ustrlin Lbor Prty

The Labor Party has lwys bn an enigma for socialists. The Maritime Strike of 1890. The Labor Party takes shape. "White Australia", socialists and the Labor Party. The majority of Labor supporters. Thus the Labor Party is "capitalist workers" party.

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ustrlin Lbor Prty


Workers' Prdis?
The Maritime Strike of 1890
The Labor Party takes shape
White ustrli
Socialists and the Labor Party


The Labor Party has lwys bn an enigma for socialists. On th on hnd it is prty bsd on th trd unions nd obtins its vots prdominntly from workrs. Yt in offic, s th xprinc of th Kting nd Hwk govrnmnts confirms, it is just s committd to mintining th rul of cpitl s th Librls. Nonthlss dspit ll th btryls nd compromiss, dspit th outright ttcks LP govrnmnts hv lunchd on workrs, th mjority of workrs vn ftr thirtn yrs of Hwk nd Kting still, lbit grudgingly, look to Lbor s thir prty.

How r socilists to undrstnd nd orint to this phnomnon of Lborism? Firstly w hv to discrd on of th lingring illusions tht still comforts mny Lbor supportr. It is th myth tht Kting nd Hwk do not rprsnt th tru spirit of Lborism; tht somwhr in th dim mists of tim thr xistd truly rdicl Lbor Prty tht fought to dfnd working clss intrsts.

It is not so. Th prty tht ws stblishd by th NSW Trds nd Lbour Council, TLC, in 1891, hd by th nd of tht dcd com to clrly rsmbl th LP of th 1990s. It hd bcom prty committd to th ntionl intrst rthr thn to rform; prty thoroughly ddictd to th dvlopmnt of ustrlin cpitlism. Lborism hd rpidly triumphd ovr th hops nd spirtions of thos militnt nd oftn socilist-inclind workrs who hd fought to crt th nw prty. By th tim of Fdrtion Lbor's initil rforming progrmm hd bn rplcd by commitmnt to Whit ustrli nd compulsory rbitrtion to curb striks.

The majority of Labor supporters are workers. Howvr s th Russin rvolutionry Lnin put it:

...whthr or not prty is rlly politicl prty of th workrs dos not dpnd solly on mmbrship of workrs, but lso upon th mn [nd womn] tht ld it, nd th contnt of its ctions nd its politicl tctics. Only this lttr dtrmins whthr w rlly hv bfor us politicl prty of th proltrit. Rgrdd from this, th only corrct point of viw, th Lbour Prty is thoroughly bourgois prty, bcus, lthough md up of workrs, it is ld by rctionris, nd th wors kind of rctionris t tht, who ct quit in th spirit of th bourgoisi. It is n orgnistion of th bourgoisi, which xists to systmticlly dup th workrs.Quotd in Tony Cliff nd Donny Gluckstin, Th Lbour Prty - Mrxist History, Bookmrks, London, 1988, pp. 1-2.

Thus the Labor Party is capitalist workers party. It dfnds th intrsts of cpitlism (prticulrly whn in govrnmnt) but rlis for support on th vots of workrs. This support riss from th ntur of working clss consciousnss. Krl Mrx discussd how on th on hnd th prviling ids r th ids of th ruling clss. H lso rgud tht on th othr hnd th prssur of th systm invitbly gnrts struggl nd through this rsistnc to cpitlist ids dvlops. Ovr th pst cntury thr hs lwys bn minority of rctionry workrs who uncriticlly ccpt cpitlist politics. Thr is nothr smll minority of rvolutionry socilists who unquivoclly rjct thm. Th bulk of th working clss howvr is rformist, combining ccptnc of th bsic tnts of th systm with lmnts of protst ginst it. It is this contrdictory consciousnss of both support for nd rsistnc to cpitlism tht provids mss bs for th LP.

Th ky lmnt of ruling clss idology is th id of th ntion uniting ll popl within it. Th ky lmnt in th struggl ginst cpitlism is clss consciousnss. Lbor tris to combin th two by chnnlling working clss spirtions through th institutions of th ntionl stt, such s prlimnt.

Th LP is th politicl xprssion of th trd union burucrcy, iming to influnc prlimnt. Th trd union burucrcy mdits btwn workrs nd mployrs. So dos th LP, but t on rmov from th dirct struggl t th point of production. In ddition LP ldrs r oftn clld upon to run th ship of stt. Lik ny mditing lmnt btwn th clsss, Lbor dpnds in th finl nlysis on th blnc btwn th contnding clsss. ny mningful nlysis of th LP, thrfor, must viw its history s dtrmind bov ll by th chnging blnc of clss forcs. In this pmphlt I look t th origins nd formtiv yrs of this contrdictory phnomnon of Lborism. Th 1880s nd 90s wr trumtic yrs for ustrlin cpitlism nd for th formtion of th ustrlin working clss. Th outcom of th tumultuous bttls of thos yrs ws dcisiv in shping th LP.

Th struggl for socilism cn b fought nd won only by th working clss. This will only hppn if guidd by rvolutionry prty, n ltrntiv to Lbor's rformism. Hopfully n undrstnding of th formtion of th LP cn ply rol in orinting socilists to th pproch ncssry tody for building rvolutionry prty tht will rplc th LP s th dominnt forc in th lbour movmnt. For our tsk is not just to undrstnd Lborism but to swp wy both it nd th systm tht th Ktings nd Hwks hv for so long proppd up.

Workrs' Prdis?

Th stndrd historicl viw of ustrli in th yrs following th gold rushs of th 1850s up until th onst of th svg dprssion of th 1890s, is on of unbridld prosprity - virtul prdis for workrs. It ws viw shrd by mny contmporry obsrvrs. Th gloris of Mrvllous Mlbourn, th Pris of th South, wr widly proclimd. With its wid sttly strts, lgnt mnsions, burgoning trd nd fvrish building industry Mrvllous Mlbourn ws uphld s th pitom of colonil dvncmnt. Hr in th Nw World it smd, nw brd of slf-md mn (sic) ws constructing n glitrin socity fr from th povrty, dspir nd dgrdtion of ristocrtic nd clss-riddn urop.

