Australian Marxist Review

The struggle for Continuity in revolutionary change

Author David Matters at the 1988 Congress of the Socialist Party of Australia. Photo: CPA

David Matters


The decision to construct a thesis on Continuity came about as a response to the study of Marxism-Leninism in the context of the working class struggles in Australia. It is a response to the liquidation and misrepresentation of Marxism and the presentation of errors as Marxism. It became apparent that this struggle was at the centre of the renewal and renovation that is necessary to reverse the decline in the working-class struggle and the creation of a force capable of changing the order of society from Capitalism to Socialism; the ending of all forms of slavery, in particular wage slavery. This thesis traces the development of our movement back to Marx and shows how the struggle to maintain Continuity is of great importance.

Continuity from Marx and Engels to Lenin

When Marx set forth his critique of capitalist political economy in his epic work Capital (1867), he showed that it was a relationship of people, developed through the capitalist mode of production. In this review of political economy, he showed the development of labour power as a commodity, that when purchased places the seller of that commodity into a relationship of subordination to the purchaser, developing a contradiction of interest between the purchaser and the seller. The purchaser makes this exchange to gather the value producing aspect of this commodity; the seller does so in order to live. The application of labour power to the process of production created an additional value which is retained in the form of the commodities produced. These commodities, produced by the labour of others, became the property of the capitalist. Marx also showed that the development of Capitalism brought into existence and developed a class of people, the proletariat. This mode of existence would force that class to assert its interests, to liberate itself and thereby the whole of human society, from the transitional system of Capitalism. In the criticism of Capitalism, a system of thought and a view of the application of this science, the exploited and enslaved class could overthrow the exploiting class and through its own rule move to abolish classes. The study of the struggle of the working class and the revolutions of his lifetime involved Marx in laying out some blueprints for these developments.

By using material gathered by factory inspector Horner and inquiries into the application of legislation to the factory system, Marx examined the actual rather than perceived benefit. He shows in Capital: A Critique of Political Economy (Marx 1967) that the absolute hunger for surplus value and the need for capital not only renewed but drove revolutionary changes in relations within production and in society. Marx analyses the working day and the relationship between, what he terms, socially necessary labour and exploitation, seen in the manufacturing system after the introduction of water, then steam power. He also analyses its relationship to the previous handicrafts and the division of labour that first comes from the manufacturing system and is then present in the form of the simplification and separation of tasks in the manufacturing process.

These revolutionary changes led to the dissolution of social relations, with the old feudal structures torn asunder. In Britain these were represented in legislative forms such as the corn laws and the enclosure acts. These laws were enacted and brought into being a mass of people who had no alternative but starvation or the sale of their labour. This process dragged the old feudal-based family structure to where they were forced to sell their labour power to live. The basic price paid by the capitalist was what it cost to reproduce the labourer. The source of additional value was what was extracted in time or the commodities produced, above the value paid to the seller of labour power. Without restriction, the owners of capital would sacrifice the labourer to extract as much additional labour from the labourer. This was done by extending the working day, or by intensifying the labour in the day (that is, by producing more of a particular commodity in less time), and through technological improvements, and the addition of machinery to improve the production process. They operated in relation to each other through competition. The intensity of labour led to a lengthening of the working day, in those manufacturing centres not yet applying the new industrial methods, and to the extinction of those who could not meet the new socially necessary labour time.

This process leads to a greater concentration of capital in fewer hands and to more and more people forced into the position of labourer. The attempts by the proletarian to resist the destructive aspects of this process open this new form of the class struggle. The only way to put an end to this cycle is for the new class to take power and to bring this process to service the needs of humanity. A new Communist society will still produce surplus value, but this social surplus forms an accumulation fund to meet the needs of all society.

Marx saw the new capitalist system as separating humans, in a negative way, from nature. Firstly, in the destructive effects it has on the labourer, and secondly, it interrupts the exchange of matter with the natural cycles. The transformation of society through a political revolution would open the reunification of the producer with their product and humans with the natural cycles of matter. It was not in the interest of the labouring class to perpetuate this new form of slavery, which gives the appearance of liberation from previous forms of slavery, but in fact separates the actual producer of wealth from not only the product of that labour but also from the actual tools of production. This creates a contradiction between the labourer, dispossessed of the means of producing their life, and being reduced to a wage slave, in this system of production and the class that had taken possession of the productive processes. This was a new turn in the class struggle. Marx saw the duality of capitalism: on the one hand it created new miseries, but it also created the means of liberating humanity. As economic development continues, it not only creates the possibility, but actually places the survival of human society on a precipice. Capitalism continually drives us towards war and the destruction of nature, now threatening the sustainability of life on the planet. The arrival of Socialism boldly turned human beings towards space exploration and the harnessing of science and freed humans from the contradiction of nature. The creation of the Soviet Union opened up new possibilities, including the eradication of diseases. It was the Soviet Union that led the campaign to successfully eradicate smallpox. It was in the Soviet Union that the natural environment became a central focus of the people. The new China has now turned massive resources towards green development, reafforestation and restoring the natural environment.

Engels demonstrated through his theoretical works the absolute connection of human society to nature. The laws of development of a Socialist revolution were in accord with the laws of nature. The development of society is leading towards these developments, with the class struggle as an engine for the development of quantitative changes towards the qualitative leap that is the Socialist revolution.

