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Communist Party of Australia
A glimpse of what could be: The NSW BLF, the most radical and innovative union the world has ever seen
By John Tully
Fifty years ago, a group of dedicated left-wing activists wrested control of the NSW Builders Labourers’ Federation (BLF) from the corrupt gangster types who had used it to feather their own nests. The militants, who included Jack Mundey, Joe Owens and Bob Pringle, rebuilt the union into a radically democratic, socially progressive and environmentally-aware organisation the likes of which Australia—and the world—had never seen. Today, we live in dark times for trade unionism. Only around 7% of workers in private industry are organised and unionists face ruthless attacks by the bosses and the state. The achievements of the NSW BLF, however, give us a glimpse of the liberating potential of the working class and are a beacon for the future.
April 9, 2015 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The following letter, signed by 30 academics, municipal councillors, trade union officials, journalists, solidarity organisation convenors and political party leaders from around Australia, was initiated by the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign in Melbourne. It will be handed over the US consulates in Melbourne and Sydney on April 10. If you would like to add your name please email Denis Rogatyuk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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President Barack Obama
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr President,
We, the undersigned individuals and organisations, reject your March 9, 2015, declaration deeming Venezuela as an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States”.
We also oppose the sanctions your administration has placed on a number of Venezuelan state officials and call for the immediate repeal of your Executive Order on Venezuela.
The reality is that Venezuela today is not at war with any nation, nor does it have military bases outside its borders. In fact, Venezuela is helping to mediate an end to the war in Colombia and has constantly championed peace in the region.
On November 3, 2013, Brian Manning -- veteran Northern Territory communist, trade unionist, campaigner against racism, long-time activist for Indigenous people's rights and solidarity campaigner with the East Timorese people (among many other causes) -- died in Darwin, aged 81. Brian won enormous respect for his commitment to human rights and his unstinting dedication to changing the system.
As a tribute to Brian, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal highlights another important chapter in his inspiring political life: his important role in the building solidarity the struggle of the East Timorese people for national self-determination. (See also "Brian Manning and the Gurindji `walk offs’".)
The following chapter appeared in the 2003 book, A Few Rough Reds: Stories of Rank and File Organising, published by the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History. This and others chapters are available at http://roughreds.com/rrone/index.html.
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By Brian Manning
Brian Manning addressed the Gurindji Freedom Day celebration to mark the 45th anniversary of the historic walk-off.
On November 3, 2013, Brian Manning -- veteran Northern Territory communist, trade unionist, campaigner against racism, long-time activist for Indigenous people's rights and solidarity campaigner with the East Timorese people (among many other causes) -- died in Darwin, aged 81. Brian won enormous respect for his commitment to human rights and his unstinting dedication to changing the system. As a tribute to Brian, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal highlights one important chapter in his inspiring political life: his important role in the historic struggle of the Gurindji people for their rights.
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By Terry Townsend
[The following is an excerpt from The Aboriginal Struggle & the Left (Sydney: Resistance Books, 2009.]
August 14, 2013 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- An outstanding historical account of the "Green Bans" first introduced by the communist-led New South Wales Builders Labourers Federation (BLF) in the 1970s in response to community demand to preserve inner-city parkland and historic buildings. One of the first women to be accepted as a builders labourer, filmmaker Pat Fiske in 1985 traced the development of a union whose social and political activities challenged the notion of what a union should be.
More on the BLF from the Green Left Weekly archives below.
Essential viewing for unionists and environmentalists
Review by Ben Courtice
[This review appeared in Green Left Weekly, March 12, 1997.]
This film, an old favourite of radical activists, charts the rise of the NSW branch of the Builders Labourers' Federation. Beginning as a corrupt bosses' union in the 1940s, by the 1970s it was a powerful force for progressive social change and is now famous for placing "green bans" on building sites that were environmentally and socially destructive.
The old, corrupt leadership of the union was voted out after a 10-year campaign by a group of rank-and-file members who then reoriented the union to establish a high level of accountability for officials.
[Below are statements issued by socialist and progressive organisations in the Asia-Pacific region. More will be posted as they come to hand.]
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Statement of the Socialist Alliance (Australia)
March 6, 2013 -- The Socialist Alliance in Australia expresses its deepest sympathies with the people and government of Venezuela on the death of Companero Hugo Chavez Frias on March 5. His passing is a huge loss for all peoples, across Latin America and the globe, struggling for a world free of inequality, exploitation and oppression.
