Published: The Australian Communist, No. 75, n.d. .
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The most important feature of the semi-fascist coup d’etat of Kerr, Barwick, Fraser, Anthony, was the mass activity it provoked. Central to this was the united action of the working class. This united action gathered around itself a great unity of many sections of the people. The mass action had the potentiality of being decisive in determining the outcome of the coup. But it was betrayed and frittered away. Nonetheless what happened contained tremendously rich lessons for the working class and its allies. These lessons were more important than the frittering away and betrayal; in fact, that frittering away and betrayal carried in themselves, important lessons.
The nature and position of the Australian Labor Party must be very carefully examined. In the particular conjuncture of circumstances that arose in Australia when Fraser deferred supply and then Kerr sacked Whitlam, the parliamentary Labor Party became the apparent focus of the defence of national independence and democratic rights. National independence and defence of democratic rights are issues which all Australians, save the tiny minority of comprador capitalists, have come to cherish in a way far deeper than ever before. National independence and defence of democratic rights are the main trend in the movement of the people both black and white in Australia from almost the very beginning of the British seizure of Australia. In the world of today this trend has asserted itself more decisively, more consciously and has involved more people than in any previous period of Australian history.
It was this trend that almost reached boiling point in the events in Australia in October, November and December 1975. And it was the possible achievements of the boiling up of this trend which were sabotaged by the Labor Party leaders in those same events.
It is necessary to comment on the character of the Labor Party at some length. In order to set the background to that comment, let us try to visualise the situation had the Labor Party possessed a truly working class character (and it presents itself as a party of the working class) and had it been a genuine party of socialism (here is to be remembered the socialist objective placed in the Labor Party platform in 1921; and also the presentation of the Labor Party as a party of socialism). Assume then, (contrary to the fact) the workingclass, socialist character of the Labor Party in October, November and December 1975. There is very little doubt that the working class and its allies could have taken even greater steps forward in carrying the great Australian tradition of struggle for independence and democratic liberty to establishing people’s democratic anti-imperialist government than it did. This is so because the mass opposition and, in particular, the opposition of the working class, to what the multinationals and their collaborators, expressed in the actions of Kerr, Barwick, Fraser, Anthony, were doing, was so great that given correct leadership, the working class and its allies could have been well on the way to taking state power and wielding it against the multinationals and their collaborators. Of course had the Labor Party done anything decisive in that direction, then it would not have been the Labor Party. The historic role of the social democratic parties (and there are features of social democracy in the Labor Party) is to betray the working class and its allies.
In fact, the Labor Party is a party of capitalism, a party of the liberal bourgeoisie on to which have been grafted some features of social democracy. By social democracy is meant the political position that in the name of the working class nominally subscribes to socialism, promotes the peaceful evolution to socialism, accepts parliament as the institution through which “socialism” can be brought about, places reforms under capitalism as the solution of the problems to which capitalism gives rise, etc. The Labor Party in Australia has had a particular history in that it did not arise at all as a nominally socialist party. It arose as a party which attracted working class support by presenting parliament as the body in which the workers must secure representation in order to achieve the reforms demanded by the workers. In fact the Labor Party served the bourgeoisie from the beginning. Its overriding service was to British imperialism but in addition it served the very weak national bourgeoisie and the liberal bourgeoisie which latter had the view that soft tactics were preferable in the choice between hard and soft tactics in dealing with the workers. In 1921, in order to handle the deep radicalising that had swept the working class as the result of the imperialist war of 1914-1918 and the October 1917 socialist revolution in Russia, the Labor Party put into its platform what has been called the socialist plank. In the years subsequent to 1921, it has “explained” and “interpreted” the socialist plank in such a way as to make it virtually unrecognizable to scientific socialists as having anything to do with socialism. None the less in one form or another the Labor Party has presented itself as “democratic socialist”, even “socialist”, and has certainly been presented as socialist by its parliamentary competitors. By presenting itself and being presented as socialist and by presenting itself and being presented as a workers’ party, the Labor Party has attracted working class support. It has striven to steer that support into parliamentary and peaceful channels. It has always acted within the boundaries of capitalism. In this way, it has served the whole capitalist class including the British imperialists who played a dominant role in Australia up to the 1920’s and the U.S. imperialists who, particularly after World War 2, played the dominant role in Australia.