During their lifetimes, both Marx and Engels found themselves in defence of the science that they developed, with powerful works such as Anti-Dühring (Engels 1894) and the Poverty of Philosophy (Marx 1847). Marx’s understanding of the needs of the proletariat and its relations to the State are made clear in his study of the Paris Commune (Marx 1871). His “Critique of the Gotha Program” (Marx 1875) and other works challenged the opportunism of the Social-Democratic Party and its twin the Anarchist movement for their tendency towards a reform of Capital.

Lenin, as a leader within the Second International, in his writings on the state, challenged the suppression by “Orthodox” Marxists of sections of Marx and Engels’s work that dealt with class struggle of the proletariat that raised the proletariat to state power: a Dictatorship of the Proletariat as a new form of state (Lenin 1917).

This can be seen in works such as The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky and the Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, along with What is to be Done? and One Step Forward, Two Steps Back (Lenin 1902; 1904; 1905; 1918). Leninism is Marxism continued and developed, so that it forms the basis of why we must study Lenin with his rich analysis and practical applications.

In restoring and developing Marxism in the 20th century, Lenin through his State and Revolution and Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism shows how a separation occurred between banking capital and industrial capital (Lenin 1916; 1917). He then goes on to show that this new form of the bourgeois class had developed in such a way that it subordinated productive capital to its own interests. Finance Capital was a particularly parasitic form of capital separated and dominant over industrial capital; it led to a deepening of reactionary content. That the progressive (in the sense of historical progress) features of Capital had evolved to the most extreme and in terms of social development the final stage that must give way to Socialism. That the era of the proletarian revolution had arrived. That Capitalism was now at its Imperialist stage.

By 1870, capitalists had divided the world into colonies and semi-colonies (Lenin 1916). He showed that a world war was an inevitable consequence of this division as newly emerging Imperialist (capitalist) powers were locked out by the old powers. This was a source of inter-imperialist rivalries, which would be settled temporarily by war, such as the Japanese-Russian War of 1904. Lenin correctly anticipated that we were entering the era of the proletarian revolution (Lenin 1917), that the big bourgeoisie had become a reactionary class, that this class would resist the proletarian revolution, and that a layer of opportunist revisionism had developed based on an identification with and bribery within the proletariat. The financial oligarchy lived better, finding its source of additional income through the subjection of colonial or semi-colonial nations (Lenin 1918).

The struggle against this group of renegades formed the basis of the emergence of the Bolsheviks (Lenin 1920). It was the rejection of these forms of opportunism, which are the transmission through petty-bourgeois influences, that steeled the Bolsheviks and the proletariat in Russia to lead and advance the class struggle. The reason why Communists have studied these developments and the revolution in Russia is because so many forms of the struggle are concentrated in such a short period of time (Stalin 1938).

International: bourgeois reaction, left sectarians, and right opportunists

It is a mistake to see the class struggle as one sided, the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. Without the interceding world war, the imperialists as a class would not have been divided and thus scramble to deal with the emergence of the proletarian revolt, which had world-wide significance.

The bourgeoisie began to engage in counter-measures, first in seeking allies within the revolutionary classes. The first alliances were with the petty-bourgeois opportunists of the Second International. In Russia (Martov and the Mensheviks, Kerensky and the Socialist-Revolutionaries) and in Britain, the Labour Party. In Australia, the Hughes Labour government later evolved into the Hughes National Party government. In Germany, the forces around Kautsky and the revisionist pro-war Social-Democrats. In Italy, the most extreme form was the creation of the Socialists of the Fascist movement around Mussolini. The more extreme the situation faced by the bourgeoisie the more extreme their reactions against their own proletarians.

The infantile actions by left sectarians, aided and abetted by the bourgeois Anarchists, devolved into groups that took political action to the extreme, or abstained from the necessary development of the revolutionary proletariat.

In Germany during the revolution that opened the end of WW1 the emerging vanguard engaged in premature putsches such as the formation of Soviets. Whilst heroic, against a well-steeled bourgeoisie assisted by the opportunists from German Social-Democracy, it enabled the tragic destruction of the vanguard. German Social-Democracy beat Liebknecht by proclaiming the Weimar Republic ahead of the Proclamation by Liebknecht of the Soviet Republic. This placed power in the hands of the militarists and divided the forces of the working class.

One of the batons that the Trotskyists tend to beat us with is their interpretations of events around 1918-1923 in Germany. The theory of permanent revolution, as promoted by Trotsky, distorts and promotes the Menshevik excuses for their betrayals. Trotsky gave valuable support to the opponents of the revolution through his “Left” opposition. This distortion attributes to Stalin what the opposition characterised as “Socialism in One Country.” They promote an ignorant understanding of Marxism and in reality support the Menshevik opposition to the proletarian revolution. The CPSU (B) developed the revolution throughout the former Tsarist Empire, giving support to the development of the world revolution, in many countries including Germany and Britain.

