Build the struggle!
Build the alternative!
Build the Party!
This is the Report on the work of the Central Committee given to the 8th Congress of the Socialist Party of Australia by General Secretary Peter Symon. The Party was renamed Communist Party of Australia by decision of this Congress which was held from October 4 to 7, 1996.
The 7th Congress report four years ago, recorded that we were living in a period of world-wide change and instability. This general conclusion can be made again now. Some of the changes only vaguely apparent then, are now to be seen clearly.
They are resulting in a great upsurge in the struggles of the working class and people everywhere, including in Australia. For some years it was a widespread boast that both communism and the class struggle were dead. The picture now is considerably different. Those who made these claims have been confounded. This is a good thing, to be welcomed.
Our knowledge of society and ability to analyse events applying Marxism gave us confidence that workers who are exploited and deprived of rights will eventually struggle to maintain and improve their situation and that a political awakening is inevitable.
The 7th Congress report also declared that the two major Australian parties “called for the unfettered operation of the ‘market forces’, the abandonment of government regulation of the economy, cutbacks in social welfare programs and the privatisation of existing public enterprises”.
The attacks on workers, trade unions, privatisation
In response to this situation our Party has worked to encourage opposition and struggle particularly in the trade union movement. Associated with this are our efforts to win support for the idea of a left and progressive political alternative to the two party system.
In a statement adopted in November 1992 called Priorities for Party work in 1993 we called for an offensive to build the fight for wages, jobs, working conditions and trade union rights. The statement said that the right of the working class to organise and take strike action must be reasserted and the award system defended.
The introduction of enterprise agreements and individual work contracts should be opposed and anti-union laws defeated. The statement made a call to build the left forces in trade unions and to win the ideological battle to restore class struggle to the agenda of unions.
These issues were taken up repeatedly in The Guardian, in leaflets and bulletins. We distributed leaflets at the ACTU Congresses in 1993 and again in 1995 entitled Defend the Award System which were well received.
But it cannot be said that the trade union movement has yet firmly made up its mind on this question. The ACTU decided to push for enterprise agreements and they were incorporated in the Labor government’s Industrial Relations legislation.
Enterprise agreements divide the working class even in specific industries. They open the way for a situation in which trade union representatives are excluded from negotiations.
Although, at the moment enterprise agreements are subject to scrutiny by the Industrial Relations Commission and there is a “no disadvantage” requirement, agreements are being entered into which are below award standards.
Enterprise agreements undermine awards which comprehensively cover a whole industry and apply to all workers, irrespective of whether they are members of a union or not. Awards were relegated as the Labor government proposed and the trade union accepted the argument for a “decentralised” wages system.
Another serious development is the spread of individual work contracts which in a number of notorious mining sites have decimated trade union membership. This is the real objective of work contracts even though in the first instance higher wages are offered to those who sign up.
Once in place and once the trade union has been successfully eliminated or weakened the individual worker is on his or her own to face the employer across the office desk. Conditions and wages will be slashed to levels which have not been seen in Australia for decades.
Under the Howard government’s legislation individual work contracts will be secret and their contents must not be publicly revealed under pain on severe penalties. That such a situation should be allowed to develop without the most strenuous protest and denunciation is to be regretted.
The SPA saw the dangers that now face the trade union movement from the beginning and spoke up about the consequences of enterprise agreements, individual work contracts and the relegation of awards.
It was the adoption of these policies and the pursuit of class peace which led to a significant decline in the membership of trade unions in many enterprises. Overall trade union membership declined by from 15 to 20 per cent since the adoption of the Accord.
These policies were adopted by the trade union movement because a view was encouraged that employers were reasonable people, that it was possible to sit around a table and sort things out to mutual advantage, that there were common interests between employer and employee and that the class struggle was a bad thing and could now be put aside and replaced with “togetherness”.
The adoption of these ideas indicated a steep decline in the class consciousness of the trade union movement. It was an ideological question and was a consequence of the decline in the influence of the communist movement in Australia over a long period of time.
A strong communist party, among other things, brings ideological and class consciousness to the labour movement.
Although the reality of the class struggle is apparent — at Weipa, Vickery, Nestles, on the waterfront, and many other places — no section of the trade union movement has yet announced a clear-cut reassertion of class struggle positions although in practice many are resuming the struggle in the interests of the workers and are repudiating the ideas of the Accord.
In 1995 our Party adopted a statement: There is another way. An economy serving the people. Our alternative program called for:
the maintenance of awards as the basis for determining wages and conditions, with enterprise agreements adding to and improving award provisions;
a living wage for workers, students and pensioners ensuring that all receive a share of productivity gains;
a shorter working week;
progressive tax reforms and the allocation of sufficient resources to provide universal public health, maintain public education, transport, housing and public-owned infrastructure;
an immediate cut in defence expenditure of 10 per cent;
superannuation funds to be directed into job creation projects;
government intervention to protect local industries and support the domestic economy;
the re-regulation of the financial sector.
At about the same time in 1995 our Party made a call to “rebuild a fighting trade union movement”. This statement was published in The Guardian but was also circulated as a leaflet.
Since the elections earlier this year, we have called for unity to oppose the Coalition’s slash and burn policies and although we cannot make any particular claims, the developments now taking place are bringing into existence the sort of unity and the sort of fightback by the working class and other sections of the community, that our resolution called for.
The lines are also being drawn against the Coalition’s industrial relations legislation. It is the most far-reaching legislation ever introduced and if implemented will decimate the trade union movement — and that’s what it is intended to do. We can be sure that once legislated, it will be enforced by a determined ruling class and the extreme right-wing ministers who hold the leading positions in the Howard government.
We published a substantial analysis of this legislation and distributed a special lift-out of The Guardian in 15,000 copies.
