VANGUARD - Expressing the viewpoint of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) For National Independence and Socialism • www.cpaml.org
Executive Committee Report February 2020
The Executive Committee of the Central Committee of the CPA (M-L) recently delivered a report on the international and domestic situation. Excerpts follow:
The International Situation and our Relations with ICOR
So long as imperialism exists there will be the danger of war, both war for the suppression of the independence of nations dominated by imperialism and war between the imperialist powers themselves. The struggle for markets, the intense rivalry between US finance capital and China’s finance capital for investments around the globe, the perceived threats to borders all but eliminated for the sake of the free flow of capital but strengthened and protected against the flow of peoples whose lives have been made miserable by capitalism and imperialism – this and more has created an angry nationalism that is fueling the rise of fascism around the globe.
The idea that globalization has done away with the nation-state and that a Kautskyite ultra-imperialism prevails, no longer has much currency. The imperialist powers and the rival blocs associated with them have shown that global cooperation is transitory, while rivalry and competition between big national powers are inherent parts of an imperialist global order. International controls on the proliferation of nuclear weapons have been undermined and US-Russia cooperation on arms control and disarmament is all but nonexistent. Cyber- and space warfare have expanded.
Nothing is being seriously done to counter climate change. Global warming – the melting of the Arctic icecap and the rising temperature of the oceans and land masses; in our country – prolonged drought and disastrous river fish kills, bushfires of unprecedented duration, intensity and scope, violent storms and flooding…and still the politicians refuse to act.
These twin catastrophes – war and climate change – have caused the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to move the Doomsday Clock to its closest-ever position of 100 seconds to midnight.
This widespread feeling of a threat to our children’s and grand-children’s future is moving more and more people to become active politically. The political and ideological level of participants is uneven, but provides plenty of room for comrades to use the mass line to effectively raise the level of understanding about capitalism and imperialism, and to build unity against creeping fascism.
It is against that background that we affiliated, last November, with ICOR. It is probably too early to assess what this affiliation will mean for us. The ICOR guidelines mean that it is not a Comintern-like organisation. The Comintern was a controlling body. Comrade Hill discussed its positive and negative roles and influence in “Reflections on Communism” written between June 1980 and June 1983. Previously, after attending the Seventh Congress of the Albanian Party of Labor in 1976, he had taken a stand against an Albanian attempt to recreate the Comintern as a platform for advancing Albania’s side of its disagreements with the Chinese. Stalin himself grew to be critical of the Comintern which had been disbanded during the War Against Fascism. In answering a Reuter’s correspondent’s questions about this on May 28, 1943, Stalin gave four reasons why the dissolution of the Comintern was “proper and timely”. All referred to the difficulty that the Comintern created for anti-fascist work in the bourgeois democracies, and two focused on the twin calumnies that firstly, Moscow allegedly intended to intervene in the life of other nations and “Bolshevise” them, and secondly, that Communist Parties allegedly acted not in the interests of their people, but on orders from outside. A week before, he had told a Bulgarian delegation that "We will never reestablish the old style of the International. It was created with the example provided by Marx, who expected that revolution would take place concurrently in all countries. However, this does not correspond to our current ideology."
There are still some Parties around the world agitating for a new Comintern. The centenary of the Comintern last year stimulated interest in this. However, the ICOR is not a Comintern.
Although our ICOR affiliation has been positive overall, we need to accept that there are some ideological differences that need careful attention, and that the tendency to call for ICOR-sponsored “Days” of struggle around various issues, as part of the drive to build ICOR, will not always suit our circumstances.
Independent Working Class Agenda – challenges and tasks associated with it
The meaning of the slogan an “Independent Working Class Agenda” can be described simply as the working class acting consciously as a class to strengthen its own fighting capacity as a class to achieve its own conscious class interests.
The particular tasks, or the particular form, that this “agenda” takes will vary with the concrete conditions that any particular section of the class, as well as the class as whole, finds itself in at any given place and time. However, taken to its eventual logical conclusion, the Independent Working Class Agenda can be understood to be synonymous with the revolutionary working class struggle for socialism itself. For what else is the ultimate task of an “agenda” of a conscious independent working class but to overthrow the bourgeoisie and establish itself as the ruling class in its place?