The white knight myth of Trotsky as the leader of the revolution is in fact the myth of a cult figure, who appears as the mythical character Snowball in George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945). The real story actually befuddles the myth. Trotsky was brought to task for his non-Bolshevik methods of work on more than one occasion. His factionalism caused no end of problems at critical junctures. There was a joint working group assisting the German proletariat on which both Trotsky and Stalin sat with German comrades. It was a critical moment in the struggle for the proletariat of Germany to defeat rising German militarism. The situation demanded organs of power and Soviets to be created. It was Trotsky who influenced the German comrades to adopt instead a tactic of shop committees, thus reducing the whole struggle back towards economism.

It is the quantitative development of the Communist Party, and its fusion within the revolutionary class, that prepares the development of the class struggle to the level of state power. The actions of left sectarians and right opportunists hinder this development.

The reactionary class that has developed, the finance Capitalists, set aside their own sectional interests to create reactions to disrupt and negate the development of these quantitative changes. The arsenal in the hands of these forces are developments within the progressive class, which diverts and slows the qualitative changes. Since the class struggle has risen to state level this is also manifest in struggles between the states that reflect the rise of workers’ power to the state level.

Nineteen foreign armies intervened in the civil war against the Bolsheviks and the newly emerging proletarian state. The revolution advanced eastwards into the former colonies of the Russian Imperial empire. This resulted in the emergence, from this extension of the socialist revolution of separate Soviet republics, of nationalities that had been formerly oppressed. The Soviet Union was surrounded by the rightist governments of the Baltic states, Finland and Sweden, which tried to isolate and prevent trade with the newly emerged Soviet republics. The national question was high on the agenda and the assistance provided, including to China, was enormous.

The pressures on the new republics, along with the class interests of wavering petty bourgeois elements within the Soviet Union, gave rise to petty bourgeois oppositions that expressed hostility to the proletariat within the Party. Anti-party activity from the Workers Opposition, the Left Opposition, and the opposition to the collectivisation of the farms, spawned anti-Soviet forces and created a myth. This, and the encirclement, had a deep effect on the Party and narrowed some aspects of Party democracy. Nevertheless, the Soviet Union emerged and strengthened its position, forcing the bourgeoisie to find new tactics.

The world working class in its struggle with the bourgeoisie found that the struggle against colonialism and feudal survivals impelled by the reactionary nature of finance capital meant that the liberation of not just itself but whole nations had fallen on the proletariat and had become an acceleration and assistance of the proletarian revolution.

The bourgeoisie, alarmed at the successes of Soviet Power, saw the suppression of proletarian and national liberation struggles as its urgent task, so as to defend the imperialist system and capitalist exploitation from these forces. In Italy and Germany, along with Eastern Europe, more extreme – even terrorist – methods of struggle became the response, and an open terrorist dictatorship was combined with bourgeois democratic forms to subordinate the seeming democratic institutions to these criminal forces. In China it expressed its form in an open civil war where the blue shirts of Chang Kai Shek seized control of the Kuomintang, launching a war against the revolutionary forces with the assistance of imperialist reactionaries. The anticipated conflict between Imperial Japan and the USA was developing. The Japanese, pushing the other imperial powers out of Asia and the Pacific, saw Imperial Japan with its militarism and fascist rule as an alternative to the European powers. A new inter-imperialist struggle was developing between Germany and Britain, in terms of a political struggle over the leadership of Germany or Britain in this struggle (see Hitler’s open debate with Churchill). This struggle that led to the abdication of the king of England and the Battle of Britain, which was principally aimed at subduing the British working class and their opposition to the fascists. The struggle played out in Europe, with the conservatives under Chamberlain steering the Germans into direct conflict with the Soviet Union and being at least neutral in relation to the German acquisition of industrial resources in Czechoslovakia and – later – territory in Poland. In Spain, the playing out of the struggle allowed the use of military intervention to suppress the Spanish Republic. Incidentally, the negative developments of the opportunist Trotskyist and Anarchist forces undermined the Spanish Republic from within (Ibarruri 1966).

Through this period the Comintern applied the Popular Front, a United Front strategy, to oppose fascism. This activity, inspired and led by the Workers and Communist Parties, delayed and slowed the progress of the fascist bourgeoisie, giving time for the inter-imperialist rivalries to mature.

Many see the major war in Europe beginning with the D-Day invasion, or with the battle of Stalingrad. Forgotten is the phony war and the second capitulation of the French bourgeoisie, who created the puppet Vichy government against their own working class. The role of the Trotskyists in opposing, with the extreme right of social democracy, the United Front was the second betrayal of the working class by the German Social-Democrats and the French Socialists, who fell back under the assault of fascism. This is again overlooked in the post-war involvement of these forces against emerging people’s democracies.

This reflects the historic betrayal that took the Social-Democratic parties away from Socialist parties of the working class to parties of bourgeois opportunism among the working class. Social-Democratic parties have become the main saviour of the bourgeoisie. None of this overcomes the need to develop working class unity, but it raises the question of the role of the Communist Party in combating these forms of opportunism.