This, however, is an all-to-small distribution given the importance of the issues involved. We posted copies of the supplement to all Labor Party, Democrat and Green Federal parliamentarians and to a large number of trade union offices.
The legislation aims to complete the process of dismantling awards and enshrining enterprise agreements and individual work contracts. Scab unions are authorised comprising as few as 20 members and any existing union which fights against the provisions of the legislation will face deregistration.
There is already a good example of how to fight anti-trade union legislation coming from WA. Led by the WA Labor Council and supported by the ACTU the level of struggle was sufficient to force some amendments to the legislation and although the battle is not over, reaction has been forced back.
The response to the Howard Government’s legislation has not yet reached the same level and although the August 19 trade union actions in Canberra and other cities was a success, much more is needed.
Unfortunately, one hears expressions which amount to a willingness to accommodate to the legislation in one way or another or to a struggle against it which is devoid of militancy.
Our party and our trade union activists have a very important task to expose the legislation and to take a prominent part in the struggle against it, to rally the workers to recognise the sword of Damocles which hangs over them threatening their security, workers’ conditions of work, their wages and the rights that have been won by the trade union movement in one hundred and fifty years of struggle.
We have consistently opposed the privatisation of publicly-owned enterprises and government services. Privatisation was initiated by the Hawke and Keating Labor governments despite the fact that the first paragraph of the Labor Party’s program continues to include “public ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange”.
We have welcomed and participated in the “Public First” committees in various states. We produced a Privatisation Kit which outlined the advantages of public ownership and why it should be supported. Leaflets have been distributed campaigning against the privatisation of Telstra and a petition widely circulated.
The Guardian supported the struggles which were waged against the privatisation of the Port Macquarie and Modbury hospitals and every other action against privatisation.
In only a small number of instances, however, has privatisation been strongly opposed by the workers directly involved in the enterprises and government departments being privatised even though privatisation has meant the sacking of thousands of workers.
Privatisation has been justified by claiming that private enterprise is more efficient, that public enterprises inevitably run at a loss, that private enterprise will reduce prices, that private ownership creates competition, that the money gained from sale of a public asset will help to reduce the budget deficit and so on.
These arguments have to be exposed and were combatted in our Privatisation Kit.
But it is also necessary to see the bigger purpose behind the privatisation program being pushed by all governments in all countries, whether liberal or labour.
Privatisation is not limited to publicly owned enterprises but is being systematically extended to government departments and services of all kinds.
Public schools and universities are forced more and more to obtain private sponsorship which inevitably leads to these facilities being privatised eventually. Functions of the CES, hospital meals and other services previously provided by government departments are being handed over to private contractors.
A network of private prisons is springing up. There are more private police than public police. Privatisation is almost invariably associated with widespread sackings.
The existence of a sizable publicly-owned sector deprives private capital of an area for investment and profit making. The profits made by the Commonwealth Bank, Telstra, Qantas, the Postal Services and other enterprises should flow into their pockets and not into government revenue not private pockets.
A substantial publicly owned sector would make it possible for a progressive government to expand it further and use it to exercise a certain control over the private sector. On the other hand, the complete privatisation of the public sector would give undivided control of the economy to the private sector.
We must continue to support and encourage every struggle against privatisation as a matter of high principle and mobilise the labour movement and all the progressive forces into this campaign. The fact that a front of opposition to the privatisation of Telstra including the Labor Party, the Greens and Democrats in the Senate has come into existence is a significant development even though, in some cases, the arguments are not as clear-cut as one might wish.
The development of capitalism
The policies being implemented by governments have to be put in perspective and to do this, it is necessary to outline the development of capitalism but this will be done in more detail in the report on the Political Resolution.
None of the changes mean that capitalism has ceased to be capitalism. Its basic features remain. The exploitation of the labour of the working people to extract surplus value remains and is being sharply intensified. Private ownership of the means of production and the commodities produced remains basic to every capitalist economy.
Imperialism remains as well and is systematically re-establishing its dominance over the majority of countries. But the form of colonialism is different. Instead of the open, direct rule by a colonial administration, its form is now indirect. Supposedly “independent” governments are forced to do the bidding of the IMF, the World Bank and those TNCs with investments.
Globalisation, the scientific and technological revolution, the vast accumulation of capital, the development of rapid and worldwide communications and transport, are processes that cannot be reversed. The gene of the computer chip and nuclear energy is out of the bottle and cannot be put back in. The integration of economies will inevitably continue. More than ever, no country can stand alone.
The real task is to make these developments serve the interests of the people, rather than those of a relatively small group of extremely rich and powerful corporations.
There is another element among all the changes which we should not omit. It is the class struggle and the mass opposition of the people to the policies being implemented.
The devastating consequences of the deregulation, privatisation, increased exploitation, the sell-out of sovereignty, the destruction of social services and other attacks on the working people are only just beginning to be felt in Australia. They will intensify and we should not underestimate the determination of the ruling class to push through with its agenda.
The rise of working class and people’s struggles are to be seen everywhere, including in Australia and they are the advance guard of renewed, world-wide revolutionary struggles. The communist movement is rising again and real political advances are being made in a number of countries.
The class struggle will intensify as living standards and social welfare plummet. Even existing democratic rights and parliamentary forms of government are under attack. The betrayal of national independence will not only take the form of playing host to American bases but the dictation of the international economic bodies will become more and more apparent.
For the first time there is a convergence of struggles which embrace economic issues, political rights, social welfare and national independence. This can, for the first time in our history create the possibility of a revolutionary situation developing. Similar developments and similar struggles are taking place in many countries.
But let us not be carried away. This is not “just around the corner” and will take quite some time to develop. Neither the objective nor subjective circumstances yet exist. But we are required to look ahead and see the direction that events can and certainly will take — eventually.
