Stories), was responsible for that. Unfortunately this great collection of books were sold for a song prior to the liquidation of the Communist Party by people, one (at least) of whom (Lee Birmingham) ended up as a ministerial advisor to the Qld Labor Government. The People’s Bookshop, built by workers sweat and union struggles over a period of 70 years, was liquidated during a shameful period for the Left locally in Brisbane and in Australia generally.

What was the best bookshop in Brisbane, Brian? I asked,  
"That was the American Bookstore, it was set up like 
Shakespeare's in Paris".

Methinks. Another time, another place on the left bank in Paris. But that does not stop revolutionary groups re-living the days of the Paris ’68.

CPA Building ‘291’ now 4ZZZ bombed in 1972 – interview with Ted

Riethmuller by SBS’s Stefan Armbruster.

After the bomb: In April 19 1972, sixteen sticks of gelignite exploded in the Communist Party’s Brisbane office, lifting the floor of the building almost six centimetres off the ground. Later the same evening, three rifle shots ricocheted through the Maoist East Wind bookshop… Shows detectives interviewing those who were in the building at the time. From extreme right anti clockwise: Peter Lamiman, Dot Rass, Ted Riethmuller, Margaret Riethmuller, Pat Hovey, ?,?, Detective standing, Detective sitting. Thanks to Ted Riethmuller (BLHA) for the photo.

Socialist Alternative presents:

Paris 68: An eyewitness account
In 1968, French society was rocked to the core by a series of student and worker revolts.
These protests epitomised the much vaunted student and youth radicalism of the 1960s. They inspired a generation of political activists to think that social change was not only necessary, but possible.
Today, this historic event can still serve to inspire us.
Socialist Alternative is proud to present Dick Pitt, a long term English socialist, who was working in Paris when the upheaval broke out, giving his eyewitness account of this inspirational event.

But wasn’t it Ernest Mandel who attended the barricades in Paris ’68 declaring that revolution had begun yet took no further part, preferring instead to promptly return home to Belgium to write his thesis on ‘The Crisis of the International Monetary System‘?

Laver made his mark in bookshops back in the days of the Red and Black in Elizabeth Arcade.

Communist Party Building - 291 St Pauls Terrace, Valley, Brisbane
Communist Party Building after being bombed by Gary Manghan in 1972. It was at 291 St Pauls Terrace, Valley, Brisbane where 4ZZZ now resides.

That was the era of books being banned and special branch raids. Gary Mangan then “leader of the Fascist Party,” was charged over the bombing of the Communist Party headquarters in Brisbane, but ultimately acquitted in September 1973.

Mangan was let off by the court on a technicality despite very strong evidence against him. There was an extradition order for him to be questioned on the bombing of the CPA building. He had been arrested in NSW and held on a holding charge under the Vagrants Gaming and other offences laws. It was while he was held that he confessed to the bombing of the CPA.  Mangan was not a vagrant because he had money on him when he was arrested. Since there was no basis for the holding charge the confession was excluded by the trial judge.

Bill Knox, the Minister for Justice, agreed that “Judge McCracken upheld a defence contention that Mangan had been unlawfully detained by New South Wales police on a vagrancy charge and used his judicial discretion to rule out the main evidence against Mangan, including the record of admissions which Mangan made to the police.” Mangan also implicated the Skull. (See Hansard @

Mangan worked at Bothwicks meatworks sometimes. The Meatworkers union was led by communists back then and so the special branch needed a spy there and this budding fascist no doubt got the job. Manghan was also involved in other crimes and prostitution. He bragged how he was given lifts to demonstrations and public meetings by Special Branch.

Ross “The Skull” May, was an agent provocateur at rallies, mainly tried minor attacks on buildings. Don Wilson watched the Skull one evening as he tried to glue up the locks of the East Wind Bookshop in George Street, Brisbane. The East Wind was run by the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) not to be confused with the People’s Bookshop which was run by the CPA.