In this mor thn fvourbl conomic climt it is rgud tht it ws possibl for workrs to tk dvntg of chronic shortg of lbour to chiv privilgd position nd dgr of trd union orgnistion unprllld lswhr in th world. This working clss prosprity ws supposdly rflctd not only in comprtivly high wgs nd short working hours, but in high lvls of hom ownrship nd rltiv s of upwrd socil mobility into middl clss occuptions.

ccording to consrvtiv nd right wing lbour historins this producd modrt, rspctbl lbour movmnt in tun with th dominnt middl clss opinion of th tims - librl ntionlism; working clss immun to rvolutionry socilist ids; lbour movmnt mor concrnd to prsrv its shr of privilg from th supposd thrt of chp sin lbour (thus th ovrwhlming support for Whit ustrli) thn in clss struggl. Clss politics r portryd s bing irrlvnt in this middl clss utopi.Bd Nirn's Civilising Cpitlism. Th Bginnings of th ustrlin Lbor Prty, Mlbourn Univrsity Prss, Mlbourn, 1989 is clssic sttmnt of this viwpoint.

On lding lft wing historin, Humphry McQun, gos so fr s to rgu tht thr ws no gnuin working clss in ustrli in this priod, only ptty bourgoisi of smll producrs nd rtisns. Thus h rgus:

Th Lbor Prtis tht mrgd ftr 1890 wr in vry wy th logicl xtnsion of th ptit-bourgois mntlity nd subordintd orgniztions which prcdd thm. Thr ws no turning point. Thr ws mrly consolidtion; confirmtion of ll tht hd gon bfor.Humphry McQun, Nw Britnni, Pnguin, Mlbourn, 1970, p. 20.

Whil fw historins would go to this ludicrous xtrm, thy r pron to mphsis th mutul intrsts of smll mployrs nd thir workrs. Fctoris nd construction sits wr gnrlly smll nd tchnology ws primitiv. Mngmnt is portryd s informl nd s shring mny of th rdicl dmocrtic trditions of th rtisn workforc, in opposition to th consrvtiv squttocrcy. In Mlbourn, in prticulr, it is rgud smll bosss nd workrs wr llid in support of high triffs (protction) to stimult industril dvlopmnt.

n rlir gnrtion of lft intllctuls influncd by th Communist Prty viwd ths dvlopmnts in much mor fvourbl light thn McQun. For th liks of Brin Fitzptrick, Robin Golln, Russl Wrd nd In Turnr, th lst hlf of th nintnth cntury ws on of unprllld dvnc for lft nd dmocrtic forcs.Brin Fitzptrick, Short History of th ustrlin Lbor Movmnt, McMilln, Mlbourn, 1968; Robin Golln, Rdicl nd Working Clss Politics. Study of strn ustrli, 1850-1910, Mlbourn Univrsity Prss, Mlbourn, 1967; Russl Wrd, Th ustrlin Lgnd, Oxford Univrsity Prss, Mlbourn, 1966; In Turnr, Industril Lbour nd Politics. Th Dynmics of th Lbour Movmnt in strn ustrli 1900-1921, Hl & Irmongr, Sydny, 1979. Thy sw th working clss militncy of th 1880s nd th formtion of th Lbor Prty in th 1890s s continution of th dmocrtic populist movmnts of th prvious dcds. Th struggls ginst th trnsporttion of convicts, th urk Stockd, th fight to unlock th lnd nd th 1890 Mritim Strik r ll subsumd into th glorious trdition of ustrlin rdiclism nd glitrinism.

For th old Stlinist-influncd lft history ws on our sid. ustrlin ntionlism, fr from bing fundmntlly rcist nd pro-imprilist, ws sn s hving progrssiv dynmic, which must b ppropritd by th lft. So for Golln th rdicl ntionlists' concpt of th ntion ws ssntilly clss viw.Golln, p. 114. This intrprttion of ustrlin history dov-tild ntly with th Communist Prty's populr front pproch from th mid-1930s. Th supposd triumphs of populist ntionlism lst cntury providd n ttrctiv rtionl for th subordintion of working clss orgnistions to populist llincs with supposdly progrssiv middl clss forcs in th hr nd now.

Thr is no doubting th rpid growth of ustrlin cpitlism undr th stimulus of xpnding British dmnd for ustrlin rw mtrils, spcilly wool. Btwn 1861 nd 1900 ntionl product grw four-fold.Turnr, p. 2. Th rt of growth ws mong th most rpid in th world. This xpnsion ws lrgly finncd by th inflow of British cpitl for rurl industry nd to finnc mssiv govrnmnt works progrms to provid th infrstructur - rilwys, rods, ports, buildings - ncssry for th continud xpnsion of th xport orintd rurl conomy.

Howvr th lmost xiomtic ssumption tht th working clss bnfitd substntilly from conomic xpnsion is bsd on dubious sttisticl vidnc. Th wg rts compild by th Sttisticl Rgistr rly lrgly on trd union stndrd rts for th job.This sction is bsd on Rymond Mrky, Th Mking of th Lbor Prty in Nw South Wls 1880-1900, NSW Uni Prss, Sydny, 1988, pp. 20-22 who provids dtild critiqu of th sttisticl vidnc in Nol Butlin's influntil publictions, Invstmnt in ustrlin conomic Dvlopmnt 1861-1900, NU Prss, Cnbrr, 1964 nd ustrlin Domstic Product, Cmbridg, 1962. Howvr union mmbrship only rchd 20% of th workforc for brif priod round 1890. Mny unorgnisd workrs r unlikly to hv obtind stndrd rts nd probbly not vn ll union mmbrs. s wll, hourly rts tll you littl bout nnul incoms t tim whn most workrs, vn skilld workrs, wr in csul mploymnt.

