Comintern History. Communist Party of Australia 1944
THE formation of the Communist Party (October 30, 1920) was one of the decisive revolutionary acts of the Australian working class. The formation of the Communist Party in Australia was the outcome of the experience of the working class gleaned in the struggles and growth of the labor movement from 1890 to 1920. In this period, the working class experienced the limitations of “Liberal” labor governments and reformist trade unionism. It experienced the futility and bankruptcy of socialist sectarianism (Socialist Labor Party, Australian Socialist Party, etc) and anarcho-syndicalism (Industrial Workers of the World).
The formation of the Communist Party represented the victory of Marxism-Leninism over various petty-bourgeois-pacifist “Socialist” theories (Victorian Socialist Party, “Peaceful-Revolution,” “Fabianism,” etc).
At last the Australian workers started to find the true path to their emancipation, i.e. along the lines of the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism, embodied in the Communist Party.
The formation of the Communist Party was therefore one of the historical milestones on the road of the Australian working class toward its liberation.
The first four years of the Communist Party, which coincided with the world revolutionary crisis following the imperialist world war and the Great October Socialist Revolution in the former Tsarist Empire, were marked by:
(a) The struggle to unite the revolutionaries, the A.S.P. and the Communist Party and the Anarcho-Syndicalists of the Industrial Union Propaganda League (former I.W.W.). Part of the membership of both these organisations was absorbed in the “United” Communist Party by 1923.
(b) The hammering out, with the help of the Communist International, of a broad program for the Labor movement based on the struggle for their immediate demands and Lenin’s united front tactics.
In the first period, the Party organ “The Communist” in its content was more of a theoretical organ, it dealt mainly with principles and wrote in an abstract fashion. Something of this was due to the need to explain Communist theory against the ideas of Anarcho-Syndicalism and opportunism, and by the fact that the Party did not possess a theoretical organ.
One of the first campaigns conducted with fair success by the Communists was the Relief Campaign for the Russian famine, which resulted from the imperialist war, the imperialist intervention and the blockade of Soviet Russia. This campaign was led by the N.S.W. Labor Council and by J. B. Miles in Brisbane. By 1923 the Party was struggling on a broad program of affiliation to the A.L.P. and a comprehensive trade union program. It conducted a good campaign around the needs of the coalminers and the miners’ strike of that year.
This re-orientation by the Party, its turn towards the mass working class organisations, the commencement of work in the trade unions, marked a new decisive turn in the revolutionary movement of this country, away from the sectarian attitude of the I.WW. and the Socialist sects which preceded the C.P., towards work in the mass proletarian organisations.
At first, big successes were achieved. The Party delegates led important trade union conferences and had the Party’s right to affiliation to the Labor Party recognised at the N.S.W. Labor Party Conference in 192 3, and participated in the strikes and unemployed struggles of the time. It strongly influenced the N.S.W. Labor Council and various trade union organisations. It initiated and led the fight for the establishment of the A.C.T.U., and its growing influence brought about the adoption of the “Socialisation'’ objective by the A.L.P.
The highwater mark of this period was passed in 1922-23. The reformist leaders, headed by Lang and Loughlin in N.S.W. commenced a bitter struggle against the Communists. The A.L.P. executive, despite the conference decision, removed Garden and Howie, Party leaders of that time, from the N.S.W. A.L.P. executive, expelled the Communists and prevented them, by means of, the anti-Communist pledge, from attending A.L.P. conferences as Union delegates in future. Similarly, the fight was waged against the Communists in the unions by right wing bureaucrats.
The Party received a setback. The main causes were the organisational and numerical weakness of the Party, and the ideological and other weaknesses of its then leadership.
The world revolutionary wave following the Russian Revolution had receded and capitalism had achieved its temporary relative stabilisation ( 1924~29) and even entered a boom period. This again strengthened reformist illusions among the masses and strengthened the right wing, and gave it a basis to consolidate itself and deal blows to the young revolutionary movement. The Party in N.S.W. forced into isolation, began to build a left wing in the trade unions and ran the first independent Communist Parliamentary candidates in 1925. These candidates polled a very small vote, 300 for J. S. Garden being the biggest vote recorded.
This situation caused a crisis in the leadership of the Party, which became liquidationist. G. Barrachi, who later again ratted in the tense situation at the outbreak of the present war, moved a motion that the Communist Party liquidate itself and join the A.L.P. as individual members “as the organisation of the Party in Australia was premature.”
