[Marxism] The early Trotskyists in Australia
ozleft at optushome.com.au
Fri May 20 16:33:21 MDT 2005
Susanna Short's Laurie Short: A Political Life
A summary history
By Shane Hopkinson
The following are my summary notes to a longer piece I was planning to
write some time ago about the early days of the Trotskyist movement in
Australia, based on Susanna Short's book on her father, Laurie, and Hall
Greenland's book on Nick Origlass, to tell the story of the early days
of the movement in Australia.
As time has got the better of me I decided to simply post my summary of
the relevant part of Susanna Short's book, which is all I have been able
to complete. I have tried to aviod editorialising over her comments but
I will say a few words here that might clarify the story.
Laurie Short, who pioneered Trotskyism in Australia, would go on to head
the one of the most right-wing unions in Australia. He won control of
the union by imposing a court-controlled ballot on the union leadership,
which was controlled by Communist Party members at the time. This was a
turning point for Communist influence in the union movement. Hence
Susanna Short's early references below to "rigged elections" and the
"tyranny" imposed by the CPA on union members, reflect the legal terms
on which a union member could challenge the leadership's right to
control the ballot, not merely bias on her part.
I think it is important too, for post-1960s activists to see how these
early pioneers put Trotskyist principles into practice. While there was
some student milieu that was supportive (and indeed many intellectuals
were drawn to Trotskyism in the 1930s) their working assumption was that
the centre of their work was the union movement, in which they were key
activists and leaders. This necessarily meant that they worked closely
with Labor Party members, and tried to affect ALP policy, since that is
where most workers placed their loyalty. The Trotskyist focus on
"party-building" came later. The old Trotskyists' theme, in the face of
Stalinism, was democracy – a theme that Nick Origlass would maintain
through his life (at least in relation to political practice outside his
own socialist circle).
Despite being a partly completed project I hope the following encourages
people to read the full story in Susanna Short's book, Laurie Short: A
Political Life and, more especially, the excellent account in Hall
Greensland's book Red Hot: The Life and Times of Nick Origlass.
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