Jim Saleam

Another Nazi, Dr Jim Saleam, gave an account of the bombing of the CPA Brisbane headquaters at 291 St Pauls Terrace in The Other Radicalism – An Inquiry Into Contemporary Australian Extreme Right Ideology, Politics And Organization 1975-1995

Dr Jim Saleam (aka Jamelle Salim) was  from Maryborough, and in a bizaare twist, his mother was a German immigrant and his father, a Lebanese migrant. Like Hitler, he hid his ancestry. Fightdemback states that Jim Saleam was behind the firebombing of a left-wing Brisbane bookshop, the East Wind. It states that he was arrested and convicted in 1974.

One member of the Red and Black collective, Murtek, was arrested in the bookshop 1977 or 1978 by the special branch for writing an anarchist critique of the bible. Before that time other books by overseas writers were banned under that ‘bible bashing bastard’*, Joh Bjelke-Petersen and the moral police in the Literature Board of Review. Books like Portnoy’s Complaint, Mao’s Little Red Book to name a couple. [* quote from Gough Whitlam]. Esmae Campbell was another who was arrested in the special branch raid to confiscate Mao’s writings.

Long time journalist and writer Bernie Dowling (Iraqi Icicle and Father Steele) provided this take on ZAPATA’S Book Shop in West End prior to a fire sale.

“Zapata’s is named after wiry Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata.

Comision Zapatista con Gral Villa en Guadalupe Zac
The original Zapatista’s

The 1952 Viva Zapata biopic starred Marlon Brando whose body later blew out to epic proportions.

Brian Laver of Zapata’s decided the bookshop needed to trim down and he has announced a massive book sale this weekend, July 26-27.

“To keep Zapata as lean and elegant as he normally looks, the massive book sale will be from 8am until 6pm,” Mr Laver said.

He said kids’ books would sell from $1 with most books at $2 and the rest half-priced.

Mr Laver said Zapata’s had to be Brisbane only bookshop with stock accumulated over 40 years, enhancing browsers’ chances of finding a rare first edition.

“Zapata’s is the inheritor of caches of stock accumulated over 40 years, from the days of the Red & Black Bookshop, Maria Luisa Bookshop and the Brisbane icon Emma’s Bookshop.”

Emma’s bookshop was in the heart of West End near the corner of Vulture & Boundary Streets. Its financial structure was a partnership of Brian Laver & Judith Given and ran at a loss for many years. Like so many Left activities it was financially non sustainable and folded in the early 2000’s (like so many of Brian Laver’s projects). It was, in a way, the precursor to a successful bookshop called the Avid Reader run by Fiona who had previously worked at Emma’s.

Avid Reader is still going strong nine years later fitting into the intellectual life of West End as one of  few viable independent bookshops in Brisbane (along with Folios, the American Bookshop, & Coldrakes). There is one state owned bookshop at the State Library on SouthBank. However all these fit more into the liberal and intellectual life of Brisbane than its radical past.

Brian Laver was a prominent student activist in the late 1960s. He is still left-leaning even when the wind does not blow in that direction.

However the range of book styles at Zapata’s was wider than the shades of anarchy.

“We have fantastic contemporary literature, classics, kid’s books, and biographies, Mr Laver said. “Politics and history are our specialty,” he added.

Brian Laver said he and the Zapata’s collective promised to make a cup of coffee for browsers who wished to stroll around the book shelves.

Zapata’s was next door to Ahimsa House (now the Ellen Taylor Community Centre), in Horan St, West End.

As a prelude of things to come, Brian Laver closed Zapata’s in March 2009 after the failure of the community project called AHIMSA house. An interim committee of the centre was appointed. AHIMSA was renamed the Ellen Taylor Community centre. The last radical books collection can be found in the library on the second floor. It is owned by the Institute of Social Ecology.


“Cast a cold Eye
On Life, on Death.
Horseman, pass by.”
— W.B. Yeats

Finally, there are no radical bookshops left in Brisbane in 2009.

The one sizeable collection of radical books that remains is the library owned by the Institute of Social Ecology. It is a library of 2,000 different titles with copies of some books and perhaps 2,000 magazines currently housed at the Ellen Taylor Community Centre at 26 Horan Street West End. Its main problem was lack of a social dynamic in the struggle for a world beyond capitalism. People were never drawn to it, and it had an exclusive feel despite claims by the ISE group that they wished to make it accessible. Unfortuneately this never happened. There was never an ongoing book club or a reading group or similar social dynamic.

