Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

E. F. Hill

Australia’s Revolution: On the Struggle for a Marxist-Leninist Communist Party


Far more important is the growth and development of the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) in Australia after the reconstitution of the Communist Party and after revisionism had split away from it.

As we have said, revisionism had done great harm. Yet the very betrayal by the revisionists called into being a speeded up active struggle against revisionism. In consequence, Marxism-Leninism was strengthened and developed in struggle against revisionism.

It would again be naive to believe that overnight fully fledged Marxist-Leninists arose in Australia. The growth of Communism and the Communist Party is long and hard. The truth of Lenin’s words quoted earlier in this booklet has been more than borne out “these conditions (i.e., maturity of the revolutionary party) cannot arise all at once. They are created only by prolonged effort and hard-won experience. Their creation is facilitated by correct revolutionary theory, which, in its turn, is not a dogma, but assumes final shape only in close connection with the practical activity of a truly mass and truly revolutionary movement.” Party growth is indeed a process.

After 44 years of the Communist Party in Australia, the truth of Marxism-Leninism began to emerge from a cloud of political subjectivism, sectarianism and worship of sacred cows. It marked a new stage in the history of the Communist Party in Australia. The mere splitting away of the revisionists by no means put an end to revisionism nor to the continuing existence of two lines in the Communist Party, that between Marxism-Leninism and bourgeois politics. The life of the Party continued to be governed by the struggle between these two lines even though the form of the struggle and the identity of some of the participants had changed.

In this new stage, a process faced the Marxist-Leninists. Some of them had been steeped in legalism. Some of them had occupied leading positions in the old Party organisation where non-proletarian ideas prevailed. On the political arena, they had subscribed to much of the general line followed in the Party. As we have said, much of this general line was largely wrong.

In the then circumstances, the debate centred around three main questions. They were (1) whether or not the change to socialism could come about peacefully, the so-called peaceful transition to socialism; (2) whether or not the line of peaceful co-existence between the imperialist powers headed by the U.S. imperialists and the socialist powers, as expounded by Khrushchov (meaning peace at any price and foregoing any armed struggle and actually suppressing liberation struggle in the interest of this so-called peace) was correct; (3) whether or not the line of reconciliation of ideology between the Communist Parties and the social democrats, in Australia reconciliation between the Communist Party and labor party, was correct.

Other matters intruded into the debate, such as the estimate made of the work of Stalin. The question arose as to the nature of the Communist Party itself, was it a party of the proletariat or a party of the whole people. This paralleled the proposition made at the 22nd Congress of the C.P.S.U. that the proletarian dictatorship in the Soviet Union had developed into a state of the whole people.

What really was at stake was the whole ideology of Marxism-Leninism. This dispute necessarily affected views on the then contemporary political tasks of the working class.

Within Australia, the repudiation of the idea of the seizure of political power by the working class and its allies by armed force and the assertion of peaceful parliamentary passage to socialism had gained ground. Parliamentary, legal forms of struggle, were insisted upon as the only means of struggle. The Marxist-Leninists repudiated this. They did so in circumstances where the aggression of U.S. imperialism was being developed, where the resistance of the national liberation movements everywhere was developing and where the characteristic form of national liberation struggle was armed struggle.

Internally the Australian ruling circles were pursuing their attack upon the workers and working people and were strengthening in every way the repressive capacity of the state machine. The repudiation of the revisionist proposition of the so-called peaceful transition to socialism was a very important feature of the struggle, yet the repudiation by Australian Marxist-Leninists was general, in a certain way abstract and incomplete.

Similarly with the idea of peaceful co-existence. This idea, which Lenin himself used as signifying that the socialist countries were prepared to live in peace with the imperialist powers, was perverted by the revisionists to insist that it covered the whole field of the foreign policy of the socialist countries and that it required reconciliation with imperialism the nature of which, according to this “theory”, had changed.

The peaceful transition to socialism and peaceful co-existence were two theories with a common purpose; that purpose was to disarm the workers and other oppressed people ideologically, politically and organisationally in face of the bourgeoisie.

The Communists repudiated the idea of reconciliation with the labor party in Australia. This historically had been a matter of great confusion but now the Marxist-Leninists asserted that the labor party was a party of capitalism. There could never be reconciliation with its ideology, politics and organisation. There may from time to time be co-operation with its leaders on this or that point, and always unity with its rank and file would be sought. Still, once again it would be wrong to suppose that all this was crystal clear.

The attack on Stalin, the Marxist-Leninists characterised as not being a genuine effort to assess Stalin’s position in history, but an attack on Stalin in order to attack the whole of Marxism-Leninism. Australian Marxist-Leninists defended Marxism-Leninism and upheld its banner and the contribution made by Stalin.

