Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

E. F. Hill

Looking Backward: Looking Forward


Similar factors operated right up to the actual break with the industrial groups touched off by the Petrov Commission and the statement made by Dr. H. V. Evatt in 1954 against the industrial groups during the currency of that Commission. The subsequent formation of the so-called Democratic Labor Party then provided a further tangible focus for A.L.P.-Communist “unity,” i.e. reconciliation by the former Communist Party with A.L.P. ideology. Unless a thorough analysis of capitalism, the contradictions within it and within its political parties is made, in every given situation there is grave danger of serious error. Now it could be said by both the Communist Party and the A.L.P. that the main enemy in the labour movement is the D.L.P. United we defeated them. Let us stand together in the future to defeat them. The result of that is to lose sight entirely of the real character of the A.L.P. and to justify that loss of sight on the pretext of unity against the extreme right in the A.L.P. It leads to the extraordinary conclusion that the A.L.P. is the “lesser of two evils,” that the decisive reformist leaders including Calwell are not the right-wing but the centre of the A.L.P. (a conclusion set out clearly in Mr. Aarons’ pamphlet “Labor Movement at the Crossroads”). As we have said, it is permissible, necessary, for Marxist-Leninists to form temporary alliances against this or that person or group, but it is never permissible to lose sight of Marxism-Leninism. It is never permissible to lose sight of the independence of the workingclass and the Communist Party, their independence from the bourgeoisie and all bourgeois influences. It is quite impermissible, wholly wrong, to submerge the ideology, politics and organisation of the Communist Party in a party of capitalism such as the A.L.P. It is impermissible to lose sight of the dialectics, contradictions in the various situations that arise. It is quite impermissible, quite wrong, to fail to draw and maintain at all times a clear line of demarcation between the revolutionary Marxist-Leninist politics of the Communist Party and the bourgeois politics of the A.L.P. The very basis of the principle of the united front of the workingclass for which the Communists, Marxist-Leninists, must strive all the time is to destroy the influence of reformism, of the A.L.P., in the workingclass, to defeat its ideology, its influence, its political hold on the workingclass. The rank and file of the A.L.P. must always be distinguished from the A.L.P. leadership. This is always the most profound contradiction within the A.L.P. The rank and file must be won away from the A.L.P. The Communist Party is always the leader, the initiator, the inspirer of the united front. The former Communist Party in Australia lost sight of the contradictions and politics of the united front and presented unprincipled unity as the united front.

Then, of course, the Australian labor party is not a homogeneous entity. We correctly designate it a party of capitalism because its politics serve the ruling class, the capitalist class. It has many workers in its ranks who seek socialism. We aim to show them patiently that the A.L.P. will not lead them to socialism. We aim to win them to Marxism-Leninism. The A.L.P. even in its leadership is not united. It is a party with a left, a centre and a right. It reflects the contradictions of capitalism. It reflects its own contradictory position as a party of capitalism which pretends to serve the workers. It is a party which historically has had many splits and expulsions: expulsion of the left, of the right, of individuals. It would be quite wrong to ignore all this. The united front properly led and directed takes full account of the differentiation going on at an ever accelerated speed in the A.L.P. Failing to proceed from this standpoint, the former Communist Party subordinated itself to the A.L.P. This was entirely satisfactory to the capitalist class because it meant that if the former Communist Party was subordinated to the A.L.P., it was subordinated to the capitalist class itself. It had lost its political independence and was in fact an unacknowledged appendage of one of the capitalist class’s own parties, the Australian labor party. That is the reality of the situation in the trade unions and in the whole political arena.

Criticism by the former Communist Party of the A.L.P. did not proceed from fundamentals. It proceeded from disagreement with this or that A.L.P. tactic or aspect of policy. It proceeded from the assumption of fundamental unity, and lack of unity, lack of agreement only on non-fundamental questions, whereas, of course, the exact reverse is the real position. We disagree fundamentally with the A.L.P. We disagree with its fundamental positions precisely because it is a party of capitalism and there can never be fundamental agreement with capitalism. If you fundamentally agree with capitalism then of course you accept capitalism; you do not wish to destroy it; you do not struggle for socialism. Therefore to accept the fundamental basis of the A.L.P. and to confine yourself to sporadic piecemeal criticism of this or that aspect of its policy is acceptance of the ideology, politics and even organisation of the A.L.P.

