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Issue No. 173 04 April 2003  

The Fog of War
As the War Without a Mandate proceeds apace, any notion of a domestic political agenda has become surplus to requirements.


Interview: Picking Up The Peaces
Walk Against the War Coalition convenor Bruce Childs outlines the challenge for the peace movement in the lead up to Palm Sunday.

Unions: The Royal Con
Jim Marr argues the Cole Commission can only be taken seriously by people kept ignorant of the way it actually operated.

National Focus: Around the Grounds
Unions maintain the pressure for peace as the upcoming organising conference takes on added significance, reports Noel Hester.

Economics: The Secret War on Trade
Overseas-based multi-nationals are coming after our film industry, electricity, water, pharmaceutical benefits and even childcare. Or are they? Nobody knows, as Jim Marr reports.

International: United Front
Workers and their unions around the world have possibly never been as united in their commitment to campaign together against the War in Iraq, writes Andrew Casey

History: Confessions of a Badge Collector
Bill Pirie has one of the largest collections of trade union badges in the world. After 20 years the collection now numbers some 6,000 badges.

Politics: Stalin�s Legacy
Fifty years ago last month Josef Stalin died. How could it be that a democratic and socialist revolution produced one of the monsters of the twentieth century, asks Leonie Bronstein.

Review: Such Was Not Ned�s Life
The life of Ned Kelly is what we in the world of journalism term a �ball tearing yarn� so why have writers of the movie adaptation felt so impelled to dress it up with fiction, asks Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Osama's Top Recruiter
Through our extensive intelligence networks, we have managed to track down the top recruiter for the global terror network of Osama bin Laden.

Satire: Woolworths CEO Denied Bonus After Company Posts Profit
Woolworths chief executive Roger Corbett was devastated today to report an 18.3% rise in profit under his management over the last year.


 Cole Launches Civil Rights Assault

 Protests Target Arncliffe �Shocker�

 Commerce Swallows DIR

 Abbott, Bosses Turn Guns on Low Paid

 Fat Cats Should Justify Salaries - LHMU

 Black Humour for a Dark Issue

 Minister on Threats, Coercion

 Bosses Stonewall Union Dues Ruling

 Private Hospitals Pay Out on 15 Percent

 Councils on Hotel Workers� Agenda

 Sharon Hammers Israeli Workers

 Shangri-La Blue Ends

 Inaugural Orwell Awards

 Activist Notebook


The Soapbox
Factional Free-For-All
Chris Christodoulou looks at the fallout from the selection of the new Carr Ministry and what it means to the factional warlords.

The Locker Room
The Best Season Since Last Year
Phil Doyle goes trudging through the mud in search of the heart of the matter beneath the corporate biffo

Books on Bombs
In times like these, reading inevitably turns to America and war. Chris White wades through Pilger, Chomsky, Eco, Moore and Vidal.

Postcard from Harvard
Labor Council's Michael Gadiel was elected to give the valedictory speech to this year's Harvard Trade Union Program.

 The Rule of Law
 Trots Bomb Back
 Tom's Turn
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Letters to the Editor

Trots Bomb Back

Dear Comrades

Your attack on the Books not Bombs student protest was reprehensible.

Police ripped a hajib off a young woman. They kept young people for hours in a street. They attacked the marchers. And now the police have continued John Howard's dirty work by racially vilifying the students.

These police attacks on students are now being used by reactionaries to quash the democratic right to protest.

You have ignored all of this to make an attack on young and rightly angry people protesting against an unjust, immoral and imperialist war.

I'm with the students.

Even out of self-interest I would have hoped the trade union movement could see that the lies and anti-democratic attacks on students are the pointers for the future. That future will involve, as the Cole Royal Commission shows, these same police state tactics being used against unions.

And on top of all that your report red baits the protesters.

This is dangerous McCarthyism.

You should have been condemning the police. You should have been attacking the ALP's pro-war stance. You should have been making the linkages between the attacks on building workers and the attacks on Iraq - both benefit the Australian ruling class.

Instead you serve us this reactionary drivel to make a cheap sectarian point. And in doing that you provide succour for the anti-union forces in this country.


