Comintern History. Communist Party of Australia 1944
THE 12th Congress of the Communist Party was held in Sydney on November 18th, 19th and 20th, 1938.
The Congress met in a tense atmosphere of struggle against fascist reaction and acute danger of the outbreak of world-wide war.
The Agenda of the Congress reflected this dangerous situation, and the resolutions that were carried defined the national and international situation, and gave clear, direct answers to the problems confronting the people.
The Agenda of the 12th Congress read:
(1) The organisation of an Australian People’s Front against reaction.
(2) A program for peace.
(3) Build the Communist Party.
(4) Election of the Central Committee and C.C.C.
The Congress Resolutions laid down the basic lines of policy which the Party subsequently and still today, allowing for the great changes in world conditions, pursues.
The resolution on the problem of combating war states: “Australia ... needs defensive agreements with our great democratic neighbors in the Pacific — the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. — and also China, Dutch East Indies and South American States, and should strive to influence Empire policy along these lines ... the Government to pursue a consistent peace policy and unite with all countries supporting collective action for peace.” Because of the refusal of the ruling class and the reformists to adopt such a policy of collective security and united action, war was loosed upon the world. Because of this the line of collective action against the fascists was only realised during the course of the war itself. After the entry of the Soviet Union into the war, the aim of the policy of the 12th Congress of our Party was realised, namely, a grand coalition of nations against the fascists, headed by Britain, the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A.
The 12th Congress demanded the removal of the U.A.P.-U.C.P. Government, which had followed the policy of. appeasement, from office. This aim, too, was realised during the course of the war and a Labor Party Government took office in Canberra.
The Congress Resolution emphasised the need for the United Front of the working class — Communist Party and A.L.P. unity — as the basic starting point for the unity of the people in the struggle against fascism.
The Congress adopted a comprehensive plan for the defence and the improvement of the economic and social conditions of the tolling masses, which has been consistently carried out right up to the present time.
The Congress decided upon a resolution calling for the building of the Communist Party and the doubling of its then membership as the fundamental measure for strengthening the labor movement to meet the stern tests that lay ahead. The C.C. elected at the 12th Congress also consistently carried out this resolution, with the result that the goal aimed at of transforming the Party into a mass Party is being achieved.
In the period following the 12th Congress, up to the outbreak of war, the C.C. energetically pursued the directives of the 12th Congress in every way, realising the resolutions of the Congress in practice, indicating the appeasers and the reformist “non-interventionists” and fighting for an anti-fascist alignment of the democratic capitalist countries with the Soviet Union, as well as anti-fascist unity within Australia.
At the outbreak of the war, the C.C., for a brief moment, made an incorrect appraisal of the character of the war. We had developed such an intense campaign of hatred for fascism that we failed to note the imperialist motives that led to the declaration of war upon Nazi Germany by the Anglo-French Governments. At the same time, there was a failure to understand fully the significance of the Soviet-German pact. The Party statement was for support of war against the fascists by the British and Australian Governments, but at the same time calling for a struggle against the appeaser Menzies and Chamberlain Governments. However, the error in estimating the character of the war was short-lived and the Party quickly oriented itself on a correct Leninist estimation and policy.
In the first phase of the war, the so-called “phoney” war period, our fight aimed at preventing the spread of the war and at liquidating it. At the conclusion of the Polish campaign, the Soviet Government had associated itself with a proposal for a peace conference. The peace proposals were rejected by the British and French Governments, and, with the invasion of France and the Low Countries by the Nazis, the peace slogan was no longer tenable and we raised the slogan of the People’s Government. The C.C., at the head of the Party, endorsed and explained to the masses, again and. again, the true significance of the actions of the Soviet Government in regard to Western Ukraine and White Russia (Poland) and Finland, which were undertaken at this time. History has proven us to be correct; these actions assisted the defence of the U.S.S.R. and were a major factor in preventing an invasion of Britain. A tremendous barrage of slander had been released against the Soviet Union and the Communist Party in regard to these actions and the Soviet-German pact. These slanders were the ideological accompaniment of the plan to “Switch the War,” which reached its peak at the time of the Red Army’s military action against Mannerheim’s Finnish Whiteguards. An “expeditionary” force was about to be despatched by the Chamberlain Government to Finland to commence hostilities against the Red Army. The C.C. mobilised the Party to fight against war with the Soviet Union, pointing out to the people how disastrous such a war would be for democracy and progress and for our people. However, the quick defeat of the Finnish Whiteguards and the generous peace terms proffered by the Soviet Government frustrated the “Switch the War-policy.
The Party had raised the slogan of a People’s Government. The aim of a People’s Government was at once to enter into a military alliance with the Soviet Government and to build collective security and secure peace, to put an end to Chamberlainism, to “switch the war” policy and appeasement, and, in the event of further fascist aggression, to conduct a people’s war against it. There was never any question, on our part, of appeasement or capitulation to fascism, but always the consistent application, in difficult situations, of an anti-fascist policy, before, and during the differing phases of this war. In England, a representative People’s Convention was assembled which endorsed a similar program.
