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Issue #1681      April 22, 2015

ANZAC Day and workers’ rights

Statement from CPA General Secretary Bob Briton

The centenary of the landing of ANZAC forces at Gallipoli is taking place in a troubling social and political context. A hundred years after the calamitous destruction and loss of life during WW1, wars in the interests of big foreign powers and monopoly business interests are still on the federal government’s agenda. The benefits that service men and women believed they went to war to defend or secure, including workers’ rights, are under attack. It goes without saying that class struggle will exist as long as there are exploiting and exploited classes but, in Abbott’s Australia, the war against the interests of workers has been escalated to a critical degree.

It is not the intention of the Communist Party of Australia to appropriate the traditions of ANZAC Day. That has been done shamelessly by the warmongers and big business interests and stands condemned by the public, particularly by war veterans. Something must be said, however, about the gross distortion of the history of the wars in which Australians have fought, including WW1. No doubt many did go off to fight for “king and country” and to defeat the “bosch”. Those illusions evaporated very quickly.

Australian soldiers grew to hold their (usually aristocratic British) commanders in the contempt they deserved. Many were radicalised. Fred Paterson, who later became a Communist member of the Queensland parliament, adopted his socialist views as a result of the horrors he saw during the “Great War”. Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick, who famously saved many lives with his donkey during the Gallipoli campaign, was a socialist and a militant trade unionist.

Australian workers must pay attention that this history and its valuable lessons aren’t lost in a flood of jingoism and militarism. We must struggle to maintain our authentic traditions and our hard-won rights. In practical terms, workers and their trade unions must regroup urgently for a fight back against the Abbott government’s onslaught or face a bleak future without any rights in the workplace. The Communist Party remains committed to this fight.

Next article – NT lock-up laws to be challenged

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