When the Whitlam government took office at the end of 1972 it immediately carried into effect certain policies that world trends urgently demanded and some of which coincided with the interests of the working ~’ass and its allies. Such, for example, were the ending of Australia’s participation in the war in Vietnam, the exchange of diplomatic representation with the People’s Republic of China and domestically, overdue reforms in a number of important social fields such as pensions, education, health care, etc. Certainly these measures were welcomed and supported by the workers, working and patriotic people. None of them was inconsistent with the Labor Party’s service to the liberal and national bourgeoisie nor its basic service to the multi-nationals which dominated Australia. Some of its measures, precisely because they aroused mass enthusiasm, alarmed the multi-nationals. Some of them even marginally affected the multi-nationals adversely.
Another very important feature of the whole situation was the international environment in which the Whitlam government operated in its term of office. The main force in the world is the Third World which was and is very active in struggle against imperialist domination. The two superpowers, U.S. imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism, were and are locked in ever-intensifying world-wide contention and struggle with each other which certainly embraced and embraces Australia. In certain respects the Whitlam government supported some actions by the Third World countries. This accorded with the Australian national bourgeoisie’s interests in prices for minerals, 200 nautical mile economic boundary, etc. And it also enabled the national bourgeoisie to use its limited association with Third World demands as a bargaining weapon in its quest for a place in the sun especially against the superpowers, U.S. imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism. This identification with the Third World, limited, hesitating, vacillating, inconsistent thought it was, also had the support of Australian workers, working and patriotic people. In the contention and struggle between U.S. imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism, the Soviet social-imperialists assiduously cultivated the Whitlam government. Again, in pursuing the national bourgeoisie’s striving tor a place in the sun and therefore to break a little from the embrace of the dominant imperialism in Australia, U.S. imperialism, the Whitlam government responded to a degree to the approaches of Soviet social-imperialism. This was well illustrated by a letter which Whitlam wrote to the Soviet revisionist created Socialist Party of Australia late in 1975. The letter supported Soviet social-imperialist policy in important respects. The significance of Whitlam’s action lay in the fact that he went out of his way in a manner unprecedented for a Prime Minister to write the letter to an insignificant group of people who purport to be Marxist-Leninist but who are underwritten by the Soviet social-imperialists. The gesture could only arise as an indication of Whitlam’s favourable attitude to the Soviet social-imperialists. Nor was this the only expression of a favourable attitude towards Soviet social-imperialism. In short, Whitlam was seeking to use the Soviet social-imperialists’ relations with Australia to further his idea of Australia’s independence. Particularly it aimed to get better terms from U.S. imperialism. Unlike aspects of his relations with Third World countries previously referred to, this gesture did not have the support of Australian workers, working and patriotic people who do not want to drive the U.S. imperialist wolf away from Australia only to let the even more dangerous Soviet social-imperialist tiger in.
During the Labor Party’s term of office the general crisis of capitalism intensified into still another deep cyclical crisis of overproduction. A feature of this crisis was and is inflation. In order to try to deal with the crisis, the Labor Government attempted to put the burden of the crisis on the working people. It attacked the wages and conditions of the working class. It falsely asserted that the cause of inflation was high wages. It set out to carry through an even greater attack upon the conditions of the people. It neglected the problems of the small and middle farmers and attacked their conditions.
Another feature of the Labor Ministers was their distribution of the spoils of office. While purporting to be working class and to serve the working class, many of the Labor Ministers lived extravagantly, appointed relatives and close friends to lucrative positions, went on luxurious trips. In short, they lived as the bourgeoisie does. But the workers, working and patriotic people live plainly and work hard, and they correctly expect working class leaders to set an example in this respect. Again it must be said if the Labor Party leaders did not behave in the way they did, it would not be the Labor Party because in truth it is a party of the bourgeoisie. Its leaders are bourgeois.