On the other hand, by firmly rejecting and exposing the fundamental basis of the A.L.P. as capitalist, it is possible to come to temporary agreements, unity, to achieve certain common objectives. They may well be agreements on very important questions. However, they will always be secondary matters because on the primary question, capitalism or socialism, there is absolutely no basis for agreement. There could be no such agreement and any such agreement is without principle and is desertion of Marxism-Leninism.

Still further, there is amongst the advanced Australian workers a striving, desire, for socialism. The idea of socialism has gained more adherents. As we have pointed out, some believe that the A.L.P. is a socialist party and support it on that basis. Naturally we are at one with the workers in their desire for socialism and that makes it all the morel incumbent on the Communists to explain that the A.L.P. is not and never has been and never will be a socialist party. On the contrary, its socialist plank is deception. It conceals the fact that the A.L.P. is a capitalist party. To slur this over, to present the socialist objective of the A.L.P. as truth, as our modern-day Australian revisionists who call themselves Communists do, is really and honestly pure and simple treachery to the workers, deception of the workers.

The fact is that the majority of the trade unions in Australia are affiliated to the A.L.P. To repeat, the spontaneous trade union consciousness which they generate is carried into the A.L.P. which reflects it, uses it to rivet the trade unions and workers to the capitalist system and develops policies and tactics strictly within the capitalist system. In the years of its existence the A.L.P. has constituted the government in the Commonwealth and in all the States and not one single solitary step towards socialism has been attempted for the very good reason that the A.L.P. is a capitalist party. For example, an examination of legislation passed by labor party governments cannot distinguish these laws from those passed by Liberal or U.A.P. governments.

There is nonsense spoken about the A.L.P. having a two-class character, i.e. presumably a workingclass and a bourgeois or petty bourgeois character. What is wrong with this characterisation? In the first place, it overlooks the real test of the character of a political party, a test obviously of common sense, and a test which Lenin himself accepted and described. That test is which class in society does a political party serve? Does it serve the capitalist class or the workingclass? From the standpoint of history and theory, the A.L.P. serves the capitalist class. That theoretical an historical analysis is more than amply borne out by practice and to any scientist, any Marxist-Leninist, the test of theory is practice. Theory is evolved from an examination, an analysis, of practice. The proposition that the A.L.P. is a two-class party is a travesty of Marxism-Leninism.

Of course, this proposition serves a purpose because the A.L.P. is a two-class party, i.e. presumably a party which serves both the workingclass and capitalist class, then it has reconciled the irreconcilable. It has reconciled the antagonism between the workers and the capitalists, a thing which we would have thought even the inventors of this theory would have hesitated to state. But it does express their real ideological and political position, namely that in the end the classes of capitalist society are reconcilable or, in other words, their acceptance of the permanence of capitalism. The adherence to this theory of the two-class character of the A.L.P. by the modern-day Australian revisionists who call themselves Communists after the error has been pointed out, indicates once more their movement towards a capitalist position. It indicates that they have abandoned altogether the striving for Marxism-Leninism.

Once more, if the A.L.P. is in truth a two-class party, then one only has to work for the dominance of the working-class in it and all will be well. If this proposition is correct, then it is entirely a practicable proposition for the working-class to win victory in the A.L.P. Its realisation would mean the elimination of any need for a Communist Party and now at this stage, if this idea is correct, the former Communist Party should throw its whole membership into this well established political party to transform the workingclass side of it into the dominant side. That is the natural outcome of it, and that is where our modern-day Australian revisionists who call themselves Communists are heading.

