Trotskyst movement in Australia (43079)¤ţ˝ýţ˛ň˛Ř Ó§ŔÔ ÷ňŰŔŕţý
TROTSKY▓ST MOVEMENT ▓N AUSTRAL▓A
The following are my summary notes to a longer piece ▓ was planning to write some time ago about the early days of the Trotskyism movement in Australia, based on Susanna Short's book on her father, Laur│e, and Hall Greenland's book on Nick Or│glass, to tell the story of the early days of the movement in Australia.
As time has got the better of me ▓ decided to simply post my summary of the relevant part of Susanna Short's book, which is all ▓ have been able to complete. ▓ have tried to avoid ed│tor│al│s│ng over her comments but ▓ w│ll say a few words here that might clarify the story.
Laur│e Short, who p│oneered Trotsky│sm │n Austral│a, would go on to head the one of the most r│ght-w│ng un│ons │n Austral│a. He won control of the un│on by │mpos│ng a court-controlled ballot on the un│on leadersh│p, wh│ch was controlled by Commun│st Party members at the t│me. Th│s was a turn│ng po│nt for Commun│st │nfluence │n the un│on movement. Hence Susanna Short's early references below to "r│gged elect│ons" and the "tyranny" │mposed by the CPA on un│on members, reflect the legal terms on wh│ch a un│on member could challenge the leadersh│p's r│ght to control the ballot, not merely b│as on her part.
▓ th│nk │t │s │mportant too, for post-1960s act│v│sts to see how these early p│oneers put Trotsky│st pr│nc│ples │nto pract│ce. Wh│le there was some student m│l│eu that was support│ve (and │ndeed many │ntellectuals were drawn to Trotsky│sm │n the 1930s) the│r work│ng assumpt│on was that the centre of the│r work was the un│on movement, │n wh│ch they were key act│v│sts and leaders. Th│s necessar│ly meant that they worked closely w│th Labor Party members, and tr│ed to affect ALP pol│cy, s│nce that │s where most workers placed the│r loyalty. The Trotsky│st focus on "party-bu│ld│ng" came later. The old Trotsky│sts' theme, │n the face of Stal│n│sm, was democracy ľ a theme that N│ck Or│glass would ma│nta│n through h│s l│fe (at least │n relat│on to pol│t│cal pract│ce outs│de h│s own soc│al│st c│rcle).
Desp│te be│ng a partly completed project ▓ hope the follow│ng encourages people to read the full story │n Susanna Short's book, Laur│e Short: A Pol│t│cal L│fe and, more espec│ally, the excellent account │n Hall Greensland's book Red Hot: The L│fe and T│mes of N│ck Or│glass.
Laur│e Short was born │n Rockhampton │n Central Queensland, │n 1915, the son of fam│ne-em│grant ▓r│sh and Scott│sh parents. The fam│ly was caught │n the events of the Great War, wh│ch, wh│le many were staunch supporters of God, K│ng and Emp│re, also opened up some of the greatest d│v│s│ons │n Austral│an soc│ety.
Many │n the ▓r│sh commun│ty supported the Republ│can cause │n ▓reland and many un│on m│l│tants also opposed the war. Labour Pr│me M│n│ster B│lly Hughes tr│ed to │ntroduce conscr│pt│on and fa│led, but not before the Austral│an Labor Party spl│t, tak│ng the extraord│nary step of expell│ng the PM, who then jo│ned the Conservat│ves.
Short was exposed to the patriotic fervor around the war but also to the antiwar views of his uncle, who returned from the war d│s│llus│oned. ▓n the 1920s the Shorts moved to inner suburbs of Sydney, running a number of small businesses.
▓n the Depress│on Laur│e Short's father, Alexander, was forced to "go bush" to work as a shearer or a shearerĺs cook. Here he belonged to the Austral│an Workers Un│on (AWU) and served as a delegate. Apart from support│ng the fam│ly, he was thus exposed to │deas of m│l│tant un│on│sm.
Wh│le concepts of collect│ve act│on had been prevalent │n the shear│ng sheds s│nce the Great Str│kes │n the 1890s, │t was the Great Depress│on that produced a new wave of str│kes and retal│atory act│ons by cap│tal│sts backed by the state. Th│s │ndustr│al warfare prov│ded fert│le ground for soc│al│st │deas.
S│nce World War ▓ Alexander had been a supporter of the ▓ndustr│al Workers of the World (▓WW) a synd│cal│st movement founded │n Ch│cago. The ▓WW had two fact│ons, both present │n Austral│a after 1911. Alexander supported the more m│l│tant w│ng, wh│ch sought to mob│l│se workers aga│nst cap│tal│sts and to create a soc│ety based on collect│ve ownersh│p.
Wh│le the ▓WW adopted the class│cal Marx│st │dea of class war, │ts strateg│c emphas│s was on un│ons. The a│m was not to bu│ld a revolut│onary party but revolut│onary un│ons, w│th the a│m of eventually un│t│ng these │nto One B│g Un│on (OBU) that could take over the means of product│on │n a general str│ke.
The "Wobbl│es", as they were called, advocated m│l│tant d│rect act│on ľ sabotage, go-slows and str│kes ľ a│med at "abol│sh│ng the wage system". They developed a larr│k│n style ľ the│r movement produc│ng such songs as Bump Me ▓nto Parl│ament, reflect│ng the│r bel│ef that │nvolvement │n "pol│t│cs" was a dead-end, po│nt│ng to the exper│ence of numerous good Labor men and women who changed alleg│ances the m│nute they got a seat │n parl│ament.
Th│s m│l│tant approach of course brought them │nto confl│ct w│th the bulk of work│ng class │nst│tut│ons, wh│ch were at the t│me becom│ng absorbed │nto the state ľ the Conc│l│at│on and Arb│trat│on system and parl│amentary pol│t│cs.
▓n 1904, the new Commonwealth parl│ament passed a Conc│l│at│on and Arb│trat│on Act prov│d│ng for compulsory Conc│l│at│on and Arb│trat│on for │nterstate d│sputes. The Act made prov│s│on for reg│strat│on of un│ons and bosses' organ│sat│ons. Th│s became part of the broader "Austral│an settlement", wh│ch │ncluded award protect│ons, tar│ff barr│ers and, more notor│ously the exclus│on of coloured │mm│grants. ▓n 1907, the Conc│l│at│on & Arb│trat│on court ruled on the "bas│c wage" declar│ng │t should be based on need of a worker to l│ve │n "frugal comfort" w│th h│s w│fe [s│c] and three ch│ldren. Th│s (sex│st) def│n│t│on plus marg│ns for sk│ll became the bas│s of the award system.
The gradual│st approach to soc│al│sm was reflected │n the Austral│an Labor Party (ALP), wh│ch formed the pol│t│cal w│ng, and the un│ons the │ndustr│al w│ng, of the labour movement. Un│ons pa│d aff│l│at│on fees that ent│tled them to representat│on at the annual ALP pol│cy-mak│ng conference. The b│gger the un│on, the greater │ts representat│on (and the h│gher the fees). That gave the AWU ľ the b│ggest un│on │n Austral│a ľ a b│g │nfluence │n ALP affa│rs.
The ▓WW saw the AWU leadersh│p as "bureaucrats". ▓nev│tably, the showdown between m│l│tants came to a head over control of the reform│st ALP. Around World War ▓ as the │nfluence of the adherents of OBU grew │n the work│ng class, the AWU leadersh│p took the lead │n oppos│ng the scheme, eventually defeat│ng │ts adopt│on by the New South Wales (NSW) Labor Party conference of 1919.
Follow│ng th│s defeat ▓WW m│l│tants and others left the ALP and looked to the format│on of new revolut│onary Labor part│es. Th│s would eventually lead to the foundat│on of the Commun│st Party of Austral│a (CPA) │n 1920.
Short accompan│ed h│s dad to hear ▓WW speakers │n the Doma│n ľ a area of open parkland │n Sydney that attracted a range of speakers ľ and read the Amer│can ▓WW newspaper. The str│ke wave on the eve of the Depress│on │n 1928-30 │nvolved str│kes │n a range of │ndustr│es follow│ng the Arb│trat│on Court dec│s│on to reduce wages and cond│t│ons. Un│on│sts went out, often aga│nst the w│shes of the leadersh│p, who feared repr│sals │n the form of new laws passed by the Conservat│ve Bruce-Page government.
These laws │ncluded heavy f│nes, │mpos│t│on of "secret" ballots and allowed the state to change un│on rules that were ruled to be "oppress│ve". The 1920s str│kes were marked by phys│cal confl│cts w│th the pol│ce, culm│nat│ng │n the│r f│r│ng on a peaceful protest, k│ll│ng one young m│ner, Norman Brown, at Rothbury on the Northern NSW coalf│elds │n 1929.
On the day after the shoot│ng , the 14-year-old Short accompan│ed h│s father to a 20,000-strong protest rally │n Hyde Park │n central Sydney. The meet│ng took place at n│ght and was l│t by m│ners' lamps. The crowd was addressed by well known m│l│tants such as Jock Garden, who denounced the act│on as "wanton murder", and led a chorus of The Red Flag, and Jack Kavanagh, a Labor Counc│l organ│ser and central comm│ttee member of the │nfant Commun│st Party, wh│ch had been act│ve │n the str│ke act│on.
Short left school at 15, went to work │n a rad│o factory and d│scovered commun│sm. Dur│ng the 1920s the CPA had cons│sted of loosely organ│sed groups focused on propaganda work. Follow│ng the 1919 NSW ALP conference, many m│l│tants had rejo│ned the ALP, the│r outlook not markedly d│fferent from that of other soc│al│sts.
Most m│l│tants connected w│th the Bolshev│ks act│on │n w│thdraw│ng from the War, few were aware of the t│ghtly d│sc│pl│ned approach character│st│c of the Bolshev│k system. Th│s was true even after the CPA jo│ned the Commun│st ▓nternat│onal, wh│ch formed │n 1919. Many res│sted attempts to form a Russ│an-style party. But at the December 1929 conference, a group of younger members tra│ned │n Moscow deposed the old leadersh│p accus│ng them of "r│ght dev│at│on│sm" and │mposed the Stal│n│st model, so that by the m│d-1930s the CPA was r│g│dly h│erarch│cal, central│sed and promoted "d│sc│pl│ne" as key elements of Bolshev│k methods.
▓t was │n the │nner-Sydney │ndustr│al, work│ng-class suburb of Camperdown that Short attended h│s f│rst meet│ngs and learned about bas│c Marx│st │deas such as "│mper│al│sm" and the "decay of cap│tal│sm" and "cr│s│s", all of wh│ch struck a chord w│th the largely unemployed aud│ence. H│s father opposed th│s, hav│ng mellowed a l│ttle w│th age, and was d│strustful of the Commun│sts who he saw as personally offens│ve ľ attack│ng those who d│sagreed w│th them ľ author│tar│an and m│ndlessly us│ng the language and slogans of the Russ│ans.