Barrachi received little open support, but practically the whole of the executive, including Garden, looked on as the leader of the Party (who was expelled), and Denford, former General Secretary, as well as most of the candidates who stood in the elections and others, left the Party and went over to reformism, in most cases seeking jobs in the A.L.P. and trade unions. To a lesser degree, the same thing happened in all the Party centres. Many prominent former militants outside the Party organisation acted in a similar fashion. The Left wing movement was at a low ebb at this time.
However, the liquidationists did not put an end to the Party. Some of the older foundation members, such as Comrades Miles, Docker, Jeffery and others, maintained the Party together with newer forces growing up in the Party (Wright, Sharkey and others). The later Right Wing-Sectarian group of Kavanagh and Jack Ryan also opposed the liquidationists at this period. The Party, despite everything, despite a developing new internal crisis, survived.
The Party conducted a number of international campaigns in the first decade of its existence. The more important of these were the solidarity campaign with the great Chinese national revolution, the “Hands off China” campaign, which exposed the armed violence of the British Imperialists against the Chinese people in their efforts to crush the revolution; assistance to the striking British seamen, many thousands of whom had left their ships in Australian ports, and solidarity also with the British General Strike in 1926, and the British miners, who continued the strike for a lengthy period.
Another big campaign, in which the Party was able to secure stoppages of work at a number of enterprises, was that conducted against the electrocution of Sacco and Vanzetti in the United States.
A considerable campaign was devoted to the Pan-Pacific Trade Union Secretariat, i.e., to the organisation of the workers of the Pacific countries in an international federation and especially in defence of the great Indian National movement.
In 1929 the Party entered an election campaign with its own candidates for the second time. The world economic crisis was then on the way and the Labor Government in Queensland was particularly reactionary; in conjunction with the C.I., what was called the “Queensland Resolution” was worked out, which included the running of candidates in that State. J. B. Miles, then living in Queensland, left industry to become a Party functionary (the Party usually had only two paid officials, the General Secretary and Editor, in its first ten years of existence) and lead this campaign.
In the 1927-29 period, the Party carried on a big campaign against the “Industrial Peace” policy of the bourgeoisie and the reformist leaders, who were holding “peace” conferences; against the Crimes Act, introduced by the Bruce Government, and also the Transport Act which was introduced after the defeat of the Watersiders in 1928 (“Dog Collar”) and the literature ban against Soviet and overseas literature of a working class character. It also carried on a campaign in preparation for the great Miners’ lockout (1929-30) and the Minority Movement developed a good campaign around the mining issues.
However, from 1926 the dominant leadership of the Party, headed by Kavanagh, was drawing the Party away from the mass movement. It would have nothing to do with work in the A.L.P., refusing to utilise oppositional and factional fights within the Labor Party; indeed, this leadership framed a rule that “Every Party member must declare his Party membership” in order to prevent work in the A.L.P. On the trade union question, this leadership declared that a Communist could only take office in a union when the majority of the union members accepted Communism and even then, Kavanagh declared, must return to work after two years! declare with J. S. Garden, who had been expelled, could considerable truth that the Party had isolated itself from the mass movement of the workers.
This canker rendered the campaigns of the Party ineffective. This sectarianism was opposed by a strong group in the Sydney membership and comrades elsewhere. The leaders of the then C.C. were not particular as to the methods of maintaining their control. For the Xmas, 1927. Party Conference, they prepared by organising “new branches” in the far north of Queensland, each of which gave a proxy vote to members of the Kavanagh faction, who arrived at the Conference with from three to five votes apiece. Norman Jeffery, J. Ryan and myself were removed,, from the C.C. by this means, in order to preserve the majority of the ruling faction. Nothing was ever heard of most of these, branches again!
No information about this internal struggle appeared in the Party press between 1926/28. It first became public in 1929.
The Sixth Congress of the Communist International, meeting in Moscow in 1928, had foreseen the coming of the World Economic crisis and had proposed measures, which were further elaborated at the Tenth Plenum of the E.C.C.I., to meet the new world situation, the historic end of “temporary, relative capitalist stabilisation.” The C.I. had indicated the role reformism would play in the crisis, i.e., assist the bourgeoisie in every shape and form, resort to strike-breaking and splitting the workers, etc., in order to protect capitalism.
In this new situation, it was necessary to develop the sharpest struggle against the reformist leaders, and for the Party to, independently lead the struggles of the masses. The former sectarian leaders became part and parcel of the international right wing which had appeared in the Communist parties at that time. Like Lovestone in the U.S.A., Kavanagh oracularly declared that “Australia was an exception” (theory of “Exceptionalism”), that it would not experience the economic crisis (although the crisis was well advanced at this time), that “Moscow was 15,000 miles away” and did not comprehend the situation of Australia. Therefore, the C.C., with the exception of Moxon and myself, refused to implement the decisions of the Sixth Congress and the Tenth Plenum.
