The SWL and the NSW Labor left


The Socialist Workers League and the New South Wales Socialist Left, 1971-72

George Petersen

The formation of the Victorian Socialist Left1 in October 1970 did evoke some response in NSW, but not amongst the trade union bureaucrats. Those left union officials who were under the influence of the Communist Party2 did not want any rival to appear and undercut their hegemony of the left. They were quite happy to go along with the Steering Committee3 as their mouthpiece; although there was some division in their ranks as to whether they should have supported federal intervention in Victoria. But amongst the youth in the branches and in the Youth Council4, radicalised by their experiences in the movement against the Vietnam War, the Steering Committee leaders were seen as stodgy conservatives.

Opposition within the Steering Committee to the leadership began late in 1970, when the Steering Committee convenors of an ALP left meeting refused to allow Bob Gould to attend because he had been expelled from the Steering Committee in 1967. Those of us who knew of Bob’s role in the Vietnam antiwar campaign were horrified by this Stalinist-type behaviour. We refused to accept this ruling, and he was escorted into the meeting by two burly waterside workers, Stewart West and Bob Harrison.5 Rather than put the issue of Bob Gould’s attendance at the meeting to a vote, the convenors showed their authoritarianism by closing the meeting. Disgusted by this Stalinist-type behaviour, I was determined that I would not associate with them in future. However, there did not seem to be any point in trying to form an alternative left-wing organisation in the ALP. We might get some response from the ALP branch rank and file, but we had no chance of getting the numbers among the union delegates to the annual state conference.

This incident, and the formation of the Victorian Socialist Left, led to informal discussions taking place between a variety of malcontents on the left, most of whom were activists in the Vietnam antiwar struggle and a number of whom had been recruited to the ALP in opposition to the Groupers.6 These discussions linked long-standing socialist oppositionists such as Bob Gould, Mairi Gould, Stewart West and myself, with others who were to subsequently become MPs, such as Frank Walker, Rod Cavalier and Jeff Shaw,7 others who were to distinguish themselves in the legal profession, such as Wayne Haylen, and union officials such as Bob Hunt and Warwick McDonald. They were all offended by the politically Neanderthal anti-intellectual social attitudes of both the right and the left. A leading figure in all these discussions was Rod Wise, an industrial officer with the Public Service Association. He subsequently had an amazing political path, joining in turn the Trotskyist Socialist Workers League, the Communist League (a left breakaway from the SWL), and then the ALP right. He is now a journalist on the Financial Review.8

In April 1971 the federal executive handed down a new constitution for the NSW ALP, providing for officials of the NSW branch to be elected from delegates to state conference by proportional representation. We started to organise to form a Socialist Left how-to-vote ticket for the ALP Conference in June.

The result of the Victorian special conference of the ALP on the weekend of May 16-17, 1971, gave us considerable heart. The Socialist Left emerged with 40 per cent of the vote, George Crawford of the plumbers’ union was elected chairman and they elected seven out of 18 members of the Administrative Committee. The major difference between Victorian and NSW was that in Victoria the Socialist Left had the support of a number of left unions. In NSW, with the exception of a few individual unionists, the union delegates lined up either with the right or the Steering Committee.

We held several meetings in the Buffalo Hall in Oxford Street in Sydney, each attended by about 100 people, to work out a ticket. We rejected suggestions that we should exchange preferences with the right.

Our meetings had at least one effect. For years the Steering Committee leadership had pretended that there was a mythical ALP centre with whom the left must negotiate in order to present a “Balanced Leadership” ticket to state conference. The leaders of the Steering Committee were Arthur Gietzelt, then chairman of the Sutherland Shire Council, Jack Heffernan of the sheetmetalworkers union, John Benson of the Seamen’s Union, John Garland of the metalworkers union and Frank O’Sullivan of the building workers union. So far as I could see, the centre consisted solely of Ray Gietzelt, Arthur’s brother, and secretary of the Miscellaneous Workers Union.