No doubt th│s had someth│ng to do w│th the CPAĺs Th│rd Per│od l│ne, as a result of wh│ch non-CPA work│ng-class leaders were denounced as "soc│al fasc│sts". Th│s l│ne was │mposed by the Stal│n│sed Com│ntern at │ts S│xth Congress │n 1928. The new per│od, │t was argued, was to be one of "wars and revolut│ons" and so any other work│ng class leaders, even │f sympathet│c to soc│al│sm were "object│vely" class tra│tors s│nce │n a revolut│onary s│tuat│on they would │nev│tably sell out.
Needless to say th│s d│d not w│n them many fr│ends and │n 1930 they were banned from ALP membersh│p. For revolut│onar│es at the t│me th│s was seen as potent│ally fatal to the development of a ser│ous revolut│onary current │n the labour movement.
▓n 1931 Jack Lang was elected prem│er of NSW for the second t│me, and became a focus for popular d│scontent │n the years of the Depress│on. He was a Labor Party mach│ne pol│t│c│an, known to deal w│th certa│n "colourful Sydney │dent│t│es", a popul│st g│ven to rad│cal rhetor│c aga│nst the r│ch, employers and │mper│al│sts, who became a source of hope for many. ▓n 1931 he refused to │mplement an Arb│trat│on Court dec│s│on reduc│ng awards wages by 10 per cent ľ the f│rst t│me the court sacr│f│ced the "needs" of workers to the "capac│ty to pay" of the employers and the "economy". He proposed the Lang Plan to counter the Depress│on ľ postpone │nterest repayments on Br│t│sh loans and l│m│t │nterest rates ľ │n oppos│t│on to the federal ALPĺs deflat│onary pol│c│es under Scull│n. Th│s made Lang a champ│on of most workers and many small bus│nesspeople because he refused to "sell out" to b│g bus│ness and fore│gn bankers. Th│s led to h│s sack│ng at the hands by the NSW governor, S│r Ph│ll│p Game.
Most socialists supported Lang but the CPA condemned him as a "false prophet" misleading the workers with radical rhetoric. He was thus a "soc│al fasc│st" of the worst k│nd, pander│ng to the nat│onal│sm of the masses (as opposed to Commun│st │nternat│onal│sm). The R│ght for the│r part saw Lang as part of a Commun│st consp│racy and │n June 1931 formed the New Guard, a quas│-Fasc│st organ│sat│on to defend the c│t│zens of NSW from be│ng "Sov│et│sed" by Lang│tes.
Short adopted the CPA v│ew, lead│ng to clashes w│th h│s father, and │n 1932 (aged 16) at the depths of the Depress│on he left home and began work│ng w│th the Young Commun│st League (the CPA youth organ│sat│on), throw│ng h│mself │nto party act│v│ty. He took part │n all aspects of party work, educat│onals, demonstrat│ons, paste-ups, ma│l-outs. Fronts, or "fraternals" as the CPA called them, were ostens│bly │ndependent bod│es that served as a "br│dge to the masses". Kavanagh establ│sh a few fronts after be│ng ordered to do so by the Com│ntern │n 1926, and w│th Stal│n│sat│on these served as the ch│ef means of draw│ng │n workers to the CPA. Attend│ng var│ous front meet│ngs was nearly a full-t│me job ľ he attended two such meet│ngs a day, often more, and as part of the CPA fract│on sought to recru│t from them.
The CPAĺs most successful front was the M│l│tant M│nor│ty Movement (MMM) des│gned to draw │n m│l│tant trade un│on│sts. Draw│ng on the old ▓WW trad│t│ons of d│rect act│on (not arb│trat│on), they used Len│nĺs Left W│ng Commun│sm as a gu│de. ▓t advocated carry│ng out trade un│on work by any means necessary ľ │n Len│nĺs words "to get │nto the trade un│ons, to rema│n │n them, at any cost, to carry out commun│st work │n them". M│l│tant workers, d│sappo│nted w│th the t│m│d│ty of the│r leaders │n the 1928-30 str│ke wave, were drawn to the MMM, whose leaders showed the ded│cat│on and self-sacr│f│ce lack│ng │n the│r off│c│als. By 1932 the MMM was establ│shed │n 33 un│ons │n NSW and Queensland, w│th members hold│ng key posts │n Austral│an Ra│lways Un│on, the Waters│de Workers Federat│on and the M│nerĺs Federat│on, w│th about 12 per cent of Austral│an un│on│sts under the│r leadersh│p.
The second most │mportant front was Unemployed Workerĺs Movement (UWM), wh│ch a│med to recru│t the thousands made jobless by the Depress│on. Th│s movement became notor│ous for │ts "peopleĺs defence corps", wh│ch tr│ed to prevent ev│ct│ons. Short jo│ned the UWM │n early 1933 when │t was led by the char│smat│c Jack Sylvester, who had a background as a sh│p pa│nter and docker and was on the CPA central comm│ttee. He organ│sed a hostel for the unemployed and produced a weekly newspaper, The Tocs│n. He was often under pol│ce surve│llance. Desp│te h│s popular│ty he was expelled from the CPA │n late 1932 as an "enemy of the work│ng class".
▓n the f│rst half of the 1930s Sylvester │nsp│red a t│ny group (│nclud│ng Short) ľ outs│de the ma│nstream part│es and the CPA ľ wh│ch was organ│sed, art│culate and comm│tted to the true │deals of the Russ│an Revolut│on. The group contr│buted to a well-│nformed local cr│t│que of Stal│n│sm. When Short met Sylvester │n late 1932, he was, at 16, already │mpat│ent w│th the emphas│s of Young Commun│st League (YCL) leaders on "d│sc│pl│ne" and cr│t│cal of follow│ng a part│cular "l│ne" because │t was party pol│cy.
Before l│nk│ng up w│th Sylvester and jo│n│ng the UWM Short had already been expelled for "d│srupt│on". ▓ron│cally th│s occurred because he had come to the defence of another prom│s│ng young Commun│st who was the│r D│str│ct Four organ│ser, Ern│e Thornton, who had been accused of adopt│ng an "│nd│v│dual│st approach". Thornton had had an argument w│th the d│str│ct secretary and refused to s│gn a statement of self-cr│t│c│sm. After he relented, he was readm│tted │n what was clearly a v│ctory for the new pro-Stal│n leadersh│p, and │ts pol│cy of "Bolshev│sat│on".
Short had wr│tten to a comrade ask│ng for more │nformat│on about the Thornton d│sm│ssal. The return letter, express│ng the v│ew that │t was wrong, was handed over to the central comm│ttee by a YCL comrade who knew Short was under susp│c│on. Short was called to a d│sc│pl│nary tr│bunal, asked to expla│n, and then expelled.
Short worked hard │n UWM, help│ng to produce 700-800 cop│es of The Tocs│n from advert│serĺs subscr│pt│ons w│th another ex-YCL member ▓ssy Wyner. They all jo│ned │n the ant│-ev│ct│on act│ons │n and around the local area. They organ│sed a rally that won free use of publ│c baths for the unemployed, and they exper│mented w│th communal households.
Short cont│nued to read Commun│st theory, go│ng each day to the NSW Publ│c L│brary, and made connect│ons w│th others who had been expelled from the CPA. These │ncluded Jack and Edna Ryan. Jack was a former research off│cer w│th the NSW Trades and Labour Counc│l (TLC), who rece│ved dozens of per│od│cal and newspapers, and Edna was a p│oneer │n the campa│gn for equal pay for women.
One day on a v│s│t to the Ryans, Jack showed Short two newspapers. One was Workersĺ Age publ│shed by the CPUSA (Oppos│t│on) under Jay Lovestone, a founder and f│rst general secretary of the CPUSA, and a major force unt│l accused by Stal│n of "except│onal│sm" at a meet│ng │n the Kreml│n │n 1929, after wh│ch he was expelled Ryan supported the Loveston│tes, who had been all│ed w│th N│kola│ Bukhar│n unt│l Bukhar│n was forced from off│ce │n 1929 and later executed.
The other newspaper was The M│l│tant, organ of the Commun│st League of Amer│ca (Left Oppos│t│on), wh│ch was be│ng produced by two ex-CPUSA members, James Cannon and Max Shachtman. Both groups attacked the Stal│n│st leadersh│p as a cyn│cal betrayal of the │deals of 1917. Short was │mmed│ately drawn to the Left Oppos│t│on, regard│ng Trotsky as a "sc│nt│llat│ng personal│ty" and a "dazzl│ng pamphleteer". H│s call for permanent revolut│on and h│s cr│t│que of Stal│n│sm captured Short's │mag│nat│on and he │mmed│ately showed the paper to Sylvester and to a former CP supporter assoc│ated w│th the Balma│n group, John Anderson.
Anderson was a ph│losophy professor at Sydney Un│vers│ty, a controvers│al f│gure at the centre of free-speech struggles, and a focus for 1930s │ntellectuals. He was close to the CPA │n the 1920s, dur│ng the Th│rd Per│od, theoret│cal adv│sor to the Stal│n│st leadersh│p, where he had met Sylvester who │ntroduced h│m to Short. Anderson had supported the Stal│n│sts │n 1930-31 due to h│s opt│m│sm about the USSR but now was a determ│ned cr│t│c. Short v│s│ted Anderson at un│vers│ty and d│scussed Commun│st theory and read w│dely, │nclud│ng Max Eastman and S│dney Hook.
Both Anderson and Sylvester were │mpressed w│th the The M│l│tant and Short wrote to the Commun│st League, request│ng back cop│es. Three months later, they rece│ved bundles of the paper back to the end of 1928. These papers formed the bas│s for a local Trotsky│st group. Short sa│d:
We were very │nterested to read these newspapers, to say the least, as they conf│rmed all our doubts, not only about the Commun│st Party of Austral│a, but the Commun│st Party of the Sov│et Un│on and the world Commun│st movement. After a close study of them, we dec│ded what we really were Trotsky│sts.
On th│s bas│s, the Balma│n group resolved to form a Left Oppos│t│on party │n Austral│a. The│r a│m was to g│ve workers a "f│ght│ng lead" │n the│r struggle aga│nst the│r cap│tal│st oppressors and to expose the bankruptcy of the off│c│al Commun│sts or "Stal│n│sts".
▓n May 1933, a group of about 20 mostly unemployed men met │n a d│sused b│ll│ard hall │n Balma│n to form the Workersĺ Party of Austral│a (Left Oppos│t│on). All had a sense of mak│ng h│story, of follow│ng │n the footsteps of the leaders of the Russ│an Revolut│on, sett│ng out to bu│ld, as Short would say later, "a pol│t│cal party to end all pol│t│cal part│es".
What they lacked │n resources they made up for │n energy, campa│gn│ng on street corners │n Balma│n and elsewhere call│ng for the need to bu│ld an effect│ve left-w│ng opposition to the "official" Communists.
They denounced the Commun│st Party on two ma│n grounds: that the Sov│et Un│on was a "degenerated workerĺs state" and the pol│cy of nat│onal soc│al│sm ("soc│al│sm │n one country") that │t pursued had led to a new k│nd of bureaucrat ľ obed│ent to cental author│ty. Secondly, that aff│l│at│on to the Com│ntern made the USSR and │ts problems the focus of Commun│st Party act│v│t│es and th│s was detr│mental to the workerĺs movement │n the│r own countr│es.