The struggle came to a head over the Federal Elections, 19 29, The minority two members of the C.C. advocated that Party candidates be run, that the role of the Labor Party leaders, when they became the government, of suppressing the workers and placing the burdens of the crisis on the backs of the masses, be thoroughly exposed and that the Party’s tactics be based on these premises. The majority decided to run no candidates and to support the Labor Party in the elections.
The struggle was carried down into the ranks of the Party. The literature ban of the Bruce government made it difficult for the Party members to know what the policy of the Comintern was. The C.C. refused to publish what material on the “line” did get into the country, and Moxon and myself published one of these documents on our own responsibility in order to acquaint the members with the viewpoint of our brother parties. We were censured for this by the C.C. majority, and threatened with expulsion if the offence was repeated. We gained the overwhelming support of the members, headed by Miles and Dixon, who were not on the C.C. Moxon and myself decided ‘to appeal to the E.C.C.I. against this decision and cabled Moscow. receiving a reply endorsing our views. A letter which followed summed up the situation.
Here is an extract from the letter of the C.I. to the Australian Party members, dated October 13, 1929, which answered our appeal:
“Consequently, the decision of the majority of your C.C. to support the Labor Party in the last elections is a glaring example of grave Right deviation deserving the severest condemnation.
“The whole policy of the Party finds its crowning expression in the following ‘statement of the ‘Workers’ Weekly’ (August 2, 1929):
‘In this country there will he no strike on August 1. Not that Australian workers have less need than our fellow workers in Europe to demonstrate against imperialist war and the warmongers, but that in this country the lines of the struggle have not yet become so clear and the working class is only beginning to realise that its enemy is capitalism and the capitalist State.
‘The task of Militants in this country is not yet to lead the working class in a direct challenge to capitalism, but to popularise the basic ideas of the class struggle amongst the workers, their wives and children.'
“To this we would add the following passage from the resolution passed at your last Party Conference in December, 1928:
‘We must not lose sight of the fact that the way to the C.P. leads through this Left wing . . . not because we want it to transfer these masses directly from the path of reformism and Labor Party illusions to our own revolutionary ideology and action, but because these masses still hesitate to do so.
‘This transformation is not effected through political miracles, nor will we accomplish it through virtuous isolation of the C.P. from the masses, but it is a long and difficult process whose various phases we must help in speeding up.'
“It must be said that such statements border on liquidatorism. They are. a denial of the elementary principles of the role and functions of the Communist Party as laid down by the Communist International.
“In the light of these statements the decided Right deviation of the Communist Party of Australia becomes comprehensible. It also explains why the Party still has such poor organisational contacts with the masses and, why it has made no headway on the road towards becoming a Mass Party of the working class.
“Apparently, the Party regards itself as being merely a propaganda body and as a sort of adjunct to the Left Wing of the Labor Party, whereas our conception of the role and functions of the Communist Party is that it should be the leader of the working class and the principal driving force in its political and economic struggles.
“Instead of this the Communist Party of Australia is content to trail behind the working class and to preach to ‘The workers, their wives and children.’ The Party grossly underestimates the intensity of the class struggle in Australia and fails to appreciate its role in this struggle.
“Clearly, as long as this state of affairs continues it is hopeless to expect the Communist Party of Australia to he anything more than a relative handful of propagandists ... however ardent ... isolated from the masses.
“We earnestly urge you, and the whole of the Party membership, to submit your policy and tactics to a thorough overhauling, and we are convinced that, if you really have the cause of Communism at heart, you will radically alter your course and henceforth pursue the line of the Communist International.
At the following Party Congress, Xmas 1929, the Rightwing: leadership of J. Kavanagh, J. Ryan and E. Higgins, then editor of the “Workers’ Weekly,” was overwhelmingly defeated and a new C.C. elected.
Kavanagh and other right wing leaders published declarations repudiating their errors and promising loyal adherence to Party decisions. Despite pledges, factional opposition to the C.C. was continued, which ultimately led to the expulsion of Kavanagh and Ryan from the Party.
