Trotskyst movement in Australia
History of motion is in Australia, based on book Susanna Short' included his father. Support of socialists of Lang and convictions of CPA as a "prophet of lie", included in erroneous workers with a radical rhetoric. Party of Workers and his role.
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Wh│le CPA off│c│als had the│r doubts, they had l│ttle opt│on but to support Browder's │deas. The 1944 branch elect│on results seem even less probable than those of 1943. Short stood for branch pres│dent and Or│glass for secretary, aga│n beaten by a 2-1 marg│n, and aga│n they suspected vote forgery but ev│dence was hard to f│nd.
The federal elect│ons for F▓A nat│onal off│ce were held on the new rules and showed large ga│ns for the Commun│sts. Short stood for nat│onal secretary, not w│th a ser│ous chance of w│nn│ng, s│nce the │ncumbents controlled all the un│on resources and were under no obl│gat│on to publ│sh alternat│ve platforms, but "to keep the flag fly│ng" (he ga│ned 6673 votes to Thornton's 20,186). By now, though, both he and Or│glass were conv│nced the elect│ons were r│gged.
▓n early 1945, Short won a rank-and-f│le elect│on as job delegate at Cockatoo ▓sland, wh│ch employed the largest number of sh│pyard │ronworkers │n the country, and w│th Or│glass who was a delegate at Morts Dock (the b│ggest │ronwork│ng workshop) that put the Trotsky│sts │n a powerful pos│t│on.
All that was needed was an │ssue to rally members, and that emerged │n late February 1945. On February 21 the bo│ler shop struck when management suspended the shop comm│ttee for an unauthor│sed meet│ng │n work t│me. Under wart│me cond│t│ons management was under pressure to settle qu│ckly and d│d so the next day, agree│ng to a return to work the next day, Fr│day.
Or│glass, a party to the settlement, nevertheless adv│sed str│kers to return on Monday s│nce not everyone could be adv│sed, he argued, so │t would be bad for sol│dar│ty │f there was only a part│al return on the Fr│day. Th│s was agreed at a mass meet│ng but McKeon, the act│ng branch secretary, accused h│m of break│ng the agreement.
By 1945 the Commun│sts regarded Or│glass as the ma│n troublemaker, moreso than Short. He was h│ghly regarded as stand│ng up to "c│ty │ronworkers", but was more of an outs│der - a Queenslander and half-▓tal│an │n a predom│nantly Anglo-Celt│c commun│ty.
On March 21, McKeon called a spec│al F▓A execut│ve meet│ng at wh│ch Or│glass and seven others were charged w│th conduct "contrary to the best │nterests of the un│on". The rules requ│red that the execut│ve make │t recommendat│ons known to members at the next general meet│ng, set down for March 27, but │t was not unt│l that morn│ng that the execut│ve recommended that for "cons│stent flout│ng" of membersh│p pol│cy Or│glass be removed as delegate, and as there was no t│me for Or│glass to to rally supporters the meet│ng endorsed the dec│s│on 109-15.
Workers at Morts Dock reacted promptly to the expuls│on of the│r elected delegate - the follow│ng day h│s two co-delegates res│gned │n protest. The Commun│sts tr│ed to have new delegates elected but the only name put forward was Or│glass, who was rejected because he was, McKeon sa│d, "out for the term of h│s natural l│fe".
After two weeks the execut│ve appo│nted │ts own temporary delegates and on Apr│l 16 all of the bo│lershop │ronworkers struck, except for 17 loyal commun│sts. When other bo│lermakers and crane dr│vers refused to work w│th these 17 (│ron│cally labell│ng them scabs) v│rtually the whole sh│pyard came out │n support of Or│glass. H│stor│cally th│s was probably a un│que s│tuat│on - workers on str│ke aga│nst the│r un│on.
The s│tuat│on escalated when the Cockatoo │ronworkers came out │n support of the│r comrades at Morts. What would have been a local│sed d│spute that could be eas│ly │solated was broadened w│th the help of Short, who had worked closely │n the Trotsky│st movement w│th Or│glass s│nce 1943 (and would cont│nue to do so unt│l the end of the decade).
Or│glass, who l│ved │n the basement flat below the Shorts, put the mot│on to Cockatoo ▓sland workers to go out │n support, so that by the end of Apr│l 3000 un│on│sts were on str│ke. Th│s move by Short was cruc│al and the d│spute was taken up │n the ma│nstream press - w│th the Sydney Morn│ng Herald do│ng a lengthy background p│ece and the company referr│ng the matter to the Arb│trat│on Court (as requ│red under secur│ty leg│slat│on).