Administrative control of the Ellen Taylor Community Centre passed to the public trustee in July 2009, at least on an interim basis. And the bank is owed nearly $1.4M as a result of borrowing against equity in the building at 26 Horan Street.

Radical Books
Photo: Radical Books of the Institute of Social Ecology (Click to magnify and inspect collection).

The question is what to do with the Institute’s books?

It is interesting to trace the history of this collection.

It was begun on the floor above Emma’s bookshop when it was in Vulture Street West End. When Emma’s folded the collection was moved to the old Commonwealth bank building in Boundary St West End. When that venture folded for non-payment of rent the books were moved yet again to the ABSOE building in West End.

Then in 2004 along came the great dream, AHIMSA house was set up at 26 Horan Street West End from a large gift of money by Ellen & Ross Taylor. Five years later, after much division and debts going through the roof, the institute’s radical books no longer have a secure home.

So what is to be done? Or is it all an illusion? A dream? The revolutionary ideas from the middle of 19th century Europe transported around the world: to China, to Latin America, to Algeria, the middle east — all these ideas that can be found in the anarchist and Marxist books in the institute’s library, are they just a defunct memory, a hope of achieving dual power one day with the capitalists?

One Brisbane radical recently circulated an article “On the ‘Return of the Master’… meaning John Maynard Keynes. So thirty years since the Keynesian heyday here are his economic theories emerging from the ashes of the Global Financial Crisis.

Will the radical ideas of Bakunin, Proudhon, Marx and Engels, Lenin, Emma Goldman, Mao, Kropotkin, Simone de Beauvoir, and all the others re-emerge in another 30 years, perhaps after the Keynesian bubble has burst and capitalism is flat out on its back, yet again?

Perhaps in 30 years time, a homeless person looking for somewhere to camp for the night under a house in West End will come across these dusty tomes from the bygone era of the Radical Books of Brisbane.

I bet Mick Healy, Dave Surplus and Gilbert (Geordie) Burns would have had no idea that it would end up here when they started this radical books tradition and set up the Anvil Bookshop in a rundown premises in Elizabeth street in Brisbane in 1935.

Ian Curr
October 2009

This brief history was complied and written by Ian Curr with thanks to Bernie Dowling, Richard (at Zapata’s), Brian Laver, Don Wilson (proprietor of the former East Wind Bookshop), Jim Sharp (former meatworker), Maggie, John’s J. + T., Peter,  for this piece of the radical bookshop history in Brisbane.

References: ‘Radical Bookshops’ by Connie Healy in Radical Brisbane – an unruly history edited by Carole Ferrier and Raymond Evans.

Ciaron O’Reilly on Dan O’Neill, Radical Brisbane and James Joyce — Print friendly PDF

Persons Of Interest Out take #1 – Brian Laver, Anarchist from Smart Street Films

The Other RadicalismAn Inquiry Into Contemporary Australian Extreme Right Ideology, Politics And Organization 1975-1995Dr. Jim Saleam

24 thoughts on “Brisbane’s Radical Books

  1. Emma Goldman, not Goldburn.

    While it is true that the legal structure of the Red and Black became Emma’s, the history of the bookshop does not go that way. In it’s latter years it operated from a small shop in Browning St. West End which closed because the legal structure was pulled out from under them. The collective didn’t own the business. My memory gets a bit hazy here as I wasn’t a part of it but I think it spent a small time at Justice products and then moved to become the Annares bookshop in Baynes St. West End, which developed through different waves of anarchists drifting in and out into a community centre of different purposes from time to time. They had the corner shop next to the new Justice Products in Boundary St at one stage too.

    It’s last manifestation in Baynes St. was as the Headquarters for “Angry People” which included a bookshop and an internet cafe. Angry people brought Lorenzo Irvin to Australia.

    There has also been in recent years an anarchist bookshop in Montague Rd. Hill End.

    Many anarchists have also run bookshops from time to time from the downstairs shop at ZZZ (where the peoples bookshop was)

    Brian bought out Peg Pemberthy of the CPA to set up Emmas, She had a second hand bookshop in Vulture St. which provided the bulk of the old stock for Emmas when it started. The Red and Black had very little stock, most of which was returned to publishers and the rest claimed by the collective to set up Annares.