The new C.C. commenced to act energetically at once. Organisers were despatched to the coalfields, where the lock-out had been proceeding for nine months, without the semblance of action by the right wing C.C., other than material in the “Workers’ Weekly.” The Party raised the slogan of “All-out” in the mining industry to assist the locked out men in the northern N.S.W. coalfield. It set about organising rank and file strike committees and vigorously exposed the reformist officials of the Union, and the Scullin Labor Government, which had promised to “open the pits” in its election propaganda, but, despite large financial donations by the miners to its election fund, had cynically dishonored its promise and supported the coal barons.
The struggle in the coalfields became intense. The N.S.W, government, the coalowners and the police chiefs began a reign, of terror. Arrests, gaolings, batonings, the raiding of miners’ homes and other forms of intimidation against the miners were practised on a large scale. The Party and militant miners began to organise a Workers’ Defence Corps, in reply.
The government of Bavin then placed “scabs” in the mine at Rothbury. This resulted in a general march of the miners; to the pit, where the police opened fire with their revolvers,. killing one miner and injuring a number of others.
The Party’s fight for a general stoppage was sabotaged by the reformists who eventually forced the miners back to work on the terms of the owners and the government.
This campaign laid the foundations of the Party’s influence among the miners, and led to the election of Orr and Nelson and the strong position the Party still holds in the miners’ organisations. Had the right wing C.C. been removed earlier, the victory ,of the miners might have been secured.
The right wing “theory” of “Exceptionalism” was refuted and the line of the C.I. and the new C.C. was confirmed with a vengeance. The economic crisis was now raging at its height. At least half a million were unemployed. The Party commenced to organise the unemployed in the Unemployed Workers’ Movement (U.W.M.). The campaign of the unemployed was directed at an increase in the “ dole,” a rent allowance, provision of work at award rates, and against evictions, etc.
In every city and large industrial town there were unemployed meetings and demonstrations. Lang was now in office in N.S.W. and, besides the Federal Labor Government, there were also Labor administrations in Victoria (Hogan), S.A. (Hill), and Tasmania. These Labor governments commenced a reign of terror against the unemployed. Processions of the unemployed were everywhere batoned and anti-evictionists, who barricaded themselves in the homes of threatened workers, were forcibly ejected by the police with batons and sometimes drawn revolvers. Numbers were injured in these conflicts. Lang excelled, in this bashing of the unemployed, and there were more workers in gaol for political offences at this period under Lang than ever before in N.S.W. Hogan and Hill vied with Lang in violence against the workless, as did the Tory governments of Queensland and W.A. However, concessions were often won and the Party .secured wide recognition among the workers and grew rapidly as a result of its activity among the unemployed. Of Leftist and sectarian errors there were plenty of examples; such as cases .of declaring the dole “black,” and in relation to the police, when Party speakers often antagonised the rank and. file police instead ,of directing their blows at the police chiefs and the governments.
The new C.C. set about establishing the first factory branches and, after its first year of office, was able to report that the Party membership had increased fourfold.
The C.C. also concentrated on work in the Trade Unions; the strengthening of fractions in the Labor Councils and unions, giving many leads to trade unionists; we were busy organising rank and file strike committees, shop committees, and vigorously, if often in a somewhat Leftist fashion, combating the right wing bureaucracy. — The Party at this period conducted activities too manifold to be recounted in detail. Much was done to popularise the Soviet Union and the Five Year Plan at this time.
H. Moxon, who became General Secretary following the removal of the right wing from the leadership of the Party, revealed his own policies as Left-adventurism mixed with right wing errors. This led to a breach with the C.C. and Moxon’s removal from the General Secretaryship and subsequent expulsion.
Comrade Miles was elected General Secretary in 1931, transferring from Brisbane, where he had headed the Party organisation, to Sydney, and 1 had succeeded E. Higgins as editor of the “Workers’ Weekly.”
The analysis of those opposed to the right wing, that is, that the A.L.P. in office during the “depression” would further organise and develop the capitalist offensive commenced by the Bruce-Page government in 1928-29, was borne out in full.
This offensive was preceded by the “Industrial Peace” campaign of the bourgeoisie and the reformists, based on what was called “Mondism” in Britain, and “Fordism” in the U.S.A. The favourite theme of the reformists then was that “Ford had refuted Marx.” Four big bankers came from England with “Industrial Peace” talk on their lips, but in reality to organise the attack on the Australian masses and their living standards.
The Party had considerable success in fighting against the “ Big Four” and the fake “Industrial Peace” campaign, despite its being sponsored by Garden, then at the height of his power in the trade unions, and by the reformist leaders in general. We influenced the Sydney Labor Council and other important organisations to reject it and popularised the slogan “ Class against Class.” The “Big Four” were later followed by Sir Otto Niemeyer, who demanded that the Australian bourgeoisie and the reformists set their house in order, that is, destroy labor conditions and living standards, in order to meet their “obligations” to the British bankers by the payment of vast sums of interest and other moneys “owed” to the London parasites.
