Rough Reds and Vintage Reds
1. A few rough reds: Stories of rank and file organising
Edited by Hal Alexander and Phil Griffiths and published by the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Canberra Region Branch, in 2003. (IBSN 0-909944-08-3)
A few rough reds is now available as a series of web pages or for download in pdf as the complete book or as individual chapters.
This small book had its genesis in the Seventh National Labour History Conference, held in Canberra in April 2001. The organising committee were approached by Hal Alexander and Bob Boughton with the idea of running a series of talks on the history of communists organising in Australia.
These stories are inspiring accounts of working class activism guided by a serious commitment to socialist politics. In fact, one of the great sub-texts of this volume is the way that strong rank and file trade union organisation provided a space for the most oppressed — Aboriginal people, people with leprosy, Chinese seafarers — to stand up and fight for their rights. It also provided space and resources to support those fighting their national oppression in East Timor. This is not to say that strong, political trade unionism meant an end to racism and sexism; they are ideological weapons too powerful for the ruling class to easily give up. But in these stories you can see the potential for really challenging them.
This small book represents but a tiny proportion of the stories that could be told about rough reds organising. This organising work represents the best traditions of Australian communism. These are stories to educate all who want to change the world.
2. vintage reds: More stories of rank and file organising
A collection of papers mostly presented at the Ninth National Labour History Conference, held in Sydney in July 2005.
(It exists online with no printed counterpart although a pdf version can be downloaded and printed)
A stream of the conference was a forum titled :
Rough Reds: Reflections on Communist activism in Australia
The presentations at the forum took place under the broad headings: Intenational Stuggles; Culture & Song; On the Waterfront; Direct Action; Working Life.
As in the Rough Reds collection, Vintage Reds is focused on is the way that a strong rank and file trade union organisation provided a space for the most oppressed to stand up and fight for their rights, contributing to a vibrant dissenting culture - including film, theatre and song - along the way.
The inovative tactics and struggles of Builders Labourers, Metalworkers, Railway workers, Maritime workers, Electricians and Boilermakers are remembered here.
Also remembered is the work of two nurses in the depression, Bribane's support for Indonesian independence, Darwin's support for Malayan workers facing deportation, the internationally influentual invesigation carried out by an Australian union delegation sent to Chile after the Pinochet coup in 1973 and the brutal police attack on Sydney's first gay and lesbian Mardi Gras in 1978.
A great follow up to the pioneering first volume.