The search for the particular road to socialism in Australia gradually intensified. The legacy of the past was heavy. Initially the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist), formed in 1964, simply corrected what its members considered the grosser theoretical confusion of the past. Correction was necessary. Clarity on fundamental theory is a prerequisite for the solution of immediate problems. The Party still bore the heavy imprint of a propaganda sect which believed itself to be the repository of all wisdom. Other Communists tended to follow the Soviet Union. In addition, the Australian Communists (of various shades) as a whole were disproportionately occupied with international affairs in the Communist movement rather than setting out to solve Australia’s problems in the light of correct theory. In this way, the deeply rooted vice of worship of the foreign continued to exert its influence. In all Communist circles, however, a process of rethinking and regrouping went on.
The new Party tended mechanically to try to follow Chinese Communist Party decisions and statements. Australian Marxist-Leninist Communists tended to demand of members and supporters as a condition of membership and support, acceptance of every position taken and move made by the Chinese Communists and Mao Zedong (or rather Australian Communist interpretation of these positions and moves).
It must be said immediately that whereas the Soviet Party had encouraged following of the foreign, particularly the Soviet Party itself, the Chinese Party and its leadership encouraged independence. The latter pointed to the responsibility of the Communists in a given country to work out revolutionary theory for that country. They insisted that that could be done only within that country and by the native Communists. On this basis, in Australia, only Australians knew the position and Australian Communists bore the responsibility for striving to develop Australian revolutionary theory. As an example, Mao Zedong directed attention to correct Japanese Communist statements which had pointed to the great differences between China and Japan. Japan was an advanced urbanised country where the surrounding of the cities from the countryside as had occurred in China’s revolution, was quite inapplicable. Zhou Enlai pointed to the error of certain Communist Parties in given countries appearing to be “Chinese” Parties whereas their very function was to serve their own people in their own countries.
The solution of the problem of “foreign worship” can be seen in writings such as Mao Zedong’s Reform Our Study, Rectify the Party’s Style of Work, Oppose Stereotyped Party Writing, Our Study and the Current Situation and also in the document entitled Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of the Chinese Communist Party. There is much in these writings that is wholly inapplicable to Australian conditions. They specifically deal with the Chinese situation. Those writings must be looked at in the way discussed earlier. The general principles revealed by Mao Zedong are of vast importance, particularly the general principle of independent native Communist solution of the problems of individual countries. Communism must have a national outlook: this is an essential component of its internationalism.
Notwithstanding study of these writings, some Australian Communists remained victim to the old habits. They continued to seek solution and salvation from sources outside Australia. Emphasis on “revolution as the main trend”, for example, was not applicable in an immediate sense in Australia but it was accepted as being applicable. In this way, left trends of the past were re-emphasised.
The mass opposition in Australia to the US war in Vietnam gave to some Communists the idea that that opposition had revolutionary dimensions. Add to that, authoritative international statements that revolution was the main trend, then the illusion that revolution in Australia was immediately attainable was deepened. The method of that revolution was conceived as student occupations and student demonstrations and mass people’s street demonstrations against the war in Vietnam. Such things, however, while exceedingly important, were not evidence of a revolutionary situation. In certain circumstances within Australia and the world a situation for immediate revolution could rapidly mature. Events can develop with extreme rapidity. Stages can be telescoped. History proves this. While keeping long-term objectives in mind, the immediate situation must be grasped. Both the long-term and the short-term with possible rapid telescoping of stages must always be reckoned with. A Communist Party must be prepared for all eventualities.
In relations with foreign Communist Parties, Australian Communists need an all-round approach. Communist Parties in all countries have a common overall objective of ultimately leading the people to the social system of Communism. Each Party can learn from another. Bilateral discussions between Communist Parties where the Parties adhere to independence, complete equality, mutual respect and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs are of great importance. Where socialism has been achieved in a country, that socialism is of vital interest to all Communists. It enriches the international socialist movement. It assists the work of each Party. Where socialism fails in a country, that failure is both relevant and irrelevant. It is relevant in the sense that its failure and the reasons for it enrich general principles; it is irrelevant in the sense that irrespective of the failure, the task remains in Australia (and indeed in the country where in the immediate sense it has failed), to win socialism. Thus no matter what happens, positive or negative in other countries, Australian Communists must appraise experience and make up their minds independently for Australia as to the correct course for Australian people.
As explained in the preface, “socialism” and “Communism” have often been used as interchangeable terms and at that, somewhat loosely. In considering actual objectives, it is necessary to be more precise. Hence the explanation in the preface is repeated. Socialism is a stage preliminary to Communism. Socialism is a society where the major means of production, factories, mines, etc, are owned by the people and the people have their own state apparatus (called by Communists the dictatorship of the proletariat; in more readily understood language, this is the democratic dictatorship of the vast majority over the previous exploiting tiny minority) to enforce that ownership. The new society bears the birthmark of its capitalist predecessor. The means of production are not yet capable of producing sufficient commodities to satisfy all the needs of all the people. People of differing abilities make differing contributions in production and are paid differing wages accordingly. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his work”, is how it is expressed. When the birthmarks of capitalism have been eliminated and production is such that the needs of all the people can be satisfied, then Communism is realised. The principle is “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!’
Each of these is a long-term objective in Australia. It is quite correct to explain them, to talk about them, to compare them with capitalism. There should always be explanation of socialism and Communism. But this should never be confused with immediate realisation of them or for agitation that they be immediately realised. Still less should acceptance of them by others be made a condition of Communist participation in people’s struggle. Nor should attempts be made arbitrarily to impose them on situations in which they are quite inappropriate In a way, the name “Communism” and words of Communism and socialism, particularly in the manner in which they have been used, carry an impression of immediacy. The origins of this misunderstanding have already been discussed.
Impatience to achieve socialism is healthy enough but that impatience must be disciplined by recognition that its achievement is probably a long-term process. Whatever date is taken as the birth of scientific socialism – we may take the 1848 publication of the Communist Manifesto – only a short historical period has elapsed since that birth. In that period, momentous social advance has occurred. Ideas of Communism have spread throughout the world. Socialist revolutions have occurred. The degeneration of capitalism has accelerated. Marx’s analysis has been borne out. Absence of the objective and subjective conditions for immediate change to socialism in Australia provides no grounds for pessimism. Objective and subjective conditions for the change to socialism are certain to develop. Where pessimism has set in, one factor has been frustration caused by attempts to translate impatience into practice, to “impose” socialism on conditions that were not ripe or appropriate for it. This is most certainly a factor in the loss of membership of the Communist Party after an influx of members.