The Party, led by its C.C., demonstrated its adherence to the Leninist line in a reactionary war by placing itself at the head of the struggles of the workers. Leadership of mass political and economic struggles was the practical application in life of the Leninist line in regard to imperialist war. The Party, in this sphere., too, carried out its revolutionary tasks with honor.
The 12th Congress of the Party designated the Lyons Government as the main “centre of reaction. “Lyons was succeeded by Menzies, who developed a full program of appeasement of the Japanese imperialists. The C.C. energetically directed the Party campaign against the appeasement policy and the antidemocratic home policy of the Lyons, Menzies and Fadden Conservative Governments, demanding a collective security pact to cover the Pacific and for aid to China and Spain, in accord with the resolution of the 12th Congress. The C.C. launched the campaign for the boycott of Japanese goods, which was taken up by the Trade Union movement and resulted in the famous struggles of the waterside workers at Port Kembla and Sydney, who refused to load pig and scrap iron for Japan.
Demonstrations were also organised against the Nazi spy, Count Von Luckner, who was given freedom to spread Nazi propaganda by the reactionary government and welcomed with, open arms by sections of the bourgeoisie, whereas earlier Egon Kisch, famous fighter for peace and against fascism, had been ,denied entry to Australia.
The C.C. line demanded a Labor Government to halt the reactionary home and foreign policies of the U.A.P.-U.C.P. coalition. The leaders of the Federal A.L.P. were very reluctant to take office at that time, recognising their own bankruptcy. It was only following an overwhelming electoral victory in N.S.W., a victory made possible by the long struggle of the Communists and trade unionists, which removed the discredited Lang bureaucracy, that at long last the Federal A.L.P. politicians took office.
The Communist Party can take a considerable measure of credit for the defeat of the reaction, as consistently, for many years, we carried on an exposure of the U.A.P.-U.C.P. government through the Press, printed material and by means of public meetings, and, even more decisively, by a whole series of practical political and economic struggles.
The Party policy, when the character of the war changed, was for national unity around the Curtin Government (our policy in regard to an all-Party National Government is explained in the Draft Resolution).
The direction of the 12th Party Congress for consistent struggle to remove the main centre of reaction — the U.A.P.-U.C.P. government — was therefore fulfilled, but this struggle did not cease. The U.A.P. and the U.C.P. have sought by all means to defeat the Curtin Government, to instal at least the main reactionary leaders in a so-called National Government and to change national policy in an anti-working class direction. The bourgeois politicians realise the dangers for the bourgeoisie of the growing strength
of the working class, and of power, in a national crisis, being even nominally in the hands of the labor movement. Hence they launch attack after attack upon the government and organise provocation by industrial managements in order to create struggles which they then endeavor to capitalise politically.
The Party, throughout the major part of its existence, lived under the threat of illegality. The ruling-class has always been opposed to a legal C.P.
As part of the preparation for suppressing the workers in face of the oncoming economic crisis, the Bruce Government legislated the Crimes Amendment Act with the stated objective of attacking the C.P. of A. The Bruce Government, however, was deprived of office at the succeeding Federal elections, and its successor, the Scullin Labor Party Government, did not directly develop the attack under the Crimes Act.
After the fall of the Scullin Government, the Lyons Government recommended the attack on the legal status of the C.P. of A.
Harold Devanny, a Party member, was prosecuted for collecting funds for an “unlawful association,” the C.P. This prosecution having been defeated in the Courts and by strong mass opposition, later on a similar attempt was made, this time by a prosecution of the organisation, “The Friends of the Soviet Union,” which, if successful, was intended to pave the way for the outlawing of the Party. Once more we were successful in averting the blow and succeeded in beating back this new attack by the reactionary government.
Immediately before the outbreak of war, the bourgeoisie and the reformists had unloosed an unprecedented campaign of misrepresentation and slanders. This campaign was based upon the misrepresentation of the Soviet-German pact, which they themselves, by their undermining of Collective Security, by the Munich betrayal of Czechoslovakia, and the later refusal to enter into a military alliance with the Soviet Union at the time of the negotiations in Moscow with the British Mission, had compelled the Soviet Government to enter in order to avert isolation and to defeat the policy of “ promoting a Soviet-German war.”
It was this treacherous policy of the Chamberlain Government that left Britain to face the Axis alone in the early part of the war.
The campaign of slanders reached its climax at the time when the Red Army had to take military action against the Finnish Whiteguards of Mannerheim. The filth from the pens of such as Souvarine, the French traitor, the Quisling Trotsky, Eugene Lyons, the impostor “General Krivitsky,” the Nazi spy, Valtin or Krebs, was widely used even in the most “respectable” of the bourgeois Press organs. This “ideological” barrage aimed at the discrediting of Communism, once and for all, in the eyes of the broadest masses. It was accompanied by physical attacks on Party meetings and by the incitement of groups of misled soldiers and hooligans to assault the Communists.
The Party had found the correct line, after the initial confusion, in this period of the war. It defended the Soviet Union against all attacks and vigorously campaigned to expose the reactionary support for the Finnish Whiteguards. We attacked the reformist leaders, who were supporting the anti-Soviet and imperialist war policy of the bourgeoisie.
