For completeness a word of explanation is required as to the history of the former Communist Party in the period 1956-1964. We have said that the former Communist Party strove for Marxism-Leninism and its history was a history of that striving as against the forces within the Party opposing Marxism-Leninism. In 1956 there took place the 20th Congress of the C.P.S.U., which expounded the peaceful transition to socialism, a one-sided view of peaceful co-existence (really peaceful collaboration with U.S. imperialism), reconciliation with Social Democracy, in short a thoroughly revisionist stand. That gave great impetus to the revisionist anti-Marxist-Leninist trend in all Communist Parties, including the former Communist Party in Australia. A noisy element which demanded virtual liquidation of the former Communist Party arose. They were defeated and some expelled.
But whereas the former Communist Party hailed that as a victory against revisionism it by no means marked the defeat of revisionism as a system of ideas. It did mark a maintenance of the striving to Marxism-Leninism and that was very good. But it failed to take account of the latent forces of revisionism that the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union called to life. The 20th Congress and the activity of Tito were in fact the rallying call to revisionism throughout the world, and the call was answered in Australia by a group headed by Mr. L. Aarons. At that time their position was a minority one, but because of the influences to which we have referred (trade union politics, Browderism, etc.) it was always capable of victory.
It is not difficult to understand in those circumstances that the former Communist Party even up to and including the international 81 Parties conference in 1960 adopted a position on political and theoretical questions largely in accord with that of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of China. That was good. After the 81 Parties conference the pressure of revisionism intensified and the striving for Marxism-Leninism in the former Communist Party suffered defeat. The actual details of this are irrelevant to the present essay which has not primarily been concerned with the details of the process by which the victory of revisionism in the former Communist Party became possible.
But in 1961 and 1962 the leaders of the former Communist Party for the first time in its history made a deliberate, conscious decision on the question whether to follow a Marxist-Leninist path or to follow a revisionist path. They chose the latter, the path of revisionism. Trade union politics and other bourgeois influences had a victory. The failure to develop the struggle for Marxism-Leninism by the former Communist Party, its yielding to the line of least resistance, which we have discussed, had been facilitated by the conditions of capitalism in the period after World War II.
Although there have been economic crises in Australia capitalism has appeared to be relatively stable. There has not been mass unemployment on the huge scale of the ’thirties. This has created the basis for illusions to grow that capitalism is permanent, will not suffer crises and so on. All sorts of capitalist “theoreticians” have arisen who have talked of people’s capitalism, Marx being outmoded and so on. The former Communist Party has done little to show that these ideas are just as erroneous as they were in previous circumstances when they flourished, e.g. 1929. Capitalism is doomed: anyone who knows anything of Marxism-Leninism knows that. Even at the moment when the former Communist leaders were speaking of capitalism lasting 100 years and not being able to see the end of it, bourgeois economists themselves were demonstrating that two-thirds of the people in the non-socialist world were starving.
There is any amount of logical and factual material to demonstrate that capitalism is in the most acute general crisis. Lenin himself spoke of the general crisis of capitalism in his own time. Forty years later that general crisis has intensified enormously. But in recent times the former Communist Party has said scarcely a word about this and has been seriously influenced by the superficial transient “prosperity” in Australia.
The decisive critical step which it then took in 1961 and 1962 to the right has been inevitably followed by a rapid descent to the right. Indeed the meeting of the Central Committee of the former Communist Party of Australia in February, 1962, where it decided by a big majority to follow the line of Khrushchov, marked a big step towards its collapse as a Marxist-Leninist Party or as a Party striving to Marxism-Leninism. It meant that Marxist-Leninists in Australia had to struggle to carry through to the end the work of those who founded the Communist Party of Australia in 1920.
In that short general background it is necessary to examine the question of parliament, for after 1962 the concept of the peaceful transition to socialism dominated the politics of the former Communist Party of Australia.