At this level the bourgeoisie have developed a need to incorporate these opportunisms into state monopoly formations and exercise control over them through organisations linked to the state but operating in NGO forms. Different forms of power are exercised by finance capitalism, and these are manifested in different bourgeois forms, ranging from Social-Democratic opportunism to left opportunism, bourgeois-democratic liberal governments, and a range of openly dictatorial governments. The most savage of these is the open terrorist dictatorship of the major bourgeoisie, ie, fascism, and the various forms of corporatism. Capitalism, as it approaches the development of state monopoly, has assumed weaker and more militarist forms. The range of governments that are engendered, as crisis has become general and permanent, means that quantitative features of all forms are interchangeable. What this means is that Social-Democratic governments resort to suppressive methods alongside some more traditional reforms. The sum of this activity in blurring the groups has a unifying core in Anti-Communism. These groups are interchangeable and operate with varying degrees of influence from the superstructure. These degrees include state agencies and intelligence services, sometimes connected through organised religion. The universities provide a breeding ground for such groups and their ideology, especially among the younger generation of workers and intellectuals.

Opportunism is brought into the working-class movement from petty-bourgeois elements. It travels with sectarianism and has been a feature plaguing the struggle from its inception. The First International fell into a furious struggle with the Anarchist forces, which spread through the Latin world (southern Europe and Latin America), and the deviation increased in its level of sophistication in proportion to the narrowing of the capitalist class (de Laforcade 2015). To hold onto power, the capitalists have to resort to these distortions within their ideological struggle in order to sow division and discord amongst the progressive class. The vehicle for this is a petty-bourgeois layer within the class, a parasitic layer, that sits on top of the class. This opportunism infects the Communist and Workers parties and spreads a paralysis within the class organisations. The distortions and even the so-called anti-revisionism are part of this complex that holds back the development of class consciousness. It was the leap towards continuity, established and developed by Lenin and the Bolsheviks, that overcame the distortions introduced by the opportunists in the Second International. This opened the road towards the Russian Revolution, successfully taking the leap towards a consistent development of consciousness. Leninism became the form in which the revolutionary continuity of Marxism re-emerged in the proletarian party.

Upon the arrival of this renewed Marxism all the previous forms of opportunism had to find ways of competing and began to adapt their approach to combat the rise of Leninism. Scientific leaps forward were attacked in new ways. The development of the class position, that the bourgeoisie had ceased to be a progressive class in historical terms, was adapted in the two opportunist trends of rejecting the need to develop society. This is manifested in all forms of Anarchism, including those using the Trotskyist label or the Maoist label. It was also reflected in the rejection of the United Front’s popular tactic. The second trend is also reflected in the right opportunists and left opportunists arguing for the need for bourgeois development to take place, under the leadership of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois forces. This muddling included trends bouncing between the two forms of the same opportunism. Whether of the right or left, both opportunisms have one guaranteed outcome: capitulation to the bourgeoisie. These ideological trends can be found in different mixtures within society and all have one source, the reflection of bourgeois ideology within the class.

Within society, the left forms of opportunism are embraced by the bourgeoisie, who sometimes dress their reaction in left camouflage. Trotskyism, Anarchism, Maoism and their leftist errors, are embraced as covers for rightist and even fascist ideology. The revolutionary individual, rather than collective activity, becomes the resort to undermine and divide the forces for change. Under pressure from this reaction, fractures and splinters have multiplied within the Communist and workers movement. These fractures and splinters take time to reveal their bourgeois appearance, and are hence of an opportunist character within the struggle for unity and a continuity of the revolutionary forces that is rising to new levels.

Often not fully embraced in the role that Lenin played, coming from the desertion of the forces of the Second International, was the restoration of revolutionary Continuity. Lenin not only restored Marxism; he extended and developed it. Centrist forces, such as Trotskyism, attempted to divert this process back towards the opportunist position, with its overemphasis on the role of the individual. Trotsky was an anti-Leninist, and therefore an anti-Marxist closely related to Anarchism, and through this petty-bourgeois relationship, acted as all the petty-bourgeois do, wavering first towards the proletariat and then towards the bourgeoisie. In this form he practised the process of trying to drag back the struggle towards previously rejected forms. His theory of world revolution rejected the Soviet Union as a base of the world revolution. In his opposition to Lenin’s thesis of developing the Soviet Union as a base, he presented the ossified previous theory that the revolution would break out in the advanced capitalist countries. Trotsky rejected the theory that Imperialism would break at the weakest link (Lenin 1916). He rejected Lenin’s, and in fact Marx’s view, that the development of Socialism was to be carried out over a prolonged period, wresting capital from the capitalists over time. Trotsky also rejected Lenin’s views on a revolutionary party (Trotsky 1931). He developed an anti-Leninist concept of “Left Opposition,” an extreme form of petty-bourgeois factionalism, within the Party. He opposed Party unity and Party democracy through his promotion of factionalism, thereby damaging the party. The factionalism that developed in the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) in the period under the successors to Stalin opened the way against Party democracy.

Trotsky attempted to create a false continuity between his petty-bourgeois anarchist theories, combined with Menshevik errors, as the continuation of the revolution, as the development of Leninism. This theory was assisted in its development by the capitalists in New York and even in Hitler’s Germany, where his works were not banned. In the universities of the Western nations these theories, along with Anarchism, were developed into the institutions of the state, which were charged with slowing and disrupting the workers’ struggle and the Communist movement. Schools of thought developed that subverted Marxism from within, challenged the Continuity of the Communist movement, gave a left cover to anti-Communism and attacked the Soviet Union from the left.

