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Australia: Red councillors during the Cold War: Communists on Sydney City Council, 1953-59


 Sydney Town Hall in the 1950s.

Recent electoral victories in Australia by socialists at the municipal council level -- the Socialist Party's Stephen Jolly in Victoria and Socialist Alliance's Sam Wainwright in Western Australia -- have sparked renewed interest in the experiences of other socialists who have been elected to such bodies. With permission of the Rough Reds Collective, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal is publishing Beverley Symons' paper that examines the example of Communist Party of Australia members elected to the Sydney City Council in the 1950s. This article first appeared in the 2003 book A Few Rough Reds, published by the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Canberra Region Branch. The book is available online at

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By Beverley Symons

As is well known, the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) was represented in an Australian parliament only once, by Fred Paterson in the Queensland state seat of Bowen from 1944-50. However, the party's electoral successes in local government have attracted little historical attention. As far as I know, the only published material outside the communist press were two articles in 1985 and 1986 examining the CPA's 1944 victory in winning five of the eight seats on the Kearsley Shire Council in the northern New South Wales coalfields.

Tom Keneally's `The People's Train': Steaming along the tracks of revolution

The People's Train
By Tom Keneally,
Vintage Books, 2009

Review by Phil Shannon

October 10, 2009 -- When Artem Samsurov first came to Brisbane in 1911, the Russian exile noted that the poor did not eat horse meat like they did in his native country and he wondered whether this did indeed make it true that Australia was a “working man’s paradise”? A diet that was no stranger, however, to rabbit, and bread and lard, suggested otherwise.

Tom Keneally’s latest novel, The People’s Train, follows the political and romantic adventures of Samsurov, a fictional character closely based on Fedor (``Artem'') Sergeyev, a Bolshevik who escaped from exile in Siberia after the crushing of the 1905 revolution in Russia and who was a political activist in Brisbane for six years. [See the Australian Dictionary of Biography's entry for Fedor``Artem'' Sergeyev below this review.]

In regular trouble with the Red-persecuting Queensland police, Sergeyev returned to Russia in 1917 in time to be elected to the central committee of the Bolshevik Party and play a leading role in the Russian Revolution.

Science and empire in the Pacific

Mai (aka Omai), the first Pacific Islander to visit Europe, with Joseph Banks in 1774. Painting by William Parry.

By Barry Healy

More than 240 years ago, on April 13, 1769, the peace of Tahiti was interrupted by the visit of Captain James Cook, supposedly observing the transit of Venus across the Sun, but really following secret orders to investigate the Pacific Ocean and its islands for the benefit of British colonialism.

Mainstream Australian history raises James Cook to a pinnacle because he established a white, British dominion on the Australian continent. However, at the time his fame was eclipsed because on board his ship was gentleman scientist Joseph Banks with a posse of staff.

Banks’ star outshone Cook’s because his work acquired the botanical treasures of Oceania for the British Empire, paving the way for Britain to dominate vital areas of science for its own benefit.

The Levellers and the 1640s English Revolution

The Putney debates. Graphic by Clare Melinsky, Rampart Lions Press.

By Graham Milner

In 1649, 360 years ago this year, an experiment in communal land holding and cultivation began on St. George's Hill in Surrey, England, as the principles of a communist society were put into practice by the Diggers -- followers of Gerrard Winstanley, a visionary and writer of radical political tracts. This experiment marked an important phase in the development of socialist tendencies in the struggle to defeat the Stuart monarchy in the 1640s. This essay attempts to analyse the dynamics of the revolutionary struggle in England during the 1640s civil war and its aftermath. It concentrates on the emergence and development of left-wing tendencies in the revolutionary movement, and attempts to provide an explanation for the defeat of the aspirations of those tendencies.

People's Republic of China at 60: Maoism and popular power, 1949–1969

Youth demonstrate during the Cultural Revolution.

[Click HERE for more analysis of the Chinese Revolution and its evolution.]

By Pierre Rousset

With the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) found itself at the head of a country three times larger than Western Europe, with a population of some 500 million. The internal situation was favourable to the revolutionary regime. At the end of a long series of civil and foreign wars, the population sought and relied on the new leaders to achieve peace while the ongoing people’s mobilisation opened the way for a deep reform of society.

