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(en) Book Review, Rebel Worker Vo1.36 No.3 (223) Dec. 2018 - Jan. 2019 Paper of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Network www.rebelworker.org

Date Wed, 2 Jan 2019 08:13:20 +0200


The Far Left in Australia Since 1945 Edited by Jon Piccini, Evan Smith and Matthew Worley, Published by Routledge. ---- The Far Left Caught in the Spider's Web of Corporate Unions/ALP Corruption & Rorts ---- The bankruptcy of the Greens and most Far Left groups from the Trotskyist/Marxist Leninist Lineage in the fight against the Neo-Liberal offensive in Australia was graphically highlighted recently in Sydney with regard to their role in the conspiracy to privatise Region 6 of State Transit. The bogus "Save Our Buses campaign" (a template for another bogus anti-privatisation campaign focusing on hospitals) and associated petition promoted by Unions NSW, with the support of the rest of the union bureaucracy and most Leftist groups. It was engineered to divert community attention and energy away from the type of community protests such as mass pickets and blockades at bus depots which would have some real impact in raising bus workers morale to take direct action on the job to fight privatisation. The petition was completely ineffectual and led nowhere with the Transport Minister walking out of the parliamentary debate. Another key dimension of the manoeuvre was its role in assisting the ALP campaign in the upcoming NSW elections in March 2019.
Important aspects of the conspiracy were top secret weekly meetings between the RTBU NSW hierarchy and NSW Transport Ministers. It's likely months or even years before the privatisation announcement by NSW Transport Minister Constance of Region 6 privatisation, the dirty deal had already been okayed at one of these meetings. There was also a cleverly orchestrated campaign to prevent any organised industrial resistance by workers involving a fake "lightning strike" restricted to the four Region 6 bus depots, with the connivance of the union bosses of the RTBU and TWU, State Transit, the NSW Govt. and various private bus companies.(1) Whilst the Greens and most Leftist groups failed to publicise STOP (Sydney Transport-users Opposing Privatisation) efforts to hold mass community pickets and blockades at all STA bus depots in Sydney.
This cover-up follows a similar pattern in regard to various enterprise agreement sell outs. It entails the critical role of the "corporate media" and leftist activoids in the union officials "smoke and mirrors" performances associated with winning "fake victories" for the workers and so called unions, but achieving real cutbacks to workers' jobs and conditions for the bosses. A recent and most notorious example of this technique was the Hutchison Ports lockout of 2015. Where most of the Trot press covered up the fake picket lines orchestrated by the union bosses with the assistance of gullible leftist activoids and union officials. It provided a tableau for media stunts and photo shots for the union bosses and ALP politicians for the upcoming Federal Elections. Whilst a climate of intimidation involving old style Stalinist thuggery was promoted, which particularly featured the intimidation and thuggish targeting of one Leftist group. (2) A likely explanation of this collaboration of leftist groups with the corrupt union hierarchy and the ALP machine and its allies in their assistance to employers with their attacks on workers jobs and conditions is the subsiding of these leftist group papers and micro bureaucracies. Either directly by the union hierarchy or via such ALP/union hierarchy fronts as "GET UP!" Whilst behind the scenes deals exist between the Greens and the ALP. Highlighted in 2002 when Lee Rhiannon Greens MP refused to raise in the NSW Parliament the issue of the "Transmission of Business" clause in the State Transit/RTBU EBA following being jumped upon by the Carr ALP Govt Transport Minister according to hear say evidence. She had previously made a statement exposing the privatisation ramifications of this clause which was distributed at STA bus depots throughout Sydney. At this time all NSW public sector EBA's had this clause "slipped in". Whilst Greens MP Jamie Parker campaigns against corruption in the NSW Govt. he is strangely reticent in regard to exposing the notoriously corrupt Rightwing ALP aligned union bureaucracy and its suspect relations with the AEC (Australian Electoral Commission) and rorts involving the bosses. As exposed in the Liberals Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, which spotlighted many unions being on the bosses' pay roll via fake training and other funds and in parts of the media.(3)
The book under review examines a period prior and subsequently to the emergence of today's "corporate unionism" associated with the ALP/ACTU(Australian Labor Party/Australian Council of Trade Unions) Wages and Incomes Accord leading to a major rightward shift in the "Far Left". In the Pre-Accord years there will still some grass roots participation in unions via regular mass meetings and not so much ballot rigging. In that era there did exist an alternative media of sorts. In particular such publications as the National Times, Nation Review, and networks of workplace papers associated with the CPA (Communist Party of Australia) and various leftist groups newspapers. Whilst most Trot/Marxist-Leninist groups were not cravenly covering up for the ALP Rightwing aligned corrupt union bosses and featuring in their "smoke and mirrors" performances. One example was the newspaper of the "Communist League." This group had members in the NSW BLF(Builders Labourers Federation) and provided useful in depth work place reportage. This reportage filled in the gap left by the cessation of the "Hoist", the journal of the BLF rank and tile movement which the CPA heavily assisted. (4) Some of the more interesting essays in the volume are discussed below.

