Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

E. F. Hill

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


The British imperialists’ chief spheres of investment were in their colonies. From being a penal colony Australia developed into an orthodox British colony subject to the ordinary rules of imperialist domination. Lenin showed that the export of capital to countries like Australia greatly affected and accelerated the development of capitalism and that this is part of the process of expanding and deepening the further development of capitalism throughout the world.

The Communist Party in Australia had the task of establishing itself as the core leading the cause of the Australian workers and working people forward.

Lenin had said that “in its struggle for power the proletariat has no other weapon but organisation. Disunited by the rule of anarchic competition in the bourgeois world, ground down by forced labour for capital, constantly thrust back to the ’lower depths’ of utter destitution, savagery and degeneration, the proletariat can become, and inevitably will become, an invincible force only when its ideological unification by the principles of Marxism is consolidated by the material unity of an organisation which will weld millions of toilers into an army of the working class.” (One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.)

In its struggle for power the Australian working class needed organisation guided by Marxism-Leninism.

Marxism-Leninism is the world outlook of Communism. It reveals the laws of social development and as part of that it reveals the part men play in that social development. “It is man’s social being that determines his thinking. Once the correct ideas characteristic of the advanced class are grasped by the masses, these ideas turn into a material force which changes society and changes the world.” (Mao Tsetung: Where Do Correct Ideas Come From? (May, 1963), 1st Pocket Ed., p. l.) The Communists understand how society develops, they understand where it is going and they struggle with and amongst the workers so as to raise their own consciousness and that of the workers. If the workers understand where they are going, understand what is the purpose of their struggle, then they are thrice armed. On the other hand, if they merely take the line of least resistance, succumb to the spontaneous struggle for better economic conditions, then they are riveted to capitalism. It has been truly said that theory without practice is sterile and practice without theory is blind.

In ordinary life if you understand what you are doing, your doing is purposeful and if your understanding is correct, your doing is likely to be successful. On the other hand, if your doing is blind, undertaken without understanding, it is certain to be a failure. So it is with the role of the working class in history. Once it becomes armed with scientific socialist theory its struggle becomes purposeful and will be crowned with success.

This is all the more important precisely because the working class has to raise itself in struggle against a very well entrenched enemy. The imperialists and their local collaborators are the enemy. They are determined to maintain their positions of exploitation, power and privilege at all costs. This enemy has material and ideological means to maintain its rule. Its material means consists of the army, the police, the courts and gaols. Its ideological weapons embrace the whole system of thinking, dissemination of information, etc. The challenge to it is a very big undertaking.

Lenin said: “... to belittle the socialist ideology in any way, to turn aside from it in the slightest degree means to strengthen bourgeois ideology. There is much talk of spontaneity. But the spontaneous development of the working class movement leads to its subordination to bourgeois ideology for the spontaneous working class movement is trade unionism . . . and trade unionism means the ideological enslavement of the workers by the bourgeoisie. Hence, our task, the task of (Communism) is to combat spontaneity, to divert the working class movement from this spontaneous, trade unionist striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie, and to bring it under the wing of revolutionary Communism.” (Lenin: What Is To Be Done.)

This too was the task undertaken in the formation of the Communist Party in Australia in 1920. Its historic role was to uphold the principles of proletarian ideology, Marxism-Leninism. That involved investigating and analysing the actual conditions in Australia so that those conditions could be changed and influenced in accordance with the general truth of Marxism-Leninism. Merely to repeat that general truth would not solve the problem of the actual struggle of the Australian workers, working and other oppressed people.

Investigation and analysis show that in 1920 capitalism in Australia was still developing. Its white population was about 5,000,000, its aboriginal population really unknown but of the order of 100,000. It had seven separate governing apparatuses, that of the Commonwealth plus those of the six separate states. Those state apparatuses exercised the imperialist dictatorship in collaboration with Australian reactionaries. “The State is a special organisation of force; it is the organisation of violence for the suppression of some class” (Lenin: State and Revolution). The nature of the state (we now use the term in the above sense, namely the machine used by one class to suppress another class) was that of a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie carried on under what is called bourgeois democracy. The forms of Australian bourgeois democracy were universal suffrage, elected parliaments, “freedom” of the press, assembly, speech, religion, etc. Under cover of these false claims of democracy, real power resided in the hands of the British and U.S. finance capitalists who had invested in Australia and those Australian capitalists who had thrown in their lot with these British and U.S. finance capitalists.

