Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

E. F. Hill

Looking Backward: Looking Forward


CHAPTER 5

Let us then look again at what has happened. In the years that followed World War II, there was a powerful upsurge of the workingclass upon which we have already commented. It expressed itself in this country in a series of big struggles. In the early struggles, the capitalists made concessions fairly rapidly. The capitalists feared that struggle would develop into a challenge to capitalism itself. The concessions made by the capitalists were an insurance for them. Because the former Communist Party failed in its job of working politically, ideologically and organisationally in a scientific way, and particularly of developing correct work among the masses, the Australian workers and working people did not reap the necessary political advantages. The capitalists sought to hem in the struggle, to confine it and worked hard to adapt the working-class more strongly to capitalism. They feared the advance of socialism which had come to power in Eastern Europe and was winning in China.

In 1946, Churchill made a speech in Fulton, Missouri, U.S.A. Churchill was the most experienced representative of the most experienced ruling class in the world. His Fulton speech was in effect addressed to the capitalists of the world. Churchill advised them that it was time to call a halt to the advance of the workingclass, the advance of socialism. It was a most significant speech made at a critical time. Gradually that advice was put into effect. Whereas in Australia up to 1949, the capitalist class fairly readily made concessions to the workers to take the sting out of them, as it were, in 1949 it began to fight back and to resist workingclass demands even though those demands were purely of a trade union character. The lesson for the capitalist class was that in a world where the ideas of socialism had gained greater currency and been put into effect successfully all workingclass struggle had to be watched with even greater vigilance than hitherto.

In 1949 in Australia, there occurred a general strike in the coal mines. The Chifley labor government was in office. On behalf of the ruling class, it set out deliberately to smash the coal miners’ strike even though this strike raised only trade union demands for better wages and conditions. There was nothing revolutionary in the demands nor in the methods used to achieve the demands. There were Communist trade union officials in the leadership of the union but, though in fact they were men with strictly trade union politics, nonetheless they bore the name “Communist,” with possibly dangerous implications as the capitalists saw it. The Chifley Government used men and equipment of the armed forces to work the mines. It passed emergency legislation to freeze the funds of the unions, the very doubtful constitutionality of which was upheld in an emergency sitting of the High Court. It gaoled the union leaders and conducted an unprecedented campaign of vilification of the workers. Those are facts and nothing can alter them, and they should never be forgotten nor allowed to be forgotten. The miners’ strike was smashed. One of the then Communist leaders, J. D. Blake, wrote a pamphlet which made an estimate of the strike. Subsequently this pamphlet was condemned as left sectarian but, despite some exaggeration, this pamphlet did draw the lessons that the A.L.P. had used the State machine to smash a workers’ struggle. That was indeed the most important lesson of the miners’ strike, a lesson that the modern-day Australian revisionists who call themselves Communists would desperately try and push into the background. It is not without significance that this correct characterisation was subsequently condemned as left and sectarian by the leaders of the former Communist Party. Their condemnation is expressive of non-revolutionary politics when yet the former Communist Party was still striving after Marxism-Leninism.

Why did the A.L.P. use the State machinery to smash this strike when after all only economic demands were raised? We have already referred to Churchill’s Fulton speech and its call to the capitalist class of the world to stand firm against the threatened advance of the workingclass. The A.L.P. demonstrated clearly enough, if demonstration were still needed, that it was a capitalist party administering the capitalist state. It had never sought to rise above trade union politics. On the contrary, it was the product of trade union politics which it extended and developed into a whole system of adapting the workingclass to capitalism. Even the trade union demands were put on one side by the Chifley government so that it could obey the most reactionary behests of the capitalist class. It could not do otherwise, for having emerged as a party of capitalism it must inevitably (confirmed a thousand times by practice) do what the capitalist class dictated. The natural end of trade union politics, left to their own spontaneous development, is a bourgeois political party administering the capitalist state in the name of labour and the trade unions, against the workers and trade unionists themselves.

