16th International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties, Guayaquil November 13-15, 2014
Contribution by Comrade Vinnie Molina, President of the Communist Party of Australia
“The role of the Workers and Communist parties in the struggle against the imperialist and capitalist exploitation which brings about crises and wars and gives rise to fascist and reactionary forces. For workers and peoples’ rights and national and social emancipation; for socialism!”
Before I begin my comments on our theme I would like to thank and congratulate the Communist Party of Ecuador for hosting this 16th International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ (IMCWP). I am proud to be a member of the Australian working class and to have taken up a leading role in the Communist Party of Australia (CPA)but I came originally from Latin America and I have reason to be proud of that, as well. Sweeping changes have taken place in Latin America in the last decade and a half. How to characterise these changes is the subject of some discussion and even controversy in our movement but it is undeniable that deep, progressive changes have taken place that demand our attention and respect. They are providing inspiration to millions around the world. It is a very beneficial thing for we outsiders to come and increase our understanding of this process.
In fact, the consolidation of the socialist-oriented changes in Latin America is one of the few bright spots on the international political scene as we gather for our Meeting. The economic crisis and the demands by capitalist governments and supranational financial institutions have imposed hardships on workers and other exploited people. New waves of privatisation are occurring as the bourgeois national state continues apace with its handover of functions and assets to transnational corporations. Trade unions are persecuted, squeezed from workplaces and hamstrung by repressive legislation. “Counter Terrorism” is being offered as the excuse to increase surveillance and data collection of the people and to remove democratic rights before the law.
US imperialism is launching new wars and proxy wars with its usual allies in tow. The US military’s “Pivot” or “Rebalance” to the Asia Pacific and Indian Oceans – in preparation for aggression against the Peoples Republic of China – is gathering force. The brutal economic and diplomatic blockades against Cuba and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea remain in place. The ideological warfare against socialism and Communist Parties is not easing but escalating. And while poorer countries already battling the effects of climate change, governments of developed economies refuse to take the necessary steps to avoid an environmental calamity.
Fascism and war
Unfortunately, the new elements of the international scene are mostly negative. Fascism is on the rise. We have seen electoral gains by Jobbik in Hungary, the National Front in France and anti-immigrant UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) in Britain, to give just some examples. Most confronting of all was the leading role of neo-Nazi groups in the coup against the government of the Ukraine and the utterly reactionary consequences that have flowed from it.
The situation in the Ukraine carries grave dangers for the whole world. US and NATO plans to move eastward have reached a major milestone. The battle is now being waged to be able to place their forces and high-tech hardware on the border of the Russian Federation in preparation for their ultimate goal – the breaking up of that entity and unrestricted access to its resources.
At the same time, we have the US pursuing objectives in the Middle East by the most cynical means. Not for the first time, US imperialism has created and armed the forces it now claims it must intervene to defeat. Islamic State is the latest such phenomenon. Regime change in Syria is clearly a major goal but a fundamental redrawing of the map of the Middle East is being pursued. National aspirations of the peoples of the region are not behind the latest intervention of military forces, including those of Australia. The ongoing dispossession and torment of the Palestinian people is evidence of that. So too, the changes being pursued for greater access to the resources of the region and the strategic interests of the Zionist government of Israel.
In the South China Sea we note tensions, even between fraternal socialist countries over territories and we see the cunning of the US imperialists in taking advantage of the situation. We see the same reactionary forces at work in events in Hong Kong.
Unfortunately, at this time of extreme danger to peace in the world the response of the anti-war movement internationally has been woefully inadequate. In many parts of the world, it has lost much of its former vigour. In Australia this appears in part to have resulted from the defeat of its massive mobilisation against the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The regrouping and reinvigoration of the anti-war movement must be a major priority for the international Communist movement at this time. Solidarity with the victims of this military aggression, including new waves of refugees to the shores of countries like Australia, must also be a top priority.
A multi-polar world
Of course, because of its intrinsic nature, imperialism will always meet resistance. Provided that it doesn't destroy the planet first, its defeat is certain. Even in the worst of circumstances, people will struggle. In Colombia the determined struggle of the people, including armed struggle, appears to be on the verge of some breakthrough in the talks taking place in Havana. In Greece, workers led by PAME are planning a national strike at the end of the month. I have already mentioned the progressive changes lifting millions out of poverty in Latin America and the process of integration taking place on the basis of mutual benefit. These developments encourage us greatly.
And US imperialism does not have the free hand it had in the immediate aftermath of the destruction of the Soviet Union. More and more countries are beginning to question the underpinnings of the post-WW2 global economic framework and the privileged position of the US within it. Libya was pursuing an African trading currency backed by gold before NATO intervened. Other countries are choosing to trade commodities such as oil in currencies other than US dollars. Perhaps most notable is the growing trade between China and the Russian Federation in their own currencies and the building of infrastructure to massively expand that trade.