People's Republic of China at 60: 1925–1949 -- Origins of the Chinese revolution

Mao Zedong (on horse) during the Long March.

[Click HERE for more analysis of the Chinese Revolution and its evolution.]

By Pierre Rousset

Retrospectively, we know the importance of the period opened in China by the overthrow in 1911 of the Qing Dynasty: it concluded, nearly four decades later, with the victory of the Communist revolution on October 1, 1949 – an event of historical scope. However, at the time, the future of the country looked very uncertain. Power was fragmenting in China, but the European states were not in a position to seize this opportunity to impose their colonial domination on the Middle Kingdom and were soon going to be at war with each other. The new imperialist powers (the United States and Japan) were not yet ready to replace them and claim for themselves the conquest of China. But it was only a matter of time. China seemed to be condemned to be dismembered into Japamese and Western zones of influence.

Britain’s conquest of Quebec: 250 years later, a continuing debate on how the French colonisers became colonised

By Richard Fidler

September 13, 2009 -- Life on the Left -- Colonisation. Conquest. Words that even today evoke widely varying historical memories.

Just last year Quebec City staged an elaborate round of events to celebrate the 400th anniversary of its founding as the colonial capital of New France. No expense was spared as federal and provincial governments alike poured money into the city’s coffers. Capping the ceremonies were massively attended concerts by Québécoise singer Céline Dion and former Beatle Paul McCartney — apparently deemed emblematic descendants of the French and British “founding peoples” of present-day Canada. It seemed to be one great love-in of all those involved.

(Lost in all the self-congratulatory rhetoric, of course, was any recognition that the city’s site had in fact been occupied by its Indigenous inhabitants for many centuries prior to the arrival of the Europeans.)

The rise and fall of the Communist Party of Thailand

By Pierre Rousset

September 9, 2009 -- ESSF -- The communist movement was first established in Siam (renamed Thailand in 1939) mostly in the Chinese ethnic migrant communities, then proliferated in the seemingly disparate surrounding regions in the north, northeast and south of the country. Following a long, difficult period of transition, the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT), once an urban party, retreated to the jungle and engaged in armed struggle. Its national expansion, during the 1970s, occurred while the kingdom was transformed into a US base for military intervention in the Vietnam War. The party eventually saw its decline during the Sino-Indochinese conflict of 1978–9 and disappeared from sight in the mid-1980s.

The other September 11: US backed coup in Chile, 1973

An excerpt from John Pilger's documentary The War on Democracy, which recounts the involvement of the United States government in the brutal 1973 military coup that overthrew the democratic socialist government of President Salvador Allende -- paradoxically on September 11. It ushered in a regime of torture and tyranny. [Click HERE to watch Pilger's full film.]

Below, see director Ken Loach's moving contribution to the 11"9'01 project.

How US warmongers exploited the 9/11 terrorist attacks

By Norm Dixon

[This article was first published on September 11, 2002, on the first anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Its observations remain relevant to this day.]

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In the week before the first anniversary of the devastating September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, TV networks aired a seemingly never-ending string of ``special events'' featuring ``exclusive'' or ``never before seen'' footage of the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center (WTC) and its aftermath. People around the world again experienced the horror, anger and tragedy of that terrible day, when almost 3000 working people were murdered.

Culminating on the anniversary of the day itself, thousands of journalists and TV presenters from across the globe will converge at ``ground zero'' in New York for ``remembrance and reflection''. Solemn ceremonies will be telecast and patriotic speeches by top US politicians broadcast, restating Washington's determination to pursue its ``war on terrorism''.

Paul Robeson: `The artist must elect to fight for freedom or slavery'

Peekskill outrage, September 4, 1949.

[See below for a four-part documentary on Paul Robeson's life.]

By Harry Targ

On September 4, 1949, an angry crowd surrounded the 20,000 friends of Paul Robeson who had come to hear him in an open-air concert at Peekskill, New York. After the event right-wing, anti-communist inspired mobs attacked supporters who were leaving the event. These attacks included smashing the windows of Pete Seeger’s automobile with several family members inside. Sixty years later we remember the great progressive Paul Robeson, his struggles for justice, and his refusal to bow to the politics of reaction.

