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Collingwood Freestore

"You Cant' Steal From the Free Store. We live in a consumer society which forces people to relate to one another on a monetary, rather than a human level."

These were the sentiments that led to the creation of the Free Store at 42 Smith Street, Collingwood in Melbourne 1971. The Free Store was set up by a number of Melbourne Anarchists as a practical example of common storehouse economics. When anarchists talk about a "moneyless" society, many people automatically assume they are talking about a society based on barter. A barter system is essentially a primitive form of capitalist economics. Anarchist common storehouse economics relies on the principle that people take what they need and leave their surplus produce in a common storehouse.

The Free Store attempted to create an anarchist economic oasis in a capitalist desert. It attempted to replace the fear and competition that is such an integral part of capitalist society with mutual aid and co-operation.

"The Free Store works on the basis of mutual aid and co-operation - on people's genuine needs, not their mass produced desires which have little in common with people's real needs and desires."

The people from the Working People's Association who ran the Collingwood Free Store understood the limitations of their example. They wanted to create a network of Free Stores across the city.

"Obviously one small Free Store can do little by itself and the effects mentioned in the article are on a small scale, but if similar stores sprang up in every area of the city, the effects would be magnified incredibly. This is a practical exercise in free socialism, which provides a basis for people to learn the real meaning of, from each according to his ability to each according to his need."

In late 1971 the Freestore was raided and two people from Perth who were crashing there, Julian Ripley and Rupert Gerretson, were taken to Russell St Police Station for questioning and arrest. Both these people were taken back to Perth to stand trial for 'causing an explosion' at the Department of Labour and National Service in Perth. Julian Ripley claimed he had been verballed and intimidated into signing the statement of interview at Russell St Police Headquarters. He was convicted and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment with a one year non-parole period. Did the present (2002) WA Minister for Health, Bob Kucera, frame Julian 30 years ago?

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