Commonly, when the A.L.P. leaders are asked to affiliate the Communist Party to the A.L.P. and also when questions of formal unity are raised, they reply that the Communist Party should disband itself and that all its members should join the A.L.P. Numbers of A.L.P. influenced workers put that point of view too. If the views expressed by our modern-day Australian revisionists are correct, then this view of the A.L.P. leaders and some A.L.P. workers is logically correct. There is no need for two such organisations and it is correct to say that the existence of two such organisations divides the forces. On the other hand, if the line of demarcation is drawn and maintained between the politics, ideology and organisation of the A.L.P. on the one hand and the Marxist-Leninists on the other hand, then the need to strengthen in every way the Marxist-Leninist party is obvious. The choice is clear: capitalist class, bourgeois politics, or workingclass, Marxist-Leninist politics. The maintenance of the A.L.P. and the former Communist Party as two separate parties suits the capitalists because that way they have two lines of deception of the workers, that is, in the name of the A.L.P. and in the name of Communism.

Hence there have come into being in Australia “theories” which reflect the great influence of trade union politics, the great influence of those politics in the history of the former Communist Party of Australia.

Another factor which illustrates all this in Australian conditions is the position of the Commonwealth arbitration system. Particularly in recent years does it reveal the outcome of trade union politics. Because of its system of registration of trade unions and legally enforceable awards it has greatly influenced the structure of the trade unions and greatly affected their tactics and day to day life. We have previously said that the ruling class has sought to make the trade unions instruments of the capitalist state, and so on as the trade unions do not reach beyond trade union consciousness, trade union politics, there is always the basis there for the bourgeoisie to do just that. In the years since 1949, the Australian ruling class has perfected the machinery for subjecting the trade unions to State supervision. We have commented on the compulsory government ballot legislation (legislation initiated by the Chifley Government) which opens the way for the ruling class directly taking the affairs of the trade unions out of the hands of the trade union members. Under that legislation and because of the failure of the then Communist leaders of the Ironworkers’ Federation to adopt a correct Marxist-Leninist position, the Iron workers’ Federation became a mere appendage of the gigantic Australian monopoly B.H.P., sole iron and steel producer in Australia. Under it, and again because of the failure of the then Communist leaders to adopt a correct Marxist-Leninist attitude, the Clerks’ Union suffered a similar fate. And so it goes on.

Also we have commented on the creation of the Industrial Court as a Court charged with the specific job of penalising the trade unions. In addition, there is a host of special tribunals and penal provisions for wharf labourers, seamen, coalminers. All these things reflect the weakness, the fear and the panic of the ruling class. The way to them was in fact paved by the A.L.P. when its leaders constituted the government. Because it urges reconciliation with the A.L.P (according to it, a two-class party), because it did not have a thoroughgoing Marxist-Leninist workingclass position, because flowing from this it necessarily pursued wrong tactics, the former Communist Party of Australia actually assisted this whole process and today is contained by it. Its criticism is always of the superficial, of the effects and not the causes. It does not even seek to enlighten the workers about the whole nature of capitalism and the whole nature of the capitalist state. No, its spokesmen today say that this is too advanced for the workers. The truth is, however, that acting thus the former Communist Party serves the capitalist class.

It is necessary to take a few examples. One of the important trade unions with leadership in which members of the former Communist Party held decisive positions is the Seamen’s Union. Until the mid-fifties the Seamen’s Union was virtually free from the control of the arbitration machinery. It correctly relied upon collective bargaining, direct negotiation with the ship owners. In line with the general policy of the capitalist class, the shipowners took steps to bring the Seamen’s Union within the control of the arbitration machinery. In fact, after a long hearing, an award was made in 1955 which gave comparatively high wages and comparatively favourable conditions to the seamen. This award was hailed as a great victory by the former Communist Party and by some of the former Communist leaders of the union. In part it was. But like everything else it had its inner contradictions. In the victory there was also defeat. No attempt was made to analyse the role of arbitration nor the nature of the State machine of which arbitration was part. In short, what concessions the capitalist class made through this award were money well spent because it meant that with an acceptance by the Communist leaders of arbitration in this wholehearted fashion, the seamen, noted for their militancy, were to that degree adapted to capitalism, i.e. adapted to the machinery of capitalism.

