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municipal council

United States: Minnesota’s communist mayor

By Pamela A. Brunfelt

At a pregnant moment in time, a young Swede-Finn from a small town in the heart of Minnesota’s Cuyuna Iron Range made history. When Karl Emil Nygard was elected mayor of Crosby on December 6, 1932, he became the first Communist mayor in the United States. His triumph was no accident. It was the culmination of years of radical activity on the iron range.

Communists in local councils: The red shire of Kearsley, 1944-47

For more articles on socialists in municipal councils, click HERE. 

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.

(See also "Red councillors during the Cold War: Communists on Sydney City Council, 1953-59".)

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.

Australia: Socialist Alliance celebrates its first electoral victory

October 18, 2009 -- Newly elected local municipal councillor Sam Wainwright summarised what he saw as the significance of his election to the Fremantle Council, in the state of Western Australia (WA): “It’s a victory for all those like me who believe that the council can and should play an active role in involving people in decision making, protecting the environment, campaigning for workers' rights and making a place in the community for people who are too often left out, such as Indigenous Australians and people with disabilities.”

Wainwright is a co-convenor of Socialist Alliance in Western Australia and an activist in the Maritime Union of Australia. He said, “I’m the first socialist elected to public office in WA for a long time, if not ever. Most candidates for council try to appeal to the middle ground and keep their political affiliations quiet. I don’t believe in that approach. I think it’s better to be upfront about your beliefs. Throughout the campaign I emphasised that I was a staunch socialist, unionist and environmentalist.”

He added, “I didn’t expect everyone to sign up to everything I stand for. But I did ask people to believe that I would be a hard working campaigner for their rights. I’m really grateful and humbled that so many people have shown their confidence in me and saw my background as a positive.”

Free pamphlet: Revolutionaries and parliament: The Bolshevik experience

By Maurice Sibelle

One of the greatest obstacles to winning working people to the perspective of a socialist revolution is the widespread and deeply ingrained illusion — inculcated in their minds day-in and day-out by the capitalist rulers — that through the institutions of bourgeois democracy, particularly parliament, working people can defend and advance their interests.

Historical experience has shown that socialists cannot destroy this widely held illusion simply by presenting arguments against it. On the contrary, the working masses can only be convinced that parliament is an instrument of capitalist rule when this argument is backed up by their own experience. That is, the masses of working people will have to go through the practical experience of struggles in which they can test the limits that the parliamentary system places on their activity before they can be convinced of the necessity of overthrowing this system and replacing it with genuinely democratic political institutions — a centralised system of elected committees or councils of working people’s delegates like the Russian soviets of workers’ deputies that emerged in the 1905 revolution and again in 1917.

Between 1912-14, the Russian Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin were able to use the tsarist parliament — the Duma — to help build a revolutionary workers’ movement. This experience provides possibly the richest period for lessons in revolutionary parliamentarism. It was a vital period in the history of the Bolshevik Party. The work done in this period laid the ground work for the rapid changes that occurred in 1917 and the eventual victory of the October Revolution.

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