The Party, above all, placed itself at the head of the struggles of the workers, the strikes of the miners, metalworkers and others. The bourgeoisie learned that, under the leadership of the C.C., the C.P. could neither be intimidated nor cajoled into deserting its Marxist-Leninist principles.
It was in this difficult period, in these unfavorable circumstances for us, that the reaction at last achieved its long-cherished aim of illegalising the Party.
On June ]5th, 1940, the Party and several fraternal organisations were proclaimed unlawful under the National Security Regulations. Widespread raids throughout Australia were made by the police on that day and succeeding days on the homes of Party members and supporters.
Emulating the fascist book-burners, all books and other literature and documents found were seized by the Menzies Government. Our press was closed down and the property of the Party was confiscated. The Menzies Government had struck its blows, which, it believed, would destroy the C.P. in this country.
The reactionaries were grievously disappointed. The C.C. had previously supervised and led the preparations of the Party organisations for the transference to conditions of illegal work. Owing to the illegal conditions, the Party Congress was postponed after agreement had been reached with the Party organisations, and the C.C. also met at longer intervals, after agreeing that a smaller committee of leading comrades direct the work, in order to meet the difficult illegal conditions of work. The Party, continued to maintain its organisational and political unity and to reach the masses with its message of struggle against fascism and reaction everywhere.
The Menzies Government, in its attacks upon Australian democracy and its strivings to crush the Communist Party, despite its prohibitions and arrests of members, found that Communist activity was even increasing.. Prime Minister Menzies announced more drastic measures for Communist Party activity, at the same time also threatening militant Trade Union officials and workers.
Two Communists, Ratliff and Thomas, who had served a sentence for Party activities, were seized and placed in a concentration camp, without charge or trial, among Italian fascists and Nazis. The C.C. at once raised the alarm throughout the labor movement and a strong campaign against these fascist tactics was waged. The two comrades concerned commenced a hunger strike, which drew considerable public attention to the case. A one-day stoppage of work in protest was called which, despite reformist opposition, met with considerable success, being one of the biggest political strikes the Australian proletariat has yet waged. The Menzies Government, however, clung to its victims, and it was only after the changed character of the war and the arrival in office of the Curtin Government that the release of these comrades was secured. The struggle for the release of Ratliff and Thomas constituted a political exposure of Menzies and hastened his downfall.
While the Ratliff-Thomas case was the outstanding example of fascist-like persecution of revolutionaries, there were numerous arrests, about fifty in all. In W.A., the persecutions were relatively the worst. The “liberalism” and lack of proper ideological and. organisational preparation for illegality on the part of the leadership of the Party in that State was one of the prime causes for the heavier losses, as well as the attitude of certain of the reformist leaders, who acted as police informers, pointing out the Communist activists. The W.A. membership, however, stood up to these blows, consolidated the Party organisations, and emerged to rapidly build the Party. Their performance in winning the Party’s Socialist competition, subsequently, is deserving of the highest praise.
Everywhere the fight against persecution, intimidation and provocation, although there were bad examples of lack cif vigilance in other States besides W.A., steeled the Party ranks and led to a better understanding of the Party, to a higher political development, laying the basis for the rapid advance made by the Party when the objective conditions changed and became favorable.
There were a number of cases of desertions to the class enemy during the worst period of the drive against the Party, the most notable being C. Nelson, formerly President of the Miners’ Federation, who announced himself for class peace and in support of the reactionary war, and later was convicted by a Royal Commission of receiving money from the Menzies Government.
Other deserters were Lloyd Ross, Secretary of the N.S.W. Branch of the A.R.U., who also supported the imperialists and developed a campaign of misrepresentation against the Party; G. Barrachi, the former liquidator, who had been readmitted to the Party following a visit to the U.S.S.R. and upon admission of his crime, again betrayed the movement at the critical moment of the Finnish crisis; J. N. Rawlings, also deserted at the same period, and a few others of less prominence. The C.C. issued statements from time to time exposing these renegades.
A number of former members of the C.C. itself also had to he dealt with in the period after the 12th Congress. These were: W. Orr, formerly Secretary of the Miners’ Federation, who was removed from membership of the C.C.; W. Mountjoy was removed from the C.C. for liberalism and lack of vigilance in his leadership of the W.A. Party organisation; R. McWilliams was expelled for desertion of his post; E. Knight was also expelled for desertion, as was G. Gowland. There was also a noticeable fluctuation of the membership; a drift out of the Party; some of which, no doubt, was attributable to the difficulty of maintaining organisational contact under illegal, conditions.
Despite these reverses, the Party undoubtedly maintained its political and organisational unity very well and was consolidated under the blows of the enemy.
The Menzies Government commenced its attack, aiming at the destruction of the Party Press, by prohibiting mention of a number of leading subjects in our columns, and as these prohibitions included reference to industrial disputes and the U.S.S.R., it can he realised how heavy was the blow dealt the “Tribune,” the “Communist Review” and other organs. The C.C. decided against capitulation and to maintain the legal press as long as possible, and, with the loyal co-operation of the readers and Party membership, despite the emasculated content of our Press, continued to circulate it, compelling the Government to ban the papers on May 24, 1940.