Victor Serge: `dishonest authoritarian', `anti-worker anarchist' or revolutionary Bolshevik?

[The following exchanges were first published in the US socialist magazine Against the Current. They have been posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission. Susan Weissman is the author of Victor Serge: The Course is set on Hope and editor of The Ideas of Victor Serge and Victor Serge: Russia Twenty Years After. She is a member of the editorial boards of Against the Current and Critique. The first essay is adapted from a section of a paper she delivered at a July 2008 conference on Trotsky’s legacy and first appeared in Against the Current, issue 136, September-October 2008. Following that is a response from Ernie Haberkern and reply by Susan Weissman. Some of Victor Serge's writings are available at the Marxists Internet Archive and at Resistance Books.]

By Susan Weissman

Industrial action for peace: The Communist Party of Australia and antiwar activity before 1960

[Douglas Jordan was politicised in England in the late 1960s. After arriving in Australia he joined the Socialist Youth Alliance/Socialist Workers League/Socialist Workers Party, in which where he remained a member for 14 years. Today he is a community activist and co-presenter of the City Limits radio program on Melbourne's 3CR.

[After working as a tram conductor in Melbourne and Adelaide he was replaced by a ticket machine in 1998 and so lost his lifetime profession. He returned to study and is now writing his PhD thesis. The thesis -- of which this article is an excerpt -- is a detailed examination of the extent to which Communist Party of Australia union activists raised political issues in their unions.

[In particular it looks at the peace movement, attitudes to the post-war migration program and the Aboriginal struggle for human rights. There was been a general perception that Communist Party union activists were nothing more than industrial militants. The thesis aims to challenge this and show that CPA members often raised political issues and sought support for them from their co-workers.]

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By Douglas Jordan

The free-market fallacies of Ayn Rand

By Phil Hearse

August 22, 2009 -- Marxsite -- Most people sympathetic to radical politics outside the United States have probably never heard of Ayn Rand, and a brief introduction to her ultra pro-free market views would doubtless be enough to convince them they haven’t missed anything. Yet 27 years after her death, Ayn Rand continues to be seriously debated in the US, her books sell hundreds of thousands each year, her views are propagated by right wing think tanks and foundations and – bizarrely – Charlize Theron is in discussions to turn Rand’s 1088-page magnus opus Atlas Shrugged into a TV mini-series.

The Times Educational Supplement claimed in July that the Ayn Rand revival is gathering pace on US campuses. According to the TES:

New books reveal Friedrich Engels’ revolutionary life

Engels: A Revolutionary Life, by John Green, Artery Publications, 2008.

Marx’s General: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels, by Tristram Hunt, Macmillan/Metropolitan, 2009. (First published in Britain as The Frock-Coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels.)

Reviewed by Ian Angus

August 24, 2009 -- Socialist Voice -- Most people on the left know that Friedrich Engels was co-author of the Communist Manifesto and Karl Marx’s lifelong collaborator. But few of today’s radicals know much more than that about the man who built barricades and fought a guerrilla war in Germany in the 1848-49 revolution, the indefatigable organiser who played a decisive role in building the Marxist current from a handful of exiles in the 1850s into the dominant trend in the international working-class movement by the time of his death in 1895.

They can scarcely be blamed for their lack of knowledge: it hasn’t been easy to learn about Engels’ life. In the 110 years after he died, only two substantial biographies were published in English – by Gustav Mayer in 1936 and by W.O. Henderson in 1967 – and both have long been out of print.

Lucas Aerospace -- When workers said `no' to military production, `yes' to green jobs

Photo by Alex Bainbridge.

By Rob Marsden

August 22, 2009 -- Socialist Resistance -- Today, the twin drivers of economic recession and the possibility of catastrophic climate change are beginning to push working people towards action. A series of small-scale but high-profile occupations of threatened factories, not just at Vestas wind turbine plant but also at Visteon car plant, where 600 workers took on the might of Ford and won a greatly enhanced redundancy package, show what is possible. In the 1970s workers at Britain's Lucas Aerospace went even further. We look back at the lessons of Lucas Aerospace.

