by Don Franks
Way back in the bad old days before cell phones and computers, I helped a fellow car factory militant campaign for a union position. My mate belonged to what was then called the Engineers Union, at that time one of the more conservative unions on the block.
We argued over and drafted out a leaflet, laboriously ran off copies on a gestetner and, with the help of some other friends, made early morning distributions at several factory gates. Other election leaflets were left on smoko room tables and a few passed around in the pub.
Although aware it was an uphill battle, we nevertheless enjoyed the process, feeling that with our considerable effort we’d given it our best shot. Alas, my mates opponent had a far more effective election strategy and romped in. His method had simply been to declare “ I am not and have never been a communist”.
Although the Cold War had just about done its dash by the early seventies, there was still mileage to be had from emptying the bogey word. Never mind that several known communist union leaders were amongst the most hard working and effective workers representatives. The word had become, in some circles, such synonym for all things evil that its power could shut down any consideration of facts or exchange of ideas.
Times change and the word communist has become enfeebled as a device to close off debate. The tired old word must be envious of the stroppy young upstart ruling the roost today. “I am not and have never been a TERF” may well be an effective union election slogan for a candidate otherwise bereft of ideas. Why not, the new magic word has shown its ability to completely shut off discussion of alternative views, even on a Facebook page for union members.