Bob Gould (activist)

Last updated

Bob Gould
Robert Stephen Gould

Died(2011-05-22)22 May 2011 (aged 74)
Cause of deathInjuries from a fall
Political party Australian Labor Party
Spouse(s)Janet Bonser
Mairi Petersen (divorced)
ChildrenNatalie Gould

Robert Stephen "Bob" Gould (1937 – 22 May 2011) was an Australian activist and bookseller. He was a leader of the anti-conscription movement, and of protests against Australian involvement in the Vietnam War, in the 1960s. He went on to become a successful second-hand bookseller.


Politics and activism

Gould first came to public attention in 1966 as Convenor of the Vietnam Action Campaign, a group opposed to conscription and participation in the Vietnam War. Gould was already being described as a "habitual protester". [1] By 1969 Gould was seen as having influence over Labor Clubs at the University of Sydney, the University of New South Wales and Macquarie University. [2]

Vietnam War 1955–1975 conflict in Vietnam

The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War, and in Vietnam as the Resistance War Against America or simply the American War, was a conflict in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. North Vietnam was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist allies; South Vietnam was supported by the United States, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand and other anti-communist allies. The war, considered a Cold War-era proxy war by some, lasted 19 years, with direct U.S. involvement ending in 1973, and included the Laotian Civil War and the Cambodian Civil War, resulting in all three countries becoming communist in 1975.

University of Sydney university in Sydney, Australia

The University of Sydney is an Australian public research university in Sydney, Australia. Founded in 1850, it is Australia's first university and is regarded as one of the world's leading universities. The university is colloquially known as one of Australia's sandstone universities. Its campus is ranked in the top 10 of the world's most beautiful universities by the British Daily Telegraph and The Huffington Post, spreading across the inner-city suburbs of Camperdown and Darlington. The university comprises nine faculties and university schools, through which it offers bachelor, master and doctoral degrees.

University of New South Wales Australian university

The University of New South Wales is an Australian public research university located in the Sydney suburb of Kensington. Out of all Australian universities, UNSW has the highest median ATAR and attracts the highest number of top 500 students. Established in 1949, it is ranked 4th in Australia, 43rd in the world according to the 2020 QS World University Rankings. The university comprises nine faculties, through which it offers bachelor, master and doctoral degrees. The main campus is located on a 38-hectare (94-acre) site in the Sydney suburb of Kensington, 7 km from the Sydney central business district. The creative arts faculty, UNSW Art & Design, is located in Paddington, UNSW Canberra is located at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra and sub-campuses are located in the Sydney CBD, the suburbs of Randwick and Coogee. Research stations are located throughout the state of New South Wales. UNSW is one of the founding members of the Group of Eight, a coalition of Australian research-intensive universities, and of Universitas 21, a global network of research universities. It has international exchange and research partnerships with over 200 universities around the world.

Gould went on to fight for many other issues, including Irish civil rights, [3] Indonesian atrocities in East Timor, [4] and the war on Iraq. [5] He was a prolific writer on the many causes in which he believed. [6] The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) held a file on Gould that ran to 8000 pages. [7]

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is Australia's national security agency responsible for the protection of the country and its citizens from espionage, sabotage, acts of foreign interference, politically motivated violence, attacks on the Australian defence system, and terrorism. ASIO is comparable to the British Security Service (MI5) and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). ASIO is part of the Australian Intelligence Community.

He inspired organisations like the scandalously named but nobly aspirational SCREW (the Society for the Cultivation of Revolution Everywhere) and the more sober High School Students Against the Vietnam War. He was also a key supporter of the anti-conscription movement of this time.

In 1966 Gould helped to chase and capture the attempted assassin of Labor leader Arthur Calwell. [8]

Arthur Calwell Australian politician

Arthur Augustus Calwell KCSG was an Australian politician who served as the leader of the Labor Party from 1960 to 1967. He led the party to three federal elections without success.

Bob Gould joined the Australian Labor Party at the age of 17, about 1954, and remained a member of that party throughout his life.

He joined the party just as the Labor Party split of 1955 was brewing and quickly became embroiled in the struggle against the right-wing Groupers. Gould wrote about some of his experiences at that time in his essay, Bob Santamaria and Bob Gould.

The Australian Labor Party split of 1955 was a split within the Australian Labor Party along ethnocultural lines and about the position towards communism. Key players in the split were the federal opposition leader H. V. "Doc" Evatt and B. A. Santamaria, the dominant force behind the "Catholic Social Studies Movement" or "the Movement".

While he was involved in the struggle against the Groupers, Gould has written that he was also "in the orbit" of the Communist Party of Australia, but he broke with Communist Party influence in 1956, after Khruschev's Secret Speech and the USSR's invasion of Hungary.

The Communist Party of Australia (CPA) was founded in 1920 and dissolved in 1991. The CPA achieved its greatest political strength in the 1940s and faced an attempted ban in 1951. Though it never presented a major challenge to the established order in Australia, it did have significant influence on the trade unions, social movements, and the national culture.