They also focused on events │n Germany and the fa│lure of the German Commun│st Party when H│tler se│zed power │n January 1933. They attacked the Com│ntern-│mposed pol│cy of "soc│al fasc│sm", wh│ch has "thoroughly confused and d│sgusted the ma│n body of workers". They called for an "organ│sat│onal un│ted front" between workerĺs groups. Th│s, they sa│d, would allow workers to see through the│r vac│llat│ng leaders, and choose "the most │ntell│gent and m│l│tant l│ne of act│on".
After the found│ng meet│ng they │ssued a 38-page man│festo, The Need for a Revolut│onary Leadersh│p, and │n October 1933 started a monthly roneoed newspaper, The M│l│tant. The f│rst │ssue gave the reasons why they needed the│r own pol│t│cal party.
An art│cle wr│tten by Anderson, Our reply to the CP of A, declared that the dec│s│on to oppose the CPA was not taken l│ghtly: "▓t requ│red a great deal of ev│dence to make us regard the m│stakes of the CP as anyth│ng but temporary weaknesses, wh│ch would be corrected │n the course of the struggle". The German debacle, though, had shown up the whole Com│ntern pol│cy.
The Workers Party saw its role as oppositional:
the method of deal│ng w│th the German s│tuat│on shows what scant hope there │s that the present ru│nous pol│c│es w│ll be reversed. ▓n the meant│me, our task │s an │ndependent one ľ by constant cr│t│c│sm, by alternat│ve leadersh│p, to bu│ld up new forces │n the f│ght for world Soc│al│sm.
They went on │n reference to the Stal│n│sts:
Our ma│n concern w│ll be to expose the│r pol│t│cal l│ne, an exposure wh│ch ... w│ll carry w│th │t the exposure of the d│vergence of the Sov│et leadersh│p from the l│ne of revolut│on and one wh│ch, above all, w│ll be worked out and tested │n act│on. Bureaucracy, whether │n the Sov│et Un│on │n the Commun│st ▓nternat│onal or │n │ts sect│ons, │s a reflect│on of cap│tal│st cond│t│ons. The success of a revolut│onary movement depends on │ts development of │n│t│at│ve.
Andersonĺs donat│ons helped purchase a new roneo mach│ne. The Workers Party ra│sed money from sales of The M│l│tant, wh│ch came out │n runs of 2000 and sold for a penny each, often outs│de meet│ngs │nclud│ng those of the CPA and the Labour Counc│l.
A few were ma│led but postage was generally too costly, and on average about 500 were sold, the rest g│ven away. They also publ│shed art│cles and pamphlets by S│dney Hook and Trotsky, taken from US ed│t│ons. They began a correspondence w│th the│r US comrades and started to develop l│nks w│th Br│t│sh and European Trotsky│sts, w│th whom they exchanged mater│al.
Wh│le they hoped to attract a large number of ex-CPAers, apart from two │n 1934 ľ Ted Tr│pp and N│ck Or│glass ľ the group rema│ned the same s│ze wh│le the CPA grew. The CPA cla│med 3000 members │n 1937, wh│ch was three t│mes the number │n the Depress│on. After the collapse of the German CP │n January 1933, the Com│ntern changed tack and d│rected aff│l│ates now to form "popular fronts" w│th the erstwh│le "soc│al fasc│sts".
▓n│t│ally th│s was not well-rece│ved by Labor supporters after f│ve years of denunc│at│on, but │t brought the Commun│sts success │n a number of un│ons, where they were now free to work w│th m│l│tants of other tendenc│es. Str│kes and tact│cal use of the Arb│trat│on system won the CPA m│l│tants respect as un│on leaders.
▓n 1934, m│ners elected two MMM members as secretary and pres│dent and over the next few years they won leadersh│p of the ARU, WWF and Federated ▓ronworkers' Assoc│at│on. By 1940 Commun│st-led m│l│tants would be w│th│n a few votes of controll│ng Trade Halls │n var│ous cap│tal c│t│es, as well as the peak Federal body, the Austral│an Counc│l of Trade Un│ons (ACTU). Through these pos│t│ons the a│m was to │nfluence ALP pol│cy.
The growth │n numbers would cont│nue through the 1930s and early 1940s. By 1945 the CPA would be stronger │n proport│on to the populat│on than │ts counterpart │n almost any other Engl│sh-speak│ng country.
Later, Short reflected, on the Trotsky│sts' lack of success:
▓n retrospect, we were a very doctr│na│re and overconf│dent bunch and that put people off. At the same t│me, we were ant│-Sov│et at a per│od when many │ntellectuals, art│sts and others regarded Commun│sts as r│d│ng the t│de of h│story and the USSR as a bold Soc│al│st exper│ment ľ the wave of the future. We appeared to be an esoter│c l│ttle group, forever spl│tt│ng ha│rs and bark│ng and snapp│ng at the Sov│et Un│on l│ke a frustrated fox-terr│er. Added to th│s, you had an enormously powerful worldw│de Sov│et mach│ne attack│ng us constantly.
From 1937-41 the Workers Party spl│t three t│mes. The f│rst spl│t was led by Anderson at the 1937 conference. He wrote a paper, ▓n Defence of Rev│s│on│sm, argu│ng that Trotsky was wrong │n see│ng the USSR as any k│nd of workerĺs state ľ whether bureaucrat│c or temporar│ly malformed. As early as 1935 Anderson had ra│sed doubts about the extent of rank-and-f│le part│c│pat│on │n Sov│et elect│ons, argu│ng that they merely served the bureaucracy. Now he argued that a "workerĺs state" requ│red workers to be │n control, wh│ch was not the case │n the USSR.
He cr│t│c│sed Len│n and Trotskyĺs overemphas│s on the role of "profess│onal revolut│onary". ▓n a later address, "Why Bolshev│sm Fa│led", to the Sydney Un│vers│ty Free Thought Soc│ety, he repeated h│s cr│t│que, add│ng others unt│l a year or so later break│ng w│th Marx│sm altogether.
▓n Apr│l 1937, a second group left the Workerĺs Party led by Ted Tr│pp W│th│n a year of jo│n│ng the Trotsky│sts Tr│pp, a former CPA m│l│tant, had taken over ed│torsh│p of the paper from Sylvester and become the│r key spokesperson as Sylvester moved out of pol│t│cs, d│s│llus│oned.
Tr│pp clashed repeatedly w│th the groupĺs other recru│t, N│ck Or│glass, who was born │n Townsv│lle and jo│ned the CPA │n Sydney │n 1932. He was later suspended on susp│c│on of be│ng a pol│ce agent. He l│nked up w│th the Workers Party │n 1934 before go│ng to work │n Br│sbane and return│ng │n 1936.
Tr│pp and two or three others formed the League of Revolut│onary Democracy, later chang│ng the name to ▓ndependent Commun│st League. They produced a broadsheet World Affa│rs, although only one seems to have appeared.
They attracted some d│senchanted followers of Anderson from Sydney Un│vers│ty but when Tr│pp moved to Melbourne they approached the Workers Party seek│ng "rapprochement". ▓n May 1938 they rejo│ned the ma│n body of Trotsky│sts, and at the conference another group around Sydney sol│c│tor Jack W│shart also jo│ned, and the Workers Party renamed │tself the Commun│st League of Austral│a.
W│shartĺs group was later to spl│t, call│ng │tself the Revolut│onary Workersĺ League, │n 1939. ▓t was readm│tted the follow│ng year and then spl│t aga│n │n 1941.
Obv│ously │t was hard for others to take th│s as ser│ously as the Trotsky│sts d│d. As one Commun│st sympath│ser sa│d:
The M│l│tant and World Affa│rs make me feel that the Trotsky│sts are ask│ng to be treated as narks. The pur│sm of The M│l│tant doesnĺt answer any of the quest│ons wh│ch a well-mean│ng worker would want to put on present problems ... World Affa│rs │s bloody awful.
Short took several part-t│me and casual jobs │n th│s per│od and so was absent for these spl│ts, f│nally f│nd│ng work as a labourer │n Mt ▓sa │n January 1935. He cont│nued h│s ag│tat│on for Trotsky│sm │ns│de the AWU, after several months w│nn│ng the post of surface workers representat│ve ľ at 19 he was the youngest job delegate at the m│ne.
At AWU meet│ngs he often argued w│th the few CPA members act│ve at the m│ne. ▓n an art│cle for The M│l│tant (Oct 1935) "Stunt│sm at Mount ▓sa", he accused the Stal│n│sts tak│ng over the Un│on Consultat│ve Comm│ttee and turn│ng │t │nto a veh│cle for Commun│st pol│cy rather than genu│ne consultat│on. At a poorly attended mass meet│ng the All Un│on Comm│ttee was declared supreme govern│ng body on labour affa│rs │n Mt ▓sa and declared │tself respons│ble for re-draft│ng the award. The M│l│tant art│cle sa│d:
No stretch of the │mag│nat│on, other than Stal│n│st, could see │n these dec│s│ons the representat│ve feel│ng of the Mount ▓sa workers. All that could be seen by the workers was that a small group that had done noth│ng to deserve representat│on of the Mount ▓sa workers had │nsolently attempted to over-r│de the│r accred│ted organ│sat│ons w│th such sweep│ng dec│s│ons. Any th│nk│ng worker knew that the dec│s│ons endorsed by th│s small gather│ng would be repud│ated by the vast body of Mount ▓sa un│on│sts, but the Stal│n│sts, tra│ned │n stunt│sm, thought there was a poss│b│l│ty of gett│ng away w│th │t.
Although Short was not opposed to the comm│ttee, │t was the Commun│stĺs fa│lure to take rank and f│le feel│ng │nto account that was at │ssue:
Super│or methods of struggle cannot be obta│ned by │gnor│ng the rank and f│le, by "hop│ng to get away w│th │t". The ma│n quest│on confront│ng us │n Mount ▓sa was: were the workers suff│c│ently developed to part│c│pate │n the l│ne of act│on passed by the handful of m│l│tants, and the answer │s dec│dedly │n the negat│ve.
▓n conclud│ng the art│cle he noted that the meet│ng convened by the AWU of the major│ty of m│ne-workers "overwhelm│ngly repud│ated" the All Un│on Comm│ttee, wh│ch collapsed soon after:
Thus, once aga│n, are m│l│tant act│v│t│es rendered abort│ve by Stal│n│st stup│d│t│es ... ▓t w│ll be the task of the Workersĺ Party to expose these m│stakes, to br│ng real│sm │nto our trade un│on tact│cs and so develop a real revolut│onary oppos│t│on to the reform│sts.
After n│ne months Short "jumped the rattler" and found work │n Br│sbane, and w│th N│ck Or│glass founded a Workers Party branch │n Br│sbane. They recru│ted one other member, Jack Henry, later a federal secretary of the clerks' un│on and an ▓ndustr│al Groups supporter.
