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14th Congress Political Report - Part 1
14th Congress Political Report (2015) - Part 1
The 14th Congress of the CPA (M-L) has recently been held. The Political Report, drafted by Chairperson Nick G., was discussed at length, and with some amendments by Congress, was endorsed by delegates. The Report follows:
Welcome to the 14th Congress of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist).
We meet on the lands of the Kaurna people and pay respects to their elders, past and present, to their resilience and successful survival in the face of colonialist unsettlement and dispossession. We extend to all First Nations peoples in Australia our recognition that force and violence, and the threat of force and violence, were the chief means by which the unsettlers illegally disrupted the stable and enduring lifestyles that span some 60,000 years on this continent. We pledge our support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land rights and rights to self-determination and sovereignty.
Delegates and observers from five states are with us today and will take part in the discussion of our current situation and tasks. On behalf of the Central Committee I have outlined and reported on a number of matters below. They are not exhaustive and our agenda for today will have opportunities for comrades to raise other matters as they see fit.
This report deals with the Australian people’s need to deal with US imperialism as our main enemy and to have a clearer understanding of China’s emergence and role within the region and in its relation with this country. It revisits the issue of our two-stage theory of revolutionary struggle in order to deal with criticisms that are sometimes directed at us, and it looks at a matter that is of concern to many, and that is terrorism and the erosion of civil liberties. The report also looks at what we might loosely call the “people’s movement” and our work within it, at unions and the ALP, and finally at some of our key tasks.
US imperialism is the main enemy
For Australian Communists, US imperialism is the main enemy. It constitutes the core of big capital in Australia. When we talk about the ruling class in Australia we are primarily talking about giant US industrial and financial corporations and their Australian managers and senior executives. As the most strongly organised and most powerful elements of the capitalist class, they have willing partners and servants in the political, military, legal, diplomatic, cultural, scientific and educational institutions of our country. Fellowships to and scholarships at key US institutions are made available to secure the loyalty and embed the ideology of opinion makers and community leaders. US cultural products saturate our radio, cinema, television and online streaming. The values of arrogant individualism, of aggressive put-downs, of cut-throat competitiveness sit side-by-side with professions of liberty, freedom and democracy and together assist US imperialism to maintain ideological hegemony.
Cheerleading on behalf of US imperialism permeates both major political parties. Key personnel in both the Coalition and Labor parties report to their masters in the US embassy. The Murdoch media based and biased in the US makes and breaks federal and state governments. Of course, it occasionally backs a loser, as it did with Tony Abbott, leading to a campaign by the Business Council of Australia (comprising the 100 largest corporations in Australia, mostly multinationals) which successfully saw the more “popular” Malcolm Turnbull elevated to the Prime Ministership.
Pine Gap plays a role in the US war of terror, new US bases are opened and existing ones expanded. The Australian armed forces are deployed in lapdog obedience to the requirements of the US empire. The so-called US-Australia Alliance deprives our nation of the capacity for independent decision-making in foreign policy and sets us against the tide of history and the interests of the people of the world.
To meet the needs of its own imperialist finance capital, US imperialism has attempted to create the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement. But this has aroused opposition from people in each of the participating countries, including the US, with the result that progress towards its adoption has been considerably slowed. Within Australia, we have helped shape and direct this movement of opposition with its underlying anti-imperialism and its objective of defending Australian independence and national sovereignty. The Trade In Services Agreement (TISA) is also being pushed by US imperialism to privilege the profits of the richest corporations and countries in the world over those who have the greatest needs. It seeks to place the so-called reforms of the neo-liberal agenda beyond the capacity of signatory governments to change.
Internationally, US imperialism seeks full spectrum domination, meaning either the elimination of rivals or their coercion into agreeing to play by rules set by the US for the “international community”. However, the US is an historically declining superpower. That decline is subject to the law of uneven development and will not take the form of a rapid one-way slide to oblivion. Its decline will make US imperialism a more dangerous and more menacing enemy of the world’s people and will push it to reckless confrontation with emerging rivals. This poses a great threat to our regional peace and stability, as it has done to the Middle East and the Ukraine.