Furthrmor, vn ccpting tht wgs nd living stndrds wr somwht highr thn th pplling conditions njoyd by unskilld workrs in Britin, this hrdly mks ustrlin workrs privilgd ristocrcy of lbour. ustrlin lif xpctncy, whil grtr thn in Britin, ws only 47 yrs for mn nd 51 for womn, nd undoubtdly lowr mong th working clss. Hom ownrship ws high by intrntionl stndrds, but nowhr s common mong urbn workrs s is commonly portryd. In 1891 30% of ll Sydny houss nd 41% of Mlbourn's wr ownr occupid nd undoubtdly th rt ws much lowr for workrs.Kn Buckly nd Td Whlwright, No Prdis for Workrs. Cpitlism nd th Common Popl in ustrli 1788-1914, Oxford Univrsity Prss, Mlbourn, 1988, pp. 158-161.

In ny cs during th 1880's wg rts wr coming undr sustind prssur from th bosss. This ws n importnt fctor in th growth nd incrsing militncy of th lbour movmnt. Whil thr my hv bn lbour shortgs in th countrysid, in th citis, spcilly Sydny, tmporry unmploymnt nd undrmploymnt sm to hv bn common. This ws spcilly so in much of th trnsport, building nd mnufcturing industris whr mploymnt ws ssonl. Thr wr high gnrl lvls of unmploymnt in Sydny during th short-livd rcssions of 1878-9 nd 1886-7. Du to th bsnc of socil scurity bnfits (othr thn thos providd by unions) vn short priods of unmploymnt or sicknss could b disstrous.

Working conditions for unskilld workrs wr horrndous. Thy lbourd in smll workshops with dngrous mchinry nd poor vntiltion nd snittion. Conditions in Sydny wr notorious. By 1891 only on clothing fctory hd ctully bn built in Sydny. Th rmindr wr convrtd shds or lofts.Mrky (1988), p. 43. Swtd industris wr widsprd; pic work, sub-contrcting nd outwork wr rif, nd combind with xtrmly long hours. Whil th 8-hour dy ws n importnt trd union rllying cll going bck to th 1850s, outsid Victori it ws only scurd by limitd numbrs of workrs.

Thn thr wr th slums. mjor rport on slum housing in Sydny in 1875-6 indictd tht conditions wr ctully wors thn in London. Workrs livd two or thr to room in th worst rs. Swg ws just thrown into th strts. Unlik London, th Sydny uthoritis hd no powr to clos down buildings for hlth rsons.Shirly Fitzgrld, Rising Dmp. Sydny 1870-90, Oxford Univrsity Prss, Mlbourn, 1987, pp. 62-64. So whil th ovrll colonil dth rt ws low, th dth rt in Sydny ws similr to British citis. For th 1880s infnt mortlity rts wr highr in Sydny thn in London.Fitzgrld, pp. 96-100. Th poor living conditions - th nrrow lns, closd courtyrds, dfctiv dring nd vntiltion - brd diss. Thr wr rgulr pidmics of typhoid, influnz nd vn n outbrk of plgu.

In Sydny csul lbour prdomintd. Much work ws ssonl nd dpndnt on th rurl conomy. vn th fw lrgr fctoris, such s shipbuilding nd rpir, wr subjct to ssonl dmnd nd hd n unstbl workforc. Thr ws considrbl disloction of working clss fmilis s ml workrs wnt to th bush or s for work. bout 30% of womn wr in th workforc but thy wr mployd on vry low wgs. s lt s 1891 hundrd of boys gd 8-14 workd from 5 m to 7 pm in brickyrds ch crrying six or svn tons of cly dy.Fitzgrld, pp. 141, 145-46.

Of cours this ws not th pictur prsntd by rspctbl opinion t th tim. For most bourgois commnttors povrty did not xist in ustrli or t lst ws confind to nwly rrivd migrnts yt to find thir ft. Th Sydny Morning Hrld dclrd t th hight of th 1890 Mritim Strik:

Littl ws it thn supposd possibl tht in th hppy ustrlin colonis our working clsss - th most fortunt, th bst pid, nd th most prosprous body of workrs in th world - would b summond by thir ldrs to tk prt in ruinous wr ginst socity dstitut of ny rtionl purpos.Golln, p. 134.

s th popultion of Sydny trbld to lmost 400,000 btwn 1870 nd 1890, th city physiclly dtriortd s th provision of mnitis did not kp pc. Fr ntrpris rn rmpnt nd thr wr fw rstrictions on unscrupulous dvloprs. Hlth dtriortd.

Whil thr wr som limitd opportunitis for upwrd socil mobility for minority of skilld workrs in NSW in th 1860s nd 1870s, for th mss of th proltrit th prospct of scping from thir clss ws nvr n option. Whil th id of stting up your own smll frm (or to lssr xtnt prospcting for gold) still hld n ttrction, nd ws n importnt idologicl dvic for scuring working clss loylty to th systm, th ctul prospct of workrs doing so ws bcoming incrsingly dim during th 1880s.

Th lck of skilld work bing gnrtd by th Sydny conomy rinforcd this. Th numbr of wg rnrs incrsd rltiv to th numbr of mployrs, rflcting proltrinistion of th workforc. Thr ws littl vidnc of lbour shortgs, with th possibl xcption of th building trds. Sydny vn possssd its own workhous, th Bnvolnt sylum, for th dstitut.

Mlbourn, which grw from 125,000 in 1861 to 473,000 in 1891 (40% of Victori's popultion) ws lrgr, mor prosprous nd mor industril city thn Sydny. Its mor rpidly xpnding conomy did offr grtr opportunitis for socil dvncmnt, spcilly in th turbulnt pionring dys of th rly 1860s. By th 1880s som formr rtisns hd bcom substntil cpitlists. Howvr th incrsing scl nd cpitl intnsiv structur of industry mnt tht th prospcts for such succss bing rptd wr stdily diminishing. s wll, by th rly 1880s swting, spcilly of fml picworkrs, hd bcom mjor politicl issu. Housing ws mor modrn in Mlbourn nd thr wr fwr slums. Howvr s Grm Dvison puts it: by 1880, th innr cor of working-clss suburbs hd bcom rgion synonymous in public stimtion with dirt, diss nd povrty.Grm Dvison, Th Ris nd Fll of Mrvllous Mlbourn, Mlbourn Univrsity Prss, Mlbourn, 1978, p. 150.

