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Issue #1431      14 October 2009

CPA 11th National Congress

The Party for the Future holds course

“The future of humanity and the planet requires a radical change of policies and political direction. Our goal is the creation of a society that will resolve the problems inherent in capitalism – war, exploitation, environmental destruction, oppression, poverty, unemployment, ignorance, racism and injustice,” CPA General Secretary Dr Hannah Middleton told delegates and guests at the opening of the Party’s 11th National Congress.

“The old system has failed again and again while socialist China, Cuba and Vietnam lead the way in human, economic and environmental responsibility. Socialism is essential for our survival, for our future. That is why we call the Communist Party The Party for the Future.”

The failure of capitalism and the need for socialism was a recurring theme during the Congress which was held in Sydney from October 2-5.

The opening was a resounding success. CPA President Vinnie Molina set the scene welcoming guests and delegates. Well known Aboriginal activist Judy Chester welcomed delegates and guests to Country. She recalled the consistent role that the Communist Party has played in supporting Indigenous Australians; the old CPA was the first political party to take up the struggle. She urged comrades not to let up in their support.

Guests included diplomatic representatives from China, Cuba, Vietnam and Venezuela; representatives of fraternal parties in Lebanon and Iraq, the Search Foundation, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Australian Cuba Friendship Society, Maritime Unions Socialist Activities Association, the Honduran resistance, trade unions and individuals from the Latin American, Greek, Arab and other communities.

Ovideo Orellana whose family originally came from Guatemala, and the young Chilean singer of rising fame, Atilio Villegas, treated the gathering to political songs from their respective homelands.

There were two, very moving and powerful poetry readings. Xanthoula Sgouris read a poem by Greek poet Yiannis Ritsos while Kylie Salisbury read Hold To Your Course by communist veteran and poet Vic Williams whose health unfortunately prevented him making the trip from Perth to attend the Congress.

The final lines of the poem read:

“Take the guns from the hands of the killers, the spoils from the robbers,

For the sacked, the evicted, the prisoned to make world of the future.

Hold to your course, my Party, our world will prevail!”

Fitting lines for the commencement of the Party Congress, the first Congress without the Party’s founding General Secretary, Peter Symon. And that is what delegates set out to do.

Over the next three days, around 60 delegates met along with a number of observers from the party membership. They came from around Australia and a range of ethnic backgrounds. For a substantial number of delegates it was their first Congress. There was an increase in the number of younger delegates, including student activists, which was also reflected in the composition of the new Central Committee that Congress elected. There was also an increase in the number of delegates who held trade union positions.

One of the highlights of the Congress was the anti-privatisation march and rally on the Sunday lunchtime when delegates and observers were joined by other party members and supporters. They marched through the centre of Sydney from Unions NSW to Energy Australia, carrying placards and flags, and shouting “Stop the theft of people’s assets – no privatisation”. Passing cars honked in support of the evidently popular demand.

On the Saturday morning, Hannah Middleton presented the report on the work of the outgoing Central Committee. She pointed to a general worsening of the position of the working class in developed capitalist countries and highlighted some of the developments since the last Congress in 2005.

These include the defeat of the Howard government on November 24, 2007, the onset of the global economic crisis in 2008 and the great loss experienced with the death of our General Secretary Peter Symon on December 18, 2008.

“We show our respect for Comrade Peter best by building on his legacy, by turning a great loss into a launching pad for changes and improvements in our Party,” Dr Middleton said.

“There is enormous potential in our Party – but there are also some glaring weaknesses.” The report took up the work and functioning of the Party – organisation, planning, campaigning, finances, The Guardian, party education, work with migrant communists, solidarity work, recruitment, and emphasised the need for better planning.

She proposed three areas of focus – economy, environment and peace – and the need to go beyond the defensive, to go on the counter attack.

“We have to develop policies and propaganda that include but go beyond changes in government to the level of winning support for a change in class power,” she said.

Political Resolution

The main document before Congress was the Political Resolution. It was circulated throughout the party membership six months ago for discussion and amendment. CC Executive member and South Australian State Secretary Bob Briton presented the Resolution.

“The Draft Political Resolution has several main authors and I have been impressed to see our democratic centralist principles applied to the task of producing a comprehensive report on the period we have just traversed and the tasks that the current situation sets before us.

“It was a massive, complex task involving Branch discussions, large numbers of amendments and even virtual rewrites of parts of the document. State and district conferences devoted a lot of attention to it. Few members challenged the main thrust of its arguments though there were differences over approach.”

Bob took up some of the issues that had stimulated debate such as the changes in Latin America, the trend away from a uni-polar world, the causes and nature of the global economic crisis, the value of emissions trading schemes, and the economic crisis.

“There is a longer than usual treatment in the Draft Political Resolution of Australia’s foreign policy and our role in the region,” Bob said. “This is understandable given the further development of Australia’s role beyond that of a humble ‘deputy sheriff’ in the Asia Pacific.

“Australia had a major troop commitment in Iraq and has an expanding one in Afghanistan. We host US bases and joint military exercises with the US and its allies on our territory and the Rudd government is committed to a huge increase in military spending. The spending is directed to projects designed to enhance ‘interoperability’ with US forces. We are taking up a more prominent role in the aggressive US objective of encircling China with hostile forces…

“The Party needs to stress this anti-imperialist analysis within the peace movement and renew the call for an independent foreign policy.”

Bob briefly outlined the main thrust of the Resolution’s treatment of social, economic and political questions facing the working class of Australia and highlighted the section on the Party.

“Throughout the Party, including the CC, there has been an awareness of a growing interest in Marxism in general and our Party in particular in the media and in the community. This would appear to have been sparked by the economic crisis and the glaring failures of capitalism. Many members believe we should mobilise to take advantage of this upsurge in interest. Moreover, there is a mood for renewal, for greater discipline and professionalism in the Party. There is a recognition that we must become a Party of activists and not remain simply a Party with some activists in it.”

In concluding his report, Bob said: “I believe the Political Resolution will be a valuable guide for the work of the incoming CC and the Party generally. It defines the main questions before our movement at the present – a long list of priorities that we have to find the resources and energies to tackle.”

More than 35 delegates took part in the general discussion. They took up issues in the CC Report, the Political Resolution, and many spoke on their political activities, the work of their branches, analysed the work of the Party and made proposals to strengthen that work.

Special resolutions were adopted in solidarity with struggle in Honduras and Colombia and for the anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of Guatemala. In another act of international solidarity, delegates gathered around a banner featuring the Cuban 5 for a photo to be taken and sent as a greeting to the Five from Congress.

In another special resolution, Congress congratulated Denis Doherty on the excellent role that he has played as National Organiser since the re-establishment of the position earlier this year. “Congress supports Denis going forward in this role and wishes him continued success in the position,” the resolution said.

Throughout Congress greetings were read from communist and workers’ parties from around the world, reflecting the importance that the Party places on internationalism.

The newly elected Central Committee now has the task of ensuring that the Party puts the Political Resolution into action and responds to the lines of the poem Hold To Your Course.

See centre four pages for more Congress.

The Preparatory Committee whose hard work contributed to the smooth running and success of Congress – a big thank you and congratulations to Hannah, Denis, Amber, Cecilia and Donna.


Next articleEditorial – Up they go again!

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