Despite these measures that timidly supported Australian independence and measures which made certain concessions to the working people, the basic pro-imperialist position of the Labor Party with its service to U.S. imperialism and flirting with Soviet social-imperialism, its attempt to put the burden of crisis on the working people, came to the fore and alienated wide sections of the people. In consequence the parliamentary competitors of the Labor Party were able to exploit the contradiction between the reality of the Labor Party’s service to imperialism on the one hand and on the other its pretence of socialism and service to the people. The Labor government undermined its own parliamentary position, alienated its supporters and failed to atone to its masters the U.S. imperialists for daring even mildly to question some of U.S. imperialism’s positions; this is the very nature of the Labor Party. Hence US imperialism, spurred by its very need to intensify its exploitation of Australia and to hold Australia from its Soviet social-imperialist rivals decided that this could best be done by its more open and reliable agents Fraser, Anthony and Co. It therefore masterminded the conspiracy of Kerr, Barwick, Fraser and Anthony, sacked Whitlam and installed Fraser in his place.
When this occurred, immediately mass opposition and action arose, led by the working class. This opposition arose because the workers, working and patriotic people both sensed and knew that the U.S. imperialist Kerr-Barwick-Fraser-Anthony conspiracy was an attack upon the struggle for Australian independence and democratic liberty. Strikes and demonstrations developed. Mass action of every kind developed. There is no question but that the action could have been carried to even greater heights. Bourgeois commentators said that the Kerr-Barwick-Anthony-Fraser conspiracy had “polarised” the Australian community in an unprecedented manner. This is correct. It vividly set the multinationals and their collaborators against the interests of the workers, working and patriotic people. It dramatically underlined the class struggle in Australia. It set the stage for a possible gigantic struggle. In the event, a very big struggle occurred but its far greater potentiality was strangled by the Labor Party leaders.
How did the Labor Party leaders do this?
To answer this question, more reference must be made to the nature of the Labor Party, to the nature of the state apparatus, to parliament and other institutions in Australia.
In the first place, in response to the mass movement and mass activity the Labor leaders urged the people to abide by the “umpire” (Kerr), to let the matter be decided in the elections, to refrain from violence, not to go on strike and so on. Whitlam’s own comments are in themselves instructive. Immediately after he had been peremptorily sacked by Kerr, Whitlam invited people to let their anger boil but very soon after that, he said they should keep their anger at the boil but not allow it to boil over. This was at once a recognition of the extent of the mass movement and its growth and at the same time an indication of Whitlam’s own role of confining and taming the struggle. Hawke, ALP and ACTU President, was loud in his denunciation of Kerr, even made threatening noises about strike action and then like Whitlam, urged caution, observance of the law, etc. Far from developing, encouraging and supporting mass action, Whitlam, Hawke and Co. actively suppressed it and spent all their efforts in driving it into parliamentary channels. Their actions could only confuse and divide the workers, working and patriotic people. The people were really bursting for ever-developing action, prepared to make sacrifices, prepared to go to any lengths. It was a situation with magnificent potential.
A feature of this magnificent potential was the broad united front of many sections of the people. It embraced people from all walks of life except, of course, the multi-nationals and their collaborators. Organisational forms of united front activity came into being. This too is certain to develop.
What do parliamentary channels mean? Parliament has been well described as a talking shop and the secret ballot as the right to choose every few years which member of the ruling class will misrepresent the people in parliament. The choice that faces people in Australia in a parliamentary election is whether the party of capitalism, the Labor Party or the parties of capitalism, the Liberal National Country Parties will hold office in the institution of capitalism. In no sense whatever does a parliamentary election decide any fundamental issue of the social system. In no fundamental sense does it advance the cause of national independence and democratic liberty. Indeed the very fate of the Whitlam government shows that even the mildest reform or the objective danger of mildly radical slogans (raised as part of its deception by the Labor Party) rousing the people, will cause the multi-nationals and their collaborators to break their own rules and put an end to it. If need be they will resort to armed force. The events showed that the Labor Party leaders in fact acquiesced in their own destruction. Thus they paved the way for the semi-fascist coup and when it occurred they acquiesced in it.
There is no doubt that the mass activity was sufficient given proper leadership and given the repudiation of parliament and parliamentary politics to prevent and defeat the semi-fascist coup. The great Russian revolutionary Lenin ridiculed those who take their stand on parliamentary majority. He said: “Only scoundrels or simpletons can think that the proletariat must win the majority in elections carried out under the yoke of the bourgeoisie, under the yoke of wage slavery, and that only after this must it win power. This is the height of folly or hypocrisy; it is substituting voting, under the old system and with the old power, for class struggle and revolution.
