Solidarity for social revolution journal

Complete archive of Solidarity for social revolution, the national journal of UK libertarian socialist group Solidarity published 1978-1981. It was formed from the merger of the two papers Solidarity for self-management and Social revolution.

We would like to extend thanks to Spikymike for donating these papers, which were digitised by in 2013.

Solidarity #01

The first issue of Solidarity for social revolution from January 1978 containing articles on anarchism and feminism, a pub barring gays, a strike at Highlands Fabricators, Italy and more.

solidarity-01.pdf7.16 MB

Solidarity #02

Issue 2 of Solidarity's national journal from April 1978 with articles on Poland, Russia, the NHS, inner cities, waste, women and even wanking.

solidarity-02.pdf7.29 MB

Solidarity #03

The third issue of the Solidarity journal from May-July 1978 with articles on nursery cuts, female sexuality, black youth and anti-Nazis, Lebanon and a make-your-own-goat kit.

solidarity-03.pdf3.05 MB

Solidarity #04

Issue 4 of Solidarity from August-September 1978 with articles on the USSR, Czechoslovakia 1968, male separatism, microprocessors and more.

We do not agree with all of it, as with most of the content of our library. Some of the articles, such as the one "Thoughts on my sexuality" are terrible, but we reproduce them for reference.

solidarity-04.pdf2.8 MB

Solidarity #05

Issue 5 of Solidarity from September-October 1978 with articles on genetic manipulation, contraceptive hazards, Red Army Faction members reassessing their terrorist tactics, Italian feminists, Peugeot and more.

solidarity-05.pdf2.03 MB

Solidarity #06

Issue of Solidarity from December 1978-January 1979 with articles on economic crisis, the sexual revolution, Ford in Spain and more.

solidarity-06.pdf2.06 MB

Solidarity #07

Issue 7 of Solidarity from March-April 1979 with articles on civil servants' industrial action, armed struggle, state socialism and an excellent special supplement, Suicide for socialism? a text by Maurice Brinton on the Jonestown suicides.

solidarity-07.pdf3.71 MB

Suicide for socialism? - Maurice Brinton

Maurice Brinton's analysis of the bizarre mass suicide of a socialist cult led by American Jim Jones in Jonestown, Guyana, which discusses the dynamics of political sects in general.

'We're gonna die for the revolution. We're gonna die to expose this racist and fascist society. It's good to die in this great revolutionary suicide.'
The words uttered by two young men in Jonestown (Guyana) a few minutes before they, together with hundreds of others, poisoned themselves were reported in the Los Angeles Times (November 26, 1978) by Charles Garry of San Francisco, attorney for the Peoples Temple.

Part One

Garry was no critic of this particular cult. He was the trendy leftist lawyer who, referring to the Guyana commune, had written in the Peoples Forum, journal of the Temple: 'I have seen Paradise'.

For those who think that socialism is about life and reason (and not about giving cyanide to babies... whether in Paradise or elsewhere) the events of last November are deeply disturbing. Let's not quibble about how many died. The latest reports put it at 921 (912 in the Jonestown commune, 5 at Port Kaituma airport, and 4 in the Peoples Temple in Georgetown). Or about the complicities (both in the USA and in Guyana) which led 900 American 'socialists' to this particular part of the South American rain forest. Or about the relations of the Jonestown commune with Soviet Russia (to whose Embassy in Georgetown two survivors sought to hand over a vast amount of money). On all these matters a lot more information will come to light in the months to come.

What is of concern to us as libertarians is how the monstrosity of Jonestown, where people were drugged and beaten, brainwashed and forced to indulge in slave labour, sexually manipulated and annihilated as individuals, ever came to be associated with the name of socialism. Jim Jones' own 19 year old son, Stephen, said of his father after the mass suicide: 'I now see him as a fascist'. It would he easy to forget it all, as most of the 'left' doubtlessly will, or to sweep it all aside as some trivial or insignificant event: a lot of religious nuts bumping themselves off in some far away jungle. But this isn't good enough. Nor is it enough to comment, as did Socialist Worker (Dec. 2, 1978) that the tragic end of those who followed Jim Jones was 'a reminder of the irrationality and ultimate hopelessness of religious forms of protest'. Or to blame 'the oppressiveness, brutality and mindless profiteering of the society from which they fled'. All this is true. But what it needed is to relate these truths to the specifically 'socialist' content of the Jonestown rhetoric and to the 'socialist' support which the Temple movement mobilised, from Angela Davis to the self-proclaimed 'socialist' government of Guyana. (1)

We also need to relate all this to many phenomena and tendencies we see daily in the socialist movement around us. We mean the systematic cult of leadership, the manipulation of information, the abdication of critical judgment, the substitution of rhetoric for argument and of slogans for the serious discussion of complex issues. We mean the belief in 'activity' at any cost - with little questioning as to its content - the mythologising and the voluntarism, the intimidation of dissidents, the almost universal application of double standards, the systematic generation of paranoia and the retreat, on a very wide front indeed, from rationality in general.

The Jim Jones story bears so many similarities to what we see around us that it is worth telling in some detail. Not out of any necrophiliac concern but as an elementary gesture of socialist sanitation. We hope this will help some of those who find themselves bewildered (or trapped) by their experiences in the unreal world of various marxist sects.

James Warren Jones (JJ) was born in Lynn, Indiana, in 1931. His father, gassed in World War I, was unemployed but an active member of the local Ku-Klux-Klan. His mother worked in a factory, at below average wage rates. When Jim later became involved in the struggle against racism he claimed he was 'biracial', his mother being a Cherokee Indian. Other members of the family dispute this contention. The relevant records are unavailable.

At a very early age JJ became interested in religion. Erstwhile schoolmates have confirmed that this interest centred more around the pomp and ceremonial, the banners and songs, than around questions of doctrine. JJ would 'play church games' with the other kids, games in which he always landed the role of preacher. As an adolescent he went in for social work of various kinds, organising sporting competitions. He apparently never indulged in any sport himself. Bill Morris, one of his classmates, says JJ was never interested in anything of which he was not the center, the organiser. So racist was the Lynn environment that JJ claimed never to have seen a black until he was 12 years old. He realised there was something very wrong and became actively interested in the issue of racism.

In 1949, while working as a medical auxiliary in the Reid Memorial Hospital in Richmond, some 15 miles away, he married Marceline Baldwin, a nurse 4 years older than himself. About this time he was already critical of all the churches he had come up against and was already talking of one day forming a Church of his own. He moved to Indianapolis where he experienced many difficulties in finding a racially-integrated religious environment. He kept ends together by selling monkeys imported from Latin America and Africa, at 29 dollars a piece. Although not ordained he started systematic work in penetrating 'progressive' and 'Christian' circles. His dynamism and charisma made him many friends. By 1956 he was influential enough to found his own Church: the Peoples Temple. It was a converted synagogue in a run-down section of Indianapolis.. He adopted several black, white and yellow children as tangible evidence of his deeply felt views.

A turning point in JJ's career was his meeting with Father Divine, the legendary black pastor from Philadelphia. Jones was vastly impressed both by his spell-binding preaching techniques and by the total control he still exerted on his congregation (which consisted mainly of elderly black women). From Divine Jones he learned all about 'organising congregations', about how to use an 'Interrogation Committee'. He saw the Committee as the logical extension of his grip on his flock. In Indianapolis Jones started to surround himself with a group of 'totally loyal' men and women, black and white. They would watch and report to Jones on the other parishioners. This was probably the first instance in history of a totally integrated, 'non-racist', 'non-sexist' Secret Police. Thomas Dixon, one of the early members of the Temple, broke with JJ on this issue. 'The Committee' he said, 'was primarily to deal with those who disagreed with Jones. Whoever was summoned by the Committee was grilled for hours on end with questions such as "Why are you against the Reverend?". 'For all his socialist talk' Dickson concluded, 'Jones will end up like Hitler'.

JJ's uphill struggle for racial equality in Indianapolis earned him many enemies. They called him 'nigger-lover', broke his windows, spat on his wife, threw dead cats into his church. Jones, whose physical courage was indisputable, was not deterred. In liberal circles, his image began to harden. He was the protector of blacks and orphans. His influence increased. He is given space in the local paper. In 1960 the mayor of Indianapolis, Charles Boswell, nominated JJ 'President of the Indianapolis Commission of Human Rights'... .at a salary of $7000 a year. The Peoples Temple began to distribute soup. Several survivors of the later mass suicide stressed the impact all this was to have on their lives. They were 'looking for a way to make their lives meaningful and found it at the Peoples Temple, with its communal kitchen, work with juveniles and senior citizens, and activism in support of a plethora of causes ranging from aid to jailed journalists to picketing for elderly Philipinos threatened with eviction by a large corporation'.. (Los Angeles Times, Dec. 10, 1978.)

Jones then read a satirical article (in Esquire, of all places) about the threat of nuclear war. The magazine listed the 'ten surest places for escaping the holocaust'.. Among them were listed Bello Horizonte in Brazil, and Ukiah (north of San Francisco). JJ claimed he had had a similar divine revelation. He visited Brazil (making his first acquaintance with Guyana en route). But he finally opted for California.

At this stage of his life JJ discovers he can resurrect the dead, treat cancer and heart disease by the laying of hands, promote the healing of wounds, etc. In 1963 he organises the 'exodus' of his followers to the Promised Land. Like Moses or Mao, JJ too has his Long March ... through the southern regions of the Mid-West. His congregation moves in a convoy of small buses. There is much proselytising and faith-healing en route. The 'flock' enlarges. 'Deceived' disciples later described how bits of chicken innards would be used to simulate the tumours he would 'extract' from suggestible women on the way. In 1965 JJ is eventually ordained among the 'Disciples of Christ'.

The 'Chosen People' eventually settle in Redwood Valley, north of San Francisco. The locals are alarmed at the proportion of blacks in Jones' following. The liberals are impressed by his 'sincerity' and by the number of orphanages, convalescent homes and other 'good works' the Temple is involved in. Big money begins to come in. The local conservatives are more sceptical, especially in view of the increasingly socialist verbiage now being used. In 1970, at the height of the Vietnam war, JJ reassures them. He organises an important collection 'to help the families of policemen killed or injured during the exercise of their duties'. He stresses that 'those who are against this war and who are fighting for social justice aren't - by that very fact - enemies of the police'. This is music to the ears of the local bigwigs, who favour a well organised police force. Donations double within months. Membership increases. Jones is elected President of the Grand Jury of Mendocino County.

The Inner Staff (a kind of Central Committee) was meanwhile being systematically 'consolidated' through the incorporation of individuals whose loyalty to Jones seemed beyond doubt. Ex-cultist Linda Dunn gave a graphic account of events in the Los Angeles Times (Dec. 15, 1978). Between 1966 and 1973 she had been a member of the Inner Staff. She had spied for Jones and kept files on fellow cult members. 'Members had to give up 25% of their wages to the Peoples Temple'. 'Jones surrounded himself with intelligent but gullible white women as his chief assistants. He built them up with praise, telling one she was "Harriet Tubman" reincarnated, while at the same time keeping them isolated and spreading rumours about each of them to break down trust'.

At Temple meetings the same thing took place, although in a much cruder way. People had to 'confess' to patterns of sexual behaviour that were not theirs ... and would be publicly upbraided for it. Their self-confidence was being systematically sapped. Children were often beaten, for minor misdemeanours. After the beating they had to say 'Thanks, Father' into a microphone.

Below the Inner Circle there was a Planning Commission comprising about 100 people. Within this group there was a closed [? sic] of 'secretaries' and 'counsellors' directly responsible to Jones. Although 80% of the members of the Temple were black, two thirds of the membership of the upper echelons were white.