In the so-called “tilt to Asia”, US imperialism looks to be taking initiatives to make itself stronger as it builds to a confrontation with China. At the same time, it reveals something of its strategic weakness in the requirements that it is placing on Japan, the Philippines, Australia and other regional “allies” to finance more of the infrastructure on which its tilt depends and to provide more of the personnel and equipment to bring about the tilt. It wants Japan to emerge from its pacifist post-War constitution and provide more of the military strength for its containment of and confrontation with China. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s compliance with this directive of US imperialism is arousing great concern and opposition within Japan and within the region, indicating that the tilt is not immune from the playing out of contradictions that will make it somewhat unstable as a cornerstone of US strategy.
The growing inability of the US to fully fund its own aggressive measures to shape and control the future is starting to be seen in the Middle East where it now tries to avoid having its own “boots on the ground”. Its reliance on the armed forces of the weak regimes it props up in Afghanistan and Iraq is not something it would have entered into by choice, just as its inability to bring about regime change in Syria by its own armed intervention is hugely embarrassing and frustrating for it. Gaddafi might be gone, but Libya is hardly safe for the US, and it has had to drag Saudi troops from their lair to try and crush the anti-US Houthi rebels in Yemen. Embarrassingly for it, it has failed to stop the entry of Russian warplanes into the conflict on the side of Assad’s government. US imperialism no longer holds all the cards in international conflicts. Finally, and to the extreme consternation of reactionary circles in the US, an accommodation of sorts has been reached with Iran (and, closer to home, with Cuba).
The danger of war will exist so long as imperialism exists. Despite all the talk of globalisation and the erosion of the nation state or its absorption into some form of ultra-imperialism that transcends national bases for capital accumulation and expansion, the reality is very much that imperialism has national expression and that US imperialism is the highest form of the national expression of a home base for the major sources of industrial and finance capital. It both leads and has rivalry with other imperialisms. It has no friends, but only allies, and it treats those allies with great suspicion, conducting espionage against their leaders and seeking to outmanoeuvre them diplomatically, politically and militarily. Inter-imperialist rivalry and contradiction will never quietly dissipate but will, on the contrary, intensify and create instability and conflict.
We must continue to put opposition to US imperialism at the centre of our struggle for anti-imperialist independence. Other imperialist powers, whether older or newer, will also seek to curtail Australian independence for their own advantage and must have their influence over our country removed in the course of revolutionary struggle against US imperialism.
Our 13th Congress in 2012 declared that “previous certainties about socialism in China are now obsolete. Our view is that forces working for the further entrenchment of capitalism in China have the upper hand in the Communist Party of China.” The question is whether that characterisation of China remains adequate. To that end we have encouraged study of an overseas document Is China imperialist? We have also recommended to a number of comrades other publications and commentaries from the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), the Communist Party of the Philippines, the International League of People’s Struggles and China’s own White Paper on Defence Strategy.
In upholding the interests of the Australian working class, we first raised our concerns about China’s heading down the capitalist road with the Chinese in the early 1990s following China’s first investment in Australia, its1986 acquisition of shares in the Portland Alcoa smelters. We told the Chinese that any Chinese capital used to appropriate surplus value from the labour power of Australian workers would be viewed by us as indistinguishable from other capital, and that if workers came into conflict with employers backed by Chinese capital then we would be duty bound to support those workers. The Chinese were somewhat bemused by our approach: they viewed their investment in Portland as good for Chinese workers and wondered why we would not want to support the interests of Chinese workers.
Twenty years later and China is not only Australia’s largest trading partner; it is also a major source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in this country. As a socialist society China pursued trade relations on the basis of equality, mutual benefit and the exchange of needed goods. The Chinese Embassy in Australia has argued that the flow of capital between our two countries is the same as the flow of commodities, and is mutually beneficial: Chinese capital is invested in Australia and Australian capital is invested in China. However, there is a difference between capital and commodities. Capital is utilised for the purpose of exploiting labour power and appropriating surplus value. Commodities are the product of labour power and their sale is the means through which surplus value is realised. Commodities can be traded between countries without adding to or intensifying the exploitation of labour power in their country of origin; capital must seek the intensification and exploitation of labour power wherever it is invested.
