Anarchism and ‘the left hand of darkness’

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” ― Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (misattributed to Kurt Cobain)

I remember a friend, Tony X. going for the Australian public service clerk’s exam in the 1970s. Tony was a very a dedicated anarchist. Along with Charlie, Tony printed many of the Left’s pamphlets and posters down at Planet Press in Mary Street Brisbane. In those days, all you need do is pass the clerk’s exam and you could win a paid job at a time when youth unemployment was over 20% . This was better than the lottery because lefties and gays were banned from working in the Queensland State Public Service.

In the Commonwealth Public Service, prior to the Whitlam government (1972-1975), all applications for employment were vetted by ASIO. If deemed a risk you did not get a job. Whitlam took away the process of ASIO vetting and introduced a fairer system of public sector exams. Without the necessity of passing an ASIO check, many of my comrades from the street marches tried their luck getting a job in the Commonwealth Public Service. Some of the tests were pretty silly, and sure enough, well into the multi-guess questionnaire Tony came across the following question and possible answers:

What is Anarchism?

Anarki cartoon
  1. a belief in the abolition of all government and the organization of society on a voluntary, cooperative basis without recourse to force or compulsion; or,
  2. a political force or movement that tries to disrupt train timetables, block the logging of forests, initiate strikes to bring down capitalism; or,
  3. when there is no political order, and there is total confusion; or,
  4. when there is no leader, or when nobody has power over everyone; or,
  5. a form of sport.

This question put Tony X in a bind. Were they trying to work out who was an anarchist in order to eliminate subversives from the public service? He knew that option 1 was the best definition of anarchism. What was he to do? The clock was ticking and he had many other questions to answer. He decided to select No 5, a form of sport, a devilish plan to show his total ignorance of politics.

I don’t know the reason for sure, but Tony never got to join the public service and the benefits that entailed.

On a more serious note lets listen to one of Brisbane’s most consistent anarchists, Barbara Hart speaking with Linda on Ursula Le Guin to see whether the famous author was an anarchist. Le Guin, though frequently referred to as an author of science fiction, critics have described her work as being difficult to classify.

But I got a mind to show my strength
And I got a right to speak my mind
And I’m gonna pay for this
They’re gonna burn me at the stake
— Christina Aguilera

Ian Curr
1 April 2021