Later in 1970 the cultists left Redwood Valley and moved into San Francisco itself. For $122,000 the Temple acquired an 'auditorium' (at 1859 Geary Boulevard). The congregation now numbered 7500. The Temple again purchased a disused synagogue (at 1366 South Alvarado St.). JJ bought a printshop and published a periodical called the 'Peoples Forum'.. He claimed a circulation of 300,000. Others put it at 60,000. It was no mean achievement. The miracle cures meanwhile continued. Advertising material was distributed in the streets. In September 1972 the San Francisco Examiner eventually took up the issue of the Temple. In a series of articles its 'specialist in religious affairs', Lester Kinsolving, expressed doubts about the '43 resurrections' and 'surprise at the fact that this performer of miracles should have his church constantly guarded by men with revolvers and shotguns'. Jones sent some of his henchmen to picket the Examiner.

But these things blow over. JJ is soon in the big time again. Having burnt his fingers with the Examiner he tries a new tactic. He makes money gifts to a dozen local papers and to a local television station for the defence of a 'free Press'. The recipients included the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times. He travels by air all over the country, with an escort of bodyguards. He creates a company to sell 'Brotherhood' gramophone records. He then enters the vote-trading business. During the mayoral elections of December 1975 he mobilises 800 Temple members to work full-time for George Moscone. No Trot has ever done as much for the Labour Party. Moscone won easily. During the 1976 Democratic presidential primaries Rosalynn Carter takes the chair at a Temple meeting. JJ's 'socialism' melts. He promises that his flock will vote 'to a man' for the Democratic Party. He packs the meeting with 750 of his supporters, brought up in specially chartered buses. Mrs Carter's bodyguards are impressed by the size of the audience. But they are also alarmed at the fact that they don't seem to be the only ones with weapons. Several 'lambs of the flock' seem to be carrying sawn-off shotguns. In September 1976 Jones organises a great Festival in his own honour. Among the guests are Mervyn Dymally, Governor-General of the state, Congressmen John and Phil Burton and Mayor Moscone. Congressman Willie Brown of the state of California declared that 'San Francisco needs 10 more Jim Joneses'. Tom Hayden, a radical, commented that Jim Jones was 'no ordinary populist. When I came to address a Temple meeting I was searched with metal detectors. Then I understood the crowd was there for Jim, not for Tom'.

One good turn deserved another. After Carter's election Moscone appoints JJ President of the San Francisco Housing Authority Commission. Yet despite the increasing influence rumours begin to spread. There is talk of disciples being terrorised and of a great deal of sexual manipulation of his entourage. Jeannie Mills, Mike Cartmell and Deborah Layton Blakey, all ex-devotees, claim that JJ would 'boast for hours of his sexual exploits while forbidding all sexual relations between members of his flock'.. JJ had learned from Father Divine the importance of himself becoming the object of sexual desire of the whole congregation. But the Temple meetings are well attended. They provide a platform for stalinist hatchet-woman Angela Davis (see Solidarity London, vol. VII, no.4) and for Allende's widow. Together with Dennis Banks, leader of the American Indian Movement, they gave rousing talks about 'liberation struggles' being waged both near and far away. The third worldist rhetoric flourished. Religion was now playing a lesser role in the cult's ideology. Two survivors, Clancy and Silver, stated that for Jones 'the Church was the means, not the end'.. Asked if Jones gave primacy to Marxism or Christianity Silver answered 'Jim was a socialist first and an atheist second'. Silver also stated (and, I believe, without cynicism) that the holocaust had made him aware of 'how tenuous life is for most people who don't have an organisation to depend on. The Temple proved it could take care of people from the cradle to the grave'. (Los Angeles Times, Dec. 10, 1978.)

The decision to move to Guyana and create a 'commune' had first been mooted towards the end of 1973. Temple documents reveal that Jones was impressed by the 'socialist' nature of the regime there. Other considerations seemed to have been the need to move from San Francisco where things were hotting up, the favourable exchange rate (sic!) and the fact that the 'local people spoke English'.

The financial and legal arrangements have not yet all come to light. Few of the transactions took place through orthodox channels. Jones was suspicious of official mechanisms and preferred to resort to trusted messengers. Members of his inner circle would fly from San Francisco to Georgetown, carrying sums of up to $50,000 on them. The annual budget of the Temple had by now reached a figure of $600,000. Those in the know claimed that much larger amounts were salted away in Switzerland and Panama.

Dan Phillips, who accompanied Jones when he and twelve of his top committee visited Guyana in December 1973, stated 'We each of us had $5000 on us in notes. We also had a bank draft draw-able on Barclays Bank (Canada) for $600,000. This was deposited with the Bank's branch in Georgetown'.

After initial parleys Jones and his colleagues flew over the jungle in a plane provided by the Guyana government to choose a suitable site for the new 'agricultural colony'. Jones insisted it be remote. The Guyanese stressed it should have development potential.(2) A site some six miles from Port Kaituma was finally selected. It spread over 5000 acres (with an option for a further 27,000 acres) and was to be rented to the Temple for . . . $300 a year (sic!). There was a small airstrip at Port Kaituma. The little town could also be reached by a long journey up river. Port Kaituma was 140 miles from Georgetown and about as isolated a spot as could be wished. It was only a few hundred miles northwest along the Atlantic coast from the site of the old French penal colony of Devil's Island, where the French used the jungle and isolation as a deterrent to escape by criminals and political prisoners.

There were immediate problems. Some were due to climate, others to the pilgrims' almost total ignorance of the first principles of tropical agriculture. The first to arrive denuded slopes of trees, allowing heavy rainstorms to wash away important areas of fertile land. In the jungle the local trees proved so hard that planks had to be imported. In November 1974 the Reverend Jones arrived with 50 members of the inner set (by turbo-jet from Mexico) to christen the place 'Jonestown'. To impress the representatives of the local government Jones arranged for one of his followers, Timothy Stoen, to simulate a severe attack of gastric pain. Stoen complied but later declared 'I've never had much taste for this kind of game. The Reverend proceeded to 'cure' me through a laying of hands'. The visitors seemed sceptical.

In May 1977 there were only 70 'communards' in Jonestown. An idealised recruitment poster was produced, showing Jones kneeling among trees heavy with bananas, grapefruit and oranges. An intensive recruitment drive was started among the politically (and botanically) naive members of the congregation in San Francisco. They were urged to make over all their worldly goods (houses, furniture, cars, etc.) to the Temple, and to take part in the great work of 'building socialism' in Jonestown.

Rosemary Williams was one of those who followed JJ. She gave up her job as a clerk in a San Francisco bank. Her husband Harry, a plumber employed by the San Francisco municipality, was about to go with her, but at the very last minute changed his mind - 'so as not to loose his pension'. The decision not only saved his pension - it almost certainly saved his life.

Within a short while of reaching Jonestown Rosemary discovered 'the place was a living hell'. People worked from 12 hours or more a day - after which they had a right to 'self-criticism' sessions. Whoever expressed doubts as to the success of the enterprise - or whoever had failed to fulfil norms - was punished. He (or she) either had the head shaved, or had to wear a yellow hat or a special badge to signal 'dishonour'. 'Culprits' would not be spoken to for several days. Damage or loss had to be 'repaid' by those found guilty. As money had been abolished the 'repayment' took the form of deprivation of food until the 'debt' had been settled. 'Behaviour modification' charts were put up on the walls and everyone's 'progress' was duly monitored. Even after the disaster, some of those who had escaped were still trying to justify the methods used. Jean Brown, one of the survivors, had once worked with Jones as an aide at the San Francisco Housing Authority, when Jones was its Chairman. She had been 'politicised as a graduate student at Berkeley in the late 1960's'.. Asked about reports of harsh internal discipline, Ms Brown, a former schoolteacher, said 'the Temple used criticism/self-criticism, a technique advocated by Mao Tse-tung and others to raise questions about the way a group is functioning. People need discipline if an organisation is to function effectively'. (Los Angeles Times, Dec. 10, 1978.)

There certainly was an all-pervading and very rigid discipline. Children who wet their pants were submitted to 'reconditioning' with electric shocks administered through cattle prods. A 16 year old girl was made to clean out a septic tank from 10pm to 6am as punishment for having taken some corrugated metal in an attempt to seek some privacy. Meanwhile the diet in the commune was grossly inadequate (mainly rice and beans) despite the Temple's now obvious wealth. People slept in noisy, dirty dormitories.

There was never any hot water, even for washing purposes. The enclosure was 'guarded' by armed men. The loudspeakers were on for hours on end, exhorting the faithful to greater efforts, talking of the 'fascist threat from America', of the numerous enemies of the Temple, keen on destroying 'this socialist experiment' and of the terrible fate that awaited anyone who sought to return to America. 'Every defection', he stressed, 'would only be used by the enemies of the commune'.

Jones meanwhile was consolidating and manipulating his external political contacts. In September 1977 Sharon Amos, Jones' top aid in Georgetown, sought to get former Guyana Cabinet Minister Brindley Beon to drop proposed Guyanese police investigations about what was going on to Jonestown. But Jones went even further. A memo dated March 7, 1978 was found among the dead bodies. This said that 'at the request of the Peoples Temple the Cuban Embassy (in Georgetown) has asked Prime Minister Forbes Burnham to reinstate fired Foreign Minister Frederick H. Wills, who was a cult confidant'. (Los Angeles Times, Dec. 3, 1978.)

There were soon some alarming developments. Maria Katzaris, one of the inner circle and one of Jones' girlfriends, wrote to her father in the USA asking him to come and visit the commune. She enthused about Jonestown and spoke of the threats confronting the place. 'A society based on economic inequality cannot allow an organisation such as ours, which advocates racial and economic equality to exist. They will seek to destroy us', she said. As the father, a psychologist, was preparing to come, he received a number of letters from his daughter, putting off the visit. Worried, he wired Jones, via the San Francisco Temple (with which Jonestown was in constant short wave radio communication) telling him he would be coming all the same.

On arrival in Georgetown Katzaris was handed a letter by the American Embassy to the effect that Maria no longer wanted to see him. To 'justify' the letter Paula Adams, a Jonestown spokeswoman, had apparently 'revealed' to the American authorities in Georgetown that Maria's father was a child-beater, that he had sexually abused Maria throughout her childhood, etc. Katzaris also learned from ex-members of the Temple that his daughter had signed a predated suicide note.

JJ was also deeply involved throughout this period in legal disputations concerning the return to the USA of a boy called John Victor Stoen. JJ claimed to be the father of the boy, a statement Mr and Mrs Stoen (former cult devotees) rigidly denied. The haggling went on for months. Exasperated, Jones eventually sent an extraordinary message to the Guyanese authorities in Georgetown. 'Unless the government of Guyana takes all necessary steps to put an end to the judicial action undertaken concerning the custody of John Victor Stoen, the whole population of Jonestown will commit mass suicide at 17.30 today'.. The Guyanese authorities capitulated, feeling it unwise to test whether Jones was bluffing. In March 1978 Jim Jones also sent a letter to every senator and congressman, complaining of the harassment of the commune by various government agencies. It ended ominously: 'I inform you that it is preferable to die than to be persecuted from one continent to another'.

JJ's speeches over the loudspeakers were daily becoming longer - and more strident. He would denounce the 'traitors' who were abandoning the Temple. Threats were now openly being made: 'there is only one punishment for treason: death'. 'Enemies of the Temple' were being rooted out everywhere. Equivocations would not be tolerated. 'Whoever is not with us is against us'. Paranoia and delusions intertwined. He (JJ) 'was the reincarnation of Lenin and of Jesus Christ'. He had 'friends and contacts' throughout the world, including 'the leaders of the USSR and Idi Amin'. Several times he broached the theme of 'a collective suicide to bring socialism into the world'. Meanwhile, armed guards (30 by day and 15 by night) would constantly surround the camp.