Initially therefore the Communist Party repudiated and attacked the cruder political manifestations of revisionism. Not yet had it developed to the stage of developing the positive implications for Australia of Marxism-Leninism’s struggle against revisionism. The task remained to integrate into the actual Australian conditions the general truth of Marxism-Leninism.

Moreover the existence of seeming prosperity in Australia concealed some features of class struggle. Revisionist and social democratic influences were strong and in the reformed ranks of the Communists these influences undoubtedly still operated. This too had an international basis and expressed itself in all Communist Parties. It existed in the Communist Party of China where the revisionist scoundrel Liu Shao-chi exercised considerable international influence including in Australia. The programme and rules adopted by Marxist-Leninists at the time of the split bore heavy traces of revisionism.

The regrouped Australian Communists affirmed the need for a complete break from revisionism ideologically, politically and organisationally. To break from revisionism ideologically and organisationally was and is a big undertaking. It calls for continuous struggle. Revisionism is ever present. To relax for one moment in the struggle against it is to disarm against revisionism and open the way for its resurgence. Experience showed that understanding of the great depth that was required in the struggle against revisionism had to develop step by step.

In “On Practice” Mao Tsetung explains with brilliant clarity the process of development of human understanding. “In social practice, the process of coming into being, developing and passing away is infinite, and so is the process of coming into being, developing and passing away in human knowledge. As man’s practice which changes objective reality in accordance with given ideas, theories, plans or programmes, advances further and further, his knowledge of objective reality likewise becomes deeper and deeper. The movement of change in the world of objective reality is never-ending and so is man’s cognition of truth through practice. Marxism-Leninism has in no way exhausted truth but ceaselessly opens up roads to the knowledge of truth in the course of practice. Our conclusion is the concrete, historical unity of the subjective and the objective, of theory and practice, of knowing and doing, and we are opposed to all erroneous ideologies, whether ’Left’ or Right, which depart from concrete history.” (Selected Works, Vol. I, pp.307-8.)

The Communist Party must seek truth in the course of practice. By striving conscientiously to do that, the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) in Australia has deepened greatly its knowledge of the ideological, political and organisational break from revisionism. The idea of learning how to build a Communist Party in the actual practice of building it, an idea born of Marxist-Leninist ideology, has meant step by step the Party has grown stronger.

The question “What sort of Party?” was and is a big question. In Russia, the Communist Party was built in circumstances of ruthless oppression. Actual life compelled the Party to learn all methods of work, peaceful and armed, secret and open, legal and illegal. The titanic genius of Lenin summed up experience, put ideology in the first place and led the Russian working class to the seizure of power by armed force. In China, the Communist Party was built in the actual fire of armed struggle. Again another titanic genius, Mao Tsetung, summed up experience, put ideology in the first place and led the Chinese workers and peasants to the successful seizure of power by the people under the leadership of the working class.

In countries such as Australia conditions of bourgeois democracy prevail. Seeming freedom of the press, of organisation, of speech, of assembly, parliamentary elections, trade unions, equality before the law, all combine to bemuse and deceive people that they have democracy, have real power, whereas all that these things do is to conceal the reality that Australia is a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, an imperialist dependency.

In such conditions the problems of building a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary Party have their own peculiarities. Much of the previous experience had been negative. It cannot be said that the problems had been adequately solved anywhere. There were no guide posts. Moreover the main leaders of Communist Parties in almost all so-called bourgeois democracies had succumbed to revisionism. The question of Party building had not been put sufficiently on the ideological plane. Therefore the Marxist-Leninists in Australia were compelled to face the question in a new way, what sort of Party, how to build the Party, how to put Party building on the ideological plane.

After the revisionists split away, the Marxist-Leninists in the Party seemed to be weak and small. They seemed to be like voices crying in the wilderness. The revisionists who split away seemed to be strong, with big resources. The real truth was that the Marxist-Leninists were strong and the revisionists weak. Australian history, like all history, shows that truth cannot be destroyed, that a minority can be right and strong. Marxism-Leninism is indestructible.

Marxism-Leninism describes the laws of progress, of development; it is the opposite of static. Society and nature are in continuous development by struggle, by contradiction. That too is the life of the Communist Party.

Step by step, the Communist Party (M.L.) in Australia understood that it was not merely the cruder political aspects of revisionism that had to be combated but that the struggle to build the Party was far deeper than this. The betrayal of Communism by the revisionists was no mere partial betrayal expressed in a few political aberrations such as the peaceful transition to socialism but it was a betrayal that went to the root of Marxism-Leninism. It embraced everything. It repudiated, while pretending to adhere to, the world outlook of Communism, Materialist dialectics, the very basis of Communism. Moreover, it revealed the weakness in ideology in the history of the Communist Party in Australia.