In the year 1971 the myth could not be sustained and a public meeting of left ALP members was held late in May in the Sydney Lower Town Hall in order to determine how the ticket would be drawn up. It was a very noisy meeting, with Arthur Gietzelt arguing for the existing procedure and Rod Wise leading the argument for the determination to be made by the meeting. In the event, we lost by 130 votes to 100 but the result was I got put on the Steering Committee ticket for the Administrative Committee. The annual conference on the weekend of June 21-13, 1971, was dominated, as usual, by the right. We produced an eight-page paper to give to all delegates. Our unfortunate lack of professionalism was shown by the fact that it was full of printing errors, which it was too late to change.

Some of us got the right’s preferences, even though we gave ours to the Steering Committee. Bob Gould, notably, did not. In the event, I was elected to the Administrative Committee with 327 votes and Bob Gould was the last elected (after three recounts) of six branch delegates to federal conference. The nominations of Rod Wise for assistant secretary, Frank Walker for state executive, Wayne Haylen for delegate to federal executive and Stewart West for one of seven union delegates to federal conference were unsuccessful. Socialist Left candidates received from 75 to 100 votes out of 930.

A move by me at the state conference to have members of party-affiliated unions vote in preselection ballots was overwhelmingly defeated on the grounds, argued by the right wing, that this would give the vote to members of the DLP9, the Communist Party and the Liberal Party. A move by Bob Gould to endorse the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign was also defeated. My call for adoption of a Socialist Objective was referred to the first meeting of the newly formed state council. Other moves by SL delegates to condemn intervention in Victoria, for support of nationalisation of industry without compensation under workers control, and for greater powers for regional ALP assemblies also failed, with the Steering Committee voting with the right.

Most debate centred on a report by the ALP’s Health Committee. I moved for the report to be referred back to the newly established State Council because of its unsatisfactory stand in treating the issues of homosexuality and abortion as matters of conscience. The motion was defeated by 426 votes to 210.

As far as I was personally concerned, the major result of the conference was that I became one of the seven members of the 20-member Administrative Committee, which required me to attend a meeting every second Friday afternoon, to discuss interminably arrangements for elections. Perhaps it was summed up for me when, one day, Peter Westerway, the general secretary told us that one question we needed to ask ourselves was why Johnny Walker whisky outsold all other whiskies. The implication was that we had to create an image for Gough Whitlam, which would ensure that he was as well known as Johnny Walker whisky.

In many respects the new Administrative Committee, with Peter Westerway as secretary, represented a change from the old worker-based bureaucratic structure to a different type of organisation bases upon a tertiary-educated elite, with elections financed by funds obtained from mysterious sources that were never fully disclosed to us. The old-style election campaign where all candidates held street meetings in public halls was finally scuttled. All that was required was a public meeting addressed by the Leader and reported on television, together with expensive advertising on television, radio and the capitalist press featuring the Leader, with the candidates releasing press statements reporting what they had said on local and policy issues to meetings that had never taken place.

I remember one occasion when Peter Westerway produced for us the draft of a policy leaflet to be distributed at election time. He emphasised that producing this leaflet was a sheer waste of resources, and that his opinion was confirmed by all the surveys he had studied. He said he was producing this leaflet only because the rank and file of the party wanted one. Having grown up in the Communist Party, where all we could afford was to produce leaflets to be letterboxed, it amazed me that the party secretary could have both such a flippant attitude to finance and such a profound contempt for the party members.

The only occasion when I served any useful purpose on the Administrative Committee occurred after state parliament had unanimously carried a resolution moved by Askin10 and seconded by Hills11 condemning the killing of the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in September 1972. Unfortunately I had arrived late in parliament on that day, and the vote was taking place as I walked in. As sometimes happened, I had not known what I was voting for, but afterwards I did feel embarrassed by what had happened. The caucus rules were such that I could not have voted against the resolution without being expelled from the ALP, but if I had heard the original resolution I could have left the chamber and abstained from voting.