Comrades, the real meaning of the changes taking place and their consequences calls for a lot of discussion and what is being said now or in the Resolution is not the last word. What is called for is a thorough-going application of Marxism to the reality of what is happening. We must keep up with the rapidly changing situation and be calm but firm about our analysis.
Left and progressive political alternative
For many years we have advanced the need to build in Australia a left and progressive political alternative to the two party system.
This is not a new idea. For example, the Program of the Communist Party of Australia adopted in 1938, that is, before WW II, called for the formation of a People’s Front embracing “organisations of the labour movement, of the farmers and middle classes”. It went on, “a people’s movement would clear the path for the victory of the workers and democratic forces over reaction ... Workers, farmers, teachers, civil servants, doctors, professional workers and small businessmen, catholics and protestants, all are in a state of ferment ... ”
In the program of the Communist Party of Australia adopted in 1964 we read: “The Party works for the election of Communists to Parliament and supports other candidates whose policies are progressive. It seeks unity of the people for the defeat of governments of the open monopolist parties, and their replacement by governments based on the labour movement.”
In 1981 when our Party adopted a program for a New Democratic Economic System we also called for a new type of government — a government of people’s unity. Our resolution said that “the core of such a government must be the organised working class. Supported by small working farmers, professional, academic and intellectual circles and small business, it would become possible to take resolute measures against the overseas and Australian monopolies ... ”
Our current Party program adopted by the last Party Congress speaks of a broadly based left and progressive and democratic movement or coalition, fighting for a program of constructive demands which would bring benefits for the Australian working people.
No one political party, says our Program, represents all progressive and democratic opinion nor is any one party able to command sufficient support to form an alternative government ... but a coalition could.
A Government of People’s Unity would be democratic and multi-party and would be made up of the political representatives of all the progressive, democratic and patriotic forces from socialist and labour parties, trade unions and progressive community organisations of all kinds, small working farmers, professional and middle class circles.
So, comrades, this concept is not new either in our Party or in the communist movement of Australia.
At every opportunity we have put forward this idea when talking to the members of other organisations. Some party organisations have invited the representatives of other organisations to come and speak to inform us of their views and program. We published a pamphlet Questions and Answers on a Political Alternative for Australia which we have continued to hand out.
In the March 1996 elections we participated in the elections to the extent possible. The Guardian said: “Put the Liberals last: build the real alternative”.
A great weakness is that our Party was not able to enter any of our own candidates although Party organisations were asked to nominate Party candidates if possible. This situation must be changed. It places us at a disadvantage and leaves us to give support to the candidates of other left and progressive candidates.
In the absence of our own candidates, we asked party organisations to consider the candidates standing in each electorate and to support whoever in their opinion was the best candidate — maybe the Labor Party candidate, The Greens, a Democrat or even an independent — always putting the Coalition candidate last.
We remained critical of the right-wing policies of the Labor Party government and of the two-party system, believing that the two main parties offer little real choice.
The voting showed once again that there is a substantial number of voters who are looking for an alternative. At this stage their votes are going mainly to the Democrats and The Greens who together won about 15 per cent of the first preference vote in the Senate.
We should continue to reiterate the fact that the Coalition Parties won only 47 per cent of the first preference vote in the House of Representatives and do not have a majority mandate for anything.
There are some misconceptions and misgivings about the course that the Party has adopted so I would like to emphasise some points.
The core of the people’s movement and ultimately a people’s government, must be the working class and its organisations.
The working class in its struggle needs to win allies. These are the small farmers, intellectuals and technically trained workers and small business. If these social forces are to be won they must be talked to, good relations established, active cooperation developed and confidence in one another sustained.
There are already in existence some political parties which by-and-large represent these social forces, that is, the allies of the working class. Two such parties already have representation in parliament — the Greens and the Australian Democrats and it is necessary to establish relations with them. There are other smaller parties, for example, the Women’s Party, which do not base themselves specifically on the working class, but have progressive policies.
By talking to and establishing relations with these parties does not mean any relegation of the working class nor does it exclude members of the Labor Party — the party which still has substantial support among the working people. In SA, Queensland, and to some extent in Victoria our comrades have good relations with some Labor Party activists both in the trade union movement and in the Labor Party itself. This is good. For some historical reasons similar relations have not developed in NSW to any extent. We should work to change this. Good relations with the Democrats, Greens and other progressive parties, does not exclude relations with the Labor Party or vice versa.
By advocating a vote for the best and most progressive candidate is not an abandonment of participation in elections by Party candidates.
Sooner or later a coalition or alliance of parties will come into existence in Australia in which our party participates, but to achieve that situation demands that our Party be very much stronger than it is.
We are talking about a people’s front movement, a people’s front government and people’s power. Such a movement and government will not have a socialist program but one based on the immediate democratic, social and economic needs of the working people of town and country and the other social groups in the coalition.
The implementation of its program will involve a hard struggle against the big corporations but will substantially weaken their grip on power and open the way, by further struggle, to formation of a government which will start to build a socialist society. It goes without saying that this course relies on the existence of an active and conscious mass movement outside parliament.
In the Political Resolution we have put forward a number of policy points for discussion which could provide the basis for a program to be adopted by a number of cooperating organisations. The points listed will mostly be found in the programs of the other parties as well. But when, eventually, a coalition of forces comes into existence, the question of an agreed program will be up for discussion.
There are already two very clear examples of this process going on — in South Africa and India — from which we can learn something. The ANC led government combines not only the ANC but also the SA Communist Party and the Council of SA Trade Unions. For a time it included the National Party of de Klerk. They have adopted a Reform and Development Program.
It is not a socialist program but this does not mean that the SA Communist Party has given up its socialist objective. There is a lively discussion going on in the ANC-COSATU-SACP coalition about the implementation of their adopted program.