The proletariat wages its class struggle and does not wait for voting to begin a strike, although for the success of a strike it is necessary to have the sympathy of the majority of the working people (and, it follows, of the majority of the population): the proletariat wages its class struggle and overthrows the bourgeoisie without waiting for any preliminary (supervised by the bourgeoisie and carried out under its oppression) voting; and the proletariat is perfectly well aware that for the success of its revolution, for the successful overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the sympathy of the majority of the working people (and, it follows, of the majority of the population) is absolutely necessary. (“Greetings to Italian, French and German Communists” October 10, 1919. Lenin’s emphasis.)
The Labor leaders had it within their power particularly in the early stages of denial of supply to follow this advice confident that majority support would have been attracted, to set up a people’s army to deal with the violence to which undoubtedly the multinationals and their collaborators would have resorted. But then once again had it done this, it would not have been the Labor Party.
The Labor leaders represent the very forces who were suppressing the mass movement. In their service to the multi-nationals, it was inevitable that these Labor Party leaders would suppress the mass movement. Insofar as the Labor Party serves the national bourgeoisie, this bourgeoisie is prepared to use the workers, working and patriotic people to help realise its own demands, but at the same time it is desperately afraid of them and more afraid of them than it is of the imperialists. Hence it too joined in suppressing the mass movement. Insofar as the Labor Party expresses social democratic trends, then all experience shows that it is the historical role of social democracy to betray the working class. This too was a feature of the Labor Party’s position. Those who are in the more direct “left” tradition of social democracy such as Cairns, Cameron and Uren, all played a substantial part in betrayal of the workers, working and patriotic people. Though these people may have “good” motives (and in the case of Cairns, there is no doubt he takes up certain bourgeois humanitarian causes without personal gain) still their conduct in warning about the “danger” of revolution and the need to avoid it (Cameron) and in lending their weight to parliamentary channels is treachery. These people express a division of labour within the Labor Party — they are that part of the division which is designed to mislead the leftward swinging workers into parliamentary channels.
It serves no purpose whatever to think that the Labor Party would or could act in any way other than it did. For illustration purposes one can pose the contrast of correct action as against what the Labor Party did and must by its nature do. The purpose a review serves is to show that the workers, working and patriotic people must of necessity go beyond the Labor Party. This necessity was recognised or sensed by many workers, working and patriotic people. This recognition and sense are of the utmost importance. Indeed they are an essential part of the most important product of the semi-fascist coup.
In the then stage of mass understanding of the Labor Party and parliament, it was scarcely avoidable that the Labor Party should become a certain focus for the struggle. After all, the coup had the appearance of being directed against the Labor government. In fact it was directed against the workers, working and patriotic people because the multi-nationals were no longer confident that the Labor Party could sufficiently control the rising movement of workers, working and patriotic people. Particularly too were they concerned to have an Australian government which was reliable in U.S. imperialism’s world-wide contention and struggle with Soviet social-imperialism.
The Labor Party failed to serve efficiently enough its basic masters the U.S. imperialists and their multinationals. The U.S. imperialists have shown more than once that they demand in countries within their sphere of influence (as Australia is) absolutely compliant governments, governments which do nothing, either subjectively or objectively, to encourage national independence and do nothing to encourage in any way Soviet social-imperialism. Given the slightest noncompliance by a government in such a country the U.S. imperialists will destroy it. If they can do that within the institutions of that country, then they will use those institutions. If they cannot do it in that way, then they will do it in other ways which include the use of U.S. imperialist armed force. In Australia’s case there is no doubt whatever (despite the “learned” opinions to the contrary and the learned debate that goes on) that the fundamental Westminster convention that the Queen and the Queen’s representative act only on the advice of the government of the day constituted from the party with a majority in the lower house, was flagrantly broken. This is mentioned not to get into the diversionary controversy over “legalities” but to show that U.S. imperialism will always find a way to carry out its intentions. That they maintain people like Kerr and Anthony as their paid agents is simply illustrative of their planning for all contingencies. Had the method of Kerr’s sacking Whitlam failed, some other method would have been found to deal with the rising independence and democratic liberty movement in Australia. In short, U.S. imperialism treats parliament and constitutionalism with utter contempt. From a standpoint opposite to Marxism-Leninism, it recognises the fraud and deception that parliament constitutes. It is prepared at a minute’s notice to throw parliament and parliamentary conventions overboard. The Labor Party in confining the struggle to parliament and striving to direct mass action into parliamentary channels assists U.S. imperialism which basically it serves. It fails by its very nature to meet U.S. imperialism in the extra parliamentary, extra-legal fields, the fields of open force which are the real resort of U.S. imperialism. This arises from the capitalist nature of the Labor Party, from its parliamentary nature and from its adherence to bourgeois law and order all in fundamental service to U.S. imperialism. It stands in contrast to the position of the representatives of U.S. imperialism and the comprador bourgeois realists who are prepared to break their own law, enter into what if lesser persons were involved, would be regarded as criminal conspiracy, in order to pursue the class struggle against the workers, working and patriotic people. They show their class understanding of the nature of the law. The law is their weapon. If it doesn’t suit them at a given moment, they break it or alter it.
