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Issue #1805      November 29, 2017

Standing together

As reported in the Guardian (November 8) the Communist Party of Australia WA Branch celebrated the Centenary of the Great October Revolution at the Perth Trades Hall replete with the Red Flag flying atop the building.

The proceedings opened with a Welcome to Country, followed by local folk music legend Bernard Carney singing the Beatles song Revolution which was written by John Lennon and Stand Together written by Carney himself for the Third Wave protests in 1997 being the closest this state has come to revolution.

The first speaker was Associate Professor Charlie Fox who spoke about the Australian union movement’s response to the Russian Revolution. Fox said, “In Australia there was a belief that what had happened in Russia would change things everywhere.” However, each country must pave its own way to a socialist future which began here in 1920 with the establishment of the Communist Party of Australia.

Fox noted that Australia in the lead-up to the Russian Revolution was undergoing its own tumultuous times when the Labor Prime Minister Billy Hughes called for not one but two plebiscites on conscription into what was in essence, the British Empire’s war.

Opposition to the war and conscription to fight in it were hotly contested by an emerging working class consciousness and union movement and it was in part a mobilisation of these forces which helped to defeat both plebiscites. At the time the Industrial Workers of the World also attempted to establish themselves in Australia – however the Commonwealth would not have a bar of it and ruthlessly proceeded to crush the organisation and following the war, according to Fox, there was a movement to the right in politics in Australia – following the allied victory.

The capitalist media poured scorn and ridicule on the Russian Revolution as it was unfolding in Russia.

The next speaker was Hazel Buturac, a daughter of WA union activist leader and member of the Communist Party of Australia, Paddy Troy of the Australian Workers Union and the Maritime Services Union. Hazel spoke about what it was like to live in a communist family from the 1930s to the 1970s.

Paddy Troy first came to prominence in 1936, when as a union delegate, safety officer and rigger at the You and Me goldmine east of Geraldton he was appalled by the poor safety practices by the owners of the goldmine.

When there was an accident at the mine which resulted in a number of fatalities, it was Paddy that reported the matter to the Industrial Inspectorate in Perth who promptly came to the mine. The mine owners were furious and sought out who had reported them. Paddy readily admitted to being the worker and union delegate who had done what he saw as his duty.

However, for his honesty and integrity he was promptly dismissed and the family moved to Perth. Hazel Buturac also mentioned that her father was also imprisoned for three months with hard labour over a technical issue relating to the publication of a left-wing newspaper called, The Spark. In 1948, Paddy Troy became secretary of the precursor to the Maritime Services Union. He had also retained his membership of the Communist Party of Australia which he had joined in 1934.

When Hazel began working in a secretarial capacity for a legal firm in Perth she did not let the lessons of her father leave her and when in the early 1970s the board of the legal firm offered her a pay raise of only $2, she tendered her resignation on the spot much to the dismay of her employer.

Another former long-time member, Kevin Watkins read his poem about the Blockade of Stalingrad by the Nazi German army during World War II which lasted for nearly 900 days. It was a true soviet collective spirit and became a turning point in the course of the war for the Russians.

The final speaker was a young student, communist and political and social activist Holly Dawson who spoke about what it means to be a communist today. Holly began by saying that none of her public education taught her about the Russian Revolution and her first reference to the events of that day were when her bosses would call her Bolshie for her interest in fairness and justice for workers and their unions.

When she looked it up she found Bolshie meant “unworkable and combative!” For Holly socialism is not a utopia – it is something which has to be contested and fought for.

What better way to conclude an afternoon of solidarity than with a rousing rendition by all 100 plus people who attended of, The Internationale, led by song master Bernard Carney.

Next article – Requiem for a democracy

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