AUSTRALIAN LABOUR INTELLECTUALS
Terry Irving and Sean Scalmer
Labour intellectuals are knowledge producers in labour institutions. The liberal conception of the ‘free-floating’ intellectual has limited utility for understanding labour intellectuals. The idea of the labour intellectual directs our attention to the complex and changing relationships between intellectuals, classes and labour movement institutions, and the place of these institutions in broader society. This article reviews the contributions of Antonio Gramsci, Jurgen Habermas and his critics, and Ron Eyerman, to the concept of the labour intellectual. Gramsci directs us to the possibility that all have the capacity to be (labour) intellectuals. Learning from Habermas, we trace intellectuals back to the sites in which they produce ideas and discourse. Agreeing with the critics of Habermas, we see those sites as multiple publics. From Eyerman we take the idea of labour intellectuals as a plural historical category. The study of labour intellectuals has the potential to widen the scope of labour history.
‘The Day of the Just Reasoner’ : T. A. Coghlan and the Labour Public Sphere in late Nineteenth Century Australia
T.A. Coghlan, best known as the author of Labour and Industry in Australia and for his innovatory statistical work, also wrote articles for the Bulletin in the late 1880s and early 1890s. The often humorous approach he adopted veiled a more serious project of challenging bourgeois and working class modes of thought and explanation. He believed that he was writing in a transcendent historical moment, in which there was no place for the barbarous, prejudiced and irrational ‘Old World’ attitudes and explanations. This was, in short, ‘the day of the just reasoner’ – and Coghlan’s articles displayed his belief that the working class was the personification of ‘the just reasoner’. His Bulletin writings allow him to be seen as a labour intellectual, engaged in the transformative intellectual work that defines the labour intellectual’s relationship to the labour public sphere.
Activist Academic : Lloyd Churchward as a Labour Intellectual
Roger D. Markwick
Lloyd Churchward, who died in 1998, was actively involved with the labour movement in various capacities for six decades. During this time he was a political activist and organiser, a member of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA), a labour historian, and a scholar of Soviet politics. This article uses Churchward’s political and intellectual odyssey as a case study of the labour intellectual, understood as somebody who shaped the organisations and ideas of the labour movement. It looks at the role he played in various political organisations, and the interplay between that involvement and his professional development as a scholar of the labour movement and of Soviet politics. Intensive interviews with Churchward, together with his publications, are the principal sources for this article. On this basis, the article provides a profile of a labour intellectual whose professional and political life in the context of the Cold War was a meeting ground between the university and the alternative public institutions of the CPA.
‘A rare shift in public thinking’: Jack Mundey and the New South Wales Builders Labourers’ Federation
Verity Burgmann and Meredith Burgmann
The green bans movement during 1971-75 prevented $5 billion worth of ecologically irresponsible building development. Jack Mundey achieved prominence at the time as secretary of the New South Wales Builders Labourers’ Federation, the organisation that pioneered this spectacular environmental activism. To a public deeply polarised over green bans, Mundey articulated a radicalism that stressed both industrial militancy and ultra-democratic trade union practices, and also the necessity of working-class action in defence of the environment and in support of women, homosexuals, and indigenous Australians. His success as an ‘organic’ working-class intellectual stemmed from his ability to present working-class ideas as representative of universal interests, and trade union work bans as activity on behalf of the whole of society. Mobilising an enthusiastic ‘subaltern counterpublic’ in support of bans, Mundey and his movement prompted a significant change in attitudes, creating a public mood much more critical of developers and development.
The Rise of the Modern Labour Technocrat : Intellectual Labour and the Transformation of the Amalgamated Metal Workers’ Union, 1973-85
Sean Scalmer and Terry Irving
This article studies the rise of the modern labour technocrat within the Amalgamated Metal Workers’ Union, which developed in this period a large research, educational and publicity apparatus, a vibrant shop steward movement, and independence from the political parties of the labour movement. Intellectual work within the union at first aimed to encourage rank-and-file intervention in industry. A series of defeats and changing political relationships altered the focus of intellectual work to an alliance with Labor in government. Thus the union’s intellectuals took on a different role, that of technocratic expert. The rise of the modern labour technocrat- a new and dominant actor in the labour movement of the 1980s – was not inevitable. There was a contest over the place and role of the labour expert in the ‘modern union’ during the 1970s and 80s.
The Labour History Society (ASSLH) : A Memoir of its First Twenty Years
The Australian Society for the Study of Labour History (ASSLH) was formed in 1961 on the initiative of Bob Gollan and the author at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra and this article is a personal account of the author’s involvement during two decades. The Society brought together academics and activists, produced Labour History and other publications, established branches throughout Australia and forged international connections. By the 1970s, the Society had broadened its scope into social history, linking with the women’s movement and other critical intellectual and political trends of the time. It had become a forceful influence on the study, publicising and understanding of Australia’s history, voicing contemporary concerns. By the 1980s, the circumstances which had centred the Society in Canberra had changed. Its headquarters were transferred to Sydney, its activities diversified and its branches became more autonomous.
Bernard O’Dowd’s Socialism
This article explores the emergence and development of the poet Bernard O’Dowd as a radical intellectual in the years before World War I. It is a case study of the relationship between Australian intellectuals and the labour movement during its formative period, focusing on the themes of democracy, class, race and gender. O’Dowd’s radicalism incorporated various strands of liberal, radical and socialist ideas without necessarily reconciling them. Indeed, his writings and activities reveal many of the tensions experienced by middle-class intellectuals of his generation and inclinations as they confronted the problem of political commitment in a context of working-class mobilisation, socialism and the movement for women’s rights. O’Dowd’s attachment to liberalism and vitalism, two important foundations of fin de si