The voice of the masters was heeded by the Scullin-Theodore government, who put the capitalist economic experts to work formulating a plan for the economic offensive against the masses. Scullin and Theodore called together the State Premiers (Premiers’ Conference) to discuss and adopt this “plan” which became known as the “Premiers’ Plan.”
The Party sounded the alarm and began an intense struggle against the Premiers’ Plan with the slogan “Make the rich pay,” pointing out that the aim of the Premiers’ Plan was to place the burdens of the crisis on the backs of the poor.
Lang, N.S.W. Premier, who was the first signatory to, the Premiers’ Plan, and chaired the meeting at which it was adopted by the assembled Premiers and bourgeois “ experts,” and who hastened to put it into operation in N.S.W. commenced a demagogic campaign against the Premiers’ Plan in Words, and, put forward a “ plan” of his own, the so-called Lang “plan,” the main feature of which was not repudiation of debt, which the Party advocated, but the suspension of payments to London for three years.
Lang largely came into prominence way back in the early twenties by his bitter campaign against the Communists and the militants, which assured him of plenty of capitalist press publicity and support of the reformist Rightwing bureaucracy, who feared and hated the Communists. All through the Party’s history this struggle against Lang and Langism occupied a prominent place. This struggle now reached new heights of intensity. Lang’s wordy protests against the Premiers’ Plan, despite his brutality against the unemployed and open breaking of strikes, won for him a great mass following. The greatest demonstration, in size, yet witnessed in Sydney, marched under the slogan: “Lang is Right.”
The Party was correct in pointing out that Lang himself was a Premiers’ Planner; that his attitude was demagogic and that he was utilising mass sentiment in order to increase his own bureaucratic control over the Labor Movement and to further his own personal ambitions, such as transferring to the Federal Parliament and becoming Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. But the Party did not sufficiently develop proposals of its own, aiming at carrying the mass movement beyond Lang, did not develop united front tactics sufficiently with the masses supporting Lang, did not link itself with and become an integral part of this mass movement, but was more intent on exposing Lang’s treatment of the unemployed, his strike-breaking, his anti-Communism and signing of the Premiers’ Plan. This often resulted in head-on collisions with the enthusiastic, though misled Langites; it was sectarian in many respects. The exposure of Lang was of course a political necessity, but the language in which it was often couched was more likely to repel the Langites, and united front tactics were often entirely neglected or incorrectly applied. Another example of this arose in connection with the struggle against the fascist New Guard. This organisation was formed because of the fears of the ruling class of the vast mass activity of the time, the continuous violent conflicts between the unemployed and the police, strikers and the police, and the mounting waves of mass discontent and activity. Upon the formation of the New Guard by Colonel Eric Campbell, the Party called for a united front against fascism and formed a committee to conduct the struggle politically, and to organise the defence of working class meetings.
The New Guards were everywhere attacking workers’ meetings, assaulting speakers and starting riots. The Workers’ Defence Corps, which had developed out of the unemployed and anti-eviction fights, took up the challenge and fought and repelled the New Guard attacks, and finally drove them from the streets. The Langites, who were always splitters, and had tried to destroy the unity of the unemployed by setting up their own organisations, also issued a slogan of building a Labor Army under their control to oppose the fascists. Instead of united front tactics with the Labor Army, instead of seizing the opportunity for the organisation of the vast masses behind Lang and bringing them into the fight against the New Guard and the bourgeoisie, the Party opposed the formation of the Labor Army.
Such were the sectarian mistakes that marred the undoubtedly great work and devoted struggle of the Party during the struggle against the Premiers’ Plan and the reactionary policy of the Labor governments and pseudo-radical Langism. Despite these mistakes, the Party membership and influence grew enormously as a result of the Party’s leadership and firm struggle during the stormy years of the depression.
In the period of the depression, the Communist Party had to defend its own legal position.
In 1926, the Bruce Government had amended the Crimes Act in order to outlaw the Communists. The older “sedition” clauses against “inciting disaffection against the Government or Parliament” and “to promote feelings of hostility and ill-will between different classes of His Majesty’s subjects” for which one could be imprisoned for three years, were considered insufficient. In 1926, clauses about “revolution,” “sabotage,” and “violence” were inserted, making illegal an organisation which “encourages” these by its “constitution” or “propaganda.” In addition, what has been regarded as a basic principle of British justice, the belief that an accused is innocent until proved guilty, was reversed. The accused is guilty until proved innocent. The “averment” of the prosecutor is “prima facie evidence.”