The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) was signed by negotiators from the respective sides in November 2014, although the text was only released in June 2015, and at the time of writing, has still to be ratified by the Australian parliament. Like the TPP created by US imperialism, it is not so much a trade agreement as an investment guarantee. It contains provisions which are unacceptable to the Australian working class, such as the right of Chinese companies investing more than $150 million to import temporary workers from China without testing whether Australian workers are available, and for those temporary workers to be paid at Australian minimum wage standards which can be below those negotiated in enterprise agreements. It also includes Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses which cancel national sovereignty by providing corporations with the right to sue governments over legislation which harms the investor’s interests. China is the more powerful partner in the ChAFTA and the provisions it contains amount to interference in our internal affairs, undermining of our sovereign right to enact legislation to protect the people and the environment, and an attack on the rights and conditions of Australian workers.
Australia has been the single biggest destination for Chinese outward FDI. Excluding Hong Kong, Chinese FDI in 2013 amounted to $4.7 billion or 12.15% of the total. Compared to the US ($17.54 billion) and the UK ($7.79 billion) this is still small, however, the rate of investment, coming off a smaller and comparatively recent base, far outstrips that of other sources of FDI. The quantum of Chinese FDI represents only 3.31% of the total, compared to 23.73% for the US, 13.76% for the UK and 10.04% for Japan (the latter having recorded annual declines in investment here for several years).
The figures I am using here are already two years out of date and will understate current Chinese FDI. Most of the Chinese FDI has been in the resources sector with smaller amounts flowing to agriculture, financial services, infrastructure and housing.
It is one thing for a socialist nation to trade extensively with the capitalist world. It is an entirely different thing for a socialist country to export capital. We have already characterised China as a country which has departed from the socialist road, a country being taken further and further down the capitalist road by a Communist Party which, particularly since Jiang Zemin’s “Three Represents” policy, no longer claims to represent the working class exclusively, and is in fact the Party of the millionaires and billionaires who, as “productive forces”, are entitled to its membership.
We have previously said that there are some centres of ideological contestation in China. China still pays full respect to Mao Zedong as the founder of the PRC but maintains the Deng Xiaoping line of Mao “having committed serious errors in his later life”. In the weeks leading up to this Congress, Tsinghua University offered an online course, free of charge, internationally, on An Introduction to Mao Zedong Thought. It is based on a course that is compulsory for university students in China. Parts of it are excellent, but its revisionist orientation emerges in some of the multiple choice questions used for assessment, such as “Which one is not included in the main content of Mao Zedong Thought? a) theory on new democratic revolution; b) theory on socialist revolution and construction; c) theory on the building of the revolutionary army and military; d) theory on continued revolution under proletarian dictatorship”. You don’t need to be a Rogues Scholar to pick d) as the item to be omitted, because d) goes to the heart of whether or not China would develop along the collective, socialist road or degenerate along the private, capitalist road.
The capitalist orientation of China’s modern reforms coupled with its push to export capital to world markets invariably means that it is not just on the capitalist road but on the highway to imperialism. A country cannot export capital to the extent that China has without transforming itself into an imperialist power, into a partner with and opponent of already existing imperialisms.
The Chinese now speak of their need to project power abroad, to defend their overseas interests. The 2015 White Paper on China’s Military Strategy begins well: “China will unswervingly follow the path of peaceful development, pursue an independent foreign policy of peace and a national defense policy that is defensive in nature, oppose hegemonism and power politics in all forms, and will never seek hegemony or expansion”. However, there are many references to “resolutely safeguarding development interests” and these are defined in terms of “the security of overseas interests concerning energy and resources, strategic sea lines of communication (SLOCs), as well as institutions, personnel and assets abroad.”