It is clear that if we are to avert catastrophic climate change by moving rapidly to a low-carbon economy, certain industries will have to be wound down or drastically scaled back, for example, the power generation, aviation and car industries. However, rather than this leading to a net loss of jobs, efforts must be put into creating new green jobs or ``converting'' old jobs.

The Philippines left and Corazon Aquino

Corazon Aquino (far right) in 1986.

By Reihana Mohideen

August 14, 2009 – Former president of the Philippines Corazon Aquino died on August 1. Following the 1983 assassination of Benigno Aquino, her husband, Cory Aquino became the Philippine’s leading bourgeois opposition figure to the US-backed dictator Ferdinand Marcos. She stood against Marcos in the 1986 presidential election. After Marcos was proclaimed the winner of the blatantly rigged election, a mass uprising – dubbed the ``people power revolution’’ -- overthrew Marcos and Aquino became president. She was in office from 1986 to 1992.

The Philippines left’s reaction to the death of Corazon Aquino has been intriguing. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) did a complete about-turn, recanting its previous position that Cory Aquino was a representative of the reactionary classes.

Pakistan: Farooq Tariq's new book `Facing the Musharraf Dictatorship' (free download)

Farooq Tariq (centre) with members of the DSP.

Below is spokesperson for the Labour Party Pakistan Farooq Tariq's introduction to his new book, Facing the Musharraf Dictatorship: An Activist's Narrative. Following that is the preface by Peter Boyle, national secretary of the Democratic Socialist Perspective of Australia. Facing the Musharraf Dictatorship is available from Good Books Lahore. Email goodbooks_1 [at] to order a hard copy. You can also download the entire 300-page PDF file at the end of the two articles below.

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By Farooq Tariq

It was October 12, 1999. As usual, I was at the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) secretariat in Lahore. Around 6pm, Farooq Sulehria called me to break the news that Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif had removed the army chief General Pervez Musharraf who was flying back to Pakistan from a visit to Sri Lanka. Sulehria asked me to issue a press statement to explain the LPP's point of view. "Wait and see the response of the army", I told him.

The 1819 `Peterloo' massacre: class struggle in the Industrial Revolution

By Graham Milner

August 16, 2009 -- The Industrial Revolution began in England, and the emergence of the industrial working class brought to the fore a new social and political force in world history. The bloody events of 190 years ago, on August 16, 1819, when a mass workers' protest in Manchester demanding political reform and labour rights was broken up by the army, with considerable loss of life, stand out as a stark warning to socialist activists everywhere that the ruling classes will react with violence and terror when their power and privileges are challenged.

On August 16, 1819, mounted regular troops and yeomanry of the British army, acting on the instructions of government officials, attacked without warning a mass meeting of more 100,000 people drawn from the industrial centres of Lancashire in the north-west of England. The meeting, held on St. Peter's Field in the centre of Manchester, the major industrial city of Lancashire, had been organised as part of a national campaign to win a radical reform of the British parliament and to redress the economic grievances of working people. More than 400 men, women and children were killed or seriously injured as a result of this ``action''.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Worst single terror attacks in history

Hiroshima, August 6, 1945.

By Norm Dixon

August 6 and August 9 mark the anniversaries of the US atomic-bomb attacks on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. In Hiroshima, an estimated 80,000 people were killed in a split second. Some 13 square kilometres of the city were obliterated. By December, at least another 70,000 people had died from radiation and injuries.

Three days after Hiroshima's destruction, the US dropped an A-bomb on Nagasaki, resulting in the deaths of at least 70,000 people before the year was out.

Since 1945, tens of thousands more residents of the two cities have continued to suffer and die from radiation-induced cancers, birth defects and still births.

A tiny group of US rulers met secretly in Washington and callously ordered this indiscriminate annihilation of civilian populations. They gave no explicit warnings. They rejected all alternatives, preferring to inflict the most extreme human carnage possible. They ordered and had carried out the two worst single terror acts in human history.

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