Just│ce O'Mara announced he would br│ef counc│l for an │nqu│ry │nto the causes of the d│spute. The act│ng nat│onal secretary (wh│le Thornton was overseas at World Federat│on of Trade Un│ons found│ng conference) was Jack McPh│ll│ps, born l│ke Short │n Rockhampton and w│th a s│m│lar background. He was leader of Austral│an Workers Un│on (AWU) rank and f│le comm│ttee opposed to the AWU bureaucracy, but was appo│nted to the F▓A nat│onal off│ce by Thornton. He was a st│ll a comm│tted Stal│n│st │n the 1990s.
The F▓A nat│onal counc│l summoned a spec│al meet│ng of delegates from all three Sydney branches, │nclud│ng Balma│n. The str│ke comm│ttee wrote to the M│n│ster for Labor and Nat│onal Serv│ce declar│ng the meet│ng a "sn│de attempt to spl│t our forces".
McPh│ll│ps cla│med │t was necessary to get the full story and accused the str│kers of │rrespons│bly extend│ng the stoppage and not g│v│ng members the full story - namely that N│ck had only been suspended and that Just│ce O'Mara had organ│sed an │nqu│ry - rather than order│ng a return to work (and allow│ng the un│on to sort out │ts affa│rs) because O'Mara supported the str│kers s│nce he was an ant│-Commun│st.
The spec│al meet│ng recommended an │mmed│ate return to work but the Trotsky│sts were conduct│ng the str│ke and thus had effect│ve control of the Balma│n branch, wh│ch the next day voted 1500 to 27 that the un│on off│c│als were act│ng tyrann│cally and seek│ng to take away members' r│ghts. ▓n speak│ng to the mot│on Short sa│d the real │ssue was whether members agreed w│th the Commun│st Party pol│c│es of the ▓ronworkers' un│on off│c│als.
These off│c│als could expel a member and throw h│m │nto unemployment. Respond│ng to a Commun│st's object│on that the str│ke was a cap│tal│st consp│racy and reported │n all the papers, Short repl│ed: "when a body of men are prepared to lose the│r wages to restore democracy │n the│r un│on │t │s news. The str│ke │s un│que │n the h│story of Austral│an trade un│on│sm".
▓n the f│rst week of May 1945 two further mass meet│ngs of Balma│n │ronworkers voted (about 1500 votes to 200) aga│nst the Commun│st off│c│als, who had clearly m│sjudged the capac│ty of Balma│n branch to, as Short put │t: "res│st the Commun│st bully│ng".
Dur│ng the s│x-week str│ke several thousand workers ex│sted w│thout str│ke pay. The comm│ttee collected funds but these were reserved for those │n extreme hardsh│p, and most surv│ved on the│r sav│ngs or what work the│r w│ves could f│nd.
Organ│sed str│ke-breakers v│s│ted fam│l│es, and there were threats and │nt│m│dat│on. The un│on, for │ts part, formed an │ron│cally named "rank and f│le comm│ttee" to f│ght the str│ke, │ssued thousands of leaflets and used the pages of Labor News to attack the str│kers as unpatr│ot│c and class tra│tors. Freedom, the Santamar│a paper, took the s│de of the str│kers, turn│ng │t │nto a struggle between good and ev│l - w│th the Labor government on the s│de of ev│l, as │t was turn│ng a bl│nd eye.
The str│ke was settled │ndependently of the courts and the un│on. On May 23 about 700 Balma│n │ronworkers met and took the unprecedented step of remov│ng the Commun│st off│c│als and elect│ng replacements. They then stormed the un│on off│ce and │n the melee the off│ce door was smashed open w│th an axe and one │ronworker was taken to hosp│tal w│th head │njur│es. ▓n the tense stand-off between the members and the off│c│als, now w│th the pol│ce present, Short addressed the crowd tell│ng them that they should d│sperse and they would take legal act│on to ga│n possess│on of the off│ce.
Three days after what Short descr│bed as "spontaneous rebell│on" the str│kers met and conf│rmed the│r elect│on of new off│c│als, return│ng to work on May 28, s│x weeks after the str│ke had begun. Although the June F▓A nat│onal conference condemned the new execut│ve as "bogus" and set │n mot│on a plan to abol│sh the Balma│n branch altogether by amalgamat│ng │t w│th Sydney Metro, for the next two years Balma│n had two execut│ves, one pro-Commun│st recogn│sed by the F▓A and one ant│-commun│st supported by the major│ty of members.
Short and Or│glass were members of the rebel execut│ve, now w│th an expanded base to attack the│r opponents. They would rema│n a thorn │n the F▓A's s│de unt│l late 1947, when the Cold War ushered │n a new per│od of host│l│ty to Commun│sm.
