Labour Day, Brisbane, 2011
Socialist groups missed an opportunity this Labour Day.
There has been a shift inside the Labour movement and the Left has not recognised it fully nor have they responded to it.
Observe the Labour Day march in Brisbane this year. For the first time not a single Labor party politician up the front of the march. Not a single Labor MP on the platform – no Anna Bligh or Peter Beattie. Where were they? You might recall the lambasting the deputy Premier, Paul Lucas, received last year over the privatisation of public assets like Queensland Rail.
The Labor Party contingent was at the back of the march. Sources reveal that the Labour Day committee, told the ALP politicians to march with their unions. There was an interesting exception to this — Qld Party politicians Peter Pyke & Aidan McLindon marched with the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) — a union noted for producing Labor Party leaders (e.g. Tom Burns, Nev Warburton).
Unlike previous years when the politicians were up the front it was decided that the march be led by the Rail Bus and Tram union (RTBU) – the union hardest hit by the Bligh government’s sale of Queensland Rail – over 600 jobs lost already as the privateer QR National milks the profits and runs QRail workers into the ground.
There were four groups that wished to lead the march. In the end the RTBU got pride of place because it was the 125th anniversary of their union. The Queensland Railway Employees’ Association, the union’s forerunner, was formed in Ipswich in 1886.
The women also had a STRONG case for being up the front because 2011 is the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day (IWD).
The non affiliated unions were like the Labor Party, sent to the back of the march. The Australian Workers Union (AWU) and the Shop Distributors Union (SDA) were nearly as far back as the Left.
But the Left did not properly differentiate itself from the ALP.
So much so that a woman from communist party was told to ‘fuck off’ by a BLF member when he thought she was handing him an ALP leaflet. When he realised that she was not Labor – only then did he accept the leaflet.
There was no Red Contingent to differentiate socialists from the Labor Party.
In contrast the strongest contingent in the march, the Builders Labourers Federation (BLF) were united, strong, chanting in unison and when the march moved off the BLF was not afraid to go at their own pace and to differentiate themselves from less militant ALP-led unions.
As mentioned above that there was a new political party – the Qld party – in the march led by Aidan McLindon MP | Member for Beaudesert
At the next election McLindon is running against the nationals mayor of the Scenic rim and putative deputy Premier, John Brent, for the seat of Beaudesert . Also Peter Pyke is running in Toowoomba for the newly formed Qld party.
There has been a polarisation inside the labour movement — so much so that McLindon & Pyke marched with the Electrical Trades Unions — a union that has consistently opposed the labor party on the question of privatisation. Who knows? Perhaps the Qld Party will pick up a seat from the LNP Nationals in regional Qld at the next election, based on this polarisation.
The fact is the Left needs to respond to the new political reality inside the Labour Movement — where Labor has lost its pride of place at the front of the movement — we need to differentiate ourselves from Labor Party and rally workers to workers political organisations.
A red contingent on Labour Day 2011 would have been a practical step on a day when the only call that came from the Labor side of politics was from Ron Monaghan, the Qld Council of Unions secretary. Ron beseeched unionists to vote for Kate Jones in the seat of Ashgrove – the seat being contested by the Liberal (LNP) party leader, Campbell Newman.
One group, perhaps recognising their physical proximity to the ALP in the march tried to get a chant up against the ALP but they needed a more coherent presence – something offered by a Red Contingent led by a banner that differentiates the socialists from the economic rationalism of Labor.
There needs to be a review of how the Left is operating.
On May Day there were three or four different functions to celebrate the international day of the workers when one function and perhaps a conference could have explored practical socialist ideas to prepare us for the capitalist crises ahead.
Unity, Union amalgamation & the internet
Unions & Google
Type “Labour Day Brisbane 2011” into Google and see what you get.
Before you do, what do you expect to get? What website will come up on the first page? Your union? The Queensland Council of Unions (QCU)?
Why? What websites came higher? QCU? Builders Labourers Federation? Construction Forestry Mining & Engineering Union? Communications Workers Union? Electrical Trades Union? Australian Services Union? Community & Public Sector Union? Other unions?
“Labour Day Brisbane 2011” and terms like it were the most searched terms on Google relating to Labour Day in Qld on 1st May 2011.
What media had the highest scores? Green Left Weekly? Crikey? The Australian? The Courier Mail? The ABC?
The statistics below gives some idea from that tiny outpost of the internet – the Workers BushTelegraph . So why did the Workers BushTelegraph come above any union or socialist website?
Does any of this have meaning for worker political organisation?
Should the Left conduct a review of its method of communicating with workers and their organisations?
With union membership falling and socialist organisation at rock bottom are workers political organisations doing enough to embrace the information age?
Is there Unity in union amalgamation?
There are three big clerical unions – Community & Public Sector Union (CPSU), Australian Services Union (ASU), Queensland Public Sector Union (QPSU) – are they amalgamated? Well on paper yes. But what is the real story behind this?
New unions are being formed called Unite! and United Voice!
But why not call the union – United Workers?
Who can say what is happening? Do union members know? Do union officials? I have asked the Qld state secretary of the CPSU for his views, I have asked members of the QPSU, the CPSU, the ASU? What is going on? Why were the Labour Day contingents of these three unions so small?
WBT would appreciate comments from union members.
Videos of Labour Day 2010 & 2011
Notice the interesting statistics below of the stats on Workers BushTelegraph on 1 May 2011.
Note that 1,102 viewers visited WBT on 1st May 2011 trying to find info about Labour Day.
Statistics of recent news stories on Workers Bush Telegraph.
Brisbane Labour Day Celebrations 2011 —874 views
May Day 2011 — 117 views
North Stradbroke Island conflicts — 33 views
Labour Dayhighlights on YouTube – click image below
Sources – Asset sale tension mars Labour Day