John Passant


Without a shred of evidence one of your articles (Issue 172)asserts that "fringe" socialist groups encouraged scuffles with the police at the most recent student anti-war protest. Why didn't you interview someone from Books Not Bombs to put their side of the story? Why not do a piece on the "Leb bashing" that Bob Carr and the media are so fond of and how that makes young Arab Australians feel? My suggested headline: "Labor Council joins Daily Telegraph witch-hunt". While John Robertson was pushing his reds-under-the-beds barrow another 50 Iraqi civilians were killed at a marketplace. My union has a good position on paper against the war but has done next to nothing to educate the membership about it. There's work to be done John, why don't you focus on that instead?

Sam Wainwright (proudly an MUA member and "fringe" socialist)


I find it appalling that the NSW Labour Council thinks it can dictate to the movements who is or should be a member of the movement.

State Secretary John Robertson has been publically critical of the student protest on March 26, saying the Walk Against the War Coalition should exclude organisers of such protests from the group. This group was setup to be an umbrella group of ALL organisations opposing the war.

The violence at this utherwise peaceful and spirited demonstration, was provoked by the police as they seek to manufacture a confrontation with protesters at each rally. This one was no exception. Instead of condemning the protest organisers, the peace movement should be seeking to learn the lessons of this demonstration and comdemning the police for their heavy-handed practices.

Local community peace groups have supported the student protest organisers. The union hierarchy should not see itself as being the only, or even the major, mobilising force in the peace movement and should seek to aid those other groups who are out mobilising and organising against this war?

While some unions have done some good work in educating their members, most (and this includes even some of the larger left-wing unions) have done NOTHING to educate the members or draw together a mobilisation of more than the workers and organisers staffing their offices and a handful of other active delegates.

Instead of attacking other people organising against the war, unions would do better building anti-war consciousness among their members and bringing them onto the streets with us.

I ask John Robertson, who is his enemy when it comes to mobilising against the war? Is it the student rally organisers; or the Bush and Howard governments and any other government who stops the people from expressing their anger against this war?

Liam Mitchell

Member and delegate, AMWU


: As an NTEU member I was appalled to read on LaborNet and Workers Online, that the NSW Labor Council has not only condemned the Books Not Bombs rally, but has taken it upon itself to try and censor the anti-war movement.

In his Labor Net contribution, Peter Lewis, as he did at last years M1, lays the blame for violence at the feet of the protesters rather than at the feet of the police where it belongs. The NSW police deliberately targeted Middle Eastern students at the Books Not Bombs rally seeking to provoke a violent confrontation. According to a number of the students, the confrontation at the rally was a result of one police officer deliberately ripping a hijab (headscarf) from the head of a young Muslim woman. Not only was this a deliberate act of cultural insensitivity, it also smacks of racism.

It should also be noted that while the Walk Against the War Coalition has and is playing a valuable organising role in the anti-war movement, it is not THE anti-war movement.

The Walk Against the War Coalition is just ONE of many anti-war groups that exists in Sydney and around NSW and Australia and as such does not have "over-riding responsibility for the anti-war effort" as Lewis argues in his article on Labor Net. No--one group, whether it be the NSW Labor Council or the Walk Against the War Coalition has the right to dictate who can and cannot be part of the anti-war movement. Nor do they have right to dictate what anti-war events can or cannot happen.

Rather then falling in line with the rhetoric, redbaiting and exclusionary politics of the mainstream media and the pro-war camp, both the NSW Labor Council and the Walk Against the War Coalition should have the guts and courage to stand in solidarity with their fellow anti-war protesters and the young students who are passionate and courageous enough to come out onto the streets.

Kim Bullimore


I would like to express my deep concern at the prospect of the ISO and DSP being expelled from the Walk Against the War Coalition. Febuary 16 gave me such great hope for the peace movement as there was such a diverse range of people working together for the same aim - to stop the war in Iraq. Splits within the Coalition will only serve to weaken the movement, and take the emphasis off the war and on to internal politics, which is exactly what Mr Howard would like to see happen.

I am not a member of the DSP but have been very involved with their campaigns because they work tirelessly for justice on a broad range of isses, and are able to effectively mobilise people to take action for unpopular campaigns such as rights for Refugees. In all the DSP actions I have been to, I have never been encouraged to behave violently. In fact it's been just the opposite, with organisers encouraging people to "keep on keeping on", peacefully but persitently. Behaving non-violently however, does not guarentee me, or others involved in protests, the same courtesy from the police department and inevitably there will be a minority who will bite back.