It is testament to Hugo Chavez’s great leadership that, while mourning his death, we are also confident that the Bolivarian Revolution and the new movement for socialism of the 21st century that Chavez inspired will be continued by the mass of people, to whom he worked so hard to give power.
'They will make splendid allies': The Communist Party of Australia and its attitude towards migrants
February 22, 2013 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Below are two chapters from Australian socialist Douglas Jordon's thesis on the Communist Party of Australia. They deal with the CPA's sometimes inconsistent attitude to migration and racism within the Australian working class. As such issues continue to feature heavily in Australian politics and trade union activity, something the left must always deal with, these chapters provide useful lessons and experiences for socialists today. The chapters are availabe for download as PDF files or can be read on screen below the introduction.
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.
"If we are going to get anywhere with left unity today we are going to have to find a way to get beyond a false argument within the left about who is really 'revolutionary' and who is not, and start discussing, in a constructive way, how best a united left can engage in the struggles against the ills of capitalism."
By Peter Boyle, national co-convenor, Socialist Alliance
December 8, 2012 -- Socialist Alliance -- Once again the question of left unity is on the agenda in Australia. There have been exploratory talks between the Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative and also between the Socialist Alliance and the Communist Party of Australia (CPA). The Socialist Alliance and the CPA worked together in a Housing Action election ticket in the Sydney City Council elections earlier this year.
Self-guided tour of revolutionary history: Colonial peoples at the Fourth Communist International Congress
By John Riddell
September 25, 2012 -- Johnriddell.wordpress, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- The newly published proceedings of the Communist International’s Fourth Congress, Toward the United Front, makes it possible for any socialist activist or independent researcher to make the acquaintance of a wide spectrum of revolutionaries of the 1920s, both prominent and obscure. No guide or interpreter is needed.
Tony Oldfield interviewed by Federico Fuentes
September 22, 2012 -- Green Left Weekly -- As we walk into a cafe in the Sydney suburb of Newington, a young Afghan barista greets Communist Party of Australia (CPA) activist Tony Oldfield by name and asks how the recent local Auburn council elections went. After talking for a few minutes about which councillors were re-elected and which were not, the young man asks: “And how about you Tony?”
Only then does Tony point out that he too was elected.
In doing so, Oldfield became one of only four socialist local councillors in Australia at the present time.
Oldfield told Green Left Weekly that the origins of his election date back to the early 2000s, when “local Turkish community activists, leftists and some small business owners”, came together to form a community group opposed to the proposed Collex waste transfer station.
Their legal challenge against the waste dump was successful in the Land and Environment Court, but “the Carr Labor government brought in an act to parliament that overturned the court decision”.
GreenLeftTV -- Venezuelan revolutionary Carolus Wimmer speaking in Perth on August 16, 2012, part of a national tour organised by the Communist Party of Australia.
By Jim McIlroy
August 14, 2012 -- Green Left Weekly -- Carolus Wimmer, a longstanding member of the Latin American Parliament and international relations secretary of the Communist Party of Venezuela, spoke at a Sydney forum on Latin America in revolt on August 11, part of a national speaking tour sponsored by the Communist Party of Australia. During his Australian tour, he also addressed meetings in Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.
At the Sydney forum, Wimmer took up the question, “What progress has been made toward socialism by the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela?” He said Latin America is still dominated by US imperialism, supported by Britain and Europe. He described the Bolivarian Revolution, which began in Venezuela in 1999, as “an anti-imperialist struggle, with the goal of anti-capitalism and socialism”.
Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- A document on socialists standing in municipal council elections, produced by the Communist Party of Australia in the 1940s. Download HERE or read on screen below.
'Primal Socialist Innocence and the Fall'?: the ALP Left in Leichhardt Municipality in the 1980s
By Tony Harris*
During the 1970's and the early 1980's, hundreds of people flooded into the ALP branches of the Municipality of Leichhardt. They constituted a new element of the ALP Left, influenced to one degree or another by the social movements of the late '60s and early '70s, or by the experience of the Whitlam Government. They became locked into a fierce struggle for power with local political machines, and behind them a state ALP branch, dominated by the Labor Right. But when, in the early 1980's, the moment of power arrived, this Left fell into bitter disarray, fragmenting along a spectrum that spilled out of the Party. This tale of political 'innocence' and 'fall' traces through the loss of the municipal council and state parliamentary seat and is dramatically symbolised in the fraught struggle over the future one of the most significant labour (and Labor) history sites: Mort's Dock. As such it reveals the historically contingent nature of the 'middle-classing' of the ALP during this period.