In 1974 Deng Xiaoping addressed the United Nations. Ironically, this architect of China’s embrace of capitalist “reforms” delivered an excellent Marxist-Leninist analysis, the whole of which is worthy of a re-reading here: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/deng-xiaoping/1974/04/10.htm . There is one passage in particular which is relevant to our current discussion of China. It follows: China is not a superpower, nor will she ever seek to be one. What is a superpower? A superpower is an imperialist country which everywhere subjects other countries to its aggression, interference, control, subversion or plunder and strives for world hegemony. If capitalism is restored in a big socialist country, it will inevitably become a superpower. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which has been carried out in China in recent years, and the campaign of criticizing Lin Piao and Confucius now under way throughout China, are both aimed at preventing capitalist restoration and ensuring that socialist China will never change her colour and will always stand by the oppressed peoples and oppressed nations. If one day China should change her colour and turn into a superpower, if she too should play the tyrant in the world, and everywhere subject others to her bullying, aggression and exploitation, the people of the world should identify her as social-imperialism, expose it, oppose it and work together with the Chinese people to overthrow it.
China is not, at this stage, a fully-fledged superpower, but there are elements of interference, control and even plunder in the role it is starting to play internationally. To the extent that it departs from its pledge to “never seek hegemony and expansion”, to the extent that its trade and investment practices undermine the interests of the Australian working class, we will certainly uphold our proletarian revolutionary and internationalist duties in exposing it, opposing it and working together with the Chinese people to overthrow it.
In taking a stand against any emerging imperialist practices by China we should not get caught up in current xenophobic and racist anti-Chinese sentiment. There are right-wing fascist elements that seek to utilise fears about Chinese influence on real estate prices, Chinese purchase of Australian farmland and Chinese investment in environmentally and socially controversial projects to advance their class collaborationist and nationalist reactionary agendas.
We must take a principled stand against racism when we involve ourselves in campaigns involving the Chinese. We should oppose attempts to blacken the reputation of Mao Zedong and other leaders of the Chinese revolution and continue to popularise the Chinese Communist Party’s history of revolutionary struggle to end feudalism, imperialism and bureaucratic capitalism, and to lift these burdens from the backs of the Chinese people. We should uphold the example of China’s socialist construction during the period which saw the emergence of the theory of continuing the revolution under the conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat. We should repudiate cynicism and defeatism associated with China’s current embrace of capitalism. In terms of the dangers and provocations presented by a declining US imperialism attempting to oppose and contain China as a rival, we should support the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of China determined at the time of Comrade Mao Zedong’s revolutionary leadership.
The principal contradiction for us remains that between the Australian people and US imperialism which is the main source of FDI, the overlord controlling our economic, political, military, diplomatic, and cultural activities. We must keep to the course we have chartered in our two-stage revolutionary program: fighting to free Australia from the clutches of US imperialism and then deepening the fight for socialism.
The lessons from Greece
The situation in Greece has put the malevolence of imperialist finance capital on display for all to see. Greece is a part of Europe, a part of the privileged world that generally remains exempt from the barbarity and violence imposed on Third World countries by imperialism. NATO has not bombed Athens, but the Troika (the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank) has demanded that Greece cut a pound of flesh and more from its own body to repay the imperialist loan sharks of Europe and the IMF. The original Shylock deserved some sympathy or understanding as a Jew persecuted and mistreated by Christians, but the Shylocks of the Troika have no such excuses. They are businesspeople with no motive other than to accumulate capital through usury.
Because Greece falls into the category of developed capitalist democracies the strategies and tactics of the working class and its revolutionary leadership are bound to have lessons for Australian revolutionaries. Although we have not lived the daily experience of the Greek people we do have the theoretical weapon of Marxism with which to try and make sense of the internal developments of countries other than our own. That said, we stand to be corrected by Greek comrades if our use of Marxist theory has shortcomings or errors.
