[Marxism] Freed Oz union militant's speech

Pip Hinman & Peter Boyle ppz at greenleft.org.au
Sat May 28 00:37:46 MDT 2005

'If you don't fight, you lose'

[Speech by Craig Johnston when he was released from Loddon prison gates, 
May 26, 2005. A former Victorian AMWU state secretary and the Australian 
Socialist Alliance's most prominent union leader, Johnston was sentenced 
to nine months jail for industrial action.]

I'd like to thank the people who visited me over the last nine months, 
who supported my family, my friends and sent cards and letters, because 
it does mean a lot when you're in jail to hear stuff from your friends 
so for that, thanks very much.

There is a special mention for one of the people who sent me letters. 
For those who don't know, there are five Cuban comrades rotting in 
American jails. Their crime was fighting for their class like mine. They 
actually sent me letters. It took them some six months blueing with the 
American government just to be able to write a letter, so I want to 
place on record a special thanks to them.

I also want to acknowledge that there's a lot of good people in that 
jail, a lot of good blokes who shouldn't be in jail. Since this 
government in Victoria's been in, there's been something like a 25% 
increase of people who go to jail. I want to thank all those guys in 
there. I certainly look forward to catching up with them in the future 
on the outside.

Comrades, I want to very quickly mention that Australia was founded on 
being a prison colony. And in the last 200 odd years, governments and 
bosses have been jailing people and jailing unionists and jailing 
progressives. I've done a lot of reading since I've been in jail. They 
put shearers in jail in the 1890s, seamen, wobblies [the International 
Workers of the World members] in 1916 because they opposed conscription, 
ironworkers, construction workers. You name it, they jailed them over 
the years. I now proudly join them as somebody who's been jailed for 
standing up for workers.

You read a bit in the press that Australia is a great country, the lucky 
country. We keep getting told it's the lucky country.

But it's the lucky country because there are people like you who are out 
there fighting to make it the lucky country. It's not because of these 
rotten bosses and governments - all they're doing is trying to take 
things off us and working people fight for the things that we enjoy now 
- the 36-hour week, long service leave. All those things have been 
fought for, and that's what makes the lucky country, because of people 
like yourselves. And we've got to keep on fighting and winning those 
sorts of conditions and standards of living.

There's obviously a campaign coming up. The Howard government is 
determined that they are going to smash the trade union movement, smash 
student unions and any progressive organisations that want to see 
Australia as a just and fair country with good education, good 
healthcare, good wages and conditions for workers.

I relish the chance to be part of that campaign, to take on this 
government and drive them out of office because working people in this 
country deserve better and I'm sure we'll win that campaign.

I'm sure you'll all join with me in those famous words "Dare to 
Struggle, Dare to Win! If you don't fight, you lose."


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