Comintern History. Communist Party of Australia. 1940

Jack Kavanagh joins Communist League


Published: by The Militant, organ of the Workers Party, March 1940;
Source: Oz Left, http://members.optushome.com.au/spainter/, July 14, 2003.

Jack Kavanagh, the author of the statement which follows, has been associated with the working-class movement in Canada and Australia for the last 32 years.

From 1908 to 1925 he held high official positions in both the trade union and revolutionary movements of Canada. In the majority of cases, these positions were of an honorary nature.

He was a Central Committee member of the Socialist Party of Canada from 1912 until the split in 1921, and was a foundation member and first chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers (Communist) Party of Canada, in addition to being the national organiser.

Shortly after arriving in Australia he was co-opted on to the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and was its leader until 1930.


After almost six years of relative inactivity in the revolutionary working-class movement – six years in which I hoped that the membership of the Communist Party would become aware of the manner in which it was being led from the revolutionary path of Marxism-Leninism – I am forced to the realisation that the Communist International and its sections can no longer be depended on to lead the working class in its struggle for the overthrow of capitalism and the introduction of socialism.

Because of this I am seeking membership in the Communist League of Australia, section of the Fourth International.

I was expelled from the Communist Party in January 1931 on the basis of lying charges brought by the then general secretary, H.J. Moxon (since expelled on the grounds of vacillation, desertion and careerism). This action was taken because of my criticisms of the economic and political ineptitude manifested by the Central Committee under the direction of H. Moore, CI representative then in Australia.

I was readmitted to the party in July 1931, and was again expelled in May 1934 on the grounds that I was a Trotskyist. This arose out of a statement made at a lecture at the Friends of the Soviet Union, to the effect that "I did not consider Trotsky to be a counter-revolutionary". I had at this stage been on probation for two years and 10 months.

From May 1925 until the time of my expulsion in 1931 I had been a leading member of the Communist Party, and from 1928 to 1930 organiser of the NSW Labor Council. Prior to coming to Australia I had been a leading member in the trade union and revolutionary movement in Canada from 1908 until leaving for Australia, being national organiser for the Workers (Communist) Party of Canada at the time of leaving for this country.

At the time of my expulsion in 1931 the symptoms of that metamorphosis from democratic centralism to centralised bureaucracy, which has taken place in the CI, was very much in evidence. The theory of the infallibility of the leadership was put forward simultaneously with the theory that the leadership must not be exposed to danger. The vacillations between ultraleftism and the extreme right, such as recently manifested in relation to the imperialist war, were demonstrated in the party attitude to the trade unions and the ALP.

The theory of socialism in one country eliminated world revolution from the de facto program of the Communist International. Independent working-class action was discarded in favour of demands upon capitalist governments. Collective security by the alliance of capitalist states took the place of collective action by the international working class. "World peace" movements, composed of heterogeneous bourgeois and pacifist elements, containing the taint of class peace, were substituted for working-class anti-imperialist-war organisations. The defence of democracy (the democracy of Chamberlain, Daladier, Roosevelt, Menzies) was put forward as a means to preserve peace for the Soviet Union. The Popular Front of "good" bourgeois elements of diverse political affiliations, and of the working class, was put forward in place of the united front of the working class. In line with this the Workers Weekly, organ of the Communist Party, had a rebirth as a democratic "people's" paper, the Tribune.

This continued degeneration found its final expression in the support given to the imperialist war by the Central Committee of the Communist Party, a position reversed on the receipt of instructions to the contrary from overseas.

The cult of leadership, so subserviently developed during the past decade, has so confused the leadership of the Communist Party, has so far removed them from the basis of the class struggle, that they were unable to adjust themselves to the diplomatic moves made by the Soviet Union.

It was either a realisation of the weakness of the Comintern or a disregard for the revolutionary movement, plus fear of Hitler and the imperialists on the part of the Soviet bureaucracy, which led to the situation in Finland – a situation which has provided the imperialists with the excuse for an attack upon the Soviet Union; an opportunity they have been hoping for during the past 22 years.

The growth of bureaucracy in the CPSU and in the Communist Parties has weakened the defences of the Soviet Union.

Realising that the Soviet Union must be defended at all costs, that the gains of October must be defended against the bureaucracy as well as against the imperialist aggressors, that revolution in some of the major powers must be achieved in order to allow the gains of October to be fully developed. I am joining the Fourth International to assist in preserving and carrying out the program of Marxism-Leninism.

Sydney, February 15, 1940