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Issue #1917      June 1, 2020



The Sydney May 1 convoy proved to be a huge success on account of an independent May 1 Movement committee that simultaneously faced police repression and drew the masses. Hundreds of cars and bicycles surrounded the Liberal Party HQ and the bosses’ show court of the Fair Work Commission. How do we address the illogical actions of union officials who revoked their support after the first sign of police pressure citing COVID-19 restrictions on public assembly? Not one COVID-19 fine was received on May Day convoy just like the last two convoys executed by May 1 Movement. Do we take the traditional Marxist point that they are simply labour aristocracy, not truly interested in fighting for the working class, more interested in waiting for their safe ALP electoral seat? A true point given their liberalism, but not entirely! The whole truth is more insidious and philosophical: in fact, scapegoating union officials has no real utility. Attempts to influence labour aristocrats into militancy throughout Australian history reveals an inconvenient truth. This inconvenient truth is that attempts to influence labour aristocrats into class struggle unionism is a sign of philosophical poverty. Why do we concentrate on convincing union officials on the validity of “political” displays when our power lies solely in the mobilisation and organisation of the unionised industrial masses and their capacity to withdraw their labour?

How then, do we collectively overcome such collective philosophical poverty, attempting to fix something that is broken? The answer is simple and was carried out by the May 1 Movement. The crucial point came about when some union officials revoked their in-principle support for May 1. How did we respond? Questions and theories abounded. Anxiety grew, discussions turned into arguments, and ultimately there were calls to call off the action given the lack of broader union endorsement. At this crucial point, we identified a core truth that all the broader union movement had only ever offered us was words, and that in fact nothing had materially changed. Our grassroots support from workers if anything had grown stronger. As we publicly announced to press on with May 1 Movement action, I could not help but notice that we had created a lively division in the Sydney union community. This discussion was in fact, overwhelmingly a positive phenomenon for the May 1 convoy. Masses of people who I previously considered to be shackled to the current conservative unions reached out in a comradely and extremely productive manner.

As we built momentum, on the backdrop of incessant calls and letters from the police, as we were chided by the union officials who disapproved what then, can the May 1 Movement offer us that is new? Of what are we the creator moving forward?

Criticising the failed ACTU electoral Change the Rules campaign has no real creative utility. Likewise, simply criticising labour aristocrats has no real creative utility. The May 1 Movement is the creator of a scission within the Australian union movement that has the capability to execute a Summer strike day later in the year once COVID-19 subsides. We already have the organising core from the Maritime Union of Australia – Sydney Branch, the United Workers Union, NTEU New South Wales, the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union and the CFMEU Construction & General NSW to make this happen.

2020 represents a unique possibility to create a summer strike day that will continue in the coming years. There is no reason other than lacking the will, organising determination and courage of conviction to oppose a “summer strike day” later in the year. We will continue with regular convoys around winnable union disputes to build confidence and momentum across the working class as a whole, opposing the artificial and false barriers placed between unions by the Australian industrial relations system.

The defining criterion for our success will be our willingness to constructively break away from the predominant business contract unionism. This predominant business contract unionism shackles the masses into accepting their predetermined place and alienates groups of workers from creating wider solidarity. Worst of all, it strongly discourages unity in struggle. This ensures the eternal return of the same benefiting the ruling class at the expense of all else.

Our work is only beginning. All are welcome as we strive towards an event of creative novelty, against the world that encourages us to remain as a collection of alienated single entities. True union work at its core requires an unconditional solidarity for all workers everywhere. In order to have the courage to break down artificial barriers, we must remain vigilant that we are all united in only one fight. Disagreements, and mistakes, will happen and are necessary, as long as they occur within the parameters of unity in struggle.


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