Finlly, th stndrd pictur most historins portry of rough nd rdy glitrinism ws fr from bing shrd by ll clsss of ustrlin socity. n dvrtising blurb for nw housing in Sydny's bttr suburbs strkly rvls th ttituds of th rich: Howvr stimbl in thir own sphrs of lif my b th butchr, th bkr nd th cndlstick-mkr, w do not wish, with ll our bostd dmocrcy, to hv thm lbowing our comfortbl cottg or mor ornt vill with thir misrbl shntis. Fitzgrld, p. 42.

Th Workrs ris

Th NSW Lbor Prty ws both th first formd nd th most influntil. By th nd of th 1890s th NSW prty hd st th pttrn which Lbor ws to follow fdrlly nd in ll th othr stts. It ws hr tht Lbor's cor policis - Whit ustrli nd compulsory rbitrtion - wr pionrd nd codifid. Thrfor it is of prim importnc to undrstnd th dvlopmnt of cpitlism nd th clss struggl tht gv ris to nd conditiond th dvlopmnt of Lbor in tht colony.

Th scond hlf of th nintnth cntury sw rpid xpnsion of th working clss nd th grdul contrction of th slf-mployd proportion of th workforc. By 1892 ovr two thirds of th NSW workforc wr wg rnrs. Hnd in hnd with this proltrinistion, cm th mrgnc of nw urbn finncil nd industril cpitlist clss tht chllngd th trditionl prdominnc of th pstorlists. This shift towrds industril cpitlism ws not suddn, but it cclrtd towrds th nd of th cntury. mploymnt in gricultur nd pstorl industris dclind shrply. By 1891 Sydny hd 35% of NSW's popultion nd urbn workrs formd th lrgst componnt of th working clss.Mrky (1988), pp. 28-29. Its unions, prticulrly of skilld workrs, domintd th lbour movmnt.

Howvr mnufcturing industry, which mployd 37,000 workrs, consistd lrgly of lbour intnsiv smll plnts. Ninty pr cnt of fctoris hd lss thn 30 workrs, though thy incrsd in siz in th 1880s. Th mtl industry ws of grtst siz nd cpitl intnsity. Skilld workrs wr concntrtd in th building nd mtl trds. Togthr with th printrs thy wr usully th highst pid. t th othr xtrm, food nd clothing mployd minly smi-skilld or unskilld workrs. Th fml proportion of th workforc grw from 15.7% to 19% btwn 1881 nd 1891.Mrky (1988), pp. 29-33. Mny of th nw jobs for womn wr in mnufcturing, though thr wr still lrg numbrs of young, usully Irish or Irish-ustrlin womn, mployd s domstic srvnts (40-50% of ll womn in pid mploymnt).Buckly nd Whlwright, p. 144. Chp fml nd juvnil lbour wr importnt for rly cpitl ccumultion. Outwork nd sub-contrcting wr widsprd nd profits xtrordinrily high.

Tn or twlv hour working dys wr common. Th 8-hour dy ws minly limitd to th building nd mtl trds nd not ncssrily uniform vn thr. Thr wr lrg numbr of struggls ovr th issu. Th Bkrs wr unsuccssful in 1884, but finlly imposd it in som shops ftr long strik in 1890. In 1886 th Brickmkrs won it ftr nothr long strik. Succss, howvr, ws oftn only tmporry. Th mill ownrs, for xmpl, rpuditd n 8-hour grmnt in 1890. Th chivmnt of ight hours ws oftn t th xpns of rducd wgs, loss of ml brks, or n intnsifiction of work.

Crft unions ttmptd to mintin control ovr th lbour supply vi th pprnticship systm. Howvr colonil pprnticships wr oftn shortr thn in Britin nd nvr s rigidly nforcd. Th wg diffrntil btwn skilld nd unskilld ws lso lss thn in Britin. Furthrmor, th position of som trds ws bing undrmind by d-skilling. Bootmking ws brokn down into sris of spcilisd jobs. Socil mobility ws most mrkd mong nginrs nd printrs but smll businsss wr inscur nd during rcssions thir ownrs wr oftn forcd bck into th pid workforc.

Prior to th 1880s th wool industry ws xtrmly profitbl du to high world mrkt prics. In NSW shp numbrs incrsd from 6 million in 1862 to pproximtly 60 million in 1892.John Mrritt, Th Mking of th WU, Oxford Univrsity Prss, Mlbourn, 1985, p. 5. During th 1880s howvr th industry ws hit by crisis. Flling wool prics wr n importnt fctor; but lso pstorl xpnsion in th 1880s ws into drir lnd in th wst, which ncssittd highr cpitl costs. Th crisis cm to hd in 1891-2 s wool prics slumpd drsticlly.Mrky (1988), pp. 58-59.

Thr wr t lst 25,000 shrrs in th 1880s, s wll s lrg numbrs of unskilld shd hnds. Mor consrvtiv smll lndholdrs rning xtr csh to kp thir slctions going possibly comprisd 35% of th workforc. In th st whr thy wr concntrtd most brnchs of th Shrrs Union, th SU, hd smll fluctuting mmbrships. Howvr, in th wst, whr opportunitis for smll holdings wr limitd, th mor militnt, itinrnt, lndlss bush workrs prdomintd, s thy did in Qunslnd.Mrky (1988), pp. 61-62.

Thr ws mor of lbour shortg in th wst, nd grzirs could fford fwr dlys bcus of indbtdnss nd th dngr of grss sds imprgnting th flc. So hr, whr union mmbrship ws highst, th SU formd in 1886-7 could oftn gin its dmnds quickly with th thrt of strik ction. Th militnt mood ws fulld by svr fins imposd for improprly shorn shp, hrsh disciplin nd th xtrmly rduous work. ftr n unsuccssful ttmpt by pstorlists to rduc wg rts in 1885-86, th nw union mngd to forc up stndrd rts by ovr 14%. Wgs bcm significnt fctor in rising costs just whn wool prics wr flling. This lrgly xplins th growing rsistnc to th union.