In India, a coalition of 13 parties formed the government following their recent elections. They have also adopted a comprehensive program of social, economic and political aims.
The coalition at present includes the Congress (I) party whose leader as Prime Minister, implemented policies demanded by the IMF. The CPI has two ministers in the new government while the CPI (M) is supporting the government from the outside. It has not accepted any government posts although the CPI (M) Chief Minister in the party-led state of West Bengal was for a time suggested as a Prime Minister for all India. A struggle is also developing in India about the implementation of the adopted program.
Our concept is basically the same. It is a course not without difficulties and even failures but it is appropriate to the realities of the present situation.
Something needs to be said about the role of all the social democratic parties of which the ALP is one. Such parties have existed for one hundred years or more, mainly in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Israel and in some Latin American countries. Some are called socialist parties and some have retained a socialist objective as the ALP has done.
The ALP program says that the party is “a democratic socialist party and has the objective of the democratic socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange, to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation and other anti-social features in these fields.” However, neither now nor in the past has the ALP acted to implement this objective. In earlier years it did establish a number of publicly-owned enterprises but this was not a part of a socialist program. It is these same enterprises that the Hawke and Keating governments started to privatise.
In the current period, social democratic parties have moved substantially to the right as the capitalist offensive against the working class gathered momentum. Without exception, social democratic governments are implementing the basic economic policy dictates of the big corporations.
It is for these reasons that many workers are again disappointed by the performance of Labor governments and in the recent Federal elections only 39 per cent gave their first preference vote to the ALP. Now in opposition the Labor Party is adopting somewhat different rhetoric but, if again elected, an ALP government would resume the policies they were implementing in the past. The only qualification to that would be the existence of a strong communist party and a strong, militant working class movement.
This does not mean that members of the Labor Party cannot play a significant part in the people’s movements and struggles. Some have in the past and will in the future and good relations with members of the Labor Party who support policies in the interests of the workers will help to build the unity of the working class. This is a course that communists pursued in the past and our view has not changed.
There are often two approaches to the Labor Party. One is outright condemnation and repudiation of a left-sectarian kind. The other is made up of various illusions which are based on the hope that somehow or other the Labor Party can be changed to carry out the socialist objective still retained in its first objective.
We have raised in the Political Resolution a number of the arguments often advanced by left-minded people as to why they should join the Labor Party rather than the Communist Party.
Neither a united front of the working class nor a people’s front including other social and political forces will come into existence in Australia, except in circumstances where a strong and influential communist party exists. Communists are unifiers, seeing the unity of the working class and all progressive forces and their involvement in struggle as the only guarantee that society will make a forward advance.
The social forces which we see as likely to form a coalition and issues on which it will be based were seen to come together in the recent actions against the Howard Government’s policies. But this movement is only taking its first small tentative steps.
The world situation and the foreign policies of Australian governments
With the break up of the Soviet Union and the setbacks for socialism in Europe, the balance of power swung strongly in favour of imperialism. The US launched its New World Order, meaning simply — US world domination.
However, this aim overestimates the power of the US and under-estimated the real situation in the world. Many countries are resisting American hegemony.
The Political Resolution speaks of a “multi-polar world”, meaning that there are a number of powerful centres. In terms of countries, the US, the European Union, Japan, Russia, China and India are all powerful countries in their own right. We can also speak of the pole of the world’s people who are waging a struggle with an unprecedented scope against the policies of capitalism and imperialism.
Although it has become popular to declare that the Cold War is over, the remark of the Foreign Minister of Cuba, who declared that the end of the Cold War has not reach Cuba yet, is more accurate.
The Cold War was seen by many as a conflict between the western powers and the Soviet Union and that is over — for the time being. But this is a simplistic definition of the Cold War. It is basically, a conflict between capitalism and imperialism on the one hand and the socialist states, the anti-colonial liberation movements and the world’s working class on the other. It is a class war. The struggle between capitalism and socialism is not over any more than the struggle between capital and labour is over.
Despite the undoubted power of the United States, the tide is turning against its aspirations for world domination. It found great difficulty in getting its way in the conflict in Bosnia and came up against substantial policy differences with its European allies. Their differences continue to break out, the most recent being the strong opposition to the laws adopted by the US government aimed to force other countries to cease trading with Cuba, Libya and Iran.
Neither is the US getting its way in Asia. There is a steadily changing balance of forces in the Asia-Pacific region. The economic centre of the world is shifting to Asia which will become the main economic centre of the world in the next couple of decades. Politics will inevitably follow economics. Asian countries can no longer be treated as colonies and will assert their independence and their own interests.
China, Vietnam and the DPRK in Asia remain socialist states. The Laotian government is led by its communist party. Cambodia is emerging slowly from the nightmare imposed by the Khmer Rouge and by the western imperialist intervention. Nepal’s communist party remains very strong and is poised to resume government at the next elections. There are communist led governments in the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura and now Kerala. The recent elections in Bangla Desh resulted in a win for the more progressive forces. The struggle is far from over in the former Soviet Union.
Some past differences between socialist countries which led to conflict have been largely overcome. China and the Russian Federation speak of there being a “strategic” partnership between them.
The survival of socialist Cuba is a modern-day miracle which has been achieved as a result of the courage and tenacity of the Cuban people and the wise leadership of the Cuban Communist Party. Solidarity with Cuba remains a foremost responsibility in our solidarity work.
The defeat of apartheid in South Africa was an event of great historic importance not only for the South African people but for all Africans and the people of the world. The SA Communist Party, which holds a number of leading government positions, is raising the socialist objective, but much has to be done to consolidate the election result in terms of power in the army, the police force, in the judicial system and in the economy. It will take a number of years of consolidation before the question of power and the question of capitalism or socialism is resolved.