  2. Bush Telegraph says:

    Hello John,

    Thanks for the corrections of my typo of Emma Goldman’s name and the finer points of the history of anarchist bookshops in Brisbane.

    Brian Laver’s account does corroborate yours on how he bought out Peg Pemberthy (formerly CPA) to set up Emma’s in Vulture Street, West End.

    On my recollection at the time of the street marches in Brisbane (1977-1979), the Red and Black Bookshop was run by a collective which included Helen, Murtek, Harley , Jessica and some others I do not recall. Note the absence in this list of Brian Laver who was teaching at Griffith University in 1978 and whose involvement in the street marches was confined mainly to that campus. Also I think Brian was OS for some of those years so played no real role in the Red & Black then. From memory, Murtek was arrested in the bookshop by Special Branch in 1978 and sought the aid of Noel Nunan (now a magistrate) from Students Legal Aid. Murtek had written a book critiquing the bible from an anarchist perspective.

    For those that are interested, on your next visit to West End you can see the Emma’s sign remains on the awning over where the bookshop was near the corner of Vulture and Boundary.

    Also if you wish to improve your own reading library then you may wish to visit the bargain book sale this weekend 26-27 July 2008 at Zapata’s next door to Ahimsa House, 26 Horan St, West End. For further details phone 38465077.

    Ian Curr
    July 2008

  3. John Tracey says:

    Brian should certainly not be cut out of the Red and Black history. it was the vision of he and Mitch Thompson and others who set it up and ran it when it was most relevant to the growing new left political movement.

    During the right to march times (when I turned up on the scene) the Red and Black was quite detatched from the broader movement and organisationally existed only as a cell in the People for Direct Democraccy (PDD) which was the anarchist front for much of that time.

    Brian also played a significant role in PDD beyond Griffith even though he may have been largely invisible to the “authoritarian marxist leninists”. Even when overseas he was one of very few people that funded anarchist campaigns.

    Also, when Brian pulled the legal structure from under the R&B bookshop to set up Emmas he was obviously villified by the collective who resented this. However, it must be said that it was not Brian’s fault that the collective did not own the business. They could have at any stage started a new company that was democratically controlled. But they didn’t because of, in my opinion, a combination of laziness and unwillingness to accept responsibility. it was easier to just keep things as they were. I refer to the post-Mertek and Helen etc. period with this comment, nobody could accuse them of not taking responsibility.

    Also, and I am not a primary source here but have heard the story from both sides of the fence, it was not just right wingers who attacked the R&B. It came under sustained harrasment from the Black power movement including Denis Walker and Pastor Don Brady after an anarchist leaflet accusing Walker and others of black fascism was distributed.

  4. “organisationally existed only as a cell in the People for Direct Democraccy (PDD) which was the anarchist front for much of that time”

    PDD was hardly a single issue or in any way deceptive “front”, it was a network of anarchist groups (CW, LSO, Kropotkins, Treason etc) and individual anarcho activists. It met regularly and was a good base for activism – free speech in the mall, Boggo Rd. conditions & rights anti-nuke, responding to police attacks on activists etc. on various issues. It wound down as people became more commited to specific ventures – Women’s House, Catholic Worker house of hospitality & Justice Products, Kropotkins Restaraunt, “Trash of All Nations”, 4ZZZ work etc

    PDD is mentioned in one of Ross Fitzgerald’s histories of Queensland and was an effective way of various anarchists tendencies to organise in Brsbane – avoiding sectarianism, emphasising mutual basis for action and opportnities for reflection and debate.

    Brisbane would certainly have been a less interesting place without Brian Laver. The old adage that once the new left collpased in Australia – Melbourne went Maoist, Sydeny went Trotskyist and Brisbane went anarchist has a certain truth to it. A lot of anarchists in Brisbane were initially introduced to the possibility of that position by the charisma and oratary of Brian Laver.

    It has been interesting to observe over the years that the most angry detractors of Brian are those who were once his most uncritical acolytes having abandoned critical distance in the first stages of the romance. It recalls the last scene in the film Collins -when he (played by Liam Neesen – who comes from the same north of Ireland town as the young student -Rosemary Severen? – who was batoned in ’77 bringing Whitrod down and Lewis to power, I digress!) is set up for assasination by the young former acolyte full of personal, not just political, resentment. Thankfully in Brian’s case it has only been sustained character assassination over the decades.