But before anything close to resembling such a task can be contemplated as realistically being on any “agenda”, we must take stock of our present conditions, the current strength (or weakness) of the working class and the balance of class forces, and look to some more immediate work if we wish to see workers taking up an IWCA.
Generally speaking, currently the class consciousness of the Australian working class is low. This is the fundamental challenge we must recognise and work to overcome if we want to see the working class taking independent action in its own interests. By class consciousness, we do not simply mean that people are aware of themselves as being workers, but that they understand that as workers their interests are not the same as, and are in fact irreconcilable, with the interests of the bourgeois ruling class and its state apparatuses and methods of rule.
A trade union movement hog-tied by repressive industrial relations legislation, and a lack of working class consciousness and politics among the union leadership which can’t seem to find a way out of its quagmire has further turned the union movement towards dependency on illusions of “independent umpires” in the courts and commissions, a top down “services model” unionism that shuns the independent action of rank and file activists, and has further shackled the trade union movement to the electoral fortunes of the bourgeois ALP. All of this holds back and restrains the opportunities for workers to experience firsthand the open class battles that are so crucial in assisting in the formation of class consciousness amongst the working class on a wide scale.
The ongoing tenacity of the Australian economy to avoid an official recession for a record breaking 29 years straight also sows seeds of illusion among the working class of faith in capitalism. Yet just below the surface is a time bomb of high indebtedness and precarious employment which is set to go off when the inevitable collapse arrives. And it might not be far off with bourgeois economists widely warning of global economic slowdowns and central banks heading towards uncharted waters of negative interest rates.
The people’s faith in the institutions of parliament and bourgeois democracy are increasingly on the wane. This is manifesting for the most part in disillusion and disinterest in anything “political” however, rather than people turning towards looking for alternative structures of power. Parliament remains, for the time being, the only game in town.
However, at the same time, in the background looms the climate crisis that is laying bare and exposing the contradictions of capitalism ever more sharply making the choice between “socialism and barbarism” a very real one in the minds of a growing number of people, especially the young.
So, what are the practical tasks that lie before us in early 2020 as communist cadre in bringing about that class consciousness that is fundamental to an IWCA? In a word, mass work. We must strengthen our connections with the masses in our work places and communities and conscientiously carry out mass work. By having the closest organic connections to the masses, we can find the best opportunities to raise questions of class struggle and capitalism, the nature of the state and its institutions, and most importantly, find ways to organise with the people in struggle so that they can learn through their own experiences. Effective and conscientious mass work is vital to making our propaganda relative to the people we are trying to reach. Skillfully using our broader intermediate organisations and strengthening their work to get behind the still strong anti-communist bias is an important aspect of this.
We must make more effort in systematising the mass work of our members, many who are often working isolated and in difficult conditions, and bring that together collectively to strengthen the Party’s work overall. It is the painstaking, unglamorous, minute day to day conscientious mass work that is essential if the Party and its cadre wish to lead the masses forward and see them fighting for an independent working class agenda.
The party and the people’s movement against imperialism and fascism
Since our Congress in June 2019 a deeper awareness of imperialist domination of Australia, global US military aggression and the increasing trend towards state repression, is developing amongst the people. That “capitalism” works against the interests of working people and the environment is more widely accepted. This awareness and sentiment are not commonly expressed in Marxist scientific terms as we understand and use, but nevertheless reflects the sharpening contradictions and crisis of imperialism and capitalism in Australia and globally.
The conflict between the two main opposing classes is more evident to working people. Belief and hopes by workers that the interests of the two classes can be reconciled and confrontation with capital (on the job, etc.) can be avoided, are waning. In this period of all-round crisis of capitalism and imperialism, it’s getting harder for the ruling class to divert and deceive the masses into believing that opposing class differences can be reconciled. Increasingly, more are looking for answers outside the “system”. Attacks on the organised working class, people’s livelihoods, climate crisis, bushfires, and imperialist wars are more readily accepted as signs of class antagonism in the social relations of production (but not expressed in the scientific Marxist language).