The only answer is to develop a strong Marxist-Leninist Party with infinite mass connections, and through it Marxist-Leninist scientific consciousness amongst the workers, seeing their trade union activity and membership as one, but only one, important aspect. Once again in the miners’ strike, the Communists failed to work among the masses politically, ideologically and organisationally around this extremely important lesson that the Australian workers had. All the former Communist leaders could see was disaster, an experience that must be avoided again at all costs. They could not see the magnificence of the great stand by the miners, nor the richness of the lessons. That arose from a wrong approach in the first place, an approach dictated by trade union politics, and a failure to develop and present the struggle as but one of many in the overall revolutionary struggle. Then it was followed by a failure to draw the extremely rich lessons from the workers’ experience. These lessons were smothered. Our modern-day revisionists who call themselves Communists even raise the slogan “Elect” or “Support a labor government,” knowing full well what a labor government will do. That is treachery to the workingclass. Later on we shall consider these slogans.

Because its history throws much light on the question of trade union politics and the question of the struggle for supremacy in the workingclass of bourgeois ideas or workingclass, Marxist-Leninist, ideas and the role of the former Communist Party in Australia, it is necessary to deal a little bit more fully with the role of the Chifley government.

This government actually commenced the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (the secret police), the main direction of which is against the workingclass and particularly against the revolutionary workers. There is no doubt of that: it is a well-documented fact. The leaders of the A.L.P. justify this to the workers by saying, “Oh, we appointed a judge to head this organisation, and you know that a judge would do no wrong. It is Menzies and the reaction who have appointed a military man to head the secret police.”

This very defence is its own exposure, for the effect of this argument is to trade upon the illusions of so-called impartiality of the judiciary, something which taken from a social standpoint is simply non-existent. The very fact that it is a judge about whom people have illusions makes it all the more dangerous because it is relatively easier to expose an organisation of this character when it is headed by a military man such as Brigadier Spry. The Chifley government then created this organisation which (like all similar organisations of capitalist countries of the “free” world) uses deceit, bribery, blackmail, forgery, frame-ups, in its campaign against the workers. Have no illusions about it at all. That’s what it does and it was created by the Chifley government. Instead of our modern-day revisionists who call themselves Communists making that fact known and well known, they conceal it and shout “Elect a Labor Government” in the sense of supporting (uniting with) its policies.

What else did the Chifley government do? It introduced machinery which enabled the ruling class directly to interfere in the trade unions. It is vitally important to remember that the very first legislation to impose government ballots on the trade unions was introduced by the Chifley government. For long, the capitalist class had sought to make the trade unions appendages of the state. Many years ago, Mr. Justice Isaacs in the High Court put this idea almost in so many words and it has been repeated since. He said: ”. . . an ’organisation’ ... is the creation of the Act (i.e. Arbitration Act) and simply as incidental to its great purposes. It is permitted to come into existence for the very purpose, not of making the policy of the statute under the Constitution more difficult of attainment, but of assisting to carry that policy into effect. Its primary function is to help in the effort to maintain industrial peace as a convenient instrument to secure, for those whose interests it represents, industrial justice where necessary, but to secure that justice according to law. Those who become members of such an organisation, and particularly those who undertake the duty of managing its affairs, whether in supreme or in subordinate authority, take a part more or less responsible in an association which is not merely a convenient method of obtaining their just rights, but is also a public instrument for effectively administering an important statute of public policy for the general welfare. Such an organisation secures rights and privileges, but it has also duties.” (Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board v. Federated Seamen’s Union of Australasia, 35 Commonwealth Law Reports 462 at 475-6.)

In line with this conception the Chifley government took the far-reaching step of introducing these ballots. That is a fact too that should never be forgotten. In spite of that fact our modern-day revisionists who call themselves Communists say, “Elect a Labor Government.” In fact, the labor government paved the way to the greater attack on the trade unions and workers’ struggle by the Menzies government. Without this preliminary work by the A.L.P. leaders, the Menzies government could not have done it.

Using the very foundation of trade union politics, bourgeois politics, the Chifley government administered the State just as ruthlessly, even more than, the open parties of the reaction. That is the logic of history.

The only counter force, the former Communist Party of Australia, despite its seemingly strongly held position in the trade unions, could do little to prevent it or even to explain it, because it too was heavily influenced by trade union politics. It had failed to carry out either in its own ranks or in the ranks of the workers a resolute struggle for the ideas of Marxism-Leninism, revolutionary socialism. It had failed to define the correct role of the trade unions and trade unionists in the revolutionary struggle in Australia. It had succumbed to spontaneity, to trade union politics the nature of which we have already explained, to the spontaneous generation by the workers of trade union politics, to the line of least resistance. The leaders of the Party took the easy road, the one that Lenin pointed out.

