By the mid fifties the U.S. imperialists had been defeated in Korea, the national liberation movement throughout the world had made tremendous advances and there was an upsurge of struggle in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Above all, Chinese liberation was going from triumph to triumph. The armed counter-revolution had suffered very serious setbacks. In Australia, though the workers had suffered under the counter-offensive, they had held their own. They were regrouping their forces for renewed offensive.
In those circumstances the 20th Congress of the C.P.S.U. took place in February 1956. This Congress occurred in a world where the general crisis of capitalism had greatly deepened.
The crisis of U.S. imperialism, as the leading imperialism, had greatly deepened. Its ideas of world domination were coming undone with the victory of the Chinese revolution, the victory of the Korean people, the general advance of the liberation movement, the shattering of its nuclear monopoly, evidence of a new awakening of the workers in the capitalist countries. It desperately needed rescuing. Particularly did it need rescuing from the advance of the revolutionary movement which threatened to overwhelm it. The advance of socialism and the revolutionary activity of the national liberation movement and of the workers were indeed accelerating. Marx-ism-Leninism was all important to the whole revolutionary cause.
Khrushchov at this 20th Congress began an all out attack on Marxism-Leninism. He set out to rescue imperialism and in particular U.S. imperialism; his views were the greatest possible service to the imperialists in their crisis. A fifth column within the working class movement was precisely what the imperialists sought. Khrushchov’s central service to them rested on the critical question of class struggle and revolution – the seizure of political power by armed force. Precisely at the time when the national liberation movement was armed and arming itself, when the workers were struggling in the metropolitan countries towards an understanding of armed struggle, when above all the great victory of socialism in China had been won in bitter armed struggle, Khrushchov asserted the correctness of the line of peaceful transition to socialism. This was thoroughgoing revision of Marxism-Leninism in that it wrote out of Marxism-Leninism its essential insistence on the seizure of political power by armed force. It was utter treachery to the revolutionary movement at a critical time in its history.
In the Communist Party of Australia, Khrushchov’s attack strengthened the trend to the denial of the armed struggle to which we have referred several times. It strengthened all the anti-Communist forces in Australia. It produced a number of open renegades from, and traitors to, Communism and assisted the more concealed traitors.
On the other hand it began a great process of questioning in the Communist Party. It shook the old ideas of unity to their foundations. It shook the unquestioning acceptance of unity and democratic centralism. A big debate centred around this so-called peaceful transition to socialism, around unity of the Party and democratic centralism.
While Khrushchov’s reports to the C.P.S.U. did great harm they also did great good by their negative example. They served to begin raising the ever present struggle in the Communist movement between Marxism-Leninism and revisionism to a new and higher stage. This was not a struggle, as it has been presented, between the Soviet Communist Party and the Chinese Communist Party (the Communist Party of China was certainly the foremost upholder of Marxism-Leninism) but it was a struggle that historically has been and will be inseparable from the development of Marxism-Leninism. This is precisely because Marxism-Leninism exists as a challenge to the capitalist system and it is surrounded by capitalism. Moreover revisionism always existed as a trend in the C.P.S.U. as it did in the Communist Party of China, as it did in the Communist Party of Australia, in short in every Communist Party. The relative strengths of Marxism-Leninism and revisionism depended on the strength of proletarian stand within the given Party. Revisionist control of the state existed in Yugoslavia long before Khrushchov’s 20th Congress report; in the neighbouring Albania, Marxism-Leninism was dominant. In the Communist Party of Australia, as we have said, revisionism was strong. On a world wide scale, the struggle between Marxism-Leninism and revisionism goes on all the time.
Khrushchov’s report was the quintessence of revisionism and acted as the catalyst for the world wide trend to revisionism. On the other hand, Mao Tsetung was the great champion of Marxism-Leninism which he had raised to an entirely new and higher stage. He represented the quintessence of Marxism-Leninism and acted as the catalyst for the world wide Marxist-Leninist movement.
Product of the 1956 upheaval over Khrushchov’s report and the struggle against revisionism were international conferences of Communist Parties in 1957 and 1960.
The 1957 and 1960 international declarations and their results demonstrated the impossibility of reconciling Marxist-Leninists and revisionists. Within Australia, the struggle took sharper shape. The participants in the struggle simply represented in the Communist Party the different classes outside the Communist Party. Revisionism was bourgeois, capitalist class ideology, and Marxism-Leninism was proletarian, working class ideology.
The struggle itself was deeply rooted in the history of the Communist Party in Australia. Revisionism of necessity existed from the start – now open, now concealed. The particular high point of the struggle with which we are dealing too had its particular infancy and growth. It expressed itself in seemingly small differences at first, with the participants not fully conscious of the basis of the differences. Then it grew to embrace the whole range of Marxism-Leninism.
