An important new work of labour history was launched on November 23 at the Melbourne Trades Hall. About 70 people heard author Douglas Jordan and Victoria University historian Phillip Deery mark the publication of Conflict in the Unions: The Communist Party of Australia, Politics and the Trade Union Movement, 1945-60.
The book examines the political activity of the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) in the trade union movement in the early Cold War years. It represents the first systematic analysis of this activity. The historiography of the CPA has generally focused on the industrial activity of CPA trade union members and has neglected this dimension.
Conflict in the Unions focuses on three areas of this political unionism: the attempt to build trade union support for the peace movement, the attitudes toward the postwar mass immigration program, and the emerging Aboriginal civil rights movement.
Jordan is a longtime socialist and activist. Currently he is a co-presenter of the popular City Limits program on community radio 3CR. From 1972 to 1998 he was a tram conductor in Melbourne, with a spell on Adelaide’s trams in the late 70s, was active in union affairs and took part in the great 1990 strike.
After losing his job in the lead-up to ex-Victorian premier Jeff Kennett’s privatisation, Jordan “reinvented” himself as a labour historian, doing a PhD from which the book is taken.
Conflict in the Unions has been published by small left-wing publisher Resistance Books. It can be purchased from Resistance Books, Resistance and Activist Centres around the country, and selected bookshops.