Communist cooperation: building links between fraternal parties
Proletarian internationalism is one of the unique features of Marxism-Leninism and a guiding principle for the theory and practice of communist parties. Marx and Engels expounded the idea that it is not enough for the proletariat of one country to rise up and depose their own bourgeoisie. It is absolutely essential for them to wage a common struggle with the international proletariat for the complete defeat of all exploiters and the final liberation of all humankind.
The Communist Party of Australia (CPA) has a long and glorious tradition of waging struggles in common with the proletarians of other nations. Our members have opposed the actions of Australia’s national bourgeoisie when they harm the workers and peasants of other countries, supported anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles, defended the socialist countries and fought against racism and jingoism domestically. The CPA’s leadership in the Dalfram dispute, against the export of pig-iron destined to fuel the Japanese war-machine and its slaughter of the Chinese people, and the anti-Vietnam war movement are just two examples of the party’s internationalist pedigree.
Proletarian internationalism can also be measured by the level of cooperation we engage in with fraternal communist parties. This article will emphasise the fundamental principles that must govern inter-party relations, explore some of the ways that fraternal parties can learn from each other and show how cooperation on joint campaigns is possible. As capitalism’s global assault on working people increases in intensity, so too must our cooperation with fraternal parties.
Potential areas of cooperation
Communist Parties abroad have a wealth of knowledge earned through decades of struggle that we would do well to learn from. Where better to start our search for knowledge than on the theme of education? Education is a task central to the efforts of all communist parties because it equips comrades with the theory necessary to successfully carry out the struggle of the working class. Kalinin, Soviet head of state from the 1920s to the 1940s and responsible for education, wrote that: “We study Marxism-Leninism as a method, as an instrument with the aid of which we correctly determine our political, social and private conduct”. Without Marxism-Leninism as our guide to action, comrades will make serious errors that harm our work. Chinese revolutionary and theorist Liu Shaoqi criticised an anti-education trend among Chinese comrades in the late 1930s when he said: “At the same time, we should add that no Party member can maintain a proletarian stand and express a proletarian ideology concretely in every revolutionary struggle unless he studies the theory and method of Marxism-Leninism diligently and guides his thinking and action accordingly”. So it is clear that inner-party education work is vital.
Our Party has achieved its own victories and suffered its own defeats when it comes to education work. We have learned lessons based on our own specific circumstances and special conditions, however there is still much we can learn from the experiences of others. What could the CPA stand to learn from others in terms of education?
Firstly, we should find out how other parties organise their education work. Is there a more effective way to distribute responsibilities for education such as curriculum development and national school schedules? How do other parties carry out systematic education when students join classes at different stages? The teacher training regimens of other parties can also provide valuable insights for our own education work. Aside from organisational problems, we should pay attention to the specifics of andragogy (adult education). What teaching methods do tutors and teachers use in the classroom? Are students simply being lectured or is learning student centred? Are we allowing comrades to “pool their ignorance” too much or have we found the sweet spot between exposition and participation?
Comrades engaged in education work for fraternal parties may also share other useful practical information with us such as the best way to integrate visual aids into the classroom or which programs are the most useful for supporting tutors. Finally, we need to learn more creative ways of expanding education beyond the classroom. Generations of Marxist educators have stressed the link between theory and practice and the need to combine theoretical book learning with practical application of that learning.
Our education cadre have already begun to learn from the experiences of communist parties abroad. As a result of person to person inter-party diplomacy, links have been established between cadre of the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB) and the CPA. The PCdoB has developed a well organised system of education for all levels of comrades and an impressive series of educational videos. They have provided basic information about their education system and have agreed to further interviews and sharing of educational materials. Cooperation with the Communist Party of Germany has also been raised, with initial contact already established. Finally, on an even more exciting note, members of the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) and the Chinese Academy of Marxism (CAM) have been holding discussions on the establishment of a “University of Marxism” in China. Participants envisage the university as an international school for the training of cadres, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Education helps our comrades to develop the right ideas, while propaganda helps us to bring our message to the masses. Propaganda is an area in which we are seriously lagging behind the class enemy. As times and conditions change, the methods that proved so effective in the past no longer carry the same weight with modern Australians. How do we produce propaganda that not only carries a good political line advocating policy that workers will support but also attracts attention through its high production values and creative implementation?