It would be wrong to suggest that the process is only forwards and upwards and that there are no successes for the reactionary forces. Capitalism and imperialism controls most governments in the world. It has huge economic and military resources under its control. It exercises a powerful propaganda apparatus to mislead and fool the people. But it is not all-powerful and will be defeated.
Australian government foreign policies
It is on this general background that the foreign policies pursued by Australian governments has to been seen.
In July, a new security treaty between Australia and the US was entered into. It was called A Strategic Partnership for the 21st century, so it is not some passing statement. In many respects it is identical with a similar document with the same name adopted by the US and Japan in April of this year.
For some time now we have heard much from both the Labor Party and Coalition governments about their concern to become part of Asia and to be regarded as an Asian country. This has a substantial commercial underpinning and the development of trade between Australia and Asia and friendly relations will be welcomed by all.
We are for mutually beneficial trade, the equality of nations, the right of nations to independence and sovereignty, non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations, the peaceful settlement of international disputes and the right of nations to adopt whatever socio-economic system they wish.
These principles are not accepted by the imperialist powers. In the US-Australia and the US-Japan Security Agreements none of these principles are mentioned. Those treaties aim to assert the political and economic dominance of the US and its principle allies in the region — Japan and Australia.
The Australian government is desperate to retain the presence of US economic and military power in the region, maintaining that it is the presence of the US which maintains peace in the region and that if the US withdrew the region would sink into conflict.
The treaty clearly sees an emergent China as a threat, whereas an emergent Japan is not seen in the same light. Why is this? Simply because China is rapidly developing a socialist market economy and in about 20 years will have an economy larger than that of the US. The Asian mainland as a whole is becoming the predominant economic powerhouse in the world and this is a prospect that the imperialist powers, particularly the US, cannot accept.
The Australia-US treaty and the US-Japan treaty are two anchors of the US strategy for the containment of Asia. The US Minister of Defence, William Perry has spoken openly of Japan being the northern anchor for the US while Australia is its southern anchor.
At the end of 1995, after 18 months of secret negotiations, an Agreement on Maintaining Security was entered into between Australia and Indonesia. This treaty does not go as far as that with the US. It calls for regular discussions between the two governments and anticipates the possibility of joint action to meet situations which are regarded as a threat to the security of either country. This commitment could include action to meet an internal security threat such as the development of internal dissension in Indonesia which was regarded by the existing government as a security threat. Although the treaty does not specifically define what a threat to security might be it does not rule out an internal threat either and does not say that the two governments will refrain from interference in each other’s internal affairs.
While there is little difference between the foreign policies of the former Labor government and the Coalition the Downer policies&mbsp; seem to be a throw-back to the days of Menzies and Richard Casey who believed that yellow hordes were about to flood over the northern horizon into Australia. Such spectres are more difficult to conjure up today, but the thinking behind the government’s policies are little different from that period.
But times have changed and the situation is substantially different. Rather than Asia becoming bottled up by the ring that the US-Japan-Australia treaties would impose, it is more likely that Australia will become isolated. This process is already becoming a worry and voices are heard warning against the policies being pursued. The scaling down of aid, the government’s attitude to Taiwan and a constant barrage of anti-China propaganda sees the government torn between their basic hostility to socialist China and the necessity to trade in the Asian market.
Australian governments should re-think the underlying principles of their foreign policies. Being a surrogate of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region will not win any friends — even in those countries whose governments may not be sympathetic to socialism.
In Indonesia and in Burma there is a growing democratic rights struggle. In Indonesia the struggle by democratic forces has come into the open. Independent trade unions have been established and new political parties formed. Despite the savage repression, the jailings and the killings taking place will not forever succeed in holding down the emerging mass movements.
The ruling circles of Australia the US and Britain are already looking to establish “safe” alternatives to Suharto in Indonesia and to the military dictatorship in Burma. They are prepared to make concessions but want governments which safeguard the interests of capital.
Whether these moves will prove successful remains to be seen. This does not mean that they have forsaken Suharto — only that they think his repressive tactics are counter-productive.
Keating praised the coming to power of Suharto in Indonesia in 1965 as “the event of the most positive strategic significance to Australia in the post-war years”. The fact that Suharto’s seizure of power was achieved by the slaughter of at least 500,000 communists gives an insight into the real political position of this Labor Party leader. Suharto maintains power today by the same savage repression, not only of the people of East Timor and West Papua but of Indonesians as well.
So far the Australian government shows no sign of having learnt any lessons and blindly continues a course which could eventually rebound seriously on Australia’s political standing and economic interests.
For the first time, we have included a section on the United Nations in our Political Resolution. In many respects the United Nations has played a positive role in world affairs despite all the criticisms and qualifications one could lay at its door. The elimination of the Soviet Union as a force for peace and progress has substantially weakened the United Nations which has become, more and more, a tool of the United States in its drive for a New World Order.
At this year’s UN General Assembly meeting some very important decisions may be made concerning its restructuring. We have put forward some principles which we hope will be implemented in any restructuring. One proposal is for the abandonment of the veto by the five permanent members of the Security Council. However, this step is conditional on the powers of the General Assembly being substantially strengthened to the point where the decisions of the General Assembly become binding on all members and not, as is the case at present, merely expressions of opinion. Assembly resolutions are routinely ignored by the US in particular. The Assembly must also establish an apparatus to implement its decisions if the UN Charter is altered in this way.
The principles we have put forward are generally supported by the more than one hundred countries of the non-aligned movement so have a good chance of success. But we are familiar with the arm-twisting and blackmail of the big powers and the unprincipled deals which are widespread among the governments of the world so we cannot be sure of the outcome. Despite its weaknesses we cannot contemplate the collapse of the United Nations. Such an occurrence would throw the relations between states into an anarchistic melting pot the outcome of which would be decided by brute economic, political and military strength. A number of wars, perhaps big ones, could be a consequence.
