Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

E. F. Hill

Looking Backward: Looking Forward


This pamphlet demands a word of explanation.

It is well known that deep divisions have appeared in the world Communist movement. Marxism-Leninism is the science which guides the revolutionary Communist movement. We defend Marxism-Leninism and we defend what we regard as the originally correct Marxist-Leninist stand of the Communist Party of Australia. That stand has been betrayed by those whom we call modern revisionists. Revisionism is well known in the history of the revolutionary movement. At every critical turn it has made its appearance. It seeks to take the revolutionary soul out of Marxism-Leninism and to turn the working class into channels harmless to capitalism. It is a great weapon of the capitalist class. The purity of the revolutionary principles of Marxism-Leninism is always under attack. But that purity must be fought for.

This pamphlet traces some of the roots of the present revisionist politics and capitalist ideological outlook of the now revisionist “Communists” in Australia.

We belonged to the Communist Party of Australia. It is not easy to recognise what was wrong with an ideological outlook and political views and practices which we have spent part of a lifetime upholding, and upholding with the desire to serve the revolutionary interests of the working class and exploited people of Australia.

Yet it is obvious that the present treacherous revisionist policy of the now revisionist Communist Party must have had its roots in weaknesses in its Marxist-Leninist outlook and practice; weaknesses undetected by us at the time, and accepted and practised by us for many years.

For the greater part of the lifetime of the now revisionist Communist Party, some of its work was positive. It played an extremely useful part in the development of the struggles and organisation of the Australian working class and people, but in looking back, the evidence of a limited Marxist-Leninist understanding is clear in much of its work. Its approach on some questions was completely wrong.

The denunciation of Marxism-Leninism, masked as a denunciation of Stalin at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956, was the signal for revisionists and right opportunists in Parties all over the world also to renounce Marxism-Leninism and to substitute for it, right opportunism and revisionism, which became the programme and platform for the now openly revisionist “Communist” Party in Australia.

The Communist Party of Australia turned into its opposite. Opportunism which was once the minor but persistent feature of the Communist Party became its dominant feature in 1961-62.

Those who stood out against betrayal of its former position ultimately cleansed the Communist ranks in Australia. The Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) came into being as the result of that cleansing. This was only after commencing the most serious efforts to recognise and reject those incorrect views which we had inherited from the former Communist Party and to strengthen those correct views which we had defended from betrayal by the now revisionist Communist Party.

This pamphlet is part of that difficult process.

We are helped in this by the negative example of the revisionists and by the positive example of international events. We are assisted in particular by the example of the upholding of Marxism-Leninism by the great Communist Party of China.

But the process of awakening is not an easy one. To embark upon the critically important task of breaking with the errors of the former Party ideologically, politically and organisationally, requires protracted struggle. To break politically is not so difficult for the disasters into which modern revisionism is leading the workers are not so difficult to see. That something different is needed is fairly obvious. But the problems of fundamentally altering our ideology and building not only a new organisation but an organisation on entirely different lines are far more difficult. Such tasks demand that for ourselves we honestly examine our past practice to enable us to recognise our mistakes.

Lenin said of political parties (and it is just as true of individuals): “The attitude of a political party towards its own mistakes is one of the most important and surest criteria of the seriousness of a party and how it fulfils its obligations towards its class and towards the toiling masses. To admit a mistake openly, to disclose its reasons, to analyse the conditions which gave rise to it, to study attentively the means of correcting it– these are the signs of a serious party; this means the performance of its duties, this means educating and training the class, and subsequently, the masses.” (Lenin: Left Wing Communism, Little Lenin Edition, p. 40).

Have we changed? It may be asserted against us that we have. No, fundamentally we have not changed. We have changed in that we now recognise as wrong some things which in the past we regarded as right. We believe as firmly as ever in the need for a revolutionary change of the social order, only our belief is in the process of becoming more soundly scientific, more reliable and useful to the working class and working people. By changing in this way, we have strengthened ourselves as Marxist-Leninists the better to carry on the splendid traditions of Communism in Australia now betrayed by the revisionists. We are the true inheritors of the pioneers of 1920 who first formed the Communist Party in Australia.

It is the former Communist Party which has changed, and changed fundamentally, from revolutionary theory and practice (however imperfect) to revisionist, reformist theory and practice.

It is these revisionist, reformist views which are attacked and criticised in this pamphlet. Because we share some responsibility for the past errors, our responsibility to correct them is all the heavier. Hence this pamphlet is part of that task. But we do not regard either the former Communist Party or the A.L.P. (which we also criticise) as a homogeneous body. We attack the theories and policies of these parties and not the members. We attack, criticise, the leaders because they crystallise and exemplify the policy, and a party must be judged by its policy and what class that policy serves.

We criticise our erstwhile colleagues for mistakes not only arising from the limited Marxist understanding they and we had, but above all we criticise them because they deserted the very cause of Communism they originally set out to serve.

It is a Marxist-Leninist duty to do just this. We make no apology for it. Historically, Marxism-Leninism developed and grew strong precisely in the struggle against rightwing ideas. Today it is again asserting itself against rightwing ideas. The champions of Marxism-Leninism have been refreshed. They are opposing and exposing the influences of the capitalist class which have accumulated to such a big degree in many of the Communist Parties.

The most important feature in our weakness was our failure sufficiently to study and apply materialist dialectics and to make materialist dialectics a mass question. It is not difficult at all to make materialist dialectics a mass question. But it is vitally important. “The law of contradiction, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is the basic law of materialist dialectics.” (Mao Tse-tung: On Contradiction, p. 1). We must keep that firmly in mind in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the past, in seeing things in their movement and their development by the resolution of contradictions.

The struggle for socialism in Australia has a history in line with general principles revealed by the great thinkers of revolutionary socialism – Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung. In that struggle the Communist Party formed in Australia in October, 1920, despite all its weaknesses, played a big part. We cannot (except incidentally) within the scope of the present booklet go into the mechanism of capitalist exploitation nor the general principles of Marxist political economy. Rather we must proceed on the assumption that these are questions that already are understood. We set out here to examine and analyse some questions connected with the development of the working class movement in Australia and the position in that development of the trade unions, the Communist Party of Australia, now nominally headed by L. L. Sharkey (to which we will refer sometimes as the former Communist Party in contrast with the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist)) and the Australian labor party.

We therefore offer the following to assist in clarifying some of the questions that face the Australian workers now and in the future.

November, 1964