Union & Community renewal

May Forum: Collective Resistance, what will it mean?

6pm for 6:30pm startMay Forum: Collective Resistance to the crisis, what will it mean?

22 May 2009

Keynote Speaker: Humphrey McQueen (historian).

Entry by Gold Coin donation.

AHIMSA House is at 26 Horan Street, West End, near the West End State School.


6 PM Monday

27 April 2009

The hope of the world

The union has made possible progress not only for the working people, but advancement in many other directions – morally, socially, and intellectually – and is traceable to the existence of the organisation of the workers.

The object and aims of the union movement and the realisation thereof have been the dream of the sages and seers, and the prophets of the past ages.

Every new demand for better physical protection of the workers ensures a great ideal development for a future generation.

B. A. (Ben) Mulvogue, Secretary, Victorian Branch of the Builders’ Labourers’ Federation, Builders’ Labourers’ News, 24 December 1915 .

In more recent times, both union and community***  have been in decline.

Labor-in-power has not arrested this trend. We only have to look in our own backyard to see reduced union consciousness, loss of democracy in the workplace, centralisation of local government, failure or decline of progressive communities around institutions like the Palm Sunday Peace rally, St Mary’s at Sth Brisbane, AHIMSA house in West End, and Paddo Workers.

Economic rationalism has taken its toll.

Is Australia to become a nation of scabs, or as someone else put it, will Australia be a scab nation?

Is a fightback possible and how? Can communities like those above be revived? Can unions rebuild?

With this in mind, I have made a booking for an organising meeting at AHIMSA house on 27 April 2009 at 6pm.

Organisers & members of unions and community groups are welcome.

With May coming up it is important for union & community groups to co-ordinate their activities around May Day. The TLC has a Labour Day committee that organises the events on Labour day itself but there are a number of other events that are organised by various groups.image The Labour Day committee puts these other activities in the non-union category and places them at the back of the may day march. Space for stalls is also provided. But is this enough? Last year many people marched with their union but as the march came nearer the exhibition grounds, they drifted back to this ‘non-union’ contingent.

With that in mind it is timely to organise a forum on the topic above and to let each group know what others are doing.

Other groups have been trying to sponsor a revival, groups like Brisbane Labour History Association, May Day Celebrations committee & WorkLife, to name just three. Organisation has met with the difficulty of energy and focus (small groups doing different things).

*** By community, I mean Green Bans, union sports days, social gatherings, Foco Nuevo, May Day floats, Invasion Day at Musgrave Park, Murri resistance, turning your back on Parliament, community pickets during the MUA dispute in 1998, politics in the park … — those sorts of things.

Please provide suggestions or proposed agenda items in the comments box below.

Ian Curr
07 3398 5215

7 thoughts on “Union & Community renewal

  1. Stalls at May Day March & Rally says:

    One agenda item that has been raised with me should be discussed at Union & Community revival meeting is—

    May Day March & Rally
    Is it possible to organise a group arrangement with the Labor Day Committee for the various stalls?

    This will be better and cheaper for the individual stalls.

    And few groups did this last May Day at the exhibition grounds.
    Different groups include Justice for Palestine, Australia Cuba Friendship society, LeftPress – Workers Printing & Publishing, & some of the political groups.

    Ian Curr

  2. May Day 09 says:

    Hi there,

    Could you send this info about May Day celebration around any links you have? See May Day 09

    Hope you may be able to get along!

    Also any music or poems to contribute??

    Many thanks,

  3. Summary notes of meeting says:

    The meeting went well. A range of people (about 14) turned up from unions, people from community groups, activists for Justice in Palestine, even 2 people from the bush (from Pauline Hanson territory) etc.

    There was discussion of the need for a collective response to the economic crisis. Labor in power had two basic approaches on the economic front – to allow wages to be driven down, the public service is seen as one target. This is an attempt to maintain profits & surplus while reducing the rise in unemployment during the crisis. The other was to allow unemployment to increase in order to protect profit and surplus. The G20 summit in London demonstrated that the crisis was in capitalism itself, but how to convince workers of this? Also raised was the need to come up with our own idea of what society should be like, rather than just opposing existing society.

    Various existing groups had little energy so why form a co-coordinating group that may drain them even further? There was little point in doing this unless it made unions and community groups able to function better. This could be achieved by reducing the need that groups had to sell their newsletters, magazines and pamphlets at functions organized by one of them, this dissemination of information could be down at the co-ordinating group stage.

    May Day was discussed, the need for a less regimented approach in the march and particularly at the Exhibition grounds was mentioned. Keeping the back end of the march together and the setting up of stalls has been made difficult since May Day returned to the Exhibition grounds. There is little space for the non-union political contingent (formerly called ‘The Red Contingent’). The notion of a political non-union contingent was proposed but because we are so close to May Day we could not do much about it — this year at least. We were informed that there are few if any union delegates meetings or inter-union meeting except those held under the umbrella of the Labor Party.

