Ted Bull, long-time Communist and trade union militant died shortly before Christmas and was farewelled at a well-attended memorial meeting organised by the Victorian Trades Hall Council. Before his retirement Ted was a waterside worker and served as an organiser for his union in the port of Melbourne. As Marxists we don’t believe in heaven, but if there were such a place we know that Ted would be up there cheering on the wharfies in their current dispute against the bosses and Peter Reith!
And who can there be among socialist and labour activists in this city who does not remember Ted Bull in the thick of it all, spurring people on with his indomitable enthusiasm? Who can forget Ted on a thousand picket lines, fighting for a thousand good causes? Who can forget Ted standing up to police horses; or Ted speaking through a megaphone, lifting his comrades’ spirits and amusing us with his sometimes caustic tongue.
I recall the winter rain falling one dark morning and Ted making even the police laugh by asking: ‘Why do the police travel in threes? The answer? — Because one can read, one can write, and the other likes the company of intellectuals’. While our political tendency has not always seen eye to eye with Ted Bull on all questions, we mourn his passing and extend our sincere condolences to his family, his union and his political comrades. Ted was a tireless fighter for the working class movement from an early age.
During his long and active life, Ted was part of the struggles, the victories and the defeats of the working class in whom he never lost faith. As a young man during the ‘Hungry Thirties’, he fought against the dehumanising effects of unemployment and poverty. Later in life he became an official with the Waterside Workers’ Federation, bringing to that role all of the passion and belief in justice that he took to every cause he was involved in. Nor did Ted ever retire from the struggle, although he would have been perfectly well entitled to do so.
Younger activists looked with awe at this energetic old comrade. But we can rest assured that Ted looked at them with gratitude, for he knew that the future was safe in the hands of a new generation. And if it is, it is because there were those like Ted who knew what it was to struggle and suffer for the greatest cause in the world — for the emancipation of labour — even when times were the bleakest.
By Militant reporters
Originally published in the February 1998 edition of The Militant, the predecessor of The Socialist.