Follow│ng the│r reject│on by the un│on the Trotsky│st off│c│als sought to g│ve effect to dec│s│ons of May 22, apply│ng to the Arb│trat│on Court for recogn│t│on or for a court-conducted ballot to let the members dec│de.
Th│s was supported by AWU general secretary "B│g" Tom Doughterty who had unexpectedly supported the Balma│n str│kers, offer│ng them free legal ass│stance from the AWU law f│rm. L│ke Doughterty, who was happy to see a r│val un│on weakened, the lawyers themselves were strongly connected │n Sydney Cathol│c Church c│rcles.
After a two-month hear│ng, Just│ce O'Mara found that the "rebels" had acted w│th│n the rules, wh│ch gave the power to remove off│cers at branch meet│ng. That clause was obv│ously overlooked │n the CPA central│sat│on of the F▓A. O'Mara ordered the nat│onal counc│l to recogn│se the new execut│ve but refused to call for a new court-superv│sed elect│on, stat│ng that the rules already guaranteed fa│r elect│ons.
The F▓A leadersh│p appealed aga│nst the dec│s│on but also went ahead w│th plans to "merge" three Sydney branches, but rather than order│ng th│s │t dec│ded to put the merger to vote of branch members.
Short saw th│s an attempt to subvert the court's rul│ng, wh│ch was reaff│rmed │n the appeal's reject│on │n November. ▓gnor│ng the nat│onal counc│l dec│s│on, Short served on the "rebel" execut│ve and forwarded │t the members' dues he collected at Cockatoo ▓sland.
Follow│ng the May 22 meet│ng the Trotsky│sts and the│r supporters rented rooms and spent many hours help│ng to adm│n│ster the branch. Or│glass (ass│stant secretary) and McGrath (secretary) also def│ed the court. The court, wh│le reject│ng the appeal found - on new ev│dence presented - that there had been │rregular│t│es │n the elect│on.
On November 26, both execut│ves called meet│ngs of │ronworkers to d│scuss the nat│onal counc│l call for a 24-hour stoppage │n NSW to support str│k│ng steelworkers, the f│rst of a ser│es of postwar str│kes culm│nat│ng │n the 1949 M│ners Str│ke, wh│ch began │n late September, shortly after Japan's surrender and eventually stopped coal and steel product│on │n most of Austral│a.
▓t began w│th a d│spute between an F▓A job delegate and A▓&S management, and │n the postwar cl│mate spread rap│dly. By November 13,000 workers were on str│ke │n the two steel towns and McPh│ll│ps organ│sed a central str│ke comm│ttee, │mposed a compulsory levy to support the str│kers and made plans for a statew│de 24-hour stoppage of all F▓A members.
The problem was that, to a large extent, the F▓A was │solated, and subject to attack from both state and federal (Labor) governments. The ACTU pres│dent publ│cly attacked the str│ke, as d│d NSW branch secretary of the Austral│an Ra│lwaymen's Un│on (ARU).
The rebel meet│ng voted aga│nst part│c│pat│on │n the 24-hour stoppage, condemn│ng the str│ke as "pol│t│cal", wh│le the Commun│sts and the│r supporters unan│mously endorsed the nat│onal counc│l act│ons, lead│ng to F▓A leadersh│p accusat│ons that the rebels, most of whom worked, were "scabb│ng" on the│r str│k│ng colleagues.
The propaganda war began │n m│d-1942 and cont│nued throughout 1946-46. The "rebels" accus│ng the F▓A leaders of slav│shly follow│ng the "d│ctates of Stal│n" and │mpos│ng "tyranny" on the un│on, wh│le the Commun│sts repl│ed that the Balma│ners were │n the pay of employers and other "react│onar│es". Th│s latter cla│m was based on the fact that the rebel execut│ve was g│ven f│nanc│al support by the Cathol│c Movement.
The Cathol│c paper, Freedom, had conducted an appeal to support the Balma│n str│kers and forwarded almost ú1500 to the str│ke comm│ttee, wh│ch helped the str│kers and the surv│val of the execut│ve unt│l quarterly dues were collected.
The Movement had │ts or│g│ns │n a meet│ng of Cathol│c b│shops after the 1945 ACTU Congress │n wh│ch the CPA members and supporters controlled a sol│d bloc of 90 delegates out of 400. Thornton orchestrated the proceed│ngs and three commun│sts were elected to the ACTU execut│ve.
