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Issue #1917      June 1, 2020


Monday’s stoppages in support of [Communist Party of Australia] Secretary L L Sharkey, involving thousands of workers, were a powerful protest against the Chifley Government.

Prime minister Sir Robert Menzies with US president John F Kennedy at the White House in 1963.

The workers took-this action in defence of free speech, in defence of the right of the working-class movement to oppose the anti-Soviet war the American imperialists are planning.

It was a warning to the capitalists and their Labor lackeys to keep their hands off working-class leaders.

During his recent coalfields tour, Mr Menzies, “Liberal” Party leader, declared that he was “looking for the moderates in the labour movement, those who would fight the Communists.”

How nice it must be for the “moderates” to know that they command the admiration and support of Mr Menzies, that arch-enemy of the workers, who is out to strangle all that is worthy and decent in the labour movement.


Menzies did not have to look far. No sooner did the workers declare their opposition to the use of the Crimes Act against L. Sharkey than Messrs, Crooks, Cockerill, and Simpon, of the Northern Executive of the Miners’ Federation, directed their members to take no action.

The “moderates” of the Sydney Trades and Labor Council frantically called upon the workers not to cease work. A few nonentities amongst the rank and file also raised their squeaky voices against the powerful protest movement of the workers.

The “moderates” found that the capitalist press was completely at their disposal. They could say what they liked against the Communists in the sure knowledge that newspaper editors would suppress any reply.

The reformists and the press did everything possible to confuse the workers and restrain them from struggle. They were so confident that they declared beforehand that the stoppages would prove a failure.


Menzies’ boys, the “moderates,” did a good job, but not nearly good enough. Eighteen mines stopped work. Seamen, wharfies, metal workers, building workers and others, in their thousands, held protest stoppages.

It is sufficient only to examine the statements and decisions of the “moderates” to see how closely they are linked with Menzies and the Liberals.

In the debate on the Sydney Trades and Labor Council, Mr. Kenny, assistant secretary, declared: “The Labor Party couldn’t function for one moment in Russia “

The abysmal ignorance behind that statement is appalling.

It is true that there is no Labor Party in Soviet Russia, for the simple reason that the Russian workers tried the Labor Party, experienced the betrayal of its leaders, and rejected it for the Communist Party.

The Menshevik Party, or the Russian Labor Party, participated in and even headed governments in Russia after the February revolution in 1917, during the first world war. The masses of the people wanted peace, but the Russian Labor Party leaders supported the imperialist war, just as the Australian Labor Party leaders today support the war plans of American big business.

The common people wanted freedom, but the Russian Labor Party leaders sought to suppress freedom of speech and of the press with a Crimes Act no worse than that being by the Chifley Government today.

The workers demanded that an end be put to rising prices and that be increased, only to meet with bitter opposition from the Labor Party leaders who were working hand in glove with the employers.

Was it any wonder that the workers turned from the base and treacherous Labor Party leaders, the Mensheviks, to the Communist Party and ever since have refused to give any support to the re-establishment of a Labor Party in Russia?


Menzies’ boys on the Labor Council, the “moderates,” ignoring the past decisions of the trade union movement and the Labor Party, rushed in to support the use of the Crimes Act against the Communist Party and to try and split the workers’ forces on the issue, on the false grounds that the Communists were out to “divide” the workers.

They charged the Communists with aiming to “retard the economic recovery of Australia.”


What nonsense! Production is at higher levels today in nearly all industries than at any time in the history of the country. Menzies and Chifley, however, are demanding the introduction of speed-up systems in industry. Incentive payment systems, they call them. It is wellknown that the Labor Council and ACTU “moderates” are also for the speeding up of the workers.

The Communists are opposed to all systems of speed up. They mean that the workers work harder without any corresponding return, and the profits of the boss increase.

The next gem we get in the rightwingers’ resolution is that the Communist Party is out to embarrass the Labor Government with the “objective of bringing about its defeat in the forthcoming elections.”

We give the lie direct to that statement. It almost seems that the Communist Party was using the Crimes Act against the Labor Party instead of the other way around. If the Labor Government starts things which the working class refuses to stomach, then it must carry the blame, and not the Communist Party.

The Federal Labor Government has held office for the last eight years, sufficient time for it to have thoroughly consolidated itself. If the Labor Party are defeated at the elections, therefore, they have only themselves to blame.


The Labor Party here in Australia will also be rejected as the workers come to understand its true role.

Let us consider the resolution carried on the vote of the “moderates,” as the capitalist press and Menzies call them, at the Sydney Trades and Labor Council.

For 22 years the working-class movement of this country has campaigned against the political and industrial sections of the Crimes Act, because these sections were designed by the Bruce-Page Government to cripple the working class movement and railroad its leaders to [jail]. The trade unions, Trades and Labor Councils, the ACTU and the Labor Party itself have all called for the repeal of those sections of the Crimes Act.

In spite of all this, the Chifley Government proceeded against L Sharkey under the Crimes Act.

Immediately protests came from all parts of the labor movement.


The resolution then says that the Communist Party aims to “further the political interests of Soviet Russia.”

The usual claptrap of Menzies and the capitalist press which the trained cockatoos of the Labor Party learned by rote!

If tomorrow we joined the lousy gang who want war, with the use of the atomic bomb against Soviet Russia, we would be welcomed like the return of the prodigal son. But we are opposed to such a war. We refuse to join those warmongers whose treasonable activities endanger the independence and future of our country. We will have no truck with the war plans of the Yanks.

We are for a policy of peace – a truly Australian policy – a policy which furthers the interests of the Australian people.

The Labor Council resolution records unswerving loyalty to the “democratic and constitutional institutions of Australia” and then to show how utterly worthless is this declaration they go on to express support for whatever “steps” the Government takes to “protect the democratic rights of our people and safeguard Australia in the event of war.”

That statement can only mean support for the war plans of the Government and for the use of the Crimes Act to suppress all working class opposition to these plans.

In short, the “moderates” are for war, with conscription, militarisation and destruction of democratic rights.

Menzies does not call the right-wingers his “moderate friends” for nothing.

If the Events of the last few days have proved anything, it is how closely allied are the reformists in the trade union movement, the “moderates,” to big business and the policy it pursues. They are ready to go to any lengths to hold the workers back from struggle on economic or political issues. They support the war plans of imperialism and the suppression of the rights and liberties of the workers.

The Australian working class must rally much more firmly and consistently in defence of democratic rights, because the attacks we are now witnessing are part and parcel of the advance to fascism in our country, to the establishment of the fascist police state. They must organise the struggle against the criminal war the imperialists are planning.

This article originally appeared in Tribune April, 1949.


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