They never fail in their preparedness to take up the gun. This fact is known or sensed particularly by the leading core of workers, working and patriotic people who are prepared and want to carry on struggle outside the parliamentary and legal institutions. One service of the Labor Party leaders and the Labor Party as an institution to the imperialists and their collaborators is precisely that they act as a barrier to this. They drive the people who want the contest on real grounds, class against class, people’s armed force against bourgeois armed force, into parliamentary and legal channels, the very channels for which the imperialist bourgeoisie and their collaborators have such contempt but are prepared to use when it suits them. By urging the exclusive use of such channels, the Labor Party leaders serve that very bourgeoisie and its collaborators. This is in their essential nature. That nature will never change.
That the workers, working and patriotic people had a large degree of consciousness of this is demonstrated by the fact that they did not in many respects obey the Labor Party leaders’ demands for restraint. Even the slogan “We Want Gough” was simply the immediate notch for expressing their real demand for national independence and democratic liberty. The innumerable and brilliant slogans that were produced expressed similar sentiments. “Against U.S. imperialism and its running Kerrs” was a splendid example of many others.
The Labor Party leaders made parliament and elections their starting and ending point. But there can be no parliamentary and electoral solution to the demand by Australian workers, working and patriotic people for national independence and democratic liberty. As the U.S. imperialists and their collaborators recognise, in the end the outcome of this struggle will be determined outside parliament and outside bourgeois law and order. It will be determined in actual struggle and that will culminate in armed struggle. Those who, like the Labor Party leaders, stand in the way of this, will be destroyed. Precisely because the Labor Party is losing its effectiveness in steering the movement for national independence and democratic liberty into parliamentary channels, it is losing its effectiveness for U.S. imperialism and the multi-nationals. The people are going beyond it. Hence the U.S. imperialists and their collaborators shift their preparations to the field of more open violence.
The situation may be summed up. The election outcome does not detract from nor reflect upon the magnificent mass movement. The Labor Party rank and file played a tremendous part in this. They broke from the Labor Party leaders. There is a clear line of demarcation between the leaders and rank and file. Elections are weapons of the capitalist class. When Lenin spoke of elections being conducted under the yoke of the bourgeoisie, he made a completely realistic estimate of the position. This particular election enriches experience about parliamentary elections. They give no real opportunity to the workers, working and patriotic people because the elections are capitalist weapons. This election, even from a bourgeois realist, let alone a working class standpoint, was manipulated in favour of the U.S. imperialist agents Fraser and Anthony from start to finish. Fraser and Kerr all along knew that they would have a double dissolution contrary to their own law and conventions; they entered into a criminal (from their own legal criteria) conspiracy, they installed Fraser as the Prime Minister and ignored a majority vote of no confidence passed in the lower house; they controlled the election apparatus and all the propaganda media. The whole process merely demonstrates that to the bourgeoisie in all circumstances the end justifies the means. Kerr’s action as one man dissolving an elected parliament in fact put parliament out of the firing line in one blow, yet the Labor leaders urge parliamentarism. It is said that if Whitlam were not so arrogant, if Cairns and Cameron had behaved in some way other than they did, if the Labor Party campaign had been better, etc. etc. the Labor Party could have won the election. These things are in the nature of the Labor Party. They may marginally have affected the election result and certainly they made it easier to carry through the coup. But they are quite incidental things and in themselves are certainly not the essence of the matter.