Whereas attention to theory and the essential part played by practice in theory had in the past been confined to the arbitrary study of a few classics, now the task was whole-hearted struggle to integrate the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the actual conditions in Australia. “The ’old’ method of studying the social sciences exclusively from the book is . . . extremely dangerous and may even lead one onto the road of counterrevolution. Clear proof of this is provided by the fact that whole batches of . . . Communists who confined themselves to books in their study of the social sciences have turned into counter-revolutionaries.” (Mao Tsetung: Oppose Book Worship.)

That is true of Australia. Those in the past who presented themselves as the great theoreticians, who pronounced with finality on all manner of questions, ended in the camp of counter-revolutionary revisionism. “When we say Marxism is correct, it is certainly not because Marx was a ’prophet’ but because his theory has been proved correct in our practice and in our struggle. We need Marxism in our struggle. In our acceptance of his theory no such formalistic or mystical notion as that of ’prophecy’ ever enters our minds. Many who have read Marxist books have become renegades from the revolution, whereas illiterate workers often grasp Marxism very well. Of course we should study Marxist books, but this study must be integrated with our country’s actual conditions. We need books, but must overcome book worship which is divorced from the actual situation.” (Ibid.)

In that spirit, the Communist Party in Australia grew gradually in strength. It put to the forefront the study of theory and it put to the forefront the need to integrate that study with actual life in Australia. It rejected the old practice followed by the Party of big headquarters where a few people sat in an office to work out the Party’s tactics of struggle. The Party set out to integrate the truth that correct and unswerving tactics of struggle “emerge in the course of actual struggle, that is, through actual experience.” (Ibid.)

Historically the Communist movement in Australia reflected the origin of Australia as a British imperialist colony and satellite, and reflected the tendency in the Communist movement in the so-called advanced capitalist countries to see not very far beyond the capitalist world.

The Australian revolutionary movement in reality is deeply affected by the liberation movements, particularly in Asia. But this history (plus perhaps something of racial prejudice inherited from imperialist ideology) denied in Australia real knowledge of the work of Mao Tsetung. True, perfunctory attention was paid to it. But its deep-going study and integration in Australia’s actual conditions remained to be developed. Mao Tsetung in fact had longer and more intense actual revolutionary experience than any other Marxist. This is not in any way to reflect on the others who lived in a period of history different from that of Mao Tsetung. It is merely to state the fact.

Mao Tsetung summed up all the experience of the Chinese revolution in accordance with Marxism-Leninism and summed up world revolutionary experience. He greatly enriched Marxism-Leninism. His conclusions, just as in .his day were those of Lenin, are Marxism-Leninism of the present time. It is a simple fact that he has greatly enriched and developed Marxism-Leninism, so much so that we speak of it as Mao Tsetung Thought; and speak of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought.

The Party in Australia came in struggle to understand this truth and to struggle to integrate into actual Australian conditions Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought. This too was a process characterised by advances and setbacks but nonetheless maintaining an advance. The Party learned that Mao Tsetung Thought liberated the Communists from the evils of subjectivism, with revisionism, dogmatism, empiricism (blind worship of experience) as its products, with their worship of such sacred cows of capitalism as parliamentarism and trade union politics. Mao Tsetung Thought opened the way to the advance of the revolutionary movement in Australia.

In Australian Party history, the Chinese Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution exerted tremendous influence. It put right to the fore in the world the theory of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought. The Communist Party in Australia set out with even greater confidence to grasp Mao Tsetung Thought. The Communist Party in Australia had been originally formed in 1920; it got great inspiration from the great Russian October proletarian revolution; it got great inspiration from Chinese liberation in 1949. The Party in Australia was reconstituted in 1964 (Congress March 13, 14 and 15, 1964): it got great inspiration from the Chinese Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in 1966 and the following years.

All this took place in an Australia where the working class and working people were undergoing a new awakening about which more will be said later.

The study of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought became in Australia amass question amongst the Party members and advanced workers. Its study has progressed from lower to higher stages. It has greatly lifted the consciousness of the Party members and advanced workers. It has greatly influenced the actual course of class struggle in Australia.