Another factor in the recent history of the Australian trade unions has been the development of A.L.P. industrial groups which constituted the basis of the Democratic labor party. Underlying both of these was and is the so-called Movement, a secret organisation promoted by the hierachy of the Roman Catholic Church. The original basis of operation of this organisation was to oppose Communist leadership and Communist work in the trade unions. Like all bodies which take up the banner of anti-Communism, it identified as Communists almost all who did not subscribe to its extremely reactionary, fascist policy. It saw the potential danger to the capitalist system of the very name Communism. Really it was and is a fascist organisation inspired and financed by U.S. imperialism and having the object of turning the trade unions into a Hitler Labor Front.

This organisation made considerable progress and in fact gained the leadership of important organisations of the A.L.P. including whole State organisations. By 1954 it was threatening to take over the whole of the Australian labor party organisation on a Commonwealth-wide basis at the expense of the orthodox A.L.P. leaders. It was a considerable influence in the trade unions. It is worth asking the question how this arose. There are several reasons for it. In the period after the collapse of the A.L.P. government in December, 1949, brought about largely by its anti-working-class activities, the orthodox A.L.P. leaders became demoralised, inept, inactive. They had destroyed some of the illusions entertained in them by the workers. That provided a basis for the operation of a well-organised minority. The ruling class, particularly in line with Churchill’s Fulton soeech, set up an unprecedented anti-Communist campaign. The cold war was being intensified. The A.L.P. industrial groups with their underlying “Movement” exploited anti-Communism. This was assisted by the crude tactics and sectarianism of the former Communist Party leaders, who failed to raise the political and ideological struggle, failed to build revolutionary organisation, concentrated on the economic trade union struggle and were themselves demoralised. Moreover, the “Movement” appealed to the more backward of the Roman Catholic workers.

Hence 1949 marked the beginning of a many-sided attack upon the whole of the Australian workingclass and its organisations. Just to look at it once more. In 1949 the Chifley labor government launched a big attack upon the coalminers’ strike using every repressive aspect of the State machine. In the same year it gaoled L. J. McPhillips, then assistant general secretary of the Ironworkers’ Federation, for making an attack upon the Arbitration Court. In the same year it gaoled L. L. Sharkey, general secretary of the former Communist Party, for sedition constituted by a political statement. In the same year, the distinguished Marxist-Leninist, the late K. C. Miller, was arrested on a framed-up charge of rape (subsequently even the ruling class did not dare to attempt to sustain this charge).

In the same year a renegade from the Communist Party, Sharpley, deserted to the capitalist class and made a number of so-called “revelations.” The anti-working class activities of the “Movement” and the industrial groups intensified. It was significant indeed and characteristic that the decisive orthodox A.L.P. leaders, with very few exceptions, collaborated with the reactionary “Movement” in this period. The real difference which subsequently emerged between them was over the question of tactics. Thus the whole picture came to this: the monopoly capitalists on a world scale came to a conscious decision to attack the working-class.

In Australia, U.S. imperialism was rapidly extending its investments and regarded Australia as a very important military base for South East Asia. Thus U.S. imperialism, with the active collaboration of firstly A.L.P. leaders, and then Menzies and his so-called Liberal Party, launched a concerted attack against the Australian workingclass. To understand the results of this it will be necessary to trace in brief the subsequent history of the Australian trade unions, the Australian labor party, the Communist Party of Australia and the emergence of the Democratic labor party.

But first let us look again at the then position of the former Communist Party of Australia. We have said that it was founded in 1920. Its history was one of seeking, however inefficiently, to achieve and apply a Marxist-Leninist understanding. We have commented on the rise of its influence in the trade unions and to round that off, by 1949 leading proclaimed members of it occupied many important positions in the trade unions. If those positions had been a true measure of the political, ideological and organisational strength of a genuine Marxist-Leninist position then it could have withstood the challenge and become strengthened by it. It is our contention that the emergence of the Communist influence in the trade unions, important though it was, was really the emergence of people who were far more efficient at trade union politics than their predecessors. They were far more effective trade union secretaries and trade union officials, far more effective in winning the workers’ demands. That was their great strength and it was also the source of great weakness, because the only way they could ever become consolidated in their position was if the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary party became politically, ideologically and organisationally consolidated. The former Communist Party of Australia did not do that.

