Posted by: daviemacdonald | January 19, 2012

“Bread & Roses” Mobilising for the Environment

Some months back I was elected as one of 2 conveners for the (Labor Environment Action Network) New South Wales:

LEAN is an Australian Labor Party fringe organisation theoretically comprising  a network of grassroots Labor Members from across Australia who are committed to action on climate change and sustainability.

The reality is unfortunately quite different.

Originally elected as the convener for the ACT branch it would be an understatement to write that I ran in to a huge body of apathy and lack of action with the National Executive.

Any correspondence with the central body was ignored and as the Federal Election of 2010 approached  the response of the LEAN membership in the ACT was to retreat from action on the premise that the focus of activity needed to be on the Election as if the environment was not a key battle ground.

The contradiction of this response is that  Climate change or Global Warming as I call it was not only a key part of our Labor Government’s platform but it was one of the single most important issues of the Australian community.

In the course of the election as is known by those who have read earlier post to this blog I had  to  re-locate back to Sydney for personal and health reasons.


The LEAN organisation it has to be said I met in Sydney was equally apathetic and lacked any focus or ability to mobilise the community to take action locally against Global Warming. It was either unable and wouldn’t muster the energy to galvanise members of the Labor Party or Labour movement into any form of cohesive action.

The ground was given up to the Party of the “Greens” and to the “Get Up” organisation.

What we found was that voters who might be otherwise described as left leaning Social Democrats defected with their votes to the Greens. Meanwhile in the new space of social media and “youth” the space was given up to “Get Up”


Though this post is not about an analysis of either the Greens or Get Up to put some context in passing it should be acknowledged that these organisations are moving forward. This is especially so with Get Up with no direct Party affiliation conducted itself with vision and is a refreshing addition to the Australian Political Scene.


To digress slightly GetUp  describes itself as “an independent, grass-roots community advocacy organisation which aims to build a more progressive Australia by giving everyday Australians the opportunity to get involved and hold politicians accountable on important issues.”



The Greens on the other hand are a Party targeted at Parliament and the cornerstone of their organisation they say is to “provide a real alternative to the tired, cynical politics of Labor and the Liberal party”. Unlike the two old parties, the Greens have a proud history of standing up for what is right, not just what is easy to say or what polls well.

The Greens also state: They are much more than an environmental party.  While promoting meaningful and smart solutions to ensure future generations of Australians have clean air, clean water and clean soil – the Greens are also working in many other areas to champion integrity, decency and fairness.


We in the Australian Labor Party need to really take note of this message from the electorate which clearly moved to the Greens and not to the Tories!

Why I don’t join the  Greens and why I choose to remain with the Labor Party is I am driven my belief in *Socialism and Trade Unionism. I have been involved in one way or another with the working class and will never cease from aligning myself with the Labour movement which has fought for and often died in the cause of Workers and Working Peoples rights.

I remain a “true believer”

Those struggles have often been local but the outcomes have been successful internationally.  Very we have often seen Women taking the lead. Classic exampleS being

the Right to vote,

Pacifism against the First World WAR (something that split the Pankhurst’s Mother and Daughters)

and in CONTEMPORARY times the tailors’ trimmers strike at Ford now subject of the film “Dagenham”.

Today we face another struggle the threat of Global Warming which threatens all of Humankind which brings me to the core of this post.


A plan to reinvigorate LEAN and to aid in its way recruitment to and return of disaffected members of the Australian Labor Party.

A POA (plan of Action)

Why I chose to title to title this POA “Bread and Roses”

So often we are it seems  embarrassed by our Labour roots that we have almost become apologists and so  confine ourselves to populism and just the electoral process. Most major advances for Men and Women in respect of social justice have their roots outside of a Parliament.

While a key objective of LEAN is to put forward progressive views and action on the environment it was not intended to be just another environmental group but one that is uniquely Labour and Socialist in its philosophy.

LEAN has the opportunity to alert people to the crisis of Global warming and Climate change while simultaneously showing that it is only the Labor party that is positioned well to lead and deliver the solutions to combat environmental degradation in Australia.

This battle is not for the faint hearted and we will receive setbacks from time to time but it is time to re-invigorate and re-launch the LEAN organisation.

It is time to take it to the streets, to our neighbours and our local communities.

