Review and Resolve [poem, 9 April 1940]

[Editor: A poem by R.J. Cassidy. Published in The Worker (Brisbane), 9 April 1940.]

Review and Resolve

Labor Journalist Wins Jubilee Poem Competition

In New South Wales, where Labor is celebrating its Golden Jubilee, it was decided to hold a Jubilee Labor Poem Competition. The judges have awarded the prize to Mr. R. J. Cassidy, who, under the pen-name of “Demos,” submitted “Review and Resolve,” which told in verse the story of the workers’ fight for industrial emancipation and the achievements of their great Movement over the 50 years Labor is now celebrating.

Mr. Cassidy is a member of the literary staff of the “Australian Worker” (Sydney), having been employed by the A.W.U. journal for the past 27 years. He has been a Labor journalist all his life. His attitude to the future of Labor is summed up in the final verse of his winning poem. It expresses the sentiment that whatever gains Labor has made in the past they are only the basis for the consummation of Labor’s highest ideals — that there are greater fields ahead to conquer.

“Review and Resolve” is as follows:

What is the story of Labor but one of struggle and pain,
Of ruthless rebuff (much more than enough), and of grim resolve again?
In bitter, blighted beginnings, vicissitudes ever vile,
Its pioneers then were determined men, possessing a faith worth while.

Think back to strikes of shearers and the squatters’ union ban;
Aye, review that past, and observe how vast was its future-shaping plan!
Some went to jail, but they did not quail, for never yet prison bars
Have blotted from sight in the blackest night the gleams of our guiding stars!

Think back to the miners striking, think back and what do we find?
The will to declare for an increased share of the wealth from danger mined;
The pluck to face privation till all but hope was gone,
But the slogan then (a slogan of MEN) was, “Fight, and keep fighting on!”

Think back to the ships that were coffins, with frail, wormy planks between
Their crews and the zone wherein Davy Jones and his prowling sharks were keen;
Then unionists became saviours, and long were their fights, and fine —
Resulting to-day in a non-slave pay and the precious Plimsoll line.

Review the first-born Labor leagues in many a timid town,
When, with purpose grand, met a little band — plain people of no renown;
But folk aware of woeful wrong, of a system in decay,
Who, in language plain, said, “Construct again for Emancipation’s Day.”

Look back to now-dim elections, when our candidates were told
That making the laws (no matter their flaws) was a right the Rich must hold;
Aye, stormy days and tormented were those, with relentless raps,
But our champions brave no ground e’er gave in spite of their handicaps.

Think back to the base “blackbirding” for the Queensland sugar fields —
Their history wet with Kanaka sweat and black for slavery’s yields;
Then the Labor Movement’s veto a target became for scorn;
But, oh, in that act (what a famous fact!) was our White Australia born!

Look back on our Labor papers, exposing each greedy gang —
On “The Hummer” thin (how it strove to win) and the Brisbane “Boomerang”;
Review “The Worker’s” struggles, and those of our dailies new,
How each had to fight the exploiters’ might with resources all too few.

Look back on those years hard-bitten, revealing a record good —
Aye, a fearless fight, with its goals the right and a Workers’ Brotherhood.
But also look to the future, with ever new goals in mind,
And the gains we’ll get will be greater yet than those we have left behind.

— R. J. Cassidy, 1940.

The Worker (Brisbane, Qld.), Tuesday 9 April 1940, page 9

Editor’s notes:
Plimsoll line = a waterline marked on the side of ships, which must be visible above the water (so as to prevent ships being overloaded, subsequently settling too low in the water, and thus being liable to capsize in turbulent seas); named after Samuel Plimsoll (1824-1898), a British Member of Parliament who campaigned to make such waterlines compulsory by law, so as to prevent the heavy loss of life caused by ships being overloaded

[Editor: Correction: Added an opening quotation mark to the start of “Boomerang”.]

Speak Your Mind