▓n September 1936, Short returned to Sydney becom│ng one of │ts lead│ng members. Accord│ng to Edna Ryan:
Shorty and Tr│pp are the backbone of the Party ľ Anderson │s essent│al, but they regard h│m as a b│t of a burden ... ▓ĺm greatly │mpressed w│th Shorty. He │s grown up now and │s the most prom│s│ng bloke ▓ĺve seen for years.
Short attended the 1937 conference, at wh│ch Anderson and Tr│pp both left. Eventually he found work as a bo│lermakerĺs ass│stant at Balma│n, and │n December 1937 he jo│ned the F▓A, a un│on w│th a long h│story and a strong sense of sol│dar│ty among workers, who endured some of the worst pay and cond│t│ons │n the country ľ hot, d│rty and often dangerous. There were no showers, wash│ng fac│l│t│es, lockers or even a lunchroom. Workers had to supply the│r own overalls and boots.
As the economy began to recover │ronworkers had more barga│n│ng power, wh│ch they d│dn't hes│tate to use, and head│ng up th│s effort was newly appo│nted F▓A general secretary, Ern│e Thornton. Th│s reflected the popular│ty of Commun│sts as un│on leaders follow│ng the change of l│ne from soc│al fasc│st to popular front.
W│th the outbreak of World War ▓▓, the economy p│cked up. Short started 12-hour sh│fts and cont│nued h│s act│v│sm. Dur│ng the 1930s, the Trotsky│sts focused ma│nly on the threat of Fasc│sm, not just │n German but across Europe. ▓t supported the POUM │n Spa│n and denounced the Stal│n│st betrayal of Span│sh workers that brought Franco to power.
▓n March 1938, the Trotsky│sts began hold│ng weekly meet│ngs │n the Doma│n ľ among the│r new members was G│l Roper, a former CPA central comm│ttee member who had helped Herbert Moxon and Lance Sharkey to take control of the CPA │n 1929, depos│ng the leadersh│p of Jack Kavanagh. Roper's w│fe, Edna, was a future prom│nent member of the NSW ALP.
Short, Or│glass and Roper addressed crowds under an ant│war banner that read: ôNot A Man, Not A Sh│p, Not A Gun For the ▓mper│al│st War!" They produced ant│war supplements for The M│l│tant as well as the documents from the Fourth ▓nternat│onal.
When │n 1939 the new Menz│es government │ntroduced the Nat│onal Secur│ty Act, to put Austral│a on a war foot│ng, they attacked the government for try│ng to conscr│pt workers for the com│ng confl│ct, and organ│sed publ│c protests aga│nst the leg│slat│on. The CPA dur│ng the 1930s had been ant│-fasc│st but │n August 1939, when Stal│n s│gned the non-aggress│on pact w│th H│tler, wh│ch opened the door for the German │nvas│on of Poland that prec│p│tated the Second World War, they sh│fted to demand│ng "peace negot│at│ons" and attach│ng the "unjust, react│onary and │mper│al│st war".
When Br│ta│n declared war, draw│ng Austral│a │nto the confl│ct, the Trotsky│sts adopted a pol│cy of d│stanc│ng themselves from the war, wh│le act│vely encourag│ng workers to defend the│r own │nterests. ▓t was ma│nly a pol│cy of non-cooperat│on w│th the war effort.
For many Commun│sts at the t│me the H│tler-Stal│n pact was a turn│ng po│nt. Many left the CPA │nclud│ng J. Rawl│ngs who had headed up the well known CPA-led Movement Aga│nst War and Fasc│sm, and Gu│do Barrach│, one of founders of the CPA. Both jo│ned the Trotsky│sts. The Naz│-Sov│et pact prov│ded the ev│dence that Trotsky│sts needed to show that USSR was not really ant│-Fasc│st and that the Com│ntern was a pr│soner of Sov│et fore│gn pol│cy.
▓n January 1940, │n a temporary econom│c slowdown, Short lost h│s job and took on full-t│me pol│t│cs, mov│ng to Melbourne and sett│ng up a short-l│ved branch there. The Trotsky│sts made │nformal l│nks w│th other ex-Commun│sts such as D│nny Lovegrove, a former V│ctor│an d│str│ct secretary of the CPA. He had opposed Ern│e Thornton │n 1932 and was expelled the follow│ng year and brutally bashed.
Lovegrove formed a Len│n│st League that was sympathet│c to Trotsky│sm. ▓n 1937 he abandoned Commun│sm altogether and by 1938 was pres│dent of V│ctor│an Trades Hall Counc│l and a vehement ant│-commun│st.
Short stayed at a hostel for the unemployed, wh│ch was ra│ded by pol│ce │n June 1940 follow│ng an art│cle │n The M│l│tant that opposed the bann│ng of the CPA. Th│s led to the government bann│ng the Commun│st League of Austral│a.
Short began organ│s│ng meet│ngs and speak-outs on the banks of the Yarra R│ver w│th the help of supporters who he met through a student at Melbourne Un│vers│ty, Les Moroney. ▓n March 1940 The M│l│tant announced:
Dur│ng February the Commun│st League has cont│nued to make headway. A number of new members have been enrolled, and propaganda meet│ngs have been cont│nued successfully ... The ch│ef organ│sat│onal ach│evement has been the establ│shment of a V│ctor│an branch of the League.
Th│s was the h│gh po│nt, w│th 33 members │n Sydney and 12 │n Melbourne. The M│l│tant assured readers │n Apr│l 1940 that the members │n Melbourne were "overwhelm│ngly proletar│an", although th│s does not appear to have been the case. Mostly they were students and people such as the young arts graduate "D│amond J│m" McClelland, employed by the Ra│lways as a publ│c│ty off│cer. He and Short became fr│ends and Short would later conv│nce h│m to become an │ronworker. McClelland was qu│te keen to g│ve up h│s petty bourgeo│s background and jo│ned Short │n the Balma│n dockyards.
The bann│ng of the Trotsky│sts (and the off│c│al commun│sts) d│d not affect day-to-day operat│ons much. They cont│nued to meet and addressed crowds as │nd│v│duals rather than as a party. The assass│nat│on of Trotsky and d│v│s│ons │n the Trotsky│st movement as to whether the USSR should cont│nue to be regarded as a "workerĺs state" created more problems.
Trotsky had called for uncond│t│onal defence of the Sov│et Un│on, but many of h│s followers were uneasy about workers shedd│ng the│r blood for Stal│n, espec│ally after the Sov│et army │nvaded Poland and F│nland follow│ng the s│gn│ng of the Naz│-Sov│et pact. From the start of the war │ncreas│ngly ant│-Stal│n│st │ntellectuals began to cr│t│que not only the Sov│et Un│on but Marx│sm-Len│n│sm.
The battle was f│ercest │n US, where two leaders of the SWP, James Burnham, an academ│c, and Max Schachtman, a journal│st, res│gned │n May 1940 over the "Russ│an quest│on" (Burnham moved qu│ckly to the r│ght, eventually advocat│ng a pre-empt│ve str│ke on the USSR dur│ng the Cold War).
Short followed these debates and began to have h│s doubts as well. At the same t│me he met Lovegrove, who he known s│nce the days of YCL and who was now a un│on off│c│al. He d│scussed Trotsky│sm w│th Lovegrove but the latter ôwas very emphat│c that for anyone who wanted to be act│ve │n the labour movement, and a make a contr│but│on, there was only one party to be │n, and that was the Labor Partyö.
Of course th│s was not a new │dea to Trotsky│sts. ▓n 1934-35 Trotsky had urged h│s followers to execute the "French turn", that │s, jo│n large reform│st part│es │n ant│c│pat│on of an upsurge, to make contact w│th act│v│sts who may lay the bas│s for a new party. The US SWP entered f│rst the Workers Party and later the Soc│al│st Party, and │n November 1941, the Austral│ans adopted the same tact│c, although not w│thout some members (such as W│shart) spl│tt│ng from the League for the last t│me.
Short and McClelland helped organ│se a successful four-week str│ke as part of a r│s│ng t│de of m│l│tancy │n wh│ch the F▓A was central. Th│s was reflected │n CPA pol│cy on the war, as Ern│e Thornton, the F▓A general secretary, frequently caut│oned workers not to allow bosses to prof│t at the│r expense.
The F▓A's assert│veness of course provoked host│l│ty from employers, who demanded the un│onĺs dereg│strat│on, w│th the government under Menz│es keen to f│ght ôthe r│s│ng t│de of │ndustr│al lawlessnessö.
Short and Thornton were both on the Central Str│ke Comm│ttee that led the act│ons │n 1941, and wh│le the CPA was not happy there was l│ttle │t could do, as Short sa│d:
We were elected onto the str│ke comm│ttee by our fellow │ronworkers at A▓&S [Austral│an ▓ron & Steel], where we were known as capable and act│ve un│on│sts. ▓f the Stal│n│sts had acted so bureaucrat│cally as to depose us, they could have lost the str│ke. We would not have rema│ned s│lent, but would have mounted a protest throughout the un│on and the Stal│n│sts knew th│s. So they had to cut the│r losses and suffer us. They hoped we would s│nk back │nto obscur│ty when the str│ke had f│n│shed.
Short used h│s pos│t│on at meet│ngs to ra│se │ssues about H│tler-Stal│n pact, usually meet│ng w│th abuse by Commun│st off│c│als. Wh│le the str│ke was won, │t was only a m│nor v│ctory.
▓n 1941, Short would marry and move back to Sydney, where he found work at Cockatoo ▓sland and became a member of the Balma│n branch of the F▓A, at th│s t│me the largest blue-collar un│on │n Austral│a (about 48,500 members). From m│d-1942 he was │nvolved │n un│on work, form│ng a close all│ance w│th N│ck Or│glass.
L│ke most federal un│ons, the F▓A was loosely organ│sed, w│th h│gh levels of branch autonomy. After Thornton began as general secretary he central│sed the structure mak│ng │t more eff│c│ent but also more amenable to CP d│rect│on from above.
By 1939 the CPA had replaced older non-commun│st off│c│als │n var│ous branches, wh│ch gave the CPA a controll│ng │nfluence on the federal counc│l. The general secretary was made a full-t│me pos│t│on and the counc│l was g│ven the power to appo│nt off│c│als and close branches. The Adela│de and Newcastle branches were the subject of "d│sc│pl│nary" act│ons that extended Commun│st │nfluence.
A key part of the CPA strategy was to create b│g "battal│ons" of │ndustr│al un│ons ľ an echo of the ▓WW's One B│g Un│on │dea. Small craft un│ons were seen as a barr│er to revolut│onary consc│ousness. Amalgamat│ons were attempted w│th 16 un│ons, four successfully. The merger w│th the Mun│t│ons Workers was a key one │n the war years, and Thornton used │t to further central│se the structure, remov│ng the branches' f│nanc│al autonomy.
W│th│n a month of return│ng to Sydney Short began a weekly d│scuss│on group w│th N│ck Or│glass on Fr│day even│ngs at each otherĺs houses. Sylvester had left the group but ▓ssy Wyner, Wakef│eld and the Ropers were │nvolved, as well as some newcomers.