Primary production, notably wheat and wool, constituted the greater bulk of Australia’s production. But industry was rapidly growing. The class divisions, determined by the relations of men to the means of production, were a small minority who owned and controlled the means of production (factories, mines) and on the other hand the workers who worked for these owners. (The workers embraced both industrial and rural workers). Between these two, stood individual farmers of various kinds, a middle class which consisted of shopkeepers, petty proprietors, professional people. Then there were intellectuals and students, and on the boundaries of the industrial workers there were hank and insurance clerks, public servants, etc. A national capitalist class was growing up in competition with the U.S. and British capitalists. But it had a very difficult struggle either being taken over by the foreign giants or ruined by them or if it survived leading a precarious existence.

The Communist Party based its approach on the industrial workers. They were the leading revolutionary force. They were directly attached to the most advanced means of production even though at that time production was not very advanced. They were disciplined by the very process of production. Marx and Engels, as we have said, pointed out that the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class and that it is the special and essential product of the bourgeoisie. This directly applies in Australia. The Australian proletariat is the special and essential product of the imperialist bourgeoisie and their local collaborators in Australia.

Though the Australian working class in 1920 was seemingly weak, yet the then Communists correctly understood that it was bound to develop, that it was the revolutionary class, that capitalism and the working class would grow, and that the Australian Communist Party must be a party of the Australian working class. It thus correctly understood in actual Australian conditions, the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism that the working class of necessity plays the leading role in revolutionary development.

Accordingly the founding Communists made a profoundly important and correct contribution to Australian revolutionary development when they set out to base the Party on the working class. There were not and never had been strictly feudal social relations in Australia. Therefore (unlike China, for example) there was no fully developed system of feudalism to be overthrown. The primitive communal way of life of the aborigines had been broken up by the British imperialists and the numbers of aboriginal inhabitants had been greatly reduced by killing, starvation and exploitation, a process which goes on to this very day even though its cruder forms have been replaced by more subtle forms. After the convict days, the substantial relations of production were capitalist relations of production. Convictism itself was destroyed by the very development of capitalism in Australia. The nature of the revolution to be undertaken by the workers and their Communist Party was the overthrow of imperialist domination. Instead of the imperialist dominated dictatorship of the bourgeoisie there had to be a people’s democratic dictatorship. This was an essential step in the winning of socialism.

By 1920, the theoretical basis of the struggle for working class power had been discovered, developed and elaborated by Marx, Engels and Lenin. Marx and Engels had commenced their theory of this struggle by analysing and investigating the whole of social development and from that analysis and investigation they elaborated in a general sense the need for the working class to overthrow the capitalists and establish its own political power. But there was no direct experience of proletarian revolution upon which to draw so as to give more precise guidelines to the workers. The Paris Commune of 1871 provided the first real experience. Marx carefully analysed and investigated all the experience of the Paris Commune. His theory then became far more precise . . . “his teaching is the summary of experience illuminated by a profound philosophical conception of the world and a rich knowledge of history” (Lenin: Selected Works, 12 Vol. Edn., Vol. VII, p.28.) Any notion of simply taking over the bourgeois machinery of state had to be discarded; this machinery had to be smashed by the armed workers allied to the peasants, and the working class had to establish its own state apparatus, i.e., its own army, police, courts, gaols, to be used against the bourgeoisie.

The principles of smashing the state apparatus discussed by Marx apply too in the struggle for independence from imperialism and for people’s democratic dictatorship. The Australian people led by the working class in alliance with the toiling farmers and uniting with all other Australian patriots must overthrow imperialist domination, establish their own state with their own army, courts, gaols, to be used against the imperialists and their local collaborators.