May 18, 2011 -- 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 socialists who have been elected to such bodies. Below is a study of one such experience in Australia: Martin Mowbray's classic (1986) "The Red Shire of Kearsley, 1944-1947: Communists in Local Government". It is posted here for non-commercial, educational purposes.
Mowbray, Martin, "The Red Shire of Kearsley, 1944-1947: Communists in Local Government", Labour History, no. 51 (Nov., 1986), pp. 83-94. Published by the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Inc.
Download HERE in PDF format, or read it on screen below.
Film by John Rainford and Peter Ewer
April 24, 2015 -- Green Left TV/Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- As the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC's ill-fated Gallipoli campaign approaches, this timely short film (above) cuts through the myth making, and shows with damning facts how lives were used as fodder as strategic and tactical blunders led to the slaughter of so many.
It reveals the context behind the Gallipoli campaign - a war fought because the world had been cut up into colonies by the major powers who were now battling for the spoils.
The film shows exactly why the terrible ANZAC Cove campaign should never be forgotten — and the crimes of the warmongers responsible never forgiven.
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Left debates Libya: SEARCH Foundation -- `Support "no-fly" UN resolution for Libyan democratic rebellion'
Libya rebels ride a captured Gaddafi tank in Benghazi March 19, 2011. Photo by Goran Tomasevic.
The following statement was released by the Australian SEARCH Foundation. The foundation was set up as a not-for-profit company in 1990 to preserve and draw on the resources of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA), and its archives. The CPA was the most significant socialist party in Australia between its formation in 1920 and 1991, when it ceased operating.
By Doug Lorimer
[This article first appeared in the Democratic Socialist Party's internal discussion bulletin, The Activist, volume 10, number 7, August 2000.]
The Communist Party of Australia has recently published a pamphlet by David Matters entitled Putting Lenin's Clothes on Trotskyism which claims that the DSP's rejection of Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution is really a cover for its support for Trotskyism. However, the real purpose of the pamphlet is to criticise the DSP's position on the 1998 waterfront dispute.
This is made clear in the introduction to Matters' pamphlet by CPA general secretary Peter Symon:
In writing Putting Lenin's clothes on Trotskyism, David Matters has contributed to the task of clarifying ideas and maintaining the validity and truth of Marxism...
The attack on Marxism in the name of Marx, or on Lenin in the name of Lenin, is a particularly pernicious form which can easily mislead those who are not familiar with what Marx, Engels and Lenin actually said and wrote.
The pretension that Trotsky was a great Leninist is one of these misrepresentations and was refuted time and again by Lenin.
[This first appeared as the introduction to Building the Revolutionary Party: Jim Percy Selected Writings 1980-87 (Resistance Books: Chippendale, 2008). Dave Holmes is now a leader of the Socialist Alliance in Melbourne. This and other writings are also available at Dave Holmes' blog, Arguing for Socialism.]By Dave Holmes
This is the second volume of writings and speeches by Jim Percy, one of the founders of Australia's Democratic Socialist Perspective and its longtime central leader until his death in 1992. These seven items — reports given by Jim to conferences and leadership gatherings of the DSP (or SWP, Socialist Workers Party, as it was known in this period) — span the years 1980 to 1987.
"My thoughts on life. `The thoughts of Chairman Chicka', they could be called. I believe every woman of this planet is my sister. I believe every man on this planet is my brother. Like all Kooris [Indigenous people] I know the earth is my mother. We must learn to share with those three. If the rest of the world could adopt that philosophy of caring and sharing, there would be no wars. But most importantly, there would be no starving children." -- the late Charles "Chicka" "the Fox" Dixon, speaking at the Australian Museum, in December 2003.
Charles "Chicka" Dixon (top left with mouth covered) at the 1972 Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Canberra. Photo from http://indigenousrights.net.au.
By Peter Boyle, Sydney
March 31, 2010 -- Indigenous and trade union activist Chicka "The Fox" Dixon (1928-2010) was farewelled by more than a thousand people in a state funeral in Sydney Town Hall today. Chicka was from the Yuin people whose traditional lands stretch along the south coast of New South Wales, from the Shoalhaven down to the Victorian border.