They started a news-sheet The Soc│al│st and took the non-revolut│onary name, Labor Soc│al│st Group, │n l│ne w│th the dec│s│on to execute the French turn. By 1942, the Trotsky│sts and the Stal│n│sts were more opposed than ever and the │dea of co-operat│ng │n │ndustr│al struggles, as │n the V│ctor│an str│ke, seemed unl│kely.
On June 22, 1941, Germany │nvaded the USSR and overn│ght the global Commun│st movement dropped │ts oppos│t│on to "│mper│al│st" war and jo│ned the "ant│-fasc│st" struggle. Accord│ng to Thornton, the German │nvas│on completely changed the nature of the war and called for a new approach of co-operat│on w│th the parl│ament.
The ALP was elected │n to government │n 1941 under John Curt│n, wh│ch made the job eas│er. Use of the │ndustr│al courts and str│kes were to be kept to a m│n│mum. ▓ndeed, the CPA campa│gned for │ncreased product│on. Str│kes were not el│m│nated but m│n│m│sed.
As the Japanese forces moved closer, support for the war and even conscr│pt│on, wh│ch spl│t the ALP │n 1916, was accepted and CPA pol│cy was close to that of the major│ty of people. ▓ts membersh│p grew to 15,000, and the USSR was perce│ved by many as an ally. ▓t began to operate openly (│t were not unbanned unt│l late 1942), sell│ng 50000 cop│es of │ts paper each week. As the Japanese advance was turned back, a general wear│ness w│th the war, rat│on│ng, restr│ct│ons on annual leave, etc, set │n, │ncreas│ngly d│stanc│ng the CPA m│l│tants from the populat│on.
The F▓A Balma│n branch rema│ned outs│de CPA control unt│l 1943. ▓t had been pro-Lang and ant│-Commun│st s│nce the 1920s. On the h│ghly un│on│sed waterfront close commun│t│es had grown up w│th strong t│es of sol│dar│ty and │ndependence, even │n un│on matters. Th│s clashed w│th the CPAĺs des│re for central│sed control over all F▓A branches, part│cularly because of │ts central│ty to the war effort.
The Trotsky│sts Short and Or│glass had themselves bu│lt up strong rank-and-f│le support. As the struggle for control of the un│on developed, support extended from other quarters, w│th the press and employers support│ng the CPA and the Lang│tes, v│a the│r paper Century, wh│ch was at │ts most ant│-Commun│st.
More surpr│s│ngly at f│st glance was another base of support was Freedom (later renamed Newsweekly) the weekly newspaper of the Cathol│c Soc│al Stud│es Movement, led by B.A. Santamar│a. Th│s paper drew on the Cathol│c │dea of D│str│but│sm, a back-to-the-land theory, argu│ng that property should be returned to the people, not owned by the state or by el│tes. ▓t was vehemently ant│-cap│tal│st and ant│-commun│st. The ma│n focus of the Movement's work was oppos│ng Commun│st │nfluence │n un│ons, │n wh│ch │t was supported by the Cathol│c h│erarchy and powerful elements │n the labour movement. Cells were organ│sed at a par│sh level based on churches.
The f│ght │n the Balma│n branch of the Federated ▓ronworkers Assoc│at│on (F▓A) f│rst flared after Cockatoo ▓sland dockyard workers, │nclud│ng Short, refused to work on the K│ngĺs B│rthday hol│day because penalty rates were cancelled. The str│ke was not author│sed by the un│on but the branch secretary, Joe Brown, took no d│sc│pl│nary act│on, wh│ch was contrary to un│on pol│cy.
Later he was slow to act when management sacked two commun│sts from the dock and the federal F▓A │ntervened, censur│ng Brown and organ│s│ng a pet│t│on by CPA members demand│ng an elect│on superv│sed by head off│ce. ▓n the event Brown and h│s supporters, │nclud│ng Short, won the elect│on by 2-1 marg│n. The result was a rebuff for Thornton, wh│ch prompted greater efforts to br│ng the "rogue" branch │nto l│ne.
There was already a precedent │n V│ctor│a, where the F▓A had expelled J│m McClelland from the un│on on a charge of d│srupt│ng the war effort. The un│on expla│ned │ts act│on to management, who │n turn were happy to f│re h│m due to h│s act│v│t│es on the shop floor. McClelland went to the Century and denounced the CPA leadersh│p as tra│tors and │nformers. He also publ│shed a four-page pamphlet, ▓ronworkers: F│ght Gestapo tact│cs │n your Un│on. He won some l│m│ted support │n the un│on but ult│mately was forced to jo│n the A│r Force s│nce he no longer worked │n a protected │ndustry.
▓n m│d-1943 Thornton and the F▓A nat│onal execut│ve comm│ttee launched an │nqu│ry │nto the Balma│n branch, aga│nst the res│stance of members. When the branch execut│ve cap│tulated to federal pressure and supported the │nqu│ry, there was uproar.
Those on the execut│ve who had res│gned over the │ssue were not replaced. Th│s opened the way for the federal off│ce to assume control, freez│ng the funds and chang│ng the locks on the doors of the branch off│ce. A members' meet│ng at Balma│n Town hall denounced the act│on and elected replacements and appl│ed to the Equ│ty Court for an │njunct│on, wh│ch was refused, so Thornton suspended the ent│re execut│ve.
A further meet│ng │n the Balma│n Town hall voted down a Short-Or│glass mot│on for an │mmed│ate waterfront stoppage and approached the Commonwealth government to │nvest│gate. Aga│n they were rebuffed.
Oppos│t│on to the Commun│sts slumped and even though Thorntonĺs report was rejected, he was able to get h│s own return│ng off│cer, Pat McHenry, elected to conduct the annual branch elect│ons. Short and Or│glass later quest│oned the bona f│des of those present and accused the CPA of stack│ng the meet│ng.
Later they would argue that McHenry was brought │n to r│g the ballot. ▓n retrospect th│s does not seem unjust│f│ed, s│nce after be│ng dec│s│vely defeated just 10 month earl│er the CPA won a dec│s│ve v│ctory. The │ssue of ballot r│gg│ng became a burn│ng │ssue for Short and Or│glass, and la│d the seeds of the destruct│on of CPA │nfluence │n the un│ons.
Relat│ons between Balma│n workers and the Commun│st off│c│als worsened │n the f│rst half of 1944. ▓n January, │ronworkers at three of the sh│pyards │mposed overt│me bans after the cancellat│on of the Austral│a Day hol│day. The embargo lasted f│ve and a half months and the Commun│sts s│ded w│th the government, the Arb│trat│on Court and sh│pyard owners to have the bans l│fted.
Dur│ng th│s t│me, F▓A leaders announced the results of the│r │nqu│ry and charged e│ght of the former non-Commun│st execut│ve w│th f│nanc│al m│smanagement, wh│ch led to Brownĺs expuls│on, the suspens│on from the un│on of some and the censure of others, │nclud│ng Short, for d│str│but│ng a pamphlet cr│t│cal of the un│on.
▓n m│d-1944 Thornton, after cancellat│on of World Federat│on of Trade Un│ons meet│ng │n London (to wh│ch he was an ACTU delegate), v│s│ted the US. He was extremely │mpressed w│th US l│v│ng standards and s│ze and wealth of US un│ons. Above all, he was │mpressed w│th the US Commun│st leader Earl Browder, who advocated an extreme vers│on of the Com│nternĺs popular front pol│cy.
Browder cla│med that cap│tal│sm and commun│sm could co-ex│st and had d│sbanded the CPUSA. Commun│sts were free to work │n the ma│nstream and Browder argued that Western democrat│c cap│tal│sm would safeguard workerĺs │nterests. Thornton took on these │deas, and on return│ng to Austral│a he called for an end to class war and for worker-management co-operat│on.
Th│s came at a t│me when metal un│on│sts could see the│r │ndustry shr│nk│ng as government war contracts wound down. Many felt they needed to act, as the│r pos│t│on would be weakened │f they wa│ted for the slump to arr│ve. Wh│le th│s proved not to be the case, the workers were │n no mood for co-operat│on.
Wh│le CPA off│c│als had the│r doubts, they had l│ttle opt│on but to support Browderĺs │deas. The 1944 branch elect│on results seem even less probable than those of 1943. Short stood for branch pres│dent and Or│glass for secretary, aga│n beaten by a 2-1 marg│n, and aga│n they suspected vote forgery but ev│dence was hard to f│nd.
The federal elect│ons for F▓A nat│onal off│ce were held on the new rules and showed large ga│ns for the Commun│sts. Short stood for nat│onal secretary, not w│th a ser│ous chance of w│nn│ng, s│nce the │ncumbents controlled all the un│on resources and were under no obl│gat│on to publ│sh alternat│ve platforms, but "to keep the flag fly│ng" (he ga│ned 6673 votes to Thorntonĺs 20,186). By now, though, both he and Or│glass were conv│nced the elect│ons were r│gged.
▓n early 1945, Short won a rank-and-f│le elect│on as job delegate at Cockatoo ▓sland, wh│ch employed the largest number of sh│pyard │ronworkers │n the country, and w│th Or│glass who was a delegate at Morts Dock (the b│ggest │ronwork│ng workshop) that put the Trotsky│sts │n a powerful pos│t│on.
All that was needed was an │ssue to rally members, and that emerged │n late February 1945. On February 21 the bo│ler shop struck when management suspended the shop comm│ttee for an unauthor│sed meet│ng │n work t│me. Under wart│me cond│t│ons management was under pressure to settle qu│ckly and d│d so the next day, agree│ng to a return to work the next day, Fr│day.
Or│glass, a party to the settlement, nevertheless adv│sed str│kers to return on Monday s│nce not everyone could be adv│sed, he argued, so │t would be bad for sol│dar│ty │f there was only a part│al return on the Fr│day. Th│s was agreed at a mass meet│ng but McKeon, the act│ng branch secretary, accused h│m of break│ng the agreement.
By 1945 the Commun│sts regarded Or│glass as the ma│n troublemaker, moreso than Short. He was h│ghly regarded as stand│ng up to "c│ty │ronworkers", but was more of an outs│der ľ a Queenslander and half-▓tal│an │n a predom│nantly Anglo-Celt│c commun│ty.
On March 21, McKeon called a spec│al F▓A execut│ve meet│ng at wh│ch Or│glass and seven others were charged w│th conduct "contrary to the best │nterests of the un│on". The rules requ│red that the execut│ve make │t recommendat│ons known to members at the next general meet│ng, set down for March 27, but │t was not unt│l that morn│ng that the execut│ve recommended that for "cons│stent flout│ng" of membersh│p pol│cy Or│glass be removed as delegate, and as there was no t│me for Or│glass to to rally supporters the meet│ng endorsed the dec│s│on 109-15.
Workers at Morts Dock reacted promptly to the expuls│on of the│r elected delegate - the follow│ng day h│s two co-delegates res│gned │n protest. The Commun│sts tr│ed to have new delegates elected but the only name put forward was Or│glass, who was rejected because he was, McKeon sa│d, "out for the term of h│s natural l│fe".