Lenin in his turn greatly developed Marx’s ideas. He actually inspired and led the Russian workers in the February 1917 bourgeois democratic revolution and in the proletarian revolution of October 1917. Lenin showed that the working class was up against a ruthless and implacable enemy armed physically to the teeth and armed with every form of ideological and political deception. He demonstrated the critical, fundamental need for a highly disciplined, ideologically and politically mature Party of the proletariat to lead the armed workers and people in revolutionary struggle.

Lenin in the very year of the formation of the Communist Party in Australia summed up some experiences of the Russian Communist Party: “And first of all the question arises: how is the discipline of the revolutionary party of the proletariat maintained? How is it tested? How is it reinforced? First by the class consciousness of the proletarian vanguard and by its devotion to the revolution, by its perseverance, self-sacrifice and heroism. Second by its ability to link itself with, to keep in close touch with, and to a certain extent if you like, to merge with the broadest mass of the toilers – primarily with the proletarian, but also with the non-proletarian toiling masses. Third by the correctness of the political leadership exercised by this vanguard, by the correctness of its political strategy and tactics, provided that the broadest masses have been convinced by their own experience that they are correct.

Without these conditions, discipline in a revolutionary party that is really capable of being a party of the advanced class, whose mission it is to overthrow the bourgeoisie and transform the whole of society, cannot be achieved. Without these conditions, all attempts to establish discipline inevitably fall flat and end in phrasemongering and grimacing. On the other hand, these conditions 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.” (“Leftwing” Communism. Lenin: Selected Works, 12 Vol. Edn., Vol. 10, p.61. Emphasis partly ours.)

The nature of the Communist Party itself was a matter of acute debate in the working class movement. Lenin had argued against an amorphous political party that anyone could join, as he said, any striker or high school student merely because he had been on strike (commendable though that was) or had been a student who declared himself for the revolution. More than that was required. The Communist Party must be composed of the most advanced elements of the workers, and included in that are those people from other social classes who have identified their position with that of the workers. The Communists must be devoted to the revolutionary cause, to revolutionary workingclass service to the people. They must be prepared to work in a thoroughly disciplined way, discipline born of ideological conviction. That involves their being members of a basic party organisation working in it and paying dues to it. Above all, it meant a Party where revolutionary ideology and politics were in command.

In contrast to the parties of social democracy (in which is included the labor party in Australia) where anyone who declared a nominal adherence to the programme, itself ill-defined “and open to many conflicting interpretations, could join, the Communist Party insisted on what we have said. Further, the Communist Party established the organisational principle of democratic centralism. The essence of democratic centralism is that it is a Marxist-Leninist idea by which, through a process of democratic consultation amongst members, decisions are reached. Those decisions are then binding on members, the minority (if any) being bound by the majority. Leading bodies are elected in democratic consultation, the decisions of the higher of which are binding on the lower. Such principles ensure a highly organised Party capable of giving leadership to and participating in all mass struggles, guided by an overall central strategy. In Australia, such a party must estimate the nature of the revolution, must estimate the forces that could be involved in the revolutionary struggle, must identify the enemies against whom the struggle would be waged.

The Party had to be a unity. It could not be a party that spoke and acted with different voices and actions on the one question. Membership must be based on adherence to Marxism-Leninism. Every member must be an activist. We have quoted Lenin from Left-wing Communism as to what constitutes party spirit (“discipline” is the way it is translated in the quotation above). The unity of the party is a conditional unity, a unity conditional on adherence to Marxism-Leninism, revolutionary spirit.

While unity is conditional, struggle for that unity is absolute. It is a struggle for Marxist-Leninist ideology. This absolute struggle (if it ended, so too would the Party) is carried through by the method of criticism and self-criticism. Mao Tsetung’s “On Contradiction” and “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People”, are Marxist-Leninist classics which deal with contradiction. Contradictions within the Party are resolved by this method of criticism and self-criticism and in the process of unity-struggle-unity. The course of development of the Communist Party in Australia showed departures from this approach to unity and departures from democratic centralism. But throughout its history there have been those who really strove to adhere to Marxism-Leninism including this Marxist-Leninist idea of democratic centralism and Marxist-Leninist unity of the Party.

