Abstracts – Labour History No. 86

‘It is Not the Beliefs but the Crime that Matters’: Post-War Civil Liberties Debates in Canada and Australia
Dominique Clément

In both Canada and Australia, a modern rights movement dedicated to the preservation of individual rights irrespective of creed, class, beliefs, race or ethnicity emerged in the 1930s. One of the central themes in the early years of both movements was the treatment of communists and organised labour amid concerns over state abuse of freedoms of speech, association and due process. The Australian Council for Civil Liberties and the Canadian Civil Liberties Union were founded in the 1930s to counter increasing tendencies of the state to suppress political rights, most often directed against the radical left. However, divisions within the political left, most notably between social democrats and communists, as well as weaknesses in the legal system created significant obstacles to the civil liberties movement in both countries. The following article explores the key themes in the early Australian and Canadian civil liberties movement by comparing two separate national social movements operating within a similar legal, political and social context. Debates over the Communist Party Dissolution Bill (1950) and subsequent referendum (1951) in Australia and the espionage commission (1946) in Canada represented high profile post-war debates on civil liberties issues in both countries, arising out of attempts by the federal government to suppress communism.

Labor and Reform of the Victorian Legislative Council, 1950-2003
Paul Strangio

In early 2003, the Bracks Victorian Labor Government enacted legislation ushering in arguably the most extensive changes to the State’s parliamentary system since the achievement of responsible government in the 1850s. The legislation’s chief purpose was reform of Victorian Labor’s historical nemesis, the Legislative Council. While the Labor Parties fought to subdue Upper House in each of the States last century, that struggle proved especially onerous and protracted in Victoria. Focusing predominantly on the period bookmarked by the two key milestones of Upper House reform in Victoria, 1950 and 2003, this article is an account of Labor’s battle with the Legislative Council. It explores what animated and sustained Labor’s struggle, the barriers that long frustrated its effective prosecution, the gradual evolution of Labor’s objective from that of abolition to reform of the Upper House, and the circumstances that culminated in the 2003 reform achievement. The article also highlights the paradoxes that attended the struggle, including at the moment of its success.

‘Primal Socialist Innocence and the Fall’?: the ALP Left in Leichhardt Municipality in the 1980s
Tony Harris

During the 1970’s and the early 1980’s, hundreds of people flooded into the ALP branches of the Municipality of Leichhardt. They constituted a new element of the ALP Left, influenced to one degree or another by the social movements of the late ’60s and early ’70s, or by the experience of the Whitlam Government. They became locked into a fierce struggle for power with local political machines, and behind them a state ALP branch, dominated by the Labor Right. But when, in the early 1980’s, the moment of power arrived, this Left fell into bitter disarray, fragmenting along a spectrum that spilled out of the Party. This tale of political ‘innocence’ and ‘fall’ traces through the loss of the municipal council and state parliamentary seat and is dramatically symbolised in the fraught struggle over the future one of the most significant labour (and Labor) history sites: Mort’s Dock. As such it reveals the historically contingent nature of the ‘middle-classing’ of the ALP during this period.

‘The women do the machinery’: Craft, Gender and Work Transformation in the Brisbane Boot Trade, 1869-95
Bradley Bowden and Toni Bowden

During the period 1869-95 the Brisbane boot trade not only provided work for an increasing number of the city’s residents, it also gave rise to two of Queensland’s more significant trade unions. Of these, one, the Amalgamated Operative Boot Trade Union, gave voice to male craftsmen seeking to defend their status as independent handicraft producers. The other, the Female Boot-Machinists Union, proved to be the largest and most enduring female industrial organisation established in Brisbane prior to 1900. Despite the commitment of both male and female bootmakers to the cause of organised labour, the relationship between the two groups was characterised by a fundamental disjuncture. In large part, this reflected the uneven and tardy introduction of mechanised production into the northern capital, as, prior to 1894-95, it was only the women who did ‘the machinery’. In the end, this disjuncture left the cause of organised labour in a weakened state, despite the continuing growth in boot trade employment during the study period.

Class, Hegemony and Localism : the Southern Mining Region of New South Wales, 1850-1900
Barry McGowan

Historians have always been aware of the importance of localism or local loyalties in political life. This paper discusses in detail a number of large and small gold and base metal mining communities in the southern mining region of New South Wales during the nineteenth century. Aspects considered include the role of institutions such as progress associations and other more ephemeral gatherings, the nature of community debate and conflict, and the physical and economic environment. In gold mining settlements there was a much greater role for the independently minded working miners, the majority of whom fell within an aspirant middling class. By contrast, the vast majority of base metal miners and workers were employees. Localism was sometimes shaped by the hegemony which elites were able to exercise. It is argued that the specific nature of a mining community has important implications for the expression of localism.

Defending Internationalism in Interwar Broken Hill
Sarah Gregson

In the 1920s and early 1930s, Broken Hill workers were divided about the presence of southern European migrants on the mines. Nevertheless, strong anti-racist opposition from within the miners’ union towards a returned soldier racist, Richard Gully, stood in stark contrast to the role of mine managers, conservative local newspapers and other Returned Soldiers’ Association activists who employed racism as a classic ‘divide-and-rule’ industrial strategy. As a companion piece to my work on the 1934 Kalgoorlie race riots, this study provides further confirmation that internationalist responses to migrant workers were not unknown in the Australian labour movement in this period.

Greek Communist Activity in Melbourne: a Brief History
Con K. Allimonos

In the periods before and after World War II the political history of the Greek Democritus League was the prime agency for the Greek communist activity in Melbourne. This article explores the League’s relationships and ties with the International, Australian and Greek communist movements and discusses the major events which impacted upon its development. In particular, the article aims to show that the Democritus was an integral part of the communist movement. Allies and opponents are discussed in the framework of political events in Australia and Greece. While an Australian-based organisation, the Greek-led Democritus League was significantly influenced by events in Greece, such as the Greek Civil War, which by the end of 1949 had transformed the ‘workers’ club into the unofficial spokes-group for the Greek Communist Party and its interests in Australia.

The Cold/Class War, and the Jailing of Ted Roach
L.J. Louis

In the Cold/Class War of the late 1940s in Australia, the state intervened to limit labour’s exercising its superior bargaining strength. The principal agency of coercion was the arbitration system, rearmed with punitive powers by the 1947 Act. Of prime concern were the vanguard communist-led trade unions covering the strategic bottleneck industries. Industrial disputes affecting them were interpreted as threats to national security, and war on communism on the home front was war on communist union officials. Ted Roach serving a 12 months sentence in Long Bay Jail was a prisoner of that war.