It is the opportunity for us to play no small part in the recruitment of the “8000” new members set to us by our first female Prime Minister.

The slogan “Bread and Roses” represents a twofold approach

Roses representing the beauty of the environment we strive to protect, access and the environment we intend to reclaim.

Bread represents the grass-roots of our party and the continuing battle to maintain hard-won conditions of workers and working people but not at the exclusion of ethical large and small Business to participate in this globally important cause. It is also how we can demonstrate it makes economic sense to protect the environment

The slogan “Bread and Roses” is not mine!

It originated in a poem of that name by James Oppenheim attributed to the women who led the textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts during January March 1912

Women Strikers

Centenary of the Lawrence Textile Strike an inspiration for today

In 1912 the Lawrence Textile Strike united dozens of immigrant communities led by women. The popular mythology of the strike includes signs being carried by women reading

“We want bread, but we want roses, too!”

Lawrence, Massachusetts was the great woolen centre of 20,000 workers who walked out of the mills in spontaneous protest against a cut in their weekly pay. Workers had an average wage of $8.76 for a 56-hour working week. Half of all the city’s residents over the age of 14 worked in the mills.

I imagine the Flag is Red Children strike

When a state law made 54 hours the maximum for women and for minors under 18; the companies reduced the working week to 54 but the production quota remained the same.

Women mobilise for a Peacful Picket

The Bosses  refused to raise wage rates to make up for the average loss of wages per worker because of the reduction in hours.

This caused the walkout which rocked the great New England textile industry. Under the determined but peaceful leadership of Women the strike became front-page news throughout the United States.


A most significant part the strike was that it was a democracy not unlike the Occupy movement today. The strikers had a committee of 56, representing 27 different languages.

Pariots Just the Same

The employers would have to see all the committee to do any business with them. And immediately behind that committee was a substitute committee of another 56 prepared in the event of the original committee’s is being arrested. Every official in touch with affairs at Lawrence had a substitute selected to take her place in the event of being thrown in jail.

During the two months of the Lawrence strike, the best of the Labour movement was expressed

Direct non violent action

The prominent role of women

Participatory democratic decision-making

Egalitarianism and a Classless 99%


Below a picture of Clara Lemlich A Polish immigrant and a Jew and Political activist


And interesting parallel to this action today is the Occupy movement which shares many philosophical and strategic characteristics with the Lawrence strike not least its peaceful nature…that is of the activists not the behaviour of the authorities

Due to the violence of the authorities far from weakening the resolve of the strikers it acted in their favour with the Women Leaders refusing to be drawn to a physical battle even in the face of the  police killing a young woman Annie LoPizzo and a 16-year-old boy, as well as large-scale beating of women and children

1912 Army & Lawrence Textile Strike

A most significant part the strike was that it was a grass roots democracy not unlike the Occupy movement today.

The strikers had a committee of 56, representing 27 different languages. The employers would have to see all the committee to do any business with them. Immediately behind that committee was a substitute committee of another 56 prepared in the event of the original committee’s is being arrested.

Every official in touch with affairs at Lawrence had a substitute selected to take her place in the event of being thrown in jail like this picture of Syliva Pankhurst when she was sent to Holloway when fighting for the enfranchisement for Women.

Sylvia Pankhurst being force fed through her nose

LEAN in 10 Weeks?

Of course we do not face the threat of jail but the lack of LEAN activity in NSW means we are unlikely to even be known about by anybody outside the Party. It is time to get moving. We need to see some substantive advance in 10 weeks from now.

After ten weeks the New England textile strikers won important concessions from the Wool  companies for over 250,000 employees. Thought typical of the main stream media of the time is the article written below

Spin 1912

Do we not want bread and roses too?”

During one of the many parades conducted by the strikers some young girls carried a banner with the slogan:

“We want bread and roses too.” This inspired James Oppenheim to write his poem

“Bread and Roses,”

As we come marching, marching, in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill-lofts gray
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing, “Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses.”

As we come marching, marching, we battle, too, for men–
For they are women’s children and we mother them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes–
Hearts starve as well as bodies: Give us Bread, but give us Roses!

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient song of Bread;
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew–
Yes, bread we fight for–but we fight for Roses, too.

