The Proletarian, February 1922

Unity Statements

Source: "Reason in Revolt", Source documents of Australian Radicalism;
First Published: in “The Proletarian,” February 7, 1922;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

[In last issue we stated that in this issue we would endeavour to publish the points raised by the Communist Party, 115 Goulburn Street, against the decision of Moscow on Unity; also a short statement from each party. Below we print the copy of the appeal made by the Goulburn Street party against the Moscow decision. Then we print the statement supplied by the Goulburn street party. This is in the form of a letter to Earsman, in which is stated the position of Goulburn street on the question of Unity. Then follows the statement supplied by the Communist Party, Station House.]

Appeal against the Decision of the Comintern on Australian Unity

The Executive Committee of the Comintern, Moscow.

Comrades, – Under instructions from the Central Executive of our Party, I have to notify you that we have now received the Reports of our Delegates to the Third Congress, together with the instructions on the question of Communist Unity in Australia.

Having given the matter very serious consideration, we herewith enter an appeal against the aforesaid decision on the following grounds: –

We understand that up to time of the lamentable death of our esteemed Comrade, Paul Freeman, we were definitely affiliated to the Comintern and fully recognised as the Australian Section. We understand further that Com. Freeman sat on the Executive of the Comintern as our representative. In view of these facts, we are of the opinion that the attitude of the Small Bureau should have been to instruct the group represented by Earsman to apply for membership in the already affiliated Australian Section. If our viewpoint on this matter is held to be incorrect, the Small Bureau will perhaps inform us what is to be gained by affiliation to the Comintern, and also whether the Comintern owes any duty to its Sections?

The next point on which our appeal is based is in connection with the status of the individuals that opposed us when the matter was dealt with by the Small Bureau. W. P. Earsman was supported by W. Smith. Smith had no credentials when he arrived in London, but was supplied with them by Earsman when he arrived in Moscow, and Earsman then stated that Smith had been credentialled by the Melbourne Communist Group. We wrote to Melbourne inquiring if Smith had been credentialed by them, and I beg to quote herewith the reply received under the date of October 18th, 1921, signed by the Comrade who was Secretary of the Melbourne Group at the time Smith left Australia: –

“With regard to your second request – No delegate left Australia for Moscow, or anywhere else, with credentials from Melbourne Branch. Will Smith, Secretary of the Australian Railways Union, went to Russia as a result of the visit to Melbourne of the delegate of the Red T.U. International. He was invited to the first Conference called in Melbourne by your representatives and Baker and Baracchi, but did not attend, sending a message approving of the formation of a Communist Party, but like a lot more was eager to get the trip to Russia. If he has represented himself as a delegate from Melbourne of the Communist Party, it is in keeping with the actions of a Trade Union-Labor Opportunist. He went to Russia, strange as it may seem , as the representative of the reactionary 2nd International Yellow crowd of the Trades Hall Council.
"Yours, for the Proletarian Revolution,
"(signed) Charles E. France.”

From the above it will be obvious that W. Smith is not, and never has been, a member of the Communist Movement of Australia, and we would like to be informed, therefore, if it is customary for the Comintern to cancel the affiliation of its Sections, upon the representations of such an individual, who is known only to the Australian Working-class Movement as a base opportunist. The action of Earsman in utilising the assistance of such an individual, and in such a manner, places him also in the same category, and we hold that Earsman should receive the immediate attention of the Comintern.

In forwarding this appeal, we desire also to protest against the action of the Small Bureau in suspending our affiliation from the date of its decision. We were of the opinion that same could only be done for a breach of Third International principles, and we would be glad, therefore, for information as to when or how we transgressed.

We submit this appeal and relative matter in the hope that it will receive the careful consideration of the Small Bureau; at the same time assuring you that we are actuated by a desire to preserve the prestige of the Third International, and o save its good repute from the designs of those who, by their machinations, tend to make it a thing of scorn and contumely to the working-class of Australia.

On behalf of the Central Executive, and with fraternal greeting.

A.S. Reardon
Hon, Gen. Sec.

Statement Supplied by the Communist Party, Goulburn Street.

Letter to Earsman – 4th January, 1922, after Earsman Rawstrong, and Marushak had addressed our Conference on the Unity question: –

Mr. W.P. Earsman, –

As you are already aware, Conference has endorsed the policy of the C.F. re Unity, and the reply of your Acting Gen. Sec. on December 21st, 1921. I was instructed to supply the following reasons for this decision: –

After hearing your delegates, Conference was more than ever convinced that the attitude taken up by the Executive was correct. Replies to questions admitted the existence of undesirables in your Party; also that no attempt had been made to deal with the same. Charges of blabbing treachery and opportunism were not denied. Two of your delegates were convicted, as they stood, of contradictory and lying statements.

Our Party was urged to unite in order to assist in expelling an admittedly bad element, and finally threatened re our standing in Moscow if we refused.

