A tireless fighter for peace and socialism
Newspaper editors rarely allow the words “kindness”, “patience” and “socialism” to coexist in one sentence. However, you’ll need to indulge us, as we write to you in remembrance of the life and times of our Comrade, and former Chippendale-Darlington Community for Peace Group member, Peter Symon.
Prior to its hasty formation in the weeks before the disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003, few of the founding members of our peace group had ever heard of – let alone met – Peter. However, his energy quickly inspired the rest of us, young and old, strengthening us with the wealth of his decades of experience in the peace and labour movements. Peter consistently encouraged us to mobilise hundreds of South Sydney locals in the cause of peace, and was central to our hosting several successful local public meetings.
Peter’s contribution was instrumental in ensuring the longevity of our group. Despite the occasional political disagreements, Peter’s loyalty and solidarity assisted greatly in maintaining cohesion between us and epitomised the spirit of collectivism that is evidence of decades of commitment to creating progressive social change. No doubt his endless patience and his inclination to thorough, open-minded intellectual inquiry sustained him at such times.
It is a testament to Peter’s humanity and kind spirit that such a politically-diverse group of comrades as ourselves can proudly thank him -and the political tradition from which he came, the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) – for his countless hours of service to our collective cause. That this contribution was often made in times of poor health, only heightens its significance.
Peter’s death is a blow to the class for which he tirelessly fought – the global working class – and we proudly stand together with the CPA, and his bereaved loved ones, including his widowed wife, Natasha, in deference to the distinguished contribution he made to our common cause – a world without war, hatred and privilege: in other words a world won to socialism, and therefore to the rule of working men and women.
In peace and solidarity
Peter’s Comrades from the Chippendale-Darlington Community For Peace Group
Bramble’s history of unionism
I agree with Sarah Gregson’s review in Solidarity No 12, that Tom Bramble’s book Trade Unionism in Australia at least puts the most important developments and industrial disputes over the last 40 years in the one book.
But as a political history, the book is seriously flawed and inconsistent, as the history of disputes is stripped of historical context.
We are told over and over again that the union officials sell out—but to put explain this as being because they are members of, or sympathetic to the Labor Party, or they are just too timid, is just annoyingly simplistic. We are told that union leaders are not willing to organise strikes, but the history shows they clearly do.
The book documents the mass campaigns of the early 90s, organised by union leaderships in Western and South Australia against state anti-union laws. These examples, Bramble says “demonstrate the willingness of state labor councils to fight attack by conservative governments.” But without explanation Bramble asserts that against the conservative Howard government in 1996, union leaders now constrained “…struggle to those channels that were likely to lead to defeat or a poor compromise at best.”
Yet, the book also records CFMEU leaders mobilising the membership, even breaking the law to join pickets at the docks during the MUA dispute in 1998.
Worse however, the rank and file of the trade union movement is presented as an inert mass, although ready to strike if given a lead by the officials.
Missing is the understanding that political and industrial struggles are interlinked. In the recessions of 1970s and 1980s it was the idea that “one person’s wage rise is another person’s job” that was used to hold back wage militancy—just as it is today.
Enterprise bargaining broke down industry wide agreements and solidarity by introducing the idea that wages should be tied to productivity and the enterprise, rather than the cost of living. Nor does Bramble seem to realise the significance of the legal constraints on the right to strike, impacting on the confidence of the rank and file to take unofficial industrial action.
By the end of the book, the reader is left with no idea how to rebuild the unions and rank and file networks within them by relating to every aspect of the struggles that do occur even under the strictures of WorkChoices or WorkChoices Lite.
But that is exactly what is going to be necessary in the period ahead.
Ian Rintoul, Ipswich