Victorian Socialist Party, early 20th Century


Founded in 1905 on the back of the success of the Melbourne lectures of visiting British socialist Tom Mann, the Victorian Socialist party promoted a left wing parliamentary socialism, and sought to infuse internationalism and industrial unionism within the ranks of the Australian labour movement, orientated towards the peaceful overthrow of capitalism. Ultimately the campaign for One Big Union along the lines of the syndicalist Industrial Workers of the World or `Wobblies', embracing the whole Australian working class, was to founder, largely due to the resistance of the Australian Worker's Union, which opportunistically oscilated between opposing the radical competition implied by the OBU and coopting the concept. An important exponent of the party was the young pacifist John Curtin, who would become noted for his opposition to conscription during the Great War, and subsequently Leader of the Opposition and then Prime Minister during World War II. The VSP was a manifestation of radical Melbourne, which flourished in the early years of the twentieth century.

News of Victorian and Australian socialism circulated in Vicenza Province through the correspondence, for example, of the engineer Domenico Piccoli, who in the late nineteenth century set up a successful ceramics importing firm and trade agency in Melbourne. Upon the death in 1899 of his wife Flora Mancini, daughter of a noted neapolitan giurist, Piccoli repatriated, before returning to Australia and marrying Melbourne woman Gertrude Dawson. Upon resettling in Italy, Piccoli was actively involved in many business, educational and political activities, including opposition to Italian intervention in the Great War. After the war, Piccoli was elected a Deputy for Schio under the proportional representation regime which lead to the socialist electoral triumph of 1919. He died in suspicious circumstances after falling from a train in March 1921. At least one Venetian newspaper, `Il Giornale', reported his death as an assassination. It is highly likely that Francesco Fantin knew of Piccoli, and that Piccoli was the ultimate source of at least some of the information about Australia to which Fantin had access.

Photo from Potts ed `Australia Since the Camera: The Twenties'

 

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