These rallies are not only about putting pressure on the government to bring our troops home, but also to show our leaders that we, the people, are able to put aside political, religious and ideological differences to work together for peace, not only in Iraq but on our own streets. The violence at the student rally was regrettable, but more regrettable still would be to see peace sub-titled according to political affiliation. Peace is a universal concept and should always walk under one banner if it is ever to be applied.

Julie Smith

[email protected]


Your recent press release excusing the NSW police for beating up on young kids probably takes the cake for duplicity. No stranger to police aggression, the trade union movement knows what role the police force plays against protests, picket lines and strikes. So next time that happens -- you want us all to join in with John Laws and the Murdoch press calling for trade unionists to be turned into pariahs because the police vilified them, employed illegal interventions and brutally assaulted them? Is that Ok with you Peter? Similarly is is OK with you to attempt to split the peace movement by agreeing with the racist and pro war line coming from this media frenzy on this?

There's a war on, you know and the business to hand is to stop it --not settle accounts with groups you don't agree with.

Comradely regards

Dave Riley

Ex-DSP Brisbane, still a member of the Socialist Alliance


Letter to the editor

How did right-wing press hack Piers Akerman respond to the March 5 student rally in Sydney? With red-baiting.

How did John Robertson and NSW Labor Council leaders respond to the March 26 student rally in Sydney? With red-baiting.

Instead of condemning heavy-handed police tactics and the violence of some rally participants - the Labor Council condemns the organisers.

If we applied this logic to the August 19, 1996 Cavalcade to Canberra we would have to blame the organisers (trade unions) for the scuffles that took place outside Parliament House. The NSW Labor Council did not cop this in 1996.

So why blame the Books not Bombs group and "fringe Trotskyist groups the Democratic Socialist Party and the International Socialist Organisation" for what took place on March 26, 2003?

"There was a lack of marshalls and general organization, CALCULATED (my emphasis - SB) to create the sort of mayhem that has undermined the [anti-war] message". The Labor Council press release turns the best efforts of resource-poor, cash-strapped organisations into a sinister plot to cause havoc. Outrageous.

I hope the Labor Council and NSW unions have volunteered some marshalls for the April 2 student rally.

"Key left-wing unions [are] calling on the Walk Against the War Coalition to take steps to ensure a similar event is not held . . . Its important thatthe mainstream peace movement takes a stand against these fringe elements."

What does the Labor Council mean? Does it plan to exclude the "fringe

Trotskyist groups" from the Walk Against the War Coalition? Anyone with a shred of decency should be opposed to any moves to restrict ANYONE that is opposed to this war from participating in the Coalition. Touch one - touch all.

If the NSW Police can get away with refusing a permit for the April 2 Books not Bombs rally, guess who will be next? The "mainstream peace movement" i.e. the Walk Against the War Coalition.

John Howard and his warmongering mates (including Akerman) would like nothing more than to see a split in the forces opposed to the war on Iraq. Don't play into their hands Labor Council.

Shane Bentley

MUA member employed at P&O Ports, White Bay.


Dear comrade,

As a union delegate (MEAA) and a founder member of the Moreland Peace Group in Melbourne, I am writing to express my disgust that the NSW TLC is allowing itself to be stampeded by the rightwing media into disowning the high school student protests.

From the information I have received, it is clear that the police

criminalised the protesters in advance, provoked them by holding them penned in a street for a lengthy period, and enraged them by ripping the hijab off one young woman's head.

There has been a long, dishonourable tradition in the NSW police and media of victimising young people of Middle Eastern background. This current campaign is clearly an extension of that approach.

Any minor damage on Wednesday pales into utter insignificance compared to what Coalition forces are doing on an hour by hour basis.

The Murdoch media will always be hostile to the peace movement. Why give them the satisfaction of sacrificing some of our own to their agenda? Why not take the same attitude as the peace movement in WA which correctly fingered the police for minor disturbances in Perth the same day?

Yours fraternally,

David Glanz


I am an Australian Kurdish, originally from Iraq, I am strongly against Iraqi criminal regime, as well as I am strongly against USA invasion on Iraq, I am against this war, and strongly support and I protest to this war, including next protest organist by students in Sydney, unfortunately instead to supporting them, you are blaming them as extremist, to stop this massacre, to defend human righta we should be extremist and we should not accept any pretext to justify this barbarism, prevent the right to protest looks like we live in the country like Iraq under Saddam's regime not Australia




Dear Labour Council Officers,

It is with great alarm and regret that I read the following article and

rumours of an attempt to ban the ISO/DSP/Resistance from the Walk against the War Coalition by certain members of the Labour Council.

