Vale Bob Gould: 1937-2011
Bob Gould was a veteran of the labour left in Australia. He died on May 22, at the age of 74, of injuries suffered after a fall in his well-known bookshop, Gould's Book Arcade, in Newtown, Sydney.
He had been unwell for some time, but his accidental death was untimely.
Gould was a member of the early Australian Trotskyist group active in the 1950s and 1960s, along with Nick Origlass and others, who fought for socialist politics within the Australian Labor Party and against the Stalinism of the Communist Party of Australia.
He was an early activist in the movement against the Vietnam War in the mid-1960s, and became a co-founder, along with Jim and John Percy and others, of the revolutionary socialist youth organisation Resistance in 1967.
From the point of view of the rebuilding of the socialist movement in Australia, Gould played an important role in the early years, when he fought against the mainstream for genuine revolutionary politics.
He played a leadership role in the mass movement that swept this country in the 1960s, which was part of the international youth radicalisation of the time.
He was arrested several times during anti-war protests, and was an activist in the Vietnam Action Campaign in Sydney, which was in the vanguard of the early period of the movement that later helped bring Australian troops home from Vietnam and end conscription.
Gould helped found the Third World Bookshop in Sydney and was prosecuted several times for challenging the restrictive censorship laws of the time — including for stocking pictures of Michelangelo's David.
He split from Resistance at the beginning of the 1970s. At the time Resistance was in the process of founding an independent socialist party, the Socialist Workers League, which later became the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) and eventually merged into the Socialist Alliance (SA).
Gould chose to continue his political work primarily within the ALP.
He argued tirelessly against the DSP and SA over recent decades, but he also continued to take a stand on crucial issues against the right-wing leadership of the ALP on issues such as refugee rights, privatisation and imperialist war.
He collaborated closely with his friend Jenny Haines in the struggles of the NSW Nurses' Union to win fair wages and conditions for hospital workers.
He fought the good fight inside the ALP to keep the flag of progressive policies alive — albeit without much success — against the overwhelming tide of the shift to the right in that party over the past several decades.
The Socialist Alliance disagreed fundamentally with him on strategy, believing that it is necessary in today's conditions to focus on rebuilding a broad socialist party, separate from and in clear opposition to the Labor Party.
Gould's various bookshops over the years were a sight to behold. He had a massive collection of books, seemingly unordered. But he knew where virtually any type of book could be found in the apparent chaos.
He was stubborn, irrascible, difficult, and loved to talk at length on any political topic. His many writings on all kinds of labour movement topics can be found on http://ozleft.wordpress.com/.
He was always keen to discuss issues, including differences of opinion, with everyone, including his political opponents on the left.
In a period of Australian politics in which both major parties are dominated by either right-wing or extreme right-wing politicians, Bob Gould was a left-wing blast from the past.
You might have disagree with him (and most likely did), but you had to acknowledge his dedication to his particular view of the way forward for the left in this country. A character in the Sydney left for years, his absence will be felt by many.