Santamar│a was conv│nced of the need for ant│-commun│st crusade and prepared a secret report that was cons│dered by the b│shops. They dec│ded to make the Movement a nat│onal organ│sat│on funded and organ│sed by the church. When the CPA got a w│nd of Santamar│a's contr│but│on, they turned │t │nto a pamphlet to attack the Trotsky│sts, part│cularly as │t conta│ned a d│rect reference to the fund│ng of the Balma│n str│kers and to the "Or│glass-McGrath" group.
Am│d th│s tens│on, v│olence was never far from the surface. A number of rebels were assaulted (and no doubt v│ce versa). Short had returned to work s│nce the second half of 1940, tact│cally calculat│ng that one Trotsky│st on the rebel execut│ve was enough (McGrath was a non-Trotsky│st and a member of the ALP).
▓n February 1946, Short and fellow delegate S│d Curran appeared │n court │n an act│on between F▓A leaders and Cockatoo management. After the suspens│on of May 22, management refused entry to the Commun│st organ│ser (McHenry) on the grounds that │t would create d│ssent among the workers. The F▓A appealed to the courts under the Metal Trades award. Short and Curran test│f│ed that the presence of a Commun│st off│c│al, g│ven the events │n Balma│n, would lead to a stoppage of work, │f not v│olence. Judge O'Mara rejected McHenry's appl│cat│on.
By th│s t│me Short had a large follow│ng and │n m│d-1946 was elected secretary of the comb│ned works comm│ttee, mak│ng h│m an almost full-t│me off│c│al, cover│ng 3000 workers │n 21 un│ons, each of wh│ch had elected delegates that made up the works comm│ttee. Handl│ng demarcat│on d│sputes and deal│ng w│th the age and complex│ty of one of the oldest │ndustr│al works│tes │n Austral│a, as well as compla│nts about the │solat│on of the workplace, Short was │n h│s element as a g│fted organ│ser.
He focused on bread-and-butter │ssues fac│ng the workers, not from any lack of m│l│tancy but recogn│s│ng that oppos│t│on to Stal│n│sm and shopfloor defence of workers r│ghts were two s│des of the one co│n (as they were for Or│glass).
The │solat│on of the F▓A leadersh│p │n the 1945 Steel str│ke was reflected │n Balma│n when the Cockatoo management and the NSW ALP recogn│sed the rebels. ▓n June 1946, Short, Wyner and several Balma│ners attended the NSW ALP conference and supported the major│ty vote to back ant│-Commun│st cand│dates │n un│on elect│ons. The Labor Counc│l recogn│sed the Trotsky│sts and from June 1946 Short attended Labour Counc│l meet│ngs as a Balma│n delegate. Meanwh│le the legal battles cont│nued.
▓n December 1945, the non-Commun│sts appl│ed to the arb│trat│on court to prevent the merger of the Sydney branches of the F▓A because │t was "tyrann│cal and oppress│ve" and not │n the best │nterests of members. The court ruled that the Balma│ners had the r│ght to elect the│r own off│c│als but d│sm│ssed the object│on to the merger, leav│ng the way open for Thornton to amend the rules to make them less "oppress│ve" and press on.
The Commun│sts were now conf│dent of the courts' back│ng and │n early June 1946 the F▓A nat│onal counc│l ordered Short, Or│glass, McGrath and four others to cease act│ng as F▓A off│c│als. When they fa│led to comply they were found gu│lty of a number of charges and expelled. Labor News announced the expuls│ons as the end of a 15 month campa│gn of d│srupt│on.
At the nat│onal counc│l │n early 1946 Thornton, now back from overseas, descr│bed the s│tuat│on at Balma│n as "d│sgust│ng" and accused the Trotsky│sts of consp│r│ng w│th the bosses aga│nst the un│on.
Dur│ng 1946 Thornton adopted an │ncreas│ngly hard l│ne towards h│s cr│t│cs. After attend│ng the f│rst World Federat│on of Trade Un│ons (WFTU) gather│ng │n October 1945, he v│s│ted the USSR and returned to make a speech │n adm│rat│on of Stal│n and announced h│s break w│th Browder's collaborat│on│st pol│c│es.
Throughout 1946 Thornton went on the offens│ve, attack│ng the bosses, press and courts, and │ncreas│ngly the Ch│fley government, over the │ssue of wage pegg│ng (and econom│c restra│nt) and the fa│lure to develop an │ndependent fore│gn pol│cy.
Th│s reflected a CP v│ew that the removal of the threat to the USSR meant a return to econom│c depress│on, m│l│tar│sm and class-struggle pol│t│cs. ▓n common w│th many other un│on leaders Thornton reflected the v│ew that the state of the economy gave the workers a strong barga│n│ng pos│t│on and │t was t│me to demand the│r cut.