The Labor Party as has been pointed out, introduced certain reforms. This was one factor that led to its antagonising the U.S. imperialists and their collaborators. Real reforms within capitalism are impossible; it is impossible to reform capitalism. In fact these mild reforms by the Labor Party did attract and did warrant mass support. The multi-nationals were not keen on them as such and even more important feared the mass support for them and the danger of that mass support going further. To attain genuine reforms, imperialist rule in Australia must be overthrown. The Labor Party will never do that. Insofar as the Labor Party stands for reform, it is reform within capitalism, in Australia reform under imperialist domination. Unless the particular reform has the decisive agreement of the multi-nationals, then these multi-nationals are sure to resist. The Labor Party because it is tied to capitalism, has no way of dealing with the resistance. In itself this probably would not have led to the dismissal of the Labor government. Added to it was the vacillating role of the Labor government in its service to the national bourgeoisie. This service certainly did not arouse the opposition of workers, working and patriotic people. Things like support for certain Third World policies and internal reforms, have been commented upon. They got support. But they led to opposition from the imperialists and their collaborators. The Labor Party because it adhered to capitalism, parliament and other such institutions, had no way of dealing with this opposition.
In addition, far from decisively breaking from the imperialists and their collaborators, it served them. In other words, its timid service to the national bourgeoisie got it nowhere and it failed to placate the multinationals. Its only prospect was to rely upon the whole of the workers, working and patriotic people in struggle. Its nature precludes it from doing this. There is an important contradiction between the national bourgeoisie and the imperialists. The national bourgeoisie is incapable of leading the struggle for national independence. Given working class leadership it can be important in the united front for national independence and democratic liberty. Overshadowing these factors was and is the contention and struggle between U.S. imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism already commented upon. The U.S. imperialists in pursuing their contention and struggle with Soviet social-imperialism both around and in Australia experienced the shortcomings of the Labor government which included the wooing of it by Soviet social-imperialism, demanded a government of their own nominees. Hence the diehards and U.S. imperialist agents Fraser and Anthony were installed. In short then, the Labor Party failed because of its capitalist character to lead the workers, working and patriotic people, its reforms irritated the imperialists and their collaborators and could not be approached in a decisive way which involves the overthrow of the imperialists and their collaborators, its service to the national bourgeoisie irritated these same forces and could not be carried through without working class leadership which the Labor Party as a party of capitalism cannot have and the Labor Party failed to support U.S. imperialism loyally enough in its contention and struggle with Soviet social-imperialism.
The revisionist groups in Australia assisted in the betrayal of the movement for national independence and democratic liberty. Revisionism uses the words of Communism and Marxism-Leninism but strips from Communism and Marxism-Leninism their revolutionary essence. The revisionists support parliamentarism and trade unionism. Throughout the whole episode they confined their “solution” to parliamentary channels. In one sense, (we qualify this by our previous reference to the historical role of social democracy to betray the workers), the Labor Party leaders do not betray the workers, they simply carry out their bourgeois line. But the revisionists undoubtedly do betray the workers because they persistently proclaim their own working class and Marxist-Leninist character. The Socialist Party of Australia was specifically created by the Soviet social-imperialists in Australia. Their approach to their support of the Labor government and the Labor Party was dictated by Soviet social-imperialism’s aim to make the Labor Party one of its tools in bringing Australia into the Soviet sphere of imperialist influence and ousting U.S. imperialism. This is sheer treachery to Australian independence. It is merely the substitution of one oppressor for another and in a sense, a more dangerous and ruthless oppressor because that oppressor uses the names Communism, Marxism-Leninism, national independence, for the very purpose of crushing Communism, Marxism-Leninism, national independence. Its “support” for the parliamentary road to socialism is all in keeping with this. But like U.S. imperialism, Soviet social-imperialism is no respecter of parliament for parliament’s sake. So long as parliament suits its ends, it uses it. When it ceases to suit Soviet ends, then Soviet social-imperialism resorts to open force. The Socialist Party of Australia shows its real nature by its support of the imperialism of the Soviet Union. As for Aarons’s rabble of degenerates, it did its best to confuse and divide the workers. It is very weak and declining but its leading spokesmen in the trade unions demonstrated its real nature by joining in the bourgeois call for restraint, adherence to parliament and elections etc.
