Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

E.F. Hill

Communism and Australia
Reflections and Reminiscences

Chapter Fifteen: What type of Communist Party for Australia?

The Communist Party in Australia must be an Australian Party which takes an Australian shape and serves the 15,000,000 Australian people. Those Australian people are engaged in pursuits which yield rural production valued at $12,500 million and non-rural production valued at $140,000 million. Rural products account for 40 percent of export earnings.[1] The Communist Party’s service to Australian people is its particular contribution to the achievement of an ultimate worldwide socialism and then Communism. It is independent of any outside direction.

Involved in the Australian Communist Party’s concern to serve Australia and Australian people is that Party’s considering Australia in its totality. Communist concern with the international environment is from the standpoint of Australia and Australian people. What genuine Communists do in other countries is of importance to the decisions and conduct of Australian Communists. As pointed out previously in a different connection, Communism in given countries is both interdependent and independent. Reference has already been made to relations between Parties. The legacy of the past where decisions about Australia were made either directly or indirectly outside Australia, has no place today. A world centre or a single model for socialism and Communism has been demonstrated to be inappropriate Such bodies as the Communist International outlived their usefulness. Sometimes they misconceived their role. Basically, responsibility for errors must be accepted within Australia.

A Communist Party is a living organism. It has an infancy, a middle age and no doubt ultimate old age. Like a human being, it goes through stages. It learns from experience and from study of the theory of Communism. It is composed of human beings who all have their strengths and weaknesses and no single person is the Messiah. Each Communist has his own experience. All Communists recognise the need to rise above restrictions imposed on them by their own personal environment.

Australia’s needs demand the overall outlook of Communism; then the particular environment can be correctly handled. What binds Communists is their devotion to Australia, their commitment to serve the Australian people. They see the highest service to the Australian people as participating in the ordinary lives of the people and appropriately bringing to them the guidance of scientific socialism. The great exponents of scientific socialism were Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Zedong. The generality of scientific socialist principle requires deep study as also does all social experience. But no one of these great men had any direct experience at all of Australia. It falls to Australians to bring about the harmonious marriage of general theory with actual conditions in Australia.

The supreme objective is to unify the working class and working people and to that end to unify the Communists and all parties connected with the working class. Obstacles created by the past can be overcome. A single Marxist Communist Party can emerge. Experience and historical necessity dictate that. All Communists owe it to Australian people to devote their efforts to building the best possible Party.

In the several decades of history of Communism in Australia, much experience has accumulated. It can be used in present-day circumstances whether it was negative or positive It was scarcely avoidable that a significant part of it was negative The overwhelming positive feature was the persistence in the search for the correct way to use general principles to illuminate the specifically Australian solutions of Australian problems.

Although Communist problems in the ’sixties by no means meant the end of Communism in Australia, those problems have caused certain confusion. But the way was opened to a more effective struggle and for the development of one Party. The only important judges of the Communist Party in Australia are the Australian people. Their judgment will be based on whether or not the Communist Party serves Australian people.

But no Communist Party is wholly correct. Self-proclamation of correctness solves nothing. It is actual service which counts.

The Communist Party must have clear-headed Marxist ideology and develop its grip of that. Only by raising that to the very first place can the various political decisions and steps on the road to the ultimate goal of the classless society of Communism be properly worked out.

Though the shape and form of socialism can be seen in the largely socialised process of production in the big factories, still that is the form of socialism and not yet the content. The critical factor of people’s state power is missing. In such nationalised bodies as Australia Post, the form but not the content of socialism exists. There are serious social and political factors which preclude immediate socialism. Included in them is the ideological and organisational hold capitalism has on the people and the comparative immediate weakness of Communism. Capitalism maintains a whole propaganda and culture that both crudely and subtly, day in and day out, justify and support capitalism. People are deceived. Institutions of capitalism such as parliament, the courts, nominal democratic rights, maintain a significant hold on the people. Though torn with crisis and difficulties, capitalism in Australia is by no means at an end nor is its collapse in sight The ideas of scientific socialism are spreading, but they are as yet not gripping big numbers of Australians. There has been and is confusion about Communism in Australia. There is confusion about Communism in other countries and Communist Parties in other countries. There are things done in the name of Communism which have nothing whatever to do with Communism. This is particularly so with the Soviet Union. It is also so with terrorist groups which usurp the name of Communism. The enemies of Communism continually present the Soviet Union’s expansionist activities as Communist, as they also do activities of terrorist groups. Such things are the very opposite of Communism. Communism by its very nature dictates that a Communist country does not expand territorially and acts of terrorism are no part of Communism.