The C.C. had made preparation for the transfer of the Press on to an illegal basis. The “Tribune” immediately reappeared, to be followed later by the “Communist Review.” These organs were printed at secret plants, under very difficult conditions in the way of machinery and equipment. Necessarily, the papers were much smaller in size than when legal. In addition, numbers of leaflets dealing with the chief political questions, as they arose, were written and produced at these printeries.
The C.C. was able also, at the worst period of illegality, to produce pamphlets of a programatic character: “Soviet Russia and the War,” “The Coming War in the Pacific,” and “What is this Labor Party?” which set out the Party’s main policies in the imperialist stage of the war.
In the course of the struggle for the Party Press, a number of workers were gaoled for distributing or being in possession of copies of the illegal newspapers. These methods did not, however, deter the workers from buying or distributing our press, nor did the most intensive searching by the political police result in the uncovering of the printeries or the detection of the illegal apparatus. Our Press fulfilled its task of carrying the message of the Party to the masses with honor.
During the period in which the ban remained on the Party and the Press, the circulation of the “Communist Review” was about trebled and that of the “Tribune” almost doubled, despite the fact that the latter paper’s mass circulation was now confined to N.S.W., the increase in circulation being particularly pronounced in the period after the entry of the Soviet Union into the war.
Lenin always emphasised the need, in illegal periods, for the Party to make the utmost use of whatever legal opportunities exist for the furtherance of the Party’s work: the combination of legal and illegal forms of activity.
The Party was able to carry on its work in the trade union movement without much hindrance and, in addition, to hold public meetings in the name of individuals, but not in the name of the Party. Stan Moran, assisted by other comrades, maintained the Party platform in the Sydney Domain right through the illegal period. Similar meetings were held in other centres.
The C.C. decided to take advantage of such legal opportunities in the 1940 Federal Elections and a large team of Party members contested as Independents, some of whom resumed public activity for the election period. The Party was well received and recorded a substantially increased vote; Fred Paterson, in Queensland, polling a record Communist vote.
Many other legal opportunities were similarly availed of in order to keep the Party message before the masses.
On June 22, 1941, the Nazis, despite the well-known peaceful policy of the Soviet Union and the existence of the Soviet-German pact, struck a treacherous blow at the U.S.S.R. Mr. Churchill at once announced support for the Soviet Union in the war forced upon it by the fascist bandits.
The C.C. instantly grasped the significance of the attack upon the Soviet Union and its entry into the war. This changed the character of the war into a war of independence on the part of the democratic peoples against fascist imperialist aggression, and it plainly revealed the aims of the fascists to conquer the whole of the world and to enslave all of the independent nations.
The C.C. at once decided for the fullest support of the war, which had now been transformed into a just, a people’s war. The C.C. called for the closest relations with, and the fullest support for, the struggle of the Soviet peoples. It supported a number of movements whose aim is to send material aid, medical supplies, etc., and also to promote closer friendship and understanding between Australia and the U.S.S.R.
Mr. Churchill shortly afterwards signed a mutual aid Pact with the Soviet Union, which was later developed into the 20 years’ Treaty of Alliance with the Soviet, a Treaty of a non-imperialist character. The U.S.A. and the Dominions immediately supported Mr. Churchill’s policy in regard to the U.S.S.R. At last, the great United Front against the fascist enslavers, which the Communists had fought for since the accession to power of Hitler and the establishment of the fascist dictatorship in Germany in 1933, was coming into being. The path to the Grand Coalition against fascism was a zig-zag, marked by reverses and severe defeats, and established ultimately in conditions and in a fashion that could not he foreseen. The C.C. led the Party along the line of promoting and strengthening it in every way.
The enemies of our Party allege that the Party “somersaulted, but the policy of alliance with the Soviet Union against the fascists is, and always has been, our policy. It was those who had opposed collective security, who fought the peace policy of the Soviet Government, who were compelled to somersault. In the end it was the pro-fascists, appeasers and isolationists who were defeated and compelled to accept the policy of Unity against the fascists. Certainly the Party changed its line, just as Marx, Lenin and the Bolsheviks frequently changed immediate policy, but never the ultimate aim, Socialism. It is true that our reformist critics never change their fundamental line, namely, support for whatever policy the bourgeoisie is following: class-collaboration.
The C.C., soon after the Nazi onslaught on the Soviet Union, commenced the struggle for the Second Front in Europe as the speediest way to complete victory over the Nazis, a struggle which has developed to ever higher levels. The Second Front is not only a military demand but a political struggle, a political struggle against pro-fascism, Munichism and reaction. With the development of the Red Army’s second winter offensive, the role of the Second Front in securing a speedy end to the war retains its full importance.
The C.C. put forward a concrete line for the winning of the war. This meant the fullest strengthening and support for the armed forces. Vast quantities of munitions had to be produced in order to equip the armies. Large numbers of workers had to be transferred to War production, overtime worked, women brought into industry, and continuity and increase of production assured. Production Committees and other measures were advocated in order to secure the necessary output. The C.C. gave the lead for the avoidance of strikes as far as possible, and fought against absenteeism and for a labor discipline imposed by the Trade Unions and the workers themselves. We supported all necessary and reasonable measures of the Federal Government in this direction.