Col mining ld to th first lrg concntrtions of workrs in NSW. Th Nwcstl colfilds wr th lrgst, supplying British shipping nd th locl mrkt. s col ws ssntil for mny industris, th conomy ws snsitiv to strik ction in th mins. Col minrs thus hld strtgic brgining position nd wr oftn sought s llis by othr unions. Th industry ws highly suscptibl to conomic downturns nd wg rts vrid normously bcus of fluctutions in th pic rt. Whil th 1870s wr priod of rsonbl prosprity, chronic unmploymnt subsquntly chrctrisd th industry.

Th work ws notorious for its dngr nd shr drudgry. Fibrosis nd silicosis wr common occuptionl disss. During th 1880s th nnul dth rt of 3.4 pr thousnd xcdd th notorious British mins. Th vr prsnt dngr ws ky fctor wlding strong sns of colfilds community. Locl communitis wr dpndnt on th minrs nd gv thm widsprd support during striks. strong clss idntity prvdd th community nd ws rinforcd by th fct tht most min ownrs wr outsidrs, living in Sydny or London. Th minrs' union ws th rlist mss union of th unskilld. mployrs lso orgnisd rly in opposition to th union.

Mtl mining mployd lrg migrtory workforc tht fluctutd btwn 11,000 nd 18,500 in th 1880s. Mining ws on th lrgst scl t Brokn Hill tht commncd in 1885 with mssiv invstmnt of British cpitl. Its popultion grw from 6,000 in 1887 to 26,700 in 1899. Its workforc ws th third lrgst in NSW ftr th rilwys nd th col mins. In 1889-90 th minrs' union, th M, won importnt concssions including closd shop, 46 hour wk nd n nd to pic work. ftr 1889 profits bgn to dclin s silvr prics fll 15% btwn 1889 nd 1892.

By th lt 1880s or rly 1890s th col mins, th mtl mins nd th pstorl industry fcd crisis of dclining profitbility, xcss cpcity nd dclining rturns. Th bosss rspondd by stiffning thir rsistnc to th unions. t th sm tim workrs in ll thr industris xprincd dclin from pst opportunitis. On th colfilds this provokd bittr 13 wk strik of ll Nwcstl district minrs in 1888. Dspit lck of funds nd indqut support from th NSW TLC, only nrrow mjority of 200 out of 3,500 votd to ccpt th bosss' nw grmnt.

Th trnsport industry hd som of th lrgst concntrtions of cpitl nd lbour, out of which mrgd ky unions. In Sydny, th mritim unions wr th lrgst of ll. Dspit rduction in th siz of crws in th lt 1880s, du to nw tchnology nd th shipownrs driv to lowr costs, th industry rmind highly lbour intnsiv. In 1891 thr wr 3,000 smn in NSW, 600 stwrds nd cooks nd ovr 3,000 whrfis. From th mid-80s th mritim unions won improvd wgs nd conditions. In Jun 1890 th Sydny whrf lbourrs won closd shop, n 8-hour dy nd py incrss. Undr ths prssurs th shipownrs bcm incrsingly frustrtd nd spt of nw dmnds from workrs providd th finl imptus for unitd bosss' opposition to th unions.Mrky (1988), pp. 90-94 nd G.R.Hnning, Stmships nd th 1890 Mritim Strik, Historicl Studis, Vol. 15, No. 60, pril 1973, p. 587.

s workrs mobilisd nd mployrs prcivd thrt to thir uthority in th workplc, nd in som css vn to th institution of privt proprty itslf, th stt's rprssiv ntur rvld itslf in n opn nd sustind fshion. Th Mstrs nd Srvnts ct ws usd ginst unions by intrprting striks s brch of contrct. In 1884 striking bkrs' ldrs wr jild. Striking shrrs lso fll foul of th ct. Smn wr subjct to spcil disciplinry provisions undr th Mrchnt Shipping ct tht md striking t s tntmount to mutiny. ftr n 1885 strik thr smn wr jild for two wks for disordrly conduct nd qustioning th cptin's ordrs.

British common lw chrgs of conspircy nd intimidtion wr lso usd ginst workrs. In th 1870's minrs wr chrgd with conspircy nd during n 1886 strik svn minrs wr jild for intimidtion of scbs. s violnt striks bcm much mor common in th lt 1880s nd 1890s th stt furthr mobilisd. Th prcdnt of govrnmnt intrvntion in striks ws wll stblishd prior to th mjor bttls of th 1890s, prticulrly on th colfilds, whr troops nd cnnon wr snt during striks in 1880, 1885 nd 1888.

During th 1870s trd unionism ws concntrtd in thr rs: th urbn crfts, som of which hd bn orgnisd sinc th 1840s nd which fostrd smll numbr of smi-skilld unions, such s th buildrs' lbourrs; th northrn col minrs; nd mritim unions of whrfis nd smn. Howvr from bout th mid-80s union orgnistion sprd rpidly. Thrts to stblishd wgs nd conditions combind with th grtr concntrtion of lbour spurrd th formtion of unions of smi-skilld nd unskilld workrs such s col lumprs, rilworkrs, mtl minrs, shrrs nd clothing workrs. Th mmbrship of oldr skilld unions lso xpndd, th nginrs' union, th S, grw from ntionl mmbrship of 800 in 1881 to 2,500 in 1891.Buckly nd Whlwright, p. 174.

Th rpid, xcitd, if somwht unstbl, dvlopmnt of unskilld urbn unions ws lrgly rsult of xmpl lswhr. xisting unions oftn dirctly influncd th formtion of nw ons. Th Smn's Union inspird th Cooks, whil th ldrs of th Mtl Minrs, Spnc nd Tmpl, built th Shrrs' Union. Th Shrrs in turn ncourgd th orgnistion of drivrs. Th fifty or so unions with 30,000 mmbrs in 1885 grw by 1891 to ovr on hundrd with bout 60,000. This rprsntd bout 21.5% of th totl workforc, probbly th highst lvl of unionistion in th world.Mrky (1988), pp. 139-140.