Despite all difficulties and all shortcomings, Communists maintain complete confidence that sooner or later the Australian people will indeed build the classless society of Communism. This is not Utopian but firmly based on scientific analysis of society. It must be re-emphasised that it is not a question of what in the immediate sense this or that Australian worker or other person thinks or does but what the Australian workers as a whole, along with other sections of the people around them, will be impelled by social experience to do. Communists accept that the very mechanism of capitalism in Australia and Australia’s position in the world will impel Australian people ultimately to rebel against the outmoded society of capitalism.

The development of the movement for defending the national sovereignty and independence of Australia merges with the world historical trend in which nations seek independence and the people seek liberation. Although earlier criticism is made of the interpretation put on the phrase “revolution is the main trend” as connoting immediate revolution, there is no doubt that taken in the historical sense, the world-wide trend is to revolution. New fully-fledged capitalist nations do not emerge in a world dominated by the superpowers. All over the world peoples and nations are on the move. Decisive in this are the peoples and nations of the Third World. Here again it must be recognised that there is a diversity of regimes (some extremely reactionary) and a diversity in the quality of the liberation movement in the various countries. The latter too applies in the capitalist countries. But objective analysis shows that capitalism’s crisis, all-round crisis, is deepening and capitalism historically is getting nearer to collapse. Gradually, even rapidly in the historical sense, the people are being impelled to take action. Struggle intensifies. Consciousness of the direction that struggle must take is deepening. Thus while great insistence has been placed on Australian people working out Australia’s own solution, still Australia’s struggle for national independence and sovereignty does fit into a world-wide trend; Communists are both patriots and internationalists. The objective end of that struggle for national independence and sovereignty is part of the struggle for ultimate socialism.

The Communist Party acts with complete confidence in Australian people. Its organisation must be among the people. Its work must be in accordance with the degree of understanding of the people at a given time and with the object of step by step raising that understanding towards an understanding of the overall social process. Whether or not people have little or much social knowledge the job of the Communists is to be with them. Communists seek to inspire the workers to develop all progressive Australian forces, win over the middle forces and isolate the handful of reactionary enemies of the people.

Capitalism imposes ignorance of Communism and it imposes its own ideas. Hence enlightenment about socialism must be developed in the face of fierce competition. Shouting in the abstract about the virtues of socialism to men and women who have been indoctrinated with capitalist ideas will not convince many. To confine Communist activity to that is to court isolation. It is entirely different to serve those same people in their day to day lives and painstakingly work out how to deal with the problems to which capitalism gives rise. In many areas, this almost certainly will seem to be remote from socialism and Communism. It is not merely logical reasoning that shows the impossibility of success in the struggle for socialism by simply preaching socialism. There is a long experience in Australia which proves that such a method results in the isolation of the Communists and the degeneration of the Communist Party into a narrow propaganda sect. Experience shows that it is the painstaking non-spectacular day to day Communist work amongst the people that best advances the cause of socialism and Communism. This is not at all to exclude big or spectacular things, demonstrations, strikes, dramatic activity, when such things are appropriate. On the contrary. Nor is it to exclude appropriate people and publications putting the whole case for Communism. Again, on the contrary, it is to emphasise all-round work.

The propaganda sect where almost all Communists proclaimed their Communism, where Communists made insufficient attempts to identify with the people at the level of understanding of the people, where insufficient attempt was made to function in a way other than as an ordinary parliamentary and trade union political party with all activities directed from public Party headquarters and immediate socialist objectives far in advance of realisation, led to a certain isolation of the Communists from the people It also helped persecution, intimidation and identification of all connected with them. It stands to reason that the state authorities would do this because the state apparatus in Australia is in the end, an apparatus to suppress the workers and other potential rebels against capitalism. This is the history of actual experience in Australia. It has happened on a large scale and is happening. An extensive network of secret police with telephone and personal surveillance of Communists and other radicals, bugging of homes and other premises, is operated. This is because whatever their errors, Communists have given devoted service to Australian people Above all, they seek to serve the working class. The workers are the grave-diggers of capitalism. The rationale of secret police activity is to isolate the people from Communism. Their method is to use the techniques described above with the ultimate isolation in gaol for the Communists.