As we come marching, marching, we bring the Greater Days–
The rising of the women means the rising of the race–
No more the drudge and idler–ten that toil where one reposes–
But sharing of life’s glories: Bread and Roses, Bread and Roses

The Music score

LEAN 2012

It disturbed me to hear some observers and delegates to National Conference state that now the Carbon Tax was passed there was no longer a need for climate activism and more so no longer a purpose for LEAN.

I believe judging by their inactivity at conference in participating at our desk or our event or related events some LEAN members secretly harbor similar views. They can only be judged by their inactivity or perhaps worse it is a lack of our leadership.

We can leave it all to government but if we truly believe in creating a sustainable environment, and reducing carbon emissions action begins in and around the home, our local environment and how we choose to get to and from work, how we influence changes and what we do at work sustainably.

It annoyed me at the lack of participation of National LEAN members in attendance at conference who chose either to participate very little or not at all. This has to change.

Earning Bread

For over 100 years Labor’s vision, policies and leadership have been the foundation of a fair and just Australia.

We have promoted social and economic progress by defending Australians against attacks on their working and living conditions, ensuring a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work and opening opportunity for more people to succeed in life.

Now, in this time of global economic and environmental distress Labor must transform itself to meet unprecedented challenges.

With capacity unequaled at any time in human history for our talents and technology to overcome age-old problems of scarcity, disadvantage and poverty, Labor must rise to our mission to empower all people to achieve these ends in an environmentally sustainable way.

Sustainability has three key components:

  • recognition of the interdependence of social, economic and environmental well-being;
  • a focus on equity and fairness, and that we need to take account of the effect of our actions on others in an interdependent world; and
  • recognition that meeting the needs of today must not be at the expense of future generations being able to meet their own needs in a clean and healthy environment

Smelling Roses

Lean represents an exciting opportunity for the ALP to communicate a positive message re a myriad of environmental issues to the public and develop a better educated stronger and larger ALP in respect of the environment.

A membership that will grow to be a very powerful lobby to our government locally and federally providing we take personal responsibility something sadly lacking at conference

To achieve this LEAN has to change!

NSW Lean has moved away from factionalism and should remain non-factional.

It should focus on rank and file Party members to be approached during the change process to join.

But to join what and why? Not just something to be stuck on a political resume?

We have to be clear what our purpose is; has it changed or does it need to change from the original ideal

However LEAN should develop a network around NSW and ACT and build a presence in all existing state branches and establish regional LEAN branches that though accountable centrally are empowered to act autonomously working within the parameters established by the LEAN executive.

The current Party reform agenda provides LEAN today with a backdrop to reaffirm it is a grassroots and non- aligned Labor movement of members who holding a passion for the protection of the environment want to see the ALP membership grow and branches engage profoundly with their local neighbourhood community.

LEAN provides an opportunity for rank and file to be a conduit from Government and Party hierarchy in matters of the environment via the rank and file membership to engagement of the “local” community and community groups.

This process will uncover “friends” of Labor in matters of the environment locally, create a sense of purpose for members and empowerment while engaging in activity that will not only advance the cause of Labor but will touch the senses. The “smelling of the roses” I call it. Something that brings pleasure as we act in the community.

We in LEAN NSW can take a leading role in this initiative and forge the correct and positive role in the communications process regarding information about the environment internally and externally and identify solutions.

This is an opportunity to position LEAN as the Leading Party Ginger Group at the forefront of shaping government thinking in terms not only of policy (a big call) but at least locally broadcasting that policy more directly to the community as a whole and providing listening post back to Government.

However true to a Lean tag line “Grassroots action” it is important that we gain active support from the unions and encourage real participation from Young Labor…after all it is theirs as well as our [future] planet that we (those of us in our twilight years) put at risk.

We need to “Just do it √”

The Labor Renewal agenda is focused on increasing the power of rank and file member over policy development and driving greater engagement between the Party and the community.

What is critical to the future of LEAN NSW /ACT is that it is substantially non factional in its approach and from all initial discussions we are clearly agreed on this.

Why include Australian Capital Territory ACT

At the present time there is within the ACT no-one person or persons currently positioned to advance LEAN in the Canberra Territory and since the ACT falls Geographically within NSW is close to Queanbeyan, Goulbourn and YASS it makes sense to incorporate or associate any ACT LEAN branch for the time being with LEAN NSW.

