Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

E. F. Hill

The Great Cause of Australian Independence


Already comment has been made that Australia is both independent and dependent. This seeming paradox is no paradox at all. It is reality.

The existing degree of Australia’s independence is very precious. It had its origin in Australia owned by the independent black people. Australia was an independent country inhabited by black people who lived in conditions of primitive communism. The black people resisted dependence. They were partially defeated. They have continued their struggle. Imperialism in Australia developed capitalism in Australia. It inherited its own grave-diggers in the black people and imported its further grave-diggers in a working class which it proceeded to develop along with other working people. Alongside them grew up a more or less independent capitalist class. A struggle for independence from imperialism arose.

What distinguishes recent times is that the movement for independence has gathered qualitatively greater momentum than ever before. It enters a great historical current of which it has been said countries want independence, nations want liberation and the people want revolution. Whereas in previous times in Australia a systematic, coherent consciousness for independence was lacking, today a mass coherent anti-imperialist independence consciousness is developing with very great historical rapidity.

Moreover within Australia because the process of production particularly in the multinational industries is largely socialised, the perspective of ultimate socialism takes sharper shape. The phase of complete independence is essential before there can be all-round advance to socialism. Since many sections of people in addition to the workers are impelled to seek independence, there is the basis for widespread struggle.

How to achieve complete anti-imperialist independence assumes concrete form, is immediately on the social agenda.

Already many struggles of the workers have arisen. As preceding pages have shown, many struggles have arisen on myriad issues. Some struggles are small or comparatively small, others are very large. Objectively all raise the issue of independence.

A great united front of many sections of people is growing up. Consciousness of the direction of the movement positively dictates that all who can be united must be united. At the core of united action lie the workers. But while they are the core, the decisive core, they are by no means the whole of the independence movement. It has been seen that there are many other working and patriotic people involved.

Australia’s farmers have been particularly hard hit by economic crisis and the contention between the superpowers. Thousands have been forced off the land, thousands of others are destitute. Big landholders own more and more land while the small and middle farmers own less and less. This process is accelerating.

The small and middle and even larger farmers are mercilessly squeezed by banks, finance houses, pastoral and agricultural companies, food processors, agricultural machinery producers etc.

The core of these is constituted by multinationals.

The small and middle farmers are the natural allies of the workers. Together with the workers, they are the basic component in the struggle for independence.

The movement is compelled to grow by the very process of oppression and exploitation of the monopoly capitalists and the superpowers. The forces that stand in the way of Australian independence, namely the monopoly capitalists and the superpowers, increasingly resort to repression. They call into action every repressive measure through their state machine, they gear up their ideological and political machine. But repression leads to even greater resistance. The movement for independence develops still further. As repressive measures are taken to repress strikers, so more workers go on strike and in many other ways resist the repression. As repressive measures are taken to resist movements against freeways, uranium, Omega, the movements grow. As deception is increasingly resorted to, the truth emerges more clearly.

Parliament, parliamentary parties, parliamentary elections, parliamentarians, lose their efficacy in deception. The people see through them, see and understand that they are but a figleaf to cover the reality of coercion, the reality of army, police, courts, gaols and the permanent public service which carry out the real work of the multinational and local monopoly capitalists who sit astride Australia. The people grasp the fact that parliament is but a talking shop and universal suffrage the right to choose once every several years which member of the ruling circles will misrepresent them in parliament. Step by step they come to realise that the state apparatus itself must be combated and overthrown.

Every political event educates them. The people were given a splendid lesson by the events of November 1975, previously referred to, in which the position of Governor-General, a relic of British imperialism, was used by U.S. imperialism to ride roughshod over all parliamentary proprieties and conventions. It showed that in the superpower contention and struggle for Australia, in the conditions of economic crisis, the institutions of parliament, courts, governor-general, army, were nothing but real weapons in the hands of the monopoly capitalists, that Australia, while it was an independent country, was also a dependent country. It dealt blows to those institutions from which they have never recovered and can never recover. The respect for them that had been developed in generations of indoctrination, was in a mere historical moment seriously undermined.

It set in train a whole process. It was a dress rehearsal for the further trampling on the conventions of parliament by the premature parliamentary election of 1977. The old tradition (supported by the Constitution) of a parliament with a government which had a majority in the lower house (in this case in both houses) running its full term of three years was trampled in the dust. The fundamental reason for this was to serve U.S. imperialism in its ever-intensifying contention and struggle with Soviet social-imperialism.

Within that parliament and in the parties of the monopoly capitalists, crisis asserts itself. These parties are riven with conflict, with insoluble contradictions. They reflect the whole crisis and breakdown of capitalism. Their crisis is intensified a millionfold by the ever-developing struggle of the people.

