Builders’ Labourers’ History of Australia

Produced by Len Teasdale (Darce Cassidy) for 3CR 1977

This is a history of struggles for rights against Australian authorities. It calls out the myth of passive Aboriginal resistance and covers the Eureka Rebellion, the 16 month Lithgow miners strike and struggles up to 1975. Phil Court and Dan Hellier narrate this documentary they also co-wrote The Builders’ Labourers’ Songbook. In the doco they call themselves Joe and Mario (a Mario with a Scottish accent). As members of the Builders’ Labourers’ Union they wanted to avoid being blacklisted. (from Radical Radio celebrating 40 years of 3CR)

Thanks to Mark Rohde for contacting me with copies of the first two episodes. I found the third episode at the bottom of a box of old cassettes.

Episode 1 1788- 1850
Episode 2 1854 – 1890’s
Episode 3 1900’s to 1975

In the mid 1970’s Darce helped establish 3CR community radio in Melbourne. Darce broadcast at 3CR under the name of Len Teasdale. He was working as Head of Special Projects at ABC radio in Melbourne, employees were not permitted to broadcast for other organisations.

The following radio grab from 3CR in 1977 is Darce as Len Teasdale promoting the series – The Builders’ Labourer’s History of Australia. Dur: 1’03

More on 3CR Melbourne Community Radio here: 3CR

Stifling the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign 1970-71

Darce Cassidy wrote the article below to expose those who would stifle action and policy within the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign in 1970-71. It identifies the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) as the main culprit because it used the party’s left history as cover for its right-wing attempt to dampen activists’ spirit and to enhance the parliamentary prospects of the Australian Labor Party (ALP). In particular, both parties sought to thwart expressions of opposition to the US Australia Alliance (ANZUS

Bernie Taft, the then president of the Victorian Branch of the CPA, has attempted to answer the gist of Darce’s article in his memoir, Crossing the Party Line., However, his book has confirmed it and has inadvertently exposed how the CPA attempted to suppress the effect that Worker Student Alliance (WSA) and other militant activists had on Moratorium policy.

This article appeared in a four-page broadsheet leaflet called, The Communist Party is Behind the Moratorium – Way Behind. The title article was by Brian Laver and described similar activity by the CPA in Queensland. The article has been scanned and processed through an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) program and the consequent errors have been corrected. Otherwise, this is a complete copy of the original. Any mistakes are mine. By Nick Butler

The Worker-Student Alliance and the Anti-War Movement By Darce Cassidy

The organization of the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign in Victoria has been marked by long and often bitter debates over the course the campaign should follow.

This debate is neither new to the anti-war movement, nor peculiar to Victoria. The basic differences underlying the debate have existed both here and interstate for many years.

By and large, this debate has been between the Congress for International Co-operation and Disarmament (the Association for International Co-operation and Disarmament in Sydney, and the Campaign for Peace in Vietnam in Adelaide) supported by the Communist Party and the ALP., on the one hand; and revolutionary youth and workers on the other.

In this debate two issues continually arise:

1. The issue of naming the aggressor and
2. Concern for the electoral prospects of the ALP.

That these issues continue to be debated both here and interstate is a result of the fundamental ideological differences which divide the two groupings, differences which ultimately boil down to support for revolution as opposed to reform of the existing system.

Naming the Aggressor

We have always rejected the view, put forward by left ALP politicians, that the conflict in Vietnam is a civil war. We reject the view, expressed at a demonstration outside Pentridge gaol last year by Gordon Bryant MHR, that the North Vietnamese and NLF forces are murderers, just as bad as the Americans.[i]

In our view the Vietnamese people are not only fighting a just war for the liberation of their own country, but since their struggle is directed against the common enemy of mankind, United States imperialism, they are fighting in the interests of the oppressed people of all the world.

Silence is Consent

There are those within the peace movement, particularly the so-called Communist Party, who purport to share this view of imperialism as the cause of wars, and in particular the Vietnam war. Why then don’t we hear this analysis put more frequently within the peace movement?

The sad fact is that not only do many of these pseudo-revolutionaries not put forward such a view within the peace movement, but they actively or passively prevent others from raising the issue.