Jones was nothing if not logical. Once a week there was a dress rehearsal for the mass suicide. These were on the so-called 'white nights'. 'The situation is hopeless', he would proclaim. 'Our only choice is a collective suicide for the glory of socialism'. The congregation would then line up and each be given a glass full of a red fluid. 'In forty minutes', Jones would intone, 'you will all be dead'. 'Now empty your glasses'.. Everybody did. Describing the night she first witnessed this ritual, Deborah Layton - a 19 year old member of Jones' Inner Circle (and one of the eventual survivors) - said: 'we all went through with it without a protest. We were exhausted. We couldn't react to anything'.

People who have been through the harrowing experience of life in some of the 'left' sects at times of 'crisis' will know exactly what she meant. Emotionally and physically exhausted people can vote that black is white without batting an eyelid. Nor is such irrationality necessarily confined to small groups. The manipulated 'confessions in the long term interests of the Revolution' of some of the old Bolsheviks during the Moscow Trials contained several similar ingredients.

Deborah Layton managed to get herself transferred from Jonestown to Georgetown, where she defected. She turned up in San Francisco. Her stories, initially disbelieved, were eventually listened to by Leo Ryan, congressman for San Mateo.

We are now approaching the climax. Ryan wrote to Jones saying that some of his (Ryan's) constituents had 'expressed anxiety' about relatives in the colony and that he intended to visit the place. Back came a testy letter from the Temple's attorney Mark Lane, implying that Ryan was engaging in a witch-hunt. If this continued, Lane said, the Peoples Temple might have to move to either of two countries that do not have 'friendly relations' with the USA (he meant Russia and Cuba). This would prove 'most embarrassing' for the USA. Ryan decided to go to Guyana all the same, with eight newsmen. After much humming and hawing Lane eventually joined the group.

The rest of the story is fairly well known: the arrival of Ryan's party at the commune, the 'show' put on for them, the messages slipped surreptitiously into the hands of the visitors, Jones' fury when 14 of his congregation asked to return to the USA, the unsuccessful knife attack on Ryan by cult member Don Sly, the journey back to Kaituma with an impostor planted among the 'defectors', the hastily conceived and partly botched up attack on Ryan's party at the airstrip (Ryan and four others were killed, but one of the two aircraft got away), and Jones' final decision on the 'mass suicide' when news reached him that the attack had failed and that a major crisis now really confronted him.

The deaths themselves were well described by Odell Rhodes, a survivor, in the Los Angeles Times of November 25. 'Generally there was no panic or emotional outburst. People stood in line to swallow the poison ... a lot of people walked around like they were in a trance'. The camp's doctor and nurses brought out several large plastic vessels containing fruit-punch laced with cyanide. 'They would draw up an amount into syringes. Babies and children went first. A nurse or someone would put (the syringe) into a person's mouth and the people would simply swallow it down. Rhodes escaped by slipping through a ring of armed guards into the jungle. Asked why the cultists had meekly gone to their deaths, Rhodes said 'some of these people were with Jimmy Jones for 10 or 20 years. They wouldn't know what to do with themselves without him'.

So much for the story itself - which had to be told. Even if sundry leftists or third-worldist do-gooders scream! Even in the context of contemporary 'socialist' political scholarship where, in the words of Revel (The Totalitarian Temptation, Penguin, 1978) 'to suppress evidence seems to be the normal way of showing which side one is on'.

Part Two

Throughout history religious or political faiths have exercised great influence. They have moved armies and motivated people to build both cathedrals and concentration camps. Their success had had very little to do with whether they were true or not. The fact that thousands (or millions) believed in them made of them real historical and social forces.

Religious or political faiths (and the Jonestown events show that the boundaries may be hard to define) have several things in common. They can provide, for the emotionally or materially deprived, the lonely, the rejected (or - less often - the culturally alienated or intellectually confused) the security of human contact, the satisfaction of an activity that seems socially useful, and the self-generating warmth of knowing all the answers, i.e. of a closed system of beliefs. These beliefs diminish, in those who hold them, the awareness of 'failure' or of rejection - or the feeling of being useless. They are potent analgesics. And they offer positive objectives, either through instant political solutions in this world, or through solutions in the hereafter (pie in the sky). In a society which either callously disregards (or just bureaucratically forgets) the very existence of thousands of its citizens, claims to make existence meaningful evoke an echo. Sects (i.e. groups based on cults) may come to fill an enormous vacuum in people's lives.

Most people are much happier in a situation where they are needed, wanted and accepted for what they are, not condemned and looked down upon for not being what they are not. We all like to act in a manner that is rational and that fulfils both one's own needs and those of others. The tragedy is that political and religious sects may convert these positive human attributes into their opposites: manipulation and authoritarian dogmatism on the part of the leaders, submission and the abdication of critical faculties on the part of the led.

Historically, cults and sects have usually flourished at times of social crisis, when old value systems were collapsing and new ones had not yet asserted themselves. They usually start as small groups which break off from the conventional consensus and espouse very different views of the real, the possible and the moral. They have attracted very diverse followings and achieved very variable results. Christianity started as a religion of slaves. In The Pursuit of the Millennium, Norman Cohn shows how, many centuries later, 'the people for whom (the Medieval Millennium) had most appeal were neither peasants, firmly integrated into the life of the village, nor artisans integrated into their guilds. The belief in the Millennium drew its strength from a population living on the margin of society'. The New England Puritans conformed at one time to the norms of a harsh age by imprisoning and torturing their own dissidents. They later became respectable. So did the Mormon followers of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.

Marxism arose as a theory that would liberate a proletariat that had 'nothing to lose but its chains', and has ended up imposing chains on the proletariat. The followers of the Peoples Temple (mainly poor blacks and alienated young whites) have made history by inaugurating the 'mass revolutionary suicide'. Cults can clearly mature into mainstream institutions. Or disintegrate into jungle horror stories.

A detailed analysis of cults would require an analysis of their rhetoric and ideology, and of the culture matrices in which they are embedded. The present appeal of cults is related to the major upheaval of our times. This is not primarily economic. Referring to the Jonestown events an American sociologist has written: 'The US consensus of values has broken down. There is, in some respects, an undermined authority in philosophy and theology. There is the demise of metaphysics. . . there is no "rock in a weary land" that gives people something certain to hold onto. So people reach out and grab at anything: an idea or an organisation. When traditional answers seem inadequate people are ripe for cults that promise prescriptions for a better life. Most cults offer three benefits: ultimate meaning, a strong sense of community and rewards either in this world or the next. When those prescriptions are linked to the authoritarian style of a charismatic leader you have an extremely powerful antidote to the cultural malaise of what sociologists call anomie (rootlessness, aimlessness). (Los Angeles Times, December 1, 1978.)

Specific ingredients to disaffection from established society had welled up in the 1960's and early 1970's. There had been the expansion of an unpopular war in South East Asia, massive upheavals over civil rights and a profound crisis of values in response to the unusual combination of unprecedented affluence on the one hand, and potential thermonuclear holocaust on the other. Revolutionary socialists - the whole axis of their propaganda vitiated by their erroneous analyses of capitalism and their distorted vision of socialism - had proved quite unable to make any lasting impact.

Predominantly black organisations such as the Peoples Temple have, moreover, deep roots in the very fabric of American society and of American history. Before the Civil War there had already been 3 separate attempts by US blacks to flee racial persecution. The first was initiated by a black seaman, Paul Cuffee, in 1815; the second by a black physician, Martin Delaney, in 1850; and the third by a black minister, the Rev. Henry Highland Garnet, in 1855. All were designed to lead blacks to a world of peace and freedom by inciting them to make a mass exodus either to Africa or to the West Indies. The appeals proved most attractive to the most exploited and dispossessed. This separatism was often cloaked in religious cloth. But it was the bitter racism and socio-economic oppression experienced by the black masses in the post-Reconstruction South, rather than religious exhortation, that led so many blacks to support the cause of emigration.

This was also true of the largest mass black separation movement of this century, Marcus Garvey's 'Back to Africa' movement of the 1920's. Calling his movement 'Black Zionism', Garvey skillfully used symbols (flags, uniforms and other regalia) and highly emotional rhetoric to fire his followers. In the end thousands of enthusiasts lost money, suffered broken promises and became victims of outright fraud. Father Divine had been inspired by Garvey. And Jim Jones was inspired by Father Divine.

As Earl Ofari points out in an article in the International Herald Tribune (Dec. 9, 1978) 'the willingness of a sizeable segment of blacks to embrace movements that have run the gamut from "Back to Africa" to Peoples Temple stands as a reflection of their utter desperation. The lesson, surely, is not that cults hold a particular fascination for blacks but that the most deprived members of US society - those who see the least hope of making it within the system are the easiest prey for charlatans preaching that Paradise lies just over some falsely technicolored rainbow'. This is clearly true: oppressed whites have also sought refuge in 'solutions' of this kind. And it is a powerful rebuke to those trendy radicals (usually guilt-laden middle class individuals) who seem to think that oppression is good for you, that it somehow guarantees revolutionary purity.

The state of California was also part of the cultural matrix of the Peoples Temple. It has established a questionable claim to fame as the cult centre of the world. Richard Mathison (author of 'Faiths, Cults and Sects of America') points out that 'as the tide of seers, prophets, mystics and gurus came to this natural haven for the disenfranchised and the uprooted, they grew to be accepted as no less a part of the landscape than eucalyptus or foot-long hotdogs'.

Over the years California has spawned nearly every variant of cultic fraud. Between the wars it produced the 'Mighty I am' movement. Guy Ballard (an unemployed paper hanger) claimed he had been visited on Mt. Shasta by a vision of the legendary Count of St. Germain, an 18th century mystic. The Count gave Ballard a sip of 'pure electronic essence' and a wafer of 'concentrated energy' (the religious symbolism, in modern garb, is here very clear) and told him to get rich. It worked. By the time the dust settled in the 1940's Ballard claimed 350,000 followers and the Internal Revenue claimed he'd bilked his disciples of some $4 million.

Joe Bell, a post-depression dandy, founded Mankind United by preaching that a race of little men with metal heads who lived in the centre of the earth would tell cultists what to do through his revelations. Bell ended up claiming a quarter of a million gullible followers who mortgaged homes and sold other belongings before he was grounded in a maze of legal problems.

In more recent times there have been the (not specifically Californian) examples of Ron Hubbard's Church of Scientology, of the Unification Church of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, of Chuck Dederich's Synanon, of the Divine Light Mission, of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness ... to mention only some of the 'religious' cults. Recent estimates claim that more than 2 million Americans - mostly between the ages of 18 and 25 - are affiliated to cults. And this doesn't include those affiliated to various 'political' cults. ('Psyching Out the Cults Collective Mania', Los Angeles Times, Nov. 26, 1978.)

The key thing to grasp about cults is that they offer a 'fulfilment' of unmet needs. Biologically speaking such needs (to be loved and protected, understood and valued) are something much older and deeper than the need to think, argue or act autonomously. They play a far deeper role than 'rationality' in the moulding of behaviour. People who haven't grasped this will never understand the tenacity with which the beliefs of certain cults are clung to, the way otherwise intelligent people get caught up in them, their imperviousness to rational disproof, or the organisational loyalties of various sect members. The surrender of individual judgment is one of the hallmarks of a 'well integrated' sect member.

In his column McCarthy says: 'Don't try to explain it'. There is an explanation and there is a way to armor our children against fanatic leaders.

We must rear our children to value autonomy, to question authority, all authority. We must see to it that children trust themselves, not any cult, not any panacea.

We must foster independence as a goal, we must not lead children to believe anyone has all the answers. Father doesn't know best - whether the child's own or Jim Jones.