It also makes sense; as cross-border issues relating to water, transport and other service delivery, as well as the opportunities for improved good environmental economic development across all of the NSW “AREA” makes it imperative FOR a NSW ACT regional approach to drive growth of LEAN  if only for the short term until such time the ACT as strength to act independently.

This has been discussed with members of the ACT ALP branch and our own NSW and National executive

Our 3 main Goals:

  • Growing an active and supportive membership within the NSW and ACT branches.
  • Empowering members to act locally and autonomously.
  • Connecting with local community

Sub Goals

  • Strengthen social cohesion with Unions and ALP members in their local Community
  • Improve quality, diversity and the character of the community life we engage in
  • Reconcile community partnership and ALP leadership within the Community
  • Identify at least one  LEAN member in an ALP branch
  • Provide support to that member or members to act locally with confidence
  • Achieve flexibility in local ALP LEAN decision-making to speedily respond to local community issues
  • Create better city-regional linkages by creating regional LEAN branches e.g. South Coast, Far South Coast, ACT, West Sydney, S Sydney/ Illawarra, Sydney City & East, Central Coast, Far North Coast, North West….etc
  • Empower Local LEAN communities to identify and act on initiatives

We need to be very  clear what LEANs’ objective are:

Do we want the Planet to look like Mars

Imagine this is what Scientists tell us Mars probably looked like

Look familiar

1)  Recognise that we need to return to a safe climate as fast as possible. We ask all Labor parliamentarians to work with the community to understand the climate emergency and scale and need of urgent action.

2) At home: Commit to creating a Clean New Deal in industry, employment and innovation. The transition to a low carbon economy offers the Australian government the chance to create a new manufacturing base, highly skilled jobs across rural and regional Australia and introduce the necessary education programs for a low carbon workforce in the Asia-Pacific region. There is significant evidence that a Clean New Deal approach or a ‘clean jobs revolution’ will kick-start and protect the Australian economy.

3) World Wide: Understand that this is an important international human rights issue and that the government needs to re-invigorate and take a leading role through international forums and the United Nations to again draw  world attention the impact Global warming and climate change will have on creating the pre-conditions for Global conflict.

4) Our Region: In particular, Australia should undertake co-operatively with all countries within Australia’s region of influence an audit of the cultural, economic, environmental and civil resilience.

In this way we can work with our neighbours building a humane response to the increased water, food, fuel pollution and land stresses they face.

Going forward in 2012? Acting “locally” is responding “globally”.

Taking action to lobby Government and improve the way we value and manage our natural resources through better conservation planning and management.

Acting as members of LEAN to communicate effectively Government Policy to the Public at large

Promoting and contributing to development and implementation of improved environmental outcomes for NSW by continually lobbying the NSW Liberal Government and publicly promoting sound economical environmental solutions in co-ordination with and under the guidance of the NSW Shadow Minister for the environment Luke Foley and Shadow Minister for Primary Industries Steve Whan to make sure LEAN is fully co-ordinated with our Parliamentary comrades.

We can show how existing environmental activism and community ideas contribute to higher levels of planning. We can sow seeds for change.


“Storming, Forming Norming”

Each of the headings below are just some starting points for multiple discussions and outcomes and to assist in the establishing starting points and timelines to delivery outputs.

Issues we can be involved in locally?

1) Domestic waste minimization, reduce water usage.

Characterising the Domestic waste stream, water management, formulating incentives framework (regulations, fees), Improve water use, and Carbon insertion into the Garden Greater use of drought resistant planting.

2) Corporate Waste minimization.

Characterising the corporate waste stream, identifying users, formulating incentives framework (regulations, fees),

3) Transport. Public/Private integration.

Research Fossil fuel alternatives, Bio Methane, better resource utilisation, shared services, infrastructure, Land use planning measures to reduce oil based transport

4) Urban and commercial planning and design

Be a repository of Concepts and eco-efficiency technologies for new homes. Promote Integration into existing homes. Promotion of greater Public Transport infrastructure underpinned by walk, ride, bus, share drive etc

Reduce car and second car based community mobility. Better use of community hubs, shop, transport, recreation nature opportunities. More local convivial meeting places. Neighbourhood “enhancement”

5) Biodiversity/ Sustainable natural resource management /conservation.