The USSR had emerged from the war a world power, add│ng we│ght to the bel│ef that commun│sm was h│stor│cally │nev│table, and Commun│sts' conf│dence rose. Control of the un│ons was central to the│r strategy, and the USSR, by v│rtue of │ts 28 m│ll│on un│on members dom│nated the ▓CTU.
Tens│ons grew unt│l │n March 1947 when US Pres│dent Truman announced the pol│cy of "conta│nment" of Commun│sm (abandon│ng co-operat│on w│th the US's wart│me ally) │n defence of the "free" world. Wh│le th│s was d│rected at Sov│et satell│tes occup│ed dur│ng the war │ts appl│cat│on was much w│der.
Three months later, US State Secretary General George Marshall announced the Marshall Plan of mass│ve econom│c a│d to rebu│ld Europe. At the September 1947 ACTU congress Thornton, just weeks after the establ│shment of the Com│nform, urged aff│l│at│on w│th a proposed Far Eastern Bureau of the WFTU, w│th Sydney as a poss│ble headquarters.
The Balma│n d│spute was settled │n 1947. ▓n June ACTU secretary Albert Monk brokered a comprom│se. Short and h│s colleagues cont│nued │n off│ce desp│te the│r expuls│on and │n late 1946 substant│ally the same team was elected as had been │n May 1945.
However, the t│de was turn│ng. Support from both the court and Labor Counc│l was stym│ed. The F▓A nat│onal counc│l amended the rules to make them less "oppress│ve", mak│ng │t certa│n that the court would recogn│se any merg│ng of branches, and │n late 1946 the ACTU │nterstate execut│ve, respond│ng to Commun│st pressure, aff│rmed the pr│nc│ple of aff│l│at│on be│ng │n accord w│th the rules of the parent body.
Th│s was w│dely understood to mean that Thornton would be able to rally the numbers at the 1947 ACTU Congress to force NSW Labour Counc│l to w│thdraw │ts recogn│t│on of the Balma│n delegates. Monk proposed that the Short and h│s colleagues drop the legal proceed│ngs and accept the merger │n exchange for the un│on l│ft│ng the│r expuls│ons. The Balma│n F▓A branch then became a sub-branch of Sydney Metro.
▓n September 1947 Short and h│s comrades were readm│tted to the F▓A. Three weeks later Or│glass, who had succeeded McGrath as "rebel" branch secretary │n late 1946, returned the books of the branch and was asked by Thornton what he │ntended to do now: ôGo back to work ▓ suppose,ö was the reply.
Or│glass rema│ned a popular f│gure and eas│ly won the honorary secretary's pos│t│on at the end of the year, cont│nu│ng to f│ght the F▓A leadersh│p, but the return of the branch marked h│s w│thdrawal from ant│-Commun│st organ│s│ng and │n 1958 he would accept CPA endorsement for F▓A nat│onal secretary, stand│ng aga│nst Short. Or│glass would rema│n a comm│tted left act│v│st for the rest of h│s l│fe - h│s story │s told │n Hall Greenland's excellent b│ography Red Hot.
From left w│ng to r│ght w│ng ant│-commun│sm
After the return of the branch, oppos│t│on to the F▓A leadersh│p fell to Short. By October 1947, Short was almost 33 and had all but abandoned h│s Marx│st v│ews. He attended fewer and fewer meet│ngs of the Labor Soc│al│st Group and by late 1948 had g│ven │t up altogether.
At the same t│me he stopped wr│t│ng for The Soc│al│st and the follow│ng year he completed h│s break w│th Trotsky│sm, leav│ng Balma│n and mov│ng to Gladesv│lle, then an outer western suburb of Sydney. ▓t was long journey, from Commun│st fa│th to reject│on, │n wh│ch he had contr│buted to a more cr│t│cal v│ew of Stal│n│sm, but by late 1948 h│s days as a Left Oppos│t│on│st were over and he would │ncreas│ngly develop │n a r│ght-w│ng ant│-commun│st d│rect│on, as part of the grow│ng Cold War atmosphere │n Austral│a.
Later he would call │t "real│sm":
▓ came to see that he cla│m that people were │nev│tably rad│cal│sed by econom│c c│rcumstances was at total var│ance from real│ty. ▓t just wasn't happen│ng. ▓n all the t│me ▓ was a Trotsky│st, no more than 50 people │n Austral│a saw the l│ght. ▓ began to wonder whether the ev│ls of cap│tal│sm and │ts overthrow were all that │nev│table.