To get them within the net of arbitration was a great victory for the capitalist class and one for which a few wage increases were a very small price. The subsequent history of the Seamen’s Union demonstrated the real significance of the failure to understand the dialectics, contradictions of the award. Into the award was inserted the usual bans clause, i.e. prohibition against striking. Over the ensuing years the Seamen’s Union has been prosecuted many times for contempt of orders that its members should not strike. The effect on the Communist leaders of the union is that they have virtually abrogated even trade union struggle. The whole process culminated in an agreement with the shipowners under the conditions of which the seamen have handed over their previous hard-won right to control the supply of labour in their industry, for a few paltry economic crumbs. Confining the workers to trade union politics and failing to develop scientific consciousness and organisation the “Communist” leaders of the Seamen’s Union have done a great service to the Australian bourgeoisie. This case is taken merely as one of the most spectacular examples, because it is indeed a splendid union with a splendid membership and a proud record of struggle. Its officials merely carried out, reflected, the policy of the former Communist Party, and that policy was not a thoroughgoing Marxist-Leninist policy. As the seamen get a greater understanding of what has happened, of the process of contradiction, they will undoubtedly rectify the position.

Precisely because Communism is a splendid word and stands for honesty and integrity and correct politics in the minds of advanced workers, it is possible to use it for wrong purposes. Nor is this to single out the Communist officials of the Seamen’s Union (in any case there being one at least who resisted all this), for they merely carried out a general policy of the former Communist Party. That policy has been expressed by the officials of every other union in which the old Communists held or hold leading positions. With non-revolutionary politics the Communists are adapting the workingclass to capitalism and adapting them to capitalism in the very name of revolutionary politics. Nor do we mean to say that strike struggle is the only form of struggle: in fact worship of the strike weapon is another side of trade unionism. Strikes are important forms of struggle but preoccupation with them, making them into a fetish, into things in themselves, is not correct. The real question is a question of all forms of struggle and all strata of oppressed people guided by Marxist-Leninist politics. Because they have failed to develop the correct Marxist-Leninist outlook in themselves and in the workingclass and yet hold important positions in the very strong trade union movement in Australia, the former Communists have done great damage to the cause of revolutionary ideology, politics and organisation in Australia.

Nor does the matter rest here. The capitalist class is not composed of fools. It is very skilfully and cunningly led. It has allowed the former Communists to become members of the leading trade union body in Australia: the Interstate Executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. There have been as many as three former Communists on the interstate executive of the A.C.T.U. That should have given them positions of great influence and prestige and, working correctly, should have enabled them to assist greatly in winning the workers, certainly the advanced workers, to a correct scientific socialist position, ideologically, politically and organisationally. This was not done through no necessary fault of the individuals concerned but because they personally were imbued with trade union politics and they were members of a political party which had always been plagued by trade union politics and has now finally succumbed to revisionism.

Without any difficulty these members of the former Communist Party reached agreement with the A.L.P. reformist leaders who sat on the A.C.T.U. interstate executive. Any disagreement was upon questions which were not fundamental, i.e. they might well disagree on whether or not to take strike action on a given question, they might even disagree on the trade union attitude to be taken on a given political question. But on the fundamental question of trade union politics or revolutionary politics, they were at one. They both supported trade union politics, bourgeois politics, and that was even put forward as a splendid example of united front work. It was really a travesty of united front work. Naturally these members of the former Communist Party should have reached agreement on given campaigns and worked in support of them. That is elementary but it is only a small part of revolutionary activity. The fundamental job at all times was to work amongst the masses, to use their mass positions for mass work, to extend Communist contacts among the masses, to win the workers politically, organisationally and ideologically for Communism; above all, to build a strong revolutionary Marxist-Leninist Party. Further, while working in agreement on these matters of trade union concern where the reformists had little alternative but to struggle, since these men were avowed Communists they should have always drawn the clearest line of demarcation between Communist ideology, politics and organisation on the one hand, and reformist A.L.P. politics, ideology and organisation on the other.

As it stood, the ruling class accepted the “Communists” in the executive of the A.C.T.U. and used their positions to continue its deception of the workers. It is of very great significance that here in the leading body of the trade unions so very closely related to the A.L.P., with an interchangeable personnel between the reformist union leaders and the A.L.P., Communists were accepted. They were accepted because it paid the ruling class to use them and they were just as little threat to the ruling class as were the other A.C.T.U. leaders. They were completely adapted to the ruling class.