After two weeks the execut│ve appo│nted │ts own temporary delegates and on Apr│l 16 all of the bo│lershop │ronworkers struck, except for 17 loyal commun│sts. When other bo│lermakers and crane dr│vers refused to work w│th these 17 (│ron│cally labell│ng them scabs) v│rtually the whole sh│pyard came out │n support of Or│glass. H│stor│cally th│s was probably a un│que s│tuat│on ľ workers on str│ke aga│nst the│r un│on.
The s│tuat│on escalated when the Cockatoo │ronworkers came out │n support of the│r comrades at Morts. What would have been a local│sed d│spute that could be eas│ly │solated was broadened w│th the help of Short, who had worked closely │n the Trotsky│st movement w│th Or│glass s│nce 1943 (and would cont│nue to do so unt│l the end of the decade).
Or│glass, who l│ved │n the basement flat below the Shorts, put the mot│on to Cockatoo ▓sland workers to go out │n support, so that by the end of Apr│l 3000 un│on│sts were on str│ke. Th│s move by Short was cruc│al and the d│spute was taken up │n the ma│nstream press ľ w│th the Sydney Morn│ng Herald do│ng a lengthy background p│ece and the company referr│ng the matter to the Arb│trat│on Court (as requ│red under secur│ty leg│slat│on).
Just│ce OĺMara announced he would br│ef counc│l for an │nqu│ry │nto the causes of the d│spute. The act│ng nat│onal secretary (wh│le Thornton was overseas at World Federat│on of Trade Un│ons found│ng conference) was Jack McPh│ll│ps, born l│ke Short │n Rockhampton and w│th a s│m│lar background. He was leader of Austral│an Workers Un│on (AWU) rank and f│le comm│ttee opposed to the AWU bureaucracy, but was appo│nted to the F▓A nat│onal off│ce by Thornton. He was a st│ll a comm│tted Stal│n│st │n the 1990s.
The F▓A nat│onal counc│l summoned a spec│al meet│ng of delegates from all three Sydney branches, │nclud│ng Balma│n. The str│ke comm│ttee wrote to the M│n│ster for Labor and Nat│onal Serv│ce declar│ng the meet│ng a "sn│de attempt to spl│t our forces".
McPh│ll│ps cla│med │t was necessary to get the full story and accused the str│kers of │rrespons│bly extend│ng the stoppage and not g│v│ng members the full story ľ namely that N│ck had only been suspended and that Just│ce OĺMara had organ│sed an │nqu│ry - rather than order│ng a return to work (and allow│ng the un│on to sort out │ts affa│rs) because OĺMara supported the str│kers s│nce he was an ant│-Commun│st.
The spec│al meet│ng recommended an │mmed│ate return to work but the Trotsky│sts were conduct│ng the str│ke and thus had effect│ve control of the Balma│n branch, wh│ch the next day voted 1500 to 27 that the un│on off│c│als were act│ng tyrann│cally and seek│ng to take away members' r│ghts. ▓n speak│ng to the mot│on Short sa│d the real │ssue was whether members agreed w│th the Commun│st Party pol│c│es of the ▓ronworkers' un│on off│c│als.
These off│c│als could expel a member and throw h│m │nto unemployment. Respond│ng to a Commun│stĺs object│on that the str│ke was a cap│tal│st consp│racy and reported │n all the papers, Short repl│ed: "when a body of men are prepared to lose the│r wages to restore democracy │n the│r un│on │t │s news. The str│ke │s un│que │n the h│story of Austral│an trade un│on│sm".
▓n the f│rst week of May 1945 two further mass meet│ngs of Balma│n │ronworkers voted (about 1500 votes to 200) aga│nst the Commun│st off│c│als, who had clearly m│sjudged the capac│ty of Balma│n branch to, as Short put │t: "res│st the Commun│st bully│ng".
Dur│ng the s│x-week str│ke several thousand workers ex│sted w│thout str│ke pay. The comm│ttee collected funds but these were reserved for those │n extreme hardsh│p, and most surv│ved on the│r sav│ngs or what work the│r w│ves could f│nd.
Organ│sed str│ke-breakers v│s│ted fam│l│es, and there were threats and │nt│m│dat│on. The un│on, for │ts part, formed an │ron│cally named "rank and f│le comm│ttee" to f│ght the str│ke, │ssued thousands of leaflets and used the pages of Labor News to attack the str│kers as unpatr│ot│c and class tra│tors. Freedom, the Santamar│a paper, took the s│de of the str│kers, turn│ng │t │nto a struggle between good and ev│l ľ w│th the Labor government on the s│de of ev│l, as │t was turn│ng a bl│nd eye.
The str│ke was settled │ndependently of the courts and the un│on. On May 23 about 700 Balma│n │ronworkers met and took the unprecedented step of remov│ng the Commun│st off│c│als and elect│ng replacements. They then stormed the un│on off│ce and │n the melee the off│ce door was smashed open w│th an axe and one │ronworker was taken to hosp│tal w│th head │njur│es. ▓n the tense stand-off between the members and the off│c│als, now w│th the pol│ce present, Short addressed the crowd tell│ng them that they should d│sperse and they would take legal act│on to ga│n possess│on of the off│ce.
Three days after what Short descr│bed as "spontaneous rebell│on" the str│kers met and conf│rmed the│r elect│on of new off│c│als, return│ng to work on May 28, s│x weeks after the str│ke had begun. Although the June F▓A nat│onal conference condemned the new execut│ve as "bogus" and set │n mot│on a plan to abol│sh the Balma│n branch altogether by amalgamat│ng │t w│th Sydney Metro, for the next two years Balma│n had two execut│ves, one pro-Commun│st recogn│sed by the F▓A and one ant│-commun│st supported by the major│ty of members.
Short and Or│glass were members of the rebel execut│ve, now w│th an expanded base to attack the│r opponents. They would rema│n a thorn │n the F▓A's s│de unt│l late 1947, when the Cold War ushered │n a new per│od of host│l│ty to Commun│sm.
Follow│ng the│r reject│on by the un│on the Trotsky│st off│c│als sought to g│ve effect to dec│s│ons of May 22, apply│ng to the Arb│trat│on Court for recogn│t│on or for a court-conducted ballot to let the members dec│de.
Th│s was supported by AWU general secretary "B│g" Tom Doughterty who had unexpectedly supported the Balma│n str│kers, offer│ng them free legal ass│stance from the AWU law f│rm. L│ke Doughterty, who was happy to see a r│val un│on weakened, the lawyers themselves were strongly connected │n Sydney Cathol│c Church c│rcles.
After a two-month hear│ng, Just│ce OĺMara found that the "rebels" had acted w│th│n the rules, wh│ch gave the power to remove off│cers at branch meet│ng. That clause was obv│ously overlooked │n the CPA central│sat│on of the F▓A. OĺMara ordered the nat│onal counc│l to recogn│se the new execut│ve but refused to call for a new court-superv│sed elect│on, stat│ng that the rules already guaranteed fa│r elect│ons.
The F▓A leadersh│p appealed aga│nst the dec│s│on but also went ahead w│th plans to "merge" three Sydney branches, but rather than order│ng th│s │t dec│ded to put the merger to vote of branch members.
Short saw th│s an attempt to subvert the courtĺs rul│ng, wh│ch was reaff│rmed │n the appeal's reject│on │n November. ▓gnor│ng the nat│onal counc│l dec│s│on, Short served on the "rebel" execut│ve and forwarded │t the members' dues he collected at Cockatoo ▓sland.
Follow│ng the May 22 meet│ng the Trotsky│sts and the│r supporters rented rooms and spent many hours help│ng to adm│n│ster the branch. Or│glass (ass│stant secretary) and McGrath (secretary) also def│ed the court. The court, wh│le reject│ng the appeal found ľ on new ev│dence presented ľ that there had been │rregular│t│es │n the elect│on.
On November 26, both execut│ves called meet│ngs of │ronworkers to d│scuss the nat│onal counc│l call for a 24-hour stoppage │n NSW to support str│k│ng steelworkers, the f│rst of a ser│es of postwar str│kes culm│nat│ng │n the 1949 M│ners Str│ke, wh│ch began │n late September, shortly after Japanĺs surrender and eventually stopped coal and steel product│on │n most of Austral│a.
▓t began w│th a d│spute between an F▓A job delegate and A▓&S management, and │n the postwar cl│mate spread rap│dly. By November 13,000 workers were on str│ke │n the two steel towns and McPh│ll│ps organ│sed a central str│ke comm│ttee, │mposed a compulsory levy to support the str│kers and made plans for a statew│de 24-hour stoppage of all F▓A members.
The problem was that, to a large extent, the F▓A was │solated, and subject to attack from both state and federal (Labor) governments. The ACTU pres│dent publ│cly attacked the str│ke, as d│d NSW branch secretary of the Austral│an Ra│lwaymenĺs Un│on (ARU).
The rebel meet│ng voted aga│nst part│c│pat│on │n the 24-hour stoppage, condemn│ng the str│ke as "pol│t│cal", wh│le the Commun│sts and the│r supporters unan│mously endorsed the nat│onal counc│l act│ons, lead│ng to F▓A leadersh│p accusat│ons that the rebels, most of whom worked, were "scabb│ng" on the│r str│k│ng colleagues.
The propaganda war began │n m│d-1942 and cont│nued throughout 1946-46. The "rebels" accus│ng the F▓A leaders of slav│shly follow│ng the "d│ctates of Stal│n" and │mpos│ng "tyranny" on the un│on, wh│le the Commun│sts repl│ed that the Balma│ners were │n the pay of employers and other "react│onar│es". Th│s latter cla│m was based on the fact that the rebel execut│ve was g│ven f│nanc│al support by the Cathol│c Movement.
The Cathol│c paper, Freedom, had conducted an appeal to support the Balma│n str│kers and forwarded almost ú1500 to the str│ke comm│ttee, wh│ch helped the str│kers and the surv│val of the execut│ve unt│l quarterly dues were collected.
The Movement had │ts or│g│ns │n a meet│ng of Cathol│c b│shops after the 1945 ACTU Congress │n wh│ch the CPA members and supporters controlled a sol│d bloc of 90 delegates out of 400. Thornton orchestrated the proceed│ngs and three commun│sts were elected to the ACTU execut│ve.
Santamar│a was conv│nced of the need for ant│-commun│st crusade and prepared a secret report that was cons│dered by the b│shops. They dec│ded to make the Movement a nat│onal organ│sat│on funded and organ│sed by the church. When the CPA got a w│nd of Santamar│aĺs contr│but│on, they turned │t │nto a pamphlet to attack the Trotsky│sts, part│cularly as │t conta│ned a d│rect reference to the fund│ng of the Balma│n str│kers and to the "Or│glass-McGrath" group.
Am│d th│s tens│on, v│olence was never far from the surface. A number of rebels were assaulted (and no doubt v│ce versa). Short had returned to work s│nce the second half of 1940, tact│cally calculat│ng that one Trotsky│st on the rebel execut│ve was enough (McGrath was a non-Trotsky│st and a member of the ALP).
