Hope and Betrayal

I appreciate the opportunity to share with my comrades some reflections. I have been inspired by my having finally read our collection of life stories “COMRADES!”. I now understand the reason for the exclamation mark. Ex-Party members stand on the “shoulders of our giants”. What brave, intelligent, energetic, ethically driven and disciplined role models they were and I’ve never regretted joining the CPA in 1965 when I was a member of the “Labour Club” at UNSW. With 80-90 members, including some members of the academic staff we led the campaign opposing the Vietnam War on campus. A miniscule “ALP Club” founded by a “three-piece be-suited” Bob Carr did bugger all but get in our way [too many commos in the Labour Club for Bob’s liking he explained to me outside the Roundhouse]. His only role I remember him having was to act as “gate-keeper” in our accessing ALP speakers via the Right wing NSW ALP leadership at head office.

Federal Leader Arthur Caldwell gave a great repudiation of our involvement in the Vietnam War at an overflow lunchtime meeting at the Roundhouse. As publicity Officer I had plastered the Uni with colourful hand written posters.

Looking back, I wonder I had time to get the B.A. required for the Teachers College Scholarship that earned me a small stipend. But, lucky me, this also gave me an opportunity to discover the NSW Teachers Federation. Full of communist role models running an activist Leninist Trade Union that happened to be affiliated to the NSW Labour Council.

The Federation had a full-time officer, Tim Hornibrook, to recruit and organise Trainee Teachers. Tim was a wonderful role model and we even elected delegates to the monthly Federation Council meetings, rubbing shoulders with delegates from schools all over NSW, from TAFE Colleges and from universities. Communist Federation President Sam Lewis, along with comrades in the membership ranks enjoyed strong loyalty from teacher-members who appreciated the selfless energy of a leadership that focused on delivering on membership-determined policies. Later in the 1990’s when I was a Trainer working in the Trade Union Training Authority [TUTA] I had reason to work with a variety of unions. It struck me that I had been lucky to have had the opportunity to become a member of such a democratic and activist union as the NSW Teachers Federation.

Although CPA members worked well with ALP members in the Federation, the ALP was never the major source of leadership for the Union in my experience from 1965 through to the1990’s. We had our Party. We had our weekly “Tribune” and theoretical Journals such as “Australian Left Review”. We had “Communist Internationalism”. We provided ideas and leadership at Labour Councils and ACTU Congresses. We had a wealth of historical political experience to draw on. Our Party, the CPA was a powerful provider of what I call Leninist Union leadership and collaboration. We avoided narrow sectarianism and always sought to educate and lead by example. We made mistakes but on the whole succeeded in nurturing and carrying the “flame” of social justice for our working class.

Which brings me to my conclusion. Our comrade Tony Webb, touched a nerve in our last Discussion Document, expressing disappointment in the ALP in its role as a representative of working Australians and as a global citizen. Tony spoke for many of us I believe.

Read “Comrades!” and you will soon work out the sort of people we need as exemplars of working class leadership.

I am a member of “Socialist Alliance” and “DIEM25” [Democracy In Europe 2025”]. The latter as an act of solidarity with the political movement championed by political economist Yanis Varoufakis. It links me with the progressive left politics of Europe which I discovered watching “Youtube” which is a useful, eclectic source of ideas.

I have never been a member of the ALP and as a historian I am no fan of it. In 1914 the social democratic parties of Europe betrayed and sacrificed their working classes by voting for war credits for the war of their ruling classes and it has been downhill from there.  

More recently Social Democracy having tethered itself to neo-liberal capitalism both in Australia and world-wide has provided us with another example of betrayal of our people. Given the calibre of the current Federal ALP leadership I would expect its base vote to fall further. Its timidity and irrelevance is excruciating.

 I believe we urgently need a Constitutional Convention to re-write the Australian Constitution and to negotiate a Treaty with Indigenous Australians. We could get started by having a discussion on this in Search.

Also our political left: ALP/Greens/Left need to start discussions on objectives and structures to better represent our citizens. Our political system is a total mess. Currently the ALP is not fit to govern. It is undemocratic, poorly administered and corrupt. We are in deep trouble as a society and need to get back to basics.

Our “COMRADES” showed us how.

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