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Issue #1915      May 18, 2020


It was not accidental that Menzies, in introducing his Fascist Bill to Parliament, relied largely upon official ALP statements to bolster his “case” against Communism.

He quoted extensively from ALP Conference resolutions and from the advertisements authorised by Prime Minister Chifley against the coal miners in their strike last year.

Fascism, wherever it has appeared, has always borrowed extensively from the anti-Communist ideology of Social Democracy and Reformism.

While the Menzies Government does not yet constitute fascist dictatorship there should be no illusions about the fascist character of its legislation to outlaw the Communist Party and to destroy trade union rights.

“Fascism in power,” said the late Georgi Dimitrov in his report to the Seventh World Congress of the Communist International in 1935, “is the open, terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinist and most imperialist elements of finance capital.”

Dimitrov also pointed out: “The accession to power of fascism is not an ordinary succession of one bourgeois (capitalist) government by another, but a substitution for one state form of class domination of the bourgeoisie (capitalist class) – bourgeois (capitalist) democracy – of another form – open terrorist dictatorship.”

He warns that it would be a serious mistake to ignore this distinction, a mistake which would prevent us from mobilising the broad masses for struggle against the menace of a seizure of power by the fascists.

But a mistake no less serious and dangerous would be “to underrate the importance, for the establishment of fascist dictatorship, of the reactionary measures of the bourgeoisie [...] measures which destroy the democratic liberties of the toilers, falsify and curtail the rights of parliament and intensify the repression of the revolutionary movement.”

It cannot be disputed that Menzies’ Bill is a reactionary measure of the type described by Dimitrov. It destroys the democratic liberty of Australian workers to organise for Socialism, it destroys the democratic right of trade unionists to elect their own leaders, and, undoubtedly intensifies the repression of the labour movement.

It is in every sense a step towards fascism in Australia. Since Hitler perished beneath the ruins of his Berlin Chancellery and Mussolini was strung by the heels in Milan, the coloured shirt variety of fascism has fallen into disrepute. It is now the fashion for the most reactionary elements of finance capital to conceal their advance towards fascism under a “Liberal”, “democratic” mask.

Even in 1935 Dimitrov pointed out that the development of fascism assumed different forms in different countries and that in certain countries it did not immediately venture to abolish parliament and forbid the activities of other capitalist parties including Social Democracy.

He also drew attention to the fact that “before the establishment of a fascist dictatorship, bourgeois governments usually pass through a number of preliminary stages and institute a number of reactionary measures, which directly facilitate the accession to power of fascism.”

“Whoever does not light the reactionary measures of the bourgeoisie and the growth of fascism at these preparatory stages is not in a position to prevent the victory of fascism, but on the contrary facilitates that victory.”

The significance of the present attitude of the top leaders of the Australian Labor Party must be assessed in the light of this truth.

By agreeing in principle with Menzies Fascist Bill and not fighting for its total rejection, they are facilitating the growth of fascism in Australia.

In so doing they reveal themselves to be no different, fundamentally from the leaders of German Social Democracy, who paved the way for Hitler’s rise to power in 1933.

Reformism represents a bourgeois or capitalist trend in the labour movement. The reformists, as Lenin long ago pointed out, are “the real agents of the bourgeoisie in the Labour Movement.”

The role of reformism is to subordinate the labour movement to the interests of the capitalist class, and to carry out the latter’s bidding.

The German Social Democrats, in particular, endeavoured by their whole policy between 1923 and 1932, when they were in the Government, to prove to the ruling class that they deserved its confidence no less than Hitler’s Nazis.

In the decisive years of preparation for fascism, beginning with the establishment of the Brüning regime in 1930 which ignored Parliament and ruled by emergency decree, Social Democracy offered no resistance.

Had German Social Democracy been prepared to join with the Communists in resisting the Brüning regime, there is no doubt the advance towards fascist dictatorship could have been arrested.

However, the leaders of the Social Democratic Party, rather than join forces with the Communists, preferred to support the Brüning dictatorship and help it carry out its hunger offensive against the workers.

Just as the top leaders of the Labor Party in Australia today prefer to unite with Menzies in passing his fascist legislation, rather than unite with the Communists in opposing Menzies.

Our times in the critical period preceding Hitler’s elevation to power the German Communist Party proposed a united front with the Social Democratic Party and four times was rebuffed.

The first united front appeal was made in April, 1932, when drastic wage cuts were decreed.

The second appeal was made in July, 1932, when the von Papen dictatorship expelled the Social Democratic Government of Prussia.

The third appeal was made on January 30, 1933, after Hitler had been installed as Chancellor.

The fourth appeal was made on March 1, after the burning of the Reichstag and the unloosing of the full Nazi terror. This appeal was left unanswered by the Social Democratic leaders, who were trying to cap their treachery by coming to an understanding with Hitler.

However, they had served their purpose and were cast aside. “The Leiparts and the Grassmanns,” declared Dr Ley, leader of the Nazi Labour Front, “may profess their devotion to Hitler; but they are better in prison.”

A United fighting front of the working class could have prevented the victory of fascism in Germany. It can prevent the further advance towards fascism here.

In their own interests, as well as in the general interests of the working class, ALP supporters must overcome the obstacle created by their leaders’ attitude towards the united front.

It is significant that Menzies was willing to promise immunity from the provisions of his fascist legislation for Labor members of Parliament. He did not promise, nor did Labor politicians demand, similar immunity for rank and file members of the Labor Party.

They, like the rank and file of the German Social Democratic Party, will follow the Communists into jail or a concentration camp, unless they break with the policy of their top leaders and unite with the Communists in fighting Menzies’ Bill.

It is true that there are certain groupings in the top circles of the Labor Party, but it is significant that it is always the Rights who act, foisting their policy on the party as a whole. They openly align themselves with Menzies and his pro-fascist policy. The “Lefts” remain passive or confine themselves to empty phrases.

The Rights organise and act. The “Lefts” talk and talk, and finally seek shelter behind the sacred cow – “caucus decision.”

The Rightwing are openly united with Menzies against democracy against peace, against the working class. The “Lefts” are united with the Rights because of their unwillingness to ignore formal caucus decisions.

Then an attempt is made to tie the trade unions to this treacherous policy.

The ACTU Congress resolution correctly expressed the will of the majority of workers by strongly condemning Menzies’ Fascist Bill and urging its outright rejection by both Houses of Parliament.

Then came this astoundingly illogical rider: “But in view of the need for unity in the labour movement we accept the decision made by the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party that substantial amendments be made [...] .”

There could be no greater travesty of labour movement unity than this. The amendments proposed by the Parliamentary Labor Party are by no means substantial and in no way alter the fundamental fascist character of the Bill.

Most of them have already been agreed to in substance by Menzies and in all likelihood the remaining difference about the “onus of proof” clause will ultimately be resolved.

Unity of the labour movement if needed AGAINST Menzies and hit fascist legislation, not with Menzies.

This unity can and must be developed from below by Communist and Labor Party supporters coming together in the unions and in the factories not merely to pass resolutions opposing Menzies and his fascist legislation, but to decide on positive action to defend living standards, defend democratic rights, defend the cause of peace and national independence.

In short, to halt the drive, towards fascism and war in Australia.

This article originally appeared in Tribune May, 1950.


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