In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold,
Greater than the might of armies, magnified a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old
For the union makes us strong.
Pete Seeger 'Solidarity Forever'
[Publisher’s Note: With another March in March coming up I thought the organisers and participants could have a look at a march in Brisbane on 4th March 1978. I have posted the leaflet the CLCC produced for the march that day and a recording of speeches, songs and street theatre. – Ian Curr Feb 2015]
March 4th is exactly six months after the September 4th banning of political street demonstrations by the Petersen government. In those six months, not only demonstrations have been banned. The banning of MACOS and SEMP from Queensland schools has further highlighted the state governments contempt for free speech, their fear of open discussion and their willingness to crush it in Queensland education as well as in the public forum.
The state governments ban on political street demonstrations is neither the beginning nor the end of their moves to crush opposition and entrench itself m government. Faced with · timid and ineffectual opposition from the ALP and allied with the states mining monopolies, the Petersen government has intervened heavily in both the structure and personnel of the public service. In particular the Queens land police force was purged in order to promote the pro-National Party reactionaries. Having decimated the A LP in the ’74 state election and having successfully participated in the sacking of the federal ALP, Petersen has increasingly turned his attention to the trade union movement and the Left. He has taken union organisers to court, and he is trying to de-register the Seamen’s Union. The proposed ‘Right To Work’ legislation stands alongside the march ban as a blatant attempt to crush the organisation of opposition to the strategies of the state government.
Petersen is in a strong position, but he does not want decisive confrontations. He fears mass mobilisations and stop-work actions around political questions. Only by playing on the passivity and demoralization of his opposition, can Petersen place the trade union movement on the defensive while he erodes its strength.
The Civil Liberties Coordinating Committee (CLCC) which was formed to fight the ban on political demonstrations, has come to view the ban in this much broader context. Today it is leading the struggle against the state government, to defeat its anti democratic and reactionary strategies. The CLCC has built the right to march campaign through a series of demonstrations centered on the tactic of actually marching in defiance of the ban. The success of the campaign has been its ability to go beyond a declaration of protest into actual united mass confrontation with the state government in a disciplined way that has given no opportunities to the state government to attack us for building violence in the street. We are not street fighters, we are a united body who wish to enforce our right to march at the point where the state government would enforce its ban on marching. In this way the Petersen government has been forced to show its hand and display the lengths to which it is prepared to go, in amassing 1000 police again and again to prevent marches taking place.
Far from playing into Petersen’s hands, the united march is a tactic for which the Petersen government has no answer short of mass arrest. Since the demonstrations began last September, the Petersen government has continually lost ground. Though Petersen is in a very strong position, he has no means of defending his march ban. People rightly do not see any justification for such anti-democratic acts and the more openly he is made to enforce it, the greater is the exposure of his overall reactionary character.
The state government has banned demonstrations, SEMP and MACOS. It has foreshadowed the abolition of public rallies, greater powers for police and even more extensive interventions into education . We cannot win on this or any other issues without a fight, but to fight we must be prepared and organised. The mass rallies and marches organised by the CLCC are an opportunity to unite all opposition to the state government across sectional interests in a common struggle to secure the right to organise effectively as trade unions, political organisations and protest movements.
The Civil Liberties Coordinating Committee stands in active opposition to the erosion of democratic rights in Queensland, as exemplified in the state governments ban on political demonstrations. We hold that political action is not the possession of parliament alone.
The ban on political demonstrations is a denial of individual democratic rights but more importantly it is a calculated attempt to deny to those opposed to and disadvantaged by the state governments strategies, the means of putting ·their ideas and organising in their own defence. Petersen openly admitted that the ban was aimed primarily at immobilizing the anti-uranium movement. What need have his colleagues in the Uranium Producers Forum, for street demonstrations when they have the funds for unlimited access to the mass media and the backing of the government itself?
The CLCC will not accept any compromise on the right to march. We hold that Queenslanders should not have fewer democratic rights than other Australians. People should have the right to march when and where they wish upon notification to the police to minimise traffic upset. This is the present situation in Victoria and South Australia.
The CLCC stand for the independence of the trade unions from state intervention. The first action taken by the CLCC was to attend the September 7th TLC rally in solidarity with union organiser Ted Zaphir. The · CLCC sponsored rally for March 4th has as a central theme, opposition to the proposed ‘Right To Work’ legislation, which will make it illegal for unions to black ban bosses that employ non-unionised labour.
We are in total opposition to notions that “the trade unions have too much power”, “the trade unions are running the country” or that “there is no longer any need for the trade unions”. Petersen, who so readily invokes all these catch crys, has made it abundantly clear that they are no more than a rationale for those who would deny the reality of 8%% unemployment, and 18% of Australians living under the poverty tine. These notions are no more than a smoke-screen for those who would use unemployment as a bludgeon for political and economic purposes. Petersen said of those teachers who might oppose the government ban on MACOS and SEMP:
“Make no mistake, any teacher who wants to try a challenge, need have no doubt the government means what it says. They have been warned and already 700 of their colleagues are unemployed in Queensland.” (Sunday Mail; February 26th).
We fully support the right of trade unions to take actions over political issues, whether those issues are related directly to the unions or not.
Uranium The CLCC advances the slogan ‘Keep Uranium in the Ground’. The National Party is the political representation of the states mining monopolies. It was in their interest that Petersen banned demonstrations as part of his endeavour to ensure the mining and export of uranium. ,In view of the lack of safeguards over nuclear reactors, the inadequate systems for disposal of nuclear waste and the process of nuclear weapons proliferation, the mining of uranium serves only the interests of the mining corporations themselves.
Demand the right to march
Defend the right to organise
Keep Uranium in the ground
The roll call of those arrested include (i have committed the surname to protect the guilty 😉 although nearly all would wear that arrest as a badge of courage): Dave A, Ken A, Lee B, Dennis B, Charles D, Pamela M , Judy McV, Glenda W, Nikki Van H, Chris V, Catherine R, Kate McG, Yvonne D, Sue McG, Judy B, Leonie N, Chris F, Annette W, Cathy H, Robert S, Joe E, Rod F, Ciaron O’R, Mick D, Grant C, Colin L, Rob , Wendy McI, Paul M, James M, Gary McL, David T, Phillip D, Malcolm B, Ian W, Lyndsay J, Greg G, Ron H, Catherine H, Bryan Law, Michael M, Stephen C, Peter N, Dan O’N, Ian R, John R, James S, Michael V, Michael W.
1978 – March in March Leaflet