Understanding this is essential to the theoretical and practical development of the Communist and workers movement, and towards overcoming left Anti-Communism which is an effective disrupter of the development of the revolutionary movement. The wave of left opportunism, which swept the world in the 1950s and 1960s, was in response to and coupled with, right opportunist errors. Anarchist and utopian concepts were introduced not only in western Communist Parties, but found reflections in all Communist Parties. The combination of left and right errors added to the divisions which were fundamental in the development of divisions between Socialist countries. It is incorrect to blame only one side in the Sino-Soviet split, or the Yugoslav-Soviet split. At no time can we justify what became a development of counter-revolution. The loss of Continuity with Marxism, and the promotion of alien class ideology, were the result of errors based on dogmatic approaches. The left opportunist position undermines a correct approach to the revolutionary class and reflects petty-bourgeois tendencies within the class. The right opportunist gives ground to the bourgeois forces and feeds the extreme leftist tendencies. Both trends must be combatted, as they threaten revolutionary Continuity.

In the Soviet Union there was an overestimation of the development of society and the abolition of the law of value. This meant that leftist errors, such as the proclamations on the need to surrender the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, fed the rightist forces. Believing that Communism was around the corner, while the productive forces were coming up against internal contradictions, introduced economic and imperialist pressure on the development of the world economy and the development of the Socialist state. The result was a failure to understand the Continuity of Socialism from Capitalism.

A fundamental mistake was placing economics outside of the development of class rule, along with strengthening the Party and the rule of the Soviets. Corrections and reforms under Socialism, during the transition of the proletariat, form the basis of making and holding class rule. At no time did the bourgeoisie as a class stop their attempts at the restoration of their rule. All efforts were made to restore bourgeois class rule. At the centres of the Imperialist powers were developments of the ideological struggle so as to form a basis of the bourgeois struggle to maintain and extend its class interests. Universities have been turned towards this with an infusion of bourgeois ideological thinking. The creation of so-called schools of Marxism in western universities, funded by the US Imperialists through Harvard University and think tanks, invented and then dispersed these ideological manipulations into workers movements, as has been shown with the release of CIA files (Gearon 2019: 742-761). The Harvard Trade Union Schools have graduates in positions of influence. The promotion of anti-Soviet and anti-Communist literature and the seizing on dissident writers deepen anti-Communism within society. Within the Socialist countries education has played a role in promoting antagonistic views, made to recruit individuals and foster bourgeois views. Thus, the underground movements and trends towards the development of ways of living, not dependent on the prevailing society, create black markets that convert state capital to individual capital. This employment of individuals in the informal sector provides a counter to the development of society along socialist lines. Huge sums were offered by the CIA to ‘defectors’ and dissidents. These methods are not new to workers, who when they have engaged in strikes have had to deal with strike breakers, scabs and traitors within the class. As and when the class has resorted to dealing with these individuals, the bourgeoisie then attacks the working class, calling them thugs and dictators. Religion, racism and many other forms of bigotry, become a means to undermine the unity of the class. At the state level this becomes a force raised against the proletarian state and builds up the support for these forces, working against the class rule of the workers and gaining support for the restoration of the slavery of capitalist rule.

The successful restoration of the rule of the bourgeois class in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union was a part of the ability of this class to restore its position, adapt and loot the economy built under Socialism, in order to re-establish slavery in all its forms, including wage slavery. The petty-bourgeois forces that operated under the labels of “anti-Stalinism” and “anti-Soviet” borrowed the revolutionary iconography and mixed bourgeois liberalism, Trotskyism, Anarchism and Maoism to cloak and deceive the progressive class as to their real aim. They wanted to restore the Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie in state form and to re-establish wage slavery, thereby destroying all the organs of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat in alliance with the peasantry. These organs included Soviet rule, the Communist Party, and the trade unions, which were a part of this rule by the class. Collective farms were abolished and all the property of the people was restored to capitalist ownership and to state monopoly ownership under the Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie. This was not possible without an alliance of the anti-Communists with petty-bourgeois layers within society. It is also not possible without the super profits being generated out of the restoration of capitalism being shared with a layer of the working classes in the dominant imperialist nations. This layer then becomes a vehicle for introducing opportunist trends within the working-class movement.

In China, petty bourgeois egalitarianism was interpreted as Socialism. Some aspects of this treatment meant a form of development, that emphasised the “Iron Rice Bowl,” the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, motivated by the desperation to advance. This has now given way to a more gradual accumulation of capital, recognising that the sheer force of will cannot overcome capitalism and that only the economic development under the proletarian dictatorship can open the road to Socialism, which is a qualitative leap from Capitalism. The required leap, from quantitative change to qualitative change, requires constant attention to ensure quantitative changes do not contradict the development of the qualitative leap.

It is this struggle for Continuity that the Communist Party of China exercises. The Party has maintained its links with the continuous development through an application of the process of dialectics: a series of quantitative changes, or reforms, lead to a qualitative leap. A correct understanding is required, of what each qualitative leap is and when to apply the concepts of reform: quantitative change or qualitative leap to revolution. Thus, the qualitative leap that was the creation of the People’s Republic of China, followed by quantitative changes, either led or subtracted from the movement, led to the next qualitative leap, advanced Socialism. The identification of mistakes in the development, such as utopian concepts of egalitarianism and forced marches as attempts at making leaps, without developing the necessary quantitative changes, placed China at the same point the Soviet Union had reached in the 1950s. It is a major step from basic Socialism to advanced Socialism. This struggle involves an enormous and difficult leap, resisting external pressure, coupled with appeals to the class forces by the interests aligned with the external capitalist forces. In the Soviet Union many gains were made but the enormous economic set-back after the invasion by the Nazi alliance, centred around Germany, cost the resources that could have been used to advance Socialism.