Climate crisis has accelerated this consciousness and movement, bringing in new sections of the people previously not involved in any activism or struggle. In Australia, which is at the coal face of climate catastrophes, the bushfires have blown wide open the contradictions and conflict between the two main classes. Fossil fuel monopolies (capital) and its puppets in parliament are more widely rejected and isolated.
This class consciousness and struggle will continue to grow and develop in response to the deepening crisis of capitalism, but not without the practical and ideological leadership of the revolutionary party working with the people.
The struggles against climate change and the destruction of Australia’s environment (coal seam gas, privatisation of water and waterways, etc.) increasingly target multinational corporations, with politicians and parliamentary parties held in contempt.
An objective anti-imperialist united front (people’s movement) is developing. It’s increasingly bringing together many sections of the working people (workers, environmentalists, small farmers, professionals, students, academics) targeting multinational corporations’ power and plunder in this country. It’s expressed through more frequent spontaneous public outbursts, and in private conversations, opposing foreign domination, exploitation of Australia’s resources and workers, foreign ownership of agricultural land and industry, forestry, coal seam gas mining, fossil fuelled climate crisis and privatisation. It’s expressed in the workers’ outrage at disappearing secure jobs and industries moved offshore, foreign takeovers, destruction of manufacturing, maritime and shipping industries, tax avoidance by multinational corporations and the power held by them over the country.
It’s a people’s movement that has not yet developed into consciously organised anti-imperialist form.
However, these big problems continue to be largely seen as unconnected and in isolation from each other. Rarely as an economic and political class problem for the whole of the working class and its allies to deal with, and not just in separate industries, workplaces, and regions. This is one of the major tasks for a well organised and ideologically skilled communist party working with the masses and armed with the scientific knowledge of imperialist domination of Australia which it takes to the people and tests in practice.
The top bourgeois trade union leadership reinforces the disempowerment of the working class, whilst the small and more militant sections of the working class want to struggle and lead. The top bourgeois trade union leadership, incapable of independence from ALP and parliament, only knows how to defuse struggle and resist the development of more militant and revolutionary class consciousness.
An independent working class agenda and movement can pull together the many threads of capitalist class exploitation and imperialist domination and unchain the working class to break out of the narrow confines of economism and parliamentarism in a fight for independence and socialism.
The revolutionary strategy of the independent working class agenda can only be developed with the involvement of more advanced and militant sections of the working class and their allies.
The revolutionary party of the working class can bring together the problems facing the people and complete the picture of imperialist domination and capitalist class dictatorship – in the practice of struggle and in our publications and propaganda.
Relying on propaganda and issuing general calls is not near enough. We must make the connections in the battles themselves alongside the masses.
The class consciousness and movement against capitalism and imperialism is uneven across the country and takes different forms and expressions, in varied conditions. However, in the absence of revolutionary working class leadership based in immediate and intermediate struggles of the people some sections of the most economically vulnerable are more easily captured by the reactionary forces of capital and pitted against the revolutionary movement. Sowing divisions and splits are the weapon of capital. Building principled unity of the working class and its allies is a powerful weapon of the revolutionaries.
Presently, the most conscious and organised voice of the anti-imperialist movement is against the US-Australia military alliance. In the past 8 years the movement has grown both organisationally and politically, from initial opposition to US bases and troops in Australia and for an independent foreign policy, to a conscious campaign to end the US military alliance. It has contributed significantly to a deeper and broader public awareness and support for an independent foreign policy from the US, and is now beginning to make connections and extensions to wider economic, social and political US domination. Four to five years ago challenging the alliance was not generally accepted by most. Nevertheless, evidence of US military domination of Australia and the LNP and ALP governments’ compliance with the US dictates, continued to be raised and addressed through our anti-imperialist work. Objective conditions are exposing and isolating US imperialism and its puppet Australian governments. The long term, patient and detailed mass work by the anti-imperialist independence conscious comrades has been important in influencing this development. Links and interdependence between imperialist wars, weapons corporations, fossil fuel monopolies and climate change are now more often recognised and accepted in the climate crisis struggle.
