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Communist Party of Australia

Australia: Freedom fighter Chicka Dixon departs, his activist spirit lives on

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.

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 http://www.roughreds.com.

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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.

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

Jean Hale, 1912-2009 -- Farewell to a `most revered activist'

Jean Hale.

By Sylvia Hale

June 13, 2009 -- Jean Hale (nee Heathcote) was born on July 29, 1912, in Brisbane. Her grandfather, Wyndham Selfe Heathcote, was an Anglican clergyman who opposed the Boer War. His opposition to the Anglican Church's social policies and his opinions, such as this from one of his essays -– “The death of Jesus, as a social reformer using direct action, has been transmuted into the death of a God dying for the world” –- found him at loggerheads with the church and resulted in his leaving to become a Unitarian minister. His public speaking skills, which Jean inherited, were considerable. In October 1916 the Woman Voter reported that, “despite the large seating capacity of the building, thousands of people were turned away” from a debate between himself and Adela Pankhurst (the youngest member of the British suffragist family).

Australia: Towards a history of the Communist Party of Australia

[These articles were first published in Green Left Weekly in 1995 to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of Australia.]

By John Percy

September 27, 1995 -- Seventy-five years ago, under the impact and inspiration of the October 1917 Russian Revolution, the Communist Party of Australia was founded. It was a modest beginning, but an historic event. The CPA formed in 1920 finally dissolved in 1991, but for most of its life it was the dominant party on the left in Australia and an important force in the workers movement.

There are many proud chapters in its history -- the numerous trade union struggles led; organising the unemployed, women, Aborigines, young people; important civil liberties fights; and solidarity with international struggles, in Spain, Indonesia, Vietnam, South Africa and East Timor, to name a few.
The CPA's founders had a vision of socialist revolution in Australia, and this was the goal of most of its rank-and-file members over the years. The party inspired dedication and commitment from thousands of men and women, and organised the most militant, idealistic, self-sacrificing section of the Australian working class.

But it was also a history of mistakes, of betrayals, of lost opportunities.

To mark this important anniversary, Green Left Weekly will be carrying a series of articles on the history of the CPA.

Communism in Australia

By Dave Holmes

[This talk was presented at the A Century of Struggle Laborism and the radical alternative: Lessons for today conference, held in Melbourne, Australia, on May 30, 2009. It was organised by Socialist Alliance and sponsored by Green Left Weekly, Australia’s leading socialist newspaper. To read other talks presented at the conference, click HERE.]

The Industrial Workers of the World in Australia: achievements and limitations

The IWW's newspaper Direct Action campaigned opposed capitalist war in 1914.

[This talk was presented at the Laborism and the radical alternative: Lessons for today conference, held in Melbourne, Australia, on May 30, 2009. It was organised by Socialist Alliance and sponsored by Green Left Weekly, Australia’s leading socialist newspaper. To read other talks presented at the conference, click HERE.]

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By Verity Burgmann

Lessons from the past: The Great Depression and the Communist Party of Australia

A section of the Wharfie's Mural, the large-scale work of art from the walls of the CPA-led Waterside Workers Federation (WWF) canteen in Sussex Street, Sydney, in the 1950s and '60s.

By Dave Holmes

[This is an excerpt from the new pamphlet, Meltdown! A socialist view of the capitalist crisis, by Resistance Books. Meltdown! features essays by John Bellamy Foster, Phil Hearse, Adam Hanieh, Lee Sustar and others. Purchase a copy from Resistance Books.]

The current economic crisis is a fundamental crisis of the world capitalist system. British socialist Phil Hearse calls it the “third slump” in the history of the capitalism (the other two being the Great Depression of the 1930s and the 1974-75 sharp downturn). And the levels of mass distress may yet come to rival the 1930s.

A history of the Australian Labor Party, 1890-1967

By Peter Conrick

Conrick's History of the Australian Labor Party originally appeared in Direct Action (the precursor to Green Left Weekly), newspaper of the Socialist Workers League of Australia, between December 21, 1972, and June 14, 1973, and was published as a pamphlet by the Socialist Workers Party in 1979. The SWP is now the Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP). This digital version was created by Ozleft. The pamphlet reflected the DSP's attitude towards the ALP at that time, however significant changes were introduced to this viewpoint in the 1980s. This document should be read in conjuction with The ALP and the Fight for Socialism. See also The ALP, the Nuclear Disarmament Party and the 1984 elections.

For a deeper analytical treatment of the social origins of social democracy in general and the ALP in particular, please consult Jonathan Strauss' series of Links articles on the concept of the labour aristocracy.

Socialists in the Australian women's liberation movement

By Margaret Allan

To understand the development of feminism in Australia, it is useful to briefly recap the political situation that gave rise not only to the women's liberation movement, but to the whole range of social movements that sprang up in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

During the Second World War, women were drawn into many non-traditional areas of work, such as making ammunition and ships. These were much higher paid jobs than women were used to, and many women who did not previously work for pay experienced life as working mothers for the first time. There was some public child-care provision, and the ideology that women were incapable of metal work and similar trades conveniently disappeared as everyone was urged to “do their bit for the war effort and the boys at the front”.

When men began returning from the war in large numbers in 1945, women were forced to give up these jobs. It was the start of the “baby boom”: women were encouraged to have babies to repopulate. This was also the start of the economic boom of the 1950s.

Steps toward greater left unity in Australia

By Peter Boyle

In September 2, 2002, the Democratic Socialist Party [DSP] national executive adopted the perspective of making the Socialist Alliance the party its members build by transforming the DSP into an internal tendency within the Socialist Alliance. The sole purpose of the Democratic Socialist tendency (DST), as it was to be called, would be to complete the process of left regroupment while preserving for the Socialist Alliance our main political gains (such as a popular weekly newspaper, our nationwide network of activist centres, and a politically educated cadre). Apart from carrying out this transition, the DST would not seek to be a permanent political tendency.

The national executive decided to conduct a thorough DSP membership discussion on this proposal, leading up to the party's Twentieth Congress (December 28, 2002-January 1, 2003) while arguing the case for this new step in left regroupment in the Socialist Alliance and facilitating a broader discussion in Green Left Weekly.

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