In the essay, "Australian Communism in Crisis - 1956" by Phillip Deery, the author examines the ramifications of the 1956 major events such as the Khruschev revelations regarding Stalin at the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party and the subsequent Soviet invasion of Hungary in that year. The author shows these events seriously damaged the legitimacy of Communist Parties internationally particularly in Australia and led to a mass exodus of members. Preceded by hundreds of party members being engaged in heated discussions about Stalinism and the publication of 20th Congress Report on Stalin. The author shows the party became a much less influential force. Whilst after the 1968 Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia the CPA severed ties with the Soviet Union and affirmed principle of "Independence". Events of 1991 destroyed it.

In the essay "The Current of Maoism in the Australian Far Left" by Drew Cottle and Angela Keys, the authors argue that this current was a manifestation of revolutionary romanticism. Australian Maoist groups were ideologically linked to the Cultural Revolution in China and disillusionment of CPA members with the Soviet Union. Disillusioned CPA members played a key role in the formation of the Communist Party(Marxist Leninist) most notably Ted Hill. He was the public face and major theoretician until his death in 1988. Other key figures were Clarrie O'Shea Sec. Tramway Union, Ted Bull Sec. WWF (Waterside Workers Federation) and Norm Gallagher Sec. BLF. Allied with the current was the Worker Student Alliance (WSA). At its peak in the late 1960's, the WSA had 500 members in Melbourne. The first Community Radio Station 3CR in Melbourne (in its early days 3CR did have some focus on grass roots workers struggles but in the late 80's, it dropped an important program in which anarcho-syndicalists participated focusing on interviews with the grass roots at picket lines, due to pressure from the union bosses which controlled the station) and the revival of Folk Music was associated with the Maoist milieu. The authors show that rivalries between the Maoist and Trotskyist Groups led to occasional outbreaks of violence instigated by the Maoists. In regard to an explanation of the decline of Maoism in Australia the authors particularly note the revival of capitalism in China and the redirection of Chinese foreign policy toward integration with international capitalism and imperialism.
An important aspect that the author's don't discuss is the likely role of ASIO in the emergence of the current. Given its high level of infiltration of the CPA, particularly at the highest levels. In the USA latest research based on newly released FBI files shows the key role of the FBI in creating the Maoist current to disrupt and destabilise the USA CP via a COINTELPRO style operation. This "current" later on took on a life on its own and mushroomed into numerous Maoist formations.(5)

In the essay, "How Far Left? Negotiating radicalism in Australian Anti-Nuclear Politics in the 1960's" by Kyle Harvey, the author shows that the Anti-Nuclear movement which emerged in the 1960's was mainly an initiative of middle class activists influenced by the British CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament). The Australian variant formed in March 1962. It was associated with a small nonaligned New Left, which emerged with the 1956 exodus of CPA members over the Soviet invasion of Hungary and the Khrushev revelations. Some key figures were Brian Maltby CND cofounder, Bob Gould Trotskyist and Helen Palmer editor of New Left Outlook magazine sympathetic to Trotskyism. The author goes on to show that following the Menzies Govt. imposing of Conscription in 1964, many activists were drawn away from the CND to the anti-Vietnam War Movement, contributing to a major decline of the movement.