Harold Devanny was convicted and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for asking for funds through the “Workers’ Weekly” for the August 1st Anti-War Conference, 1932. No less than 64 trade unions were represented at this conference. The charge declared the Communist Party “an illegal organisation.”
A big mass campaign was waged in defence of Devanny and the Party’s legality. The High Court in December, 1932, by a majority of five to one, quashed the conviction. So was defeated the first attempt to ban our Party.
On numerous occasions the Party had to defend its right to speak in public places. Scores of members have been gaoled or fined in the various “free speech” fights. In 1935 more than 100 were summonsed for selling literature or collecting money in the Sydney Domain alone. With the support of the masses, the Party has always succeeded in vindicating its legal right as an Australian workers’ party.
The victory of fascism in Germany in 1933 and the intensified preparations for a new world war, together with the partial lifting of the economic crisis (“the depression of a peculiar kind” — Stalin) confronted the parties of the Communist International with a changed situation and new tasks.
The Seventh World Congress of the C.I. decided upon fundamental changes in Party policy and tactics, and the period from the Seventh World Congress was dominated by the acute international situation. The Party’s main slogan became “Against Fascism and War.”
From its inception and, acting upon Lenin’s injunction that, failing the success of the Socialist revolution in the main capitalist countries, the bourgeoisie would prepare new wars . . . . the Party had persistently warned, organised and prepared the workers against imperialist war. Now the struggle against the outbreak of war was concrete and immediate.
The Party fought for an alliance with the Soviet Union and for international collective security against the’ aggressors, with particular stress on a Pacific collective security pact for the maintenance of peace and the security of this country. It fought relentlessly against reactionary legislation and all fascist tendencies within Australia.
The Party initiated a boycott of Japanese goods and organised strikes against the despatch of war materials to japan. It came out strongly in support of Abyssinia, China and Spain, who were fighting fascist aggression. The Party organised an Australian detachment of the International Brigade to fight on the side of the Spanish Republic. A number of Party members (Bill Morcom, Bill Young and others) gave their lives in the right against fascism in Spain. The Party fiercely combated the treacherous policies of the bourgeoisie and the reformist leaders, i.e., “appeasement,” “non-intervention” and “isolation,” the latter being the chief slogan of the right wing of the A.L.P. It exposed Munich and the plans of Chamberlain to strengthen Hitler and promote a Soviet-German war. The Party strove for the unity of the workers, and a People’s Front movement as the key organisation against fascism and war.
In the period succeeding the economic crisis and the Seventh Congress, the Party very considerably strengthened its ties with the mass movement. It played an important, and often a leading, role in the strike struggles of miners, seamen, sugar workers, etc. The Communists in the minefields, in conjunction with the leading Party committee, worked out the miners’ program and led two general strikes for its achievement.
As a result of its increased work and improved tactics in the trade unions, the Party has won a considerable number of important trade union positions and is one of the major forces, in the trade union movement at the present time.
In regard to work with the A.L.P., the Party everywhere intensified and broadened its struggle. In N.S.W., the Party initiated and led the fight which overthrew the Lang bureaucracy and made possible a Labor government in N.S.W., which in turn was a main factor in bringing the Labor Party to office in the Federal Parliament. The Party, together with the best elements in the A.L.P., in defeating Langism, did not succeed in completely defeating the right wing. With the assistance of the National Rightwing, the left wing was expelled from N.S.W. Labor Party and a new right wing leadership was installed. However, the general results of this long and difficult struggle in the Labor movement resulted in the coming to office of Labor governments in N.S.W. and at Canberra.
Besides building its contacts with the masses and more and more becoming indissolubly linked with the mass movement, the membership of the Party grew steadily in the period 1935-40, although not so quickly as it had done during the depression years.
The Party achieved a higher degree of organisational stability. Our press grew, its circulation increased many times over the 5,000 edition of the “Workers’ Weekly” of the first ten years of the Party’s existence. The Party grew rapidly in Victoria, where it had been very weak in the first ten years, and also in Queensland, particularly in the northern part, where the Party had led the struggle of the canefields workers. One of’ the organisational weaknesses, however, was insufficient attention to building the Party in the factories, the key problem of Communist organisation.
