Bob Gould, 1937-2011
By Phil Sandford
Bob Gould dedicated his life to defending the rights of the working class and the fight for a socialist society and his passing is a blow to the labour movement.
Born in 1937 into an Irish Catholic family, Bob saw himself as a child of 1917-18: “the years of the Russian Revolution, the conscription referendum, my grandfather stand- ing for parliament, the great strike, and the year my dad was blown up in the first great imperialist war”.
He joined the ALP in 1954 at the age of 17 and threw himself into the battle against the Groupers, learning invaluable lessons about the labour movement which would stay with him for the rest of his life.
Bob was a lifelong member of the ALP, campaigning for socialist policies at every opportunity, fighting to maintain the party’s trade union base and urging close co-operation between Labor and Green members. He memorably attended the 1971 ALP Federal Conference on behalf of the Socialist Left.
Among decisive moments in his political life he included his major role in the movement against the Vietnam War, a seven-year campaign which finally led to the withdrawal of Australian troops.
He also included his break with Stalinism after Kruschev’s secret speech of 1953. Influenced by Nick Origlass and Issy Wyner, he became active in the Trotskyist movement.
He denounced the crushing of the Hungarian Revolution by Soviet tanks in 1956 and every later effort by supporters of the Moscow bureaucracy to cover up its counter-revolutionary role. For him Stalinism represented a “monstrous perversion of the socialist project”.
He always stood for the greatest unity in the struggle against capitalism and fought to overcome the splits in the Trotskyist movement, both in Australia and internationally. Instead of splits he advocated measures such as public factions and a broad political discussion across the left.
Bob was an excellent polemicist and in later years used various left-wing websites as major vehicles for his views and he contributed over 330 articles in a ten-year period to Ozleft alone. His articles covered a wide range of topics, including theoretical issues in Marxism, book reviews and ongoing polemics with a number of left groups. Throughout he maintained principled positions on every major political issue.
He was also a highly skilled orator who could intervene at decisive points in meetings, often to the considerable displeasure of his political opponents.
One of Bob’s great strengths was his knowledge of the history of the labour movement in Australia and internationally and he continually urged younger activists to study and learn from this rich, and at times contradictory, body of experience: he had no time for empty sloganising.
Bob had a deep love of books and his bookshops reflected his wide-ranging interests. He carried an invaluable collection of labour movement material, much of it difficult to find anywhere else.
Revolutionary, Trotskyist, lifelong ALP member, polemicist, agitator, orator, raconteur, anti-censorship campaigner, lover of books, an atheist from an Irish Catholic background and much more: Bob Gould was full of life and passion and he will be sorely missed.
His long-time comrades Nick Origlass, Issy Wyner and George Petersen are no longer with us and now Bob’s death marks another stage in the struggle for socialism in Australia.
May 23, 2011
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