We have said that after its foundation the former Communist Party strove after a Marxist-Leninist political position. But in connection with what happened in 1949, and the even more important subsequent developments, it is very important to refer to some major political mistakes in its life.

In 1939, the imperialist war between Nazi Germany and the Allied Powers broke out. The former Communist Party called for full support of the war in the mistaken estimate that it was an anti-fascist war. The Communist trade union leaders naturally adopted a corresponding attitude. In fact, it was an imperialist war concerned with the trade interests of the imperialist powers. It is true that relatively quickly this mistake was corrected. At no time, however, did the former Communist Party leaders examine the political and ideological causes for the mistake. Rather the occurrence of the mistake was dismissed by making the correct statement that the error was quickly corrected. However, when a serious Communist Party or a serious Communist makes a mistake it or he or she must make a far-reaching analysis of why and how the mistake was made. One can immediately see that the influence of trade union politics was one of the factors because trade union politics led not to Communist revolutionary politics, but to bourgeois politics.

The policy of the bourgeoisie had led them into a trade imperialist war and those who follow bourgeois politics naturally enough supported the bourgeoisie. One can see this was one of the influences weakening the possibilities of a correct Marxist-Leninist appreciation of the situation. It is with the problem of trade union politics that we are for the moment concerned. Suffice it to say that the subjective factors such as good praiseworthy hatred of fascism also led the Communist Party into the error of overlooking the facts or interpreting the facts in a one-sided way. There had been a failure to cultivate systematically a Marxist-Leninist ideology. But the central fact was that no far-reaching analysis of the reasons for this error was embarked upon.

A period of illegal existence was imposed upon the former Communist Party in 1940 and was formally removed in 1943. It is extremely important to note that in this period the public spokesmen for the Communist Party were trade union leaders who day in and day out conscientiously and energetically worked in their trade union job. It was scarcely avoidable that however strong may have been their desire to be Marxist-Leninists, they must have borne the marks of trade union politics, bourgeois politics. Since, in fact, they were weak in Marxism-Leninism, the imprint of trade union politics was the stronger upon them. Their prestige grew; their influence grew so that the image in the minds of many workers and Communists of Communism was the image of the trade union official.

The ideal, as Lenin said, must not be the trade union leader, but the tribune of the people who can deal with the trade unions as part of a whole general dealing with society. Instead of that the ideal put forward by the former Communist Party was that of trade union leader. Communism was thus seen largely as trade unionism; the means of achieving it as through the trade unions. The trade unions became the dominant factor in the lives of many Communists. Thus trade union politics in the name of Communism, in the name of Marxism-Leninism, received a big impetus.

This very thing led to the next great error of the former Communist Party of Australia. As general secretary of the Ironworkers’ Federation E. Thornton had acquired great prestige in the workingclass and in the general Australian community precisely in the circumstances we have just outlined. That prestige (along with that of other trade union leaders) was enhanced by the great victories of the Soviet Army in the war. In the period of the Communist Party’s illegality, Thornton was the most important public spokesman for the former Communist Party.

Thornton was regarded as a Marxist-Leninist. He proved conclusively that he was not a Marxist-Leninist. He really did not understand the first principles of Marxism-Leninism.

Thornton paid a visit to the U.S.A. and soon swallowed the “theories” of Earl Browder, then general secretary of the Communist Party of the U.S.A. Browder’s “theories” were really the crudest form of revisionism. Browder sought to show that the agreement reached in the period of World War II between the Soviet Union, U.S.A. and Great Britain marked a new era of complete harmony for the post-war period, that the nature of imperialism and monopoly capitalism had changed and was no longer aggressive, that the workingclass could safely co-operate with the monopoly capitalists in the post-war period and could look forward to unparalleled prosperity. It was the crudest form of class collaboration dressed up in all sorts of fancy words and disguised as far as possible, i.e. given “theoretical” justification.