Florence Maxwell Brogdon,
Culver City

Jim Jones was called 'Father' or 'Dad' by his devotees. The poor blacks of the Jonestown commune hadn't just 'given up their self' to their charismatic father. Such were the physical, emotional and social deprivations they had grown up in that they had very little 'self' to surrender. And that 'self', such as it was, seemed to them of little relevance in changing their circumstances or the world they lived in. Some young middle class whites in the commune were prepared to surrender their 'self' in exchange for an emotional feedback they had lacked in earlier life. Others had already surrendered their 'self' to their parents. In joining the Temple they had merely found a new repository for it.

But the twisted and manipulatory demagogues who lead various fascist and leninist cults are also - at least to begin with - pathetic individuals. They too are often the products of distorted backgrounds. They seek to blot out the intolerable parts of their life, first through the manipulation and later through the control of the lives of others. The needs of follower and leader feed insatiably upon one another. The relationship is symbiotic: each needs the other. Both seek instant, effortless, ready made solutions, rather than the achievement of understanding, which is a pre-condition for real action for change. Human beings often feel vaguely guilty about not knowing THE TRUTH. When a gifted, persuasive leader comes along who says he has it - and who presents it in a simple and easy manner (even if it is a delusional system) people will listen. They will accept some things about which they have reservations, because they perceive that the Leader has 'good' answers about other things.

Arthur Janov, author of 'The New Consciousness' and of 'Primal Man', points out that 'the surrender of the self, of judgment, of feeling, has taken place long before the outward appearances of a cult become bizarre'. In an otherwise excellent article on Cults and the Surrender of Judgment' (International Herald Tribune, Dec. 2, 1978) he fails however to stress the specificity of the Jonestown events. This wasn't a rational decision like the mass suicide at Masada. (3) It was not culturally motivated like Saipan. (4) It didn't even resemble the fate of the Old Believers. (5) What happened during those last grizzly hours in the Guyana commune was something historically new, a typical product of our time: the era of propaganda and of the loudspeaker, of brainwashing and of totalitarian ideologies.

Sects like the Peoples Temple - or certain revolutionary groups - offer more immediate solutions than the more abstract religions, or than the more rational and self-managed forms of political radicalism. They don't only offer a new super-family, a new group of people to hold onto, to support one. The main attraction is that the cult leader is real, visible, tangible. He may promote you - or shout at you, abuse you, even spit at you. His sanctity or political omniscience (and I say 'his' deliberately, for most popes or general secretaries have almost universally been male) provide a spurious antidote to the malaise of rootlessness. 'Join me' the Leader says (for most sects are actively proselytising agencies) 'for I am the one who knows'. 'Come to my Church (or become a member of my revolutionary organisation). For I am the one and only interpreter of the word of God (or of the course of history). Find with us a purpose for your useless life. Become one of the Chosen People (or a Cadre of the Revolution)'.

We are not saying that all revolutionary groups (or not even that all those we disagree with most strongly) are like the Peoples Temple. But who - in all honesty - can fail to see occasional disturbing similarities? Who does not know of marxist sects which resemble the Temple - in terms of the psychological atmosphere pervading them? (6) Surviving members of the Japanese Red Army Fraction or ex-members of the Socialist Labour League (now WRP) who got out in time need not answer these questions.

'The less justified a man is in claiming excellence
for his own self, the more ready he is to claim it
for his Nation, his Race or his Holy Cause

Eric Hoffer in 'The True Believer'.

(P.S. Same, no doubt, applies to women.)

In such organisations- the Leader may become more and more authoritarian and paranoid. If he has achieved institutional power he may kill, torture or excommunicate (Stalin, Torquemada) increasing numbers of his co-thinkers. Or he may order them 'shot like partridges'. If he is a 'leftist' authoritarian devoid - as yet - of the state power he is seeking, he will merely expel large numbers of his deviant followers. Deviance - above all - cannot be tolerated. Such men would rather live in a world peopled with heretics and renegades, and keep the total allegiance of those who remain. One even wonders whether (unlike most of their supporters) they still believe in what they preach - or whether the maintenance of their power has not become their prime concern. Jim Jones' rantings about defectors and 'traitors' is not unique. It is encountered in a whole stratum of the political left. Many radical 'leaderships' boast of how they have coped with previous deviations. But however 'unreal' the world they live in, the core of followers will remain loyal. The Leader is still the shield. Even in Jonestown anything seemed better than the other reality: the painful alternative of deprivation, material, emotional or intellectual.

Why didn't more people leave Jonestown? It was because they would again be left without hope. This was at least as potent a motive for staying as were the stories spread by Jones and his inner clique that there would be no point in seeking help in Georgetown, for the Peoples Temple had its agents there too. . . who would 'get them'. Even when Ryan and his team visited the commune, only 14 out of over 900 members said they wanted to leave. To many, the figure seems trivial. To Jones it spelt catastrophe.

Many sects live in political isolation. This is a further mechanism for ensuring the control of the leaders. The members are not only 'rescued' from their past, they are 'protected' from their own present. Such sects refrain from anything that would bring their members into too close a proximity with the outside world. Recruitment is encouraged, but closely monitored. Members are urged to give up their hobbies and their previous friends. Such external relationship are constantly scrutinised, questioned, frowned upon, deemed suspect. United action with other groups - of a kind that may involve discussion or argument - is avoided, or only allowed to 'trustworthy' leaders. The simplest course is to move, lock, stock and barrel, to the jungles of Guyana. In such an environment, after surrendering their passports and all their wordly possessions, the members would be totally dependent on the leaders for their news, their day-to-day needs, for the very content of their thoughts.

Open, non-authoritarian organisations encourage individuality and differences of opinion. But criticism impairs the pain-killing effect of cults - and the cohesion of sects. When a cult is threatened both Leader and followers may go beserk. The best analogy to this is the withdrawal reaction from a drug on which someone has become hooked. Criticism impairs the efficacy of such drugs. So does any suggestion that the Leader doesn't know, or that perhaps there is no hard and fast answer to certain questions.

(1) According to the Los Angeles Times (Dec. 14, 1978) 'Burnham described himself five years ago as a socialist but not a marxist. Today he calls himself a marxist who does not yet lead a marxist administration'.. According to a veteran member of Georgetown's diplomatic corps 'Jones professed to believe in a socialism based on a multiracial kind of communal life. That's what Mr Burnham is aiming for. That's what may have drawn the Peoples Temple to the 'Cooperative Republic of Guyana'. (Whether Forbes Burnham was a 'marxist' or not, it did not prevent him speaking on an SLL - now WRP - platform in Trafalgar Square in 1958.)

(2) Despite these differences of emphasis, agreement proved possible among these 'fellow socialists'. When important visitors later visited the commune (such as California's Lt. Governor Mervyn Dymally), they and Jones were often greeted by Guyana's Prime Minister Forbes Burnham and his Deputy Prime Minister Ptolemy Reid. And it was Viola Burnham (the President's wife) and Ptolemy Reid who transported the Jonestown treasure (amounting to more then $1 million in currency, gold and jewelry) 'back to government headquarters in Georgetown' as early as November 20. (International Herald Tribune, Dec. 26, 1978.)

(3) In 73A.D., after a prolonged siege, 960 Jewish men and women besieged by the Romans for over a year decided, after full discussion, that mass suicide was preferable to surrender. This decision was taken despite the fact that it constituted a transgression of the Jewish religious code. Another Jewish leader (Yoseph ben Matatyahw, later known as Flavius Josephus) had been trapped on another hill, some years earlier. He took the opposite decision ... and lived to record the Masada events.

(4) During the US invasion of the South Seas Island of Saipan during World War II, Japanese officers used their Samurai swords to behead dozens, if not hundreds of their compliant troops. Other soldiers obeyed orders to jump off cliffs into the sea. This event was an integral part of a culture where dishonour was deemed worse than death.

(5) During the second half of the 17th century the Old Believers broke from the Russian Orthodox Church and were later threatened by the official Church with reconversion by decree. 'Thousands burned themselves alive. They assembled in log huts, churches and other buildings, mostly in the northem regions of European Russia. 'They would ignite the buildings and perish. They felt it was far better to die in flames than to burn eternally in Hell by accepting what they perceived as an heretical church.' (see Frazer's 'The Golden Bough')

(6) All they lacked was the dedication to mass suicide.

suicide-for-socialism-original.pdf2.04 MB
'Join me' the Leader says. 'Come to my Church (or become a member of my revolutionary organisation). For I am the one and only interpreter of the word of God (or of the course of history). Find with us a purpose for your useless life. Become one of the Chosen People (or a Cadre of the Revolution)'.
Maurice Brinton

Solidarity #08

Issue 8 of Solidarity from May-June 1979, containing articles about Ghana under military rule, low pay disputes, feminism, the social personality in Chinese Communist society and more.

solidarity-08.pdf2.88 MB

Solidarity #09

Issue 9 of Solidarity from August-September 1979, with articles on Nicaragua, Italy, the antinuclear movement and more.

solidarity-09.pdf2.93 MB

Solidarity #10

Issue 10 of Solidarity from October-November 1979 with articles about trouble at Chrysler and trouble with the family and more.


Editorial: Tory dreams and socialist reality, and putting the record straight
The tender trap?
China: the rebellion of the educated youth
Review: Beyond the fragments: feminism and the making of socialism
The spectacle of tyranny - Moscow 1980
The case of the Leningrad "leftists"
Persons Unknown… "A group of idealists" versus "British justice"

solidarity-10.pdf2.06 MB

Solidarity #11

Issue 11 of Solidarity from January-February 1980 with articles on capitalism and the state, the myth of Mao's self-management and a special supplement of a discussion paper by Ron Rothbart.


About ourselves
Editorial: capitalism and the state
Where now for the Labour Party?
Review: Ecology and anarchism
All liberated now?
The myth of Mao's self-management
First worldism or libertarianism?
Return of: "in search of the ruling class"
Abortion women and the left: October 28 and after
Review: the bureaucracy trembles
Southeast Asia: 4 years to 1984
Special supplement: subversion discussion paper: The limits of Mattick's economics - Ron Rothbart

solidarity-11.pdf2.52 MB
solidarity-11-supplement.pdf1.03 MB

Solidarity #12

Issue 12 of Solidarity from May-July 1980 with articles on the steel strike, abortion, an interview with a union official and more.


Editorial 1: Questioning the cuts
Getting it right
Editorial 2: The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
Sequelae of a leaflet: Spare Rib sensors solidarity
More on menstrual extraction
Galvanising the steel strike
Managing unemployed youth
Review: Wildcat Spain encounters democracy 1976-78
TU official shops unions
Soly knuckles rapped in Aberdeen
Review: "The right to be lazy" - New movement or old cliche

solidarity-12-colour.pdf14.59 MB

Solidarity #13

Issue 13 of Solidarity from August-September 1980. It was a special disaster issue containing articles on nuclear power, Zimbabwe, Tito, Brazil and more.


Free to choose or free to lose
Zimbabwe now
Review: War and an Irish town- Eamon McCann
No tears for Tito
The whole world over

solidarity-13.pdf2.48 MB

Solidarity #14

Issue 14 of Solidarity from October-November 1980 with articles on the left, the French Communist Party, a pull-out feature on the uprising in Poland and more.