I am an ISO member (and FSU member) heavily involved in the anti-war campaign through Northside NoWar(Chatswood) and was present on Wednesday's demonstration. NNW had 3 members attending that rally who you would refer to as "mainstream".

Members of the "conservative" community living in the north shore who came to show their solidarity with the students that day, despite long being out of school. They, like me witnessed the police violence and intimidatory tactics used to create a feeling of tension in an already heated climate. They have already seperately expressed comdemnation of any attempt by the press, or others, to scapegoat the students.

It was the actions by the police NOT the students that caused the violence. The media is using all tactics available to prevent the anti-war movement from growing. They have been already attempting to "gloss" over the war by showing clean images of "liberation" rather the brutal reality of civilian deaths. The scapegoating of "musilim students" is part of this campaign.

Police Minister Michael Costo is also no close friend of the Labour movement either. Lets remember that the minister had already set the scene that this would be a violent confrontation, against the declaration of the students. This is a Police Minister that has on many times turned its back on the Labor movement.....lets not forget Workers Compensation. We should be standing with the students against Costa's arrogance and contempt, not the other way round!

In any case, it is the violence of the war which is KILLING hundreds of civilians which should be the focus of the anti-war movement NOT that which is assumed to have occurred by students trying to prevent the killings. Where are these declarations from the Labour Council!?!

At this time, we need more than ever to stand side by side not looking to divide the movement. Whatever our disargeements on a range of issues we need to see who the real enemny is. If John Howard wants anything more than violence then it would be a divided movement. Any attempt to expel certain groups based on untrue allegations will be likely to splinter the movement unnecessarily. Particularly groups which have worked so tirelessly, through thick or thin, to help stop the war.

I urge you to rethink your stance and refrain from expelling the ISO/DSP and Resistance and instead focus on the task of condemning the war on


Yours in solidarity,

David Golan

Northside NoWar (NNW)

Finance Sector Union (FSU)

International Socialist Organisation (ISO)


Wednesday the 26th of March was a black day for freedom in our country. As our troops fight for democracy in Iraq, teenage peace protesters were beaten and man handled by the NSW police. Some were girls as young as 13 which I personally saw thrown to the ground and forcibly detained. One young girl was put in a head lock by a very aggressive officer, her cries and tears still resonate with me.

That young girl's name was Bobby. She was protesting for peace, expressing a right that we all should have, but sadly on this day were denied.

I was not there to protest. I was just there like other reporters to cover the story. Whilst talking to two policemen regarding the protest a third OSG officer, whose name tag read 'Jacobs' grabbed my arm and threw me backwards. I quickly tried to explain I was not a protester but a journalist. He pushed me multiple times ignoring everything I said. His demeanour was one of anger and his disposition was everything but balanced. If this is the treatment bestowed upon journalists who are not even part of the protest imagine what was dished out to those who were?

I counted 212 police plus 12 mounted, but the numbers would have been over 300. There were about 70 protesters. The police had formed 4 battle lines down Philip Street. Trapped within the middle two police lines were about 50 protesters. Outside the far police line students had sat on the ground to chant for peace and freedom. The police detained the inner 50 protesters for 2 hours not allowing them to pass through the police lines. A police spokesman ordered the outer protesters to move or they would not release the inner ones.

I asked why the protesters were being detained as all they had done was voice their opinion and he simply replied "they just are". And I foolishly thought that we lived in a free country. One which allowed its citizens to voice their opinions and would not be forcibly detained by the authorities for doing so. Before now I believed the police were protecting my freedoms, today that belief was shattered.

As the protesters sat on the floor the police line of 80 or more officers would pound forward trammelling the seated protesters. If they remained on the floor the police would push them, and throw them. I saw numerous teenage boys, some 14 years old, crash tackled by police. As I was scribbling down the assaults I witnessed, I glanced up to see the police line walking towards me. An OSG officer was staring at me coldly; his name tag read 'Drysdale' and his wintry unshaven face was knotted in rage. His eyes looked as thought he could kill me and suddenly I was caught up in the melee. I was forcibly pushed back whilst 'Drysdale' continued his hard stare of death. One wrong move and I know I would be slammed into the floor.

