The “O’Shannassy Problem”

In the span of 67 years, Ray O’Shannassy found himself involved in labouring, became a trade unionist, was a prominent and outspoken member of the Communist Party Australia and well known nuisance to the Australian Government, with officials referring to him as the “O’Shannassy problem”. Throughout the course of WW2, O’Shannassy worked as a labourer, becoming a trade unionist, and from there formed aggressively left views.

While Ray was a part of the Builder’s workers Union, he and three others were approached by the Communist Party of Australia. At the the time the CPA was trying to turn the Plumbers Union from their right wing ties, and to do this, they employed the help of leftist Tommy Quinn, Joe Ferguson And Ray O’Shannassy. “We set up a fraction in the builders labourers union and we got a leaflet out …and basically we started to hand it out on the jobs. And gradually we started to build up support.” - Ferguson.

Through this gradual support, the men not only turned the Builders Labourers Federation from a stagnant union that allowed for the bourgies to employ workers under “... Conditions (that were) appalling”, where the “... work was hard, (and) the pay bad”, but did so under constant attack by both people in positions of power and also rival unionist members. One of these opposition was a leader of BLF, Fred Thomas - a man known for fighting, and bringing other men to union meeting to start fights, effectively silencing his opposition.

After being expelled from the Communist Party of Australia for unproven allegations of theft, He moved twice - once to Leeton where he’d re join the CPA on a vote of 3-4, and then to Melbourne where he successfully had another member of the CPA acquitted, representing him on assault charges against a police officer whilst attending a political demonstration.

Some would say that one of O’Shannassy’s flaws was his passion and firm stance on matters at hand, some would say this gained him respect. Described as ‘tenacious and eloquent’ by comrades of the CPA and ‘tactless’ yet still praised for is political awareness by comrades more cautious of his manner - it’s clear that O’Shannassy was a man who commanded respect.

Many of Ray’s achievements were centered around battles with the courts which, according to The Sydney Morning Herald he conceded defeat, he was only ever merely set back. “Ray was indefatigable, if never spectacularly successful, in his causes. Irritatingly, he was often right in his arguments, even if he had a pronounced tendency to make mountains of molehills and, after a while, to lose sight of his original cause because of fresh grievances gathered on the way. But he never conceded defeat; after any ''setback'' battle was soon renewed.”

This drive and raw determination that O’Shannassy possessed is what would drive bureaucrats insane, with Ray sitting in their offices until one of three things took place. A hearing. A result. Or Police called to drag him out. In order to to waste government resources and the court’s time, Ray would always plead not guilty, and would irritate magistrates. On many different occasions, he lead magistrates to make appealable errors- and on some occasions, outwitted them completely, being let off clean.

By this time in his life, Ray had become the “O’Shannassy problem” to government officials, a problem they thought to be so large that the Attorney-General's office had estimate of $10 million worth of security measures installed - more then O’Shannassy had earned over the course of his entire life - but the amount of rage he inflicted upon the powers in charge? Priceless.

Towards the last years of his life, he lived and encouraged other people to live in the abandoned government buildings. He was held in custody for charges surrounding trespassing, and was offered bail with the condition that he’d not return to the flat. O’Shanassy rejected this, saying that without these buildings, he’d have to sleep “Out in the elements” if he couldn’t use the flat, and that there were “close to 700 unoccupied government dwellings in Canberra”

O’Shannassy turned his efforts on a Sydney bureaucrat that had treated Ray badly, but before he was able to disrupt him like he’d done to so many before, he was taken into custody for an unpaid train ticket from Sydney to Canberra. He died in custody in Long Bay jail on the 31st of July, 1990.

A nuisance to some, an inspiration to others, Ray O’Shannassy will live on to set the standard for determination and through his actions, we can find capabilities through persistence by not giving in to the bourgeois who are so adamant to suppress the lower classes. Rest in power comrade