The Liberal-National Country Party (Parties) more or less openly serve the monopoly capitalists. The dominant leadership of the Liberal Party is very close to the U.S. imperialists. But within it are those who lean to Soviet social-imperialism. Particularly do the leaders of the National Country Party lean to Soviet socialimperialism. This accentuates and aggravates the conflict within their “coalition” government. No political event in Australia in recent times can be fully explained without taking account of the influence of the all-pervading world-wide contention and struggle between U.S. imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism.

The Soviet social-imperialists see the Labor Party and particularly a Labor Government as their most effective instrument in the penetration of Australia and the use of Australia as a strategic base between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. (This is not to say that they slacken efforts to win influence in the Liberal-National Country Party.) The Labor Party pursues what it calls an “evenhanded” policy towards the superpowers. In conditions where U.S. imperialism is the declining imperialist power and Soviet social-imperialism is the growing imperialist power there can be no such thing as evenhandedness. “Evenhandedness” must result in assisting Soviet social-imperialism. The Soviet news-agency Tass expressed its alarm at Fraser’s 1977 election move to preempt a Labor government when it showed by clear implication its preference for a Labor government and used its usual deceptive words. The Tass statement included this: “Seeking to strike a blow against the opposition Labor Party, which is backed by the trade unions, the ruling coalition launched an onslaught precisely on trade union organisations ...” No analysis, no comment on the Labor Party’s attacks upon the people!

These facts show that differences exist in service to different groups of capitalists, different imperialists, between the National Country Party and the Labor Party. As pointed out, they do not differ on the fundamentals of the social system but can differ tactically and in service to differing groups. Economic crisis arises from capitalism in Australia and in the world. It deepens. It produces unemployment, inflation, bankruptcy, ruination of the farmers and smaller businesses. It is in that situation that contention between the superpowers intensifies. Their contention is made more desperate by economic crisis, and aggravates it. Australia is inextricably caught up in the process.

The whole thing engenders revolution and war. On a world scale the tendencies to war and revolution deepen. Which will overtake the other cannot be answered with certainty but without doubt the tendency to war brings the threat of world war between the superpowers. Again Australia is deeply involved.

That very tendency acts as a stimulus to the development of revolution – the revolutionary struggle for Australia to be independent of these imperialisms that so menace it.

The “trade union movement” in its turn is riven with crisis and conflict. Its use as a clamp on working class struggle is falling on hard times. More and more workers refuse to obey its edicts. The frantic running around of its leaders gets more desperate. These leaders find it increasingly difficult to extinguish the flames of working class rebellion. The influence of the Labor Party and the “trade union movement” as the main social prop of capitalism in Australia and therefore of Australian dependence is step by step being undermined.

The critical question of Australian as of all other politics is the question of state power. The Liberal-National Country Party, the Labor Party, the ACTU and State Labour Councils all serve the state power of the monopoly capitalists, are all subject to superpower bullying and interference.

The objective of all people’s struggle must be the taking by the people of state power. It has been shown that state power is wielded by the permanent public service, protected by the army and police, courts and gaols. Put in bald terms, the people (and by people is meant workers, other working and patriotic people) must take state power.

This is no fairy tale, no dream. It must occur. It is certain that it will occur. It will occur in struggle. Struggle is imposed upon the people by the very mechanism of capitalism. In Australia it takes the particular form of being directed towards consummation of Australia’s independence.

It is already taking shape. But even so early in its development this struggle is bitterly resisted. Since the very social laws of capitalism dictate that the crisis of capitalism will intensify, that the contention and struggle between U.S. imperialism and Soviet social-imperialism will intensify, it is inevitable that repression will intensify. In its turn it is inevitable that resistance will intensify. Hence people’s struggle must grow. By the compulsion of social factors illuminated by consciousness, it will grow.

It is simple fact that never in Australia’s history has there been such widespread people’s activity, such persistence in diverse struggle as there is today. There have been spectacular single or even multiple struggles. Obvious landmarks are Eureka, the 1890s Maritime Strike, the anti-conscription struggles of 1916-1917, the 1917 N.S.W. general strike, the great struggles of the timber-workers, wharfies and miners in the late twenties and early thirties, the anti-fascist struggles of the thirties, the people’s struggle against fascism in World War II, the great strike struggles of the post-war years, the struggle in 1950-1951 over the Communist Party Dissolution Act, the anti-Vietnamese war struggle, the O’Shea struggle of 1969, to name a few. They constitute a splendid tradition of struggle, resistance to repression, which is an inspiration in present day struggle. What distinguishes the present day struggles is their widespread character and their gathering independence consciousness. They well up everywhere.

