11006Re: Latham's Leichhardt meeting
- Nov 24, 2004--- In GreenLeft_discussion@yahoogroups.com, "bobgould987"
>Bob Gould's slanders can be laughed off as sectarian eccentricity but
> Hinman and company reduced mass politics simply to a formula about
> rotten Labor leaders who are continually conspiring to betray. They
> give no weight to the leftist sentiments of the rank and file in the
> workers movement. That's about as stupid as you can get.
somewhat more effective use of the same slanders (some of them may
have been selected from his diatribes) are being used by conservative
trade union bureaucrats and other nasties in the "workers party" to
attack militant trade union leaders like jailed Socialist Alliance
member Craig Johnston.
Have a look, for example, at the cleverly-worded, but poisonous and
reactionary anonymous slander sheet currently being circulated in the
trade union movement.
Read it carefully. Then ask yourself: which side are you on?
Craig Johnston Campaign - Separating Fact from Fiction
In December, 2003, the ACTU Executive, which represents 46 unions and
1.8 million trade unionists, carried the following resolution:
"This meeting unequivocally condemns the use of criminal, violent and
intimidatory conduct in industrial and political activity as
anti-worker and anti-union.
"Unions uphold the important right of working people and their unions
to engage in industrial action to protect job security and to improve
pay and conditions of employment. Union members must also have the
right to protest and express political views. These are essential
rights in a democratic society.
"This meeting recognises that attacks by some employers and
governments on these essential rights in recent years have generated
frustration and anger. Workers, unions and union officials have been
subjected to extreme pressure.
"However, it is vital that the long standing opposition of the labour
movement to the use of violence, thuggery and intimidation in any form
and from any source is upheld. Such activity in fact undermines
democratic and union rights.
"Criminal, violent and intimidatory conduct is therefore condemned.
"There is a collective responsibility to uphold this stance throughout
the union movement. Those failing to respect this collective
responsibility by engaging in criminal, violent and intimidatory
conduct must therefore be denied the support, access to resources, or
collective protection of unions."
The ACTU Executive made this decision so their could be no
misunderstanding of their position following the Johnston Tiles,
Skilled Engineering, and other incidents involving violence bullying
The campaign to "Free Craig Johnston" is deceptive. It uses lies,
deception and misinformation in an attempt to have progressive
Australians support a misguided, politically-driven agenda.
This is the wrong direction in a period when the union movement has to
prepare to fight against another series of attacks by the Howard
government on workers' basic rights to organise and to collectively
Please read the background and political issues we set out here when
you are considering your response to requests for support from the
We urge you to reject the misinformation and support the deeper
traditions of democracy and solidarity of Australia's labour movement.
The Socialist Alliance and a small group of unionists are attempting
to rewrite history and portray the conviction and jailing of Craig
Johnston on serious criminal charges as a political conspiracy
involving governments, the courts, the ACTU, the AMWU, the police and
It really is time to separate fact from fiction.
Johnston is not in jail because of his activities as a union official,
he is in jail because he led a mindless rampage at Johnson Tiles and
Skilled Engineering in June 2001, which left many employees of these
companies traumatised, fearful, and confused.
The attempt to "spin" acts of violence, intimidation and industrial
lunacy as some kind of heroic defence of working people defies belief.
By donning a balaclava and leading the so called "run-throughs",
Johnston handed the enemies of the trade union movement a massive
political weapon to use against it.
Craig Johnston's politically and industrially inept approach to the
Johnson Tiles dispute meant that the real issue of the maintenance
workers' job security was sidelined and inevitably their fight was
abandoned as resources were diverted to defend criminal charges
against individual Unionists.
This Workers First action involved mindless damage to property and
threats to individuals as a substitute for collective action. This is
the opposite of traditional union militancy. It fails to develop the
political understanding of workers; it isolates workers and leaves
them as spectators in their own struggles.
Johnston was the leader of a faction within the Victorian Branch of
the AMWU called Workers First.
The original militant and successful campaigns supported by Workers
First in Victoria quickly degenerated into an orgy of self-indulgence
The faction's divisive tactic was to portray itself as ultra-militant,
aggressive and uncompromising, to create a myth that the union had
failed the members but Workers First had saved them.
The reality behind this myth was a lack of strategic leadership and a
lack of political understanding combined with a "bully boy" approach
to anyone who questioned their tactics. The Victorian AMWU became
isolated from the majority of its members and was the focus of
political and employer calls for new laws to deal with the overt
aggression promoted by Workers First.
Craig Johnston and Workers First misconceived and overestimated the
value of direct action. They came to believe that they were
They underestimated the value of political strategy to win the support
of workers and the public with reasoned argument and strategic,
sustainable, industrial action.
The coercive power of the State was underestimated. Working-class
principles were reduced to putting the faction first. Militancy and
politics were separated.
The dispute with Johnson Tiles was so badly handled by Craig Johnston
that it resulted in:
1. Unionists and activists being manipulated into violent incidents.
2. CFMEU members working at Johnson Tiles being terrorised.
3. Indiscriminate property damage at Johnson Tiles and Skilled
4. Workers and their families threatened with retribution and even
death. The so-called 'scabs' at Johnson Tiles were members of the
AMWU, as were the employees at Skilled Engineering.
5. A pregnant Skilled Engineering clerical worker fearing for her
unborn child's health as a result of breathing fumes from a fire
extinguisher deliberately activated during the rampage.
6. Offices trashed and clerical workers terrorised by balaclava clad
7. Union leaders and Unionists diverted from defending their
membership as a result of lengthy legal proceedings,
Johnston's union, the AMWU, has long understood that violence,
bullying, and intimidation has no place in a successful union. On
this basis, the AMWU National Council called on those involved in the
'run-throughs' at Johnston Tiles and Skilled Engineering to cooperate
with the police and resolve the matter as quickly as possible.