Gagged

It happened only yesterday. At a meeting of the Schools Moratorium Campaign yesterday afternoon a motion was put naming the United States as the cause of the war. The motion was gagged with the argument: “Yes, we agree with you but you shouldn’t say that here. You might scare away the peace parsons.” If ‘silence is consent’, if failure to oppose reactionary ideas amounts to passive acceptance of them does not active suppression of correct ideas amount to collaboration?

If the Communist Party (to take one of the groups opposed to us) agrees that United States imperialism has been responsible for the war in Vietnam why has it always been left to us (the Worker-Student Alliance, Monash Labor Club and others) to oppose the view that war is due to ‘human nature’ or that Vietnam is ‘an aberration of the great American democratic tradition’. Why was it left to the Worker-Student Alliance to oppose Bryant at Pentridge last year when he made his scandalous statement that the NLF were murderers? Why did no one else speak in opposition?

If other groups in the anti-war movement agree that the US is the aggressor why did they stand by and let CICD prevent the Monash Labor Club putting that view on July 4, 1967. Why was Bloomers allowed to get away with stopping the Labor Club from burning an American flag that day? Do they all go along with the ALP policy of support for the American alliance? Is that why they stood by and let that view be suppressed?[ii]

‘We don’t agree with the way Sam runs things. Perhaps he is manipulative sometimes,’ say some members of the CPA. Well why don’t they do some-thing about it instead of attacking the revolutionaries?

Whatever some members of the CPA say in private the public stand of others like Taft Jr. and Carmichael is a very different one. They publicly accuse the Worker Student Alliance and the Vietnam Co-Ordinating Committee of manipulation. They do this knowing that militants were deliberately excluded from the initial meetings of the Moratorium, that organizations not informed of the initial meetings include the Monash Labor Club, the Worker-Student Alliance and the Vietnam Co-ordinating Committee in Melbourne, Resistance in Sydney and the Revolutionary Socialist Alliance in Brisbane. In private certain members concede the manipulation but in public they say nothing.

Plaintively the CPA writes: ‘It seems some people can’t or don’t want to be convinced about the good will of the Communist Party.’

If the past ten years of work in the peace movement has taught us nothing then the past ten weeks of the Moratorium has made things crystal clear.

The heavy hand of the numbers game has made debate organizationally irrelevant. That same hand has cast motions carried at both general and executive meetings to the rubbish heap of history.

Revision

In vain a meeting of several hundred people at Richmond Town Hall carried a motion to occupy the streets of Melbourne. In vain, because those with “the numbers” on the executive revised the meaning of “occupy”. It simply means to be in the city, it was claimed. According to this argument someone riding down Collins Street in a tram was `occupying’ the city. Given our own opposition to this interpretation that revision could not have gone through without at least the passive support of the so called Communists.

Numbers Game

Having failed to have identifying the aggressor adopted as one of the minimum slogans of the campaign a compromise motion was passed directing that all propaganda issued centrally by the VMC name the Americans as the aggressors in Vietnam.

Looking at the literature and publicity issued centrally however it is clear that the motion was pretty well a waste of time. With the exception of one of the four official posters and the broadsheet (which at least made the point in the fine print) it is difficult to see where the Moratorium publicity has branded the United States as the aggressor.

Now what happened when this fact was pointed out in relation to the four posters issued centrally? There was no doubt that the people responsible for the posters had completely disregarded the motion. They failed in their job. A motion of no confidence was the proper course. Well what happened to that motion? After minimum debate it was gagged and then defeated. The heavy hand of the numbers game once again.

Is there any wonder that we are not convinced of the goodwill of the people who gagged that debate? Is there any wonder that we are suspicious of people who either disregard motions moved or condone such action?

The A.L.P.

No one is particularly surprised when people like Gordon Bryant make the kind of statements they do. Betrayals such as this are of the sort that are forced upon even sincere people by the nature of the parliamentary system in our society. Such conduct is understandable if not forgivable.

It is not immediately apparent however why people who are not directly tied to reformist parliamentary politics should condone and passively support such action.

