Vale Comrade: Michael Charles Power

Today we come to say farewell to Michael Power and we also come to celebrate a most remarkable person and his life. So let me begin by saying on behalf of Jacqueline and Victor, his family, comrades and friends, I have been given a special honour to say farewell to a most warming, extraordinary wonderful person.

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Michael Charles Power was born in April 1938, to parents William and Mary at Preston, Melbourne. Anne his sister said he was Mum and Dad’s favourite. Mick had four sisters and four brothers with Mick being the third born.

Mick’s brother Peter who is here today with sister Anne tells me Mick was very close to his Mum and Dad and in fact to the whole Power family and I have it on good authority they could nearly fill the Melbourne cricket ground if they all got together. Mick made many trips to Melbourne especially to see his Mum. And it was on one of these visits Mick suffered an horrendous accident. I will relate further on.

Mick took up amateur boxing at an early age and later fought as a feather and welterweight. Around the late ’60s boxing was seen on television as “TV Ringside” with Melbourne’s Ron Casey as the host and Mick’s was the first fight ever broadcast live to Sydney and Melbourne and as his brother Peter puts it, he was the first fighter ever to lose a fight on TV. And his great mate Harry Black also remembered it on more than one occasion.

Before that Mick fought Max Carlos to see who represented Australia at the 1956 Olympic Games. Alas Mick also lost than one too, but Max went on to win an Australian title. Mick had some professional fights but retired not long after he came to Sydney.

Looking at Mick’s fight record I think the best thing Mick did was to retire from the ring as there were not many victories recorded, but he made many friends from this profession.

When I was informing Mick’s many friends and comrades, all were so surprised to hear of Mick’s passing, but it was their endearing remarks about Mick. We have lost a wonderful person, so caring, a great fighter for his class, a great comrade, kind and gentle always caring for others. A very polite man especially to women.

Mick came to Sydney in 1960-61 and lived in Harris Street, Ultimo.

He joined the Sydney waterfront in 1960 and worked a bodgie brief, but got his own in 1963 and this was to become a great and wonderful venture for the next 35 years of Mick’s life.

It was here that working class politics come to the fore. He had joined the waterfront when many changes were taking place and many more were to come in later years.

It was this period where he cemented many endearing friendships, and many of those friends and comrades are here today. Sadly some preceded Mick and I mention them later.

In 1964 Mick was in a [wharfie] gang of notable fighters and the gang was called “The Fighting Gang”, Jack Hassen (Australian title holder); Bruce Farthing (another holder); Graham Moffett, John Hawthorne (non-title holders); Athol Dixon (who went on to become a great Aboriginal rights fighter); and Owen Porter was the gang leader.

They were a very militant gang; would stop work on any issue. Getting them to start work was another thing. It was in the period Mick took out a delegate’s brief and around 1965-66 Mick joined the Communist Party of Australia and became a member of the Street Branch with Harry Black, Ina Heidtman, Johnny Healy, Bob Bolger, Matt Munro, Tom Nelson and myself were just some of the then branch members.

At this stage Mick was working for some unsavoury persons as an SP bookmaker at the Bondi Hotel.

He took on the work of the Party with vigour and this put a stop to his SP ventures.

During this period of time the Party was in a bit of turmoil going through some disruptions relating to the true teachings of Marxism and Leninism. And this is where he met his great mentor Jack McPhillips, whose friendship was to last for many years and of course his other mentors being Harry Black and Ina Heidtman.

It was a great learning period for Mick with the final outcome being the formation of the Socialist Party of Australia of which Mick gave total support and commitment.

His love of the Marxist Leninist teachings led Mick to the Soviet Union and Moscow in 1975 and in 1980 to the Lenin Institute to study their teachings. Again this was a turning point in his life for his studies of the classics brought Mick to a better understanding of the class nature of society – and the reasons for the class struggles.

And on his return to Australia he applied these new learnings to the application of his work on the waterfront.

Mick developed into a first class and most respected delegate. He was elected to Patrick’s Committee on many occasions. Mick’s activities in both the Party and the union slowed down because of a visit to Melbourne in 1987, where he went to assist some people who were being assaulted by a group of men. These thugs over powered these people and Mick. As a result they took Mick and dropped him from a height onto his head seriously injuring him to near death.

Mick recovered after many, many months of rehabilitation and it took him some years to regain his full health. This was a set back, but it never deterred him from both the Party and union work.

While in the Soviet Union, Mick took a liking to the great composers of classical music.

His brother Peter tells me when he went to visit him in Melbourne Mick would play the classics for hour after hour and Peter would yell out Mick “enough is enough turn that (expletive) off”.

The Fighting Gang broke up and Mick formed another one in 1974 with many other notables in it including Terry McNamara, Trifecta George, Bob Leman and his good mate Alistair Lowe whose family he loved very much, and my own family and the Robertson’s and of course many other families.

And so many events were or had been taking place on the waterfront: the great battle over permanency, containerisation, the Vietnam War, the US blood bath in Chile, the US blockade of Cuba. The election and dismissal of the Whitlam government. Peace, apartheid in South Africa. His absolute rejection of the Accord process of the Hawke-Keating government of 1983.

These were just a few of the many tasks confronting communists and Mick was to the forefront on all of these issues. Of the many issues just mentioned Mick’s fighting for peace and his love of Cuba were uppermost in his thoughts and deeds.

With Harry, Ina, Joy Barlow, Jack McPhillips, Stan Moran, Anne Duffy-Lindsay and Jim Robertson, hundreds of weekends were taken up on the streets of Sydney’s Balmain talking and gathering signatures for peace.

I know I will leave some people out when I mention some of Mick’s close comrades, so please forgive if not mentioned – Ray Ferguson, Jake Haub, Andrew Irving, George Gotsis, Donna, Denis and Hannah, Anna Pha, Warren Smith, John Graham and Joe Deakin.

His love of Cuba and the Cuban people took him to Cuba on many, many occasions. He was the first to volunteer for the Cuban Work Brigades working holidays and of course this is where he met his future wife to be, Jacqueline, in the early 1990s.

Jacqueline came to Australia in 1995 and they were married in 1996 with many here today at the ceremony. Mick retired after the 1998 lockout by Patrick’s of which Mick played a leading role on the people’s peaceful pickets. Mick would often retell stories of that time and there were many mostly good tales.

Mick had a very good sense of humour and wit, he loved a beer like most of us, sometimes he was off the wagon for health reasons but on most occasions fell off that wagon. It was during this time Mick would open up a bit more, and he and others would solve the problems of the world.

On retirement Mick joined the Maritime Union of Australia Retired Member’s Association – “Retired from the workplace but not the struggle” – and Mick attended most meetings and joined in all the other activities.

A measure of any person’s life on this earth can be measured by the question - did that person leave it better than when they first came into it?

I am sure that all of us here today would whole heartily agree Mick did just that. For without people like Mick and his devotion to peace and the betterment of human kind this world be a very different world.

And on this note we now say farewell to our dear friend and comrade.