AT the next Administrative Committee meeting Peter Westerway moved a similar resolution. I moved an addendum, which he accepted, calling for a “peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict which recognises the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian Arabs and the Israeli peoples”. It was not the best formulation, but at least it took the sting out of the ALP stand in parliament on the issue.

I cannot recollect any other occasion in my two years on the Administrative Committee when we actually discussed politics. The Steering Committee once again put me on the ticket for the 1973 conference. I was somewhat relieved when I did not get enough votes to be elected.

The Socialist Left after the conference

Bob Gould really made his present felt at the 1972 federal conference in Launceston, Tasmania. At the conference Bob lined up with the three Socialist Left delegates from Victoria — Bill Hartley, Ian Cathie and George Crawford — on such issues as opposition to the US alliance and support for nationalisation. Bob’s most notable intervention occurred when he moved a resolution calling for abolition of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). The vote was 22-22, meaning that the resolution was lost. The crucial vote came from Lionel Murphy, who voted against the resolution.12

Incidentally, this was the federal conference which, at long last, by 44 votes to one, removed White Australia from the objectives of the ALP — the delay in doing so being a telling commentary on the innate racism of Australian capitalist society.

After Bob returned to Sydney we arranged for him to address a number of meetings of ALP members, which was probably the highlight of Socialist Left activities.

Many of the more opportunist Socialist Left supporters were very disappointed at the meagre results of the intervention at the 1972 federal conference, and they quietly withdrew. The practice of the Socialist Workers League supporters in arguing interminably around point of Marxist doctrine also turned many ALP members away. We were left with what amounted to four factions:

  • The group around me and Bob Gould, who comprised virtually all the ALP activists.
  • Supporters of the Workers Action Group (later to become the Socialist Labour League.
  • The group who looked to Nick Origlass for inspiration.
  • The Socialist Workers League.

The major problem was the latter group. With a totally sectarian disregard for the concept of the Socialist Left as an umbrella group, they were determined that the Socialist Left should have a Trotskyist orientation, as propounded by them. What they wanted to do was establish an ideological base for the organisation which would enable them to take it over. The issue came to a head on the question of a Statement of Aims by the NSW Socialist Left, to be adopted at a meeting of the Socialist Left over two days in October 1971.

There were four alternative documents presented from the four factions. There was little difference between mine and Bob’s paper and that of the Workers Action Group, and so we prepared a compromise paper, which embodied what we considered to be the best elements of both papers.

I have annexed the compromise paper, Suggested Statement of Aims of the Socialist Left19. Reading it now, after over 25 years, I can see several defects in it. If I were writing it today I would leave out the factually incorrect reference to the inefficiency of the Australian capitalist farm industries and say a lot more about the reason for declining farm prices. We should have said something more specific about the environmental crisis, instead of a vague formula about the optimum use of the earth’s resources. More importantly, with the advantage of hindsight, instead of baldly posing the choice of socialism or fascism, we should have warned how the state can be used to smash working-class rights under any regime, even one of capitalist democracy. Nevertheless, it was a document to which a socialist working in the ALP could adhere, and which would have been a worthwhile statement of our ideology.

But we did have a real problem with the Origlass group’s paper. Firstly, it was incomprehensibly written. Secondly, it proclaimed as fundamental the political principle of self-management. My objection to making this point a fundamental one was that left-wing members of the ALP would vote with their feet and leave the Socialist Left if we made it a fundamental principle for the left. I said that what was wanted was not a document stating an abstract ideological position but an action program around which we could organise.

The Socialist Workers League document, presented by Roger Barnes, was a very sloppy document. For example, it described parliament as “an imperfect democratic institution, not immediately responsive to the will of the people”, and it said “serious problems arise from private ownership of the means of production by a minority capitalist class”. The prime objection to the Petersen-Gould-Workers Action paper was that its preamble described the Socialist Left as arising out of a move by ALP members in May 1971 to work for socialist policies – a move in which the Socialist Workers League played no part. Like the Origlass group’s document, the SWL document had the Socialist Left emerging out of some undefined crisis. As Bob Gould pointed out, it was not an appeal to workers, it was an appeal to radicalised youth.