One theory as to why they have in this case suggests that they do so because of their isolation from, and lack of confidence in, the working people.

A long history of working through the institutions of capitalism (like parliament, the press and the union hierarchy) rather than among the people has isolated them from real mass contact. Thus the view that `we can’t offend the Labor Party’ or ‘the union bureaucrats won’t come at that’ or ‘that will scare the peace parsons’. As if they were the peace movement!

Working Class

The working class is essential to the anti war movement, but the working class is not union bureaucrats and it is most emphatically not Labor parliamentarians. The working class are the people that we work side by side with, it is up to us to go among them and win them to a position of opposition to the war in Vietnam. They must be persuaded that imperialism is the cause of war and that the best way to fight war is to fight its cause, to smash imperialism. That this aim will not be achieved overnight, nor in defiance of objective conditions, ought not to deter us from that aim.

Our Attitude to Other Groups in the Peace Movement

We believe that there is a place for a broad peace movement including many different points of view. Such a movement should in the present circumstances include all those who wish to see the war in Indo-China ended in the interests of the people there, and of justice generally. Within such a broad peace movement there should be free debate to enable differences to be ironed out and a higher degree of unity, based on the give and take of argument, reached. There should be no place for manipulation, the numbers game and the gag.

Unity should be achieved at the highest possible level and not the lowest. Socialists should continually strive through debate, discussion and practical action to raise that level.

At this stage the great majority of the peace movement believes that the United States government is to blame for the Indo-China war. At this stage opposition to US intervention and the branding of the US as the aggressor ought to be policy which we unite on.

Given that policy as the lowest common denominator we should work within the peace movement to convince those who do not already agree that wars of national liberation, and in particular that in Indo-China, ought to be supported.

Furthermore, the idea ought to be raised and debated within the peace movement that Imperialism is the cause of war and that it ‘is our duty, as opponents of war, to fight imperialism wherever it is.

By Darce Cassidy


[i] Gordon Bryant was the Labor MHR for the electorate of Wills.

[ii] “Bloomers” and “Sam” were the same person: Sam Goldbloom who acted as the chair of the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign.

Jon Cassidy: journalist and leader of radical organisations

Published in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald July 12, 2019 — 8.45am

Jon Cassidy – known as Darce – was an accomplished journalist, photographer, staunch unionist, energetic campaigner for social justice, Indigenous and workers’ rights, renowned cook and major force in alternative media.

Cassidy’s father Ralph was a barrister who joined the RAAF in 1941, dying in a plane crash soon after. His mother Audrey was a dress designer. He was educated at Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore) where one of his teachers noted that “it is obvious that Jon is very capable, but does not work hard enough to put himself completely at the top”.

He enrolled in Law at Sydney University but instead became a radical journalist, launching an irreverent, uncensored, underground journalism through news sheets, adopting the slogan “All power grows out of the barrel of a Gestetner” (a now obsolete stencil duplicating machine) and enraging university and high school authorities.

Darce Cassidy, ABC journalist and and protester.
Darce Cassidy, ABC journalist and and protester.

Cassidy joined the ABC in 1964, initially as a researcher on Four Corners followed by stints on AM, PM and numerous Radio National programs, including Lateline, Broadband and Background Briefing. He was a journalist for over thirty years and the Melbourne manager of Radio Special Projects (later Talks and Documentaries). He was a long-time official of the ABC Staff Union, first as NSW branch secretary and then as Victorian secretary, a position he won from the incumbent right-wing leadership in a bitterly fought election. His last ABC position was South Australian manager.

In the 1960s Cassidy was a significant leader in radical organisations, including the Maoist-led Monash University Labour Club and the Worker Student Alliance.

He openly supported the Vietnamese armed struggle against US occupation and like other advocates of militant protest he was regularly slandered.

Bob Santamaria’s right-wing magazine Newsweekly campaigned to oust him from his “subversive” influence at the ABC, claiming he was a terrorist. Management obtained advice from ASIO that Darce was a revolutionary, not a terrorist, whose role in producing book reviews for Radio National did not threaten national security.