Communist parties abroad can provide valuable insights into this question. While each party faces a unique national situation that requires specific propaganda techniques or content that may not be suitable in Australia, there is still a lot to be learned. Creative adaptation of foreign experience will serve us well. When casting our eyes abroad, it would be wise to start with parties in similar situations to our own such as the CPUSA or communist parties in the so-called commonwealth countries. To that end, I recommend that our Party strengthen person to person and party to party links with these parties so that we may better learn from their successes and failures.
Internationalism is not a one-way street. Our party also has successful experiences to share with overseas comrades. To cite one small-scale example, Freeway Blogging is a technique where simple yet eye-catching banners are hung up along high traffic locations where tens of thousands of people will see them before they are taken down. Depending on the stretch of road, banners have stayed up for weeks. This is a technique that comrades in Adelaide have been employing for a number of years to great effect. It is cheap and relatively easy to do. A little dumpster diving provides the cardboard while a few tins of paint will last you many banners. This affordable yet effective technique was originally developed by a comrade in the US and has since been successfully adapted by Australian comrades. If our members are successful in building greater international links then we may be able to inspire other parties to adopt techniques that we found useful such as freeway blogging.
While sharing experiences and trading techniques with fraternal parties is helpful, we also have countless opportunities to cooperate on joint campaigns. There are ways that we can work together that are mutually beneficial, regardless of the situation of our international colleagues. One potential form of cooperation is comrade exchanges. Cadre who are responsible for some aspect of the party’s work could trade places with a comrade from a fraternal party for a reasonable length of time. During this exchange, cadres would learn more about how work in their area of responsibility is conducted overseas, determine what aspects are suitable for application in their home country and provide a fresh, outsider perspective on problems regarding their host party’s work methods. The CPUSA and the Communist Party of China (CPC) have already begun a similar exchange process, where academics from CAM visit the US for research or exchange purposes on an official level but also join US comrades in their party activities. Even in our current financial and organisational situation, a short-term exchange program between our party and comrades from countries where it is easy to obtain an Australian visa would not be difficult to carry out. If comrades are willing to self-fund their airfares while host parties provide accommodation this would effectively cost our organisation nothing yet provide invaluable cadre development opportunities.
Solidarity is one of the cornerstones of proletarian internationalism and our party has a strong tradition of solidarity work. Our comrades have led unions and solidarity organisations in carrying out activities in support of disposed, victimised and oppressed peoples all over the world. Despite our size and means, we dedicate cadre to organisations such as the Australia Cuba Friendship Society (ACFS) and play our part in supporting socialist countries. This is something we can be proud of. Sending money and attempting to raise public awareness about overseas causes is helpful in its own way, but we should begin to explore new ways of expressing solidarity. We should improve our links with parties in the socialist countries so that we can discuss ways of working together that are mutually beneficial. Can we facilitate the propaganda work of these parties in Australia? Can we use our better understanding of Australian culture and social psychology to help Cuban or Chinese comrades craft better publicity material? Can these parties in return provide design experts, training or equipment that helps us raise the level of our own propaganda work? All of these wonderful opportunities require the first step of improving party-to-party links and discussing how best we can help each other.
Our party has long held the view that migrant comrades should not cling to their home parties but should instead participate in the struggle of their new homeland and join the local communist party. The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) has historically insisted that Greeks migrating to Australia participate in the local struggle and join the CPA, however the same can not be said for every fraternal party. Where possible, we should carry out propaganda work among migrant communities to encourage communists who have come from overseas to join our own party. Posters in migrant areas and online posts in migrant forums in the language of these communities may help us to recruit overseas comrades living in Australia.
We should also reach out to comrades from fraternal parties who are in Australia temporarily whether for work, study or travel.
General recommendations for our work
International cooperation isn’t something that only an international sub-committee or party leaders can engage in, it is something that comrades at all levels can promote. How can comrades contribute to the international work of our party and to the formation of closer links between fraternal parties?
