What follows is an attempt to review the history of Communism and its present position in Australia.
Much attention in the text is paid to errors made in Communist work. One’s own participation in and contribution to these errors must be acknowledged. Errors appear too in my own writings. The present material is an attempt to correct old and new errors and to analyse the basis for them. It is done in the spirit of learning from past mistakes and to avoid future ones. It is also appropriate to consider the material as a draft. This will enable criticisms and suggestions in the light of which a more rounded and complete treatment can be developed. It should be added that already many valuable suggestions have been made by those who have read previous drafts.
Attention is given to the stage of society Australia has reached, to its development as a nation, its independence and sovereignty. Because of incorrect notions amongst Australian Communists that there would or could be immediate socialism and Communism, misconceptions arose. Hence the defence and development of Australia as a nation with growing independence and sovereignty are given a good deal of attention as matters that arise preliminary to socialism. There are basic phases on the way to socialism and Communism. Communists in Australia rightly visualised a socialist Australia and then a Communist Australia. This material attempts to demonstrate that ideas of immediate socialism and Communism were premature and obscured vital preliminary phases. There was a failure to distinguish between immediate steps and immediate programmes in the struggle for ultimate socialism and Communism, and, on the other hand, the ultimate realisation of a socialist Australia. It may be put that the immediate (or minimum) programme and ultimate (or maximum) programme were mixed up and confused. Maybe because of my own participation in these errors, there is undue repetition of the theme of correction. For that, apologies are offered.
In the text it is pointed out that the terms “socialist” and “Communist” and “socialism” and “Communism” are used more or less interchangeably by Communists. Sometimes the text makes specific explanations of the particular use of each word.
Marx and Engels called their 1848 manifesto Manifesto of the Communist Party. This was the first systematic exposition of the body of principle which is now called “Communism”. “Communism” in this sense means that body of principle. The term embraces “socialism” – what Communists call “scientific socialism”. The ultimate objective of this Communism is classless society. The people as a whole own the means of production (factories, mines, etc.). Production is for people’s use, not for private profit. The principle of the operation of Communism is “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. Production is of such a high level that there are abundant commodities for every member of the community and each member helps himself according to his needs. The achievement of this Communism is a long-term aim. The struggle to achieve it is guided by the body of principle called “Communism”.
The stage preliminary to Communist society is socialism. Here again, the people as a whole own the means of production and production is for people’s use, not for private profit. A state apparatus, owned by the people except for a handful of monopolists, safeguards people’s ownership of the factories, etc People personally own the commodities (as they do in Communist society) needed in their daily life: it is only the factories, etc that are owned collectively. The principle is “from each according to his ability, to each according to his work”. This means that everyone works according to his capacity to work. People are paid differently according to the different contribution they make in their work. This is because capitalism leaves a legacy of differing wages for differing work and production is not yet sufficient to satisfy all needs; it is impossible to eliminate that legacy in one blow and it is impossible to lift production to the necessary level except over a period. Use of the terms in what follows is in accordance with the explanation proffered above, except where a specific explanation is made of a different use.
“Socialists” is often used as a generic term to describe all those (and there are many) who profess an acceptance of socialism.
These terms are often deliberately confused by people opposed to Communism. The text explains some of this and it attempts to clear it up. The text also sets out to show that the achievement of socialism in Australia is a fairly complicated and long-term process.
That process is not simply direct passage from current Australian capitalism to socialism. Intermediate phases will also certainly be required.
The desire for socialism as a just social system, where Australian people really own Australia, runs deep among Australian workers, but also among other sections of people. That desire may be latent, but it is always present. It lights up more brightly whenever there is crisis in society and the people are involved in struggle. That can be seen in any big people’s struggle such as campaigning for peace, for preservation of the environment or during a strike and in many other circumstances. A call for socialism in such conditions almost invariably receives an enthusiastic response. Socialism is a strongly held and very encouraging hope among the people. But it is a hope in rather vague terms. The necessary preconditions for socialism do not yet exist and the way to achieve it is not yet clear. Sooner or later these questions will be solved by Australian people, in whom there can be infinite confidence. They will be impelled by social necessity to find the correct way. For example, already there is very strong people’s antagonism to the operations of multinationals in Australia. These operations are both seen and sensed to be detrimental to the interests of ordinary Australian people. In the case presented here, these multinationals in one way prepare the basis for ultimate socialism but, in the other way, are one of the strongest immediate barriers to its achievement.
E. F. Hill
July, 1980-June, 1983