As it happened, the SWL-Barnes document was adopted by 45 votes to 29. One of its most ardent advocates was Rod Wise. Very few of the 45 belonged to the ALP. It was annoying to me that the Origlass group voted for the Barnes document. Whatever differences they had with Bob and me and Workers Action, they were, like us, serious politicos. How they could possibly have voted for the waffling Barnes document, supported by young recruits who knew practically nothing about politics, was beyond by comprehension.

Having won their vote, Barnes and his supporters then began to discuss women’s liberation and clinched their victory by carrying a resolution that in all debates a woman speaker always must alternate with a male one, a silly mechanical attempt to achieve the very important objective of involving women in political activity. The resolution left most of the few genuine ALP activists wondering what sort of a meeting they were attending.

That meeting marked the end of the Socialist Left. There was no point in belonging to an organisation dominated by such practices. All of us who were active ALP members left the organisation. The Socialist Workers League retained me as president, but I presided over an empty shell. When I decided that being the political parrot on the biscuit tin was a sheer waste of time, the NSW Socialist Left collapsed.

With hindsight, and considering the subsequent deterioration of the Victorian Socialist Left, it was probably inevitable that the Socialist Left would eventually collapse. But the way it did collapse meant that we could salvage very little from the wreckage.13

In January 1972 the political line of the Socialist Workers League changed. The new line was expressed in these words: “The ALP is the focus of our politics, but in the present period the centre of our activity is among the youth … Tomorrow we shall extend our ideas into the working class.” This policy enunciated by the party guru, Jim Percy, gave priority to work amongst youth as against entrist work in the ALP. It brought Barnes into conflict with Percy. In due course, Barnes suffered the experience of anybody in that group who opposed Jim Percy, and was expelled.14

In September 1972, the SWL paper, Direct Action had the hide to claim that their faction never got control of the Socialist Left and that they would fight for a broadly based socialist left in the future. Needless to say, this predicted behaviour did not occur.

Bob Gould, Stewart West, Mairi Gould and I continued to be active in the ALP, and produce documents for state council and state conference meetings. Stewart and I were particularly concerned at the moves by the federal shadow minister for industrial relations, Clyde Cameron, who two years after the Clarrie O’Shea victory, to have adopted as Labor policy the restoration of fines against trade unions and unionists for going on strike. Whilst this issue was taken up strongly by the Victorian Left, the NSW Left maintained a discreet silence on the issue. Our resolution through local ALP branches and local unions in the latter part of 1971 were ignored. For what it was worth, a federal executive meeting later in the month rejected Cameron’s approach, but agreed to the insertion of penal provisions in voluntarily negotiated agreements. They rejected a call by Bill Hartley to totally reject penal clauses.15

In December 1971 we submitted an alternative formulation of the Socialist Objective to state council, only to see it buried. At the July 1972 state council meeting, Stewart West and I were still arguing that “our aim should be to make democracy and egalitarianism a reality by bringing the working class to power in a socialist society”. Instead, Peter Westerway criticised the draft Socialist Objective on the grounds that it failed to present alternative methods of control to those of public control and nationalisation and successfully moved for the question of the Socialist Objective to be referred back for further consideration.

Westerway’s move marked the end of incorporating any sort of socialist objective in the party platform. We all knew that the future Whitlam government would not inaugurate any socialist policies. Westerway’s amendment ensured that they did not need to explain that the Socialist Objective was not meant for immediate application. To make the point clear, John Ducker, the NSW ALP president, Paul Keating MHR and Bob Carr16 showed their readiness to witch-hunt the left by engaging in Trotskyite-baiting. I spoke condemning the witch-hunt, but to no avail.