In the struggle for production, the Party had to fight strenuously against groups of reformists in the major industries who set themselves out to sabotage the policy of our Party and of the Curtin Government. These reformist elements, who had spent their lives preaching Arbitration, class peace and “gradualism,” suddenly became transformed into “strike leaders,” creating big difficulties in the industries. The strikes fomented by these right-wingers helped the bourgeoisie, who were ceaselessly struggling to discredit the labor movement and unseat the Curtin Government, besides hampering the war effort and endangering the victory over the Axis. The Rights were assisted by the anarchistic, crude “militants” who lack political understanding and, consequently, cannot realise the gravity, for the labor movement, of the issues that hinge on the outcome of the war against fascism. The Trotskyite counter-revolutionaries, whose aim is the defeat of the Soviet Union at all costs, aided the disruptive campaign.
It must be said that too often Party members failed to stand up against the disruptors, failed to give a sufficiently strong lead to the workers and allowed themselves to be swayed by what seemed “ popular.” However, the Party on the whole fought strongly and often took the whole burden of the fight for the policy of the Government and for a correct attitude towards the anti-fascist war. Besides the struggle for more weapons and war supplies, the Party supported the financial policy of the Government in principle while criticising some features of it.
The C.C. gave the lead for the support of Mr. Curtin’s proposal to send the Militia outside of the boundaries of Australia in order to drive the Japanese imperialists back to Tokio. On this issue, the right wing reformists came out in the open. The Langites in N.S.W., Fallon and the A.W.U. bureaucracy in Queensland, the Victorian State Executive of the A.L.P., all thought they saw an opportunity to gain control of the A.L.P. by raising a false “ anti-conscription” cry and, at the same time, dealing a blow at the Communist Party and splitting and weakening the labor movement. Some of these elements co-operate with the U.A.P. reaction and are prepared to bring down the Curtin Government because of their hatred of the progressive tendencies in the working class movement.
The extreme Rights, Fallon, Calwell and Lang, had an excellent stalking horse in the Centrists, the left reformists, Ward, Blackburn, Cameron, Boote, King, Crofts, etc. These latter elevate anti-conscription into a principle, a dogma. Because of their militant expressions in the past, these latter had influence with the more militant A.L.P. and T.U. rank and file.
The Militia proposal received the support of the majority of Labor Party State Executives and of the major Union bodies and was carried. The “anti-conscription” campaign of the Rights, assisted by the dogmatic elements, directed, as it was, at the People’s War against fascism, was of a most reactionary and disruptive character. It threatened to split the labor movement and destroy the Curtin Government. It fitted in very well with the persistent campaign of the bourgeoisie to recover office and suppress the growing leftward swing of the labor movement. In these critical conditions, the C.C. led the Party in a vigorous fight to prevent a split in the labor movement, to assure a majority for the Militia proposal, to preserve the Curtin Government and .to defeat the plans of the U.A.P.-U.C.P. on the one hand. and the Fallon-Calwell-Lang disruption on the other. In the main, this campaign was successful.
The Communist Party has at all times vigorously supported the great national revolutionary movements of India and China, whose combined populations number almost half of the human race, for their complete independence.
The Communist Party, alone of Australian political parties, saw from the first the significance of China’s resistance to Japanese plans for the conquest of China and its relation to Australia’s own defence and security against fascist aggression. The C.C. gave the lead for the fullest support of the Chinese people in their just war against japan, demanding especially a boycott of Japanese goods, the cessation of the despatch of war materials, including pig iron, etc., by the Menzies Government to japan, as well as for adequate assistance to the struggling Chinese people and a collective security pact for the Pacific.
China has the trained manpower and holds the strategic position necessary to deal a mortal blow to Japanese military fascism. It is an urgent problem for the United Nations to speedily secure adequate supplies to China. Air transport can be used, but the reopening of the Burma Road would be a decisive factor in preparation for the despatch of the heavy military equipment, the lack of which alone prevents the Chinese mass armies from overwhelming the Japanese invader and thereby making a decisive contribution to the victory of the United Nations in the Pacific.
The C.C., at the head of the Party, has insisted upon the political and diplomatic equality of China, and that China be given full representation on all war Councils and an equal voice in the making of military and other decisions. The abrogation of extra-territorial rights by Britain and the U.S.A. (Soviet Russia relinquished them immediately after the October Revolution) was an important step towards the recognition of China as a full and equal partner of the United Nations and of the end of her semicolonial status.
As in respect to China, the Communist Party has always come forward as a champion of India’s independence. China and India are near neighbors of Australia in the Pacific, and their future cannot but influence Australia’s own destinies. Therefore the political situation in India must always be of concern to the C.P. of A. In the conditions of the war against fascism, the role of India has figured largely in the policy the C.C. has enunciated for the winning of the war against japan. While opposing the tactics adopted by the Indian bourgeoisie led by Gandhi, which objectively assist the Japanese in their aim of the conquest of India, the C.C. has consistently stressed the need for India’s liberation, for the establishment of a Provisional Indian National Government, fully representative of all Indians, as proposed by our Indian brother Party.