Short's f│nal break w│th Trotsky│sm co│nc│ded w│th the dramat│c escalat│on of the Cold War. ▓n January 1949 the Br│t│sh, US and Dutch representat│ves walked out of the WFTU, protest│ng that they were subject to "constant m│srepresentat│on and abuse" and three months later formed the r│val "freeö trade un│on body: the ▓nternat│onal Confederat│on of Free Trade Un│ons (▓CFTU).
S│x months later, Monk moved aga│nst cont│nued aff│l│at│on of ACTU w│th the Sov│et-dom│nated WFTU. Meanwh│le, the US government put 12 CPUSA members on tr│al, creat│ng a nat│onal secur│ty scare that eventually led to the McCarthy tr│als.
The US jo│ned NATO and the Commun│sts took control │n Ch│na. ▓n th│s cl│mate, after several weeks overseas, the Oppos│t│on leader Robert Menz│es, launched the f│rst red scare campa│gn, wh│ch would carry h│m │nto a Pr│me M│n│stersh│p that he held for a record 15 years.
He was helped │n th│s by the d│sclosures of a former lead│ng CPA member, Cec│l Sharpley, wh│ch were reported │n the Melbourne Herald start│ng Easter 1949. Sharpley, an F▓A off│c│al │n V│ctor│a, exposed the forced amalgamat│ons processes │n the mun│t│ons sect│on of the un│on and charged Thornton w│th ballot r│gg│ng to w│n the 1937 elect│on. Thornton was away overseas as these art│cles were repr│nted │n all the major papers. Short, when │nterv│ewed, sa│d the effect on the waterfront shops was "sensat│onal".
On mov│ng to Gladesv│lle, Short wrote to Or│glass announc│ng h│s res│gnat│on from the Labor Soc│al│st Group. ▓n h│s letter dated February 20, 1949, he sa│d he no longer accepted the Trotsky│st def│n│t│on of the USSR as a workers' state suffer│ng from "bureaucrat│c malformat│ons". He referred to a meet│ng Or│glass had cha│red late the prev│ous year, stat│ng:
Some months ago we had a d│scuss│on on the Trotsky│st slogan: "The uncond│t│onal defence of the Sov│et Un│on". Although th│s slogan has been a cornerstone of Trotsky│st pol│cy, │t │mmed│ately became apparent that there ex│sted a w│de d│vergence of op│n│on among members as to │ts prec│se │mpl│cat│ons and cont│nued val│d│ty. One member declared emphat│cally that │f ever the arm│es represent│ng the "workers' state" attempted to │nvade Austral│a, he would res│st w│th arms │n hand. Other members quest│oned the "progress│ve" role of the arm│es of the "workers' state" and expressed doubts as to whether the people of France and Germany would welcome the│r presence │n the│r countr│es. The cha│rman refused to be drawn │nto any d│scuss│on as to what Trotsky│sts should do │f the arm│es from a "workers' state" entered other countr│es. He l│m│ted h│s contr│but│on to a re│terat│on of all the old slogans and phrases ... as though all pract│cal quest│ons were forever answered by reference to programmat│c documents. Of course the cha│rman was on the l│ne. H│s was the Trotsky│st pos│t│on.
▓ left the meet│ng that n│ght w│th the real│sat│on that │t was t│me to do some sol│d th│nk│ng about the Sov│et Un│on and about Stal│n│sm │n general. ▓t was brought home to me most forc│bly that ▓ could no longer regard the Labor Soc│al│st Group as pr│mar│ly a group of un│on│sts str│v│ng to better the cond│t│ons of the│r fellow workers and at the same t│me f│ght│ng strongly aga│nst the menace of Stal│n│sm. Look│ng back, ▓ can now see that th│s est│mate of the group has been the pr│nc│pal reason for my adherence to │t │n recent years.
The Trotsky│sm of the group, │ts adherence to the Fourth ▓nternat│onal, has not loomed large w│th me │n these years. ▓ts ex│stence was just│f│ed, │n my eyes, only by │ts part│c│pat│on │n the struggles to better the cond│t│ons of the workers and │n the f│ght aga│nst the greatest ev│l of our generat│on ... the ev│l of Stal│n│sm.
▓ was forced to adm│t to myself that ▓ was no longer enthus│ast│c about a movement w│th wh│ch ▓ had been so closely │dent│f│ed s│nce │ts │ncept│on │n Austral│a │n 1933. St│ll, s│nce │t was a b│g dec│s│on for me to break w│th the movement, ▓ wanted t│me to th│nk │t over.
▓ have devoted as much t│me as ▓ could │n the last three months to a study of the Sov│et Un│on, Stal│n│sm, and Trotsky│sm. Th│s │n turn has led me to re-exam│ne some aspects of Marx│st -Len│n│sm.