A word too must be said about trade union politics and the trade union bureaucracy. Trade union politics confine the workers to struggle on economic demands; that is, they accept the permanence of capitalism and Australia’s position as dominated by imperialism. From the very beginning of the preparations for the semi-fascist coup in Australia, the workers broke from the shackles of trade union politics. They gave expression in strikes, demonstrations and other ways to their desire to struggle in pursuit of national independence and democratic liberty. But true to the historic position of trade union politics, the ACTU and Labor Councils, the trade union leaders like Hawke, supported by the revisionists, moved immediately to curb the struggle. They tried to enforce the reactionary bourgeois slogan of ’No politics in the trade unions’ (which means bourgeois politics in the trade unions). Insofar as they could not suppress the struggle they did their best to divert it into parliamentary channels. Hawke emerged as a classic illustration of trade unionism, trade union politics and social democracy. He spoke of the disaster of the Labor Party’s electoral defeat, of his depression at it and went to the lengths of shedding tears on television, no doubt to give credence to his “depression”. There is no question but that from a working class standpoint, Hawke is a loathsome creature prepared to sell his soul to the highest bidder (already bought by U.S. imperialism, Soviet social-imperialism and the Israeli ruling circles; it is only a question of getting an even better price). Hawke merely illustrates the real character of social democracy, parliamentarism and trade union politics. It is quite correct to carry out a campaign of exposure of him so long as sight is not lost of the fact that he is merely a dramatic (and over exposed) demonstration of bourgeois trends in the working class movement. In other words, it would be wrong to allow the justifiable repulsion against Hawke to divert the fundamental conclusion that must be drawn about the Labor Party, parliamentarism, trade union politics, social democracy. Undoubtedly Hawke is a good example of where it all gets. He is a typical product of these trends.
Far from Hawke’s sentiments of disaster, the Australian workers, working and patriotic people can indeed be justifiably proud of their performance. It was magnificent. It involved industrial workers, all other sections of workers and working people and patriotic people, the Labor Party rank and file, youth, women, school children. It involved black and white people. It was the decisive feature of the whole situation. To make the electoral outcome the main feature is to start off entirely on the wrong foot. It is to debate the matter only within the circle permitted and prescribed by the capitalist class. The situation must be looked at from the standpoint of class struggle; in Australia’s case from the standpoint of the struggle for national independence and democratic liberty, for people’s anti-imperialist democratic government against the superpowers and their collaborators and agents in Australia. Viewed in that light, there is room only for tremendous, well-based and well-justified optimism. The Australian people, despite the shackles put upon them by the Labor Party leaders and trade union bureaucrats, unleashed a magnificent movement. How can there be anything but optimism and confidence in the people? The struggle in Australia for national independence and democratic liberty is in accordance with the main trend in the world today. That trend is towards revolution; in the world today countries want independence, nations want liberation and the people want revolution.
The Communist Party of Australia (M-L) has done an immense amount in propagating Marxism-Leninism and Marxist-Leninist criticism of parliamentarism, trade unionism and legalism and in expounding the theory of the Australian revolution for anti-imperialist people’s democratic government and socialism. This is of fundamental importance and has made a tremendous contribution to the mass movement. Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. Still it must be recognised that in the struggle against the semi-fascist coup and in the general struggle for national independence and democratic liberty, the revolutionary left was and is not yet strong enough to assume decisive leadership. Historically only a short time will elapse before the Communists are strong enough. The core of the question is the supremacy of Marxist-Leninist ideology, politics and organisation in the working class. Given that, then the working class will lead all sections of the population, including the national bourgeoisie, to victory in the struggle for national independence and democratic liberty, for people’s anti-imperialist democratic government. Naturally this movement has ups and downs, victories and defeats, ebbs and flows. Its way is tortuous. There is no blueprint and no nice straight road to victory. The people took a long step forward in their experience in October, November, December 1975. That experience will never be forgotten. It exposed the bourgeois character of the Labor Party, the fraud of parliament, the fraud of the law courts (Barwick’s “impartiality”), the bankruptcy of parliamentarism and of trade union politics. The subjective factor of Marxist-Leninist ideology, politics and organisation is of decisive importance in this situation. MARXIST-LENINIST LEADERSHIP SIMPLY MUST BE WON. That involves immense effort on the part of all Communists. It involves making Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought a mass question. It involves propagating materialist dialectics. It involves building the Communist Party of Australia (M-L) ideologically, politically and organisationally, not as a thing in itself but to serve the Australian people, as the capital and weapon of the Australian people.