Individual comrades should take advantage of every opportunity they can to cultivate links with comrades from fraternal parties. Person-to-person links may form the foundation for later formal cooperation. A colleague in a fraternal party may share their personal experiences and provide insights into the work of their own party. Their branch might have come up with a creative new way to carry out propaganda work or they may have found that certain traditional methods simply don’t work in their area. By communicating one-on-one with overseas comrades, individual members can learn valuable lessons from the experiences of others and bring these accounts to their branches, improving the overall work of local organisations. Information sharing and potential future cooperation on educational matters between the CPA and the PCdoB began with informal person-to-person contact between ordinary party members. The members in question maintained contact, shared ideas and reported to higher party organs. If every member of our party seeks out international contacts and works on those relationships, we will have a wealth of connections with fraternal parties that can be developed into practical cooperation.
While these links are very useful, it is still important for our leadership and international sub-committee comrades to continue to carry out formal relationship building with other parties. Wherever possible, relationships should be built with a view to promoting concrete cooperation between fraternal parties. Of course this doesn’t mean that we must have a project on the go with every communist party in the world. What it does mean is that we are always mindful of how to develop relationships with fraternal parties from formalistic exchanges of greetings into practical cooperation that supports the cause of communism in both countries. Since our leadership cadre is not unlimited, it may be worthwhile for the maintenance of relationships with specific parties to be delegated to particular branches or comrades on both sides, resulting in a kind of “sister-branch” relationship. The branches and comrades involved could act as bridges between our parties that keep the relationship alive with regular contact and cooperation.
Building strong links of trust and friendship between parties in wildly different circumstances requires adherence to basic principles of inter-party relations and a mature understanding of the best ways to cooperate despite differences. Mutual respect and mutual benefit are two principles that must be applied in modern inter-party relations. The days of the Soviet Union as a centre of world revolution are long gone and none of the existing communist parties in power appear willing to take on that responsibility. Comrades seeking to build person to person links with members of parties leading socialist societies such as the CPC or powerful communist parties in capitalist countries such as the Japanese Communist Party (JCP), should be mindful of inherent disparities without being cowed into inactivity. Branch-to-branch exchanges could be very useful as mentioned earlier in this article. At the official party-to-party level, cadres should focus on ensuring a relationship of mutual respect by not merely asking for support or funding but by seeking out ways that we can help those parties. By demonstrating our ability to act and to perform beyond our numbers, we will earn the respect of larger parties and will be more likely to secure opportunities for meaningful cooperation.
The natural candidates for inter-party cooperation are parties in very similar conditions to our own, such as those with relatively small memberships, limited income, and similar operating conditions. That is not to suggest that we cannot learn from the experiences and methods of struggle of other parties working in very different conditions. Individual comrades, branches and leadership cadres should prioritise working relationships with these parties so that we can learn what tactics are effective and find ways to work together on common campaigns.
Special care must be taken when attempting to communicate and establish links with fraternal parties engaged in underground struggles. These comrades will be endangered if we fail to take adequate security precautions, but the potential benefits for both sides make cooperation especially rewarding. One of the unfortunate illnesses of communist movements in countries like Australia is the prevalence of petty-bourgeois individualism. The unlikelihood of an imminent socialist revolution combined with the relative political safety and freedom of our membership provides fertile breeding ground for a lack of discipline and dedication to the realisation of communism. All too often we see members shirking their responsibilities by regularly putting their own interests above those of the party. Examples of this trend include people who: ignore democratic decisions that they disapprove of, boycott the implementation of Party policy that they disagree with and sabotage the work of party committees out of petty vengeance against comrades who rightly criticised their unacceptable behaviour. Contact with parties fighting life or death struggles could be an effective method of instilling the discipline and commitment required of a communist. Exposing our members to international comrades who face imprisonment, torture and death as the consequences of their party activities might be the slap in the face they need to improve their work style. Underground parties can share real life accounts, anecdotes and writings about their struggle with us, while our members can organise solidarity and fund-raising activities to free jailed activists or to facilitate the underground struggle.
Through informal person-to-person and formal party-to-party links, fraternal parties are able to learn from each other by sharing their experiences and techniques. Person to person contact between comrades has become increasingly convenient as communications technology improves, opening up new possibilities for information sharing and greater cooperation such as cadre exchanges. As capitalist globalisation speeds up and the despotic rule of transnational corporations is felt by more and more people, joint struggle by fraternal parties must also be strengthened. In the spirit of Marx’s resounding call to action in the Communist Manifesto: fraternal parties of the world, unite!