One of his earliest protests occurred in May 1964 when he took his mother’s old wooden washing line supports and a 44-gallon drum emblazoned with KKK to a demonstration at Sydney’s Wynyard Park. In a symbolic gesture of support for the US civil rights movement he lit it, so it resembled the burning cross used by the Ku Klux Klan to terrorise African-Americans.

Darce Cassidy protest-  a symbolic gesture of support for the US civil rights movement.
Darce Cassidy protest- a symbolic gesture of support for the US civil rights movement.

The following year he was a participant in the Freedom Ride, a bus tour which exposed endemic racism towards Indigenous people in rural Australia. During the journey through western NSW there were several heated confrontations, including a life-threatening incident when the bus was run off the road.

Cassidy took along a recorder, documenting the discrimination of local whites towards their Indigenous neighbours. The ultra-conservative ABC management censored these tapes, but he kept them under his bed until they were broadcast on Radio National many years later. He often revisited the towns along the Freedom Ride’s itinerary to support Indigenous peoples’ fight for equal rights.

Alongside his mainstream journalism Cassidy was active in alternative media, as a volunteer broadcaster and board member of 3CR, one of Australia’s first community radio stations, also writing for Nation Review and New Journalist.

He recorded the then obscure Redgum, paving the way for the band’s stellar success. He had a long involvement in training and education. In the early days of community radio he developed training courses for 3CR, SBS radio and numerous community radio stations. In the early 1980s he joined the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology’s Advisory Committee, helping design the first media studies course and later lecturing in broadcasting law and policy.

After retiring, Cassidy became the first executive director of Electronic Frontiers Australia, leading the fight for the liberalisation of encryption technology, against government proposals for tighter Internet censorship and in support of transparency in relation to phone and email surveillance.

Cassidy was active in multicultural broadcasting as executive director of the National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters’ Council. He was instrumental in transforming the Save Our SBS group from a club into an active and effective incorporated association.

Cassidy also took a keen interest in cooking and his curries and laksas were famous for their intensity. He was adept at preparing many Italian dishes and enjoyed both kinds of reds – wine and Coopers – and the occasional cigar. He was an accomplished photographer, recording protests, conversations and arguments and even the delight of his two-year old daughter enjoying her first sherbet. His landscapes have a tremendous sense of light, colour and texture and exquisite composition.

In his last years, after his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, Cassidy joined the Australian Greens and campaigned for the rights of refugees. He is survived by his daughter Anna (whom he had with Julie Rigg), his wife of 35 years Jan Smith and their son Michael.

Jan Smith, Anna Rigg and Mark Aarons

Jon “Darce” Cassidy, 1941-2019

3CR Community Radio Melbourne

The Voice of Reason at 3CR

Darce Cassidy, Alan Roberts and Bill Hartley during a live roundtable debate on 3CR 1984
Photo Jan Smith

By Greg Segal, Senior Engineer 3CR

When I turned up at 3CR in 1978 the place was pretty tumultuous, with threats from the Jewish Board of Deputies complicated by the Red Maoists yelling at the Blue Maoists, etc.  For a somewhat naive 24 year old it was a bit overwhelming.

Darce was one of the voices of reason in all that noise, with a welcoming smile for a newbie.  I admired him for debating ideas, not people as individuals.  I realised he was not judging me, just listening and discussing.  After a while I also appreciated how skilled he was in trying to find common ground between rivals.  I think he deserves much of the credit for 3CR emerging from that era as a much stronger and more unified organisation.
……………………………………..

Audio of Darce broadcasting on 3CR

Many thanks to some of the original 3CR Breakfast broadcasters John Campbell and Brian Caddell for sending these audio excerpts of Darce broadcasting on 3CR using the nom de newsroom, Len Teasedale

Early 3CR broadcaster Brian Caddell crosses to Darce broadcasting on 3CR as Len Teasedale – 20 seconds
Darce in 1977 broadcasting on 3CR as Len Teasedale reading News he prepared- 90 seconds

Here’s John Campbell 3CR former breakfast presenter reflecting on Darce at 3CR:


I was involved in the establishment of 3CR and was one of the regular breakfast show presenters shortly after the station was launched.  I can hear now Darce’s encouraging and very informative voice in the meetings and passing chats that occurred at the station and elsewhere.  Perhaps he did not know it, but I’m sure that without him the station would have sounded far less effective.  Not just because his own on-air work was so good, but because he inspired others to aim to be as effective as they could, despite lacking the training he had taken via the ABC.