The defeat of the right wing, which represented reformist influence in the Party, the struggle against the Leftists and sectarians, a strong and persistent campaign against counter-revolutionary Trotskyite ideology and the expulsion of alien elements from the Party, led to the consolidation of the unity of the Party around its leadership and its political line, that is, to a considerable ideological and political advance of the Party membership. The Party had at last become a factor of considerable importance in the; national life of Australia during the ten years 1930-40.
A feature of the growth of our Party, since the defeat of the right wing in particular, has been our growing influence with in the trade union movement. This has been one of the strongest features of our work among the masses. The strength of our position arises from the fearlessness of the Party’s leadership in the important struggles of the trade union movement, the correctness of the policies it has promulgated, and the capacity of our leading Party trade unionists. The trade unions are the most important mass organisations of the working class and the Communists must always strive to develop the good work in relation to the unions which is already becoming something of a tradition with our Party.
During the whole course of its existence, the C.P. has fought for the unity of the working class. The Communist Party arose because of the inadequacy of a policy of reformism, as conducted by the craft unions, and the failure of the Labor Party to lead t
the workers against capitalism and to their liberation. The A.L.P. had demonstrated its limitations arising from its national-liberal bourgeois character. “The Labor Party does not even claim to be a Socialist Party,” wrote Lenin in his article, “In Australia,” in 1913. “Naturally,” he continued, “when Australia is finally developed as an independent capitalist State, the conditions of the workers will change, as will also the Liberal Labor Party, which will make way for a Socialist Labor Party in Australia.”
The Communist Party is that Workers’ Party referred to by Lenin and it was faced with the fact that the majority of the workers still supported the “Liberal” A.L.P.
Whilst winning the workers away from the “Liberal” leaders, the Party had to assure the united front of the workers in the daily class-struggle. The Party always strove to apply the united front tactics of Leninism, which Lenin expounded in his “Left Wing Communism.” These tactics also accelerate the process of winning over the majority of the workers to Communism. The Party therefore commenced to campaign for its own affiliation to the A.L.P., with the right of independent propaganda and ,organisation, shortly after its foundation. Affiliation was agreed to in N.S.W. at the 1923 Conference of the Labor Party, but repudiated by Lang and the right wing immediately afterwards. The fight for affiliation and the support for the return of Labor Party governments was continued right up until the outbreak of the world economic crisis, that is, more or less, the period 1920-28 (although the Kavanagh sectarians were sabotaging the Communist International’s united front tactics from 1926 until their removal from the leadership at the end of 1929).
The Sixth World Congress of the Communist International. faced with the oncoming world economic crisis and the changed role of the reformists, that is, their change over to the position of organisers of the capitalist offensive, declared that in the new situation the workers could only be united “from below” and against the will of the reformist leaders. The Party, which at all times carries on the ideological and practical exposure of A.L.P. “Liberalism,” sharpened its attack upon the Labor leaders’ policies and class collaboration tactics.
This period of “united front tactics” from below continued from 1928-35, at the time when reformists of all countries, by their sabotage of the mass struggles, were facilitating the spread of fascism (“social fascism”) and its corollary, war, and were conducting the capitalist offensive and sabotaging the mass struggle in defence of living standards. Then, the economic crisis having gradually lessened, and, above all, the fascists having been brought to power in Germany, the Seventh World Congress of the C.I. gave the lead for a change in our united front tactics, i.e., for the closest co-operation of all workers and parties who, opposed fascism; for unity of the workers and for the People’s Front. The People’s Front embraced the middle-class and smaller farmers in order to defeat fascism and prevent the outbreak of a new world war, as well as prepare the way for the Socialist Revolution. The Communist Party, from its very foundation, had warned, organised and agitated, in season and out of season, against the new world war which was developing among the capitalist States; it made its main slogan, especially after the Seventh Congress, in 1935, “The struggle against fascism and war and the defence of the Soviet Union.” This was to be realised on the basis of the united front of the working class and of all anti-fascists: — the People’s Front..
This was a struggle for the united front from above as well as below, and was facilitated by the differentiations among the leaders of reformism, sections of which came over to the side of the fight against fascism: Spain, France, etc.
With the outbreak of the war between Britain and Germany, the A.L.P. leaders and the trade union reformists went over to a social-chauvinist position, i.e., supported the imperialist war, Naturally, the Party, which was whole-heartedly opposing the imperialist war, and the plan of the appeasers to switch the war against the U.S.S.R., could not enter into an alliance with the reformists, who were in close alliance with the bourgeoisie for the defence of British imperialism against the military challenge from its imperialist rivals, and who supported the plans of an anti-Soviet war.
