A busy week for Anarchism in Geelong

by Geelong Anarchist Communists

There are very few things that are more heartening to workers than involvement in organised class struggle. It reminds us all of our power, our inherent common goals, and our ability to affect change for the better, united as one. And, much like a muscle, the more the working class utilises collective action, the more we strengthen our ability to conduct it in future.

As members of Geelong Anarchist Communists, we all share a commitment to mass politics and large-scale organising, in recognition of the fact that the class war can only be won collectively, and not by individualist or vanguardist tactics. Therefore, our focus is on engaging fellow workers in the ‘practical school of socialism’, and through that practice building revolutionary capacity with our comrades via shared experience and struggle.

We engage with and support trade union struggles with the aim of ‘propagating revolutionary ideas, challenging bureaucratic forms of leadership, and raising the idea of winning struggles through direct action’.

Events outlined below, and the perspectives given on them, are examples of the work we – as members of Geelong Anarchist Communists – wish to support and foster in Geelong. It is our hope that this work, in the long run, will lead to the fulfilment of our goals and ideals, and more importantly the class interests of workers throughout Geelong.

MUA Rally outside Graincorp.

|28/6 – MUA Rally in support of sacked Svitzer workers|

On Monday the 28th of June GAC members were present at the Mackey Street rally to support former Svitzer tug workers in their fight for reinstatement and against the union-busting tactics of Svitzer. Many of the sacked workers had spent a significant portion of their working lives servicing the Geelong Port, providing invaluable labour to the local economy, and ensuring the functioning of the port itself. Svitzer repaid their experience and dedication by making 18 tugboat operators redundant just before Christmas 2020, justifying their actions by alleging that their operations in the Geelong Port were no longer profitable. Despite efforts by the MUA to negotiate the reinstatement of the 18 workers, Svitzer will re-enter the port 6 months later and utilise FIFO labour-hire workers (courtesy of Strategic Workforce Solutions) to fill their positions in a cynical attempt to maximise profits and bust unions in the Geelong Port (for more info see the MUA website).

Christie Cain from the CFMMEU urges unionists to hold all politicians to account.

Unionism in Geelong can be a mercurial beast, with the rampant de/non-regulation of worker conditions in hospitality and retail and the slow privatisation and defunding of the health and disability and aged care sectors (two of the largest broad sectors of employment in the region) receiving little to no visible opposition from the perspective of workers, it’s our hope that this new wave of trade union involvement in Geelong continues with strong support into the future.

GAC members also conducted leafleting during the rally for the 2nd of July strike and rally by Geelong Regional Libraries workers, with largely positive support from trade unionists and other attendees.

Workers, activists and the community rally outside the doors of Geelong Library.

|2/7 – Geelong Library Strike and Rally for better wages and conditions|

Friday the 2nd was the date of another major development in the worker’s struggle in Geelong, as staff walked off the job at the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre and began their strike a little before 3pm. We were again present to lend our support and leafleted the event with QR codes linked to a donation pool set up for the striking workers to cover lost wages and costs (note: not set up by GAC).

Geelong Regional Library Corporation is ranked as the best public library service in Victoria, and has been for the past 6 years, however staff are paid at a rate that ranks 45th out of 49 public library services in Victoria. Calls to address this discrepancy have been shut down, with the reason being cited as the difference in cost of living between Geelong and Melbourne (despite this being completely untrue).

In addition to this, staff have requested steps be taken to address the safety issues that workers face, such as the need for safe car parks for workers who must leave the CBD library after dark, ‘naloxone training and kits, longer security guard hours and the need for libraries to be staffed by two people at all times’ (quote courtesy of the “Support striking Geelong library workers!” Gofundme). The risk of violence and harm to workers is high for public library staff, and it should be the right of every worker to be able go to work without fear of injury or trauma.

There was a lot of cross-union support for all the actions in Geelong.

The strike and following rally were attended by comrades of all stripes, and it was excellent to see members of other trade unions, fellow anarchists and socialists, as well as members of the broader public showing support for the event. A strike by a workforce not often associated with unionism (by the general public) in the CBD of a major city is an important step in the direction of greater class consciousness and further direct action within industries that have traditionally been devoid of a strong union presence, and is exactly the example that other comrades in Geelong can follow in their respective workplaces. In light of recent actions taken by Hospo Voice to introduce a tiered membership structure based on rates of dues that excludes lower-tiered members from accessing tools and features that are generally considered to be the entire point of trade union membership, the GRLC strike is an example of how people can organise by and for themselves within a workplace to great effect, and utilise trade union structures only when necessary to further the cause of the workers in question, thereby maintaining their own agency and autonomy without ceding ground to corporatist and bureaucratic elements that can be evident in modern trade unions.

GAC will continue to back the GRLC workers in their ongoing fight for fair pay and conditions, come what may.

Posters for events and causes GAC supports.

|4/7 – Geelong Feminist Reading Group’s first meeting! |

Sunday the 4th of July saw the inaugural meeting of the Geelong Feminist Reading Group, convened by GAC with the much-appreciated support and participation of comrades from Socialist Alliance Geelong and Geelong Women Unionists Network, as well as unaffiliated attendees. All present enjoyed insightful discussion on the selected introductory text ‘Theories on Gender’, by S. Srivastava (more info at Geelong Feminists on FB), as well as broader discussion on the topics contained within the text.

Reading groups are a fundamental part of building revolutionary and organisational capacity, as they act as a focal point for both the fostering of theoretical and tactical clarity, as well as discussion that promotes and extends intersectionality between different perspectives. It is easy to dismiss something like a reading group as trivial, but they are in fact an essential part of community-building in political spaces, and can often serve as a point of entry for those who are just beginning their journey into political consciousness.

Many thanks to all who attended for participating and contributing to the meeting as a whole, and specifically also to our comrades mentioned above, without whom we couldn’t have hoped for such a wonderful first run. It is so incredibly refreshing to be a part of such a respectful and constructive space, and such events are a reminder that there is another side to politics – one in which we all share an interest, and can work co-operatively to construct a methodology that addresses certain subjects and issues based on lived experience and mutual understanding.

We all very much look forward to the next meeting, and to participating in more fantastic conversations on feminism and feminist theory!

Strength and solidarity to all the wonderful comrades GAC members worked and crossed paths with, and to all the workers of Geelong and throughout the world who continue to fight for a better world now, and for the future!