A postscript

In view of the comradely relationship which I shared in 1971 with the Workers Action Group, and then with its successor, the Socialist Labour League, I was shocked to read in their paper, Labour Press, in May and June 1972, attacks on me and on four militant activists in the Teachers Federation, Mairi Gould, Eric Earley, Doris Jobling and Graham Ashton.

I was accused of not offering leadership to defeat the Liberal government over the issues of the Teaching Services and Summary Offences Acts. This was a very peculiar accusation: a group of 100 people was hectoring a single person for not doing what the group aspired to do. I was also accused of providing cover for the leadership of the Teachers Federation and of providing cover for Stalinism because I spoke on the same platform as Merv Nixon.17 As for the four teachers, they were accused of acting as cover for the treacherous federation leadership because they did not advocate bringing down the Liberal government. These charges were so unreal that I could not understand why they had been made.

The few teachers who were members of the SLL played no part at all in the industrial struggles which the four militants under attack were leading. Their sole contribution was to get up at union meetings and mouth ultimatist and unrealistic slogans which received no support at all, and were often howled down. By contrast, the four teachers had a proud record of militant activity, and Ashton had even been sacked for his activities. He got his job back eventually, but only after a campaign in which the SLL played no part.

When I protested at the SLL’s slanderous attacks upon the teacher unionists, I was rewarded with another long personal attack in Labour Press. Their slanders closely resembled those used by the followers of Stalin to denigrate the followers of Trotsky. This form of personal attack proved to be normal behaviour for this sectarian and elitist group. They conceived their principal role to be the stamping out of all heresy with all the enthusiasm of the medieval inquisition or Stalin’s OGPU.18

One ironic feature of their attack on me occurred when I defended the right of Trotskyists to remain in the ALP at the July 1972 ALP state council. Labour Press reported that I had done so, and attacked Bob Carr’s push for a purge, but made no comment on my role in the debate. On that occasion they couldn’t stick a knife in my back, and they didn’t want to pat it, so they simply shut up.


1. In 1970 the federal organisation of the Australian Labor Party intervened in the Victorian branch to oust its left-wing leadership, which had been duly elected under the Victorian party’s constitution. Supporters of the Victorian leadership responded to this intervention by forming the Socialist Left faction.

2. For a description of the Communist Party unionists’ relationship with and influence on the ALP, see Bob Gould’s The Communist Party of Australia in Australian Life.

3. The Steering Committee was the main factional body of the ALP left in NSW consisting mainly of the Labor Party trade union and parliamentary left and Communist Party-influenced trade union officials.

4. More commonly known as Young Labor, a name that was adopted later.

5. West later became a federal MP and a minister in the Hawke Labor government and Harrison became mayor of Shellharbour, state MP for Kiama, and a pillar of the NSW Labor right.

6. The Groupers were members of the Catholic Action Industrial Groups, which made a determined attempt in the early 1950s to take over Labor Party and trade union structures to impose socially conservative and anti-Communist policies on the Labor Party and society generally.

7. Frank Walker and Rod Cavalier subsequently became ministers in Labor governments. Despite some aberrations, Frank as minister usually took a left stance. Rod Cavalier’s left credentials vanished when he became an authoritarian anti-unionist Minister for Education from 1984-88. Jeff Shaw was elected to the Legislative Council (NSW upper house) in 1988 as a nominee of the left. As shadow minister for industrial relations he demonstrated the usual move from left to right in December 1992 by fully supporting opposition leader Bob Carr’s attacks on unionists for daring to go on strike against Victorian Liberal Premier Kennett’s anti-union legislation.

8. In 1998.

9. Democratic Labor Party, formed by the Groupers after their split from the Labor Party in 1955.

10. Sir Robert Askin, NSW Liberal leader and premier from 1965-75.

11. Pat Hills, leader of the NSW parliamentary Labor Party.

12. I have often wondered how Lionel felt about his betrayal of the left on this issue in the years to come, when he came into direct conflict with ASIO, and lost.

