Call for Change

It’s time for the Left to work out how to co-operate during this period of austerity and financial crisis.  

I think that we should discuss Left co-operation – how do people from campaign and educational groups work together – groups like tent embassy (BASE), Cuba Friendship, Brisbane Anarchist Summer School (BASS), Radical Education Forum, Brisbane Free University (BFU), the May Day Group currently organising a forum on working conditions and expectations.

WERC - May 1st Club

There are others that I have missed like Turnstyle, Foco Nuevo, 4ZZZ media collectives, Talisman Sabre, Palm Sunday Peace Group, Friends of the Earth, Lock-the-Gate, International Women’s Day,  anti-uranium groups and Justice for Palestine (JFP).  

On the industrial side there are rank-and-file unions currently involved in industrial struggles e.g. building unions – builders labourers  (blf), electrical trades union (etu), construction forestry engineering and mining (cfmeu) plus national tertiary education union (NTEU), nurses and teachers, QLD Uncut …   Is my proposal an impossible dream given Left sectarianism?

I am not proposing an an alliance as has recently happened between Socialist Alternative, Socialist Alliance and Revolutionary Socialist Party. At this stage, all I want is a discussion about how we can co-operate and work more effectively together.   The Labor Party is lost to the left … grass roots organisation needs to replace it.    

Attempts for change
In the early 1980s three groups FOE, LeftPress and the Learning Exchange established WERC and May 1st club in West End. This lasted for some time. In the late 1980s, the Communist Party (CPA) formed the New Left Party. This was to be the last hurrah for the CPA, because its intellectual elite liquidated the party a couple of years later selling its printery, bookshop, concert hall and party HQ to 4ZZZ for a song.   In the 2000s various parties formed another broad based party – the Socialist Alliance. In the end it was too broad and split lacking organising and focus – another failed attempt at electoral-ism ending in tears.  

In the 1970s and 80s some anarchist groups tried the syndicalist route in the unions (transport) but without any broad support from workers, because of repression and unrealistic expectations,  these attempts collapsed.   Post 9/11 and the failed anti-globalistion movement,  others tried to start a community house in West End (AHIMSA house) but two of the protagonists stole all the funds and AHIMSA was sold by the bank with its benefactor penniless.   Libertarians experimented with bookshops that now reside in dust under peoples houses. And now the Marxist left are up to the same corrupt misuse of old comrades assets in an effort to inject funds into a new alliance. No way to build a party – on personal assets bequeathed to children!   The unions fought a rear-guard action during the 1998  MUA here to stay dispute/ they ended up losing half their members and we got WorkChoices. The ALP has destroyed the unions.    

Current attempts
Earlier this year a Brisbane Solidarity Network organised the Brisbane Anarchist Summer School. This was successful bringing together many perspectives for the first time in years but was too thin – and it lacked depth; there was a sense of denial about our libertarian past in Brisbane – a refusal to name names of those who ripped off  AHIMSA house and who created celebrity for themselves.  

A recent radical education forum similarly suffered from lack of depth. But it was a good initiative and next time there will be more content and less form (hopefully:).   The May Day group organised a forum on the May Day weekend and proposes another May Day Workshop in November focusing on workplace experience. Some found the format alienating and walked out, others stayed but did not participate. In the end the workers forum uncovered the contrast between workers who have engaged with their unions and those that have not. The latter were short on experience of struggle, alienated from their union without realising that they were the union.  

A broad group (but not broad enough to include the Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy) has established anti-GAG to protest against G20 in November 2014, it is only on in Brisbane for a day – this comes at the end of the anti-globalization protests and if it ends up  being another line-up in front of the cops anti-GAg will be a spectacular waste of scarce resources for the Left.   Meanwhile the Word From Struggle Street is that:

“… the lack of vision of the anti-capitalist or radical left (to use a term that few will be happy about) to do anything to change the situation, to contribute to a real mobilisation of the class, or lay the foundations for emancipatory politics. What was on display was the double poverty: the poverty of the left-over machinery of social democracy and the poverty of those who want to do something about it. This needs to be addressed and discussed and ways out planned – ways out based not on ideological purity but reality.”

British revolutionary groups formed Independent labour, RESPECT etc in this way – I think our discussion should include the current re-groupment of SocAlt, DSP, RSP and Workers Liberty. Left Wing parties/anarchist groups may send one representative. Practical things like resources and property that is to be amalgamated.    

Misuse of Left Resources
Recently I hired out the LeftPress PA system to one group. They did not return it on time and another group had booked it that evening. They misplaced two mics, they did not turn up on time expecting me to wait or to leave expensive equipment out. They did not pay for the hire of the pa making juvenile excuses that they did not use it that day or that the pa did not work.   Faced with this, I wrote a letter outlining my grievances to the group about their repeated infringements of the ground rules for borrowing the PA and that members of their group had repeatedly abused these rules. I told them to pay up front and to text me 3 days beforehand so that i could charge the pa and make sure it was working.   As many are aware the PA is a valuable resource for the Left in Brisbane made available by Leftpress.  


I asked them to please remember that the $25 we charge is to ensure the PA’s continuing operation and that it can readily be replaced should it be damaged or confiscated. So I laid down ground rules for hire of the PA again. Neither the group nor its members who had borrowed the PA bothered to acknowledge or reply to my letter.   Please Note: Most groups/individuals who hire the LeftPress PA are very good. They are not ‘users’ like the group above, they are not interested in abusing this resource at the expense of others.   Qld Uncut Brisbane Sq 22 Sept 2012 Rick Ng – pete and boe

Time for change
I have been contacted independently by three people this week about how we can get together and work out a strategy for co-operation.   Hence I raise it here.   Once again the word from struggle street: By this I don’t mean reverting to the out-of-the-box answers of the Left (the Party! Anarcho-syndicalist unions!) rather we need to construct some forms of a collective body the details of which are yet unknown. The last few years of experimentation globally, centred around the encampment in the squares, give us some starting places perhaps. But even before this, more elementarily is revising the idea of the meeting. Please contact me at the number below if you are interested so that we can discuss this proposal further.  

Ian Curr
7 October 2013
mob 0407 687 016

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