Flora and Fauna, Managing species, ecological communities and ecosystems of our forests, water supply areas, fisheries, pastoral and agricultural lands for sustainable outcomes. Biodiversity impacts exacerbated by Global Warming and Climate Change

6) Community Ownership and involvement.

Volunteering with local state and federal Government support. Building a community of interest that will have an active input into community objectives. Building community capacity to develop and implement threat abatement and rehabilitation plans for local nature reserves, and integrating actions at the landscape scale for biodiversity outcomes.

Engaging with and supporting or creating local “park or garden care” groups to achieve good community development and environment outcomes.

Acting and living locally to reinforce non oil based transport dependence

Action Notes: (in no order of priority) yet nor is it comprehensive!

1 ) Distribute Press releases regularly

2 ) Abandon notion of a regular monthly LEAN meeting and replace with a timetable of events with a clear call to action at each. Invite participants from environmental groups to participate and present. Each event should be focused on environmental issues and be targeted to result/outcome in a Public community event.

3) Possible invited speakers/presenters for events (could be for panel) including

Luke Foley Upper House Member, Shadow Minister for the Environment & Climate Change, Shadow Minister for Water, Shadow Minister for Energy, NSW Labor leader of the Upper House

Greg Combet, Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency; Minister for Industry and Innovation

Doug Cameron, Senator for New South Wales

Tony Burke, Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Peter Garret,   Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth

Matt Thistlewaite, Senator for Macarthur, Paterson, Cowper, Calare, Parkes and Wentworth

Kristina Keneally Ex Premier of NSW  Member for Heffron   Joint Founder of LEAN  previous holder of role of convener of LEAN NSW

Bob Carr, Ex Premier of NSW   See his blog Thought-lines

Jenny McAllister, Australian Labor Party National President Founder of LEAN previous holder of role of convener of LEAN NSW

We need to network with NGOs, and Union Leaders.

her organisations might include: Australian Conservation Foundation, Voiceless, (The Animal Protection Institute) Conservation Council etc

4) Establish Regular Monthly executive meetings (perhaps twice monthly to start with in LEAN NSW re growth phase) Ideally at a good centrally located friendly environment e.g. coffee shop in City

5) Create a Buddy system of matching up a current LEAN member(s) with a new member or member(s) to keep up momentum and encourage action.

6) Design a road show to take LEAN to branches or to regional groupings of ALP Branches

7) Scrub clean the existing LEAN membership list Divide list between LEAN NSW executive to undertake task of contacting.

8)Notify ALP branches via Part Head Office  or direct of our activity and plans.

9) Instigate an annual supporter subscription/fee.

10) Identify Party more affluent members who might contribute a “regular+” “subscription” to LEAN

11) Explore sympathetic Corporations Business people who might “subscribe” to LEAN

Event programs might include “Greening Cities” “Murray Darling issues” “Marine Parks” “Coal seam Gas” “The Economics of Ethical Organic and sustainable Farming” “Water Capture” “Problems of Agriculture- a family perspective”

12) A LEAN Conference

13) Get the National website up to date it’s shit; Review layout. Make recommendations. Localise authoring capabilities for website contributions. Needs an executive summary of who what LEAN is

14) A re-launch dinner with speakers and slide show etc March 2012?

We have a great opportunity to move LEAN and the membership of the great ALP forward.



  1. […] the rights of women. I think it is relevant in respect of the struggles of women especially in this centenary  year of the  Lawrence Textile Strike in which women led and united dozens of immigrant…. with This post is a follow-up to that I posted 3 days ago “The Political Persecution of […]

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  3. Dear Friends,

    2012 is the year for commemorating the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike,
    an important event of a heritage we share.

    Please connect with us on Facebook:

    Lawrence, MA, will hold numerous centennial events
    (, as will other places.

    Have a look at our calendar:
    and our virtual exhibit:

    Please tell your friends and plan a visit!

    Of course, as always the Bread and Roses Heritage Festival on Labor Day will be a high point!

    In Solidarity,

    Bread and Roses Centennial Committee
    Bread and Roses Heritage Committee
    Lawrence, MA

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