13. The tactics used on this occasion by the Socialist Workers League, and its successor, the Socialist Workers Party, were to be used on several occasions in other areas in the years to come and did a great deal to denigrate the ideology of Trotskyism in the eyes of left activists. What makes these tactics so exasperating is that the members of the Socialist Workers League (and their successors, the Socialist Workers Party and the Democratic Socialist Party) were and are usually dedicated socialists with well-developed social consciences. It certainly gives me no pleasure to see their often dedicated and self-sacrificing work brought undone by the determination of their leaders to stage takeover bids which always result in disaster.

14. Jim Percy died in 1992, aged 44. Obituary and account of Jim Percy’s life

15. Over 20 years later both the ACTU and the federal Labor government were in favour of Clyde Cameron’s policy and demanded that the trade union movement accept legislation embodying Clyde Cameron’s policies to fine workers and unions who went on strike as the price of abolition of the notorious Sections 45D and 45E of the Trade Practices Act. Only the intransigence of the Liberals and Democrats in the Senate, who preferred to use the Trade Practices Act to bankrupt unions, prevented the Hawke-Keating Labor government from enacting this betrayal.

16. Carr was elected premier of NSW in 1995.

17. Merv Nixon (1923-1993), Communist Party of Australia member, organiser for the Miscellaneous Workers Union, and from 1969-1987, secretary of the South Coast Labour Council. Obituary and brief account of Merv Nixon’s life

18. In 1972 I hadn’t become used to this behaviour and was very puzzled by it. Things became clearer in 1992 when the SLL produced a 75-page pamphlet entitled George Petersen, Servant of the Capitalist State. I had previously asked them why in the 1987 campaign against the NSW Labor government’s destruction of the state workers compensation scheme they had tried to divert the campaign into a demand for the expulsion of Hawke and Unsworth from the labour movement. I got my answer in the pamphlet. After several pages in which they described themselves as being part of an international organisation, the pamphlet said: “the SLL’s political line is not based on national traditions. It is based on an assimilation of the strategic experiences of the international working class”.

According to this political line, our “demand that the ‘lefts’ expel the Hawke-Keating right wing and fight for a workers’ government was thus developed as a weapon for exposing the treacherous character of the ‘left’ fakers, who, like Petersen, parade around the labour movement as opponents of the right wing, and as representatives of the working class, but who, in fact would rather see the trade unions smashed and the working class totally atomised, than take up the fight for the overthrow of capitalism.”

In other words, the leaders of the SLL sit in a back room at party headquarters in Sydney (or London or Detroit) and work out what is best for workers on the basis of their limited experience, but guided by what they believe is their superior understanding. The hard core facts of who is actually fighting over what issue in the workplace are irrelevant.

They considered themselves to be the only true believers. Marx caricatured this behaviour: “Here is the truth. Kneel before it.” Anybody who actually participates in the class struggle can be assured that, if they find themselves under attack by the establishment, the SLL will also join in the attack. Where they differ from the Stalinists is that their Pope lives in a different city. Their claim that their behaviour is internationalist is a mockery of the word.

They certainly have no understanding of the Marxist concept that socialism will be obtained by the conscious activities of millions of workers determined to achieve through class struggle a society in which people, in the words of a great German socialist song, have no masters over them or servants under their feet. Because they see themselves as the only people worthy to lead the working class into the new utopia, their prime enemies are not the capitalist class and the right wing, but anybody on the left who has working class support.

19. Suggested Statement of Aims of the Socialist Left

By George Petersen

Presented to a meeting of the NSW Socialist Left on October 9, 1971.

1. The Socialist Left came into existence in May 1971 as a group of ALP members who are prepared to work within the Labor Party for Labor governments pledged to socialist policies.

2. There were two elements in the formation of the Socialist Left. The first was emulation of our comrades in Victoria who emerged from the conflict caused by federal intervention in 1970 as a coherent minority socialist grouping in the ALP free of the need to conciliate opportunist elements within the party. They were consequently stronger in influence than ever, despite their reduced numbers. The second element was the dissatisfaction with the policies of the existing right and centrist bureaucracies in the New South Wales party.