A nurse asks estate care is worth fighting for
Left consensus? No thanks!
Statistics can mislead you - but they can also demystify you
The French Communist Party 1980: Stalinists, Jacobins, Gaullists?
Review: The soldiers' strikes by Andrew Rothstein
Review: Socialism and housing action. The red paper on housing
Questionnaire for would-be liberated heterosexuals in mixed political groups
Solidarity supplement: Summer in Gdansk (see below)

solidarity-14.pdf1.47 MB

Summer in Gdansk - Solidarity

Solidarity booklet produced in late 1980 about the mass strikes in Poland which had just ended in huge victory for the workers who had made a mixture of economic and political demands.

summer-in-Gdansk-solidarity.pdf2.84 MB

Solidarity #15

Issue 15 of Solidarity for social revolution from winter 1981. Containing articles on life on the dole, a strike of Manchester Council workers, patriarchy, capitalism and feminism, Africa and Poland, with a supplement on a struggle at Chrysler in Adelaide.

solidarity-15.pdf42.28 MB

Anatomy of an industrial struggle: Chrysler factory at Tonsley Park in Adelaide 1976-1978

An account of two years of struggle at an Australian Chrysler plant by one of the workers, including a detailed look at the role of the union.

This article by Garry Hill, a worker at the Tonsley Park Chrysler plant near Adelaide in Australia, describes a series of struggles in which he was actively involved.

The text tells of the conflict inside the factory, the rough and tumble of mass meetings, workers' resistance to production, the tactics of management and the role of the trade union- in this case the notorious Vehicle Builders' Union. It documents the union's collusion with the bosses and its links with South Australia's Labour government. It is interesting how in describing a single struggle the author has laid bare the whole rotten system of capitalism.

The experience described will be familiar to car workers elsewhere. It closely parallels events at vehicle plants throughout the world: Fiat in Italy, G.M. at Lordstown in the US, Ford at Valencia in Spain and Dagenham in Britain, Cowley, to mention only a few. It illustrates how the rise of multinationals is having the effect of integrating workers' struggles internationally and how, in spite of all problems, the fight on the factory floor goes on, day in day out.

The fact that the firm involved is Chrysler is no coincidence. This ailing company which, for years, has tried to solve its problems at the expense of its workers (see for example Solidarity Motor Bulletin No. 2 for struggles at the US plants at Jefferson and Mark Avenues in Detroit, and Bulletin No. 4 which deals with the conflict at the Chrysler Dodge Truck plant), finally had to sell off its European operations to Peugeot (see Solidarity Motor Bulletin No. 8 which deals with the Peugeot takeover). All this was to no avail. Chrysler is now negotiating with the US Federal Government for massive state aid. All this provides the background for the Tonsley Park events.

An important aspect of the account is its frank description and discussion of the problems facing rank-and-file organisation. There is an enormous amount of sloppy thinking in this area. The term 'rank and file', with its military origins, speaks volumes for the attitude of the traditional left to the working class. It can be used to describe a whole range of quite different animals. It can mean a genuine grass roots mass movement. Or it can mean a small ginger group of militants. Or simply the front organisation of a political group. When such groups delude themselves that they 'objectively' represent the real interests of workers these 'radical elites' can come to behave in a fundamentally similar way to the trade union bureaucracies they claim to detest. As a result, over and over again when the chips are down, one has seen the isolation of these 'radical bureaucracies' from the workers they claim to represent, the weakening of job organisation and massive disillusionment.

The text finally stresses the enormous gulf which separates the traditional left from revolutionary libertarian socialists. The former tend to see the working class as a hybrid milch cow and trojan horse, and to see direct workers' domination of their own struggles as a tactic, to be advocated while in opposition but to be conveniently forgotten once they are in the saddle. They all see themselves as a sort of government (or trade union apparatus) in exile.

As our statement 'AS WE SEE IT' puts it: Meaningful for us, is whatever increases the confidence, the autonomy, the initiative, the participation, the solidarity, the equalitarian tendencies and the self -activity of the masses and whatever assists in their demystification. Sterile and harmful action is whatever reinforces the passivity of the masses, their apathy, their cynicism, their differentiation through hierarchy, their alienation, their reliance on others to do things for them and the degree to which they can therefore be manipulated by others - even by those allegedly acting on their behalf.

Adelaide, with a population of over 700,000, is the capital of South Australia and the fourth largest city in the country. It is also the biggest port and manufacturing centre between Perth and Melbourne. Its greatest single Industry is the manufacture of cars. This employs about 13,000 people.

The suburbs of Salisbury and Elizabeth are almost entirely based on the car industry. In the whole Adelaide metropolitan area there are two Chrysler plants and a General Motors Holder (GMH) plant, as well as smaller factories specialising in parts, research, or storage. Adelaide enjoys a high living standard, with a considerable proportion of home owners and a reputation as Australia's cultural centre and a beautiful capital city.

Since his election in 1970 the Labor State Premier Don Dunstan has set out to make South Australia a social democratic welfare state on the Swedish model. He has so far been fairly successful in this task.

The Australian car industry started in the late 1940's with American backing. Up to the late 1960's it expanded enormously aided by increasing affluence and an outlook which saw cars more and more as necessities. However, the only indigenous developments in car design were peripheral - new body styles, radios, gimmicky paint jobs and accessories. Improvements in chassis design, motors, rust protection, etc., came from Europe, Japan and the USA.

Without strong protective tariffs, foreign competition began to shrink the Australian share of the market. Between 1971 and 1973 the world economic recession hit Australia and the car industry suffered. The car companies tried to combat this with cut-backs in labour and speed-ups of the lines. They appealed to the government to cut the massive 271% sales tax, and sought to introduce 'increased labour efficiency programmes'. These were designed to get maximum production from the workers while reducing their opportunities to discuss shop floor problems. The usual methods included staggered and shortened tea and lunch breaks, more supervision, treating discontented workers as mentally disturbed, rotating jobs so that people did not know their workmates, and giving workers so much to do that they had no time to talk.

All this led to the long and vicious strike in 1973 at GMH's Broadmeadows factory in Melbourne, where the struggle reached such a pitch that lines of mounted police battled strikers armed with bricks. A compromise solution eventually prevented further escalation of the conflict.

Chrysler's Tonsley Park, was established in the early 1960's. The workforce numbers about 3000. There is a high turnover rate, partly because of the company's policy of hiring and firing according to economic fluctuations. About 14% of the labour force are women, and between a half and a third are migrants, mainly from Britain, Holland, Italy, Greece and Yugoslavia. Work conditions vary from department to department: some are good, others like a Siberian labour camp. This inequality of conditions, harassment by foremen, noise and the speed of work were consistent causes of conflict.

With the exception of staff and some tradesmen, car workers are members of the Vehicle Builders' Union. Formed more than a hundred years ago, It is one of Australia's best established and most powerful unions. It's bureaucracy is dominated by the Australian Labour Party (ALP), but is also a target for the Communist Party and the various left groups. The current leadership has a reputation for being 'militantly left-wing'. This means that at times it talks of nationalising the industry, calls the companies 'bloodsuckers', and occasionally calls a strike or a meeting to discuss a stoppage. It also indulges in such radical tinged activities as changing 'chairman' to 'chairperson', ensuring that a token woman is occasionally elected to a union position, giving small donations to various left-wing causes, passing resolutions condemning the secret use of Australian officers in Northern Ireland, etc.

This is a mere veneer. The real aims of the VBU leadership are : (1) to preserve the bureaucrats' privileged positions; (2) to uphold the current system of unionism on which the bureaucracy is based; (3) to make the union and the ALP more powerful forces in existing society than they already are.

That people should control their own lives, that workers should run factories without bosses or bureaucracy, that work hours, production and distribution could be arranged to ensure a libertarian society - such ideas are scorned by the ALP and the union bureaucracy. And no wonder. If this type of society were ever achieved they would be as superfluous as any capitalist.

The leadership of the VBU is deeply involved in state politics. The South Australian State Union Secretary, Dominic Foreman, is well known for his political ambitions, while his predecessor, J. Abbot is now in the State Parliament. Len Hatch, the current S.A. Industrial Officer, is also awaiting his entry into parliamentary politics.

With the exception of a few trotskyist sects, all of Australia's left groups had branches in Adelaide at the time of the Chrysler dispute. The events proved an acid test for the left on several basic questions facing socialists:
<li> Should workers use violence in strikes?
<li> Who should decide union policy: the workers or the officials?
<li> What Is 'ultra-leftism'?
<li> Should an isolated group of militant workers pursue a revolutionary course of action when there is no chance of victory? Or should they always keep in mind the level of the activities acceptable to the mass of workers?
<li> What should be the relationship between organised (but external) political groups and factories where the workforce is involved in a struggle?

All these problems were posed in the Chrysler dispute. And all the left groups provided their own answers, either explicitly or by their actions. The parties involved were:

The Australian Labor Party (ALP)
Formed as a result of the great strikes of 1891, but not properly organised until 1908, the ALP is closely modelled on the British Labour Party. Its political record is, if possible, even worse. The ALP in power has always brought in a few reforms, but usually to the benefit of the capitalist system. Its main function has been to act as the servant of capitalism when the system needed the help of the working class. A look at its record shows that it was returned to office in September 1914, October 1929, October 1941 and December 1972 (when unemployment had risen by 100,000 in fourteen months - it had been less than 20,000 in 1971 - and when the issue of conscription for Vietnam was prominent.
Labor's record between 1972 and 1975 was typical of its politics: aid to right-wing juntas, propping up capitalism at the expense of democratic rights and living standards, disregarding questions of ecology for company profits, strengthening the state apparatus, strike-breaking, and ultimately doing as much as possible to stifle and isolate its own militants. It is perhaps no coincidence that Labor's four electoral victories all occurred at the time of major crises: two wars and two major depressions.
Since the 1975 election debacle the ALP has sunk into an introspective trough. The majority of its members have become disgruntled and inactive. Its power base is an uneasy alliance between trade unionists, unemployed workers, middle class trendies and members of various left groups, holding dual membership.

[i] The Communist Party of Australia (CPA)
The present CPA is the survivor of the 1971 split when the Moscow hard-liners left. It is not so much a party as a collection of leftist factions. It tends to jump from one left bandwagon to another, rather than resolve internal differences. Recent attempts to produce a cohesive theory found the CPA taking up a militant social-democratic stance and aligning itself with the Euro-communist movement.

The Socialist Party of Australia
This group is a product of the 1971 split in the CPA. It was formed because the CPA no longer unquestioningly followed Moscow's directives. Although small (about 350 members) the SPA is quite powerful, being backed by Russian funds. (1) It controls nearly all the maritime unions.

The Maoist groups
The Maoist tendencies have had increasing success in Australia - mainly in Melbourne and Adelaide. Support is however not so much for the hardcore 'official' maoist Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) - the CPAML - as for a horde of front groups which push the line of 'Independence for Australia from foreign domination - USSR stay out, USA get out'. Principal among these is the 'Worker Student Alliance for Australian Independence' (WSA). The Chrysler Rank and File group was often wrongly accused of being a front for the WSA.

The Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
This group should not be confused with the British SWP. It is Australia's 'orthodox' trotskyist party. Even smaller than the SPA, it has little effect on Australian politics, though its members are almost always working their guts out to achieve something or other.

The Socialist Labour League (SLL)
The Healyite tendency is quite active and has made some progress in its aim of building a working class vanguard party. But members tend to become disillusioned very quickly, and its activities have alienated 9 out of 10 of those who come into contact with it. The Australian SLL is extremely doctrinaire, opportunist and authoritarian, even by Marxist-Leninist standards.

The International Socialists (IS)
IS only started recently in Australia and is the smallest of the left groups described here. Its members could best be described as militant marxist-leninists looking for a trade union base on which to build a party. On the surface they tend to be more open minded and less doctrinaire than other leftists. Libertarians In other areas have told us that, underneath, the IS is the same as the rest - a view I've come to accept. Nevertheless the IS did act well in the Chrysler dispute.

