Vic Williams: a life as an activist

April 29, 2011
Vic Williams (left). Photo:

Long-time Perth activist, Communist Party of Australia leader, World War II veteran and retired waterside worker Vic Williams died on April 19, aged 96.

Born on June 28, 1914, Vic joined the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) in 1939 and was one of its leading members in Western Australia until it split over the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

With others, Vic formed the pro-Soviet Socialist Party of Australia which took up the Communist Party name after the original CPA dissolved in the early 1990s. He remained with it for the rest of his life, and was also a founding member of the WA Greens.

He worked on the Fremantle waterfront for many years and was involved in some of the big strikes by the wharfies in 1954 and 1956. At the time he was Secretary of the CPA's wharf branch and produced its regular waterfront bulletin Smoko.

In 1956, Vic became the Secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation (WWF) publicity committee. Also in the 1950s, Vic and the WWF helped restart the annual Fremantle May Day parade. He marched in every one since, except last year when ill health prevented him.

After retirement he was awarded life membership of the WWF, now part of the Maritime Union of Australia.

Joan Williams, who died in June 2008, was Vic's wife for 63 years. They met in the 1940s while he was in the army and she was a journalist for the West Australian newspaper.

They were an activist couple and Joan was as busy as Vic, among many other things becoming the only woman to sit on the Melville City Council in the 1970s.

Especially interested in poetry, creative writing and the arts; they were instrumental in the re-establishment of the WA branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia which had lapsed before World War II.

The WA branch is today one of the organisation's most active; fulfilling Vic and Joan's vision.

They were also regular faces at Green Left Weekly's fundraising events and those of other organisations, never limiting their circle of friendship and activism to those from the same tradition in the socialist movement.

Many Perth activists have remarked how right into his late 80s, Vic would not just attend the big protests of the day; but all the smaller pickets, vigils and meetings that take place in between.

His long stints at the Workers Embassy in front of the WA Parliament in the 1990s, support for the struggle over the Swan Brewery site and locking arms with young comrades during the 2001 M1 blockade of the stock exchange were some of the highlights of his activism in these later years.

On behalf of the Socialist Alliance in Western Australia, condolences to all of Vic's family, friends and comrades. Let's honour Vic's contribution to our movement by continuing the struggle for a world based on social justice and human dignity.

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