  5. John Tracey says:

    The Greens grew out of PDD too, that was the final split as I remember. (I was on the greens side of the split).
    Brian and the LSO lead the charge to create the first green party in Australia – before the Tasmanians.

  6. …………yes that’s true and probably the most siginificant development
    meant to mention The Greens (maybe I’m still in denial)

  7. Colleen Mullin says:

    Hello old friends,
    I can say with out reserve that dispite the differences, you John, Ciaron and Brian were some of my most important influences and inspirations. You have clearer memorys and opinions on the history than I, but from where I now look we were very small, but not insignificant, and may the spirit live on… with all it’s dificulties.
    Not sure of the dates of the posting on this site but I would like to here from you.
    Colleen Mullin

  8. John Tracey says:

    Ah! the culinary faction re-emerges. (Hi Colleen)

    Colleen was the main person behind Kropotkins Cafe.

    She figures in the radical bookshop story too, she and Fiona started Avid reader when they parted ways with Emmas – but that is another story.

  9. LOCO = Left Of Centre Oeuvres says:

    A friend recently suggested that we set up a book/coffee/music/film shop all online called LOCO = Left Of Centre Oeuvres. His idea is to have a store which specialises in electronic copies of arts and lit.

    He said that we need:

    1. A Bookshop program which accepts credit cards and the ebay thing.

    2. A list of people who are self publishers in books/ music/ film video.

    3. A list of internet-savvy people.

    4. A list of promo and media savvy people.

    Of course there are many examples of e-books in PDF that are read on computers and Kindle. Workers BushTelegraph has examples on its blogroll. Anyway there are many technical issues that my friends question raises. But it also raises the issue of Where do we get the books? What sort of enterprise would it be? A socialist enterprise? How would you set it up? There are e-bookstore like Annares that sell actual books but no one I know on the Left who is selling e-books.

    You may be asking yourself how do you have a cofee shop in cyberspace? His answer:
    We could have coffee recipes along with book, music and film previews/ reviews. No more materialist stuff – everything virtual.

    The problem is we have no organisation to do this, there are plenty of people doing their own thing but no collective, no organisation left.

    Ian Curr

  10. Vale AHIMSA — liquidation of yet another community asset says:

    “Radical simply means ‘grasping things at the root.’” – Angela Davis

    The last community meeting at AHIMSA house will occur this week.

    The library committee will meet this Thursday 23 November 2009 at 9:15am @ at 26 Horan Street West End to decide on a strategic withdrawal of its books, pamphlets, films and other assets before the building is liquidated.

    The bank is going to sell off this large community asset formerly held and operated by members of the community in West End.

    In recent months the building was placed in the hands of the Public Trustee who has appointed a receiver to sell the building on behalf of the mortgagee, Challenger Bank (Perpetual Trustees).

    Eviction for tenants is imminent, hence this final notice of meeting.

    The radical books of the Institute of Social Ecology are without a home. The committee hope to move the books out on Monday 7 December 2009.

    Thus ends another chapter of waste and mismanagement with the resulting loss of an important community asset built up by workers’ donation and put in the hands of people with big ideas but short on practical nous.

    Ironically this ‘liquidation’ is reminiscent of loss of the Communist Part Building at Barry Parade in the Valley in the early 1990s. Intellectuals seized the Party and liquidated it’s resources during hard times thus squandering workers efforts and organisation built up over a two generations in Brisbane. If the leaders had held on, that organisation and those resources could have come in handy given recurrent crises in capitalism since. But where are the workers and their organisations? The workers are quiet and their organisations are complicit in the capitalist system.

    A leading leftie once accused me of being anti-intellectual, but given the practical ability of our intellectuals, perhaps a skeptical attitiude to leading intellectuals who believe the world will change by itself (according to scientific principles) and that we need do nothing but watch and provide commentary.

    Yet, as Angela Davis says, aren’t we supposed to grasp things at the root?

    How can ideas be substituted for sound organisation and common sense?

    Ian Curr
    30 November 2009

    in solidarity
    0407 687 016

    1. Hi Ian,

      Interesting read about bookshops, but one huge error – that made me actually cringe.

