Melbourne Anarchist Archives Index

Ho for the Merry Month of May (1968)

On Sunday May 5, TREASON members marched with the Melbourne Anarchist Group, the Wobblies, the Spanish syndicalists and the FAI-CNT in what is known as the Annual May Day march. Also marching were unions and students.

Firstly it must be realised that the march is not held on May Day - the first of May. Workers in most western countries have been bludgeoned into having the day on the first Sunday of May - a day one notes on which production will not be affected. Thus only a small part of the working class marches on the Sunday and none at all on May Day - they work. So on Sunday the unions with their decorated floats with the stale old placards about Vietnam, peace, solidarity, workers must unite etc. were there. So were the students. The Monash Labour Club, carrying NLF flags, chanted 'Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh' in a rather sickening manner, no doubt think that "Uncle Ho" (sic) is the new saviour.

The Spaniards were by far the best and most colourful group there. With their anti-Franco, anti-fascist, pro-liberty, pro-syndicalist banners and the red, yellow and purple flag of the Republic, they were very impressive. Marching with them was, TREASON with black anarchist flags, red and black syndicalist flags and IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) signs. Leading was the Melbourne Anarchist Group truck with banners calling for Workers Control, saying 'NEITHER HANOI, NOR WASHINGTON' and depicting fat capitalists on the backs of workers.

For the first time the march ended at the Music Bowl and not at the traditional Yarra Bank. This indicated another step in the degeneration of the Unions. Were we to hear exciting speeches filled with new ideas about workers Control of Industry, use of Direct Action in industrial disputes, refusal to support conscription and the war effort, the use of sabotage against tyrannical capitalists? No! Instead we had a concert in which we were entertained by the Combined Pensioners Association and folk singers. The only talk was by Bert Nolan of the Seamens Union. In tracing the history of May Day and the Eight Hour Movement, he almost completely ignored the part played by the Chicago anarchists in 1886. Instead he said the same old crap about Vietnam, working hours, equal pay, wages etc. In other words he advocated compromise with the capitalist bureaucracy. What workers today should realise is that if they want anything whether it is equal pay for Women or shorter working hours, they will get it a bloody lot quicker by direct action than by wasting time, money and effort in the Arbitration Court.

After this display, one wonders if the Trade Union movement in Australia has any future. Apparently the union leaders are worried, about the lack of enthusiasm shown by young workers.This is not surprising, but they try to win them with folk music. But this can be heard any day of the year. May Day comes once a year. The only way to win young workers for the unions is by action.

What is needed in the trade unions is a resurgence of the rank and file. Removal of leaders who no longer represent the interests of the class is essential. Its no use talking merely of wage increases and shorter hours. The capitalists and government are not going to give workers anything if it affects them (the bureaucrats). And remember, how many members of the arbitration commission are members of the working class? None. They are employed by the government which represents the interests of capitalism, and paid large salaries by the government.

The rank and file must move towards their own control of their work. They can no longer afford to be merely "hired labour". They who produce should reap the benefits, not those who happen to be loaded with money and can buy shares and collect from the sweat of the workers. Dispute between workers and management must be acted on by the rank and file on the spot - not left. to those who sit in offices and are generally swayed by the bosses and the press. (in this respect, the way that the Postal workers defied the ACTU was tremendous, and it is a pity that they did not strike a little longer). The goal of the rank and file is to get rid of capitalist exploitation and theft - remember every time. the workers get a wage increase, up go the prices, which nullifies the benefit of the increase and makes things worse for those on fixed incomes, e.g. pensioners.

So the May Day march and display of solidarity, for what it is worth, is a farce in Melbourne. It might as well not be held. In future it should be held on the first, and every worker should take to the streets. Close down industry for a day! It won't hurt the workers, and with such a display of solidarity the bosses might be more inclined to listen.

Relevant Links

[ Top of Page ] [ Melbourne Anarchist Archives Index ] [ Radical Tradition Contents ]