An event to pay tribute to the political life of Socialist Party member Simon Millar was held on Friday March 23. Simon died suddenly in late January after more than three decades of activity in the socialist and trade union movements. This event gave a glimpse of the respect that many people had for Simon’s work.
About 100 people came to the Electrical Trades Union offices to hear from friends, trade unionists, community activists and socialists who Simon had worked with over the years. The workers from the UGL dispute in Longford sent a video message thanking Simon for the support he gave to their long-running struggle.
Elvie Sievers spoke about the successful year-long campaign to save Richmond Secondary College in the early 1990s. She explained how Simon helped lead that dispute and used his links with the trade unions to bolster the community campaign.
Elvie also talked about how Simon helped politicise her. Simon’s ability to link every conversation back to the class struggle and the fight for a better world was a common theme though all the conversations and speeches on the night.
Robbie Cecala, a well-known militant unionist in the construction industry, similarly talked about the impact that Simon had on him. He described how Simon diligently cultivated relationships with people and brought them together in order to strengthen the workers movement.
Former workmate and fellow electrician, Dan Lesslie, spoke with a sincere and uplifting passion about meeting Simon on a job and expressing frustration to him about the dire state of world. He explained how Simon gave him hope and confidence by talking to him about history and socialist ideas. Simon and Dan became great mates with Simon later recruiting Dan to the Socialist Party.
Tamara Desiatov and Les Futo reminded people about Simon’s progressive views on all sorts of issues and talked about his love for art, music and culture. Many of the political posters that Simon collected over the years were on display around the building.
The former state secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), Craig Johnston, spoke about the fight to transform that union in the late 1990s and Simon’s role as an early member of the Workers’ First faction.
Craig also took the opportunity to lighten the mood by telling some humorous stories about Simon, including the time he boldly demanded entry into a factory to discuss a union election with the workers. After delivering a rousing speech he was told that he was in the wrong factory and that the workers were actually in an entirely different union!
Anthony Main from the Socialist Party talked about the world view that informed Simon’s activism. Simon was a revolutionary socialist. He fought for a better deal for working people in the here and now but connected that fight to his vision for a world free of all exploitation and misery.
Anthony explained that Simon’s loss was a big blow to the Socialist Party. He said: “You can’t buy the knowledge and experience that he had in a shop. In our view, if the workers movement is going to get back on the front foot it’s going to have to readopt socialist ideas. It’s going to need a heap more people like Simon Millar.”
The formal part of the meeting was concluded in the traditional socialist way, by singing the Internationale. Lucy Beaton, Simon’s lifelong friend who chaired the event, finished with some familiar words: “Dare to struggle, dare to win. If you don’t fight you lose!”
After the speeches Simon’s friends, work mates and comrades hung around to drink and listen to some live music. It was a night of music, camaraderie and politics that Simon would have been proud to be a part of. A total of $3000 was raised on the night to help cover the costs of putting Simon’s 14-year-old daughter Alice through high school.
Overall, the event acknowledged Simon as a staunch socialist and trade unionist. While his life was tragically cut short, his life was not wasted. All in all, the event was a fitting tribute to a life-long fighter for the working class.
By Socialist Party reporters