This long term work is now attracting more new young activists into the anti-US imperialist struggle for Australia’s independence, ending the US-Australia military alliance and support for US imperialist wars. We have to encourage this development but guard against either moving too fast ahead or lagging behind the rapidly changing conditions (both leading to isolation from the people), ensuring both the broadness of the united front and the anti-imperialist direction are maintained.
The stepped-up battles by the environmentalists targeting fossil fuel corporations and politicians, the restless working class crying out for militant leadership and struggle, and the mobilisation of wider sections of the people, has accelerated the bourgeois state’s preparations for greater repression.
The police brutality at the IMARC protests in Melbourne in October last year has politicised many young activists and revealed more of the oppressive military arm of the bourgeois state. The increasing powers and greater arming of police and the military are all signs of the bourgeoisie preparing for more repression on the path to state fascism. Even the bourgeois liberal so-called “freedom of the press” is discarded by stealth. It is an international trend parallel in its growth to the outbreak of mass resistance. The working class, politicised and organised in revolutionary class politics, is the only class that can, and will, provide the necessary leadership to resist, and defeat fascism. We need to pay constant attention to this.
Whilst there’s a general trend against capitalism and imperialism, it is most evident amongst growing numbers of young workers and students. A small section of young people are more readily embracing anti-imperialist and socialist politics and looking for militant struggle against imperialism and capitalism. There’s more interest and curiosity about communism, and distrust of anti-socialist and anti-communist propaganda. However, we must be sober in our estimate as this is still only a very small grouping of young (and a few older) people and is not representative of the great majority whose consciousness and willingness to struggle is undoubtedly developing, but not at the same pace. Nevertheless, the emergence of a new group of young activists (students and workers) indicates the general shift away from capitalism by young people. The term “capitalism” and profit are now more widely identified as the source of working people’s and environmental problems.
We need to listen and learn from these young people joining the revolutionary movement.
Whilst some of the new young activist workers and students are gravitating towards revolutionary politics and organisations there’s real temptation and danger that in present unevenly developing conditions they can easily disconnect and isolate themselves from the masses (left blocism) where the crucially important revolutionary mass work is crying out to be done. We must ensure they don’t isolate themselves and abandon the masses to social democracy and fascism. They can be guided by the past and present exemplary work of communist mass work, and Lenin and Mao’s works.
Equally, we should not underestimate and lag behind the rapidly changing conditions. The Fighting Program offers some direction in our work with the people at different levels, and will test our ideology and politics in practice.
It is not enough to issue correct general political calls and statements. Party members are activists engaged with the working people in the day to day struggles in workplaces, communities and mass organisations. There are many different ways we raise revolutionary ideas and consciousness connected to the particularity of struggle and conditions. Our study must be connected to practice. Experience has shown that the revolutionary vigour and enthusiasm of younger comrades who join the communist movement cannot be sustained without organised involvement in people’s struggle.
Working people judge us by our activism in people’s struggle and the party being seen to be active in practical and political struggles.
It’s not enough for the Party to issue politically correct calls, statements and proclamations. We have to take them to the people in a practical way, test and amend them with the people in struggle, and offer revolutionary leadership in practice.
This extract from Mao Zedong’s timeless “Some questions concerning methods of leadership” is always pertinent to the Party’s work.
“There are two methods which we Communists must employ in whatever work we do. One is to combine the general with the particular; the other is to combine the leadership with the masses.
“In any task, if no general and widespread call is issued, the broad masses cannot be mobilized for action. But if persons in leading positions confine themselves to a general call–if they do not personally, in some of the organizations, go deeply and concretely into the work called for, make a break-through at some single point, gain experience and use this experience for guiding other units–then they will have no way of testing the correctness or of enriching the content of their general call, and there is the danger that nothing may come of it.”
It’s a little booklet that should be turned to often.