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Communist Party of Australia (M-L) statement on life of Clarrie O’Shea
(from Vanguard Aug 26, 1998)
Clarrie O’Shea was a fighter for the working class all his life. He played a prominent role in many struggles, including the great national movement against the penal powers in 1969.
In recent times, despite poor health, he publicly spoke and campaigned against the extensive attacks being made today against trade unions, people’s rights and living standards.
Over many decades he sought after the correct road for the winning of socialism in Australia where the people would be supreme. As a close colleague of Ted Hill and others. He played an important role in the foundation of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) in 1964 and in its subsequent development, serving as Vice-Chairman for a number of years.
He had many connections throughout the community and his advice and assistance were widely sought by workers and others as they waged their struggles. He made many contributions to the development of solidarity between Australian and other peoples.
The CPA (M-L) extends its warm sympathy and condolences to his family and friends.
Clarrie O’Shea’s life of steadfast service to the ordinary people inspires all who carry on the struggle.
Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist)
“Clarrie O’Shea was a special person”
(from Vanguard Aug 25, 1998.)
Clarrie O’Shea was a special person.
He lived, heart and soul, for the working class of which he was a member.
It was natural, then, that he joined the Communist Party and learnt the science of class struggle and socialism. Clarrie was never in any doubt about the truth of Marxism. As a staunch fighter against attempts to revise Marxism and adapt it to capitalism, that is, to extract the revolutionary kernel from it, Clarrie had no hesitation in joining with the late E.F. Hill, in forming the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist).
In doing so he continued to hold high the banner of Communism. Clarrie was a fearless fighter. This was demonstrated for all Australia to see when he stood firm against the Arbitration Court’s attempts to seize the funds of the Tramways Union (which he led) under the penal provisions of the Arbitration Court. Clarrie said at the time that someone had to take a stand. He took it.
He was imprisoned. The capitalist class, however, underestimated the fighting mood of the Australian working class. Nearly one million of them downed tools behind the demand for Clarrie O’Shea’s release. Their action stood in bold contrast to the ACTU leadership of the time who tried to play down the dispute. The character of these leaders never changes. They are promoted and manipulated by the bosses.
Similarly, the Labor Party leaders. They remained silent during the struggle for the release of Clarrie. They didn’t even give lip service of support. The Labor Party had previously passed good resolutions opposing the penal clauses but when the crunch came did nothing about them. Since being in office the Labor government has refused to repeal the penal provisions but in fact have strengthened them. The many calls made by unions for their repeal have fallen on deaf ears.
The demand of the working class was quickly agreed to and the penal provisions of the Act were shown to be a paper tiger in the face of the united action of the Australian workers.
Clarrie O’Shea had a fine sense of proletarian internationalism. He visited China many times and played a big part in building the Australia-China Friendship Society. He worked hard in promoting the friendship between the peoples of the two countries by organising and sometimes leading delegations of Australians on visits to People’s China.
Clarrie O’Shea had a full, rich life in struggling for the emancipation of the Australian working class.
He will be sadly missed but his splendid example will live on.
Memorial meeting to Clarrie O’Shea “turned grief into strength”
(from Vanguard Aug 25, 1988)
When a respected trade union or other working class leader dies, the working people who were associated with them have two reactions: one of deep grief and sadness over the loss, irrespective of age, of someone they loved as a person who stood firm by them over the years in their constant day-to-day battles with the exploiters and two, a strong determination to turn their grief into strength to meet the struggles to come.
This was the overwhelming impression gained from the memorial meeting last Sunday to Clarrie O’Shea, the tram workers’ revered leader who died last week.
The meeting was held in Unity Hall, for many years the home of the Tramways Union. It was filled to capacity with workers and other people who came to pay their respects to a man who, in the words of J. Arrowsmith, the well-known labour historian, “is etched deeply in the history of the labour movement and which will never be erased”.
After the main speakers had made their addresses of eulogy, the meeting was thrown open to anyone wishing to tell some anecdote or express their feelings. It was at this point that the determination of those present to turn their grief into strength dominated the proceedings. Many told of how Clarrie had helped them, of how he had fearlessly confronted the boss on their behalf and with what esteem they held Clarrie.
One speaker summed up the feeling of everybody when he said: “Clarrie is gone but his memory will never die. Let us really honour it by getting into the struggle with renewed vigour. That’s how Clarrie would like to be remembered. His example can still and will still lead us”.
Watch Loz Lawrey's great song about Clarrie O'Shea here
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