The post-war reconstruction of the Soviet Union also bought with it a considerable attack by Western Imperialism, which sought to reverse the gains made by Socialist forces in the ensuing revolutionary upswing accompanying the liberation of Europe. The encouragement of nationalism and the revitalisation of the Second International formed a method of diluting the struggle, with the encouragement of Social-Democratic forces in the Baltics and Northern Europe, as a Cold War strategy. The partial introduction of welfare reforms throughout Europe was combined with the subversion of the differences within the Communist movement. In the metropole of Capitalism, Communists in the USA and West Germany were suppressed and their Parties outlawed, along with the restoration and the utilisation of anti-Communist forces. Funding “schools” of Marxism such as the Frankfurt School in Europe and the anti-Communist trends in Japan were also useful. The most alarming trend were the mistakes made in sections of the Communist movement in allowing opportunism to gain a foothold. The reliance on the differences in the bourgeoisie between the two divergent camps of imperialists spread the myth that the USA-British camp was a reliable ally of the progressive and democratic movement. It led to a lack of understanding internationally of the reactionary nature of this so-called “democratic camp,” which turned towards active hostility and the development of nuclear weapons. This shifted the balance of forces, with the US able to use its war profits to corrupt and intervene in countries throughout the world.

Active hostilities resumed and anti-Communist activities increased with the opening of the anti-colonial revolutions on the back of the defeat of fascism and European Imperialist powers, such as Britain, France, Belgium and Portugal. National liberation assumed a revolutionary character giving increased power to the working classes of Eastern Europe and China. These were established through alliances that crossed class forces with the Communist Parties and the working class as the leading force in society.

In the Soviet Union this process was not consciously applied so that reforms or quantitative changes were made that subtracted from the development of the leap. These reforms subtracted so much from revolutionary Continuity that a leap back to a regressive society restored capitalism as a backward slave system. The development of Socialism is a conscious act and requires a strong understanding of the natural science of Marxism-Leninism. The picking up of non-scientific views meant that leaders such as Gorbachev, with his alien “science” made reforms that restored wage slavery in the Soviet Union.

Australia: Communist Continuity and the Struggle against Anti-Communism

In Western Communist parties we need to pay attention to Continuity. In Australia, as in other countries, the struggle has been to deny Continuity to our Party. The struggle to destroy this Continuity was successful when forces, working against the revolutionary Continuity, gained an ascendancy. The fact that our Party saw this Continuity as important is enshrined in our Constitution, with the understanding that the forces that grabbed control of the former Communist Party were going to liquidate the party to destroy the connection of the Party to the struggle of our class. Our Party put forward that we were the party of revolutionary Continuity and therefore we reclaimed the name of the Communist Party.

For communists in this country, the restoration of our Continuity rests with the struggles of our class for the restoration of our unity. To achieve this, we must make a part of our culture the recognition and continuance of the contributions made by previous generations of revolutionaries. We must take the best, the most positive, that is, those aspects of the struggle that contribute to the development of a revolutionary leap to the development of the class struggle in our Party.

This struggle is of great importance and the denial of our Continuity is recognised by the anti-Communists in different forms. The Trotskyists seek to grab parts of our history to turn it against us. The liquidators of the Search Foundation seek to bury the revolutionary parts and present the struggles in their quantitative form, as mere reforms of capitalism, or unseemly aspects of capitalism. The liquidators gather in the Search Foundation and have united with a wide variety of anti-Communist bourgeois liberals to prevent the return of and development of the Continuity of the revolutionary forces. They hide their position under a range of anti-Communist slogans, while directing change to reform capital. The role of this organisation is to deny the working-class Continuity in our revolutionary struggle.

It is our responsibility therefore to restore through practice our Continuity, to develop the best from the history of our class to generalise the experiences. When the militant trade unionists and revolutionary Socialists took the leap forward to found the Communist Party, they sought to gather the best of our Continuity. The heroism of our class struggle, the great fighters for democracy, brings with it revolutionary and fighting traditions.

The struggle that emerged in the Soviet Union over the Continuity of the revolution saw a break occur with the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and Peasantry. The state was central to this question and the Party formed the highest expression of the system of connections that allowed the continuation of the class rule. The disruptive effects of this approach, which was centred on the personality of Stalin, raised both negative and positive consequences above the actual class struggle. This created a division in the forces of the working class. The concentration on a personality, either negative or positive, was used to undermine Marxism-Leninism. The fundamentals of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat were challenged under the slogan of anti-Stalinism. Fundamental tenets were undermined. Other personalities were raised above the Party, so that instead of abolishing a cult of personality, bourgeois liberalism crept in and elevated new leaders who weakened the Party. Party democracy was weakened, with those who dissented from this attack being labelled as Stalinists. Previous struggles were degraded and the resulting confusion allowed anti-Party forces to develop their attacks.