Forty people were arrested, most for nothing. Sure there was some abuse shouted at the police and this I don't condone but one would hope that a police officer has more restraint than a member of the general public, not less. For there are few things a 13 year old girl could say to me to warrant putting her into a head lock and dragging her along the cement.

Voltaire said "I may not like what you're saying, but I'll defend til my death your right to say it" This is the underlying principle of democracy, the belief that every person has the right to voice their opinion. But on this day Australia regressed into a nation where censorship is enforced by violent means, where freedom of expression was reserved for those who said the right things and where police brutality was exacted upon children.

Maybe the government should stop worrying about the loss of personal freedoms in other countries and start worrying about those closer to home. When the police gag the voice of our youth with fear, intimidation and force we all lose a small part of our freedoms. Each one of us should have the right to stand on a street corner and express our opinion to the world and like Voltaire I'll defend that right til my death.

Shane T Hall


It's not my usual practice to write to Workers Online again so soon after having one of my letters published, but I have to make an exception for the shameful effort of Workers Online & the NSW Labor Council joining the witch-hunt against the Left in the peace movement (Workers Online #172). In response to the media & police lies about the 26 March student protest, the peace movement should have closed ranks & defended the students who had been attacked. Instead, organisations which should know better about this sort of thing (does the name "Commissioner Cole" ring a bell?), respond by turning on a couple of small Left-wing groups and those students who thought that blocking some traffic isn't too extreme a response to the war of aggression currently being waged against Iraq.

When police attack a demonstration, it's standard practice (& quite sensible, from their perspective) to invent a pretext. It's also standard practice for the media to go along with it, broadcasting any protestor retaliation & treating it as "the cause of the violence". Of course, if they can't find any protestor retaliation, they'll use whatever pictures they have & just label it as protestor violence. In the case of 26 March protest, the police attack on the demonstration came before the events which supposedly justified it, and included things like pulling the hijab off a Moslem girl. Of course, the protestors' response didn't help the situation (if only because it provided some plausible pictures around which the lies could be woven), but this is a minor issue beside the *police* violence and the organised political & media witch-hunt.

It's even more shameful that "key left-wing unions" were behind the NSW Labor Council's statement since, in red-baiting their political rivals on the Left, their leaderships are joining up with the same forces that red-baited *them* for decades. This craven opportunism won't do them any good, since any advantage that may accrue to them from ejecting a couple of Left groups from the Walk Against the War Coalition will be eliminated by the emboldening of the Right, whether in the media or the govt, to launch further attacks on the whole peace movement. Maybe somebody should acquaint these union officials with the principle that "an injury to one is an injury to all".

In Solidarity,

Greg Platt.


I write to express my disgust at the labour Council's stance on the recent student protest on March 26. I also wish to condemn the NSW police for refusing to issue a permit for the proposed rally on April 2nd. The Labor Council and all unions, particularly the NSWTF should be vehemently defending the students who organised the student anti-war rally and those who participated. The previous week there was a rally with figures quoted of up to 10,000 school age students. This particular rally was extrememly successful: vibrant in spirit with many young people screaming their anti-war message and running through the streets in excitement. Some ended their day in the fountain at Hyde Park - nothing different to what many adults did on the day of the massive protest of February 16. There were many positive responses in the community to this rally. People commended these young people for taking the initiative to organise themselves and to take a moral stand on t!

his illegal and reprehensible war. Many adults were left feeling inspired and with a sense of hope for the future. The March 26 rally saw many of these same students return despite the scare tactics and lies used by the NSW Police Commissioner on the morning of the rally. The many students who participated in an assertive but appropriate manner have been painted with the same brush as a minority who undeniably did behave in an undesirable way. The broader youth protest movement cannot be held to ransom because of the actions of a few dissenting adolescents who were expressing albeit inappropriately, their anxiety and frustration that most of us would never experience in a lifetime. Since the ugly rise of Pauline Hanson in 1997 the "Middle Eastern" community here in Australia has been experiencing vilification and acts of racial hatred. Muslim-Australians have been feeling insulted and offended at such mendacious statements as those made openly by the likes of Bo!

b Carr, David Oldfield and Fred Nile. The accumulation of years of racial stereo-typing and racial profiling may well have been the impetus for the expression of violence on March 26. The way the media has yet again targetted certain groups of youths' behaviour and highlighted their "violence" is laughable and totally out of kilter with the REAL violence being perpetrated on children in Baghdad as bombs are dropped on them daily. This is the issue to which the Labor Council, and all Unions should be collectively directing

their resources and energies. This is the behaviour that should be condemned. This is the real focus. Let us not get confused and conspire with the media which has played a crucial role in scapegoating innocent people and creating harmful divisions within our world and our own society. Let us not allow the right to protest injustices and inequities to be taken away from us. Let us not be dictated to by the police or the government and let us always ask ourselves - whose interests are THEY protecting by trying to take away the right of the people to demonstrate in the streets!!!!