Conference instructed me to state that at all times this Party, as the A.S.P. and now the C.P. of A., has never failed to deal with any individual within its ranks who has violated principles or party discipline; they leave it to you to do your own cleaning up in that respect. If your rank and file is not prepared to take action against individuals which, through its delegates, it admits are corrupt, then their claims to be Communist falls to the ground.

The C.P. of A. is acting on principle, and in an endeavour to build up a clean, solid Party in Australia; and therefore threats as to what action Moscow might be induced to take on our questioning its behests would have no effect beyond confirming that our previous opinion of your Party as being non-Communist.

Re your communication on 27/12/21 – In it you state that your delegates were officially informed in Russia that our Party was not affiliated to the Third International. Against this we have the word of our three delegates – Lamb, Rees, and the late Paul Freeman, who were all definite on the point that our Party was affiliated with, and recognised by, the Third International. Also, in a pamphlet entitled “The Third International,” written by Boris Souvarine, we are listed as the only Party in Australia recognised by that body.

This evidence, we are assured, would stand against the statements of men like Earsman and Smith, the former of whom is included among those whom your rank and file, as represented by your delegates, acknowledge to be totally unworthy of a place in the Communist Movement; and the latter who was repudiated by the Branch with which he claims membership.

Regarding this W. Smith, you claim in your letter that he was a member of your Party. I am instructed to call your attention to the fact that at our Conference Comrade Maruchak admitted that he was not, and added to this we have the written statement of your late Secretary of your Melbourne Branch: –

“With regard to your second request – No delegate left Australia for Moscow, or anywhere else, with credentials from Melbourne Branch. Will Smith, Secretary of the Australian Railways Union, went to Russia as a result of the visit to Melbourne of the delegate of the Red T.U. International. He was invited to the first Conference called in Melbourne by your representatives and Baker and Baracchi, but did not attend, sending a message approving of the formation of a Communist Party, but like a lot more was eager to get the trip to Russia. If he has represented himself as a delegate from Melbourne of the Communist Party, it is in keeping with the actions of a Trade Union-Labor Opportunist. He went to Russia, strange as it may seem , as the representative of the reactionary 2nd International Yellow crowd of the Trades Hall Council.
"Yours, for the Proletarian Revolution,
"(signed) Charles E. France.”

The above comrade was fully conversant with the Melbourne Branch’s books since its inception. We have likewise an admission from Mr. Earsman at our Conference that he (Earsman) was aware before he left Australia that Smith was practically convicted of blabbing to the Press regarding Freeman’s visit to Australia.

If under these circumstances Mr. Earsman admittedly credentialled Smith, and the Executive endorsed his action as stated in your letter, we say definitely and unhesitatingly that it brands every member upon it as traitors to the Third International and the Communist Movement of the World.

The conditions re Unity were NOT unanimously agreed to by our delegates, but were drawn by the Small Bureau after Com. Lamb had put his Minority Report.

In conclusion, I am instructed to state that so far as we are concerned, the Communists of Australia ARE UNITED: unfortunately we have no power to prevent individuals calling themselves what they please, but “actions speak louder than words,” and while the rank and file of your Party endorses by its silence the actions of its officials, which the members admit are against the best interests of the Communist Movement, they not only forfeit all claim to the title of Communist, but range themselves on the side of the counter-revolutionaries. It is for them to manifest their worthiness by action, not continue to give adherence to those whom they condemn.

On behalf of the Communist Party of Australia,

(signed) Marcia Reardon
Acting Gen. Sec.

Statement Supplied by the Communist Party, Station House

Moscow’s Demand for Unity Rejected.

[Only a brief statement of the negotiations between the two Communist Parties can be given here. Readers of “The Proletarian” who would like to acquaint themselves with the full facts of the matter are referred to the special Unity number of “The Communist,” June 24, 1921, and to the full final statement of the Central Executive on the matter given in “The Communist” of January 20, 1922, from which the following statement is taken, Readers are also asked to see the issue of “The Communist” for January 27 for the call issued by the Central Executive to all Communists to an All-Australian Communist Conference for the purpose of meeting the wishes of the Communist International and forming a UNITED COMMUNIST PARTY OF AUSTRALIA.]

In October, 1920, the Communist Party of Australia was formed. The new party included part of the A.S.P. The Executive of the A.S.P. endorsed the Party, and recommended their branches to join up. (See Correspondence in the Unity Number.) Later the A.S.P. changed their mind and withdrew from the Communist Party in December. They then changed the name of their party from the Australian Socialist Party to the Communist Party of Australia. From that day to this the A.S.P. has rejected every proposal for uniting the two parties put forward by this party, and have now rejected the demands of the Communist International.

A review of the unity negotiations during the past year will show that this party has tried ever since the split to bring the two parties together; it will also show that every attempt has been met with lies, slander, and personal abuse.