At the same time, the Party fought against the so-called “National Unity” of the bourgeoisie and the labor reformists, and was a big factor in preventing a coalition government. Such a coalition aimed at tying the labor organisations to the war policy of imperialism and the crushing of the Communist Party and the militant workers. Again, our united front tactics necessarily underwent a change, to the position of the fiercest opposition and exposure of the imperialist leaders of the Labor Party, and for unity from below of the workers against the imperialist war.
With the entry of the Soviet Union into the war and the consequent changed character of the war, the Communist Party once more was able to give the lead for the united front of the working class on the widest basis. The Party came out ‘m support of the Federal Labor Government on the basis of an all-in war effort for the defeat of the fascist powers and the development of closer relations with the Soviet Union. This support for the Labor Government, because of the considerable strength of the Party in the trade unions, and our organisational and political growth, is an important factor making for the stability of the Labor Government.
It will be seen that the Party has had considerable experience in the application of united front tactics. The tactical attitude ,(:)I the Party towards the leaders of the A.L.P. has varied, always in conformity with changing conditions. When the reformist leaders were conducting the capitalist offensive against the masses during the years of the economic crisis, when the reformist leaders supported the imperialist war, the Party denounced and fought them, independently giving the lead to the working class.
In certain periods and situations (the fight against fascism and war, against Hitler, etc.) support even for the right wing leaders of the A.L.P. facilitates the building of unity, facilitates the winning of the immediate objectives of the Labor Movement.
In its fight for unity and a class policy, the Party carries on a persistent struggle for the exposure of reformism; an ideological struggle; the teaching of Marxism-Leninism to the masses; criticism of the weaknesses and treacheries of reformism, of its policy of class-collaboration and alliance with the bourgeoisie. The exposure of the Rights is facilitated by the development of mass struggles on a united front basis. These experiences increase the militancy and accelerate the growth of political consciousness among the workers. Necessarily, our criticism, which should always be concrete and constructive, varies in its approach, its sharpness and content, in relation to the needs of a correct application of the united front in the given situation.
The united front tactic renders it easier to bring the worker into the struggle against the capitalist class. “The United Front,” Lenin wrote, “facilitates and makes easier the process of the passing over of the majority of the working class to the side of Communism.” The united front is one of the most important weapons of the Party and the working class. Therefore the Communist Party always works for the unity of the workers, and does not hesitate to propose unity with the leaders of reformism, when conditions allow this to be done. We have not yet achieved full unity of the working-class on the basis of class-struggle, of Marxism-Leninism, under the leadership of the Communist Party, which is our goal.
Our struggle for the unity of the workers has proved long and complicated, our tactics have changed from time to time, and no doubt we have many difficult obstacles to surmount before working-class unity, in its true sense, is realised. But we have advanced considerably along the road towards unity!
At the Seventh World Congress of the Communist International, Comrade Dimitrov emphasised the differentiation proceeding within the ranks of the Social-Democratic Parties as a result of experience in the struggle with fascism.
Dimitrov emphasised anew our aim of the unification of the working-class within the four walls of one great, united workers’ Party.
Differentiation within the ranks of the leadership of reformism and “Liberalism” within the working class movement means that the best elements can eventually join with the Communists to form the united working class party. There is also a hard Rightwing core, which is hopelessly bound to the bourgeoisie, which must be fought and its influence over the masses eliminated.
These differentiations within the Australian Labor Party are growing and Comrade Dimitrov’s standpoint applies fully to the Australian Labor Movement.
Thus the aim of our united front tactics of uniting in one party all the progressive elements within the Labor Movement is being facilitated by history itself.
Such a united working class movement would be invincible and would proceed to solve all of the urgent and vital problems of the Australian masses. The United Front is the key to labor and national advance and the pre-condition for Socialism.
1. What were the conditions which gave rise to the formation of the C.P. of A.?
2. What characterised the first two years of its existence?
3. What manoeuvres did the A.L.P. resort to in order to retain its grip on the masses?
4. What is liquidationism? What changed conditions led to its appearance in the Party?
5. What were the major campaigns waged by the Party in the pre-depression period?
6. Where was the Kavanagh leadership taking the Party?
7. How were the Right-wing defeated? What were the ‘immediate results of the new leadership?
8. What were the main immediate aims of the Party in the years of economic crisis? How were the united front tactics applied then?
9. What were the changed circumstances from 1933 which brought about changes in our tactics? What were the new tactics?
10. Summarise the main aims of the Party in the immediate situation. Show how the realisation of these aims will advance the struggle for the ultimate objective. Outline the tactics pursued and state causes for same.