      Fiona did not work at Emmas owned by Brian Laver & Judith Given.

      Judith did work at Emmas, along with some other staff, whether HER money was involved, who knows, one would have to ask her.

      BUT – Fiona was a full partner of Emmas. She bought in when it was going broke and about to close and she invested a lot financially and timewise and worked really hard to make it the success that it was. It was very frustrating when folks, well meaning, perhaps, naive, but nevertheless, patronising and some downright insulting, plain stupid and sexist – and no doubt misguided – would come in and treat her as Brian’s message girl, which she never was.

      Interesting or not, the reality is that when she left/dissolved/ the partnership/whatever/moved on/whatever/ – the bookshop did not continue as the success that it had been.

      Avid, has however gone from strength to strength, with great books and staff.


  11. Maybe Dana ward at Anarchy Archives would be interested in receiving the library’s collection and putting it online. He already has a healthy online anarchist website and I know he even traveled to South America and acquired publications from there.

  12. Murray Cale says:

    So where did the books end up?

    I have my eye on one or two sets if they are for sale – will pay cash!

  13. Rhett Davy says:

    I managed the Red and Black Bookstore from about 1975 thru 1976 through the generous help of Brian Laver, Drew Hutton, Ellen Dunn and SMG. I doubled sales, doubled inventory and halved debt. The later feminists who assumed responsibilty for the management never then or now have ever acknowledged that what they took over was a viable, self-sustaining enterprise. Thank-you again to everyone who helped me be who I am today. I am now a college professor in Texas for about 25 years. Rhett Davy, Ph.D.

  14. Joe Woodward says:

    scroll back to 1971 Brian Laver, Len and Sam Watson and were smuggled into Mt Gravatt Teachers College (now Griffith University)
    to speak with about 100 students who had never spoken to an Aboriginal activist how many lives were changed during that period of SMG activism?
    don’t know

    certainly one …

  15. Hello Joe,

    Thanks for telling us about the visit of Brian Laver, Len & Sam Watson to the teachers college.

    I had a similar experience to yours in the late 1960s (1967, i think) when Peter Wertheim and Dan O’Neill came to my school to speak out against the Vietnam War.

    The difference between mine and yours was the headmaster would not permit Dan & Peter onto school grounds (even though Dan O’Neill was an old boy of the school).

    So, against teacher’s orders, a few of us went down to the high wire fence to listen to what they had to say. Like yours, it was an early awakening for me too.

    I’d like to share with the readers a short video of a re-union of the Self Management Group that occurred earlier this year.


    Ian Curr

  16. On this point – “Intellectuals seized the Party and liquidated it’s resources during hard times thus squandering workers efforts and organisation built up over a two generations in Brisbane”

    It is correct to blame these self styled intellectuals but lets be more specific. The rot set in with the placement of a prominent Trotskyite in charge of the CPA newspaper,and the opening up of the CPA to all sorts of new-‘left’, trotskyite, fabians and revisionist trends.

  17. Threatened with imprisionment for speaking out against war says:

    “On Thursday, 7th October, the University of Queensland Senate voted almost unanimously to exclude six people from the campus site. The six are: Brian Laver, Ann Doggett, Mal Price, John Bunnett, Gerry Vignola, and Larry Zetlin.

    If any of these people comes onto any part of the university grounds at any time in the future he or she may be:

    (1) forcibly removed by employees of the university or by the police;

    (2) prosecuted for breach of University Statute 43 (fine $100) ;

    (3) prosecuted under section 4A of the Vagrants, Gaming and other Offences Act penalty: a fine of S$200 or six months imprisonment) ;

    (4 ) subject to a court injunction which forbids entry to the grounds. Should the injunction be breached, the offender is held to be in contempt of the Supreme court and liable to immediate arrest and the threat of imprisonment for an indefinite period of time.

    In the case of Mitch Thompson and the irrational mass issuing of injunctions during the strike are anything to go by, this is the most probable course of action.