Alongside this is the never-ceasing anti-Communist barrage from press, radio, television, books, “refuters” of Communism and so on. All this undoubtedly has an effect on people Australian people are the victims of deceit about capitalism and deceit about Communism. The capitalists have a deep-seated sense that their system is doomed. They sense that the Communists constitute the mind, the heart, the conscience of our era. But it is the greatest hypocrisy for secret police and those behind them to make the accusation against the Communists of end justifying means, when they themselves use all their immense resources in defending capitalism and justifying any means. They extol the virtues of democracy where all are equal, able to say what they like and so on. Democracy in that form has a real content of democracy for press, radio and television barons, that is, for the monopoly owners. For the ordinary people, it is the shadow of democracy, important in its own way, but not the substance.

And what of the end? The purpose is to maintain an outmoded social system in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The big capitalists prosper and grow. In Australia, it is well known that about 20 percent of the people live below the poverty line, black people have been ruthlessly driven into a persecuted and starved group, all social services are restricted. Maintenance of this is the sordid end that justifies sordid means.

The Communist Party seeks a new social order from which want and poverty and war have been abolished. Communists have a scientific basis for knowing that this is their aim. They do not indulge in hypocrisy. The situation does indeed call for a Party of a special type and activity of a special kind. General comments have already been made on some features of Communist Party organisation. The Communist Party in Australia is a legal public organisation. It publicly proclaims its existence and maintains a public apparatus. That is essential. It uses every public avenue open to it. Its activities are open.

The many-sided process of realising socialism in Australia requires many-sided activities. By identification with the people at their particular level of understanding, the issue of Communism as such does not necessarily directly arise The Communist will strive to be the best and most devoted worker for the given cause He or she will find the way carefully and appropriately to assist the people to a deeper understanding of the social problems. With the most advanced people he or she will find the way to have them introduced to the Party. Thus he or she will not isolate himself or herself by artificial lecturing about socialism or Communism where that is quite inappropriate In acting in a correct way, he or she is able to play the most valuable part in gradually building up the strength of the people and the strength of the Party. In biding time while conditions for revolution mature and taking account of social phases and phases in the working class and people and accumulating forces and strength, he or she will be extremely active Everything is in motion, in a state of development. Account will be taken of that motion. Connections with the people will not be destroyed by vain attempts, to jump over stages. Account will be taken of hostile activities of the state apparatus.

In terms of Australian reality, the unification of the country, the ending of influence of State rivalry, the abolition of reserve powers of the Crown, and indeed “Australian” monarchy, combating the multinationals, under which there can be arbitrary interference in Australia, and local monopoly capitalists, protecting the environment, struggling for the black people’s demands, defending peace, all fall within the idea of defending independence and sovereignty. These words too will not necessarily appear in day to day work, but people’s struggles accumulate in that direction. There is no magic in using particular words like “socialism”, “Communism”, “anti-imperialist independence”, when they are not readily understood. A Communist’s purity as a Communist is not established by his use of them nor by his using quotations from Marxist classics nor by the dropping of the names of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao Zedong or someone else. His devotion as a Communist is tested by his participation in day to day struggle, while in his mind he maintains his Communist outlook and within the Party, he discusses his Communism and strengthens his overall Communist grip and the Party is strengthened ideologically, politically and organisationally. Marxism is a science. It has its own terminology. Within the Party, that is understood. Amongst the people much of it must be explained in simpler terms.

Parliament poses still another problem. Parliament provides a public forum in which things can be said that cannot be said elsewhere. As Communists see the position, parliament is not an organ of the state apparatus. It is really part of the deception of people about democracy. But it has a considerable hold in the minds of the people. One way to loosen that hold is by participation in it. Communist candidates as such in prevailing circumstances have little chance of getting more than small votes. Where circumstances permit of direct Communist election to parliament or advantage is to be gained by Communist participation in an election, that should be availed of. Communists in parliament can help the general cause, provided the overall role of the Party to accumulate strength is kept in mind. There should be no confusion between the proclamation of the whole case for socialism which a parliamentarian may well put and on the other hand, the persevering work among the people that has been discussed. They fit into each other if handled appropriately. This goes too for other work in which public spokesmen for the Party or Party publications or other institutions do put the whole case for socialism and Communism. Full advantage must be taken of the opportunities to do this.

In Australian conditions, there are public, legal Communist publications. They are used to explain both immediate and overall aims and indeed the whole case for Communism. To produce these publications, publicly avowed Communists work. People can get overall guidance from Party publications. Such publications assist in maintaining overall perspective. The Party publications contain material of general public interest. That is useful. They also discuss more advanced questions. This acts as an overall guide (not enslavement to the word) to all and to the advanced workers and others. Each sphere is a part of overall activity but each sphere has its own particular life. The various differing functions will not be confused.

