John Cummins the courageous and inspirational working class leader who dedicated his life to the battles of working people for a better life passed away 29th August 2006.
John devoted his working life to organising building workers into a fighting, disciplined union in the harsh and dangerous construction industry, but his influence and leadership extended far wider into the whole of Australia’s working class movement and the community.
His commitment to the working class and the ordinary people set the standard for the whole of the union movement.
John’s courage and optimism were founded on his unshakeable confidence in ordinary people’s capacity to bring about change. John had no personal ambitions to get into parliament or into a top union official position for status or self-promotion. He knew from experience as a unionist and a Communist that parliament was simply a tool of the capitalist class and that the main force for change for ordinary people can only come from organisation and struggle by workers on the job and their supporters in the community.
John was an exemplary unionist and activist who was modest and had deep respect for ordinary working people, always listening and learning from others. He had no time for arrogance, pulling rank or imposing his views on workers. His preferred place was alongside workers on the job, fighting day to day battles. And that’s where John dedicated most of his working life. He was well known and respected by workers and many others from different walks of life. He was always patient with workers, never dismissive, knowing that workers’ own rich experience, combined with persistent political education of conscious class struggle, will move workers to act collectively at the right time and place, “sooner or later”.
But John Cummins was much more than a militant and fearless unionist. Importantly, John was a committed Marxist-Leninist Communist and a leading member of the Communist Party of Australia (M-L). From his early adult life John read Marx, Lenin, Mao Zedong and Ted Hill, the founding Chairman of the CPA (M-L). The ideas of Marxism-Leninism gave John a vision and an insight into the inner workings and contradictions of capitalism and the class struggle between labour and capital beyond the one group of workers or unions. Marxism enriched and informed John’s practical experience of struggle and his connections with ordinary people. The tools of Marxism-Leninism gave John political understanding of class struggle, different class forces and a mass line that insists on educating, organising and mobilising the whole of the working class, not just relying on a small group of militant unionists. John strongly supported the anti-imperialist independence struggle as central to the struggle for socialism in Australia.
John was 58 when he died on 29 August, 2006 of a brain tumour. His working life was spent in the construction industry and he dedicated his life to working people, in particular to construction workers for the improvement of their health and well being; and to advance their status.
“The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea”