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'Red Ruffians': online archive of Aotearoa's anarchist and syndicalist past



‘Red Ruffians’ is an online archive of writings, pictures and other goodies on Aotearoa’s anarchist and syndicalist past. Such a tradition did (and does) exist, but records of it are fragmented across different websites, books or archives — making them hard to find and accessible to only those in the know. The role of this site is to compile these fragments into one easily accessible location.

Why anarchism and syndicalism? And why care about the past?
Firstly, history is not static — the lessons from the past inform and influence both the present and future struggle:

“This type of historical awareness is a key reminder that we still live in a society deeply divided by class. The actions of the past stand as inspiring, yet unfinished movements to continue to build upon and to adapt to present conditions.” (Nicholas Lampert, Realising the Impossible).

Secondly, such narratives are important because those in power would have us believe that revolutionary currents in Aotearoa were either misdirected, without influence, or simply didn’t exist. The examples here go some way in debunking such notions.

Finally, it is important to acknowledge those who have held firm in their beliefs and struggled for a more humane and just society, “those spectral, semi-mythical figures whose humor, iconoclasm, commitment to working-class culture and dedication to democratic principles can still provide inspiration for actions in the present and hopes for the future” (Mark Derby, A Country Considered to be Free). Not just those mentioned in writing, but the nameless yet equally important women and men whose actions deserve to be remembered.

“Traditionally, labour history has tended to deal almost exclusively with the development of trade unions, implying that the workers had no history but that of the unions.” (Jeremy Brecher, Strike!). By focussing on anarchism and syndicalism, this site aims to highlight historical narratives that have gone beyond such a narrow scope.

It is important to remember that while Aotearoa is the focus, the ideas of anarchism and syndicalism and those who adhered to them were internationalist in scope — often transient by nature and committed to solidarity that transcended nation states. The site is here to link Aotearoa to that wider, transnational movement, rather than promote Aotearoa in a nationalist sense.

If you would like to contribute an article or know of something that should be on here, please contact garage.collective [at] gmail [dot] com. Content is always being uploaded, so be sure to bookmark the site.

Red Ruffians:



HeyWhat a beautiful site to


What a beautiful site to see! Great work. Two questions:

-Why the name?

-Does the scope include anarchist practice that isn't explicitly Anarchist?



Hi Val,Red Ruffians come from

Hi Val,

Red Ruffians come from a quote used by the Wellington Superintendent when describing strikers during the 1913 Great Strike. I thought it conveyed the typical misconception of those on the far left to be unorganised or rough. Although admittedly it's quite masculine.

I think it's not limited to the organised movement. It would be really nice to have more writings about activity and class conflict that took place outside or trade unions or the recognised movements. What did you have in mind?

PS You can read more about the scope here, but its all a work in progress. I guess I'm trying to keep it manageable at this stage but it could grow to something bigger and with more collective input (I'd love to see a physical archive outside of state control like the Kate Sharpley Library).


Interesting stuff

Whether one wholeheartedly agrees with the political alignments of the people and movements involved, this is interesting stuff for sure. It gives particularly younger interested people and activists a chance to inform themselves about what has happened in the past in Aotearoa-NZ and what it all meant.

Good on you guys!

NZ Aoteaoroa has always been part of "the world", so for those to claim that there is NO revolutionary potential, they are dreaming a dreadful and dull dream of sedated feelings and thoughts. Somehow these islands are still attached to the same globe or planet where so many other things happen!

Of course NZ will undr present conditions never really "lead the world" (look at all socio economic experiments conducted here), but we are PART of the world and have every chance and potential to take part - and at times at least lead the movement. It is all up to us to act or not act. There is NO excuse and every reason to TAKE ACTION! ESPECIALLY NOW!!!