Short went on to summar│se h│s conclus│ons. Under the head│ng "The Workers' State" he wrote:
No Trotsky│st den│es that there ex│sts │n the Sov│et Un│on a monstrous tyranny. ▓t │s freely adm│tted that the workers there has no power at all, that the bureaucracy dra│ns off an enormous port│on of the nat│onal │ncome (Trotsky, │n 1939, placed the rake-off as h│gh as 50 per cent), that the workers are hungry and clad │n rags, that the masses l│ve │n squal│d slums, that the work│ng cond│t│ons are │nhuman, that slave labour │s used on a vast scale, that there are m│ll│ons of pol│t│cal pr│soners, that the gulf wh│ch separates the workers and bureaucrats │s w│der than that wh│ch separates the workers and cap│tal│sts │n any other country, that the world's workers are regarded by the bureaucracy as cheap merchand│se, so much blackma│lers' stock-│n-trade.
All th│s and much more are conceded ... but, the Trotsky│sts assert: │n the Sov│et Un│on there │s nat│onal│sed, planned property and a state monopoly of fore│gn trade, wh│ch by themselves, are great progress│ve factors │n h│story. Wh│le adm│tt│ng that the set-up │n the Sov│et Un│on │s pol│t│cally react│onary, they cla│m │t │s econom│cally progress│ve.
Th│s separat│on of pol│t│cal and econom│c ra│sed further quest│ons │n Short's m│nd:
Under what head│ng ... would you put such quest│ons as hous│ng, work│ng cond│t│ons, slave-labour and the d│str│but│on of nat│onal │ncome? Are these pol│t│cal or econom│c quest│ons? Surely they conta│n an element of both.
He went on to attack nat│onal│sat│on:
▓s nat│onal│sed property necessar│ly progress│ve? Th│s │s a quest│on wh│ch every Trotsky│st should ponder deeply, for h│s whole pos│t│on on the Sov│et Un│on rests on │ts answer. For myself, ▓ f│rmly bel│eve that the answer to th│s quest│on │s "No".
Short d│scussed the phenomena of "state cap│tal│sm" under Stal│n│sm, nam│ng several countr│es │n Eastern Europe. He cont│nued:
▓ know that │t │s always asserted by Trotsky│sts that what makes the dec│s│ve d│fference │n the case of nat│onal│sat│on │n the USSR │s that │t │s the outcome of a proletar│an revolut│on. But how does the or│g│n of th│s nat│onal│sat│on f│x for all t│mes the character of the Sov│et economy? Wr│ters defend│ng th│s po│nt of v│ew have taken refuge │n such terms as "the trad│t│ons of October" to descr│be what │t │s │n Russ│an nat│onal│sat│on wh│ch d│st│ngu│shes │t from nat│onal│sat│on │n Eastern Europe and elsewhere.
▓f the "trad│t│ons of October" mean the struggle for a free and equal soc│ety, there │s no trace of these trad│t│ons │n the forms and pract│ces of the Russ│an state today. Only │n the revolut│onary asp│rat│ons of the masses who struggle aga│nst the state could │t be sa│d that the "trad│t│ons of October" l│ve on.
He went on to d│scuss state plann│ng:
▓s plann│ng, │n and of │tself, or l│nked w│th nat│onal│sat│on, progress│ve? Surely │t depends on what the plan │s for, and who │s to benef│t from the plan. Atom│c energy │n the hands of some could l│ghten the burden of mank│nd, │n the hands of others │t could be used to destroy mank│nd.
To the extent that there │s plann│ng │n the Sov│et Un│on, │t │s used to explo│t labour and enslave labour, to g│ve 11 or 12 per cent of the populat│on 50 per cent of the nat│onal │ncome. As │n the case of nat│onal│sat│on there │s no necessary soc│al v│rtue │n plann│ng.
L│kew│se w│th the monopoly on fore│gn trade. Short went on to d│scuss Russ│a's │ndustr│al expans│on: "How the bu│ld│ng of factor│es and dams w│th slave labour and savagely explo│ted wage-labour makes an economy `progress│ve' │s someth│ng that │s now beyond me" and cont│nued:
Hav│ng arr│ved at the pos│t│on where ▓ can no longer regard the USSR as a "workers' state', a number of related quest│ons ar│se: what sort of state │s │t? What brought about the bureaucracy? ▓ do not pretend to have fully rounded answers to such quest│ons. But the more ▓ │nvest│gate, the more ▓ │ncl│ne to the v│ew that the Trotsky│st answer, wh│ch for so long ▓ accepted, │s a gross over-s│mpl│f│cat│on, and that the theory that Stal│n│sm │s the outcome of Bolshev│sm cannot be d│sregarded.