See also https://darcecassidy.com/2024/01/builders-labourers-history-of-australia/

Reflections on the Freedom Ride

Written by Brian Aarons, Ann Curthoys, Aidan Foy, Hall Greenland, Patricia Healy,
Alan Outhred, Warwick Richards, Jim Spigelman, on hearing of Darce Cassidy’s death.
They were members of the Students Action for Aborigines now known as the Freedom Riders.

We shared with Darce one of the most important experiences in all our lives: the Freedom Ride of February 1965, under the inspiring leadership of Charles Perkins. The Freedom Ride highlighted for all Australians the racism, deprivation and disadvantage suffered by the first Australians, Aboriginal people.

Darce made a valued contribution to the Freedom Ride in general, both in the planning and as a participant during its first week. However, his professional recordings as a cadet journalist with the ABC made a unique and outstanding contribution. They provided and still provide an invaluable historical record of the tumultuous events of that time.

Some of us were lucky to maintain regular or irregular contact with Darce over the half century since that time, including during Sydney University’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Ride in February 2015.

We are sad that he is no longer with us in person but his memory and spirit are still walking with Indigenous and other Australians on that long journey to social justice and equal rights for all.

SAFA bus and student protesters February 1965

Brian Aarons added:

On the results of the Freedom Ride, I think Ann Curthoys book “Freedom Ride” Allen and Unwin 2002, provides a very careful and objective assessment. However, any doubts about the event’s long-term impacts were well and truly put to rest in my mind during Sydney University’s 50th anniversary “recreation” of the Freedom Ride. I had been doubtful about that exercise and nearly didn’t take part.
However, the warm and enthusiastic response we received from the Aboriginal communities of Dubbo, Walgett, Moree and others was astounding, revealing what I think none of us ever knew until that moment. The people of these communities made clear that, for them, the Freedom Ride was a major and overwhelmingly positive turning point in their histories, and in their relations with the wider community. (Incidentally, the wider communities of those towns also joined in the celebrations, no doubt with varying degrees of enthusiasm and understanding. The Moree Council took the prize in striking a special medal to commemorate the 50th anniversary: this from probably the most overtly racist town council of all at the time.)
Of course, as Ann says in her book, it was but one event that could not of itself even address all the problems, let alone stimulate solutions to them. She notes the longevity and intractability of many of them. But I think there can be little doubt that the Freedom Ride revealed to a smug and complacent nation the racism, dispossession and abject disadvantage that Australia foisted on Aboriginal people.
As a final point in what could be an endless list, I often note when speaking about the Freedom Ride that the racists of those towns made the Freedom Ride by their hostile and sometimes violent reactions, starting with the young redneck grazier who ran our bus off the road late one night as we drove out of Walgett headed for Moree. It was QED for our reasons for being there, and ensured that from then on the Freedom Ride was front and centre of media coverage.
To end where we began: Darce’s priceless recordings of those events provide but one of his many legacies for the movements and causes that he was so much a part of … and, dare I say, to Australia as a whole.

Hall Greenland added:

I worried during the 65 tour that we were outsiders foisting ourselves on the locals. As the bus tour unfolded that anxiety receded. The local indigenous communities were delighted with our support and solidarity. In some places we chimed in with already initiated campaigns – I think it was a Kempsey that a young teenager had already started to try and bust the colour bar at the local cinema. Then with Darce, Sue Johnson, Owen Westcott, Sue-Anne Loftus et al following up it was even clearer to the indigenous people that this was not fleeting, fly-by-night support. This follow-up was essential reinforcement and reassurance. It’s great that the site is honouring Darce’s essential role in the unfolding of the anti-racist revolution [no less] in Australian consciousness that took place in the 60s. Darce was also there at the initial stages of this – in the solidarity with the South Africans after Sharpville and the campaign against the White Australia Policy.