Thornton, who occupied a leading and influential position on the Political Committee of the former Communist Party, put forward Browder’s views in that committee. They were accepted in their entirety by all the members of that Political Committee without a single exception. Why were they accepted? Because of the weakness of the Communist Party leaders in Marxism-Leninism, because they believed that this “theory” was Marxist-Leninist, because they worshipped as the ideal Communist the trade union leader who put them forward, namely in this case, Thornton. The leaders of the former Communist Party set out to, and indeed did, systematically propagate the ideas of Browder. In this country, it meant actual encouragement of U.S. investment and the former Communist Party leaders said that U.S. investment in Australia would be beneficial. Part of Browder’s “theories” demanded the liquidation of Communist Party organisation in the factories, in the armed forces, and so on and the cessation of Communist activity in such places. After all, why have Communist organisation and activity in the enterprises of the monopoly capitalists if those monopoly capitalists were generously co-operating with the workers to bring about a better life? Instead of all this, said Browder, there should be Communist “clubs,” social outfits in the localities where the Communists and the workers interested in Communism could go and debate ; the questions of Communism as an incident to the main social activities of these clubs.

In other words, Browder’s idea was to take the Communists from amongst the masses and organise them into an exclusive bloc divorced from the masses, just what the ruling class wanted. It was really a scheme for the liquidation of the Communist Party. Thornton proposed this scheme in its entirety and it was accepted in its entirety including the liquidation of factory organisation and activity. Indeed it is a fact that at a congress of the former Communist Party at the end of World War IT, a document was put forward which actually incorporated all these views. The document was withdrawn without explanation. But J. Duclos, then assistant general secretary of the French Communist Party and then still a Marxist-Leninist, wrote an article which completely demolished Browder’s “theories.” In the article, Duclos pointed out how far reaching had been the influence of Browder’s views in the Communist Parties in the capitalist countries, but said that they had not influenced the Communist Party in Australia. Duclos made a mistake about Australia simply because he did not have the necessary in-formation. The Communist Party leaders in Australia seized upon this factual mistake of Duclos to deny that they had been influenced by Browder. Again instead of subjecting their profound mistake to far-reaching critical analysis and discussion, they denied it had been made, and in so far as they admitted any influence of Browder, they attributed the whole responsibility to Thornton. In fact, it was not Thornton’s responsibility although he was the initiator.

This course of action meant that no analysis was made of the objective factors, i.e. the victory in the war, the nature of the alliance of the Soviet Union, U.S.A. and Britain, the nature of imperialism and monopoly capitalism and the apparent co-operation and prosperity, nor the factors of subjectivism, weakness in Marxist-Leninist politics, ideology and organisation, domination of trade union politics, the disproportionate influence of a trade union leader who bore heavily the marks of trade union politics and who held his trade union position even as a threat against the Communist Party, worship of the trade union leader as the ideal of Communism.

The ideas of Browder had extremely important practical results in Australia. They without any doubt eased the way of the extensive post-World War II U.S. investment throughout Australia. They paralysed workingclass resistance to the U.S. imperialist inroads. In confusing the issue, they eased the way of General Motors, Fords, Chryslers, International Harvester and the whole range of U.S. investment whether it was new investment, extended investment or amalgamation with Australian capital. U.S. investment meant U.S. political and ideological domination. Thus there was in the historical conditions of Australia a confluence of factors which facilitated the U.S. imperialist aim to take over Australia. In the war period the labor government had frankly allied itself with U.S. imperialism in all respects. The A.L.P. Industrial groups arose as vehicles of U.S. ideas. The former Communist Party, under the influence of the then trade union leader Thornton, at a critically important period accepted Browder’s theory evolved by the U.S. imperialists themselves as part of their plan for world domination. In that situation, it was all the more necessary to subject this error to even more than usual analysis, for it disarmed the former Communist Party and Australian workers in the struggle against U.S. imperialism at the very moment when that was critical and when it was clear to any objective analysis that the aim of U.S. imperialism was the domination of Australia. That being so, it is scarcely surprising to find today that the very people who made this error and then refused to analyse it, praised and supported the U.S. imperialist Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy and now praise and support Johnson, for that is the natural outcome of their whole position.