    In view of the nature of the ‘offence’ (the disruption of the Psychology lecture in the Abel Smith Lecture Theatre in order to promote discussion on the Vietnam War), the penalties are ludicrously excessive” – published in Semper Floreat 25 October 1971 in an article titled “The Rise of Fascism” and reprinted from a leaflet titled ‘The Unpopular Front‘:

    [Editor’s note: I don’t know about the part that claims the Supreme Court could jail the six indefinitely but, at the time, this ban effectively put an end to the academic job prospects of the people concerned because the University of Queensland was the only University in Qld. The activists options included to leave or to fight. Laver subsequently did renew his academic career briefly at Griffith University – eg he taught at Griffith in 1977.]


  18. Brisbane 1970s: A Nazi blows up the Communists says:

    [Editor’s note: One person, at least, has complained of ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’ as a direct result of the bombing of the CPA headquarters in Barry pde, Fortitude Valley.]

    No one was killed in the April 19 1972 explosion.

    That night, a man called The Courier Mail (1) saying he was a member of a right wing group and had just bombed the Brisbane Communist Party Headquarters. He threatened to bomb more on Friday if members attended the anti-Vietnam war moratorium that day. He ended his conversation with ‘Heil Hitler.’

    Gary Mangan, a known Nazi party member, later confessed to the bombing. He was taken to court, but the Judge ruled that the body of evidence was inadmissible, citing a legal technicality. Mangan was not charged.

    Ian Curr, in his article, Radical Books in Brisbane, published an image of the Communist party quarters in Brisbane. The image, entitled ‘After the Bomb, April 19 1972,’ shows detectives interviewing those who were in the building at the time. One man, with his back to the camera, is unidentified.

    Photo: Fryer Library University of Qld

    I imagined this unknown man, in thongs with the long hair, to be the main character of this story, Murray. It is in these gaps in historical knowledge that the writer of fiction is free to imagine.

    When I was writing up my PhD, a stumbled on a story about the bombing of the Communist Party Headquarters in Brisbane in the 1970s. I imagined this story based on the reading I did about the bombings. The images come from the ephemera of the Brisbane Communist Party held at the Fryer Library.

    Crocodile Hunt: A short story
    Ariella Van Luyn

    More at

  19. A chance for Socialist Renewal? says:

    In 1991, Leftpress offered to buy the Communist Party printing press and asked ‘the central committee’ if we could run the press at 291 st Paul’s terrace headquarters in Fortitude Valley to print small books (mainly).

    I remember that it was Marie Crisp who gave me the CPA’s answer.

    “We don’t want to go through another bombing” Marie said, referring to the Nazi bombing of the Brisbane CPA headquarters in 1974 described in Brisbane Radical Books.

    “I’m afraid you’re going to just have to take the (printing) press away.”

    Which is what we did.

    LeftPress printed and published a number of books under the Social History of Australia imprint. This included “Towards Peace” by Phil O’Brien and Bernie Dowling.

    in the 1970s Marie used to sell the den Communist Party paper “Tribune” in the forum area at the University of Queensland union.

    Marie and people like her were the Communist Party.

    Here is a very endearing photo of Marie and Lesley Synge, co-author of “Wharfie” with Wally Stubbins, another Communist Party member.

    Marie and Lesley

    Vale Comrade.

    The CPA Brisbane branch sold all the books from the People’s Bookshop (sadly some were stolen); they sold the building at 291 St Paul’s Terrace to Creative Broadcasters Ltd (4ZZZ) for $225,000.

    The CPA had run its course and with the money they set up the Search Foundation.

    Should the CPA have hung on with their original aims and waited for the next crisis of capitalism?

    The New Left Party was too broad and lacked the organisation of the CPA.

    Did the CPA practice politics like a religion? Were they open enough to survive as a revolutionary organisation? (see ‘Wharfie’ by Wal Stubbins and Lesley Synge).

    Therein lies a contradiction.

    Ian Curr
    May 2017

  20. said2hanrahan says:

    What would be good is to set up a Library of “Social Consciousness” (or some similar name) that could contain all the relevant writings, articles and books. Approaching the State Government, or the Council to set up a properly maintained Library, where our collections of Books could be donated and not be lost in the usual library or University archive.

    1. Good idea, Don. One thing, all the books that resided at AHIMSA house (shown below) found a home at ‘unite’ rooms in the Valley. Thanks to Kathleen, Feargal, Bernie and Peter for setting up the library there.
      Institute of Social Ecology library

  21. Can this library be accessed or is it in private hands now

Please comment down below