The next talk of the 17 Group will be given by MUA secretary and long-time union militant Bob Carnegie at 7 pm on Wednesday the 3rd of August in unit 6 at 20 Drury St, West End. Bob’s topic is:
“In a Globalised economy, international solidarity in the labour movements is the only way to survive and go forward.”
Bob Carnegie will speak on the crucial importance of trade unions beginning to expend their not inconsiderable resources on developing stronger and more genuine links with trade unions, but particularly in rank and file groupings and amongst working class activists in the Asia Pacific area. In the nineteenth century world manufacturing was centred in Europe, the twentieth century saw the dominance of the USA and the twenty-first century sees the rise of Asia as the centre of world manufactured trade.
Bob will talk about his very recent trip to San Francisco where he met and exchanged ideas with rank and file activists from across the globe at the Labor Festival organisation meetings. Bob is also very active in the International Dockworkers Council, which represents close to 100,000 dockworkers (wharfies) around the world. The IDC is an organisation based on Spanish syndicalist principles and is changing the face of how workers and unions operate. The IDC functions with a current bureaucracy of one full time administrator. That’s right – ONE!
“At age 18 Bob attended the Marxist-Leninist Institute in 1980 in the former USSR as a member of the Stalinist Socialist Party of Australia at the time. However his political trajectory changed from Stalinism to revolutionary socialism under his own life’s experiences. He has been an active rank and file trade unionist for nearly 40 years and, more recently, he has been a militant trade union official of the Maritime Union of Australia as the Queensland branch secretary. Bob is now playing a prominent role in the International Dockworkers’ Council.”
We emailed Leon about the talk and then visited him as usual, because we thought, given his life and work, he might have some interesting views on unionism. He was reading from the Complete Works of his old boss, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, when we came up, and he was busy making notes, still working out possible belated replies to this extract from Vlad’s speech on December the 23rd 1920 at the Joint Meeting Of Communist Delegates To The Eighth Congress Of Soviets, Communist Members Of The All-Russia Central Council Of Trade Unions And Communist Members Of The Moscow City Council Of Trade Unions on that date:
“My principal material is Comrade Trotsky ’s pamphlet, The Role and Tasks of the Trade Unions. When I compare it with the theses he submitted to the Central Committee, and go over it very carefully, I am amazed at the number of theoretical mistakes and glaring blunders it contains. How could anyone starting a big Party discussion on this question produce such a sorry excuse for a carefully thought out statement? Let me go over the main points which, I think, contain the original fundamental theoretical errors. Trade unions are not just historically necessary; they are historically inevitable as an organisation of the industrial proletariat, and, under the dictatorship of the proletariat, embrace nearly the whole of it. This is basic, but Comrade Trotsky keeps forgetting it; he neither appreciates it nor makes it his point of departure, all this while dealing With “The Role and Tasks of the Trade Unions”, a subject of infinite compass.”
“Of course you’ve got to realise that he was already sick at that stage, ” Leon said, “and he had critical things to say about Bukharin as well in that speech. In fact, I admit I hadn’t got it all together as well as I did later. Check out this site: http://mehring.com/marxism-and-the-trade-unions-trotsky.html for my more considered reflections. For three dollars US you can buy my pamphlet which includes Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay, as transcribed from an unfinished manuscript I was working on just before the icepick scenario. The pamphlet concludes with a collection of articles covering the years 1923 to 1931 and relating to the question of French syndicalism.” We were yawning a bit, but he didn’t seem to notice. “Tell young Carnegie to google it,” he said as we made for the door. “By the way,” he added, as we held the door ajar, “he seems to have had a colourful ideological journey. I don’t suppose he was ever in the Fourth International by any chance?” “Would you come if he was ?” we cheekily riposted, but he was already back to scribbling his notes for the reply to Vladimir’s old speech.