Greece is a nation that occupies just over half the land area of the Australian state of Victoria and has just under half the population of Australia. It has three main Communist organisations, all of which have contested parliamentary elections. The Greek Communist Party (KKE) has not participated in SYRIZA. The Communist Party of Greece (M-L) and the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Greece form their own coalition, People’s Resistance, and supported SYRIZA in its early stages without formally joining it. The Communist Organisation of Greece (KOE) joined SYRIZA and has four members of parliament.
For the purposes of this report, I am not dealing with other left social-democratic, Trotskyite or anarchist groupings. The three Communist organisations have different strategies and tactics. Comrades and parties which we respect and which are in general agreement on fundamental theoretical and ideological matters have differed over what they believe to be the correct path forward for Communists in Greece. Comrade Harpal Brar and the Communist Party of Great Britain (M-L) support the KKE’s position; Comrade Jose Maria Sison and the Communist Party of the Philippines support the position of the KOE.
Our position has always been one of rejecting the revisionist view that there can be a peaceful transition through parliamentary processes to a fundamental change in the relations of production and of the class structures that accompany those relations. It is entirely illusory to believe that Greece could extricate itself from the web of imperialist domination through elections and negotiations. When the revolutionary forces are not yet strong enough to command support from the people, participations in elections serve only to broadcast the electoral weakness of the revolutionaries and their isolation from the broad ranks of the people.
However, situations can arise when a broad mass movement comes into with the potential for it to entrench and deepen an anti-imperialist stand adopted by a parliamentary majority. Political parties leading such a mass movement may also have the potential to develop the focus of people’s struggles away from parliamentary manoeuvres to a self-conscious need to develop extra-parliamentary mass struggle. This may require some representation in the parliament by those parties precisely to assist in exposing its subservience to imperialism and to capitalism.
For a brief time in 1927, the Guomindang (Kuomintang) had two governments in China. One was led by Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) at Nanjing and had just massacred the Communists of Shanghai to bring to an end a period of GMD-CCP cooperation against the Northern Warlords. Another group of the GMD established its capital at Wuhan under Wang Jingwei and continued to pursue cooperation with the CCP.
In reply to a position being put by Trotsky and Zinoviev, Stalin posed the question of whether or not the Communists should participate in the Wuhan government. He said: “Since China is passing through an agrarian revolution, since the victory of the agrarian revolution will mean the victory of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, the victory of a revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry, and since Nanking is the centre of national counter-revolution and Wuhan the centre of the revolutionary movement in China, the Wuhan Kuomintang must be supported and the Communists must participate in this Kuomintang and in its revolutionary government, provided that the leading role of the proletariat and its party is ensured both inside and outside the Kuomintang.
“Is the present Wuhan government the organ of a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry? No, it is not such an organ as yet, and will not soon become one. But it has every chance of developing into such an organ, given the further development of the revolution and the success of this revolution.”
The first lesson to be drawn from this is that a Communist party must always be in a position to exercise both unity and independence within any coalition or front that it enters, and that the exercise of independence is for the purpose of developing and strengthening the leading role of the working class. The second is to base its participation on the potential for the further development of the revolutionary situation, for its development to a newer and qualitatively higher level.
The Greece of today is not the China of yesterday. However, it seems reasonable that Communists in Greece participated in the creation of SYRIZA in 2004 and attempted to strengthen its anti-imperialist policies within parliamentary confines, on the one hand, and the leadership of the working class in protecting those policies through mass organisations and extra-parliamentary actions on the other.
SYRIZA gradually emerged as the main opposition to the traditional social democratic PASOK government through the 2004, 2007 and 2012 elections. It was supported by Greeks opposed to imperialist austerity measures. It seems reasonable that Marxist-Leninist Communists worked alongside SYRIZA to support what could be supported and to criticise and oppose its tendencies towards vacillation and diversion of struggle into the parliamentary arena. The years 2010-11 were years of intense popular and workers’ struggles against an unprecedented capitalist-imperialist attack, but what followed, in a classic case of the law of uneven development, was a protracted phase of setback of the popular movement. Electoral illusions persisted and were strengthened and gave SYRIZA the opportunity to form government.
