Bert & Norma Nord — two of the old comrades

Norma Nord struggled for many years in the peace movement, more  particularly in the Womens International League for Peace and Freedom.

Jo Kann speaking at Bert Nords wake. Norma Nord is seted at right.
Jo Kann speaking at Bert Nord’s wake. Norma Nord is seated on the far left. Photo by Ted Reithmuller

I knew Norma in the 1990s and early 2000s when she worked at the Grassroots Centre in West End in Brisbane. The rent for the Grassroots centre was funded mainly by the SEARCH foundation (see below). The Greens shared the space and paid rent. When the Greens left, the Grass Roots centre collapsed as they were the biggest rent payers at the centre. Eventually the Greens ended up at AHIMSA house, another grass roots centre, only this time run by anarchists. Ironically, it was a former communist that put up the money for AHIMSA house.

Norma had joined the Communist Party (CPA)  as a young woman in the late 1930s.  The CPA  had liquidated itself in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union. This led to supremacy of US imperialism reaching its peak. The US began a new Gulf War in1991. As we know now, there was another to come in Iraq in 2003. Some might say it is one continuous Gulf War with surges ordered by US President Obama and an opening up of hostilies in Syria.

After so many years in the Communist Party, Norma was still organising at a time when economic rationalism had been accepted as a fact of life across the board — for example, by my union [the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU)], by her party [the Communist Party] and by the ALP in government and in opposition.
Norma was fighting against the tide in the Grass Roots Centre in West End in Brisbane.

She wrote the following letter to the Qld Plumbers Union in 2002 :

“Today the protest and peace movement is growing, and coming together for mutual support on specific local issues, this support is now fighting globalisation.

The Movement for Justice and Peace must form from the grass roots level, become an international force for a new world, to build and alternative to the global financial dictators.

The will of the people is for Peace, gathering together for action is vital to us all. Let us link and learn everywhere.” — Norma Nord.

This was something Norma had done most of her life.

Norma Nord speaks at Bert's wake
Norma Nord speaks at Bert’s wake

Norma looked for a broad progressive movement at a time when organisation was hard to find.

It was people like Bert Nord and Eddie Kann that made it possible for Hughie Williams to take over the Transport Workers Union (TWU) in Queensland.

The rank and file wrested the TWU from the right-wing old guard led by Eddie Ward (whose wife Wilma was the president of the right-wing housewife’s association).   It was Eddie and Bert, with workers like them, who were the rank and file that Hughie relied upon for support in the TWU. Ironic, in a way, because Hughie had been on the central executive of the Qld Labor party, and Eddie, Bert and Norma were staunch Communist Party members.

Yet not quite so ironic, as their own party (the CPA) had liquidated itself in 1991. Its assets were largely taken by the SEARCH foundation that funded ‘community’ organisation like the grassroots centre that Norma ran and  tried to find solutions that did not relate directly to class. The CPA had, over time, returned to social democracy, a place where the leadership of Halfpenny, Carmichael and Aarons longed for. Halfpenny in pursuit of a safe seat, Carmichael to bring in the Accord, and the Aarons family to rejoin the respectable middle class.

SEARCH looked in the environment movement, in gender issues, in the peace movement, in community for some alternative to capitalism.

It is a great shame that Norma and Bert have not seen in their lifetime a reversal of the great mistake of our unions, political organisations and community groups who had given up on trying to build democratic rights in the workplaces and sought solutions from places where socialists were weak (in parliamentary reform,  in single issue movements and protest groups).

Norma and Bert’s political understanding grew out of her experience of the Great Depression.

Yet again, capitalist exploitation and class is in sharp focus with the 2008 banking and financial crisis. After the 1929 crisis the CPA built working class organisations.

Unfortunately we no longer have the benefit of those organisations and have to start from scratch.

What a shame, to be without the worker organisations that Norma and her husband Bert had devoted their lives to build.

What a tragic mistake for us all to overcome.

Jo Kann speaking at Bert Nord's wake. Norma Nord is seated in front of Hughie Williams (photo by Ted Reithmuller
Jo Kann speaking at Bert Nord’s wake. Norma Nord out of frame and Hughie Williams is standing (photo by Ted Reithmuller)

Ian Curr
December 2008 (updated 2017).

One thought on “Bert & Norma Nord — two of the old comrades

  1. This is to draw readers attention to a piece written about two of the old comrades, Bert and Norma Nord, earlier in the year.

    Bert passed away in late 2008.

    The original article was not published then upon request but is published now in a different form.

    Thanks to Ted Reithmuller for the photos { see labour history photostream at }. Thanks to John Tracey for his correction.

    Ian Curr
    Dec 2008
    Workers BushTelegraph

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