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AUSTRALIAN
MARXIST
REVIEW

Journal of the Communist Party of Australia

ISSUE 38NOVEMBER 1997

Communist Party and Labor Party co-operation

by Jim Henderson

In a report in the Guardian (15/10/1997) it is stated that the Labor Party suffered a setback in the South Australian elections and that they won an increased vote of 5.4 per cent in the Lower House and only 3.7 per cent in the Upper House.

The Democrats increased their vote in the same elections by seven per cent overall.

The fact that the Labor Party increased its vote and remains a major party in Australia must not be lost sight of. It is clear that a swing back to Labor was evident.

For quite some time, the Guardian has reported that the masses were swinging towards the Democrats, Greens and also independents. Often this was shown as a boost to the Democrats who “controlled the position in the Senate”.

While this is true, but what must be recognised is that without the far greater numbers of Labor Party representatives in the Senate the Democrats’ vote would have been of no importance. The main force was the Labor Party representatives.

The recent resolutions of the ACTU Congress certainly show there is a great deal of opposition to the policies that the ALP has been seeking to implement. However, it is also evident that the standard demand was for the ALP to change its backward policies.

In the Congress there were large numbers of ALP leaders and rank and file members who made it clear they oppose the right-wing attitude of the leadership.

The cold hard fact remains that the great mass of the working class still see the Labor Party as the party they should support, provided that it changes its reactionary policies.

The ALP has been in existence for 100 years and has won parliamentary leadership, then been defeated, then swung back again.

This has been the position of such parties in other parts of the world, especially Europe.

For example in Ernst Henry’s book, Can Socialists and Communists Co-operate (1972), he states: “We cannot therefore assert that in our time Social Democrats no longer have any future. They are still followed by more than 73 million voters all over the world.”

Further: “Social-Democracy has gone through many hard years; nevertheless owing to the traditional loyalty of its adherents it repeatedly managed to retain and again consolidate its position.” That is exactly what has happened in Australia.

Let me cite two examples from Queensland experience: The Protestant Labor Party was formed and for a time won quite a number of votes. However, it gradually faded away and the voters returned to Labor. The Democratic Labor Party was also formed with Gair as leader, and for a time won quite a large vote. However, it suffered the same fate as the Protestant Party and the workers returned to Labor.

While the Communist Party is willing to enter into alliances with other organisations to work for immediate improvements in the conditions of life of the people, but this does not in any way suggest that the Party program should change. This “must be developed on the basis of one’s own understanding of history”. (The Downfall and Future of Socialism, p 44)

The Communist Party is still small, but: “The more pressing the problems of humanity become, all the more will humanity again seek guidance in Marxist theory.” (ibid, p 92)

The Constitution of the Communist Party, in its opening paragraph, makes it clear that it is established for the purpose of changing the order of society. Its aim is to introduce a socialist society.

Whether in alliances or not, that is the main drive of a Marxist-Leninist Party. Others in an alliance (should one be formed) will no doubt seek to advance their anti-Marxist theories, such as the Democrats have done with their standpoint of marking time only and remaining within the capitalist system.

The Guardian, in my considered view, went too far in popularising the position of the Australian Democrats.

The Communist Party of Australia is part of the world communist movement and, no matter how small it may be at the moment, we must see ourselves as part of that international movement which is without doubt growing in many countries. Importance must be given to increasing the ranks of our Party and its influence in the ranks of the working class.

Marxist theory as well as history make it clear that the Communist Party is the only organisation that can lead to the overthrow of capitalism and introduce socialism. There are two firmly entrenched working class parties world-wide the social democrats, represented in Australia by the Labor Party, and the Communist Party.

Winning the battle for a change to socialism calls for these two organisations to unite for this purpose. This necessitates the defeat of the right wing of the Labor Party and the continued growth of the Communist Party.

The Labor Party and the Communist Party can co-operate, but this can only be achieved with the defeat of the right wing of the Labor Party and the adoption by its left members of a truly working class policy.

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