In the Communist Party of Australia these petty bourgeois tendencies were strengthened, leaving the tried and tested leaders facing persecution by a new idealist trend, coupled with dogmatic defences. The attack on Stalin as a personality raised him above the Party and stopped an objective assessment of his mistakes and correct practises. It aided and assisted the international bourgeoisie.

In Australia, factionalism between the leading figures of the party deepened and a struggle ensued for Continuity amongst the ideological confusion. In the 1960s, a challenge began in the organisation of the Party, with the left sectarians liquidating the party’s industrial branches. The right opportunists raised the leaders above the Party and led attempts to subordinate the Party to the unions. Nationalist tendencies emerged, challenging the development of our Socialist consciousness.

The 1984 SPA Congress documents summarise what was happening:

During the 1960’s the CPA leaders advanced views that the working class was no longer a revolutionary force and had been integrated into the capitalist system and that the leadership of the revolutionary movement had been taken over by the students, the academics, and professional and technologically trained strata of society. These views led to neglect of industrial organisations. The base among the rank and file of the working class was weakened. This in turn undermined the position of Communists in some trade unions.

During 1983 the Party had lost significant forces, due to the actions of some leading trade union officials. The document goes on to analyse these developments: “We made an analysis of the formation of the Australian Marxist Forum and the formation of Maritime Unionists Socialist Activities Association and some other similar groups.” (Socialist Party of Australia 1984)

In a resolution adopted shortly after the formation of the Australian Marxist Forum the CC expressed the opinion that it would divert forces and energies from the task of building and strengthening the SPA (the name chosen to distinguish our party from the Liquidators), particularly the Party’s educational and ideological work, and that its formation has already created confusion and misgivings. “Far from bringing unity of understanding and purpose it may well add to ideological confusion and disunity.” The congress resolution went on, “ideological unity is not achieved by making a principle out of diversity but by upholding, propagating and fighting for the proven truths of Marxism-Leninism.”

In a further discussion of the disunity that characterised this period:

The disintegrating effects of the revisionist line adopted by the CPA [referring to the now Liquidated CPA] over 15 years ago have continued to erode it. This was entirely predictable. The same consequences have overtaken other parties which set out on the Euro-communist path, although when this course was first adopted by the CPA in 1967 the party was promised a “renewal.”

The Statement goes on to describe the attempts of the Old CPA to try to reverse the decline with a “Prospects for Socialism” debate.

In the ferment Bernie Taft resigned from the Communist Party and formed the Socialist Forum, not dissimilar to his previous ill-fated Australian Marxist Forum, which dissolved without a trace. In 1992, a forerunner of the liquidation of the old Communist Party, which liquidated into the New Left Party, it handed over assets to the Search Foundation as the New Left Party foundered and collapsed.

In a reflection of the direction then being adopted, the document quotes B Aarons, calling for “a new Socialist party which can unite significant sections of the left … What the support would be for our existing policies unencumbered by the communist tag.” It goes on to ask two questions:

If 15 years of Euro-communism which was supposed to lead to “renewal,” has in fact led to continued decline and more disunity, may it not be that this policy course is wrong? Is it not a fact that the CPA was much stronger and more influential when it followed a militant class struggle course, proclaimed its solidarity and participation in the international communist movement and based its work on Marxist-Leninist positions?

In dealing with the fracturing of the Communist movement the document deals with the formation of the Association of Communist Unity, which came into existence from the ex-members of the SPA, under the names of P. Clancy, R  Clarke, and W Brown. The outcome of this organisation trying to create ad hoc organisations is that they have not created unity but have contributed to disunity and the dissolution of their forces. They operated as liquidators.

The victory of the anti-fascist coalitions against fascism and war signalled a new high point in the struggle. It stimulated the struggle for national liberation and the position of the working class. In the late 1940s new forms of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat came into existence with successful revolutions in countries that previously had been colonies, or under right-wing and feudal dictatorships. The emergence of these people’s democracies formed a new form of government and offered the promise of advances.

At the same time, changes in the balance of power relations between the imperialist powers placed US capitalism in the leading role. War profits were massive and had been stored in the banks of Switzerland. The devastation of Europe and the Soviet Union’s losses were massive. At the end of the Second World War the USA became a nuclear armed state and quickly shared technology with its European allies. For the first time all of humanity faced the risk of nuclear annihilation and the US sought to increase its influence in all spheres. Japan, Western Europe, and large parts of the world were under US occupation. This continues today with 800 military bases situated around the world. The funding of counter-insurgency and the adoption of previous fascist forces was used to destabilise left movements.

Rightist and reactionary forces were funded and linked to a strategy to undermine the people’s republics and the Soviet Union. The activity extended into the Socialist world. In the Middle East the US took over the British campaign against Arab republics, funded the creation of a military force in Israel, propped up reactionary regimes, and overthrew progressive governments in Iran and Iraq. The CIA backed coups in Indonesia, Brazil, and Chile (Blum 1986). The competition with the Socialist world was intensified into an arms race.

In Australia, the attack on the Communist Party was stepped up. Leading into World War II the Party was made illegal, in June 1940. This illegality only ended when the Soviet Union became the West’s ally. The fight against war and fascism that was led by the Party resulted in a de facto united front with the Labor government and Communists were having electoral success.