I have the honour to move on behalf of the Central Committee a resolution that we amendment Rule 1 of the Socialist Party of Australia Constitution and change the Party’s name from Socialist Party of Australia to Communist Party of Australia.
Changing our Party’s name is a profound political statement. It expresses our adherence to the cause of the working class, our confidence in socialism, in Marxism-Leninism and our unity with the other contingents of the international communist and workers revolutionary movement.
Being a communist is a badge of honour and imposes a high responsibility. There is an expectation that communists will be committed to the cause of the working class, will be hard-working and conscientious with high standards.
It is a final rejection by us, if any were needed, of the assertion that the class struggle is ended, that communism is dead, that socialism is a lost cause, and that Marxism is out of date.
For those of us who were previously members of the Communist Party of Australia it represents a coming home not that any of us felt anything other than that we were communists.
I hope that those who joined the Socialist Party without prior membership of the Communist Party will also enthusiastically welcome this change.
There are a number of tactical matters to consider in making this decision. In anticipation of the dissolution of the former Communist Party of Australia we amended our Constitution in 1988 to permit the CC to initiate a procedure to change the name of the Party and it was always understood that we would assume the name — Communist Party of Australia.
The CPA voluntarily liquidated itself in 1991 but no action was taken at that time to trigger the procedure contained in our Constitution. The reason was the rather unfavourable situation. It was the period in which the struggles of the people of Australia were at a low ebb and no progress was made in the relations with other left forces. There was also considerable confusion, disappointment and lack of confidence as a result of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the other European socialist states.
The situation has now changed considerably. First of all, the level of class struggle in Australia has risen substantially. The atmosphere in the left has improved. A significant contribution towards this was the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the CPA in which we fully participated. The fact that many former members of the CPA joined in this commemoration who had been separated for years was a good thing and helped to ease some tensions.
Another factor is the defeat of the Labor Government which has, in a certain way, lifted the “restraining order” which had been imposed on the labour movement by the existence in office of a Labor Government.
The savage attack being made on the working people and the wider community is renewing the idea that a communist party is needed.
The growth in the communist movement in a number of countries and the re-emergence of the communists as a major force in Russian politics are other positive factors.
Unfortunately, former communist activists, many of whom retain their convictions if not an organisation to which to adhere, have become scattered. Not only was the CPA liquidated but the ACU as well. The CPA (M-L) remains in existence but continues to stand at a distance. We would prefer it to be otherwise. There is also the Marxist Workers Party which is limited to Melbourne. Our Melbourne comrades have good relations with it.
We have always thought that a rise in the class struggle would provide the best circumstances for the re-launching of the Communist Party of Australia and that time has now come.
We appeal to all who continue to regard themselves as communists, all who are committed to a socialist future, all who are Marxists, all who are dedicated to the working class movement to join in to rebuild our movement to one of prestige and influence in the labour movement.
There will be continuing differences of policy and ideology but working as one will provide the best circumstances to narrow the gap. Our position is not a dogmatic one and our actions show we are also against liquidationism.
We are thinking about the best way forward as a reading of our Political Resolution will show. We are attempting to learn the lessons of the setbacks for socialism and look realistically at what policies need to be adopted in the circumstances of Australia based on our history and culture. We must also learn from the experiences of our communist movement. The splits and divisions reduced the communist movement to a low level and it is time to close the book on this period.
There is an over-riding need for a revolutionary party. As a result of the work of communists in the 1930s, 40s and 50s the trade union movement was considerably strengthened. In this same period a tremendous campaign was waged against war and fascism. Recall the great work done in the cultural field by the CPA Arts Committee and the wealth of writers, film directors, theatre groups, scientists, teachers, musicians and others that were inspired in this period. Remember the great unity work done in the campaign to defeat the 1951 anti-communist referendum the 45th anniversary of which has just taken place. Remember the work of communists in the struggle to build the Vietnam moratorium movement.
But our job is to go forward in today’s conditions and to bring many more into the struggle for both immediate aims and for the socialist future. We hope that those who played such a worthy part in the past, many of whom are still active but without a party home, will respond to our call.
I must now report in some detail on what the party membership has achieved and our weak spots.
Our membership declined in the period since the 1992 Congress.
Losses were not made up by recruitment which remained difficult. The objective national and international situation in the past four years, played a part in this. The communists had to carry the responsibility for what happened in the Soviet Union for example. It was left to us to oppose the assertions that communism was dead and socialism a lost cause. Some others found it easier to parade anti-communism and anti-Marxism as a virtue, jumping on this or that populist bandwagon.
Although a number of comrades have very good contacts with many people in their daily work not much has been achieved by winning new members to our Party. The political life of our Branches is often at a low level and unattractive. Although the objective economic and political difficulties have limited the possibilities for recruiting our own methods may have also contributed. There is no such thing as a ready-made communist. Furthermore, every member has a personality, a background, a social and family life but these factors are often not sufficiently known or taken into account. The Party should not only be an organisation of committed activists but also a friendly organisation in which members are made to feel welcome and at home. Members join a revolutionary party because they want to do something but activity is often not organised or is desultory.
Whatever the reasons for the slow recruitment and the loss of membership, the situation must be turned around quickly. This is one of our main responsibilities in the immediate future.
The loss of the Young Socialist League cut off a line to the younger generation, a link that has not yet been restored. This is an intolerable situation when many young workers and students are taking part in the current actions.
The present situation has brought some indications that a change in on the way. For example, there has been an increase in new subscriptions to The Guardian and we know that more trade union officials and activists look for and make use of our newspaper. Our articles are sometimes reproduced both in Australian publications and internationally.
We have to report another serious element in our position. Our financial situation remains critical with income insufficient to meet our expenditures. This means that we continue to draw on reserves.