Ten days prior to SYRIZA’s First Congress in July 2013, the Communist Organisation of Greece (KOE) decided, as a “necessary step for the strengthening of SYRIZA and of its unified expression, to suspend its autonomous public presence”. The KOE was the second-biggest group in SYRIZA at the time and was making its gesture to show support for the transformation of SYRIZA from a movement to a party. This was not, from our limited knowledge of the situation, in keeping with the principle of Communist participation in a broad party formation.
When SYRIZA emerged as the largest party in the January 2015 election, it still fell short of a clear majority of seats and thus entered a coalition with the right wing Independent Greeks (ANEL). Despite the anti-imperialist rhetoric directed at the Troika’s austerity demands, SYRIZA-ANEL kept Greece inside the framework of NATO, EU and the Eurozone. The potential for it to develop to a newer and higher stage of resistance to imperialism was diminished, culminating in a referendum where the choices were between the austerity demanded by imperialism and the austerity proposed by SRYZA-ANEL’s Memorandum. It seems reasonable that the Communists denounced the referendum as a farce and organised boycotts by their supporters.
Despite the Communists’ calls to boycott the referendum, many Greeks felt compelled to vote “No” in order to once again reject anything coming from the Troika. The result was an explosion of euphoria at the strength of the No vote (just over 60%) and anger and disillusion after Tsipras agreed to negotiate with the Troika a Memorandum that was worse than what had been rejected in the referendum. This led to the resignation of Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and the withdrawal of 25 members to form a new party called Popular Unity. The five KOE MPs in SYRIZA abstained from voting on the Third Memorandum in July and announced on September 10 that they would not be running in the September 20 snap election and would encourage their members and supporters to abstain from voting.
Whether they were responding to the calls from Marxist-Leninists to abstain, or were simply weary of and cynical about the September election, a record 45% of eligible voters did not cast a ballot in the “compulsory” – but unenforced – general election. The SYRIZA-ANEL coalition was returned with a slightly reduced number of seats, KKE maintained its previous 5.5% vote and the ML coalition remained steady on about .16% of the vote, substantially less than the 3% threshold required to obtain a seat.
So do these developments show that a policy of non-participation in SYRIZA, of non-cooperation with SYRIZA at the time of its formation and growth into the main opposition party was wrong? In my opinion, it does not. A balance needed to be found between unity and struggle within the anti-imperialist movement. Its participants included on the right those whose preference was for legislative measures and reliance on the authority of the Greek parliamentary structure, and those on the left whose preference was for mass work and the development of struggles by the working class in workplaces and community settings.
With the benefit of hindsight, the advocates of a sectarian “all struggle and no unity” position will proclaim themselves “correct” because of the Tsipris betrayal. But did the very short life of the Wuhan government and the emergence, ten years later, of Wang Jingwei as a puppet of Japanese imperialism make CCP participation in the Wuhan government wrong? No, because conditions existed to create a potential for the Wuhan government to play a positive role, just as conditions existed in Greece in the late 2000s to create a potential for SYRIZA to play a positive role.
Whether our analysis of the Greek situation was right or wrong, the importance of this discussion for us lies in the need to be able to assess, at the right moment and in the right circumstances, our ongoing rejection of parliamentary participation. There are no circumstances at the present time in which pursuit of influence in parliamentary struggles will be to the advantage of the Communist Party.
Since our inception we have rejected any diversion of peoples’ struggles into parliamentary channels. This must continue to be our stance for the foreseeable future. But it might not always be the correct position to adopt. Persevering with this position under different and more politically mature circumstances could lead us to a sectarian deviation. We will need to be able to correctly apply Marxist theoretical reasoning to currently unforeseen circumstances as they arise and mature. It is timely to remind ourselves through the prism of the Greek political crisis that principled adherence to the fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism must not become dogmatism and that the exercise of flexibility in the application of Marxism-Leninism must not become opportunism.