Noreen Navin


Dear Editor,

I can't believe I have just read such an attack on high school students protesting against an imperialist war on a labour movement website!

Have the union officials responsible for this attack never been on a demonstration where police made confrontation inevitable? They must have been to few protests if they haven't.

I have been picketing, rallying and protesting for thirty years, but I am still shocked when faced with such lack of solidarity against the state.

All trade unionists should take a stand against this lack of solidarity and support the students. If the NSW Labor government put its policies where it's mouth is, the police would be told to facilitate anti-war demonstrations, not harrass and bully them to try to stop them taking their message to the streets.

Sandra Bloodworth (retired)


Dear Editor

Your attack on the high school students anti war protest sounds like a second hand rehash of the Murdoch press.

You make no mention that the police heavies were predicting violence beforehand. No mention of the police's tactics of confrontation, vengeance and racial profiling.

I didn't realise that Labor Council officials were such long standing peace activists that they have the right to say who is, or isn't, part of the movement.

Is the real reason the Labor Council is attacking the high school students and those who defend them because its wants to bring the movement under its control and start to adopt Simon Crean pro war stance?

Stephen O'Brien

PSA TAFE delegate, Newcastle


I was shocked to see the secretary of the Labor Council attacking the motivations of anti-war protestors, especially the young people involved in last Wednesday's student protest. I think it was clear that the protestors were being set up by police and others when permission for the protest was "withdrawn" by police citing fears of "violence". This played in the media in an entirely predictable way, with the type of shock jock frenzy familiar to the union movement, most recently the attack on the CFMEU about the Building royal commission. Then it appeared that the students were riled up by police, by their policy of targetting Arab and Muslim students in quite an offensive way. This of course is not a new experience for many young people of Arab descent, as the public search and humiliation of students travelling home on the train after the first student protest showed. It would seem like a deliberate campaign by the state government and police to make the parents stop their!

children from attending future rallies. Instead of attacking sections of the peace movement, the Labor Council should be using its influence to prevent a repeat of the violence by asking the state government and police to tone down their behaviour, providing help to the students for better organised events in future.

Jenny Long

PSA (NSW) member


I'm writing to express my disgust at last week's article entitled "Unions Condemn Protest Violence" in which Workers Online calls for the Walk Against the War Coalition to distance itself from the recent student protests.

Having been closely involved with the S11, M1 and anti-WTO protests over the last few years, it's become obvious the tactics adopted by police when faced with actions involving civil disobedience. First, their media unit pumps out a variety of stories about "radicals" and plans of "violence" to discredit protesters before they've even had a chance to protest. They then employ unnecessary numbers and force to intimidate and provoke demonstrators - which often leads to the images of scuffles that the mainstream media loves.

It's a simple strategy designed to turn attention away from the issues and onto the "violence" of protesters, hopefully neutralising or, better, discrediting the protest.

The response, though, should not be to scapegoat radical left organisers, remain uncritical of the corporate media, and effectively give tacit support to the intimidatory and aggressive tactics of the NSW Police, as Labor Council delegates have done.

At a time when the government is spending millions of dollars on an unjust, unpopular and barbaric war on Iraq, we should not be called upon to remain passive and accommodating to media prejudices.

To seek to do so results, for example, in a situation such as we saw in November during the WTO mini-ministerial meeting. By swallowing the federal government and media hype about expected "violence", months of organising by Labor Council affiliates and NGOs was reduced to a small token rally in Hyde Park.

By attempting to enforce such a strategy on an entire movement risks splitting it and, worse, leaves warmongering political leaders like John Howard unfazed, untouched and unchallenged.

However, if Labor Council and Workers Online insist on pursuing this strategy, I would at the very least expect you to follow swiftly next edition with condemnation of the Walk Against the War Coalition for twice giving John Pilger - who has consistently called for mass civil disobedience - a speaking platform.