Revolutionary leadership of the people of Australia involves struggling to secure deep mass understanding of the bourgeois character of the Labor Party, of trade unionism, the fraud of parliament, the critical importance of armed struggle to combat the armed force of the imperialists, their multi-nationals and collaborators; it involves deep understanding of the role of the superpowers to Australia and in the nature of the struggle for national independence and democratic liberty. It must be recognised that there remain certain illusions about parliament, about the Labor Party, about trade unionism, about the law courts. These illusions are being dispelled. The Communists alone can consummate the lessons which arise from the struggle against the semi-fascist coup.
Most certainly the question of arms for the people, a people’s army, is being put on the agenda. This is because the imperialists and their collaborators increasingly throw overboard the old deceptions of parliaments, elections, courts. Increasingly the Labor Party and trade unions fail to do the job of deception for them. This leaves naked uncovered class struggle. That is all to the good. But its benefit can only be realised if the people are prepared in an all round way. An all round way has as an essential component the capacity to resist and overthrow with people’s arms, the armed force of fascism. Hence the most serious and earnest consideration must be given to this question.
The Fraser government has been installed by U.S. imperialism. Its one positive quality is that it is opposed to Soviet social-imperialism and shuns any flirting with it at all. Australian people want neither U.S. imperialism nor Soviet social-imperialism. The struggle for national independence and democratic liberty has definite targets. At the head of those targets stand U.S. imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism, the latter an even greater menace than the former because it is a growing imperialism masquerading as Communist, liberator, whereas the former is declining and well exposed as an imperialist power. Each of these imperialisms strives to set up open fascism in countries within its sphere of influence or countries which it wants within its sphere of influence. It is possible that momentarily one or other of them will be successful and establish a dictatorship from the right. No dictatorship from the right can last long. Hitler lasted but a moment in history — 12 years. The nature of capitalism is such that the polarisation process poses an increasingly smaller number of exploiters against an ever-increasingly larger number of exploited, the contradiction between social production and individual appropriation characteristic of capitalism inevitably leads to the overthrow of capitalism. In Australia, the chief expression of that contradiction is multi-national appropriation of the products of Australian workers headed by U.S. multi-nationals a desperate bid for which is now made by Soviet social-imperialism. Neither Fraser nor the Labor Party can reconcile these contradictions. Their social system is breaking down. The events of the semi-fascist coup demonstrate the instability of capitalism and capitalist governments.
The very fact that the imperialists and their collaborators resorted to the measures they did is an indication of their weakness and desperation. When the bourgeoisie is confident of its position, when it is not torn by its own contradictions and crisis, it relies on the old institutions. As crisis intensifies and deepens and the contradictions become more acute, it acts to throw overboard the old institutions. This is a tribute to the growth of the struggle of the people. Hence in October, November, December 1975 the U.S. imperialists and their collaborators in Australia dealt the old institutions of parliament, the High Court, the Governor-Generalship, law, conventions, severe blows from which they can never recover. The colonial relic of the Queen’s representative was used by the U.S. imperialists — an extraordinary commentary on the use of an institution of the old and now fading imperialism (British) by U.S. imperialism which pushed in its place in Australia. This action raised the demand for an Australian republic; but even if Australia had been a republic (which it should be) the imperialists would have found a way to install their agents in the circumstances of October, November, December 1975. The casting overboard of the Westminster convention of this colonial relic acting only on the advice of the government and the convention (and law) of an upper house not stopping a money bill gave a spectacular demonstration of the uselessness of parliament. The entry of Barwick, Chief Justice of the High Court, into open political advice held that hallowed institution the High Court in mass contempt. Just as imperialism in Australia has built up capitalism in Australia and thereby called into being the working class, working and other patriotic people who will drive it out, so its actions to maintain itself and keep out its rival Soviet social-imperialism give rich lessons to the workers, working and patriotic people and impel them further along the road of struggle for independence and democratic liberty.
The movement for national independence and democratic liberty grows and grows. It is certain to find and get Marxist-Leninist leadership. It is certain to be victorious.