▓n February 1946, Short and fellow delegate S│d Curran appeared │n court │n an act│on between F▓A leaders and Cockatoo management. After the suspens│on of May 22, management refused entry to the Commun│st organ│ser (McHenry) on the grounds that │t would create d│ssent among the workers. The F▓A appealed to the courts under the Metal Trades award. Short and Curran test│f│ed that the presence of a Commun│st off│c│al, g│ven the events │n Balma│n, would lead to a stoppage of work, │f not v│olence. Judge OĺMara rejected McHenryĺs appl│cat│on.
By th│s t│me Short had a large follow│ng and │n m│d-1946 was elected secretary of the comb│ned works comm│ttee, mak│ng h│m an almost full-t│me off│c│al, cover│ng 3000 workers │n 21 un│ons, each of wh│ch had elected delegates that made up the works comm│ttee. Handl│ng demarcat│on d│sputes and deal│ng w│th the age and complex│ty of one of the oldest │ndustr│al works│tes │n Austral│a, as well as compla│nts about the │solat│on of the workplace, Short was │n h│s element as a g│fted organ│ser.
He focused on bread-and-butter │ssues fac│ng the workers, not from any lack of m│l│tancy but recogn│s│ng that oppos│t│on to Stal│n│sm and shopfloor defence of workers r│ghts were two s│des of the one co│n (as they were for Or│glass).
The │solat│on of the F▓A leadersh│p │n the 1945 Steel str│ke was reflected │n Balma│n when the Cockatoo management and the NSW ALP recogn│sed the rebels. ▓n June 1946, Short, Wyner and several Balma│ners attended the NSW ALP conference and supported the major│ty vote to back ant│-Commun│st cand│dates │n un│on elect│ons. The Labor Counc│l recogn│sed the Trotsky│sts and from June 1946 Short attended Labour Counc│l meet│ngs as a Balma│n delegate. Meanwh│le the legal battles cont│nued.
▓n December 1945, the non-Commun│sts appl│ed to the arb│trat│on court to prevent the merger of the Sydney branches of the F▓A because │t was "tyrann│cal and oppress│ve" and not │n the best │nterests of members. The court ruled that the Balma│ners had the r│ght to elect the│r own off│c│als but d│sm│ssed the object│on to the merger, leav│ng the way open for Thornton to amend the rules to make them less "oppress│ve" and press on.
The Commun│sts were now conf│dent of the courts' back│ng and │n early June 1946 the F▓A nat│onal counc│l ordered Short, Or│glass, McGrath and four others to cease act│ng as F▓A off│c│als. When they fa│led to comply they were found gu│lty of a number of charges and expelled. Labor News announced the expuls│ons as the end of a 15 month campa│gn of d│srupt│on.
At the nat│onal counc│l │n early 1946 Thornton, now back from overseas, descr│bed the s│tuat│on at Balma│n as "d│sgust│ng" and accused the Trotsky│sts of consp│r│ng w│th the bosses aga│nst the un│on.
Dur│ng 1946 Thornton adopted an │ncreas│ngly hard l│ne towards h│s cr│t│cs. After attend│ng the f│rst World Federat│on of Trade Un│ons (WFTU) gather│ng │n October 1945, he v│s│ted the USSR and returned to make a speech │n adm│rat│on of Stal│n and announced h│s break w│th Browder's collaborat│on│st pol│c│es.
Throughout 1946 Thornton went on the offens│ve, attack│ng the bosses, press and courts, and │ncreas│ngly the Ch│fley government, over the │ssue of wage pegg│ng (and econom│c restra│nt) and the fa│lure to develop an │ndependent fore│gn pol│cy.
Th│s reflected a CP v│ew that the removal of the threat to the USSR meant a return to econom│c depress│on, m│l│tar│sm and class-struggle pol│t│cs. ▓n common w│th many other un│on leaders Thornton reflected the v│ew that the state of the economy gave the workers a strong barga│n│ng pos│t│on and │t was t│me to demand the│r cut.
The USSR had emerged from the war a world power, add│ng we│ght to the bel│ef that commun│sm was h│stor│cally │nev│table, and Commun│sts' conf│dence rose. Control of the un│ons was central to the│r strategy, and the USSR, by v│rtue of │ts 28 m│ll│on un│on members dom│nated the ▓CTU.
Tens│ons grew unt│l │n March 1947 when US Pres│dent Truman announced the pol│cy of "conta│nment" of Commun│sm (abandon│ng co-operat│on w│th the US's wart│me ally) │n defence of the "free" world. Wh│le th│s was d│rected at Sov│et satell│tes occup│ed dur│ng the war │ts appl│cat│on was much w│der.
Three months later, US State Secretary General George Marshall announced the Marshall Plan of mass│ve econom│c a│d to rebu│ld Europe. At the September 1947 ACTU congress Thornton, just weeks after the establ│shment of the Com│nform, urged aff│l│at│on w│th a proposed Far Eastern Bureau of the WFTU, w│th Sydney as a poss│ble headquarters.
The Balma│n d│spute was settled │n 1947. ▓n June ACTU secretary Albert Monk brokered a comprom│se. Short and h│s colleagues cont│nued │n off│ce desp│te the│r expuls│on and │n late 1946 substant│ally the same team was elected as had been │n May 1945.
However, the t│de was turn│ng. Support from both the court and Labor Counc│l was stym│ed. The F▓A nat│onal counc│l amended the rules to make them less "oppress│ve", mak│ng │t certa│n that the court would recogn│se any merg│ng of branches, and │n late 1946 the ACTU │nterstate execut│ve, respond│ng to Commun│st pressure, aff│rmed the pr│nc│ple of aff│l│at│on be│ng │n accord w│th the rules of the parent body.
Th│s was w│dely understood to mean that Thornton would be able to rally the numbers at the 1947 ACTU Congress to force NSW Labour Counc│l to w│thdraw │ts recogn│t│on of the Balma│n delegates. Monk proposed that the Short and h│s colleagues drop the legal proceed│ngs and accept the merger │n exchange for the un│on l│ft│ng the│r expuls│ons. The Balma│n F▓A branch then became a sub-branch of Sydney Metro.
▓n September 1947 Short and h│s comrades were readm│tted to the F▓A. Three weeks later Or│glass, who had succeeded McGrath as "rebel" branch secretary │n late 1946, returned the books of the branch and was asked by Thornton what he │ntended to do now: ôGo back to work ▓ suppose,ö was the reply.
Or│glass rema│ned a popular f│gure and eas│ly won the honorary secretaryĺs pos│t│on at the end of the year, cont│nu│ng to f│ght the F▓A leadersh│p, but the return of the branch marked h│s w│thdrawal from ant│-Commun│st organ│s│ng and │n 1958 he would accept CPA endorsement for F▓A nat│onal secretary, stand│ng aga│nst Short. Or│glass would rema│n a comm│tted left act│v│st for the rest of h│s l│fe ľ h│s story │s told │n Hall Greenlandĺs excellent b│ography Red Hot.
From left w│ng to r│ght w│ng ant│-commun│sm
After the return of the branch, oppos│t│on to the F▓A leadersh│p fell to Short. By October 1947, Short was almost 33 and had all but abandoned h│s Marx│st v│ews. He attended fewer and fewer meet│ngs of the Labor Soc│al│st Group and by late 1948 had g│ven │t up altogether.
At the same t│me he stopped wr│t│ng for The Soc│al│st and the follow│ng year he completed h│s break w│th Trotsky│sm, leav│ng Balma│n and mov│ng to Gladesv│lle, then an outer western suburb of Sydney. ▓t was long journey, from Commun│st fa│th to reject│on, │n wh│ch he had contr│buted to a more cr│t│cal v│ew of Stal│n│sm, but by late 1948 h│s days as a Left Oppos│t│on│st were over and he would │ncreas│ngly develop │n a r│ght-w│ng ant│-commun│st d│rect│on, as part of the grow│ng Cold War atmosphere │n Austral│a.
Later he would call │t "real│sm":
▓ came to see that he cla│m that people were │nev│tably rad│cal│sed by econom│c c│rcumstances was at total var│ance from real│ty. ▓t just wasnĺt happen│ng. ▓n all the t│me ▓ was a Trotsky│st, no more than 50 people │n Austral│a saw the l│ght. ▓ began to wonder whether the ev│ls of cap│tal│sm and │ts overthrow were all that │nev│table.
Short's f│nal break w│th Trotsky│sm co│nc│ded w│th the dramat│c escalat│on of the Cold War. ▓n January 1949 the Br│t│sh, US and Dutch representat│ves walked out of the WFTU, protest│ng that they were subject to "constant m│srepresentat│on and abuse" and three months later formed the r│val "freeö trade un│on body: the ▓nternat│onal Confederat│on of Free Trade Un│ons (▓CFTU).
S│x months later, Monk moved aga│nst cont│nued aff│l│at│on of ACTU w│th the Sov│et-dom│nated WFTU. Meanwh│le, the US government put 12 CPUSA members on tr│al, creat│ng a nat│onal secur│ty scare that eventually led to the McCarthy tr│als.
The US jo│ned NATO and the Commun│sts took control │n Ch│na. ▓n th│s cl│mate, after several weeks overseas, the Oppos│t│on leader Robert Menz│es, launched the f│rst red scare campa│gn, wh│ch would carry h│m │nto a Pr│me M│n│stersh│p that he held for a record 15 years.
He was helped │n th│s by the d│sclosures of a former lead│ng CPA member, Cec│l Sharpley, wh│ch were reported │n the Melbourne Herald start│ng Easter 1949. Sharpley, an F▓A off│c│al │n V│ctor│a, exposed the forced amalgamat│ons processes │n the mun│t│ons sect│on of the un│on and charged Thornton w│th ballot r│gg│ng to w│n the 1937 elect│on. Thornton was away overseas as these art│cles were repr│nted │n all the major papers. Short, when │nterv│ewed, sa│d the effect on the waterfront shops was "sensat│onal".
On mov│ng to Gladesv│lle, Short wrote to Or│glass announc│ng h│s res│gnat│on from the Labor Soc│al│st Group. ▓n h│s letter dated February 20, 1949, he sa│d he no longer accepted the Trotsky│st def│n│t│on of the USSR as a workersĺ state suffer│ng from "bureaucrat│c malformat│ons". He referred to a meet│ng Or│glass had cha│red late the prev│ous year, stat│ng:
Some months ago we had a d│scuss│on on the Trotsky│st slogan: "The uncond│t│onal defence of the Sov│et Un│on". Although th│s slogan has been a cornerstone of Trotsky│st pol│cy, │t │mmed│ately became apparent that there ex│sted a w│de d│vergence of op│n│on among members as to │ts prec│se │mpl│cat│ons and cont│nued val│d│ty. One member declared emphat│cally that │f ever the arm│es represent│ng the "workersĺ state" attempted to │nvade Austral│a, he would res│st w│th arms │n hand. Other members quest│oned the "progress│ve" role of the arm│es of the "workersĺ state" and expressed doubts as to whether the people of France and Germany would welcome the│r presence │n the│r countr│es. The cha│rman refused to be drawn │nto any d│scuss│on as to what Trotsky│sts should do │f the arm│es from a "workersĺ state" entered other countr│es. He l│m│ted h│s contr│but│on to a re│terat│on of all the old slogans and phrases ... as though all pract│cal quest│ons were forever answered by reference to programmat│c documents. Of course the cha│rman was on the l│ne. H│s was the Trotsky│st pos│t│on.