Nvrthlss, union covrg vrid widly. Womn workrs wr vry poorly orgnisd. Th first srious ttmpt to orgnis womn in Sydny occurrd btwn 1889 nd 1893. On th inititiv of th TLC thr womn's unions, th Tilorsss, th Lundrsss nd th Fml mploys Union with combind mmbrship of thr or four hundrd wr stblishd.W. Nicol, Womn nd th trd union movmnt in Nw South Wls: 1890-1900, Lbour History 36, My 1979, pp. 21-28. Mny mnufcturing unions wr wk. For xmpl in 1891 th Stormn's Union hd only 200 mmbrs out of potntil 2,000. Mmbrship of skilld unions howvr ws high nd consolidtd mrkdly during 1889-91. Th nginrs nd Ironmouldrs nd som building unions, such s th Stonmsons, hd lmost totl covrg. Othr crft unions such s th Bkrs hd lss stbl mmbrships, whil crft unions in th clothing trds wr in srious dclin s th introduction of mchinry rplcd skilld workrs with smi-skilld.Mrky (1988), pp. 139-140.

In Mlbourn similr pttrn of clss mobilistion occurrd if t slowr pc, du to mor prosprous conditions. By th mid-80s th old protctionist llinc btwn smll mnufcturrs nd thir rtisns nd lbourrs ws bginning to brk down s industry bcm mor cpitl intnsiv. Th rgus nwsppr obsrvd in 1885:

In ll trds it would ppr s if w wr drifting to th union s th dominnt powr on th on hnd, nd th lrg millownr with mchinry, cpitl nd crdit bhind him s th othr, th working mn bcom cst nd th mployrs spcilizd clss, whil individulity is crushd out in th conflict.Dvison, p. 43.

Similrly W Murphy, th Mlbourn Trds Hll scrtry, xplind th slow dvlopmnt of unionism in th 1860s comprd to th 80s:

Workshops nd fctoris on smll scl wr to b obsrvd springing up in ll dirctions in which mployr nd workmn wr ctutd by sntimnts which bgot of th grtst cordility...Thos mployrs, for th most prt, hd sprung from th working clss thmslvs, nd th utmost fmilirity prvild btwn thm nd thir mploys, whil th lbour mrkt could not supply in xcss of th dmnd. Whil this stt of ffirs lstd, notwithstnding svrl ttmpts of vrious brnchs of lbour to ssocit, vry littl progrss ws md. It ws not until mployrs bcm cpitlists, nd th smll tnmnt usd s workshop ws rplcd by mssiv brick or ston mnufctory...mchinry, nd numbr of inspctors, formn nd pprntics, tht th...hithrto contntd workmn could b t ll imprssd with th disprity which thy hlpd to crt btwn thir mployrs nd thmslvs.Dvison, p. 43.

Whil Murphy no doubt ovrstts how contntd workrs wr in th 1860s, th myth of dying g of lost opportunity ws n importnt fctor fostring th dvlopmnt of clss consciousnss in th 80s. Rsntmnt bout dclining opportunitis ws probbly grtst mong migrnt workrs ttrctd to ustrli by storis of limitlss possibilitis. Migrnts wr to ply vry prominnt rol in th lbour movmnt.

s in Sydny, Mlbourn sw n incrs in th numbr of fml outworkrs nd in 1885 thr ws mjor cmpign ginst swting. Throughout th 1880's rnts in th innr city ros whil wgs stgntd. Collingwood nd Fitzroy wr notorious for povrty nd lrrikinism, product of th conomic turmoil of thir dominnt industris, th clothing nd boot trd. It ws in ths swtd trds of th innr city whr clss consciousnss slowly mturd.

In 1880 thr wr only two unions mong Mlbourn fctory mploys. By th nd of th dcd thr wr 48, including tilorsss, cochbuildrs, furnitur mkrs, mtl mouldrs nd nginrs. Th Oprtiv Bootmkrs Socity foundd in 1879, xmplifid nw, ggrssiv styl of unionism. Whil its forml ims, such s th prsrvtion of th pprnticship systm, wr s consrvtiv s mny of th old crft socitis, undr th ldrship of Willim Trnwith, it bcm pc sttr in industril orgnistion.

Th rcssion of th lt 1870s nd th continud stgntion of th oldr industris ld th bosss to brk wg grmnts nd xploit to th full th opnings for swting ndmic in th picwork systm. This ld unions to mobilis. In 1882 th tilorsss struck ginst thir Flindrs Ln mployrs scuring much improvd wgs nd conditions. Struggl sprd from this most xploitd sction by dgrs to th bttr pid. In lt 1884 th bootmkrs wr lockd out for thr wks in bittr bttl. Whil th struggl ndd in compromis tht includd th limiting of outwork, it provd to b n importnt turning point.

Militnt orgnistion nxt sprd to furnitur workrs nd vntully to mtlworkrs. s th bosss wr crying out for lbour t th hight of th boom, substntil wg gins wr md nd closd shop lmost chivd. Th building boom of th lt 80s nbld numbr of wll orgnisd or fvourbly situtd construction trds, lik th bricklyrs nd plstrrs, to mk significnt gins.

Lbour historins tnd to drw shrp contrst btwn trditionl crft unions nd nwr unions of th unskilld nd smi-skilld tht mrgd in th 80s. Thy usully drw clos prlll to Britin, whr th lbour upsurg t th nd of th cntury sw th dvlopmnt of militnt mss orgnistions, th nw unionism, in shrp contrst to th nrrow trditionl crft unions.

Howvr ths prllls with Britin cn b ovrplyd. For strt, in ustrli mss orgnistions of wtrfront workrs prdtd th 80s, nor wr numbr of th mss unions, lik th Shrrs, industril unions tht orgnisd ll workrs in n industry. Th Shrrs ws n occuptionl union of th most skilld sction, bhving in mny rspcts lik crft union by ttmpting to rstrict ntry to shring.

Mss unions such s th Whrf Lbourrs, Mtl Minrs, Rilworkrs nd Shrrs copid th crft unions by mintining high bnfit pymnts for ccidnts, funrls nd so on. Th Whrf Lbourrs' vry high ntrnc f to sustin funrl bnfits provd disstrous during th 1890 Mritim Strik, by mking it difficult to nrol lrg numbrs of nw mmbrs. Nor wr th nw unions ncssrily mor militnt thn th crft unions. Th M, th mtl minrs' union, ws numriclly domintd by its consrvtiv Victorin mmbrs, who wr oftn shrholdrs in smll gold mining compnis. Th WU bcm notorious for its modrtion nd rspctbility nd its strong dvoccy of compulsory rbitrtion. On th NSW rilwys th mss union, th mlgmtd Rilwy nd Trmwy Srvic ssocition, doptd quit dfrntil ttitud. Rl union strngth ly with th lit Locomotiv ngin Drivrs nd in th workshops mong th S nd othr crft unions.