Every unionist involved, except Craig Johnston, determined to plead
guilty to charges associated with the 'run-throughs'.
On July 30, 2003, 16 AMWU officers and activists pleaded guilty in the
Melbourne County Court to charges of unlawful assembly at Johnson
Tiles and Skilled Engineering on June 15, 2001. They were put on good
behaviour bonds of between 12 months to 3 years and fined between
$1,000 and $3,000.
Craig Johnston was charged with the most serious offences of threat to
kill, unlawful assault, unlawful imprisonment, affray, riot and
Johnston maintained the deception and lie that he was not guilty for
almost three years. During that period a massive amount of money -
estimated to be around $300,000 - was raised for the defence of the so
called Skilled Six, mainly from building workers in Victoria.
Many workers sacrificed wages to attend stop work meetings and the
rally outside the court on May 10, where Johnston again declared that
he was innocent and the victim of a political witch hunt.
Johnston left the rally, went into court, and amazingly did a huge
back flip and pleaded guilty to the charges he faced.
He was sentenced to 12 months jail, fully suspended, along with
substantial fines. Workers who had been deceived by Johnston's claim
of innocence for almost three years felt betrayed at his plea of
guilty and real support amongst building workers disappeared.
The Director of Public Prosecutions appealed the sentence as too
lenient and, at the end of August, the Victorian Appeal Court
sentenced Johnston to nine months jail, which he is now serving.
For your further information, the Appeal Court judgement can be found
The Political Issues
The symbolism of that day at Johnston Tiles cannot be overstated.
Three years after Howard and Reith made the balaclava-masked security
guard at Patricks an icon of their anti-worker policy, Johnston donned
the symbol of union busting, a balaclava, and led the violent
'run-through' at Johnson Tiles and Skilled Engineering.
Johnston handed Howard a huge weapon with which to isolate and vilify
the union movement.
The new Howard government, will no doubt, use the example of Skilled
Engineering and Johnston Tiles as a justification for further
anti-union legislation and increased penal powers.
Despite Johnston's belated plea of guilty in May, a new campaign has
commenced demanding the immediate release of Craig Johnston the
A small minority within the union movement supports this campaign
because they endorse Johnston's mindless militancy and lack of
working-class politics. This continues the ethos of Norm Gallagher's
Builders Labourers Federation which ended in the disaster of
deregistration in 1986.
The Socialist Alliance is leading this campaign because Johnston is a
prominent member of the Alliance. It uses the campaign to attack the
Left leadership of the AMWU and, more broadly, to attack the ALP.
Socialist Alliance asserts that the ALP and the Left in the unions
always sell out or mislead workers and so must be exposed and smashed.
John Howard couldn't agree more!
While Socialist Alliance calls Craig Johnston a militant working-class
hero, they also claim that they are for democracy, unity, and women's
They ignore the rights of innocent workers and pregnant office workers
to come to work and not be terrorised by balaclava wearing thugs or
so-called Union leaders misusing their position of power.
Following the Johnston Tiles disaster, Craig Johnston was accused by
one of his own women organisers of sexual assault, a matter recently
resolved in the Federal Magistrates Court. The young woman gave
evidence against Johnston at an AMWU National Council hearing.
Johnston, despite being given every opportunity, did not appear in his
Socialist Alliance is not credible when they assert Johnston is a
working class hero.
The Free Craig Johnston Campaign cannot be disentangled from the
destructive and enormously damaging methods of Workers First.
Workers First, led by Johnston have:
1. Attempted to justify violence, bullying and intimidation as
legitimate union tactics
2. Led a number of disputes that have resulted In "glorious defeats",
such as Johnston Tiles
3. Played a destructive, sectarian and factional role within the AMWU
4. Sacrificed workers to their concept of uncompromising antagonism.
5. Blockaded the AMWU offices in Victoria for a month.
6. Intimidated and marginalised anyone who opposed their tactics.
7. Created unprecedented and massive financial deficits in the
Victorian Branch of the AMWU.
8. Destroyed the AMWU Victorian Branches proud reputation of being
tough and smart.
9. Ignored and trampled over the rights of individuals including female
employees of the AMWU.
The Way Forward
Support for the Free Craig Johnston Campaign is not a take it or leave
it issue. The Howard government is determined to destroy the
Australian trade union movement. It has already used the findings of
the Cole Royal Commission into the Building industry to expose the
vulnerability of the building unions in Victoria. The Free Craig
Johnston Campaign is a free kick for Howard because it equates
militant trade unionism to bullying, violence, intimidation and death
We do not support, and we are not asking you to support, the jailing
of Craig Johnston. We are not supporting the sentencing actions of the
criminal courts in this, or other, particular cases. What we are
asking you to do is to understand that the Free Craig Johnston
Campaign is a vehicle of the Socialist Alliance to attack the
leadership of left unions in Australia and to divert us from the unity
required to combat the attacks of the Howard
Australian working people need strong militant unions. Genuine
militant unions are based on the solidarity of men and women members,
and their families, taking well informed and democratic decisions
which the public can understand.
The union movement will only win the coming battle through its own
solidarity, its determination to fight back, and its credibility with
the Australian people.
We urge you to take on board this information about the Free Craig
Johnston Campaign as you, or your union or community organisation, is
challenged on this issue in the coming weeks.
We urge you to discuss the impending attack on workers' rights in your
own organisation, network and community, and to join in a
broadly-based campaign against Howard's industrial policy. The
Australian people can win this important fight if we unite on the
fundamental principles of democracy, equality and solidarity and we
are not diverted on the basis of lies, misinformation and political
Drafted by Unionists Against Violence
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