He obtained copies of Khruschev's speech detailing the crimes of Stalin, and distributed them to members of the Communist Party and left-wing members of the Labor Party.

Gould then made contact with Australian Trotskyists, who had opposed Joseph Stalin and Stalinism from the beginning. This group included the ironworkers union activist Nick Origlass, who worked in the Balmain shipyards and had led an important strike there in 1945.

Joseph Stalin Soviet leader

Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was a Georgian revolutionary and Soviet politician who led the Soviet Union from the mid–1920s until 1953 as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922–1952) and Premier (1941–1953). Initially presiding over a collective leadership as first among equals, by the 1930s he was the country's de facto dictator. A communist ideologically committed to the Leninist interpretation of Marxism, Stalin formalised these ideas as Marxism–Leninism, while his own policies are known as Stalinism.

Stalinism theory and practice for developing a communist society

Stalinism is the means of governing and related policies implemented from 1927 to 1953 by Joseph Stalin (1878–1953). Stalinist policies and ideas that were developed in the Soviet Union included rapid industrialization, the theory of socialism in one country, a totalitarian state, collectivization of agriculture, a cult of personality and subordination of the interests of foreign communist parties to those of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, deemed by Stalinism to be the leading vanguard party of communist revolution at the time.

Nick Origlass was an Australian Trotskyist who served as mayor of Leichhardt in Sydney, New South Wales.

Gould at this time was also in contact with Helen Palmer, who organised a leftist magazine, Outlook, which served as a focus for anti-Stalinist leftists who had left the Communist Party because of the 1956 events.

Gould remained a self-described anti-Stalinist Marxist for the rest of his life.


A typical aisle at Gould's Book Arcade, Newtown Bob Gould needs more space I.jpg
A typical aisle at Gould's Book Arcade, Newtown

As a bookseller, Gould was a Sydney 'character' who opened twelve bookshops and closed eleven since opening his first shop, the Third World Bookshop, in 1967. [9] His bookshops were notable for being fertile hunting grounds of underground comics and posters as well as an eclectic range of books including leftist tracts. He also stocked (especially at his Leichhardt, New South Wales store), a large range of Betamax video cassettes for many years after the format was considered to be defunct.

Gould's shops pushed the boundaries of Australia's strict censorship laws at the time, and he was often raided by the NSW police vice squad. [8] In 1969, Gould, then 32 and proprietor of the Third World Bookshop at Woollahra, was charged (along with Ronald James, 20, of Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne) with publishing obscene articles posters of nineteenth century artist Aubrey Beardsley including Lysistrata and Cinesius Pursuing Myrhenia. The magistrate, Mr S.M. Lewer, characterised the illustrations as “lewd”, although the defence argued that such stylised nudity as found in the illustrations would not offend the 'average man' of the times. Gould was found guilty and fined. [10]

He and his bookshop featured in the 1999 movie Erskineville Kings .

An article on Gould's business appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald just two months before his death. [11]


Gould died on Sunday, 22 May 2011 from injuries sustained in a fall while sorting books at his store. He was 74. Over 500 people attended his funeral on 26 May 2011 at Macquarie Park, the service being extended by thirty minutes to provide for all of the eulogies. [12]

Federal politicians Andrew Leigh and Daryl Melham [13] paid tribute to Gould in the Australian parliament. [14] New South Wales Opposition Leader John Robertson and government minister Brad Hazzard eulogised Gould in the Parliament of New South Wales. [15]

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  1. Johns, Brian (15 April 1966). "New-look peace movement". The Sydney Morning Herald . Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  2. Hasler, Geoff (14 May 1969). "A close look at student factions". The Sydney Morning Herald . Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  3. "15 strike a quiet blow for freedom". The Sydney Morning Herald . 19 February 1969. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  4. Tenenbaum, Linda (17 September 1999). "East Timor and protest politics". Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  5. "Doves ascending". 15 February 2003. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  6. Gould, Bob (June 2011). "Works of Bob Gould". Ozleft. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  7. Sparrow, Jeff (16 March 2004). "The real fight is for civil rights". Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  8. 1 2 Meacham, Steve (6 February 2004). "The filth and the fury". Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  9. "Sydney bookseller and activist Bob Gould dies". 23 May 2011. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  10. "Two Sent for trial on Beardsely posters", Sydney Morning Herald, Nov 1969
  11. Stevenson, Andrew (26 March 2011). "Novel character who knows every trick in the book". Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  12. Murphy, Damien; Dunn, Emily (27 May 2011). "Big Day for Bob Gould". Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  13. Tribute in the House, Daryl Melham
  14. Leigh, Andrew (31 May 2011). "Bob Gould". Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  15. "Tribute to Robert (Bob) Gould". 28 May 2011. Retrieved 13 June 2011.