The task is to so improve our regular income that we at least balance income against expenditures. That is the first target and there are no new ways to raise finance. The contributions of our members are our main lifeblood and I must say that our efforts at the moment are not sufficient.
A substantial increase in the sale of The Guardian is another sure and practical way to assist to overcome our deficit. Even with the $10,000 or so contribution that the Press Fund makes, The Guardian has to be subsidised.
The CC proposes two measures. The first is to increase membership dues from the present $20 per year to $40 and the pensioner rate from $5 to $10. The second measure is to increase the sale price of The Guardian to $1. This latter increase will only make up for the $100 increase in the cost of printing each issue of The Guardian imposed by the printer earlier this year.
The quality of The Guardian has continued to improve, within the limits of its 12 pages. We are now getting a substantial flow of information by fax from a range of trade unions and community organisations. We hear about strike struggles, protest meetings, police attacks on pickets, important political developments in various cities but get little news of these events from our own members who are on the spot. Our paper must reflect the struggles of the people, provide an analysis and convey our ideological outlook.
You will be interested to know that some communist parties, including the SPA have established an email international network by which we send a selection of articles to overseas parties each week and receive articles from other parties, particularly the CP USA. We also receive a substantial supply of information from other countries from the various news groups available on the internet. From time to time our articles are taken up and republished in the newspapers of other parties. For example, the report given to the CC by Comrade Erna Bennett on the environment has been reproduced in an Arabic magazine.
A serious shortcoming is the very infrequent publication of the Australian Marxist Review. We have an inadequate number of comrades who can write for the AMR and the technical work involved is also onerous for an already overworked staff. Members of the Central Committee in particular have an obligation to participate in and assist the work of our Party’s central office and this is one of the areas in which we need substantial and concrete assistance.
A number of comrades wrote articles for the Discussion Journals who have not written for the AMR. We hope that this experience will encourage comrades to write for the AMR in the future.
We published a number of popular pamphlets in the last period such as the one calling for Proportional Representation and another on the question of the Republic.
The pamphlet, Wharfies and Miners say “Enough is Enough” was a sell-out. This is the SPA and Questions and Answers on a Political Alternative for Australia have had a good circulation. Kennett’s War Against Workers came out in this period and How Super is Super had a good distribution and prophetically argued that the “existing age pension will be wound down over the next twenty to thirty years”. Our several publications dealing with the environment were also sought after.
We have attempted to make our pamphlets easier to read, shorter and better set out.
Although we have kept up reasonably well with our analysis of the economic and political developments that are taking place the education of our membership is very inadequate. We have proposed that every meeting of a branch should contain some political discussion and some branches hold regular study classes on topical questions but the study of the Marxist classics is neglected. It is only the classics which will give our members the necessary depth of understanding. The writings of Marx, Engels and Lenin remain evergreen today as anyone who is familiar with them knows.
There is an immediate task here for the incoming CC to attend to. The neglect of Marxist ideology has been the downfall of some communist parties in the past. Conversely, a party whose membership is well educated and able to apply Marxism-Leninism in its day to day work is a powerful force.
We have continued to participate in the Congresses of other parties where possible. This work is limited by financial considerations and we have had to decline a considerable number of invitations. We were represented at the Congresses of the South African Communist Party, the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of Greece, the Communist Party of France and the Congress of the Working Peoples Party of Cyprus (AKEL). A representative of the Party attended a conference of the Yugoslav Left in Belgrade last year.
In May of 1993, we attended an international seminar in Calcutta on The Contemporary World Situation and the validity of Marxism which was convened by the CPI (M). It was a successful conference and reaffirmed the confidence of all the participants in Marxism, socialism and the future of our world movement. This was an important statement at that time.
In 1994 we participated with a stall in the Festival of l’Humanite, the newspaper of the Communist Party of France.
We were represented at an international seminar convened by the Communist Party of Greece in Athens in June 1995. Its topic was: Some thoughts about the factors that determined the reversal of the socialist system in Europe. The timeliness and necessity of socialism. We delivered a paper at that conference which was very well received by other delegates.
If we are unable to attend Congresses of Parties we always send messages of greeting and try in one way or another to respond to the many appeals for solidarity action which we receive from a number of countries where the communists and liberation freedom fighters are persecuted.
In 1996 we hosted a representative of the Communist Party of Cuba and a party delegation from the Workers Party of Korea. In November/December we will welcome a representative of the Communist Party of the USA. This was made possible by a generous donation by Comrade Jim Mitsos. The CP USA claims to be the fastest growing party in the US so we are about to learn how they do it.
Members are active in the solidarity organisations with the people of East Timor, Bougainville and Cuba in particular. The Guardian carries news of the struggles going on in these countries to our near north and this is important internationally as we are the main source of news for other parties who want to know about these struggles.
These forms of internationalism are important but they have their limitations. It is necessary to think about new forms of solidarity which go further than the exchange of greetings and participation in conferences and congresses. The globalisation of production processes, communications and travel, the spread of the tentacles of the transnational corporations, the threats to the independence and sovereignty of nations and to democratic rights, is a challenge to the working class and the revolutionary parties of all countries.
For example, the workers employed by the BHP in the 80 countries in which it operates are exploited by the same employer and to that extent need to find the way to act together. But this is far from being the case. The workers of each country are isolated and largely ignorant of what is happening to their brothers and sisters in other countries. The BHP and other big corporations act internationally, but the workers do not. It is up to the communists in the various countries and the trade unions to find the way to give reality to the slogan of Marx and Engels — “Workers of all countries, unite”.
We need to undertake concrete study to work out what and how common actions and campaigns might be undertaken.