All people’s struggle has a beginning. Everything is in a process of movement. Everything comes into being and passes away. What is happening today is that the people’s movement for independence is coming into being whereas the dependence forces are dying away. That is observed fact. It has a definite motion. That motion is for the new, the people’s movement, to grow, and for the institutions of dependence and opposition to independence to die away.

The opposition however will never die just of itself. A critical part of the process of its dying is the very activity of the people called into being, into struggle, by the forces of reaction. Understanding, knowledge of the process, consciousness are vital factors in people’s activity. In all these struggles, that knowledge and consciousness are growing.

In its crisis capitalism, and its particular form in Australia, remains dangerous. It is certain to give way to independence and socialism. But it will never do so voluntarily, as its resistance to any form of people’s struggle shows. Its institutions and forces are to be scorned in the historical sense but they must be taken into full account in the immediate sense. Here the army occupies a central place. It is the immediate and the ultimate guardian of capitalism.

People’s struggle, when it reaches boiling point, must ultimately run into repression by all-out armed force. That is but a qualitatively higher stage in the present repression. From fines, gaols, assaults, murder, frame-ups, forgeries etc. the dependence guardians must move to all-out armed force. Australian people must prepare mentally and physically for this. It does not help to have illusions of any kind. It is naive to think that the tiny minority who sit astride Australia will simply fade away. On comparatively minor issues, issues that do not challenge their ultimate state power, they resist with the force and violence of the police, the courts and the gaols. It is absolutely certain that on the most critical of all political issues, state power, they will attempt to suppress the people by armed force. History is rich in examples. Australian monopoly capitalists and their U.S. and Soviet manipulators are no different.

Thus the people must prepare. If violence can be avoided it would be very good. But it is extremely unlikely. To be fully prepared for it in any event minimises it. The stronger the people, the stronger their unity, the stronger their arms, the more rapidly will they overcome the violence of monopoly capitalism. It has been well said that without an army the people have nothing.

It is true that Australia is different from countries like China, Indonesia, south-east Asia in that in those countries the people’s struggle proceeds from an armed peasantry operating in the countryside whereas Australia’s main centres are urban (over 80 per cent of people in the main cities). Certainly that makes the main (not the only) centre, the cities. It is true that the situation must mature before Australians take up arms. It is true that much explaining, much hard work, much organising must be done. No premature action can be contemplated. Events both Australian and international however place all that on the agenda. Time and events do not wait. They are moving along at a historically rapid rate.

In this movement for people’s anti-imperialist independence which is so rapidly taking shape there is no blueprint that nicely plots the path and puts everything into preordained order. It is a social process. Its main lines can be discerned but its precise character, action and timing cannot be discerned. This is in the nature of things. Communists are not prophets but, given correct assessment of the facts, they can predict with accuracy the direction of the future movement of those facts.

It is a splendid movement, inspires the people to still further action. It demonstrates that while the coercive state apparatus, parliament, “the trade union movement”, the Labor and other parties must be taken into account in struggles they are as nothing when the people step outside these institutions and struggle. No amount of “reform” can save these institutions. Again the very crisis of capitalism and its very engendering of people’s struggle undermines these institutions of capitalism. What is being dealt with is all-round crisis of capitalism which involves its economy, its ideology, its institutions.

The endless actions, struggle of the people give rise to forms of people’s action, to ad hoc bodies, some of short term, some of long term. It throws up countless leaders. It acquires greater consciousness.

In contemporary Australia in the given international environment what may commence as a more or less spontaneous struggle of workers, instinctively reaches out for independence and socialism. When to that is added scientific consciousness of independence and socialism, qualitative advance is made. It is not difficult for the workers to see and understand that when they get into struggle they are more or less immediately confronted with the repression of the state apparatus and a violent ideological campaign against them. Nor is it a big step to conclude that it is this apparatus that must be broken. The capitalist class’ is an excellent teacher.

The Australian working class shows that it has an inexhaustible capacity to struggle and an inexhaustible enthusiasm for independence and socialism. It may be that this or that struggle will be suppressed, diverted or in some other way led astray but this cannot alter the main trend. Events have already shown this to be true. Naturally the working class sums up its experience, draws lessons, enhances it consciousness. The actors of “public life” are compelled to perform on the public stage open to the scrutiny of all. Then it is seen that parliament, courts, police, Labor Party, “trade union movement” are active opponents of struggle for independence, active suppressors of it. There emerges the immeasurably greater power of united working class action than that of the tottering institutions and agents of capitalism.

