Communist Party of Australia. 1951

The Peace Charter and Anti-Conscription

By W. Johns

Published: Communist Review, Number 2, January, 1951. pp. 29-32;
Source: Left History Archive.

The imperialist Powers, who in the name of U.N.O. have waged savage, aggressive war unsuccessfully against the Korean people, have found that not only are they being defeated militarily, but that the mighty movement for peace throughout the world is preventing them from enlarging the Korean war into a world war.

The imperialists are daily being exposed as the aggressors and the warmongers by their own press, and the propaganda mediums of the fighters for peace, the organised peace movements in various countries, are directly attacking the imperialists with the aim of destroying the war drive.

The capitalist class is facing its worst and deepest economical and political crisis in its history and is seeking a solution. The solution as far as they are concerned is a third world war and the target for this war is the democratic progressive peoples of the world, led by the Soviet Union. Such a war resolves itself into a titanic struggle between the capitalist class and the working class on a world scale and the prevention of such a war, whilst bringing about the doom of the imperialists, must he regarded as the highest form of class struggle at the present moment.

If this is the case, as it undoubtedly is, then the struggle for peace opens up unlimited horizons for Communists in the overthrowing of the capitalist class. The peace movement is not only developed to prevent war, but also to extend the influence and leadership of the Party, to create the basis for working class power. This is the perspective, and too many Communists still don’t recognise the role of the peace struggle as the instrument for the defeat and annihilation of world capitalism.

In Australia as elsewhere, the World Peace Congress held in Warsaw has tremendous implications. The Congress has given us a lead by issuing a Peace Charter containing nine points, each one of which clearly demonstrates the main steps to be taken in stepping up the work for peace. The Peace Charter has been dealt with elsewhere, so it is sufficient to say that owing to many weaknesses existing in past peace work, many thousands of progressive people have not yet been reached. This means that if we are to be successful in really strengthening the peace movement in Australia, we must vary our methods of work, get away from the formal meeting habit as much as possible and provide interesting, new, social forms of presenting the Warsaw Peace Charter in order to reach these people. The discussions in Party branches can be lifted to a much higher level around the Charter points than has previously been the case if the concept of the peace struggle being the highest form of class struggle in the present situation is obtained.

The presentation of the Warsaw Peace Charter is essentially a task of mass education; the education of hundreds of thousands of Australians as to who are the aggressors and warmongers and who are the carriers of the banner of peace. As the people begin to see the relative roles of American imperialism and the Soviet Union, then will the movement for peace be developed. Once convinced on this issue, and under the leadership of the Party, the peace movement becomes a weapon for the overthrow of capitalism. Here again, in the field of propaganda, it is necessary to say that our methods of presentation must be, varied, made more simple, made less sectarian. Simple, brief, non-sectarian leaflets that are read are worth a lot more than complex political statements that aren't.

Branches producing leaflets on the Charter should not just include a bald statement of the nine points and let it go at that, considering that the job is done; but precisely because the task is an educational task, many leaflets must be produced explaining the Charter point by point and explaining the implications of each point in a simple, forthright manner. Discussions should take place with individual workers, in factories, with groups of workers, socials, picnics and dances can be organised and, as many people as possible given little jobs to do that all workers in the particular factory can be involved actively in the fight for peace. When, and only when, this has taken place, can we honestly say that the factory is for peace and not for war. The passing of a resolution from a meeting of a minority of the workers in a factory is sometimes considered sufficient and we rest on our laurels, happy that we have “struck our blow for peace” and saying that such and such a factory is in favour of peace. If we do this we are only kidding ourselves, no one else.

In line with this it is, necessary that our Party branches don’t treat the World Peace Charter in a similar manner; the Charter must be discussed and re-discussed, the role of the peace movement fully understood as the vehicle for the overthrow of capitalism.

In Australia another national issue closely allied with the Peace Charter has arisen. This question is the Australian National Service Bill which has been introduced into Parliament by the Menzies Government, and provides for the conscription of men between the ages of 18 and 30 years for compulsory military training. It also provides for the sending overseas of this conscripted military force to fight obviously in the interests of the United States and Australian warmongers. The legislation provides also for the use of this force for strike-breaking. The main clauses in the Bill are being covered up by the members of both sides of Parliament and up to date the Government and the newspapers have hidden the true implications of the legislation. It seems evident that the A.L.P. politicians are seeking a loophole through which they can dodge putting up any fight to defeat the Bill.

Australians are traditionally opposed to conscription and events of previous anti-conscription campaigns have gone down in working-class history as some of the mightiest Australia has ever known. However, it is not sufficient to rely on the people’s traditional hostility to conscription. To raise a mass movement in opposition to Menzies’ legislation, we must develop the anti-conscription campaign as a mighty movement to throw the legislation out, defeat Menzies and play it’s part in the fight for peace.

The anti-conscription campaign will embrace much wider fields than will immediately be possible with the Peace Charter. All people opposed to conscription, no matter what their class position or political or religious viewpoint, must be brought into action against conscription. For this reason a broad organisation has been established in Sydney to develop and lead the no-conscription movement. It is essential that this organisation also develop new ways of presenting educational material, getting away from the old type, uninteresting, formal meetings and complicated leaflets, to a more virile, non-sectarian, simple form of propaganda and activity that will appeal to people outside the Party and the peace movement as it now exists. This broad organisation will conduct the general campaign of organisation and agitation around conscription, directing its activity particularly to the factories, and for this purpose many non-Party workers from the trade unions and the factories will be needed to augment the present organisation.

Whilst the broader organisation will look after the more general aspects of the work, the Party must conduct an independent campaign of its own, somewhat similar to the lines already laid down. But it must be preceded by intense discussion around the World Peace Charter and its implications. This discussion should not be concluded at one Section or Branch meeting, but continued until the whole of the membership is convinced on the role of peace movement and the manner in which the anti-conscription campaign can give us room for greater contact among the non-Party masses. Leaflets, bulletins and factory gate meetings can play a tremendous part if produced in series, that is, not to endeavour to explain all issues regarding conscription at once, but to conduct an explanatory drive amongst the workers, showing the class position of the Menzies government and what conscription means to those directly affected, their wives, fathers, mothers, sweethearts and friends.

The women’s organisation can further build its following and play its part in the anti-conscription movement by directing its efforts particularly to the mothers, wives and sweethearts of those to be conscripted. Likewise the trade unions can not only assist the broad anti-conscription organisation, but can also independently work in the factories to defeat the legislation. The Youth League has great responsibility as the Australian youth are those to be conscripted, it must direct propaganda particularly to the youth, and in doing so build the League membership.

To summarise, the various organisations must conduct independent campaigns directed to the people with whom they are concerned. The Party must conduct its own campaign, being careful not to avoid the more general international issues of the World Peace Charter. Another danger to avoid will be the tendency to convert peace committees into anti-conscription committees.

The anti-conscription campaign can play a big part in the struggle for peace in Australia, broadening out the sphere of influence of the present movement to include thousands and thousands of people who have not as yet been reached by the mighty world movement for peace.