In "1968" in Australia: The student movement and the New Left by Russell Marks, the author sees the radical student movement as representative of a new middle class modernising capitalism. He raises the interesting point that an important part of the movement "Student Action" was an ALP Right faction initiative for electoral purposes. However, the proliferation in Australia of chapters of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) was inspired by the American Network. Chapters formed in Melbourne, Sydney, Hobart and Brisbane. Whilst the Draft Resistance Movement formed. In Jan 1969 SDS joined with other pacifist groups to launch "Don't Register" campaign. The Anti-Vietnam War Moratorium movement continued till 1975. The author shows that the radical student movement developed a "Participatory Democracy" orientation emphasising people having a say in the decisions which affect them. It also played an important role in reviving Marxist analysis and various identity politics movements which blossomed in "the long 60's". The author argues that no Govt. since Whitlam has been able to ignore the demands of these movements

"Halcyon Days? The Amalgamated Metal Workers' Union and the Accord" by Elizabeth Humphrys. This essay is probably the most interesting in the volume. The author sees the AMWU's support for the Accord particularly stemming from the failure of its "hot shop" strategy of 1970's, 1980's associated with wages and conditions won in these shops flowing on throughout the industry and via the industrial relations racket of those days flow-ons into other industries awards. The author sees an important factor in the defeat of this strategy being the recession of 1982-83 and subsequent recessions. Particularly the 1991 recession made further wages growth impossible and the centralising tendency of the Accord had weakened workplace union organisation and caused declining union membership density in workplaces. With the advent of enterprise bargaining under the Keating ALP Govt. conditions won in Enterprise Agreements could not be fed back into awards.
The essay has major deficiencies. It fails to discuss some important hidden agendas and shady aspects of the Accord and the role of the "Corporate" and even fringe leftist media in facilitating the whole rotten scam. Particularly the introduction of compulsory superannuation under the Keating ALP Govt. in 1992 and the extremely likely rigging of union elections by the AEC in regard to important positions to maintain ALP machine and allied groupings control of the unions. (6) Ironically the AEC had been established by the Hawke ALP Govt. in 1984 to supposedly prevent ballot rigging in union and other elections. Compulsory Superannuation and the industry Superannuation funds on which the union officials hold positions, have played an important role in bribing the union bosses via paying fat fees for them attending a few board meetings per year and drawing them into the management of Australian capitalism and its Neo-Liberal agenda. Whilst subsidizing the union apparatus which would otherwise be hard hit by huge job and membership losses and the decline in union dues. Associated with the closing down of innumerable factories and "restructuring" of various industries as part of the Accord to supposedly keep Australian capitalism "internationally competitive". Most significantly being the manufacturing industry which has had tens of thousands of job losses overseen by the AMWU officials.
The author sees the ACTU's ‘Australia Reconstructed' cooked up by Laurie Carmichael head of the AMWU, architect of the Accord and key figure in the CPA as a further example of unions enwrapped in the priorities of the Neo-Liberal state.
In conclusion, the volume does shed significant and some valuable light on aspects of the Far Left in Australia in the post WWII era. However, the contributors discussion of its rightward shift associated with the "Accord" and the impact of agencies of international capitalist "deep state" upon its facets is inadequate.
M.
Notes
1. See, Rebel Worker Vol.35 No.3 (230) Dec.-Jan. 2018 "New Insights on the Bus Privatisation Conspiracy & How to Defeat It" page 6, archive web site www.rebelworker.org
2. See, Rebel worker Vol.34 No.3 (224)Nov.-Dec.2015 "Hutchison Ports Dispute" page 2 archive section www.rebelworker.org
3. "Spotlight on Rorts in the Union Office," in RW Vol.36 No.2(231)Aug. Sept.2018.
4.Discussion with Michael Matteson Anarchist BLF militant of the 1970's and see "Rolling the Right" by Paul True.
5. See, "A Threat of the First Magnitude: FBI Counterintelligence & Infiltration, From the Communist Party to the Revolutionary Union 1962-1974" By Aaron J. Leonard & Conor A. Gallagher Published by Repeater Books
6. See, Article page 4 in this edition of RW about likely rigging of 2018 RTBU Elections and RW Vol.34 No.1(222) Mar.-April 2015 page 3 "NSW Railway News" about hear say evidence of rigging of the RTBU 2014 elections.
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