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Issue #1914      May 11, 2020

WHAT RIGHT HAS SHORT TO TALK ABOUT WHAT IS “REAL” UNIONISM?

HOW UNIONS UNDER SOCIALISM BENEFIT WORKERS

Ironworkers’ secretary, Mr Short, co-delegate of Richards, of the Security Police at the recent war mongering SEATO conference, in a new outburst against ACTU policy and friendly relations with the socialist countries, repeats the old furphy about the trade unions in the Soviet Union not being “real” trade unions.

This is in direct conflict with the reports of ACTU leaders who have visited socialist countries and investigated trade union conditions. Does Mr Short suggest they are lying?

Mr Short should be the last to talk about what constitutes genuine trade unionism.

His “leadership” played a major role in taking control of union affairs out of the trade unions and placing them under the control of the capitalist legal system, the arbitration system. In fact, this leadership owes its existence to the intervention of the State in the affairs of the union.

It conducts no campaign against the court of “pains and penalties” which, in effect prohibits the right to strike.

“WET BLANKET”

The present leadership with its theory of increased “productivity” as the method of improving conditions, not only acts as a wet blanket on the struggle of its members, but refuses to support, very often, the. struggles of other unionists against that prize monopoly, the BHP, forbidding its members to act in solidarity with the rest of the workers.

The present Ironworkers’ leadership certainly has shown no startling results for the membership and as far as trade union democracy is concerned, this has been pretty effectively squelched by it.

In fact, it has established a form of “company unionism.”

CONTRAST

Trade unions in socialist countries are in a fundamentally and incomparably more favourable situated to those in a capitalist country.

In the first place, there is the decisive fact that they are not faced with the capitalist class, with capitalist exploitation, and capitalist resistance to the demands of the workers in order to net ever greater profit and capital accumulation.

Thus in Socialist society there are no antagonistic classes which give rise to the bitter class conflicts in capitalist society.

The working class in socialist countries is not faced with either temporary or long-range unemployment which under capitalism is a result of the ups and downs of the profit-making economy.

The power of the trade unions in the socialist countries is very great.

One example will suffice. In our conditions it is almost a daily occurrence for the working class in one industry or another to conduct strikes against victimisation.

In the Soviet Union workers cannot be dismissed without the consent of the elected factory committee.

AMENITIES

In the Soviet Union, there are an amazing number of amenities for the workers centred around the factory. Space will permit of naming only some of them. There are facilities for education of all kinds, nurseries for women workers with babies, equal pay for the sexes, a workers club where every kind of game is played, fine libraries, a hall where the workers’ themselves participate in amateur theatricals and where even Bolshoi stars perform.

Canteens provide up to 200 items of food at prices that are extremely cheap, to say the least of it.

The trade unions control camps, weekenders and what not for the workers’ families and children. The trade unions control a vast network of sanatoriums and rest homes, magnificent buildings, with all mod. cons., including every kind of medical attention, games, sports, etc. — something unknown in this country.

The medical system in the factory is wonderful. For a dozen doctors and nurses to be attached to the factory, complete with hospital, etc., is the rule. Many have much greater medical staffs, depending on the number of workers.

The workers are medically examined three times a year. Prevention, rather than cure, is the watchword.

Many other social benefits exist for the workers; these are but a few important examples.

HOURS CUT

The Government is a workers’ one, not dominated by capitalist interests, and works closely with, the trade union movement. For example, this year the change-over to a forty and thirty-five hour week will be completed by decision of the Supreme Soviet.

This became possible when the terrible damage caused by the war was repaired and the Soviet industry made a big leap forward.

The workers did not have to carry on a long series of strike struggles or be batoned by the police or jailed in order to shorten hours. As soon as it became economically possible, it was introduced. So, too, will the thirty-hour week later on.

During the next decade or so, the Soviet workers will achieve the highest living standards and the shortest working week in the world, without a single strike or spending huge sums on agitation.

The abolition of income tax will alone put 74,000 million roubles extra into the pockets of Soviet working people.

Can the present Ironworkers’ leadership achieve such wonders in the next ten years with “their policy of class collaboration, of submission to the BHP and the dictates of the Menzies Government? Merely to ask the question makes one smile.

It Is clear that the Grouper leadership is less than a genuine trade union leadership in the conditions of Australia, just as its political party, the DLP, is less than a genuine labour party, but merely a subsidiary of the Liberal Party of the monopolies; its stock in trade is anti-communism and anti-socialism, it betrays both the immediate and long-range interests of the working people.

This article originally appeared in Tribune July, 1960.

Next article – BACKGROUND TO THE VIETNAM WAR

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