Moreover, essential to the development of the Party was the understanding of the laws governing Party development. Materialist dialectics shows the universality of contradiction. “Marxist philosophy holds that the law of the unity of opposites is the fundamental law of the universe. This law operates universally, whether in the natural world, in human society, or in man’s thinking. Between the opposites in a contradiction there is at once unity and struggle, and it is this that impels things to move and change. Contradictions exist everywhere, but they differ in accordance with the different nature of different things. In any given phenomenon or thing, the unity of opposites is conditional, temporary and transitory, and hence relative, whereas the struggle of opposites is absolute.” (Mao Tsetung: On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People (1957).)

The expression of this universal law in the Communist Party lies in the struggle between Marxist-Leninist ideas and bourgeois ideas. In 1920, the Communist Party was created from a not very highly developed working class greatly influenced by the labor party, by trade union politics, by parliamentarism, by anarcho-syndicalism (I.W.W.), Utopian socialism and various other non-proletarian, bourgeois or petty bourgeois trends. These bourgeois ideas were the ideas against which Marxist-Leninists had to fight within the Party.

In addition, the class struggle between the capitalist class and working class was a constant and all-embracing factor in Australia. The class struggle occurred on every field, not merely in the confrontation in strikes and the like between workers and capitalists, but in the competition of ideas. It embraced every aspect of life.

The life of the Communist Party then was a life of the resolution of contradiction. “Opposition and struggle between ideas of different kinds constantly occur within the Party; this is a reflection within the Party of contradictions between classes and between the new and the old in society. If there were no contradictions in the Party and no ideological struggles to resolve them, the Party’s life would come to an end.” (Mao Tsetung: On Contradiction. Selected Works, Vol. 1, p.317.) True enough, the founding Communists did not fully understand this. But any comment on the history of the Communist Party can be founded only on a proper understanding of what governs its development. Understanding of that is fundamental to understanding the policies and actions of the Communist Party.

Involved in the formation of the Communist Party in Australia was then the undertaking to organise and lead the workers, working and other oppressed people and patriots in the revolutionary struggle for independence and people’s democratic dictatorship. That involved struggling against British and U.S. imperialism and their local collaborators.

This revolution is not a bourgeois democratic revolution in the old sense. Capitalism and imperialism have long passed that. The October Revolution occurred in 1917 three years before the formation of the Communist Party in Australia. The October Revolution ushered in a new era of world proletarian socialist revolution.

The nature of the Australian revolution is to overthrow imperialist domination and domination by the local reactionary collaborators with imperialism, establish people’s ownership of the key sectors of the economy, give democratic rights a real content (make them the reality and not as now the shadow) as a necessary preliminary to the proletarian socialist revolution. The Australian revolution is part of the world proletarian socialist revolution. The struggle to realise the preliminary tasks, national democratic revolution with independence and democracy with a new content under the leadership of the working class will be carried through to socialism.

A prime task of the Party was not only to arm itself with Marxist-Leninist ideology but to arm the workers, working and other oppressed people and patriots with it. The propagation of Communist ideology, materialist dialectics, is an essential feature of a Communist Party’s work. Armchair philosophers are of no use. “Marxist philosophy holds that the most important problem does not lie in understanding the laws of the objective world and thus being able to explain it, but in applying the knowledge of these laws actively to change the world.” (Mao Tsetung: On Practice. Selected Works, Vol. 1, p.304.) Hence the Communist Party of Australia was created as a party of struggle to apply its knowledge of materialist dialectics actively to change the social system in Australia from bourgeois democracy to people’s democratic dictatorship and then socialism.

Never to lose sight of the aim of winning people’s democratic power, the people’s democratic dictatorship (a form of the dictatorship of the proletariat) and through that the transition to socialism is critical in Australia.