Vince Caughley


Dear Workers Online,

As a veteran Victorian union activist, anti-war campaigner and socialist, I am writing to express my deep disapproval at the position you have adopted in relation to the student anti-war protests on 27 March, 2003.

I have spoken to a number of students who were present at the protests around Australia. They have told many stories of the tactics used by police to isolate students of middle-eastern appearance from other students, and intimidate, frustrate and disrupt what students had intended to be successful, lively, yet peaceful protests against Australia's involvement in this murderous war on Iraq. These tactics are designed to divide the anti-war movement, with the police predicting on the morning before the demonstrations the very scenes of scuffles that we saw on that evening's news. Clearly the intention of militarists was to carefully orchestrate the use of the police force and the media to divide the anti-war movement, and the position adopted by Workers Online has shown how easy it is to fall into this most basic of tactical traps.

There should be no confusion amongst those who oppose the war on Iraq as to who is responsible for the fights that erupted in several cities during these rallies. Furthermore, these are barely notable when compared with the violence the Anglo-American forces are perpetrating daily upon the people of Iraq. And yet, rather than listening to anti-war student accounts of what happened at the demonstrations, Workers Online has (unfortunately, rather predictably) fallen into step with the police and militarists. In the process, Workers Online has shown its true sectarian hand by attacking socialist students and organisations in its haste to appear respectable. It is most indicative of Workers Online's politics when it immediately sides with the police at this critical time in Australian history, rather than supporting students within the anti-war movement. As if they don't already have enough to deal with when facing police batons and horse-charges on the streets, to be attacked by people within the union movement is nothing short of betrayal. I suspect that Workers Online does not like socialist organisations, who rightly call for a stronger anti-war stand from Australian trade unions. It is promoting the twisted police version of events at the demonstrations, backed up by sensationalist media grabs, while avoiding what current circumstances really call for from the union movement - the organisation of industrial action to end the Australian government's involvement in this war.

Now the police are refusing to issue a permit to the next student protest planned in Sydney on 2 April. By attacking the very students and socialists it should be supporting within the anti-war movement, Workers Online is effectively adding its support to those who wish to stop student protest against the war in Australia. This is also a withdrawal of support for the most basic of democratic rights - the right to protest. If successful, this will severely weaken the anti-war movement across the country.

Workers Online, at this critical turning point in the union movement's involvement in the anti-war campaign your conduct has been most un-comradely. You should retract your support for the police and government position on student protest, and your attacks on the Democtratic Socialist Party and the International Socialist Organisation. And I would suggest that in the future you will need greater political sophistication if you are to successfully challenge Australia's warmongerers and bring the anti-war movement closer to its goals.

Louise Walker

NTEU National Councillor

University of Melbourne


I am a member of the PSA, and have been a member of various unions for the past thirty years. I have raised my children to be strong unionists and to live by the principle of solidarity against the bosses.

So how do I explain the perfidy and betrayal of the so-called union movement in the form of the Labor Council, organising AGAINST the right of young people to free speech and assembly. How do I explain to my children that the so-called union movement is siding with the bosses and the police against their right to demonstrate?

It's hypocritical in the extreme to watch John Robertson, et al, perpetuate the lies of the police and media, against young people. I recall not long ago that the labour movement claimed to want to recruit more young people to unions. Wasn't that Michael Costa on our TVs wearing a backwards baseball cap and saying "Yo"? Where is the solidarity now?

If the Labor Council is truly concerned about the way youth protests are organised, why isn't it helping out with resources like marshalling and megaphones? Why isn't the Labor Council trying to build unity between the youth -- who are vital to the continuing movement -- and the more experienced -- who are vital for passing on organising skills?

It appears that the Labor Council is not really interested in democratic rights for all, even though that is supposed to be a fundamental principle of unionism.

I strongly support the Books Not Bombs Coalition and the basic democratic right of students to WITHDRAW THEIR LABOUR FROM SCHOOLS to protest this illegal war in Iraq. I support the democratic right of the Democratic Socialist Party and of Resistance to organise actions against the illegal war on Iraq. I deplore the Labor Council's splitting tactics that only serve the interests of the bosses and the police.

Susan Barley

Member, Public Service Association


Is the NSW Labor Council just a wing of the Carr government? One wonders if Workers Online is actually the "official organ" of the NSW Police Force?