This is not a matter of indifference for the peoples of the world. While entities like BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa), may be comprised of countries at different stages of economic development and with different social systems, including socialist China, the emergence of such a bloc is a progressive development for the people of the world. It weakens the grip of US imperialism on economies and blunts attacks by the US and its allies on the sovereignty of those countries. It is not a “lesser of two evils” among rival imperialist blocs. It is a positive development in international affairs. It is an example to others that enrages the US imperialists and against which they plot night and day.
The US is acting to prevent such initiatives. It is putting pressure on countries not to join a regional development bank backed by China. It is pushing for the conclusion of the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP and other pacts, which would leave governments with far less power to legislate to protect their citizens from the predations of the transnational corporations. Progressive people should support the growth of alternatives to US-dominated imperialism such as BRICS and ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas).
Australia and our region
The political scene in Australia reflects the international situation in which US imperialism struggles aggressively to maintain its hegemony. The Coalition government led by Prime Minister Tony Abbott is pursuing a far more openly reactionary agenda than its Labor (social democratic) predecessor. In conjunction with state government counterparts, it is slashing spending on public services and axing thousands of public sector jobs. It is privatising the few remaining public assets.
Lines between the public and private provision of health services and education continue to be blurred with the ultimate objective of destroying the public system for all but the most disadvantaged. An increase to the regressive Goods and Services Tax is being pushed so that the states can meet their financial shortfalls. Tertiary education fees and student debt are set to skyrocket as the universities are de-regulated. Degrading cashless social security programs are being implemented, workers’ compensation schemes changed to get workers back on the job quicker and sicker. Aboriginal land rights are under attack to enable their traditional lands to be plundered by mining transnationals.
A witch-hunt against the trade unions is being waged through a Royal Commission into “trade union governance and corruption”. The behaviour of right-wing opportunist elements in some trade union leaderships has enabled the government to further damage the position of unions in public opinion. It has set the stage for police task forces and greater controls over the unions' own resources. The connection between trade unions and some of the bigger superannuation (retirement) funds will be tested. There is a secret police force operating on Australian construction sites disrupting on-the-job organisation and punishing trade unions and their members daring to organise or struggle.
The military is the only sector of public spending not to be cut. Joint Strike Fighters, Air Warfare Destroyers and submarines are on the order books or under active consideration. The US is getting new spy facilities in the west of the country and has a new Marines base in Darwin in the north. Australian service personnel have been sent to bomb targets in Iraq and Syria.
Fear and division are being fanned by the government and the corporate media. Muslim communities are under attack from bigoted elements and racist political groups are recruiting strongly. Legislation to spy on Australians' use of phones and the Internet, restrict their movement and prevent people from speaking out about the government's covert actions is being rushed through the parliament with “bi-partisan” support. The maximum penalty is life imprisonment, with journalists and whistleblowers the main targets.
The federal government has scrapped a tax on the mining sector. It was a small levy on a small number of companies but even that was considered improper by the companies affected and the incoming Coalition government. Similarly, the carbon tax that exempted and compensated the biggest polluters in the country was scrapped. Reckless climate change denial is driving public policy. The mining industry has its own right-wing populist party in the parliament – the Palmer United Party named after coal mining billionaire Clive Palmer who holds a lower house seat.
The role of Communists
The duty of Communists in the face of all these challenges in Australia is the same as it is the world over – to resist and to organise the broadest possible alliance of forces to resist effectively. The list of attacks and areas requiring a fight back is a long one and the enemy is cunning and well-resourced. However, the scale of the offensive against people's rights has already prompted a strong reaction. The biggest marches seen in recent times have taken place on the streets of the major cities. They lack class-consciousness and any sense of how to enhance and widen the struggle and oppose austerity measures and sackings. They fail to put forward any alternative policies. That is the role of Communists at the current stage.
The offensive of the international capitalist class and US imperialism is global. The international connections of the struggle need to be made and the hand of solidarity extended to people fighting the same enemy. The international Communist movement is a logical place for such linkages to be made. At some point this will have to be lifted beyond the level of joint statements to more practical initiatives. The Communist Party of Australia looks forward to playing its part in those undertakings. There are plenty of campaigns where our movement could focus its efforts. The case of the Cuban Five prisoners comes immediately to mind. Let us as a united Communist movement strike a blow against imperialism by securing the release of the Cuban Five. In these sorts of ways we can add to the international fight back against the offensive of capital, against its plan for fascism and war.