The C.C. has continually, at the same time, condemned the policy of the British Government in India and indicted it for the failure of the Cripps negotiations, the imprisonment of the Indian national leaders and the forcible suppression of the Indian freedom-desiring masses. This policy of the British Government also objectively assists the Japanese plan for the conquest of India. Malaya, Burma, the Dutch East Indies and other disasters all emphasise the dangers of the incorrect policy pursued towards the Asiatic peoples.
The C.C. has declared that if India was fully won to enthusiastic support of the struggle against the Axis enslavers by the recognition of her independence, and her vast manpower and resources fully utilised, India would constitute a decisive factor making for the victory of the United Nations in the Pacific. We have stressed this importance of India in opposition to those who have viewed the problem of Australia’s defence only from the angle of the despatch of men and supplies from the US. and Britain to this country, and who neglect to raise the questions of India and China and their importance for speedy victory in the Pacific, and the final liquidation of the menace to all Pacific countries of Japanese invasion.
The reformist leaders of the A.L.P., who had supported the bourgeoisie and its policy of “appeasement” and opposition to collective security by preaching “isolation,” slandering the U.S.S.R. and opposing a united front against fascism, declaring that “Collective security meant war,” supported the imperialist war and the plan of switching the war against the Soviet Union.
Following the 7th World Congress and the 12th Congress of our Party, the C.C. had been carrying out the line of the United front from above as well as below, for a People’s Front against fascism, inclusive of the leading strata of the A.L.P. Necessarily, as the Liberal reformist leaders of the A.L.P., in the early, imperialist phase after the declaration of war, were supporting the plans of the most reactionary circles of the bourgeoisie, the C.C. had to make a change in policy in regard to the A.L.P. leadership.
While fighting for the United Front from below, sharpest criticism and exposure of the A.L.P. leadership was conducted. At the same time, in view of the feelings of hatred of the masses towards the Menzies Government and the need, in this period, to expose the reformists by practical experience on the part of the masses, we demanded that the Labor Party take office. We opposed a National Government with the U.A.P., which stood discredited.
The A.L.P. leaders, for a long time, resisted taking office because of their fears of the masses. When the Soviet Union entered the war, the C.C. supported a United Front proposal made to the Federal A.L.P. by a number of Trade Union officials, who also proposed that Mr. Curtin should take over the Government. After the sweeping victory of the A.L.P. in the N.S.W. elections, for which the long fight of the militants against Lang’s bureaucratic grip of the Labor Party machine had opened the way, the Federal A.L.P. leaders took over office. As the A.L.P. Government was, after the attack on the U.S.S.R., conducting a people’s war and supporting unity with Soviet Russia, it had become necessary for us to alter our united front tactics in regard to the A.L.P. leaders and to support the Curtin Government and its measures directed towards winning the war.
The political situation is different to that of Britain, where the national united front can best be organised around Mr. Churchill, the leader of the Tories. In Australia it can best be organised around Mr. Curtin. The working class, having suffered so long under the Menzies Government, does not want the reactionary leaders of the U.A.P. in the Government.
After the Japanese aggression against Britain and U.S.A., the C.C. immediately, through a group of Trade Union comrades, again pledged support for the Curtin Government and proposed a United Front to the Federal A.L.P. Executive.
Although the United Front offer was not accepted by the A.L.P. the Party has succeeded in promoting better relationships with the Labor Party Federal Government and others of the A.L.P. leadership. We have been continuing the policy of building the United Front and promoting National Unity around the Curtin Government.
It must be said that the response of the Party organisations to the United Front proposal made to the A.L.P. was weak. It was not sufficiently followed up in the work among the masses. The United Front is still regarded by many Party members,’ it seems, as something in the nature of a .. manoeuvre” and not yet understood as an all-important tactic for the mobilisation of the working class for. struggle.
During the interval between the 12th and 13th Congresses, the C.C. as always, has continued to give close attention to he major Trade Union problems, wages and working conditions, the strike struggles and the organisational strengthening of the Union movement, as well as the political policy demanded in the changing conditions of the World War.
When the character of the war changed, the Party was faced with new and complicated tasks. The defeat of fascism demanded enormous quantities of military and other material. Greater production of these was imperative. In order to fulfill these tasks, labor discipline, continuity of work and co-operation with the managements was essential. The Party called upon the workers to combat the inefficiency, mismanagement and often corruption associated with capitalist control of industry, and declared that the Unions, shop committees and production committees should make the battle for the weapons to beat fascism a primary concern. Strikes should be confined only to situations that constitute a basic challenge to the Labor movement; negotiations and other measures should be utilised for the solution of the ordinary grievances and problems that continuously occur. The Party, of course, demanded that wages should be maintained in line with rising prices, that prices should be controlled, and pay increases granted the lower paid workers.
