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Issue #1431      14 October 2009

The 21st century – the century of socialism

Speech given by CPA General Secretary Dr Hannah Middleton to the Opening of Congress. This is an abridged version. The full text will be available on the CPA website.

I wish to first acknowledge the enormous debt we all owe to Comrade Peter Symon.

This is our first Congress without our founding and only General Secretary and in some ways it is a difficult time. We hope - and we are working to ensure - that we carry on his legacy and fight effectively for the working class of this country and for a sustainable, peaceful, democratic socialist Australia.

Capitalism is killing humanity and killing the planet. It is a system which prefers to let people starve and go homeless in the streets rather than cut profits by providing the necessities of life. And this has been exposed for all to see.

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.

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 cost of capitalism

Under capitalism, we face not just the global economic crisis and the resultant social consequences, but a food crisis threatening the lives and health of hundreds of millions of people, an environmental crisis threatening the future of life on our planet, and the possibility of new wars.

About one billion people suffer chronic hunger and 100,000 die every day as a direct or indirect result of malnutrition. Add to that the millions who do not have access to safe drinking water, health services, education and other essential services.

The present crisis confirms what Marx and Engels wrote 160 years ago in the Communist Manifesto - a situation which brings no joy to Communists amidst the human suffering and tragedy involved.

The endless pursuit of larger and larger profits, of new sources of profit gouging and profit accumulation by whatever means possible, including war and brutal dictatorships, has resulted in economic chaos and human suffering on an appalling scale.

In more than 70 underdeveloped countries per capita income has fallen sharply in the past 20 years. Wealth has accumulated in private hands to such a degree that the 200 richest people in the world own more wealth than 40 percent of all the people in the world.

The drive to war

To protect the plunder and profits of the huge corporations, governments divert immense resources to the military and away from people’s needs. The massive armed forces that are being continually built up are the military arm of globalisation.

An estimated US$1 trillion are spent every year globally on weapons. This exceeds the income of half of the planet’s entire population. The US military budget is larger than the whole Australian economy, while global poverty and inequality are getting worse. The United States now has military bases in more than 100 countries, a fact which threatens the independence and sovereignty of all countries without exception.

Capitalism is a threat to the future of humanity.

Demands for change

The election of President Obama by US voters demanding change may lead to a reordering of some priorities and some easing of tensions, but the overall strategy of US imperialism to extend its control over the entire globe will continue.

The election of the Rudd government in Australia in response to similar demands for change has delivered only very limited variation to the overall approach of the former Howard government.

In both cases it is clear that social democracy cannot and will not challenge capitalism.

Following the United States lead, in May this year the Rudd government released its Defence White Paper, announcing the largest military build-up in Australia since World War II with an unprecedented increase in sea and air power.

This was done despite the wishes of most Australians. Opinion polls in 2008 showed that 70 percent of the community oppose spending more money on the military.

The Rudd government has made it clear that the US alliance remains central to Australia’s foreign policy and military strategy, and that Australia’s new military muscle is targeted at China, in support of US long-term plans.

Australia will now spend about $70 million every day on the military, stealing the resources needed to provide human and social needs and to stimulate the economy in the face of the deepening recession.

Capitalism in Australia, expressed through both Liberal and Labor government policies, extracts a huge price from working men and women:

  • our public health and public education systems are starved of funds
  • our public transport systems are being run down and privatised by stealth
  • workers’ wages and conditions are under constant attack
  • privatisation is rampant
  • rural and regional Australia is neglected
  • the social welfare system is being dismantled
  • Indigenous Australians are denied their rights
  • democratic, workers’ and trade union rights are under attack
  • our environment is suffering massive and in some cases irreversible damage.


This situation cannot continue if we are to have a future.

The only economies to have eliminated the economic cycle over the past 200 years have been socialist. Socialist production is not a slave to capitalist market economics and its vicious frenetic cycle of competition, advertising, consumerism and waste. Socialism aims at satisfying needs through a planned economy.

Socialist Cuba is the world’s most sustainable economy. Cuba’s planning has produced stunning results because it focuses on human needs, not profit.

Of course their development has not been even or easy; they are not utopias and problems arise. But socialism is a proven better economic, political and social system than capitalism. Socialism is committed to meet the needs of the people and not the selfish interests of exploiters. It means jobs, genuine democratic rights, public ownership, environmental protection, better education and health services, more for young people and real economic and social equality for women.

This alternative society is the vision of the CPA and of communists around the world, a genuine, proven alternative to the failed capitalist model.

The massive response of US electors in November 2008 to a call for change, the left and progressive changes taking place in Central and South America, and the defeat of the ultra-conservative Howard government are all expressions of the strong desire of the people for real change, for policies that put people before profits.

All around the globe people are in struggle against capitalist policies and imperialist war. In a significant number of countries, capitalism itself is under challenge like never before.

Reactionary governments have been overthrown and national liberation and people’s movements have made significant advances. Anti-globalisation struggles are developing in every corner of the earth. The struggle for peace, against war and imperialist plunder, has swept every continent.

Urgent action is needed to halt and, where possible, reverse the impact of capitalism’s exploitation and destruction of the environment.

Lasting peace with justice will only be guaranteed when the underlying causes of war – the drive for private profit and the racism, nationalism, poverty and oppression that the profit motive creates – are eliminated.

We have to fight for policies and support struggles which can reduce the danger of war significantly and rescue some of the current military budget of $70 million a day for environmental and social needs projects.

Fight together

The next period has considerable potential for radical, even revolutionary, breakthroughs in the struggle for more just and democratic economic development and socialism. There are greater possibilities for resistance and social progress.

People need change and they want real change. They want a better world. And they have the power, inherent in the working class, with its allies, to bring about change.

We must build a popular democratic movement, diverse and unified, and committed to mass action if we are to take advantage of this potential and achieve the necessary change in the conditions of our lives.

The well planned and coordinated Your Rights at Work campaign in opposition to the Howard government is an example of the capacity to unite. The wide array of social forces and political groupings in that campaign shows that co-operation around issues is not only possible but immensely effective. When people with different political, religious, ethnic and occupational backgrounds join hands to achieve an objective that all agree on, it is a powerful force to be reckoned with and it is the means to ensure positive social change in Australia.

The potential exists to build a political force capable of forming a new type of government which would implement policies to substantially curb the power of the big corporations and increase the democratic rights of the people.

The aim of the Communist Party of Australia is the establishment of a society that is fairer, co-operative, more democratic and far more enriching for the people than the present society. Such a society can only be a socialist one.

The profound crisis of the capitalist system provides the necessity and the basis for fundamental change.

We invite you to be part of the growing resistance to capitalism that will become the revolutionary movement that makes the 21st Century the century of socialism.

Next articleMarie Lean

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