The war of terror
In the final analysis, the war of terror is the means by which imperialist finance capital maintains its domination over the people and nations of the world. The reactionary classes deploy terror to maintain their rule. The standing armed forces of the imperialists routinely adopt tactics which lead to overwhelming “collateral damage” amongst innocent civilians. They also have a long history of deploying death squads and other irregular and mercenary forces to take out what a new Pentagon manual identifies as “unprivileged belligerents”. In relation to peace activists and progressive forces in their own imperialist and developed capitalist heartlands, they use fear of terror by real or imaginary opponents to control the people with draconian “anti-terror” legislation.
For more than a decade, the imperialists have inverted logic and tried to claim leadership of the “war on terror”. The whole history of colonial expansion and imperialist division of the world has been one of the employment of terror against people fighting for freedom from enslavement, for national liberation and for independence and socialism. Whether it is the plunder and pillage of standing armies or the disappearances and assassinations of clandestine death squads, terror has been the way countless people throughout the world have experienced capitalism and imperialism.
The terror imperialism now claims to be fighting had its origins in the Soviet social-imperialist invasion of Afghanistan. British and US training of religious zealots to fight the Soviets quickly extended to training and equipping similar groups for the purpose of achieving regime change in targeted countries including Iraq, Libya and Syria. That zealotry has seen the trainees outgrow the role assigned to them by imperialism; it has seen them with their own religio-fascist agenda turn around to bite the hand that fed them.
Groups like ISIS have emerged as a type of international lumpen-proletariat. In advanced capitalist countries the lumpen-proletariat consists of people who cannot or will not live as members of the working class, people broken in spirit by poverty, lack of education and opportunity, health failure, and drugs. Their escape route from all of this is criminal activity and criminal violence through which they seek to empower and enrich themselves. They aspire to live like the idle rich they see at the top of society. ISIS recruits come from all strata of society and include educated and articulate youths. They hate imperialism for its wanton random violence against the communities from which they come and for its failure to embrace the Prophet, but they are not conscious anti-imperialists. They aspire to have an empire of their own, the Caliphate and murder and terrorise any who stand in their way. Their open fighting is directed at armed opponents, including genuine anti-imperialists, but their terrorism is directed at non-combatants, at innocent civilians, including in the imperialist and developed capitalist countries. Theirs is the personally brutal mirror image of the impersonal brutality of imperialist drone attacks and the rain of Zionist phosphorous bombs over Gaza. Whether you behead the person next to you or simply feed coordinates to a drone from the safe distance of Pine Gap, you are equally a terrorist as far as your victims are concerned.
ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks in Australia, France, Britain and elsewhere give the ruling classes of those countries the excuse to intensify surveillance of all progressive politically active people. We have already seen a vast expansion of police and security powers in this regard. We are also seeing the roll-out of a campaign encouraging teachers to identify potentially “radicalised” youths. A number of case studies are presented including a young girl who leaves her supportive family to become an environmental activist. Of course, there is the obligatory case study of a Muslim youth, but the lumping together of people exercising legitimate democratic rights with those coming under the influence of ISIS shows how terrorism enables the ruling class to spread its repressive net ever more widely. The goal of “deradicalising” ISIS followers can never succeed so long as it denies the existence of imperialist violence and terror.
Marxists eschew terrorism. The terrorism of imperialism is the much greater and the more dangerous and perfidious of the two terrorisms we have discussed. It will be directed at the revolutionary anti-imperialist movement when it develops to a particular level of influence in Australia. It will come from the authorised state agencies of violence and it will come from fascist thugs to whom the state will turn a blind eye and encourage. We will only be able to defend the advances we make in the development of the movement for independence from imperialism by countering the violence of the state with the organised resistance of the revolutionary movement. Our activity will arise as a defensive measure and gradually assume an offensive capacity, but it will always be organised against identified agencies of the capitalist state and will never take the form of indiscriminate and random violence in which members of our own class become victims. We will never practice terrorism or endorse terrorist activity.
The two-stage Australian strategy for independence and socialism
The realisation that a two-stage theory of revolution accorded with the characteristics of Australia as a developed capitalist country dominated by US imperialism emerged and was accepted by us in the early 1970s. Comrade E.F. Hill led theoretical development of this strategy and our younger comrades enthusiastically implemented it both within the Party and in a number of mass organisations influenced by us.