Delegates were sent to the Third Congress of the Communist International by both parties. The unity question was brought before the Small Bureau of the Comintern, and its decision was that the two parties must unite before the end of January 1922. One of their two delegates on the Small Bureau voted for the decision, believing that the matter should be referred back to Australia. (Why the matter should be referred back to the parties seeing that they had already failed to agree, is a mystery known only to the delegate.)

The first information to reach our executive was a cable stating that Moscow had demanded unity. This was published in “The Communist” of September 2nd. Nothing was published by the A.S.P. to show that they were aware of the decision.

Towards the end of October we received from our delegate, Comrade Earsman, the full text of the decision of the Small Bureau, which was published in “The Communist” of October 21st. Again not one word was published in the “International Communist” to show that they either received or recognised the decision of the Small Bureau.

The Decision

The decision of the Small Bureau reads as follows: –

  1. In view of the fact that there is no difference in principle, programme, or tactics, excepting differences arising out of local trouble, this meeting to-day proposes to the Commission of the Small Bureau to recommend an immediate unity of the two parties before the end of January, 1922, this unity to take place at a general conference representing both parties.
  2. That a Committee of Action be set up, composed of three delegates from each organisation, whose work shall be to prepare the agenda for the Unity Conference.
  3. That the basis for representation for the for the Conference be one delegate for every fifty members of the party.
  4. All representation at Moscow to be suspended until unity is achieved and one United Communist Party for Australia is formed.

Signed by the Executive Committee of the Communist International

Moscow, August 20, 1921.

The above decision was endorsed by the Central Executive, and by every branch of the party. Immediately a Council of Action was appointed and the Secretary of the A.S.P. was notified to that effect. A reply was received stating that they would not act in the matter until their delegates had returned. There the matter rested until all the Australian delegates returned.

On his return, the General Secretary, Comrade Earsman, the party delegate to the Third Congress, delivered his report to the Executive, which was endorsed; the same report was later endorsed by the party conference. The Executive decided to again open up negotiations with the A.S.P. and asked them to meet our representatives.

Here was a test of sincerity. Nothing could be settled until a preliminary discussion had taken place, where points of difference could be thrashed out, and a basis of unity agreed upon. Our desire had been to meet the officials of the A.S.P. face to face in debate. So far they always avoided this; they have always sought refuge in slander and abuse, and have refused to meet us and prove their lying charges. We thought the authority of the Moscow decision would at least compel them to enter into negotiations with our representatives, but on December 23rd we received from them a reply stating that they had appealed against the decision of the Small Bureau, that they were affiliated to the Communist International, and that they refused to meet us.

As to their affiliation, we challenge the officials of the A.S.P. to print in their official organ, the “International Communist,” the documentary proof of their affiliation. This will settle the question once for all, and will convince not only members of this party, but members of their own party. Our General Secretary reports that the A.S.P. is not, and never has been affiliated to the Third International under any name at any time. As our General Secretary was the only member of the Australian delegation to sit upon the Executive Committee, he was in a position to verify this fact. This statement that they were affiliated, is but another mis-statement – if not, let them publish the proof.

But again we were defeated by the disruptionists in trying to carry out the wishes of the Communist International, again we find the same flimsy excuses to avoid meeting our Executive in open debate on the relation of the two parties, and the unity of the Communist movement.

The next step was taken at our party Conference. At this Conference were delegates from Cairns, Innisfail, Brisbane, Newcastle, the four Sydney branches, and Melbourne. The Melbourne delegate moved that the first business of the Conference by Unity. This was carried, and after discussion, it was agreed to send three representatives from the Conference to address the Conference of the A.S.P. which was sitting at the same time. Comrades Maruschak, Rawstrong, and Earsman attended their Conference and repeated that this party wished to carry out the decision of the Third International on Unity, and was prepared to again open up negotiations for that purpose. The Conference stated that they would send us a reply on the following day. On the following day a communication was handed to one of our delegates, stating that the Conference endorsed the decision of their C.E.

Here the matter ends. Every delegate on our Conference was satisfied that no unity could be achieved.

Our party is both young and weak, but in it is contained the material for revolution. It stands for the principles and tactics of the Communist International; around it must be built the future Communist Party of Australia. We call upon all sincere revolutionaries who are prepared to accept the Communists’ position to rally to the party as the only party which puts principle above personalities, sincerity above slander, action above abuse, and has no need to defend its existence by malicious lies.

We are the original Communist Party of Australia, and the only party willing to carry out the demands of the Communist International. While the party is both young and weak, it is yet old enough to stand alone and to take its place as the revolutionary party of the workers, the party which will become the real advance guard of the Australian workers, and will remain the Communist Party of Australia, the Australian section of the Third Communist International.

SIGNED, Central Executive of the Communist Party if Australia.

January 20, 1922.