The rectification, i.e., the purification of Party spirit, has been a continuous struggle in the Chinese Communist Party. The classics of Mao Tsetung “Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society” (1926), “Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan” (1927), “Oppose Book Worship” (1930), arose from the actual practice of the Chinese revolution and greatly enriched it. They were necessary ideological steps in the building of the Chinese Communist Party. Then “On Practice” and “On Contradiction” summed up in the most brilliant and comprehensive way the whole of the Marxist world outlook of materialist dialectics. Again they arose from the actual practice of the Chinese revolution and greatly enriched it. They provide for the workers of the world an incomparable weapon in understanding materialist dialectics, and thereby revolutionary struggle. In 1941-2 Mao Tsetung contributed “Reform Our Study”, “Rectify the Party’s Style of Work”, “Oppose Stereotyped Party Writing”, classics of Party building. These too arose from the actual conditions of the Chinese revolutionary movement and the conditions in the Chinese Communist Party. At the same time they elaborated Marxist-Leninist general truth in the building of all Communist Parties. In the sixties came the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution which carried all this work a stage further. The whole process was the fight for the supremacy in the Communist Party and the revolutionary movement of proletarian ideology, the fight for and defence of proletarian state power. It was a fight that never ceased and the events and books just mentioned are highlights in it.

The Communist Party in Australia develops by its own internal contradictions. The question of Marxist-Leninist-Mao Tsetung Thought ideology is fundamental to it. Thus the universal truth, elucidated and elaborated by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tsetung had to be grasped and applied in Australia. This is no question of making the Communist Party in Australia Chinese or importing Chinese revolution into Australia. That is just nonsense. Marx and Engels were Germans by birth but they gave to the world an exposition of the scientific world outlook of Marxism (not a German outlook). Lenin was a Russian by birth but he developed the world outlook of Marxism-Leninism (not Russian).

The general truth of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought has been proclaimed as the ideology of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist). The Party has striven to keep it in the forefront of all its work and to propagate it amongst the workers and working people. In its study of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought it has striven against abstract study and striven to study with actual Australian conditions in mind.

Correct ideology is at the root of Party building. Previously, reference was made to the destruction and incompatibility with Party spirit of political subjectivism. The Communist Party (M.L.) waged a big battle against subjectivism and sectarianism and the worship of sacred cows, stereotypes.

Subjectivism takes two main forms. The first is the substitution of texts of Marxism or of wishful thinking for the facts and for truth. The other is the worship of purely practical experience and the denial of the need to seek truth from it, i.e., the denial of the need for theory. Both forms existed in the Communist Party in Australia. Wishful thinking, blind enthusiasm, repetition of the texts of Marxist classics without respect for facts, existed. Expressions of it lay in the deeply held (even though concealed) illusions about parliament, the labor party, trade union politics. This revealed a failure to investigate the facts about parliament, the labor party, trade union politics.

Another expression of it is the belief that these illusions have been destroyed merely because the struggle against them has been proclaimed.

Another expression of subjectivism is the worship of practical experience, the belief that it is not necessary to analyse that experience and draw lessons from it. The Communist task however is to investigate the facts, to seek truth from facts just as Marx, Lenin and Mao Tsetung have done.

A word should be said about individualism. Capitalism is a system of bitter competition. It engenders an atmosphere of competition, of the need to “get on” at all costs. It extols individual success. This too penetrates the Communist Party. Such ideas require to be struggled against very vigorously. Systematically the Communist Party wages a campaign for the remoulding of its members, remoulding them so that they serve the people whole-heartedly, are imbued with the spirit of “utter devotion to others without any thought of self and of absolute selflessness.

Surrounded as the Party is by capitalism with its worship and promotion of selfishness this is no easy task. There is advance and then falling back, falling back and advance. But certainly it is a most important question in party building.

Bound up with this is the development of the spirit that ensures that the Communists if need be persist for a long time in seemingly unrewarding work. “Some comrades, disregarding the subjective and objective conditions, suffer from the malady of revolutionary impetuosity; they will not take pains to do minute and detailed work among the masses, but, riddled with illusions, want only to do big things.” (On Correcting Mistaken Ideas in The Party, Selected Works, Vol. I, p. 107.)

There is a never ceasing struggle against all other filth with which capitalism covers people. All Party members must strive to be good Communists selflessly serving the people in revolutionary struggle. Mao Tsetung put it very well when he said: “A Communist should have largeness of mind and he should be staunch and active, looking upon the interests of the revolution as his very life and subordinating his personal interests to those of the revolution; always and everywhere he should adhere to principle and wage a tireless struggle against all incorrect ideas and actions so as to consolidate the collective life of the Party and strengthen the ties between the Party and the masses; he should be more concerned about the Party and the masses than about any private person and more concerned about others than about himself. Only thus can he be considered a Communist.” (Combat Liberalism, Selected Works, Vol. II, p.33.)

In the building of the Communist Party hard work is required. It will not build itself. While it is the product of the social being of the working class it is still created and developed by men. There can be no creation or building of the Communist Party at one blow. It is a never ceasing job. The struggle between bourgeois ideas and proletarian ideas lasts just as long as the class struggle lasts, and that lasts for a whole historical epoch even after the victory of socialism.