3. The emergence of the Socialist Left occurs at a time when world imperialism faces an increasing crisis manifested in Australia by ever-rising prices, marked downturn of industry and growing unemployment. This crisis is exacerbated by the rural crisis due to the failure of Australian capitalist farm industries to adapt to technological change and to falling world prices for primary products.

4. In this situation it is urgent that the Socialist Left adopt an action policy which can unite the political and industrial wings of the Labor movement in opposition to moves to place the burden of capitalist crisis upon the backs of the working class.

5. The Socialist Left rejects any assumption that the class conflict between the workers and the capitalist class can be resolved in a capitalist society. It is vital that we campaign for the following immediate demands:

    i. Labor to power pledged to socialist policies and to nationalise the basic industries and financial institutions under workers control and without compensation.Capitalism has become a fetter on the productive forces. It produces poor quality goods with built-in obsolescence and then wastes huge sums in advertising these. It wages brutal wars in all parts of the world and is the cause of economic underdevelopment in the colonial countries. Its treatment of minority groups is an example of the treatment in store for the working class. The current level of technology could be harnessed under socialism to provide a proper standard of living for everyone in the world. The elimination of war, racism and poverty is within our grasp. But the deepening crisis of capitalism poses the choice even more sharply: socialism or fascism.ii. A 30-hour week for 40 hours pay. This should not be confused with cutbacks in time and pay, which is a device employers are now using to cut back costs. Nor should it be confused with employers’ plans for a four-day, 40-hour week, which, among other things is designed to keep machinery running at maximum efficiency. By contrast, this demand is based on the increased leisure time that should be made available by the higher level of the productive forces.iii. No penal powers against the trade unions. The right to strike is fundamental and must be defended. We must fight all attempts to tie the unions to the state, and all attempts to tie workers to the sell-outs of their leaders.iv. A minimum living wage for all workers, employed and unemployed. This demand is designed to cover women, apprentices and juniors, who at present are not included in the minimum wage. It is also designed to substantially increase the minimum wage, which is inadequate as a minimum wage.v. Regular wage adjustments based on a meaningful cost of living index. Such an index would incorporate adjustments when employees are places in higher tax brackets. The present index is designed to conceal the true rise in The struggle for these demands must take place inside and outside parliament and will be linked with the wider struggle for socialism, which must include the following:

  • a. No alliances with imperialist powers.
  • b. Racial and sexual equality.
  • c. Democratic control of all institutions of society.
  • d. The use of the earth’s resources for the optimum benefit of present and future generations, with all land and minerals the property of the state.
  • e. The use of co-operative enterprises and capital assistance to force rural industry to become an efficient servant of the people.
  • f, Security for all from birth to death by provision of adequate pensions and allowances, comprehensive medical care and free and equal education.
  • vii. To facilitate the implementation of this action program, the following steps are necessary:

  • a. There are a number of areas: eg, transport, foreign policy, education – for which it is vital that socialist policies be developed. The Socialist Left policy committees should immediately begin this task.
  • b. The Marxist study groups should be expanded.
  • c. Public meetings should be called around particular issues along the lines of the meeting to deal with the Cameron proposals (this referred to proposals by Clyde Cameron, MHR, for a Labor government to impose fines on striking trade unionists).
  • d. The fight around socialist policies in the branches and the unions must be stepped up.

October 3, 1971

From George Petersen Remembers, self-published in 1998.

George Petersen (1921-2000), a former member of the Communist Party of Australia and some Trotskyist groups, was a member of the Australian Labor Party from 1958 to 1987, when he was expelled for defying a NSW parliamentary ALP caucus decision to support legislation that ruined the NSW workers compensation system. A Marxist, he was elected to represent the heavily working class seat of Wollongong Kembla in the NSW parliament in 1968 and held that seat until 1988. The life and times of George Petersen, 1921-2000


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