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Issue #1917      June 1, 2020


“I worked day and night to help get him into Parliament, and now he won’t even nod to me when I pass him in the street. They’re all the same, these Labor politicians. Once they get among the big shots they soon forget the poor ruddy worker.”

But as the depression developed, the workers learnt that the “theory” was a phoney. They learned the hard way – by having police batons used on their heads to hammer home the fact that “Labor” Premier Lang was not for the workers, but against them.

The old fellow shook his head. “They promise to emancipate the workers,” he added. “And all they emancipate is their own ruddy selves.”

“Yes,” answered his mate. “I know. The Labor politicians – sitting on the fence with both ears to the ground. How can any thinking man go on voting for them?”

Australians in general are cynical about Labor politicians. So often they have trusted them – and been let down.

From the early 1890s, when the Labor Party was born as a real force, the politicians have never stopped drifting away from the militant aims of the working men and women who formed the Party.

Party politicians had to be expelled for defying Party discipline. Then came Holman and Hughes full of big words and rash promises. In the testing time of World War I, Holman and Hughes went over to the other side. They took a fair-sized crowd of Labor politicians with them.

When those who remained had brought the Labor Party back to strength, another testing came – the depression. This time it was “Honest Joe” Lyons who went over.

By now Labor supporters had formulated a “theory” – that these desertions were a personal matter. The weaker elements went over. The “good Labor men” remained.

But as the depression developed, the workers learnt that the “theory” was a phoney. They learned the hard way – by having police batons used on their heads to hammer home the fact that “Labor” Premier Lang was not for the workers, but against them.

The Premiers’ Plan drove this point home. “Labor” politicians, as much as the others, brought in the wage-cuts, the plan to make the workers bear the burden of the depression.

During World War II, as a result of mass struggles, some Labor politicians adopted a progressive role on some issues and more illusions were spread about the Labor Party.

Many workers felt inclined to “give them another chance.” Those in the past had let the workers down, but maybe that had been due to personal weaknesses. Maybe Chifley and Evatt and Dedman and Calwell are “good Labor men.” Maybe Chif’s “Golden Age” will really come.

Today the Australian workers are learning again. Par from bringing in the Golden Age, Labor politicians are using the Crimes Act against working-class leaders, plotting to interfere in union ballots, joining the employers’ attack on union struggles, organising witchhunts and helping the Wall Street drive to World War III.

Is it a personal matter? An individual weakness of certain politicians? Once and for all the Australian workers must see that it is not.

The Labor politicians have let them down in the past, are letting them down today, and will let them down in the future if they are not prevented.

History – the history of all countries has proved that “Labor” or “Social-Democrat” or “Socialist” parties fail the workers in a crisis, because they do NOT stand for labour or for Socialism. They stand for minor reforms under capitalism – that is all.

Strictly, the Labor Party’s correct title is the Reformist Party, because it believes only in reforms. (Communists fight harder and more consistently for reforms than reformists, but they honestly explain to the workers that reforms can advance them only a certain way; that it is necessary to change the whole system to achieve a new – and lasting – order.)

In the First World War the reformists betrayed their pledges of internationalism. With a few exceptions (most of whom later became Communists) they turned into flag-wagging jingoes.

After the war, when the workers were in a militant mood, and ready for struggle, the reformists told them not to struggle.

In Italy, in September, 1920, the workers had seized the factories and could have established Socialism. The reformists told them to leave the factories. The chance was lost. Two months later the fascists began to use terror against the workers. Soon fascism had seized power – because the reformists had weakened the workers’ struggle.

As British writer Palme Dutt put it, fascism was “the vengeance of the bourgeoisie against the retreating proletariat, after reformism had broken the workers’ ranks.”

Germany told the same tale. Reformists began by saying: “It can’t happen here.” Fascism, they said, was purely a “Mediterranean phenomenon.” It could only arise in a backward country – never in a highly industrialised country like Germany.

After lulling the workers with this false theory, the reformists held back the struggle of the German workers against Hitler. They refused the German Communists’ repeated offers of a united stand against Hitler.

In November, 1932, the combined Communist and Socialist vote in Germany was greater than the Nazi vote. In fighting power, the working-class forces had countless advantages. Hitler could have been defeated – if the reformists had agreed to a united working-class fight. They refused.

Once again reformism had led to fascism. And even as Hitler rose to power, reformists throughout the world deceived the workers as to the danger.

In November, 1932, just before Hitler came to power, British Labor Party “theorist” Professor Laski wrote that the Hitlerite movement was on the downgrade. “The day when they were a real threat is gone ... ,” Laski wrote. “Hitler reveals himself as a myth without permanent foundation.”

And the diplomatic correspondent of the British Labor Party’s Daily Herald wrote in April, 1933, that the triumph of Hitler had been “a victory of democracy.”

In Austria, Belgium, Holland, in country after country, reformism played the same role. Their aim was openly expressed by French reformist Montel, who boasted that “the Socialist Party will present itself as the only Party capable of saving bourgeois society.” (Australian Labor Party politicians similarly boasted in the depression that they had the only policy to save capitalism.)

As fascism led the way to war in the years from 1933 to 1939, Communists fought for a policy of united workers’ struggle plus collective security based on an Anglo-Soviet Pact. But the reformists opposed this.

They supported the “non-intervention” policy which let Hitler and Mussolini aid Franco in his murder of Spanish democracy.

They supported the Munich sellout, echoing the evil figure of Chamberlain as he mouthed the lying words: “Peace in our time.”

The test of World War II discredited reformism throughout Europe. It has become a dying force, tried by history and found wanting. Only the dollar props keep it alive. The workers of Europe have learnt in costly struggles, through fire and blood, that only the Communist Parties can lead them forward.

But in the English-speaking countries today, the reformists continue their betrayal. By jail and witchhunt, baton and Crimes Act, strike-breaking and splitting, they try again to pave the way to working-class defeats, to depression burdens, to atom-bomb war.

The workers in disgust are turning away from them. They are moving towards the only Party that fights for peace, for better living standards, for Socialism – the Communist Party.

This article originally appeared in Tribune June, 1949.


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