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Issue #1507      29 June 2011

Beryl Miller – The Guardian as the centre of branch work

The following is an interview with Beryl Miller from the Communist Party of Australia’s Northern (Adelaide) Branch. Beryl was the top seller of The Guardian during May when the CPA held a competition for the top seller of the Party press. Beryl sold 139 Guardians and got a new subscription to the paper. She has firm views on how members can get the workers’ weekly into more people’s hands and help build the Party. She spoke recently to SA State Secretary Bob Briton.

Bob Briton: How long have you been selling the Party press?

Beryl Miller: I’ve been selling the Party press since I joined the Party in 1952. I don’t think it was very long after I joined the Party that I started selling The Tribune as it was at back then. We had a round in my area at the time on which I sold a paper to a local and he’s remained a customer ever since for the Communist press – all those years. He still takes the paper today.

BB: How do you see the importance of the Party press in this age of information overload?

BM: I think that for people who are interested in the labour movement The Guardian is absolutely essential. It covers areas that workers are concerned about. It gives a class position on issues while the capitalist press does a real job of trying to hide any of those facts. Once the labour movement fully understands that there really is a situation of them and us and that we need to fight around our own issues, that will make a real difference to the whole struggle.

BB: How could we do a better job of promoting the Party press?

BM: It’s one of those things that is a long hard struggle; it’s one of those issues that’s not easy to crack. In today’s world the progressive movement and the left in particular is not flavour of the month. We have to be sure we’re getting out to sell in certain areas. The trade unions are a most essential part of our work; that’s why we say where we’ve got branches and where there are factories in their area or workplaces and so on, that we should concentrate on some of those workplaces.

In our Northern Branch we have taken under our wing for the last twenty years the GMH factory at Elizabeth. That’s been quite an important factor. It’s still not a situation where you have workers coming up to you and saying they want to buy the paper but we still distribute about 140 papers at the factory every month and we hand out the bulletin. Incidentally, the bulletin always takes its articles from The Guardian and we feel this is another way of advertising the Party press.

Another angle is that in our Party branches we need to be doing canvases where we’ve got comrades in the local area who can take up any sales that are consolidated. We just had one recently – it was part of the competition – and on that occasion we sold four papers and gave two away to people who didn’t have any money at the time. Now it is a fact that we haven’t consolidated those sales and that’s the very difficult part because it sometimes means going back to the same place on a number of occasions until such time that they become a regular sale.

Nevertheless, in the old days of the CPA regular canvases with the paper were very much part of the work of the Party. It’s one of those things where we’re not going to get new members to the Party unless we use The Guardian as the educator and the agitator among the workers. They will be found on the basis of our canvassing in our local areas because workers live in our local areas. It’s a matter of tenacity – just staying with it.

There’s no easy method in my opinion and I’ve been around for too long to think that if you go down to a workplace on one occasion that suddenly the workers are going to rush towards you. They won’t. That’s why our work at GMH has been done on a regular basis. We’re always there on a particular day of the month. In earlier times, when they had a bigger workforce, we used to go twice a month but with the cutbacks at this stage we just go once.

I think it’s absolutely essential that The Guardian becomes the centre of our branch work; that everything that they do is associated with that. If you get new people, where do they work? Is it possible for them to take Party literature into the workplace? We don’t use that often enough, either. If we have students we should see how we can help them to take the Party press to fellow students.

BB: What does it mean to you to be the top seller of The Guardian during May?

BM: I’m a bit chuffed, I must say, though I really did set out to win. I really wanted to win because I wanted to show our membership in general what is required with The Guardian; how central it is to our work. In the process of that competition I have a regular weekly round of seven people, I take the papers to two unions, the AMWU and the ASU and at the ASU I was able to get an extra subscription on the basis of the equal pay article. At the AMWU I was able to convince them to take up their five copies for the vehicle section. They’d dropped at one stage mainly because we were handing out The Guardian at GMH. Nevertheless, there were enough people in the office associated with the vehicle section to take the paper again.

The other thing is when you go along to a function; well, at that particular time we had the May Day dinner held by the Platon Greek Workers’ Education Association and there I was able to sell twenty papers. The other question is if you are active on a committee or in particular organisation, we must always think in terms of taking the paper and getting the people on that committee to take the paper. Alan and I have both been part of the trade union veterans regarding the industrial relations situation in SA and at those monthly meetings I sell the four copies of the paper each time we have a meeting. I’ve got four people who take those on a regular basis.

That’s the sort of thing we need to be thinking about. In every area we need to think, “Where can I sell the paper?” because what we say is true. We need to be bloody well confident about what we say. Our members need to be able to present those ideas that are presented in The Guardian in their workplaces.  

Next article – Future still far from rosy as Greek leader gets his vote of confidence

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