The Libertarian Socialist Federation (LSF)
This was only formed in 1976, after a split in the Federation of Australian Anarchists. It is a small but growing tendency. Differing ideas however have led to a situation where the LSF is a cover name for various loosely connected anarchist groups in the state capitals. At the time of writing the LSF is not functioning as a group.

The Rank and File Group was formed in late 1973 by VBU members dissatisfied with the union. Among the original founders were at least one hardcore maoist and a Yugoslav anarchist. The bulk of the membership seems to have consisted of factory militants of no political affiliation. By the time I joined (in July 1976) there were only one or two original members around. The early history of the group was hazy or confused by political bias. (2)

I came into contact with the RAF a few weeks after I started work at Chrysler's. There were rumours that the group was a maoist front, so I was cautious about joining. Of the 12 or 15 committed members about half had no political affiliation. Of the rest, 4 or 5 were WSA members. Only one of these could be described as a hardcore maoist, although some of the others were on the way to becoming such.
The only position in the group was that of chairman at meetings. This was rotated, together with the work involved in writing and printing newsletters. Meetings were run with almost complete impartiality. Several times WSA members took my side against other WSA members on various issues. Attempts to make the RAF toe the maoist line were rebuffed as much by WSA members as anyone else. Despite their nationalistic outlook the WSA people realised the importance of involving migrants in campaigns, and our weekly give-away sheet had translations in Greek and Italian. There was also a series of lectures at RAF meetings on the problems facing migrants in the workforce. RAF's other good points were that it encouraged the workers to fight their own battles rather than rely on officials and organisations. It wasn't a vanguard but a creation of the workers.

However, it had its weaknesses. The most obvious was a strong dose of workerism. This took the form of seeing only workers as being oppressed by capitalism; of considering views as being right or wrong according to the class background of those advocating them; of sexism or elitism being OK if practiced by workers. The RAF newsletter was at times simplistic in style. But this was because its writers weren't journalists or academics. They usually got to the core of the problem. We never had any complaints from people that they couldn't understand articles.

Not so obvious was the lack of a long-term perspective. The different viewpoints within the group made a coherent policy impossible. There were three opposing tendencies.

The WSA members saw our struggles as Australian workers fighting foreign multinationals. Their solution was an independent Australia where, presumably, independent Australian businessmen would own the car factories - until the eventual triumph of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Against this, I argued for a more internationalist libertarian viewpoint, expropriation of the means of production with all decisions to be taken by democratic workers' assemblies. The third tendency was for ignoring future questions and concentrating on day-to-day issues.
This failure to develop a long-term strategy may have been unavoidable. But, in mid-1977, it helped lead to disaster.

Australian VBU members had a series of claims before arbitration in August 1976. By this time it had become obvious to nearly everyone that our living standards were dropping. The recession had also affected safety and work conditions, and cutbacks were imminent. The mood amongst most of the workforce was militant.

Even before the struggle began, we all knew that the VBU would not fight. What I didn't expect was that they would spearhead the struggle against us. I laughed when other workers told me this would happen, but they were right.

In August 1976, mass meetings were held in car factories all over Australia. Everywhere car workers voted overwhelmingly to reject the company's token offer of a $2.00 wage rise and a few improvements in conditions. Our demands included wage rises, better safety precautions, shorter hours, job security, a superannuation scheme and various work amenities. The company stated that its offer had to be accepted immediately, without argument. They were tempting us with small bait for a large reward: industrial peace. They were also giving the VBU Executive a weapon to fight with in inter-union battles. Without these 'gains' the union would have looked even weaker than it was, and the militants would have had the support of 90% of the workers.

Speaking at the rowdy Tonsley Park rally, Federal Secretary Len Townsend had sense enough not to present the offers as anything great. Instead, he argued that this was all we were likely to get - the economy was in bad shape and the bosses couldn't give us more. What we should be trying to do was to kick out the rotten Fraser government and bring back the ALP, to 'get the economy going again'. Townsend delivered this last point as if he expected the 2000-strong audience to burst into wild cheers. If so, he was disappointed. About a dozen bureaucrats applauded. Their cheers sounded very hollow in the sullen silence. Nearly everyone I could see was either bored or contemptuous.

Other union officials ranted about the communist menace, troublemakers, migrants who wouldn't learn English and should go back to where they came from, women workers who were taking jobs from family breadwinners, university students trying to stir up the poor misled workers, bludgers (3) who were leading the country down the drain by not giving a fair day's work for a fair day's pay, and youngsters who didn't know anything. A good deal of the meeting was taken up by these attempts to sidetrack people into seeking scapegoats for their insecurity.

The VBU officials outsmarted themselves. In all this, because after listening to this snide baiting the vast majority of those under attack voted against whatever the VBU wanted. Time and again, the officials made this mistake, and RAF motions received much of their support from these alienated sections. We always demonstrated how the VBU tried to keep the workforce divided and ineffective. This gained us much support, which left the union with the middle-aged workerist conservatives, the Uncle Toms among the minority groups,(4) and right-wingers. In car factories all over Australia the mood of the workers was for fighting.

Gradually, however, the VBU began to wear down the militancy by a barrage of pessimistic verbiage combined with a campaign of slander and ridicule against militants. One factory after another gave up the struggle for the claims. Militants in Melbourne factories were told that Adelaide had given up, and that it was only sensible to surrender rather than fight on alone. Two of the Melbourne plants gave up. Then Adelaide factories were told that as Melbourne had given up Adelaide couldn't fight on alone.

These tactics were used effectively until only Fisherman's Bend (Victoria), Ford Cheltenham (South Australia) and Chrysler Tonsley Park were left. Significantly these three factories all had RAF groups. The factories which had no RAF went down first. Fisherman's Bend and Ford Cheltenham, where RAF groups were embryonic, were survived by Tonsley Park where RAF was established and experienced.

From the first meeting in early August overtime bans and a work-to-rule had been imposed, against the wishes of the VBU Executive. The bans hit the company hard, as it needed overtime to bring out the year's new model. With the union's aid, it tried to get round the bans by bringing in a new afternoon shift. The paint rectification section spontaneously walked off the job in protest, and were told that they would lose their annual leave as a punishment. A secondary strike eventually defeated this threat. In other sections the struggle over the claims took different forms: some sections walked off the job as soon as the daily production quota was reached, others sporadically carried out an RAF- originated 'work without enthusiasm, work-to-rule, obey orders literally' policy. This was only successful in a few departments but showed the extent to which a factory needs a compliant, co-operative workforce. Where the policy was successfully carried out the result was chaos.

Far more effective, however, was the spontaneous sabotage which spread throughout nearly all departments where there was discontent. There were always a few habitual saboteurs who gleefully boasted that not a single car passed them without being 'initiated'. These workers were usually working on parts of the vehicles where sabotage was easily concealed. I was working with finished cars. During times of conflict signs of sabotage could easily be seen - slashed upholstery, stolen car keys, deflated tyres, paint or other liquids smeared over cars. When stricter toilet breaks were introduced cars were smeared with human excrement.

The two methods which drove the bosses into screaming fits were the carving of slogans into finished paintwork, and using wrong-sized rivets in construction. This could only be detected when the cars were being test-driven and fell to pieces. Slogans were often political, aimed at politicians, bureaucrats and bosses. They also included remarks about football or TV shows, one-line elephant jokes, or sexist comments. I suppose I saw two dozen slogans during my 12 months at Chrysler. The most intelligent were 'Sabotage must be stopped', and 'This paint job is perfect. Buy this car'.

Other methods included stealing or mislaying tools and that perennial favourite: stopping the line. This could be done by pressing the emergency button. Chrysler countered this by posting foremen in front of stop buttons. The saboteurs replied by buckling the conveyor belt, and producing mysterious electrical failures. On a normal day there might be as many as twenty stoppages (some, of course, genuine). Some would last as long as two hours. Five or ten minutes was the average, a welcome breather which made this a universally popular method.

RAF's enemies claimed that we were behind the sabotage. This was not so. No RAF bulletin ever encouraged it. We discussed it at one meeting, where it was decided that RAF would neither condemn or support it. I argued that as many saboteurs did not know that they were facing long gaol sentences if caught, it was at least our duty to warn them. Others disagreed, believing that this would sound like discouragement, not only of sabotage but of the struggle in general, and that the company or the VBU would probably let the workers know the penalties. However we spread the word around about possible gaol sentences without sounding too discouraging.

The company brought in four full-time detectives in early 1977. Not one saboteur was ever caught. This reflected the unity and intelligence of the workers, and also the fact that many of the saboteurs were the last people that either the bosses or RAF would have thought to be 'gremlins'. I remember seeing one worker, who seemed to be the factory's most servile Uncle Tom, talking in his usual fawning way to a bullying foreman while he worked on the back of a car. As soon as the foreman had gone, his expression changed to one of foxy, defiant mischief. His eyes darted around and, when sure that no one was watching, he cut some electrical wires, scratched the paint job below the bumper with a screwdriver, and punctured a tyre. He then lapsed back into servility again. Later I saw him do the same with other cars. When asked about the damage he self-righteously denounced the ratbag car-wreckers'.

So much for the silent majority. The VBU's denunciation of sabotage was as strong as the company's. The factory shop steward, Harry Davies, went as far as to keep an eye open for saboteurs. He denounced 'slackers' to the bosses. (5) The traditional left weren't much better. While the IS tended to see sabotage as part of the struggle, and the SWP as an attempt at militancy gone wrong, they usually described it as 'childish', 'ultra-leftist', 'mindless'. The strangest criticisms came from the SLL. They referred to 'the complete treachery of the maoist-dominated Rank and File' which encouraged sabotage and other 'student radical dead-end methods'.

The SLL's attitude is not accidental. It stems from their hatred of anything they cannot control. Strikes are ordered, directed, called on, called off, negotiated upon; sabotage isn't. It is also a weapon which can be used against any ruling class, even one based on a marxist party or a trade union bureaucracy.

There is however a lot of truth in the criticism that sabotage is childish, just letting off steam, and likely to hurt the consumer who is often a worker (like the saboteur him/ herself). On the other hand sabotage shows contempt for the values of capitalism and is deliberate rejection of the ultimate capitalist status symbol: the car.

In its efforts to get the overtime bans lifted the VBU tried a series of tricks. First was a silly slander campaign against RAF. It was claimed that we were connected with the IRA, because one Rank and File member was an Irish migrant. Then it was pointed out that the initials RAF also stood for Red Army Fraction, and that anarchists were in sympathy with both groups. (6) At the same time the right-wing were producing ridiculous fake RAF bulletins. Fortunately these were so obviously fake and condescending that no one took them seriously. A slander sheet was distributed alleging that RAF took its orders from 'Chinese agents'. Various individuals in different factories were named as Communists or their dupes. One was labeled 'Mao Tse Tung's right-hand man'.

At the same time the VBU Executive signed and published an extraordinary document which claimed that RAF was not only out to destroy the workforce but was out to get their families as well. All this was a softening up process aimed at changing the minds of the workers so they would lift the bans which were hurting the company and showing up the VBU.

At meeting after meeting the workforce voted against lifting the bans. But at each meeting the militants' majority was being reduced. After appeals from the VBU to think of our unemployed mates who needed a job, the ban on new labour was lifted. The new people were put onto new shifts to overcome the overtime ban. But Chrysler was still in trouble. Sympathetic shop stewards told us of the VBU's and company's latest strategy - a superannuation scheme that would only be introduced when the bans were completely lifted. The meeting to lift the ban would not be held until all fifty shop stewards had talked to the men in their own sections and talked the militants round. It was hoped that each section would then have a majority in favour of the scheme.