1961-2-3 saw the struggle between revisionism and Marxism-Leninism in the Communist Party in Australia reach anew high point. It expressed itself over basic theoretical questions such as seizure of power by armed force or peaceful transition to socialism, peaceful co-existence between socialism and imperialism, the nature of the labor party, the nature of trade union politics, the critical question of Marxist-Leninist ideology in Party building. It affected every single question in the Australian revolutionary movement. Whereas certain of the leaders of the Communist Party had at least in words before and at the 1960 Parties’ Conference given some adherence to Marxism-Leninism, now after 1961, again greatly influenced by Khrushchov revisionism at the 22nd Congress of the C.P.S.U., they openly and systematically repudiated it.
Materialist dialectics shows that everything divides into two, that the life of everything is determined by contradiction within the essence of things. The repudiation of Marxism-Leninism (a very bad thing) caused a great re-study of Marxism-Leninism in Australia (a very good thing).
Within the Communist Party the serious and real study of Marxism-Leninism and its integration with the actual Australian conditions got very great impetus. Still again we are dealing with a process. Repudiation of Marx-ism-Leninism began little by little, it gradually developed into systematic repudiation. Repudiation of revisionism too began little by little and developed into the overall repudiation of it. The longest march does begin with a single step. Events had to unfold, the class struggle was the producer and the ultimate test of revisionism and Marxism-Leninism.
On a world scale the offensive of imperialism was renewed with the U.S. imperialist intervention in Vietnam and the threat to Cuba. This provided a living and dramatic demonstration that the nature of imperialism had not changed. In Australia too, the offensive of the ruling circles against the working class was intensified, as exemplified by new political amendments to the Crimes Act in 1960, strengthening of the arbitration machinery, telephone tapping legislation, strengthening of the army and secret and open police. On the other hand, the working class was intensifying its struggle.
Thus the question revealed in the actual Australian class struggle (and the world class struggle) was for or against revolutionary struggle against capitalism. The revisionists repudiated revolutionary struggle and the Marxist-Leninists upheld it. The revisionists repudiated Marxism-Leninism while maintaining use of some of its terminology. They split away from Communism. They repudiated the work of the founding Communists of 1920 by betraying the whole cause of Communism. That cause was taken up by the Marxist-Leninists in more organised form in 1964 in the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist).
On March 15, 1964, those who had upheld the fight against revisionism and for Marxism-Leninism, plus other workers who embraced Marxism-Leninism, publicly repudiated Australian revisionism and the Australian revisionists. They set out to place Marxist-Leninist ideology in command in building the Communist Party. They reconstituted the Communist Party as the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist).
A new and higher stage had been reached in the struggle between the two lines of Marxism-Leninism and revisionism in Australia.
In summary, revisionist tendencies had done great harm in the Australian revolutionary movement. In some 40 years’ existence, revisionists within the Communist Party had greatly hindered the correct ideological, political and organisational building of the Party. They had repudiated the central task of revolutionary struggle, the seizure of political power by armed force. They had failed to develop real ideas of struggle, embracing armed struggle, to win Australian independence and people’s democracy. They had failed to uphold the independence and initiative of the Communist Party in the united front. They had proved themselves traitors to the revolutionary cause. Their ideology and politics expressed themselves in the amorphous Party organisation against which Lenin had argued. All this reflected the influence of the bourgeoisie within the working class and within its Party. The revisionists were the bourgeoisie within the Party.
Like the bourgeoisie whom they serve, the Australian revisionists have no real unity. Since they were forced into the open by the class struggle, they have suffered further disintegration. They have split into two main groups (and many subsidiary groups).
One group asserts a so-called national Communism which presents itself as being entirely Australian and uses a programme of bourgeois liberalism. It repudiates altogether the seizure of political power by the working class, let alone armed struggle to secure that power. It extols the parliamentary road to socialism and it upholds trade union politics. Its ideology is bourgeois.
The other main group bases itself on the Soviet revisionist group. It too has repudiated all questions of seizure of political power by the working class. It supports parliament, trade union politics and all the treachery that comes from the Soviet revisionist leaders.
Each of these groups is beset by internal wrangling and intrigue characteristic of the parties of social democracy. Each group is simply a new group of social democrats. Each group is maintained by the bourgeoisie both directly and indirectly. In the name of Communism these groups betray the workers and this is very valuable service to the bourgeoisie. But each group is declining and dying. This too reflects what is happening in the ruling circles for they too are declining and dying.