In the fight for this policy, the Party was faced with the sabotage of the Langsters, some of those associated with “Catholic Action,” various reformist groups in Unions, notably among the A.E.U., A.W.U. and wharfies’ officials, and on the jobs and, associated with them, the Trotskyite fifth columnists.
These elements gained a number of successes by means of playing upon the real grievances of the workers, by inciting backward workers to take strike action and to defy their Unions and act against the policy of the labor movement.
The employing class was often provocative, fomenting strikes in order to capitalise them politically to aid the reactionary politicians to undermine the Curtin Government. There can be no doubt of the co-operation between certain elements within reformism and the bourgeoisie for the purpose of disrupting and splitting the labor movement in order to hinder the growing strength of the workers. These reformist elements openly described the measures of the Curtin Government in connection with the war as “fascist” and did everything to discredit the policy of the Communists among the war industry workers. That their activity was detrimental to the labor movement and aided the fascist aggress ors did not deter these miserable cliques.
The Party organisations on the job had a hard and bitter fight in order to implement the policy of ensuring increasing production. Some of the comrades displayed weakness in face of the disruptors when the latter had succeeded in stirring up the workers. It is a fact, however, that where a strenuous fight was made for our’ line, the Party’s position was strengthened. There can be. no doubt that the Party was instrumental in preventing widespread chaos in the war industries, and in assuring greater production, as well as frustrating the efforts of the reactionaries within and without the labor movement to destroy the Labor Government and weaken the working class.
The Party in this difficult struggle succeeded in substantially increasing its strength in the Trade Union movement, winning many new positions. Also successes were achieved in uniting and strengthening the Trade Unions. In this connection, the amalgamation of the Ironworkers’ and Munition Workers’ Unions, thus establishing a great Metalworkers’ Union of 100,000 workers, was an outstanding achievement on the part of Comrade Thornton and the other comrades in these two Unions who took a leading part in bringing about this amalgamation, which has already served as a starting point and example for further unification of the craft unions. The Communists are thus strengthening the labor movement in this period, whereas the right wing disruptors are undermining its unity by their pseudo-militant policy.
From the moment of the banning of the Party, the C.C. commenced the struggle for the raising of the ban.
Despite the fact that the Party consolidated and showed healthy growth in the illegal period and the Party Press appeared regularly, the ban hampered the work of the Party. Contrary to the opinion of romanticists and leftists, the Communist Party has no desire for illegal conditions of work. An open legal Party has greater opportunity for growth and mass contact than an illegal one. The Communist Party only works illegally when there is no alternative course open to it, when the bourgeoisie contravenes democracy and outlaws the workers’ Party. The Russian and German and other parties were compelled to work underground because of the brutal suppression by the Tsar and the fascists. The Menzies Government was increasing its pressure, announcing its intention of widespread arrests of Communist leaders at the moment of the Nazi attack upon the Soviet Union.
The changed character of the war and the accession of the Curtin Government to office created far more favorable conditions for the struggle for the legality of the Party. Nevertheless, it took more than a year of mass mobilisation and pressure on the Curtin Government, in which period hundreds of motions were passed by the working class and other democratic organisations, before the ban was finally lifted, although considerable freedom was given to the Party for activity prior to the raising of the ban. The Party Press, for example, had to be printed illegally right until the ban was raised.
The raising of the ban on the C.P. was not only a great victory for the Communists, but for the labor movement and Australian democracy over reaction and fascism.
The Party signed a formal declaration that it would carry out all measures necessary for the conduct of the People’s War against fascism. This did not violate any principle or policy, as the Party has consistently itself proposed and advocated such measures since the People’s War commenced.
When the Party commenced to emerge from the deepest phase of illegality, the position and work of the Central Committee came under review.
Partly as a consequence of the needs of the illegal work, and also because of some unclarity as to the proper functioning of the Central Committee, the Centre was tending to become divorced from the practical direction of the work of the Party, its functions to he confined to discussion of the general policy and its leading members to acting in an advisory capacity to various Party organisations. In this situation the State Committees began to show symptoms of themselves tending to take over some of the functions of the C.C.
These tendencies struck at the basic principle of Party organisation — Democratic Centralism. A Party like ours, with such tremendous tasks to fulfil, needs a highly centralised General Staff to assure oneness in policy and firm discipline. The Party can have only one leading organ — the Central Committee — and the C.C., to properly lead the work, must have the closest contact with the practical work and daily problems of the membership.
The existence of a State Committee in N.S.W., alongside the C.C. and together with the illegal conditions, had led to duplication and to the comparative isolation of the C.C. from the practical political work. Comrade Sharkey drew up a number of proposals to rectify this position; these proposals involved the abolition of the State Committee in N.S.W., the restoration of, the departments of the Central Committee and the establishment of a Metropolitan Committee in Sydney. The C.C. adopted this plan, which was later endorsed by a N.S.W. Party Conference.It is agreed that the change has been a beneficial one, and all of the departments are functioning and are giving a detailed attention to the problems of their spheres of work which was not attainable by the previous organisation. The C.C. is now the centre of activity, as well as the leading organ for the definition of policy. There are still weaknesses in the work of various departments, but experience is tending toward a better understanding of the tasks of the Departments. Co-ordination of the work of the departments also needs improving, and with closer cooperation on the part of the State organisations, the C.C. departments will be transformed into really national centres Of leadership. Centralisation of the work of the Party under the Central Committee has been retarded by the war situation and the difficulties of communication and transport, and there is still a need for a greater understanding on the part of State Committees of the leading role of the C.C. and the need for closer collaboration with it in the work. There cannot be a division of leadership in the Communist Party; there can only be one leading national political organ — the Central Committee.