At the same time the media stepped up their 'militant- bashing' campaign. RAF members started really copping it. One RAFer was punched by a foreman for no reason, and a sympathiser was badly bashed by two guards. In my section there were two of us in RAF. The other member was set up by his shop steward on a theft charge - tools were put in his bag and the guards grabbed him at the gate. His workmates were with him and unanimously defended him, explaining the tools as a joke. He was let off with a severe reprimand, although the VBU wanted him prosecuted and gaoled.(7) A few days after this incident, I had my coat, wallet and bank- book stolen, and had to borrow money to get home. When I arrived I found the place broken into, but nothing had been touched except my political papers which were scattered all over the place.

The meeting to lift the bans was scheduled for September 9, 1976 and everyone, including RAF, thought the bans would be lifted.

From the start the meeting was tense and stormy. The VBU bureaucrats were heckled, shoved, threatened, shouted down and pelted with fruit. Speaker after speaker spoke against lifting the bans and rubbished the VBU. Despite chairman Meehan's encouragement only three people spoke for the union. Natalie Richardson, a member of Fraser's Liberal Party and who is believed to be in with the National Civic Council,(8) called us union bastards and told us to get back to work; the others were a right-wing extremist and a new worker who wanted overtime to make more money. It was stressed how selfish we were being by not letting all the older members get the superannuation benefits. At this an older worker not known as a militant moved to the microphone. State Secretary Foreman moved over to whisper something to him. The worker spoke. 'Dominic Foreman just told me that if I spoke for keeping the bans I'd be out of a job'. Foreman made a few contradictory statements that sounded like denials if you weren't wise to bureaucrats' word-spinning. Then the riot started.

Tables were overturned. A dozen men tried to get Foreman. The stage was pelted and the militants closed in so that the bureaucrats couldn't escape. Shaking with fright, Meehan called for the vote. Even VBU supporters put their support at only a third of those present, and it was obvious the bans would stay. So Meehan refused to take the vote. RAF tried to organise it, but half of those present had left in disgust, or just milled about. Some tried to storm the stage. Those officials who didn't escape were jostled, spat on and abused by dozens of workers. Only the threat of police involvement saved the officials from the hiding they deserved.

Back at the factory we found the entrance littered with discarded union cards. That night I got home late from the RAF meeting to watch the late-night news about the death of Mao. The second item was about the Tonsley Park riot. Dominic Foreman regretted that because of left-wing terrorism a union meeting couldn't be held at Tonsley Park. As union democracy had been overthrown, the union Executive would have to make the decision on the bans itself.(9) Next day at work about 800 men had decided to throw in their union cards. RAF was divided on this. Without union cards, Chrysler could sack the men and we would probably lose the best militants in the factory. The VBU would win. The RAF Newsletter outlined this danger without upholding trade unionism as such.

Faced with this, the union preferred a 'secret' ballot. In several sections each union member had to walk through VBU cohorts and fill out the ballot paper in front of a hostile Harry Davies. The company won, and the bans were lifted. (10) Hundreds more votes were cast than there were members eligible to vote. (11)

The union elections held soon afterwards returned Foreman and Co. But they were declared fraudulent by the courts. It was implied that the electoral officer was responsible. The same man had been involved in the secret ballot about the bans.

This marked the end of the struggle over the claims. The promised superannuation scheme (which had been the bait for lifting the bans) vanished into thin air. Sabotage was back to normal levels by October. And RAF was back to fighting day to day issues - foreman harassment, safety and pay questions - putting out propaganda and uncovering new links between the company and the VBU. Dominic Foreman was given the new model car free. And the VBU got several thousand dollars as a 'gift' from Chrysler.

At this time Chrysler built a custom-made car for Malcolm Fraser. Hatred for Fraser was so strong that it could only be got together by assembling constructed pieces on a special night shift. Factory guards were used as a construction crew. There were several enthusiastic attempts at bans and sabotage of this car and its parts but everything was so secret that no one knew where to start. A car falsely rumoured to be Fraser's was sabotaged by about a dozen men. (12)

The last incident between the car workers and the VBU occurred during the Labour Day march in Adelaide on October 9. Apart from about 30 car workers and two dozen waterside workers, hardly a person was there who wasn't holding a union position. A few radicals and a lot of officials made up the march. It was typical of the bureaucrats that they could afford decorated trucks, banners and placards, but couldn't get people to man them. The march was led by Don Dunstan, shadow treasurer, Chris Hurford ('Labor must get the free enterprise system working again'), and the guest of honour, Bob Hawke, President of the ALP, leader of the Council of Trade Unions, board member of the Reserve Bank, and one of Australia's leading Zionists.

From the start the WSA contingent was pushed to the rear of the march. They countered this by putting three people carrying their banners at the top of the march. When the politicians tried to block from view a banner another car worker and I were carrying, we marched in front of the three leaders, obscuring their faces from the crowds with 'Demand the 35-hour week'. Hurford charged in screaming and hitting the other car-worker, while trying to rip up the banner at the same time. I discouraged him by hitting him several times with the flagpole and kicking him in the shins. Hurford found himself stumbling about half wrapped up in a banner. He was so mentally distracted he couldn't get free. And this is the man who claims he can manage Australia's economy.

This was the start of a rumble between WSA members and car workers on one side, and union officials and politicians on the other. The police stood by, laughing, until Dunstan walked over and furiously told them to arrest the troublemakers. They politely asked us to quieten down and keep on marching. This reduced things to a shouting match, with the glaring, dishevelled ALPers in their crumpled suits looking like they wanted to be somewhere else.

Bob Hawke, on the platform, announced that he wouldn't speak, owing to the danger of violence from terrorists. The union and party men then retired to the Trades Hall bar, where Hawke gave a short speech denouncing 'people who think they are part of the workforce but aren't' (13) and who were 'a nest of traitors'. He and Dunstan then stood exchanging praises until even their own followers began to feel nauseated. So ended Labour Day 1976.

An Interesting side-effect was that the SWP complained to me that their paper sales among ALP-SPA members and sympathisers had dropped to zero because the Labour Day riot had been credited to 'trotskyists and maoists'. The SWP tends to judge all political activities by the way they affect their paper sales.

Early in February 1977 two minor issues came up which developed into larger struggles. Doorhanger Mark Gillet was sacked by a foreman, for allegedly swearing at him. Mark refused his sacking and was defended by shop stewards and fellow workers. He was reinstated by the company. The CEDA union, which controls the foremen, staged a walkout which meant that for two days the factory was without foremen.

On the whole the factory ran just as well without foremen, some areas actually increased production and the vast majority of men were more happy to work without supervision. Yet the company said the plant could no longer work without supervision and that unless foremen were back the workforce would be stood down indefinitely.

The workers decided to stage an occupation. The VBU had to go along with the militant course. Their sell-outs over the 1976 log of claims had destroyed their credibility with everyone. Somehow they had to appear militant so they supported the militant course.

The company avoided the confrontation by lifting the stand down clause (signed by the same VBU officials without the permission of the union members late in 1976). Work went on without the foremen for two more days. Then the arbitration court suspended both Mark Gillett and Payne on full pay.

Mark Gillett was eventually reinstated, but so was Payne the foreman, who was transferred to another area. During the conflict the VBU ran a slander campaign against Mark, claiming that he was mentally retarded (he speaks very slowly). When he disproved this, they tried another approach - saying that he was homosexual.

The second dispute started when a migrant worker turned to RAF for help with a compensation case because the VBU wasn't doing much. When RAF began to help the VBU stepped in and told him that he should stay away from RAF who were 'just a bunch of university students, communists and trouble- makers'. The worker replied to the effect that 'if RAF are communists then I am too!'. From then on the union tried to get him out of the factory. Because of a work injury he requested lighter work but was given a hard job despite work- mates' protests. When he complained he was told there was no place for malingerers on the shop-floor. Despite the seriousness of his injury and his good work record over 14 years, the company and the union agreed that his problem was psychological.

His workmates didn't. A meeting was called by a RAF shop steward and one section of 50 men walked off the job. The VBU told Chrysler that next time it happened they should sack the lot. Despite everything that RAF and his workmates could do, this worker lost his job.

In my own section Harry Davies broke up one strike over safety issues. When we complained to our shop steward that he never did anything he replied, in ominous tones . 'Well, I'll get something done alright'. The next day he insisted a militant worker be sacked for not obeying safety regulations. 'See, I got something done', was his only comment. Soon after he resigned from the union and was given tests by the company to check his foreman potential. He had once been a militant and a supporter of RAF, but had fallen for the bait of trade unionism and had accepted a shop steward position.

At this time RAF made a serious mistake. It put candidates up for union elections. We had two shop stewards who were useful in that they could get inside information, but union office was something different. Even though the jobs weren't full time, they were part of the bureaucracy. This was a step backwards towards traditional unionism. At RAF meetings I was usually alone in opposing this move. There was almost no discussion unless I introduced it, and then the replies were half-hearted. I got the strong impression that the idea came from outsiders, from the CPAML. I knew that nearly all the WSA members were in trouble with their organisation for ultra-leftism and anarchist tendencies. (14)

The effects of our contesting elections were noticeable. At the shop floor level it caused at best doubts, but more commonly cynicism, distrust and feelings of being hoodwinked. Typical comments were 'Just out for power like all the rest', and 'After all that, they're no different; they'll be off to Trades Hall soon'. I heard this dozens of times. Only three or four workers outside RAF made comments supporting our candidacy. All the left groups except LSF and the SLL (15) approved the idea of RAF going in for electioneering.

At the same time the WSA began to push their vanguardist and nationalistic aims more strongly. I responded by putting forward libertarian ideas. As a result, from early 1977, RAF meetings were often very heated. In 1976 several of the non- affiliated members and all but one or two WSAers were becoming interested in anarchism, discussing ideas and reading books. Unfortunately WSA was a large, well-established organisation, LSF was tiny and not established, and the CPA(ML) seemed to be conducting a slander campaign against anarchism.

There was a focusing on personalities. I made a disastrous mistake which made me seem naive. I talked to one of my closest friends about the issues at Chrysler as I needed some advice on Adelaide politics (which I knew little about). I later read sections of these conversations in two hostile articles about RAF printed in the Adelaide Advertiser. I had had no reason to distrust this person; we had worked together in the same union against the ALP bureaucracy in 1975 for several months, and I had believed him trustworthy. It became obvious that here was the old story of the good militant without clear ideas becoming part of the union bureaucracy. One RAF shop steward was already heading rapidly in this direction and the others were to go the same way. The failure of RAF to develop its anarchist tendencies into a libertarian socialist approach made this inevitable. I found myself undemocratically dominating meetings, arguing for this course without support and finally without hope of success. Still I remained out of loyalty to the group and to those people who trusted RAF.

Before we were sacked in July 1977 I had decided that alliances between libertarians and any type of vanguardists were a waste of time. Some of the ideas put forward within Chrysler by the WSA made many people feel like vomiting : they defended Stalin, kept silent on China until the Gang of Four were ousted and it was obvious Hua was going to win, and defended Idi Amin as an anti-imperialist and 'historically Progressive' Ugandan nationalist. In a way I was glad to be sacked. It meant I would no longer have to work with people with views like this. By the end of the year I had no more contacts with any marxist-leninist groups.

From about Easter there were strong rumours of cutbacks, and in late June this became a certainty. The VBU 'prepared' for sackings by increasing union dues (to make up for those who would be sacked). A RAF meeting of 200 men voted unanimously for a 35-hour week with no loss of pay and no sackings. The union suggested to Chrysler that they be sacked, since the meeting wasn't official. Another version stated that the VBU had angrily demanded to know why Chrysler hadn't already sacked these men.

Chrysler gave us a choice, like swallowing cyanide or arsenic. We could have 350 sackings and a four-day week (with four days' wages), or 850 sackings and a five-day week. The VBU ducked this one, letting the workers make the 'choice'.