It ws mong th nw mss unions tht cntrlisd union burucrcy first bgn to mrg. Bcus of thir smll mmbrship nd oftn loclisd r of oprtion vry fw of th crft unions hd full tim officils. vn th NSW TLC did not mploy full-tim scrtry until th lt 1890s. Whil som of th mss unions copid th opn dmocrtic structurs of th crft unions, th M nd th SU/WU strtd with full tim profssionl ldrship. Th WU ws tightly controlld from th cntr nd spnt high proportion of its incom on slris, offic rnt nd quipmnt. In th cours of th 1890s th WU bcm vr mor cntrlisd with dirct lction of officils bing rplcd by thir ppointmnt by tiny, full-timr domintd confrncs.Ry Mrky, Trd Union Dmocrcy nd th Lbor Prty in Nw South Wls, 1880-1914, Historicl Studis, Vol. 22, No. 86, pril 1986.

Nor wr crft unions s rluctnt to rsort to industril ction s is oftn supposd. Whil thy prfrrd to rly on ngotitions nd sw strik ction s lst rsort, by th lt 80s thy wr incrsingly involvd in industril conflict. Thy tndd to pick off firms on by on with slctiv striks or scondry boycotts ginst th supply of goods to rclcitrnt mployr. Th ustrlin crft unions wr much mor dmocrtic nd dptbl thn thir highly burucrtisd British quivlnts. In th bsnc of lyr of full-tim officils thy wr dpndnt on high lvl of rnk nd fil prticiption to mintin th union. s wll numbr of crft unions idd th dvlopmnt of smi-skilld unions in thir industry or vn opnd mmbrship to thm.

Most industril disputs in NSW in th 80s wr rltd to union ttmpts to control lbour supply. Thy concrnd union rcognition, th closd shop, pprnticships, nd th us of lss skilld lbour. Th unions tht chivd significnt wg gins wr fw, nd limitd to thos in rs of lbour shortg. In th lt 80s living stndrds wr flling s th bosss wnt on th offnsiv. Nvrthlss th unions mintind high dgr of confidnc nd ssrtivnss, fulld by th rlir high xpcttions of th boom, th rr, but spctculr succsss of groups lik th Brokn Hill minrs nd mritim workrs, nd th lrgly dfnsiv chivmnts of th urbn crfts nd col minrs. Clss conflict nd consciousnss hightnd s th gp btwn ths xpcttions nd chngd circumstncs widnd.

Ths chngs wr clrst mong urbn skilld unions, prhps bcus thy hd th highst xpcttions nd lowr lvl of clss consciousnss prior to th 80s. Som, such s th Printrs, rspondd to industril chng by rtrting furthr into crft consrvtism. (Though Qunslnd printrs wr militnt nd bckd th ustrlin Lbour Fdrtion's socilist progrmm nd in 1891 objctd to th Lbor plnk clling for whit univrsl ml suffrg. In 1888 thy fought thr months strik for closd shop nd th following yr librlisd thir mmbrship policy nd grw rpidly). But othrs, such s th Stonmsons, dvlopd n xtrm clss bittrnss prcisly bcus thir position ws so svrly undrmind. Th orgnisd lbour movmnt bgn to rprsnt clss rthr thn crft lit. vn th cutious SU ldrship ws prssurd by th militncy of its wstrn mmbrship.

This procss ws rflctd in th dvlopmnt of th lngug of clss. Rfrncs to th working clss rplcd trdsmn nd lbourrs. Thr ws much tlk of bttls of Cpitl vrsus Lbour. nothr sign of th rising mood of clss consciousnss ws th normous finncil support (31,000 pounds) risd in solidrity with th 1889 London dock strikrs. Thr ws incrsing co-oprtion btwn unions nd th Trds nd Lbour Council mrgd s th rcognisd working clss ldrship in NSW.

Th Sydny TLC ws formd in 1871, but not until 1883 did it bgin to grdully build its influnc. Its strongst support cm from th mtl trds, Stonmsons, Bkrs, Printrs nd Shipwrights. t th bginning of 1890 th TLC hd 30 ffilits with 20,000 mmbrs. In Jun 1891 it rprsntd ovr 40,000 workrs nd incrsingly xtndd its uthority ovr th lrgst nd most rpid xpnsion of unionism vr xprincd.Mrky (1988), p153-157.

sris of Intrcolonil Trds Union Congrsss wr hld in n ttmpt to dvlop ustrli-wid union orgnistion. This culmintd in somwht grndios proposl to form cntrlisd ustrlsin Lbour Fdrtion, LF, to unify th working clss t both industril nd politicl lvls. Qunslnd doptd n LF structur in 1889. Whil th LF id ws symbol of hightnd working clss consciousnss, Shrrs' ldr, W G Spnc, nvisgd it s highly cntrlisd body with strict disciplin ovr sctionl militncy.

Th dvlopmnt of cntrlisd union ldrship ws contrdictory blssing. On th on hnd it ws mnifsttion of working clss mobilistion. Howvr on th othr hnd it contind th sds of consrvtiv burucrtic brgining systm tht would rstrin this clss mobilistion, through ttmpts to disciplin its mor unruly constitunts. Union officils form lyr distinct from thir mmbrs. Thy r not subjct to th immdit prssurs of cpitlist xploittion in th workplc. Thy xist s brgining gnts ttmpting to obtin th bst dl thy cn within th frmwork of th xisting systm. Invitbly thy r involvd in mking ll sorts of compromiss with th bosss. Thy prfr ngotition to struggl. Thy s strong union orgnistion s mns to strngthn thm in ngotitions, not s mns to chllng th vry xistnc of cpitlism. Whn thy turn to politicl ction it is s bck up or substitut for wknd brgining position.