Post-war, the struggle began to assume new dimensions and the Party was challenging for a leading role in the working class. The Cold War began to push back the gains that had been made, and this was heavily dependent on the US’s nuclear arsenal. On top of the coal dispute, the General Secretary of the Party, Lance Sharkey, was jailed in 1949 for six months on the trumped-up charge of sedition. Australia militarily intervened in Korea, Malaysia, Borneo, and then in Vietnam and Indochina. Australia’s shift to the USA had occurred during the Pacific War and then a shift in US foreign policy led to attacks to destabilise the Socialist world. The establishment of US spy bases and the creation of the anti-Communist “Groupers” openly attacked the trade unions, and through the creation of rightist groups, sought to unite the openly fascist migrants then being bought into Australia.

The Communist Party, in unity with militant trade unionists, defeated attempts to make the Party illegal in the 1950s. International events weighed heavily when Hungary, the GDR (German Democratic Republic), and other areas were compounded by an attack launched at the 20th Congress of the CPSU(B), held on 14th - 25th February 1956. First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev delivered his infamous “Secret Speech,” which denounced the personality cult and “dictatorship” of Joseph Stalin. This speech set back Party unity and caused a number of problems, which were aimed at separating the Party from the people. It was a blow against revolutionary Continuity. The incorrect approach to these developments encouraged anti-Party forces and relied on finding support in the intermediary classes travelling with the Party and the working class.

Despite all this, the Communist Party of Australia remained influential. The departure of the Ted Hill group under this attack split the Party significantly for the first time. The pressure of left opportunism gaining ground led to a shift to the right by sections of the Communist movement. The departures from the foundations of Leninism had their genesis in the changes occurring in the class struggle.

Consistently, a channel has had to be found to continue the struggle for revolutionary change, based on Marxism-Leninism. The formation of the Socialist Party of Australia, and its subsequent reclaiming the title of Communist Party of Australia in 1996, represents a struggle by militant workers and Communist to continue along that path. The rejection of Euro-communism and the theories of two superpowers, morphed into the CPA (ML) and other groups. They proclaimed that the Peoples Republic of China was “social imperialism,” even when the Communist Party of China corrected their ultra-left errors associated with Maoism. This has opened up new roads to our Party.

The development of Communist unity remains a challenge for all of us. In 1984 our Party set about trying to find the basis of unity in the class struggle and the scientific application of Marxism-Leninism to our realities in Australia. This requires us to find ways to promote unity in the interests of the working class and work tirelessly for this.

Recent struggles have led to splinters, fragments of the party built around the cult of individuals. They cannot be called “splits” as they have no principled basis within the class struggle, but form groups allied around particular individuals. Those who have been misled by these petty bourgeois deviations should step back and resume life in the struggle for revolutionary change. Internationally all parties have been plagued by groups that seek to mimic the Party. This confuses the youth and other comrades trying to build a Marxist-Leninist party. They all have a commonality in that they present their hatreds and sect-like adherences as Marxism-Leninism.

There is another group that presents itself as a continuation of the revolutionary traditions of the Communist Party and that is the Search Foundation. We must find a way to take out of this organisation any who seek a genuine path to change the order of society from capitalism to Socialism. Negatively, these forces promote opposition to Marxism-Leninism as a fight against what they call “Stalinism.” They present a constructed history that is supposed to demonstrate the forlorn hopes of previous generations of workers and Communists. No matter how they present this it places them in opposition to revolutionary change and instead favours the system of wage slavery. They see our society as the end of the historical development of human society, making them inherent defenders of capital.

Conclusion: our Continuity

Our Continuity must be with those who struggled to end the slavery of the convict system, to seek alliance with the First Nations people against the slave-owners, who established and set forth this regime. To oppose the monarchy as the state representative of the colonial empire of the slave owning class, we do not just seek a bourgeois republic, we seek a republic based on the working people in full support of the First Nations with their sovereign rights as the basis of that unity. We seek Continuity with that struggle and for the full development of all our cultures and languages. Such a republic cannot be a republic of settlers and must have a house to empower the rights of First Nations people. It must be a republic based on the people.

Most importantly the continuation of a revolutionary party and its connection to the working class are of fundamental importance. The narrative that the working class is no longer a revolutionary class is false. A Dictatorship of the Proletariat, in whatever form, is a necessity for revolutionary change. The narratives that have been presented as new “old ideas” lead to the liquidation of the forces for revolutionary change and restore the bourgeois order. That opportunism present in the left and right leads to the subordination of the workers back to the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and subjects the mass of the people to wage slavery.

It has been the restoration of Marxism as a science, with its fundamental discoveries through practice, that has advanced society towards a new era. It is these laws of science and not individuals that warrant our study and informs our practice. Bourgeois thinking and opportunism are the advance guard of the restorationists. The move away from the central role of the Party in unity with the working class, through opportunist thinking such as Eurocommunism or its ultra-left cousins under various false red banners, are the petty influences that undermine Democratic Centralism and Socialist democracy. Bourgeois democracy, while an advance over the naked dictatorship of fascist, militarist, and feudalist forces, still hides slavery in all its forms.


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