Reading the cowardly statements in Workers Online "condemning" supposedly "violent" Books not Bombs demonstration makes me wonder.

The fact is the violence occurred when police attempted to stop the march from proceeding. To blame the protesters for the confrontations that occurred are absurd. Police then went on to deliberately assault a number of students of Middle-Eastern appearance.

It is almost as though Worker's Online and the NSW Labor Council has simply taken the reports of the rabidly pro-war and racist Murdoch protest at its word.

Gullible twats.

Did you even bother to ask for Books Not Bombs' side of the story? You certainly have not even bothered to offer them a chance to respond to the accusations you have made in your article. On that count your publication is below even the standards of the Daily Telegraph.

At a time when the war must resisted by any means necessary and trade unions face attacks as a result of the Cole Royal Commission, we can ill-afford these kinds of gratuitous and divisive attacks on the progressive movement. It is the police, not the protesters, who should be condemned. It is the NSW Labor Council's cowardly attacks on the protesters that threatens to set the peace movement back.

Ben Reid

NTEU member

University of Newcastle


How disappointing to see the Labor Council perpetuating a police/media beat up (Unionists condemn protest violence). I attended last week's student demo and saw only police intimidation and provocation. This week we've seen a further threat to civil liberties with a plain clothes cop using pepper spray on peaceful protesters.

How often have we seen unionists abused and vilified in a similar fashion. Are we really ready to condemn young people - those who could be dragged into the next Vietnam - for doing no more than defending their interests?

Chris Martin, Dulwich Hill


Dear Workers Online,

I am extremely disappointed as a trade unionist and a parent of a high school student that Labor Council officers and the Walk against the War Coalition have condemned the organisers of the student protest on 26 March, for the violence that occurred.

All the students and adults who were there who I have spoken to identify the police behaviour as intimidating and provocative from the start.

But more to the point is that the protesting students are expressing their moral outrage at what we all know to be a moral and humanitarian outrage - this war on Iraq, and Howard's conduct of it against our will. John Howard is in a position of strength because he concedes no errors on his side, never condemns his own. It should not matter what errors the students or their leaders may have committed. They are on our side against this war. The real damage is being done to the anti-war movement not by the students, but by their disloyal critics. Their actions show greater concern for the hypocritical opinion of a biased, hysterical, racist and war-mongering media, than for the need to do something more effective to stop this war than to rally in our tens of thousands on weekends . The politics of polite protest are not stopping this war. The Walk Against the War Coalition does not seem to recognise this problem.

Youth who care enough about public affairs, who have a conscience, who take a moral stand deserve recognition from the labour movement. They are precious potential rejuvenators of an aging trade union movement. They deserve support and assistance, loyal guidance or gentle criticism for the inevitable errors of youth, and defence from the jackals of the press and the police. Union leaders should be relating to the students who were at the protest, and not isolating and weakening them by condemning the protest organisers for any miscalculations or errors of judgement they might have made.

This should have been an opportunity for the trade union movement to show what unionists can do, with commitment and discipline, how union marshalls can protect students from the police, and help them to maintain discipline, make strategic decisions democratically about when and where to proceed. If Labor Council officers had refrained from rushing to condemn the leaders of the student stoppages, and instead had offered practical solidarity to the students against the police, then the students who attended the 26 March protest would have been able to come back again on 2 April. They would have had their eyes opened to the power of unions to stand up for democratic rights against the NSW police, and against an unjust war being waged by Howard. Instead, union leaders for their own sectarian reasons, of antagonism towards the DSP and Resistance, and to please Costa and Carr (who gleefully crossed a workers comp picket line less than 2 years ago), have stupidly lost a chance to!

win passionate and committed youth to unionism, and have strengthened the hand of the police in NSW to suppress protest action.

Janet Burstall


Congratulations for the conduct of students and supporters at the April 2 Student strike was carried by the Marrickville Peace Group Meeting 3 April. The students held a peaceful demo and defied the State Governments ban on the protest - a ban on the right to demonstrate.

The NSW Teachers Federation carried a motion at the 30 March State Council meeting supporting the right of students to demonstrate. Councillors from the floor spoke of the intimidation their middle eastern students had recieved from the police and media.

Teachers have shown a lead regarding how we involve young people in the movement. Yes they will make mistakes, we all have growing up as activists, but we should encourage them so when they get it right - which is more often than not - we can be invigorated by the energy of their success!

John Morris


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