    Lack of democracy in unions
    was discussed and the need for a proper delegate structure where the delegates decide from the bottom up what the union needs to do rather than the imposed delegate structure form above which is currently the rage. With rising unemployment a question was asked about the need for an unemployed workers union and what likelihood, if any, that it would obtain backing from the Queensland Council of Unions.

    There was a report given about efforts to keep AHIMSA house going. There was some mention of the difficulties faced by other community organisations.

    At the meeting we decided to have a forum at AHIMSA house on Friday evening 22 May 2009 to discuss moving towards a more collective society. The topic would be union/community revival. A banner was proposed to be carried at the back of the May Day march. This is what I have come up with so far —

    May Forum
    Collective opposition to capitalist crisis —
    What will it mean?
    Union & community renewal
    6pm, 22 May 2009,
    AHIMSA house, West End.
    Keynote Speaker: Humphrey McQueen (historian)

    Humphrey McQueen (the historian) has been asked to be the keynote speaker and all groups interested in collectivism are welcome.

    Three announcements were made:

    Rally for Palestine
    Remembering An-Nakba 15 May 1958
    15 may 2009
    5pm Friday
    Brisbane City Square

    May Fiesta
    1 May 2009
    this Friday at Turnstyle @ 10 Laura Street, Highgate Hill from 6pm till midnight.

    There are fortnightly meetings at Turnstyle focussing on collective, ideas, family, politics, bikes and beer (home made). They also raised the possibility of having political events at the old Domain now called Centenary Place between Wickham and Ann streets in the Valley.

    May Day Celebrations
    Music, Poems, BBQ dinner 2 May 09 4pm – 9pm, Paddington Community Centre, 2 latrobe Tce Paddington

    Any further points please add them to this short account.

    Ian Curr
    28 April 2009

    1. By setting up a co-ordinating committee it may be possible for the existing activities to be easier to organise, it should not be a drain on existing groups as only one representative need come to the co-ordinating cmttee to save time, energy & clashes with important events.

  4. Richard B. says:

    Ian, I take it you are still canvassing members for the group of stalls. Time is running out – what is the deadline for making a booking?
    If a group booking, does that mean only one vehicle gets a permit to access the grounds? That might be difficult to co-ordinate.
    If we do take up the group idea, and your offer to transport things, just realise I don’t have your address, or even any idea of suburb etc.
    You might let me know by tomorrow night .

  5. Palestinian Solidarity says:

    It is official:

    Palestine will have a profile at this year’s Labor Day March and Picnic. We welcome anyone who wants to march behind the Palestine Solidarity banner to be at Spring Hill before 10am on Monday 4th May.

    We will be at the back of the march so just look for the crowds of unionists with their banners in Leichhardt Street Spring Hill then head towards the end of the union groups to find the yellow “Palestine Solidarity” banner.

    If you are on other e-lists please promote this.

    Everyone from all related groups who support Palestine are more than welcome.

    If you are not able to march but want to work on the Information Stall at the showgrounds at Bowen Hills just make your way down there and wait for us.

    We will be setting up from 8am but the first marchers wont arrive until around 10.30am. We particularly welcome people of a Palestinian background who can tell their history to those who stop and talk.

    There will be lots of people to talk to. If you have petitions for Palestine it will be a good opportunity to get some signatures.

    We will probably pull down the information stall around 1.30pm.

    My phone number is 0402116055. My email is fay@global-tours.com.au

    In solidarity.

    1. There is a historical connection between the May Day march in Brisbane and Palestinian solidarity.

      I am told reliably that at the 1973 (I think it was) May Day march a Palestinian contingent wished to join in.

      Everything went well and the people came ready with suitable banners and placards in preparation to march.

      An Arab comrade had brought his kafir along with him but did not put it on, that is until a Palestinian man took the kafir and put it on, Yasser Arafat style. This person had only recently arrived here in Queensland and did not know the lay of the land, politically speaking.

      The Labour day marshals seeing a tall slim dark Palestinian with his head masked with a kafir like a PLO fighter freaked out.

      Remember this was the era of Black September and all the accusations of terrorism against the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

      At that time, Bob Hawke, the Australian Council of Trades Union leader, had even called on the Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir, to use nuclear force against the Palestinians, if necessary, a bit like now really.

      Anyway the Palestinian contingent was not allowed into the procession, that is, just prior to the march setting off, the Building Workers Industrial Union members said to the Palestine contingent: ‘Bring your banners and flags and march with us!’

      Thus began the practice, kept to this day, of non-union marchers being allowed to march on May Day in Brisbane.

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