In the phase of people’s democratic dictatorship, private property in the means of production is not wholly abolished. Certainly the factories and assets of U.S. imperialism and other imperialisms in Australia will be socialised: so too key sectors of the economy. But some capitalist enterprises will remain. Their conversion to socialised ownership is a process which will go on for some time.

An essential and first step towards socialism is the overthrow of imperialism and the establishment of people’s democratic dictatorship which does not yet raise the question of socialist ownership of all the means of production.

The struggle for the people’s democratic dictatorship as the first step to socialism involved (and involves) fighting to maintain a Party organised on the basis of Marxist-Leninist ideology to give effect to Marxist-Leninist politics and the life of which was (and is) determined by the contradictions between proletarian and bourgeois ideas, the new and the old. The Marxist-Leninists had (and have) a continuous, never ending struggle for the supremacy of Marxist-Leninist ideology, politics and organisation.

We speak of Marxist-Leninist ideology (and in contemporary times of the ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought) as the world outlook of Communism. As we have said, materialist dialectics show that all development, social and scientific, occurs through the resolution of contradiction within the essence of things. “The fundamental cause of the development of a thing is not external but internal; it lies in the contradictoriness within the thing. There is internal contradiction in every single thing, hence its motion and development. Contradictoriness within a thing is the fundamental cause of its development, while its interrelations and interactions with other things are secondary causes.” (Mao Tsetung: On Contradiction. Selected Works, Vol. 1, p.313.) Nothing escapes the domain of materialist dialectics: it is all embracing. “It was not until Marx and Engels, the great protagonists of the proletarian movement, had synthesised the positive achievements in the history of human knowledge and, in particular, critically absorbed the rational elements of Hegelian dialectics and created the great theory of dialectical and historical materialism that an unprecedented revolution occurred in the history of human knowledge.” (p.315.)

Materialist dialectics then is the all-embracing philosophy of Communism. It is not the whim of some individual philosopher but the scientific discovery and elucidation of laws that actually exist and govern development in nature, history and thought.

The class struggle is a manifestation of materialist dialectics, the struggle of the opposites. In Australia, it is class struggle between the foreign imperialists with their local collaborators on the one hand and the Australian workers, working people and other patriots on the other hand.

It has been shown that the political tasks which faced the Communists in Australia in 1920 were the overthrow of imperialism and the establishment of people’s democratic dictatorship. They are the broad political tasks. Within them there are many other political tasks. Earlier we said that “politics, whether revolutionary or counter-revolutionary, is the struggle of class against class.” Thus in Australia, politics is a specific, particular feature of the world outlook, ideology of Marxism-Leninism. Politics is guided by that ideology, it covers a lesser field than that ideology.

Organisation is the organisation of the Communist Party to serve that ideology and those politics. It upholds and propagates materialist dialectics and its life both demonstrates materialist dialectics and develops according to them. It provides the core necessary to carry out the political tasks that materialist dialectics reveal to be the proletarian political tasks in Australia. Something of the features of Party organisation has been described in earlier pages.

Ideology, politics and organisation are at once a division and a unity. They serve and enrich each other. Ideology, as the quotations above show, embraces action, requires action; action is an essential part of it. Hence in the realm of class struggle, political activity and organisation necessarily arise from and in their turn enrich ideology. Ideology just as an idea, as a thing in itself, is of no point. There is profound truth in Mao Tsetung’s statement; “The Marxist philosophy of dialectical materialism has two outstanding characteristics.

One is its class nature: it openly avows that dialectical materialism is in the service of the proletariat. The other is its practicality: it emphasises the dependence of theory on practice, emphasises that theory is based on practice and in turn serves practice. (On Practice. Selected Works, Vol. l,p.297.)

Thus in the history of the Communist Party in Australia an understanding of ideology, politics and organisation is vital as is an understanding of the relations between them and their interdependence. The workers must have their own ideology, politics and organisation. The Communist Party is the product of them and the custodian and developer of them for the workers.