The C.C. laid it down, at the inception of the Party recruiting campaign, that the new members could only be retained provided they were speedily given political training and Party consciousness.
In the period of a rapid influx of new members, Party training and education acquire exceptional importance, in particular for the prevention of fluctuation. The C.C., therefore, campaigned for widespread Party training classes and prepared special elementary courses and a brief outline of Party history, as well as the booklets, “The Trade Unions” and “Australia Marches On,” order to give the new members a correct understanding of the Trade Unions and the A.L.P. and the perspective of our tasks in relation to the labor movement and the reformist leaders. It issued as well the “Glossary of Marxist Terms.”
The development of higher Marxist-Leninist education for the raising of the theoretical level of the more advanced cadres is equally important. The development of central schools of the Marx House type fills a long-felt want in this sphere. The function of these schools in the first place is to cater for the advanced students and cadres, to raise the mass level of genuine Marxist theoretical understanding, dialectics, higher economics, history, etc., as well as assisting the general education in more practical subjects and current Party policy. Even yet there is some confusion as to the function of Marx House which must be overcome.
Generally, t is pleasing to record that there is a greatly increased interest in and development of Party training to be noted in the local organisations.
These two spheres of activity, formerly weak points in our work, have received considerable attention by the C.C., which has led to a strengthening of activity. and organisation in these spheres.
The Socialist competition for the building of the Party stressed the need for the recruitment of women and young toilers and for the promotion of women to leading positions. Large numbers were recruited and many women comrades promoted to executive positions. In connection with youth, organisation was hampered by a number of incorrect ideas and tendencies. The need to broaden out youth organisation and get rid of the earlier sectarianism of Y.C.L. work was interpreted to mean the liquidation of a class youth organisation, the liquidation of the Y.C.L. From the earlier attempts to organise on politics alone there was a swing to the view that youth organisation should be based on sport, recreation and entertainment, instead of the correct position, i.e., the skilful combination of both. Confusion likewise existed as to the role of young Party members and their relation with the mass youth organisation. Many of these young comrades functioned as Party members without connection with the youth. Other young comrades who were active in youth work were snapped up as functionaries by the Party organisations, thereby beheading the youth.
As a result of criticism of these and other erroneous views and actions and the appointment of Comrade Miles to personally supervise youth Work, considerable progress has resulted and a .really broad, mass national youth organisation, trained in the spirit of Marxism-Leninism, is taking shape.
As the objective situation developed favorably for the Party, the C.C. gave the lead for the building of the Communist Party. Party building was developed on the basis of Socialist Competition. Socialist Competition for the building of the Party commenced in N.S.W., where two recruiting drives took place immediately after the change in the character of the war. The C.C. then gave the lead for a National Party Building Campaign on the basis of Socialist Competition, setting as a goal 15,000 members by the end of 1942. Comrade R. Dixon supervised and led the detailed planning of the campaign on behalf of the C.C.
After a magnificent campaign, this goal was more than reached and the Party strengthened, not only in numbers, but in every aspect of its organisation and work among the masses. The establishment of the organ, the “Party Builder,” played an important part in the success of the Party Building Campaign and the consolidation of the new membership.
The C.C. stressed the need to build the Party in the factories and workplaces, and this aspect of the Party Building drive has met with gratifying results. There are now several factory branches with memberships of more than one hundred and others close to the hundred mark, and a wide network of such branches now exists throughout the industrial centres. Basing the Party in the factories has an important bearing on transforming the Party into a really Bolshevik Party. The C.C. paid attention also to spheres where Party work had lagged: the youth, where we can now report the growth of a really mass movement; the country, where the Party is growing rapidly and also recruiting farmers; although the quota of women set by the Socialist Competition was not fully reached, very considerable results were achieved in recruiting, and also the promotion of women to executive positions in the Party and in the Trade Unions.
Considerable growth of the Party’s strength in the Trade Unions has also been recorded. The Party is now emerging as a fully-fledged mass Party of the Australian toiling people, the indication being that the Party will advance even more rapidly in 1943.
The growth of a mass Communist Party in Australia and in Britain is a factor of the utmost importance, presaging a fundamental, revolutionary change in the labor movement and, consequently, in the politics of the nation.
The Parties of the Communist International were founded in order to develop mass Bolshevik parties in all capitalist countries. The Socialist Revolution failed, in Germany and other countries, at the close of the war of 1914-18 in spite of favorable objective conditions, because, besides the betrayals of reformist Social-Democracy, such Parties were lacking. This shows the tremendous significance that must be attached to the successful establishment of a mass Communist Party in Australia.