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Issue #1756      November 9, 2016

Vale comrade Max “Silverhammer” Cordwell

1955 - 2016

Comrades and friends of Max Cordwell were saddened by the recent passing of this notable fighter for the interests of the working class. Max’s record of achievement in the organised working class is long and impressive.

Max “Silverhammer” Cordwell.

He joined the Building Workers Industrial Union in 1972 as an apprentice carpenter. That union was amalgamated into the CFMEU in 1992. Between 1972 and 1983, he was a union activist and delegate, including BWIU delegate on the project to build the Bowen Bridge over the Derwent River in Tasmania. He became an organiser with the BWIU and the Operative Plasterer’s Union (OPU) in 1983. By 1985 he was the secretary of the Tasmanian Branch of the BWIU and OPU. Between 1993 and 1998, he was the Tasmanian Secretary of the CFMEU Construction and General Division and from 1985 to 1998 he was a member of the National Executive of the BWIU, OPPWF and the CFMEU Construction and General Division.

This list of responsibilities gives an indication of his long-term commitment to the struggle in a very tough industry. Max was a leader in many other battles over the years, as well. In 1993 he was part of the protest against the top secret US base then located Nurrungar in outback South Australia and was arrested along with others for his strong stand. He was honoured to be part of the Australian contingent that participated in the World Festival of Youth and Students in Moscow in 1985.

Max was a loyal and active member of the Port Adelaide Branch of the Communist Party of Australia following his move to SA. He was also a hands-on member of the Semaphore Workers’ Club and the Royal Park Doghouse Club. His last contribution to these local workers’ clubs was some important repairs and renovation of the bar now known as Fidel’s Bar at the Doghouse. The work was completed despite health issues that included the chronic lung disease that would prove fatal for Max.

Comrades in SA will miss his practicality, directness and cheeky sense of humour. He kept alive the friendly rivalry between the Demons AFL team and supporters of Port Power. He joined in the good-natured stirring by retired chippies and bricklayers about the relative ability of workers in those trades. The banter couldn’t conceal the fact that Max was a passionate supporter of working class unity, including in the trade union movement.

It is hard to believe that Max will no longer be attending Branch meetings or walking through the door at the Doghouse to participate in the spirited political debriefs that take place over a Cuban beer or rum at the weekly Friday at Fidel’s gatherings. Comrades and friends gathered for a wake at the Semaphore Workers’ Club recently shared tales about “Silverhammer”. Some may have been apocryphal, like the tale of how, as a very young lad, he organised a strike of newspaper deliverers in his hometown in regional Tasmania. Others were undoubtedly true and remarkable. The memories will sustain us. So will our commitment to the cause that inspired Max Cordwell – the cause of socialism and Communism.

The Communist Party of Australia expresses it condolences to Max’s family and his many friends and comrades.

Max’s record of achievement in the organised working class is long and impressive.

Next article – We have a poverty problem

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