The striving of capitalism is to adapt everything to itself, to its own image. This striving includes the Communist Party. Hence from its inception the Communist Party had been under this pressure. In the thirties this pressure gained impetus in a period of increased growth of the Communist Party and an increase in its mass connections. Those Communist leaders who succumbed to it did the development of the Party great damage because the essence of collaboration with the labor party, with its conformity to parliament, trade union politics, bourgeois legalism, is liquidation of the Communist Party and conversion of it into a party of social democracy.
Within the Communist Party there were those who strove for Marxism-Leninism, who in one way or another resisted the pressures to adapt to capitalism, and the Party leadership itself upheld certain features of Marxism-Leninism.
Perhaps it is appropriate to make some appraisal of the critical question of party building. The conception of Party building held by the Communist leaders was the building of the Party numerically. Numerical strength of the Party was virtually the only criterion of Party building. Hence in the documents of the Party great emphasis is found on the numbers of Party members at any given time. This is to put the emphasis in the wrong place.
Parallel with this went ideas of unity with the labor party (a party of capitalism), winning of official positions in trade unions for the sole purpose of winning them. It was a distortion of party building. As has been said, until Party building is put on the ideological plane there can be no real Party building. The great enemies of Party building in Australia were subjectivism, sectarianism and a style of work characterised by repetition of quotations from Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin without really seeking to master independently the integration of the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the actual conditions in Australia. Mao Tsetung in speaking of China (and its principle is applicable in Australia) said: “Speaking specifically, people engaged in practical work must at all times keep abreast of changing conditions, and this is something for which no Communist Party in any country can depend on others”. (Mao Tsetung: Selected Works, Vol. III, p.13.)
There were those in the Party who were regarded as “theoreticians”. There was indeed study of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin in the Party. This was good. But the difficulty was that study occurred in the abstract, study for study’s sake. Marx discovered the truth, and it was subsequently further developed by Lenin and Mao Tsetung, that the task of the philosophers was not merely to explain the world but to change it. Our theory, Marxism-Leninism, is not a dogma; it is a guide to our action in revolutionary struggle in Australia.
The Communist “theoreticians” of the thirties in Australia did not understand this. “Armed” with the theory and quotations, they actually inhibited proper study with Australian problems in mind because they “disposed” of problems merely by some general assertion or quotation. Their minds were filled with quotations selected arbitrarily, with schemes to conform with this or that theoretical statement. Worship of the foreign Communist leader and his statements was part of the disease. They sought to impose their quotations and statements on the facts rather than investigate the facts, the truth, the actual situation and proceed from that. The question is – does one proceed arbitrarily from quotations from the classics and ready made schemes or does one proceed from the facts and a knowledge of the general essence of Marxism-Leninism? Proper style of Communist work rejects the former and adopts the latter.
Subjectivism and sectarianism were recognised as errors. But their real character was not understood. Political subjectivism is the rejection of respect for facts, and the substitution for the facts of ideas invented in the name of Marxism-Leninism in the minds of the kind of “theoretician” spoken of a moment ago. For example, one of the crudest examples was that in the early thirties some Communists held the idea that the socialist revolution was just around the comer. This was not based on facts. It was wishful thinking. It led to many wrong decisions. Organisation around such an idea could only be sectarian, that is, an exclusive group of people cut off from other people. The failure to respect the fact that the bourgeoisie in Australia was armed to the teeth, led to exclusive reliance upon legal struggle. This too is the product of wishful thinking, i.e., political subjectivism.
Failure to respect the fact of the bourgeois character of the labor party showed a failure to analyse and investigate. It too was the product of wishful thinking, political subjectivism. And the extension of this sort of test would show that political subjectivism deeply permeated the Communist Party.
If organisation proceeds around such arbitrary and unreal ideas, that organisation must be sectarian, i.e., the people bound together by the idea must be a sect cut off from others, because their ideas have no reality. The workers and working people are realists who certainly can be organised around ideas really drawn from the facts.
Mao Tsetung put this question exceedingly well. It is appropriate in this connection, to paraphrase and quote him. We must seek the truth from facts, facts are all the things that exist objectively, “truth” means their internal relations, that is the laws governing them, and “to seek” means to study; we must proceed from the actual conditions inside and outside Australia or the part in which we work, and derive from them as our guide to action, laws which are inherent in them and not imaginary, that is, we must find the internal relation of the events occurring around us. And in order to do that we must rely not on subjective imagination, not on momentary enthusiasm, not on lifeless books, but on facts that exist objectively; we must appropriate the material in detail and, guided by the general principles of Marxism-Leninism, draw correct conclusions from it. Such conclusions are not mere lists of phenomena in A.B.C.D. order or writings full of platitudes, but are scientific conclusions. Such an attitude is one of seeking truth from facts and not of currying favour by claptrap. It is the manifestation of Party spirit, the Marxist-Leninist style of uniting theory and practice. It is the attitude every Communist Party member should have at the very least. The subjectivist method which was so prevalent in the Communist Party in Australia is contrary to science and Marxism-Leninism and is a formidable enemy of the Communist Party, the working class, the people and the nation; it is a manifestation of impurity in Party spirit . . . Only when subjectivism is overthrown can the truth of Marxism-Leninism prevail, can Party spirit be strengthened, can the revolution be victorious. We must assert that the absence of a scientific attitude, that is, the absence of the Marxist-Leninist approach of uniting theory and practice, means that Party spirit is either absent or deficient. (Reform Our Study.)
This then applied in its entirety to the situation in the Communist Party in Australia. In three classics of Marxism-Leninism, “Reform Our Study”, “Rectify the Party’s Style of Work” and “Oppose Stereotyped Party Writing” (which deals with far more than mere writing) Mao Tsetung dealt with vital questions of Party building accordance with materialist dialectics.
In Australia, the ideological development of the Communists was not such that they rose sufficiently above the negative features in the environment. Those features continued to be the strength of social democratic ideas with a sea of bourgeois legalism, parliamentarism id trade union politics. The real facts of these matters were insufficiently analysed and investigated. Materialist dialectics requires an investigation of the facts and their interrelations, free from pre-conceived ideas. Yet within the Communist Party in Australia were many pre-conceived ideas. There was not yet sufficient grasp of materialist dialectics to challenge these pre-conceived ideas, sacred cows or stereotypes or whatever you like to call them. The struggle therefore to develop the Communist Party in Australia involved the defeat of subjectivism so that the truth of Marxism-Leninism could prevail. The Communist Party was faced ever more seriously with the task of placing materialist dialectics in command of its work.