The Central Committee held all its required meetings since the last Congress. It meets four times every year and between meetings of the CC, the CC Executive meets. So there are usually nine meetings of these two bodies each year. In addition, the CC Secretariat has frequent meetings to implement the decisions of the CC and CC Executive and to give attention to the many issues of a day to day nature which have to be dealt with. I think it can be said that the organisation of the work of these bodies is efficiently carried out, they work democratically and decisions made are regularly checked on.
Delegates who attended the 7th Congress will recall that at the conclusion of that Congress some unfortunate differences occurred which led to a number of comrades not taking up their positions on the newly elected Central Committee. I am pleased to inform you that over time all but two of the elected CC members took up their positions. The two comrades who did not were sent minutes, agendas and documents of all CC meetings in the hope that they would return. However, that did not happen and is to be regretted.
We also suffered several resignations from the Central Committee for different reasons which again is unfortunate as it weakened the CC at a time when this could not be afforded.
It is to be hoped that this unfortunate chapter is put behind us. A very good and constructive spirit was achieved on the CC when the matters of the last Congress were finally overcome.
A rather intractable situation has existed in our Brisbane organisations for some years and I think everyone knows that. Various attempts have been made to overcome the position. In the last six months or so there are signs of a more relaxed position. We have received from one of the Branches in Brisbane a request that a meeting of all members in Brisbane be held to establish a Brisbane District Committee to guide the work of the three Brisbane Branches.
The outgoing Central Committee recommends that the incoming CC be authorised to convene a meeting at an early date of all Brisbane members to consider the establishment of a Brisbane District Committee. Congress, I am sure will welcome such a development and will appeal to all to put past differences of whatever kind, into the past.
To build our party in membership, finance, sales of The Guardian, in our ability to meet the ideological challenge of the times, in membership involvement in the many struggles that are now rapidly increasing in scope. The main source of new members must be from among the ranks of the working people but we must also recruit many more young people, academics and cultural workers and from other social groups.
To strenghten the trade union organisations of the working class, increase membership participation, develop working class consciousness and a class approach.
To build an alliance of all the left and progressive forces, to argue for such an alliance and to show how it can be done by our practical work.
We are a working class party, we adhere to and apply Maraxism in our work, we are committed to the working class and all exploited people in our country — to their security and well-being. We are committed to Australia’s independence. We are for the maintenance and extension of democratic rights. At the same time we are internationalists recognising that the struggles of the working people of Australia and those of other countries are against a common class enemy.
It is necessary to be more specific about issues. The following seem to be priorities:
- Support the anti-privatisation and Public First campaigns, Telstra in particular. Privatisation is at the essence of the economic policies of all capitalist governments and the big corporations.
Step up the struggle against the Coalition Government’s Workplace Relations Bill. Its objectives are to disrupt and divide the whole trade union movement, set up scab, company unions, destroy the award system and force all workers on to individual work contracts. Wage levels are to be slashed, hours of work extended and working conditions returned to those of the last century — or even worse.
Ways have to be found to organise and bring into action the army of the unemployed. Unemployment will get worse and the 800,000 and more workers without a job are a potential source of political activists many of whom are young but with little labour movement experience.
Defence of the ABC and SBS as independent national broadcasters. This is a question of retaining more balanced news and current affairs reportage and quality cultural, educational and science programs. It is the intention of government leaders to destroy the ABC and SBS and place all media under the control of Packer and Murdoch.
Opposition to the racist, anti-Asian, anti-Aboriginal and anti-worker views of Pauline Hansen and Graeme Campbell and the bigotry of the “right-to-lifers” and other reactionaries. An attempt is being made to blacken the name of historian Manning Clarke and to remove his books from the libraries of schools and universities. An attack on free speech is being made in the High Court where the Federal and Victorian State Governments are attempting to overturn an earlier decision of the Court which represented an extension of the right to criticise. These trends represent the beginnings of a new McCarthyism in Australia which have the tacit blessing of the Federal government. These developments have to be combatted by an ideological campaign against divisive and reactionary ideas and by building the unity of the working class and the people.
Support the Aboriginal people in their struggle for recognition, land rights, work, education, health services and cultural opportunities. The gains of the last decades are being torn away as the counter-offensive of the racists and exploiters gathers strength. Let us not underestimate the significance, not only for the Aboriginal people, but also for white society, of taking a principled and civilised stand on the side of Australia’s indigenous people.
Support for the environmental movements and the various campaigns going on to preserve what little remains of Australian forests, stopping the degradation of our river systems, opposition to the mindless use of chemicals and the consequential pollution of both the countryside and cities. The environmental movement is an action movement and there is a place for everyone.
The call to remove US bases from Australian territory links up with similar mass campaigns in Japan. New foreign policy principles are required. We must oppose the foreign policy plans of the Australian ruling class which has in mind new efforts to “contain” Asia and the People’s Republic of China in particular. Australia, Indonesia, the US and Japan are the four anchors of the aggressive strategy being master-minded by the US in its drive for world domination. These four countries are now bound together by a network of “security” treaties. This spells extreme danger to Australia and possible involvement in armed conflicts in the future.
International solidarity with worker and people’s organisations in other countries. These include communist and workers’ parties, trade unions, peace, women’s and youth international bodies. We must look for new and more effective ways to carry out international solidarity actions. East Timor, West Papua and Bougainville are on our doorstep and solidarity with these people is a priority. Solidarity with Cuba is one of the most important international struggles and responsibilities. Irrespective of some differences that might arise from time to time, solidarity with all existing socialist countries which are under constant attack by imperialism, remains an obligation.
There is hard work but rewarding work for every member to do. The struggles of the people of Australia are going to increase and that is where our members must find a place. If we adopt the proposed name change we will go forward as a communist party in name as well as in fact. It is not a cure-all for our weaknesses nor will it automatically bring new members flocking to us. They have to be won. But I think we can look to the future with confidence and in the knowledge that the wave of history is sweeping on and rising in our favour. We should catch the wave!