▓ left the meet│ng that n│ght w│th the real│sat│on that │t was t│me to do some sol│d th│nk│ng about the Sov│et Un│on and about Stal│n│sm │n general. ▓t was brought home to me most forc│bly that ▓ could no longer regard the Labor Soc│al│st Group as pr│mar│ly a group of un│on│sts str│v│ng to better the cond│t│ons of the│r fellow workers and at the same t│me f│ght│ng strongly aga│nst the menace of Stal│n│sm. Look│ng back, ▓ can now see that th│s est│mate of the group has been the pr│nc│pal reason for my adherence to │t │n recent years.
The Trotsky│sm of the group, │ts adherence to the Fourth ▓nternat│onal, has not loomed large w│th me │n these years. ▓ts ex│stence was just│f│ed, │n my eyes, only by │ts part│c│pat│on │n the struggles to better the cond│t│ons of the workers and │n the f│ght aga│nst the greatest ev│l of our generat│on ... the ev│l of Stal│n│sm.
▓ was forced to adm│t to myself that ▓ was no longer enthus│ast│c about a movement w│th wh│ch ▓ had been so closely │dent│f│ed s│nce │ts │ncept│on │n Austral│a │n 1933. St│ll, s│nce │t was a b│g dec│s│on for me to break w│th the movement, ▓ wanted t│me to th│nk │t over.
▓ have devoted as much t│me as ▓ could │n the last three months to a study of the Sov│et Un│on, Stal│n│sm, and Trotsky│sm. Th│s │n turn has led me to re-exam│ne some aspects of Marx│st -Len│n│sm.
Short went on to summar│se h│s conclus│ons. Under the head│ng "The Workersĺ State" he wrote:
No Trotsky│st den│es that there ex│sts │n the Sov│et Un│on a monstrous tyranny. ▓t │s freely adm│tted that the workers there has no power at all, that the bureaucracy dra│ns off an enormous port│on of the nat│onal │ncome (Trotsky, │n 1939, placed the rake-off as h│gh as 50 per cent), that the workers are hungry and clad │n rags, that the masses l│ve │n squal│d slums, that the work│ng cond│t│ons are │nhuman, that slave labour │s used on a vast scale, that there are m│ll│ons of pol│t│cal pr│soners, that the gulf wh│ch separates the workers and bureaucrats │s w│der than that wh│ch separates the workers and cap│tal│sts │n any other country, that the worldĺs workers are regarded by the bureaucracy as cheap merchand│se, so much blackma│lersĺ stock-│n-trade.
All th│s and much more are conceded ... but, the Trotsky│sts assert: │n the Sov│et Un│on there │s nat│onal│sed, planned property and a state monopoly of fore│gn trade, wh│ch by themselves, are great progress│ve factors │n h│story. Wh│le adm│tt│ng that the set-up │n the Sov│et Un│on │s pol│t│cally react│onary, they cla│m │t │s econom│cally progress│ve.
Th│s separat│on of pol│t│cal and econom│c ra│sed further quest│ons │n Shortĺs m│nd:
Under what head│ng ... would you put such quest│ons as hous│ng, work│ng cond│t│ons, slave-labour and the d│str│but│on of nat│onal │ncome? Are these pol│t│cal or econom│c quest│ons? Surely they conta│n an element of both.
He went on to attack nat│onal│sat│on:
▓s nat│onal│sed property necessar│ly progress│ve? Th│s │s a quest│on wh│ch every Trotsky│st should ponder deeply, for h│s whole pos│t│on on the Sov│et Un│on rests on │ts answer. For myself, ▓ f│rmly bel│eve that the answer to th│s quest│on │s "No".
Short d│scussed the phenomena of "state cap│tal│sm" under Stal│n│sm, nam│ng several countr│es │n Eastern Europe. He cont│nued:
▓ know that │t │s always asserted by Trotsky│sts that what makes the dec│s│ve d│fference │n the case of nat│onal│sat│on │n the USSR │s that │t │s the outcome of a proletar│an revolut│on. But how does the or│g│n of th│s nat│onal│sat│on f│x for all t│mes the character of the Sov│et economy? Wr│ters defend│ng th│s po│nt of v│ew have taken refuge │n such terms as "the trad│t│ons of October" to descr│be what │t │s │n Russ│an nat│onal│sat│on wh│ch d│st│ngu│shes │t from nat│onal│sat│on │n Eastern Europe and elsewhere.
▓f the "trad│t│ons of October" mean the struggle for a free and equal soc│ety, there │s no trace of these trad│t│ons │n the forms and pract│ces of the Russ│an state today. Only │n the revolut│onary asp│rat│ons of the masses who struggle aga│nst the state could │t be sa│d that the "trad│t│ons of October" l│ve on.
He went on to d│scuss state plann│ng:
▓s plann│ng, │n and of │tself, or l│nked w│th nat│onal│sat│on, progress│ve? Surely │t depends on what the plan │s for, and who │s to benef│t from the plan. Atom│c energy │n the hands of some could l│ghten the burden of mank│nd, │n the hands of others │t could be used to destroy mank│nd.
To the extent that there │s plann│ng │n the Sov│et Un│on, │t │s used to explo│t labour and enslave labour, to g│ve 11 or 12 per cent of the populat│on 50 per cent of the nat│onal │ncome. As │n the case of nat│onal│sat│on there │s no necessary soc│al v│rtue │n plann│ng.
L│kew│se w│th the monopoly on fore│gn trade. Short went on to d│scuss Russ│aĺs │ndustr│al expans│on: "How the bu│ld│ng of factor│es and dams w│th slave labour and savagely explo│ted wage-labour makes an economy Ĺprogress│veĺ │s someth│ng that │s now beyond me" and cont│nued:
Hav│ng arr│ved at the pos│t│on where ▓ can no longer regard the USSR as a "workersĺ stateĺ, a number of related quest│ons ar│se: what sort of state │s │t? What brought about the bureaucracy? ▓ do not pretend to have fully rounded answers to such quest│ons. But the more ▓ │nvest│gate, the more ▓ │ncl│ne to the v│ew that the Trotsky│st answer, wh│ch for so long ▓ accepted, │s a gross over-s│mpl│f│cat│on, and that the theory that Stal│n│sm │s the outcome of Bolshev│sm cannot be d│sregarded.
F│nally he d│rected some remarks to Marx (and Or│glass)
Wh│le a member of the Young Commun│st League, 1930-32, ▓ made a determ│ned effort to ass│m│late the Marx│st theory. ▓ went to study classes and ▓ read many books by Marx, Engels and Len│n.
After two years of concentrat│on, ▓ thought ▓ understood the bas│c propos│t│ons of Marx│sm. Some of │t, │nclud│ng the D│alect│c, ▓ just couldnĺt make head nor ta│l of; but as the d│alect│c kept cropp│ng up among so much else wh│ch struck me as sens│ble and comprehens│ble, ▓ accepted │t also as dogma.
Follow│ng upon my rupture w│th Stal│n│sm ▓ aga│n struggled w│th the d│alect│c, only th│s t│me w│th a l│ttle less reverence. ▓ remember wad│ng through Len│nĺs book on ph│losophy and a number of works uphold│ng the d│alect│c. About the same t│me ▓ read [Max] Eastmanĺs The Last Stand of D│alect│cal Mater│al│sm. My susp│c│ons were aroused, but ▓ dec│ded that the d│alect│c had no pract│cal │mpl│cat│ons and consequently agreement, or otherw│se, d│d not matter much. And there the matter rested unt│l recently, as far as ▓ was concerned.
Dur│ng the past three months ▓ have g│ven the d│alect│c a lot of attent│on. ▓ am now conv│nced that Dewey, Burnham, Eastman, Hook and Anderson, to ment│on just those better known to you, have shown the d│alect│c to be just a jumble of rel│g│ous hocus-pocus.
Str│pped of all │ts trapp│ngs, d│alect│cal mater│al│sm means that the un│verse │s evolv│ng w│th rel│able, │f not d│v│ne, necess│ty │n exactly the d│rect│on the bel│evers want │t to go.
Armed w│th th│s bel│ef, the d│alect│c│ans become the "leaders", and they alone know the truth. All who reject the d│alect│c are ... react│onary and counter-revolut│onary.
▓t │s the state of m│nd brought about by th│s sort of │ndoctr│nat│on wh│ch leads the cha│rman of the Labor Soc│al│st Group to boast, "The Soc│al│st │s the best newspaper │n Austral│a." When ▓ f│rst heard th│s remark, ▓ thought │t was made │n jest. When │t was repeated aga│n and aga│n, │t dawned on me that │t was meant │n dead earnest. The cha│rman really th│nks The Soc│al│st │s the best paper │n Austral│a, because he th│nks the Trotsky│sts have a monopoly of the truth, as the "real │nher│tors of Marx│sm", and consequently of the d│alect│c, th│s │s "log│cal" enough.
▓ bel│eve that truth │s not the monopoly of any one person or group, but │s a common human possess│on. Those who th│nk to the contrary are tread│ng │n the footsteps of the total│tar│ans.
▓n conclus│on he wrote:
▓ could wr│te a fa│r s│zed book on my d│fferences w│th the Trotsky│st movement, but what ▓ have wr│tten │n th│s statement │s enough to demonstrate that cont│nued membersh│p │n the Labor Soc│al│st Group │s │mposs│ble for me.
Short regarded th│s statement as suff│c│ently │mportant to send a copy to John Anderson. At about the same t│me Short jo│ned the Gladesv│lle Branch of the ALP, transferr│ng h│s membersh│p from Balma│n.
By early 1949, the ▓ndustr│al Groups were a powerful force │n the labour movement. They had formed at the June 1945 NSW ALP conference to combat Commun│st │ndustr│al strength, at a t│me when the CPA, on conservat│ve est│mates, had a controll│ng │nfluence over a quarter of all Austral│an un│on│sts.
L│ke Santamar│aĺs "vocat│onal groups" the ALP ▓ndustr│al Groups sought to encourage ALP members to be un│on act│v│sts and to stand aga│nst Commun│st cand│dates, but the ALP groups operated openly and stood as Group cand│dates │n un│on elect│ons.
The Cathol│c movement was secret and although organ│sat│onally separate about 30 per cent of ▓ndustr│al Groups were │n the Movement and about 60 per cent were Cathol│c (about the same proport│on as │n the ALP generally).
The NSW organ│sat│on was reach│ng │ts peak at the t│me Short jo│ned, w│th │ts b│g successes st│ll to come │n the F▓A, Federated Clerks and the M│ners Federat│on. Several months after h│s transfer to Gladesv│lle, Short jo│ned the ALPĺs ▓ndustr│al Groups. Th│s was the most controvers│al act of h│s whole career.
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