In the period after World War II, U.S. investment in Australia has increased enormously. The U.S. monopolies General Motors, Fords and Chryslers dominate the motor car industry, with all its ramifications. Many sections of industry are largely dependent upon the motor car industry, e.g. iron and steel, oil, rubber, electrical, to name but a few. The oil industry is dominated by U.S. concerns. Increasingly U.S. capital invades every section of industry.

Perhaps it is best to let the representatives of Australian capitalism speak about this. We have therefore chosen a statement of the Australian ambassador to the U.S., Keith Waller. On November 17, 1964, speaking at a luncheon session of the national foreign trade convention in New York, he said:

In our trade with you, we Australians are constantly faced with frustrations, such as the high duty on wool, an almost complete embargo on dairy products and quotas on lead and zinc, and a strong competitive effect on our trade by your surplus disposal policy on grains.

He continued that the recent meat legislation of U.S. congress was another “discouraging” action by the United States to restrict imports from Australia.

The Australians spent 55 dollars per head per annum on U.S. goods, whereas the Americans bought only 1.50 dollars’ worth of Australian goods per head.

Referring to U.S. investment in Australia, he said that more than 1,400 U.S. companies are now established in Australia, and in 1963 alone, new U.S. investment in Australia amounted to 160 million dollars, nearly all in the industrial sector.

The U.S. imperialists send a never-ceasing procession of generals, admirals, diplomats, industrialists, “artists,” books, films, to Australia. The U.S. imperialists demand ever increasing contributions by Australia to their aggression in South East Asia. At all times they treat Australia as subservient to them, e.g. severe U.S. import restrictions operate against meat, wool, copper, zinc, arousing the hostility of the Australian capitalists. In short, U.S. pressure on Australia is immense and it extends through the whole range of society. Labor attaches of the U.S. Embassy in Australia have paid particular attention to the Australian trade unions and the Australian labor party. Without serious attention to the workingclass, without securing some basis in the workingclass, the job of U.S. imperialism in attempting to dominate Australia would be very difficult. The U.S. imperialists have however secured victories in this regard note the statement of Mr. Calwell in his policy speech in 1963 that the A.L.P. completely supports the U.S. alliance. The Australian revisionists strongly advocate unity with the A.L.P. They thereby clearly reveal their pro-U.S. imperialist policy.

We have commented on the role played by the influence of the ideas of Browder on the former Communist Party in facilitating the extension of U.S. investment in Australia.

Today the former Communist Party, by its subservience to the A.L.P., supports the U.S. domination of Australia and returns to the influence of Browder which it never finally shed. Measure of this can be gathered from Mr. Aarons’ pamphlet “Labor Movement at the Crossroads,” where in essence he supports Calwell’s policy. This pamphlet should ;be very widely studied. It is a classic of revisionism. It is an exceedingly good teacher by negative example of where the former Communist Party has ended up.

Thus the former Communist Party actually serves the needs of U.S. imperialism.

One might have expected that the U.S. imperialists and their Australian agents would have looked with gratitude on the former Communist Party. They did not do that because the former Communist Party was always a source f of potential menace to them. Until 1961-62, it was still basically Marxist-Leninist. After the rejection of Browder’s views (even though that rejection was very imperfect) the danger to the capitalist class increased. So long as the former Communist Party was clearly under Browder’s influence no danger could arise because, so long as it followed Browder’s ideas, it would cease really to be a Communist Party at all. Once Browder’s ideas were rejected then it was once more in the position of reaching out after Marx-ism-Leninism and thereby becoming a menace. (The very fact that it did reject Browder’s views, however imperfectly, indicated the striving to Marxism-Leninism.) Hence from the standpoint of the ruling class, the former Communist I Party still came within the ideas advanced by Churchill in 1946 at Fulton (i.e. it was dangerous to the capitalists), and particularly as it had, after rejection of Browder’s I views, led a number of important struggles even though they had only a trade union content. The significance of this we have already commented upon.

The year 1949 therefore marked a period of turn, a period of intensified attack upon the former Communist Party and the Australian workingclass. The aim of the attack was to subject the workers to monopoly capitalism and in particular to open the way for U.S. imperialist domination and exploitation. 1949 was followed by a whole series of measures and events important in the history of political trends in the Australian working class.