1960s >> 1964 >> no-724-december-1964

Class War in Australian “paradise”

Politically, paradise, it seems, is all things to all men. Among one loosely affiliated group (Labour and Communist Party supporters), it means (A) rising wages, (the Arbitration Commission of Victoria, Australia granted a £1 per week increase in the basic wage a few months ago). (B) a large and increasing proportion of nationalised industries, (recently all state loans have been over subscribed) and (C) little or no unemployment, (lately there have been more vacant jobs than workers to fill them). Among another and opposing group (the ruling class), paradise means (D) an expanding economy and rising profits, (overseas investments into Victoria, and profits have never been higher) and (E) a stable government, (last June elections, the Conservative government was again returned after many years in power). Thus at the present moment of the history of this State there are all of the conditions for paradise.

Yet from the midst of all these idyllic conditions, there is to be heard over the air and read in the newspapers, (Age 16th September 1964) that there exists a condition of “War” in this State. No less a person than the Premier Mr. Bolte, (pronounced Bol-tee) declares it to be so.

Now let us look more attentively at this state of purposeful war, waged by human beings among themselves. Usually we find it to be prefixed by a descriptive term e.g. generalised, such as “ Colonial War,” “Civil” or “ World War”; or, more specifically, “Zulu War,” “Civil War of England,” or “ World War I.” In the case of which Bolte speaks we must read further down into the smaller newsprint to find out what he refers to. Here we discover it to be nothing less than “Class War.” It should be noted that Bolte does not directly classify it as such, but the implication is unmistakeable. Yet this implied admission of the existence of class war from the mouth of the Conservative Premier surely sounds strange and awesome to the ears of postwar society. For years we have been told that class antagonism and therefore class wars just no longer exist. These, we have been informed, belonged to the bad old days.

Since Bolte sounds off so urgently on a topic of vital concern to us all we feel it our bounden duty to more closely enquire what is the form of this warfare that he finds so alarming? And by whom is it conducted ? The Age tells us;

   A 48 hr. strike by 120,000 State Government workers was a “declaration of war on the Government and the people” the Premier said last night.
The Trades Hall Council disputes committee decided late yesterday that the strike would begin at midnight on Monday. It will cancel or severely restrict—trains, trams, some buses, electricity and gas services and the Port of Melbourne operations until midnight on Wednesday.
Members of 39 unions in 30 Government instrumentalities and departments will be involved in the stoppage.

The Unions thereby were serving 6 days notice upon the Chief executive of Victoria. “The strike will be called off ONLY if the Premier agrees to see T.H.C. officials immediately to discuss longstanding claims by State Workers.”

And these claims four in number are : (1) removal of differences in the rate of pay of workers doing the same job in different departments. (2) increased margins. (3) £4 per week industry loading. (4) an extra week of annual leave.

These threatened strikes and ultimatums are not a bolt (no pun on the Premier’s name is here intended) from the blue. Immediately before and since the June elections of this year returned his Government to office, Bolte has faced several manifestations of this lately admitted class war. On May 29, Government workers held a 24-hour stoppage of work and on August 12th again a similar stoppage was intended but was deferred by a compromise. Indeed, this latest proposed 48-hour strike of Victorian State employees has again been deferred.

Two more items of interest for those who vaguely feel that perhaps nationalisation of industries is in some manner to their advantage and thereby worth striving for; And both items are provided by the Age Melbourne. In headlines (17th September, 1964), we are informed that “Army to do work of Dock strikers” . . . The Federal Government has decided to use servicemen to load troop transport H.M.A.S. Sydney if a strike of civilian crane drivers continues at Garden Island Dockyard in Sydney.

The crane drivers who belong to the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemans Association declared the Sydney “black ” following the dismissal of a union delegate.

So the Army, itself a nationalised institution, under the sole and direct control of the Federal Government, is always ready to act as strike breakers.

The second news 25th September, 1964. Nearly 20,000 railway workers throughout Queensland began a 24-hour work stoppage at midnight last night.

This stoppage stems from demands for restoration of service leave, payment of £4 per week industry allowance, and wage increases.

Yet the Labour and Communist Party trade union leaders and politicians, actual and would-be, still ask us to believe that immediate and future ailments such as poverty can be remedied by more and more nationalisation of industry.

What can we expect for the future ? The answer is simple. Within the prevailing class divided society there can be no paradise, only a parasite/host mode of existence for capitalist and working class respectively.

Peter Furey