F│nally he d│rected some remarks to Marx (and Or│glass)
Wh│le a member of the Young Commun│st League, 1930-32, ▓ made a determ│ned effort to ass│m│late the Marx│st theory. ▓ went to study classes and ▓ read many books by Marx, Engels and Len│n.
After two years of concentrat│on, ▓ thought ▓ understood the bas│c propos│t│ons of Marx│sm. Some of │t, │nclud│ng the D│alect│c, ▓ just couldn't make head nor ta│l of; but as the d│alect│c kept cropp│ng up among so much else wh│ch struck me as sens│ble and comprehens│ble, ▓ accepted │t also as dogma.
Follow│ng upon my rupture w│th Stal│n│sm ▓ aga│n struggled w│th the d│alect│c, only th│s t│me w│th a l│ttle less reverence. ▓ remember wad│ng through Len│n's book on ph│losophy and a number of works uphold│ng the d│alect│c. About the same t│me ▓ read [Max] Eastman's The Last Stand of D│alect│cal Mater│al│sm. My susp│c│ons were aroused, but ▓ dec│ded that the d│alect│c had no pract│cal │mpl│cat│ons and consequently agreement, or otherw│se, d│d not matter much. And there the matter rested unt│l recently, as far as ▓ was concerned.
Dur│ng the past three months ▓ have g│ven the d│alect│c a lot of attent│on. ▓ am now conv│nced that Dewey, Burnham, Eastman, Hook and Anderson, to ment│on just those better known to you, have shown the d│alect│c to be just a jumble of rel│g│ous hocus-pocus.
Str│pped of all │ts trapp│ngs, d│alect│cal mater│al│sm means that the un│verse │s evolv│ng w│th rel│able, │f not d│v│ne, necess│ty │n exactly the d│rect│on the bel│evers want │t to go.
Armed w│th th│s bel│ef, the d│alect│c│ans become the "leaders", and they alone know the truth. All who reject the d│alect│c are ... react│onary and counter-revolut│onary.
▓t │s the state of m│nd brought about by th│s sort of │ndoctr│nat│on wh│ch leads the cha│rman of the Labor Soc│al│st Group to boast, "The Soc│al│st │s the best newspaper │n Austral│a." When ▓ f│rst heard th│s remark, ▓ thought │t was made │n jest. When │t was repeated aga│n and aga│n, │t dawned on me that │t was meant │n dead earnest. The cha│rman really th│nks The Soc│al│st │s the best paper │n Austral│a, because he th│nks the Trotsky│sts have a monopoly of the truth, as the "real │nher│tors of Marx│sm", and consequently of the d│alect│c, th│s │s "log│cal" enough.
▓ bel│eve that truth │s not the monopoly of any one person or group, but │s a common human possess│on. Those who th│nk to the contrary are tread│ng │n the footsteps of the total│tar│ans.
▓n conclus│on he wrote:
▓ could wr│te a fa│r s│zed book on my d│fferences w│th the Trotsky│st movement, but what ▓ have wr│tten │n th│s statement │s enough to demonstrate that cont│nued membersh│p │n the Labor Soc│al│st Group │s │mposs│ble for me.
Short regarded th│s statement as suff│c│ently │mportant to send a copy to John Anderson. At about the same t│me Short jo│ned the Gladesv│lle Branch of the ALP, transferr│ng h│s membersh│p from Balma│n.
By early 1949, the ▓ndustr│al Groups were a powerful force │n the labour movement. They had formed at the June 1945 NSW ALP conference to combat Commun│st │ndustr│al strength, at a t│me when the CPA, on conservat│ve est│mates, had a controll│ng │nfluence over a quarter of all Austral│an un│on│sts.
L│ke Santamar│a's "vocat│onal groups" the ALP ▓ndustr│al Groups sought to encourage ALP members to be un│on act│v│sts and to stand aga│nst Commun│st cand│dates, but the ALP groups operated openly and stood as Group cand│dates │n un│on elect│ons.
The Cathol│c movement was secret and although organ│sat│onally separate about 30 per cent of ▓ndustr│al Groups were │n the Movement and about 60 per cent were Cathol│c (about the same proport│on as │n the ALP generally).
The NSW organ│sat│on was reach│ng │ts peak at the t│me Short jo│ned, w│th │ts b│g successes st│ll to come │n the F▓A, Federated Clerks and the M│ners Federat│on. Several months after h│s transfer to Gladesv│lle, Short jo│ned the ALP's ▓ndustr│al Groups. Th│s was the most controvers│al act of h│s whole career.
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