From th mid-80s union officils bgn to xprss concrn bout th rising militncy of th rnk nd fil. Mlbourn Trds Hll ldr Trnwith complind tht it ws vry difficult indd in som trds to tk ny ction tht in th slightst dgr smd to fvour th mployr...without bing suspctd of slling thos with whom you r connctd. Th prvious yr th Mlbourn THC Scrtry, W Murphy, hd grt difficulty kping th lid on wtrfront strik. Whil t th 1889 Intrcolonil Trd Union Congrss on dlgt complind of disprging criticism of union ldrs by th rnk nd fil.Jn O'Connor, 1890 - Turning Point in Lbour History. rply to Mrs Philipp, Historicl Studis, Vol. 4, No. 16, My 1951, pp. 360-361.

To summris: from th mid-80s mny workrs in NSW xprincd dclin in working nd living conditions. Th crisis in th pstorl industry ld to prssur on shrrs' wgs, though th formtion of th SU tmporrily rvrsd this prssur. In col mining irrgulrity of mploymnt nd fluctutions in wg rts wr much mor common thn in th 1870s. Th nw mtl mins t Brokn Hill wr prticulrly hzrdous nd mngmnt tough nd ggrssiv.

In Sydny th r-orgnistion of industry with th growth of mnufcturing involvd n xpnsion of th low wg, unskilld workforc. Th rltivly prosprous position of mny skilld workrs ws rodd. Th position of smi-skilld nd unskilld workrs lso dtriortd bcus of th dclin in unskilld mploymnt in construction work nd rurl industry. Th r-orgnistion of production nd tchnologicl chng lso undrmind conditions in rs such s th wtrfront. Thr ws rpid growth of vry low pid fml workrs.

From th mid-80s th working clss mobilisd in rspons to ths dvlopmnts. Union orgnistion xpndd drmticlly ccompnid by incrsd militncy nd clss consciousnss. Whil th nw unions of th smi-skilld nd unskilld wr importnt, urbn skilld unions plyd ky lding rol. Th rosion of thir mmbrs' lit position oftn mnt tht thy flt th grtst impct of socil nd conomic chng. Clss conflict shrply intnsifid undr ths circumstncs, prticulrly sinc ky mployrs such s th pstorlists, col ownrs nd Brokn Hill mins wr suffring conomic dclin. It ws ths bosss who wr to ld mjor countr-ttck on th unions in th 1890s. mjor tst of strngth ws invitbl.

Th Mritim Strik of 1890

ll th clss tnsions cm to hd in th grt Mritim Strik of 1890 nd in th subsqunt Qunslnd shrrs' strik of 1891. Th immdit issu tht provokd th Mritim Strik ws th right of mrin officrs to ffilit to th Mlbourn THC. Howvr it ws rpidly gnrlisd into monumntl bttl btwn cpitl nd lbour, into opn clss wr. Th outcom of th strik ws dcisiv, both for th immdit dvlopmnt of th clss struggl nd for th formtion of th Lbor Prty.

Th strik ws phnomnlly lrg by nintnth cntury stndrds, involving th lrgst nd most powrful unions: th minrs, th mritim unions nd th shrrs, in ll 50,000 ustrlin workrs nd prhps 10,000 Nw Zlndrs struck. Th closing of workrs' rnks xtndd wll byond thos workrs dirctly on strik. similr unprcdntd closing of rnks occurrd on th bosss' sid.

Th strik provokd n normous nd spontnous nthusism mong Sydny's workrs. On 6 Sptmbr 1890 thr ws hug procssion of strikrs. Th mritim unions wr joind by long list of workrs - tilors, pintrs, butchrs, bootmkrs - th list wnt on nd on, forming solid body on nd hlf mils long. Th rout from Circulr Quy ws tightly pckd with strik supportrs. vn th Sydny Morning Hrld ws forcd to dmit: it smd s though ll Sydny wr out to prticipt in or gz upon th spctcl of lbour dfying cpitl.Fitzgrld, p. 10.

Most urbn unions rmind t work but only ftr strnuous fforts on th prt of th officils. s th TLC Prsidnt ltr dclrd, in th rly stgs of th strik on-third of th fforts of th Lbour Dfnc Committ wr spnt stopping two thirds of th diffrnt socitis from striking.Buckly nd Whlwright, p. 182. Thr is considrbl vidnc of rnk nd fil unionists' dsir to join in nd thy providd solid finncil support for th strikrs vi slf-imposd lvis. Th TLC's fforts to kp gs nd othr vitl srvics in oprtion provokd widsprd rnk nd fil criticism.

Th prliminry to th strik ws mting of shipownrs t lbury in ugust 1890, whr thy dcidd on joint policy of rsistnc to th unions. Th mrin officrs wr dmnding highr wgs nd to improv thir brgining position sought ffilition with th Lbour Councils. Th fct tht th officrs' dmnds cm on top of dmnds from ll sctions of th industry stiffnd th shipownrs' rsolv. Furthrmor, th ffilition with Lbour Councils by officrs nd gntlmn smd to shipownrs to compltly undrmin thir uthority bord ship.

Whil thr ws som rluctnc by smn nd whrfis to support th officrs, who rgrdd thmslvs s bov ordinry silors, whn th crunch cm thy solidly wlkd out in support of union principl. Minrs rspondd immditly to th cll for shutdown of th supply of col to shipping. Thr wr srious clshs s fling mountd. In Mlbourn nd othr strik cntrs unionists stormd ships workd by scbs. In dlid thr wr svrl dys of rioting on th whrvs ftr scb drw rvolvr on picktrs nd polic rlsd th scb nd rrstd thr strikrs. In Sydny, th storm cntr of th strik, thr ws upror nd ston throwing whn businssmn nd pstorlists ostnttiously drov tn crts lodd with wool from th rilyrds to th whrvs. Th Riot ct ws rd, mountd trooprs chrgd protsting strikrs nd numbr wr rrstd nd imprisond. In Townsvill th crw of th rchr wr jild for month ftr thy wlkd off thir ship. Whil in Mlbourn Colonl Tom Pric gv his notorious ordr to th troops:

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