The only attempts at opposing all sackings came from RAF. Within the group, only two of us wanted an occupation. During the last week, I went round during the breaks, seeing what people thought and who was prepared to fight. The mood was either fatalistic, or one of confused anger. I approached over 70 people. Only three were definitely willing to be in an occupation, a dozen others said 'maybe', or 'if everyone else is in it'. The rest were negative. A factory complex of the size of Chrysler would have needed 500 people to occupy it, at least - we had nowhere that kind of support. The SLL would later call us cowards and traitors, and imply that we were in with the union bureaucrats because we didn't lead an occupation. But like most doctrinaires they had little contact with reality. Occupations need to be carried out by large numbers, and workers don't always act militantly. They must decide themselves what they will do; we can only put forward ideas and suggestions, and fight as individual workers. We can't give orders. The SLL approach was that Chrysler's was a workers' army where, through some accident, the RAF was the general staff. If we gave the right orders the workers would win; if we didn't we were traitors and would be replaced by a better general staff - 'the party of the class', i.e. themselves.

The SLL spread slander sheets at the factory gates, alleging that RAF was in with the VBU (!), that it was a maoist front and out to betray the workers, and that if the workers turned up at SLL meetings they'd learn how to save their jobs. Two of us in RAF turned up, together with one other car worker, who left after five minutes saying as he went that he had come to hear about saving jobs, not about joining the SLL. We left together later, after a lecture on how to be a working class militant given by a university lecturer who used to be an official in the Liberal Party before he discovered how to be a better 'leader'.

The VBU reluctantly called a meeting for Tuesday, July 12, 1977. Sackings were scheduled for the Friday. Right from the start the meeting was stormy. VBU bureaucrat Bill Johns was to have spoken first, but his appearance on stage caused five minutes of uproar. He was pelted with whatever workers had in hand ~ cans, cigarette packets, clumps of grass. Despite union attempts to block him an RAFer managed to get a motion passed rejecting any sackings and re-imposing the overtime bans. He spoke very eloquently and was wildly applauded. Speaker after speaker supported him, while the bureaucrats had to stand by and take the abuse every speaker hurled at them.

Tension was increasing. First scuffles, then outright fights broke out. The stage was pelted. A bolt meant for Dominic Foreman's head hospitalised a worker standing behind him. When the officials delayed putting the motion several dozen workers tried, and nearly succeeded in over- turning the flat-top trailer that was being used as a stage. An RAF steward put the motion which was overwhelmingly supported. It was agreed to form an action committee there at the meeting. But the chairman, Walker, either intentionally or having lost his nerve, mumbled something incomprehensible and then tried to leave. Immediately fifty or more noisy workers surrounded him and forced him back. If Walker didn't officially close the meeting the previous vote would be declared unofficial and the VBU could wreck the struggle as they had the year before. I walked over to the flat-top, grabbed Walker by his throat and tie, and lifted him onto the platform. To loud cheers he was escorted back to the microphone, two workers clutching each arm, about a dozen pushing from behind, and me dragging him by the tie. Unfortunately the VBU had out the mikes. On our advice Walker officially closed the meeting.

Amongst the cheering workers I could see two horrified faces - the SLLers who had given us the lecture on how to be militants. After all their blood and thunder stuff they took no part, nor did they support what we had done.

Behind us Walker was groaning about his broken glasses and threatening to sue. The fighting ended with the destruction of some television equipment. Bureaucrats and reporters got together to compare injuries and make up stories. A few people went to the medical centre, and two to hospital.

News of the riot interrupted a Federal cabinet meeting in Canberra. Fraser, in an obvious attempt to calm the situation, promised tax cuts and restrictions on foreign imports. Chrysler stated that talks were under way, and that sackings might not happen if we behaved ourselves. Coupled with this, a hysterical media campaign against RAF, WSA and the car workers was launched, until it seemed we had all gone beserk for no reason. Several times I heard the phrase 'the mad dogs of Tonsley Park'. The Advertiser repeated a VBU description of RAF as 'faceless fanatics, underground anarchists and saboteurs'. (16) The media cleverly failed to distinguish between RAF and WSA, and harped on the 'students in the factory' thence. Actually, there were three ex-university students in RAF, all of whom had been there for two years or more. Two of these had only been at university for a few weeks anyway.
'Anarchist' -bashing was another favourite theme. There had been one anarchist comrade active in Chrysler in early 1977, but he had left in March. Another WSAer turned anarchist left in June, and one person, on the edge of RAF, was sympathetic to anarchism. I was the only conscious anarchist there.
The VBU charged eleven of us with assault. Over a hundred had been involved, but to prosecute everyone would have destroyed the 'student radical' image they were promoting. The charges were muddled and there were frame-ups. Some RAFers not involved in the fighting were charged, and we were charged with assaulting people we didn't touch. And we weren't charged with getting those we did get.
The last two and a half days before the sackings were taken up by a special meeting of those charged, by our regular riotous monthly union meeting, with the production of a special edition of the RAF newsletter, with implementing the bans agreed at the meeting, and with countering the anti-RAF propaganda put out by the media, the VBU, the ALP, the SPA and the SLL. The WSA, the IS and the LSF helped us as much as outside groups could. The CPA adopted a neutral, abstentionist position. The SWP supported the struggle bolt opposed the violence as alienating and undemocratic, a strange attitude for a group which still supports Lenin's violence against socialists in soviet Russia. In the last few days, sabotage reached incredible proportions, even getting media coverage.

The sackings came on Friday afternoon. One list was based on seniority, the other on militancy. (17) Between 80 and 100 workers gathered at the factory entrance. Cars and trestles were overturned. Parts, tools and equipment were also damaged, and two particularly obnoxious foremen got the treatment.

When we assembled, I tried to put into practice a plan I had thought up. There were enough of us to occupy the staff offices and the cafeteria building. This would cause almost as much havoc as a factory occupation. Food and heating were already supplied. Because of air conditioning there were few windows, and the doors could easily be defended. We would have easy access to company files and equipment, and would be in a strong position to bargain for our jobs. The doors were made of thick glass. Some tried to kick them in, but without success. I suggested we go back and get a trestle to use as a battering ram. As we walked off, a WSAer said to forget it, we'd form a picket at the entrance and get them that way.

I pointed out that once outside the gate we wouldn't get back in. The bulk of this was missed. All the WSA members began to call for a picket line and went off. The others milled about, confused, then went after them. Too few of us were left to organise an occupation. The reception room, the only unlocked room in the complex, was smashed up.

We too, then, joined the picket line. The WSA claimed that the picket prevented a large shipment going out, which cost Chrysler nearly a million dollars on a lost contract. But we were outside the factory. The solidarity usually shown at Tonsley Park was missing. Apart from those sacked, only members of the WSA and a few unaffiliated radicals joined us. Not one worker took part in the picket. The media had done their job well.

On the following Monday no one was allowed inside the factory without an employment pass. There was a brief RAF rally which meant little. Inside the factory there was chaos everywhere as the workforce was dislocated.

We were taken to court on the assault charges, but the case was dismissed when the prosecutor failed to appear for the second session. There are two possible explanations. Either that, with federal elections approaching, the ALP did not want to be seen jailing workers. Or that the prosecutor had only got his job because he was an ALP party machine hack, and had been known to miss cases before because too drunk to appear in court.
Crucial for the media campaign against Chrysler workers was the support of Don Dunstan. Dunstan upheld the VBU bureaucrats as honest men, and obligingly spread the lies already being circulated by the Murdoch media. Because of his intellectual gifts Dunstan has been able to build up a considerable following in Australia who will blindly believe anything he says.

What his followers didn't know was that Dunstan was a close friend of Rupert Murdoch. Whenever in Adelaide, Murdoch makes a point of seeing Dunstan. Until the Salisbury affair (see below) the Murdoch media gave Dunstan a very favourable image, unlike that dished out to other Labour leaders.

Dunstan's support for the VBU didn't go unnoticed. His popularity dropped and his image became somewhat tarnished. Many people in Salisbury began to see him as just another politician. In early 1978 he became entangled in the Salisbury affair, a messy case involving political spying, and by the end of 1978 his popularity sagged. In February 1979 he resigned due to ill-health.

In Tonsley Park there were massive cut-backs in 1978. Chrysler then introduced a dozen sackings each pay-day - no awkward headlines that way. There are rumours that the place is closing down, or being taken over by the Japanese. No new RAF has sprang up, as we had hoped might happen.

In retrospect, It would have been almost impossible for RAF to win at Chrysler in 1977. Opposing us were the entire media, both parliamentary political parties, the forces of the state, Chrysler, the union bureaucracy and two trad left groups: the SPA and the SLL. On our side were sections of a divided workforce, and three left groups: WSA, IS and LSF. However, RAF could have got further if the unaffiliated members had seen the importance of a clear political strategy, If WSAers had not mixed their vanguardism with their excellent shop-floor record, and if the libertarians and their sympathisers had has more political experience and acumen. But with all its limitations, RAF stands out as something to be remembered and emulated by workers fed up with reformist trade unionism.
Garry Hill

1 This became apparent when a Soviet cheque for the SPA was misdirected to the SLL bookshop in Adelaide.
2 Throughout this text I deal only with events I have personally witnessed. The sources for other issues are often extremely biased, confused and contradictory. Several individuals in the RAF were much more prominent in the events described. For obvious reasons I haven't named them: they appear as 'an RAFer' or 'a workmate'.
3 Slang for 'idle scrounger'.
4 One of whom was a former Lebanese Phalangist who amused himself during lunch-breaks by recounting his murders.
5 The Italian CP recommends its members to do the same.
6 Oh, yeah ?
7 The company didn't want a court case, because he was a hard worker, very honest and popular.
8 A right-wing group which attempts to take over unions and is backed by the CIA.
9 Statement repeated in Adelaide Advertiser, Sept. 10, 1976 on the front page.
10 In theory for two weeks only, "While negotiations are in progress"; in practice, permanently.
11 When questioned about this the VBU gave the tame explanation that not all those entitled to vote were employed at Tonsley Park.
12 Solidarity footnote : This account is reminiscent of events at Ford Dagenham years ago when a car destined for a particularly hated manager went down the line. Workers made all sorts of special modifications, like welding coke bottles into closed internal compartments. All efforts failed, however, as another group of workers, thinking they were doing a clever bit, simply switched the labels on the car - a Granada - for another. So the manager got a perfectly ordinary car, while someone In Britain is driving around in a mobile castanet.
13 Hawke has never held a working job in his life.
14 They continually asked for literature and asked me questions on anarchism. One WSA member did become an anarchist.
15 Because it saw RAF as a menace, not because the SLL opposes union electioneering. It doesn't.
16 July 13, 1977
17 It came out in court that the second list was compiled with the help of the VBU, and that some names were there on the VBU's insistence.

Text from

Original scanned version PDF10.37 MB

Solidarity #16

Issue of Solidarity for social revolution from June-July 1981 with articles about the Brixton riots, Poland, the Labour Party and more.


The Brixton carnival
Labouring in vain - T Liddle
Kicking up a stink (Tower Hamlets bin strike)
Labour again? - Andy Brown
Poland - analysis and prospects
Stirring the PIE - Sid French
No return to the sixties - Paul Anderson
Dangers of power -A.A. Raskolnikov
Review: The destruction Of Nature in the Soviet Union by Boris Komarov - Brian McCarthy

solidarity-16.pdf3.44 MB

Solidarity #17

Issue 17 of Solidarity from 1981 with articles on class struggle in the USSR and Cuba and more.

The final issue of this particular publication.


Northern Ireland: A cheap holiday in other people's misery
UK economy after Thatcher?
Class struggle in the USSR
Class struggle in Cuba
Book reviews on sociologist, Toffler and Spain 1936

solidarity-17.pdf1.93 MB