Why are the workers so powerful? This arises from the actual conditions of capitalism previously described. The workers directly work in the factories, the decisive places of getting a living. They directly work with the most advanced means of production and those means of production have endless potential of improving. In the very process of working side by side with each other with these machines, the workers are disciplined, made into a cohesive force, develop consciousness of their exploitation and the conflict of interest between them and the owners of the machines, they become conscious that they are already working in a largely socialised process of production whereas ownership by the monopoly capitalists is individual. They develop socialist consciousness and in Australian conditions understand the key position of independence as a preliminary stage. They come to understand that they are the really useful people whereas the owners of the means of production, in particular the multinationals, are parasites who live upon the workers’ labour. No other section of Australian people is in this position of the workers. Events have shown how decisive in Australian life are the Australian workers. Their struggle exerts tremendous force.

The struggle of the workers merges with struggles by other sections of the people. Moreover the workers participate and lead struggle on all other issues. By no means is their struggle confined to economic issues. Each struggle dovetails into another struggle. Black people, unemployed people, youth, women, environmentalists, educationists, non-industrial workers together with the industrial workers merge into a single stream of struggle.

Hence the widest unity is being achieved. That unity needs cultivating and nurturing.

Its perspectives, if Australia is really to solve its problems, must be to make Australia quite free from any imperialism, quite free of multinational interference and manipulation, and from that to build up socialism in which socialised production is matched by socialised ownership, socialised appropriation. In such a society production is for use planned to meet the needs of the people and does not put the needs of the people at the dictate and mercy of private profit; economic crisis is abolished.

Australian people are setting up, finding the way to people’s organisation. The shape of an independent Australian state apparatus and the force to achieve it can be seen in multiple activities and organisation of people’s struggle.

Action is throwing up the answer step by step. That action must be summed up. Conclusions must be drawn from it. Higher forms, higher levels of activity are developing. It is bound to intensify. Scientific socialist guidance is required.

Some worry about the alternatives. Sometimes it is asked what is to replace parliament? What is to replace the trade union structure? How can people take matters into their own hands and solve these problems? How can there be a people’s army? These are questions that naturally arise. There is no blueprint, no nice easy solution. The solution must be worked at in the actual process of struggle. The people not only have inexhaustible enthusiasm but they have inexhaustible initiative, ingenuity. They are finding the solutions to these problems in the actual fire of the as yet limited struggle. Again when added to this struggle is scientific socialist guidance the problem does not have terrible dimensions. The Parisian workers had no precise blueprint when they seized and held state power in Paris in 1871. The Russian workers had no precise blueprint in their revolutions of 1905, February and October 1917. The Chinese workers and peasants had no precise blueprint for their victory in liberation in 1949. In each case given an overall correct scientific perspective the solution arose from actual struggle. The people in these cases learned to struggle by struggling, learned to make revolution by making revolution. They summed up their experience and moved from one stage to another until they reached the highest point in the seizure of state power. So it is in all other cases. So it is in Australia.

When parliament is spoken of, of course Australian people will find the way to their own representative institutions just as the workers on the jobs find representatives to lead them, or the anti-uranium struggle throws up organisation and leaders. In the process of struggle, as the struggle becomes more cohesive, more disciplined, appropriate bodies will be thrown up to co-ordinate and lead it all.

Worry is expressed over the “trade union movement”. Trade unions command a great deal of loyalty. This is a good thing. But trade unions have been perverted, subordinated basically to the use of the monopoly capitalists. It is that form of “trade union movement” that obstructs, hinders and represses struggle. Australian workers are already finding alternatives. The so-called wild-cat strikes are examples. They organise far more on the job. They are compelled by the need to struggle to avoid the “trade union movement”. This is a process that is growing. It too is certain to grow still more. There is no “one blow” solution of it. And it would be wrong artificially to create new “pure” trade unions. In the process of struggle more and more workers come to understand the oppressive character of the “Australian trade union movement” a term so often used by people like Mr. Hawke. More and more embrace struggle outside it. It is in this way that the problem is already being solved and will be solved. In the general overall struggle for independence and socialism this “trade union movement”, with its bureaucracy of labour lieutenants of capital, will be transcended. New forms of organisation will arise.

The fact that there is worry about these matters is a good thing. It is part of the process of challenge. But it shows the as yet powerful hold upon the people of the ideology and politics of Australia’s dependence and monopoly capitalism. What is needed is the most radical rupture with traditional ideas and the guidance of the enlightened ideas of scientific socialism.