Interview: Flying High
Unions: TUF on Toll
Industrial: Forward to the Past
Economics: Debt and the Economy
Obituary: The Charlatanry of Milton Friedman
Environment: Low Voltage
Legal: The Fair Deal
Review: A Little History
Seven Year Itch
Boss With a Heart
A Little History
It is packaged with a sprinkling of Bruce Petty cartoons in a 96 page pocket or handbag sized book measuring about 150mm by 110mm, retailing for $9.95. Publication has been variously supported by the ACTU and thirteen unions.
Author Sean Scalmer is a trade unionist, labour historian, and sociologist who lectures at Macquarie University (Sydney). He comes from a working class, trade union background, and is the author of two well received books on social movements. His Melbourne based publisher, Vulgar Press, is a small, innovative, independent outfit specialising in working class and radical literature.
Scalmer tells the story of Australian trade unionism from its origins during the early nineteenth century through to the present. In telling and explaining what is sometimes a tumultuous story, he takes a chronological approach, deftly, and at times evocatively, sketching the broad sweep of history in straight forward, accessible language.
At the same time Scalmer ensures that intellectual and scholarly rigour is not lost in the process; nor is there any hint of condescension in his text. Scalmer's achievement is not only the successful telling of this story, but in showing how trade unionism is a major part of the Australian story. He also amply demonstrates that collectivism is an integral part of Australian culture, not the alien construct the Howardistas would have us believe.
Contrary to neocon propaganda, the unionism Scalmer portrays is not a nineteenth century fossil frozen in time, but a dynamic phenomenon that has variously changed and adapted to substantial challenges and circumstances created by the movements of time and history. And contrary to the neocon version of history, Scalmer also makes clear that trade unionism has, over the years, greatly improved the quality of life of all Australian working people, even those who have never been union members.
The book is aimed at the lay reader, and potential unionists. It would be an excellent text to use in secondary schools where there are curriculum opportunities to teach about Australian unionism. Vulgar Press is willing to negotiate discount rates for class sets. Generous discounts for bulk orders are available to unions. To contact Vulgar Press email [email protected] , or phone: 03 9348 2140.
In an interview Scalmer has explained how he envisages the book being used:
"The LITTLE HISTORY is designed as a promotional tool for unions. I hope to explain to a younger generation of Australians why unions exist; how they have been organised; and what they have achieved. The current industrial changes have made many more citizens conscious of the importance of 'industrial relations' and work. There is a hunger for knowledge about these issues; the book is designed to satisfy at least part of that hunger".
Scalmer's book should prove a useful organising tool in the current political climate, given previous general accounts of Australia's trade union history are long out of print. So buy a few copies, use it, keep a copy handy, give one to a friend, give one to a wavering unionist, give one to a non-unionised workmate. All union organisers should have a copy; all union journals and newspapers should carry a promotional piece at least, or a review. The book's message is one the smirkers on the Government benches are not keen for working people to be familiar with. I would not be at all surprised if the Howardistas are already reaching for their matches and trying to figure out how to add Book Burning to their ideologically framed catechism of Australian Values.
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