This review shows that in the history of the Communist Party, the attempt was made to pit the comparatively weak and isolated Party against the whole might of capitalism. Retreat was not considered; the offensive, no matter how difficult the circumstances, was taken. Activities often failed to take account of the real situation. They failed to take account of Australia’s comparative youth and assumed an immediate socialist revolutionary potential contrary to the reality. Some organisations such as peace bodies, friendship organisations, union fractions and the militant minority movement which were divorced from the people and often duplicated the Party, were set up. Some reference has been made to this in earlier pages. But what was done was often represented as good work, significant advance. The criterion of this “good work” and “significant advance” was continual struggle where such struggle was often inappropriate. This sort of thing must be avoided. Emphasis must be on mass work to accumulate people’s and Party strength. “Mass line” are words often used and are appropriate – from the people to the people. Certainly every legal opportunity, and there are many, must be used. The Party will decidedly encourage the development of all appropriate people’s struggle, limited, advanced or in between and whichever is determined by the circumstances. Continually it will strive to raise struggle to a higher plane.

Disregard of the subjective and objective conditions in Australia and reluctance to work painstakingly among the people in ways which may seem to be remote from the “big things” must be combated. So too must the old strident proclamation of socialism and Communism when that is quite inappropriate. By declining to do such things, the Party has not collapsed or become irrelevant or something of that character. The old viewpoint has its historical origin in Australia. It is not fundamentally the fault of the victim. It lies in the way in which the October Revolution and the various Internationals were misunderstood in Australia and the misconceptions of rapid and easy Australian revolution to which they gave rise When these misconceptions were grafted onto separate spheres of work, it led to a situation where it was difficult for either the cause of socialism or the work in the given sphere to advance. All this underlay the 1960s crisis in the Party. Some of the wrong left trends were strengthened by the wrong view by some Australians of events in other countries.

Where the situation warrants, the Party will take the initiative in promoting appropriate mass activity and organisation. Here again the emphasis is on appropriate. But where there is a genuine mass cause, it is wrong not to participate in giving organisational form and support to it. It must not merely duplicate the Party. The defence and extension of independence and sovereignty may well be a case in point. There are growing struggles and causes in Australia. The people are showing splendid initiative in them. The Communists must be alert to do all they can to serve these causes and struggles, big and small.

The Party’s internal life should be of a quality different from that of which earlier criticism has been made – namely wrong rigid ideas of “line”, democratic centralism and “monolithic” unity. Instead its membership in true democratic consultation will discuss and work out how Marxism operates in the particular conditions of Australia. In this way, it will establish a correct political line which is flexible and readily adjustable to changing circumstances. True democratic consultation will result in a highly conscious acceptance by members of the need to accept majority decisions and decisions of leading bodies while reserving dissent where there is dissent. Democratic centralism will serve that general political line but not impose an artificially rigid adherence that does not allow even a shade of difference of opinion. Around a general political line, infinite flexibility in application is required. Unity will not be an arbitrary “monolithic unity” imposed from above but an informed consciousness of the need to act together. Along with all this goes respect for Party leaders but recognition that they are not infallible They draw their position and strength from respect for their leadership qualities both within the Party and among the workers, working and other patriotic people Party leaders are not leaders for ever; they remain leaders so long as they serve the Party and the people and give way to others in accordance with the collective judgment (in which they are part) of the Party. As an organisation, the Party operates on general principles worked out long ago (adherence to the Party programme, payment of dues and work in a basic Party organisation). These are foundation general principles. There is room and need for great flexibility in forms of Party organisation. Australia develops its own Australian Communist Party. It will draw on the lessons of the past. It will correct errors. It will experiment. It will continually sum up experience It will recognise that the development of the Party is a process.

If the Communist Party does its work correctly it will have established itself among every section of the people Particularly will it have established itself among the workers in the factories which belong to the multinationals and local monopoly capitalists. It will have established itself in the trade unions and have proper relations with the Labor Party. All Communists work in accordance with the situation in which they find themselves. They will have attracted the respect and support of the people amongst whom they work. The Party as an organisation brings it all together. It estimates when is the correct time for people to advance or retreat, when is the time to expand or contract a given sphere of activity, to fight a small battle or a large battle and so on. As the situation matures, it estimates the time at which the people are prepared for decisive battle. This is the life of the Communist Party. This is service to the Australian people. Australian people have a nation to win – a united peaceful Australia headed on the path of social emancipation.


[1] Bureau of Agricultural Economics figures 1981-2.