In developing and implementing this policy, two erroneous lines emerged. The first was a rightist tendency to deny the socialist content of the theory, to over-emphasise patriotism and the maintenance of a national bourgeois economy during the first stage of the revolution.
In effect, this line accepted some form of intermediate stage between the anti-imperialist revolution and the socialist revolution. Its adherents discouraged mention of socialism for fear of alienating allies in the struggle against US imperialism. This line was publicly criticised in February 1978 in “For independence and socialism”. This document clearly stated that the struggle for independence must not weaken the sentiment for socialism.
From the left came a movement led by some previously influential younger members of the Party. This group started to organise a faction within the Party in 1977. By then their erroneous position on the two-stage revolution (over-emphasising the socialist objective and dismissing the patriotic non-socialist elements within the united front) was caught up in their support of the “Gang of Four” in China. They tried to establish a group in opposition to the Australian Independence Movement led by Party activists. Their influence quickly waned.
The legacy of our development of the two-stage theory of revolution is that a number of people and organisations on the Left still mistakenly ascribe to us a position that is similar to the rightist line mentioned above. For three decades or more we have been maligned as “patriots” and “nationalists”. They essentially continue to criticise us for believing in some form of intermediate stage between capitalism and socialism. Mainly Trotskyite in their own ideological commitment, they reject the two-stage theory of revolution, shouting loudly against imperialism in the context of international arenas of struggle, but denying that it is the main enemy of the Australian people and main target of an initial stage of revolutionary struggle in this country. In opposing the first, anti-imperialist stage of the Australian revolution they portray Australia as an imperialist country in its own right, a situation which, if it was correct, would place an exclusively working class revolution on the agenda. It is true that some Australian capitalists engage in imperialist activity in their own right, but they do not constitute the majority of the Australian bourgeoisie and their activities are not so representative of that bourgeoisie or so independent of US imperialism as to be able to characterise the Australian state as an independent imperialist entity.
There is no intermediate stage between capitalism and socialism embedded in our two-stage theory of the Australian revolution. During the first stage, assets belonging to the imperialists and their local compradors will be expropriated by new organs of state power and pressed into service for the benefit of the majority of Australia’s working class and its allies. The first stage, the anti-imperialist stage, is defined by the socialist character of that expropriation which can only occur under working class leadership exercised through working class organs of state power.
Giant foreign multinational corporations have killed off many Australian capitalist firms. Some Australian capitalists see potential for growth in working for and with imperialist corporations and financiers; however, imperialism is predatory and cares nothing for the capitalists of other countries who will always be threatened by it. Sooner or later all will face ruin from imperialist competition. It may be that some of them will see the sense of allowing the anti-imperialist movement to develop. Some may contribute financially or in other ways to that movement. Is it impossible that as the anti-imperialist movement develops and grows, that a section of the Australian capitalists will permit their workers to engage in paid time and without penalty in anti-imperialist demonstrations and rallies? Is it impossible that they might not cooperate with the revolutionary movement in ensuring supplies of food and other necessities to suburban areas under the control of an anti-imperialist front? Is it impossible that some might provide needed services to an anti-imperialist state power in exchange for a guarantee of continued existence within a private sector enclave of a socialist economy? The division of the Australian revolution by stages means that some sectors of the economy owned by national bourgeois elements who are either supportive of, or neutral towards, the anti-imperialist stage will still operate as capitalist businesses into the period of the second stage, necessitating the deepening of the socialist revolution and its embrace of all economic functions throughout the second stage. This will be a period during which the proletarian organs of state power license the operations of cooperative Australian capitalists whilst directing them towards activities which strengthen the socialist orientation of the economy, eventually resulting in their absorption into that economy as socialist concerns with appropriate compensation to their former owners. Thus there is an overlap with the first stage melding into the second stage, both having predominantly socialist content, and certainly no intermediate national bourgeois economic stage between capitalism and socialism.