Thomas Carlyle and the Australasian Labour Movement
The influence of the great Scottish man of letters Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) on the British labour movement is well known. Drawing largely on the Australasian labour press, this article explores the influence of Carlyle on the intellectual culture of the Australasian labour movement, demonstrating that Australasian labour activists (including many Scots) derived considerable inspiration from Carlyle, with regard to idealist ethics and the nobility of work, social criticism, and constructive political thought. In all these regards, Carlyle provided not only ideas, but also language, rhetoric, and cultural authority. In this sense, Carlyle was just as crucial an influence on the Australasian labour movement as he was on the British labour movement.
The New Zealand Northern Drivers’ Union: Trade Union Anti-Racism Work, 1937–80
In 1960, the Northern Drivers’ Union of New Zealand instituted anti-racism policy. How this came about, and what it meant for union struggles in the following two decades, are the central concerns of this article. Effectively, the implementation of democratic organising principles within the Northern Drivers’ Union assisted the formation of anti-racism policy and practice. Union officials linked domestic racism with the experiences of black workers under apartheid in South Africa from 1960, which generated calls for a boycott of South Africa and local support for the Citizens’ Association for Racial Equality. Anti-apartheid sentiment in relation to South African rugby tours, which had galvanised unionists in the 1960s, became a source of division by the 1970s as attention turned to more “local” experiences of racism. In particular, this article considers how Māori rank and file, working together with Pākehā union officials such as communist Bill Andersen, extended trade union anti-racism work across the northern regions of the country, especially Auckland.
Labor, the External Affairs Power and the Rights of Aborigines
The Australian Constitution gave the Commonwealth not a “treaty power” but a vague power over “external affairs,” the precise meaning of which was elusive for most of the twentieth century. From the 1930s, Labor judges and politicians such as H. V. Evatt saw its potential to extend Commonwealth power by legislating international agreements throughout Australia. The non-Labor parties rejected the idea of using the “external affairs” power to legislate in areas formerly the responsibility of the States but the federal Labor party continued in the Evatt tradition. After significant uncertainties the Whitlam Government used the external affairs power to pass the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, the first significant human rights legislation in the country, which in turn had a profound effect on the law of the land in this country by making the second Mabo case possible.
“Our Side of the Story”: The Political Memoirs of the Rudd–Gillard Labor Cabinet
Political memoirs and autobiographies are an increasingly prolific form of political and historiographical communication. Few attempts have been made to explain why Australian politicians have written these books, beyond the observation that they can be self-serving narratives. This paper identifies some of the major causes of and motivations for political memoir writing in Australia, adopting the Rudd-Gillard Labor Cabinet as a collective case study. Using a combination of empirical, literary and oral research methodologies, I argue that political memoirs are manifestations of political and historiographical purpose, written in response to and enabled by particular political and market environments. This case study explains the rapid proliferation of political memoirs at a particular moment in the mid-2010s, but also leads toward a more structural explanation as to why these books have been published prolifically in Australia since the mid-1990s. Politicians have considered themselves antagonised by hostile political and media narratives, and following internal and electoral defeat, have been presented with publishing opportunities with which to tell their side of the story, or as they see it, to “set the record straight.”
“Part of What We Thought and Felt”: Antifascism, Antisemitism and Jewish Connections with the New Theatre
Max Kaiser and Lisa Milner
For much of the twentieth century, the six branches of the New Theatre in Australia presented left-wing theatre within a culture that was largely resistant to their ideas. Their orientation was explicitly pro-working class, their support base including the Communist Party and left-wing trade unions. Like radical theatres in other nations, including the Unity Theatre in Britain, the New Theatre had strong connections to Jewish culture and theatre enterprises, and featured Jewish writers, actors, values and themes. Left-wing, anti-fascist scripts written by Jews in Australia as well as Britain and the United States were often staged. This article discusses the New Theatre’s concerns with antisemitism and Jewish politics focussing on selected plays by Laurence Collinson, David Martin and Oriel Gray. These plays provide us with an ideal prism through which to analyse Jewish left-wing and antifascist ideas as they were refracted through a transnational left-wing theatre movement.
The Radical Arm of the Welfare Lobby: A History of the Victorian Coalition Against Poverty and Unemployment (CAPU), 1980–1991
Australia has had high levels of unemployment since the mid-1970s, particularly from approximately 1976 ̶ 1994, yet to date there has been no significant study of political activism by the unemployed in the modern era. This article fills some of this knowledge gap by examining the activities of the Victorian Coalition against Poverty and Unemployment (CAPU), an activist group based on an alliance of trade unions, churches, community groups and the unemployed. Whilst CAPU was influenced by conventional Marxist critiques of the welfare state and highly critical of both the professional social welfare sector and the Australian Labor Party, it also worked cooperatively with key community welfare groups such as the Victorian Council of Social Service and the Brotherhood of St Laurence on specific campaigns. Consequently, it is argued that CAPU was not an anti-welfare organisation per se, but rather acted as the radical arm of the welfare lobby seeking to shame governments into operationalising in practice their declared social justice principles.
The Palimpsest of Welfarism: Enduring Layers of Paternalism in a New Zealand Industry Town
Fiona Hurd and Suzette Dyer
This paper explores the enduring impression made by industry and its representatives on the workforces, communities and locations in which it resides. This oral history study is based on a New Zealand single industry town developed in the post-World War II era and founded on the principles of industrial welfarism and paternalism. The study reveals that the employment relation practices of the town’s symbolic “founding father” have had an enduring effect on shared community identification long after the withdrawal of these practices, and the subsequent downsizing of the primary industry. Thus, the predominant memory was both shaped by principles of industrial paternalism and entwined with stories of recent events of downsizing and redundancy. Drawing on the metaphor of palimpsest, we consider how present accounts of downsizing and redundancy simultaneously overlay, dismantle and rewrite historical accounts of paternalistic interaction in the community. This paper highlights the enduring politics of industrial history, and the continued legacy of industrial strategies on the way in which we live, work and organise.
Engineers and Social Engineering: Professional/Trade Unions and Social Mobility
Hannah Forsyth and Michael P. R. Pearson
Professions like engineering were a vehicle for social mobility in Australia early in the twentieth century. By the late twentieth century, despite considerable expansions in higher education, it was much harder for young people to enter a trade and then to use their skills and experience to move into professional engineering. The shift in occupation structure in the early twentieth century, when professions – including engineering – grew rapidly, gave new opportunities to working-class tradespeople to move into professional employment. After the 1960s, when educational norms standardised and professional knowledge became more complex, these pathways narrowed. Motor mechanics, for example, were “trade” engineers who were able to move into professional engineering early in the twentieth century in ways that were extensively limited by the end of the century. This article uses engineering as a case study to consider institutional changes, including the growth of middle-class unions and the increased share of education carried by Australian universities, which made access to professional occupations more difficult for working-class tradespeople from the 1960s onwards. This helps us to identify the emergence of a new kind of class solidarity among professionals in the mid-twentieth century, with which they developed strategies to win rights for themselves, but sometimes at the expense of working-class interests.