Friday, October 30, 2020

Workers find ways to take action to defend and advance their rights at work


Written by: Ned K. on 31 October 2020

 Despite high unemployment and higher under-employment, workers across a range of industries are still finding ways to successfully struggle to defend and extend their interests. 

Governments both state and federal, and private sector companies, have emphasized health and safety in the workplace and communities to control Covid-19. Workers have picked up on this and are cleverly using the state Workplace Health and Safety Acts to defend and extend their own health and safety in the workplace

There are provisions in these Acts which workers won after years of struggle which enable workers to cease unsafe work without loss of pay and enable safety representatives elected by workers to ban unsafe work.

Sometimes these actions make the headline news of the 24-hour news cycle, such as the construction workers in Sydney recently who ceased work due to unhealthy blocked toilets and the consequent potential for spread of germs to all workers on the site. 

Another case that made the news was when two safety representatives at Canberra airport were stood down without pay for alerting the airport to unsafe practices by their contract security employer when a positive-tested Covid-19 person was not isolated at the airport. 

There are other examples that do not make the headline 24-hour news cycle, such as process workers in a factory in the food industry who walked off the job to successfully get the employer to fix the air conditioning system in the killing room where poultry are slaughtered on their way to ending up at KFC or MacDonald's as the filling in a chicken burger!

In struggles such as these, the employer's knee jerk reaction has been to try and take some form of disciplinary action against the workers. However much to their disgust, the employers have been unsuccessful because the workers have skillfully exercised their limited democratic rights under health and safety laws. These laws, although with their limitations, give workers more room to move than Fair Work Act where almost all collective action by workers is banned and hefty fines apply if “unprotected action" is taken.

No doubt the employer class, especially the big employers whom governments usually kowtow to, will be looking at these safety laws and lobbying politicians to water them down to make them as feeble for workers as the Fair Work Act.

The limited democratic rights at work contained in the health and safety laws should and will be strongly defended by workers as part of an on-going campaign to defend and extend general rights of workers at work


 

  

Thursday, October 29, 2020

More than meets the eye – the CPA(ML) in NSW Part 4 – No surrender

 


Written by: Louisa L on 30 October 2020

On February 20, 1976, less than three months after Whitlam was sacked, a small notice announced that US Vice President Nelson Rockefeller (see cartoon) would be visiting Canberra and Sydney. The head of one of the largest US imperialist conglomerates as well as VP, he was giving royal assent to his new colony. 

In Sydney he would celebrate with the misnamed “Australian-American Association”. In reality the American name preceded the Aussie one, showing who had first place in the relationship. Set up in New York by Murdoch empire founder, Sir Keith Murdoch in 1948, it was an agent for economic and cultural imperialism, among other things offering lucrative cultural and academic scholarships for hand-picked recipients. Nearly 50 years later it operates with impunity and five-star ratings, while the Chinese-funded equivalent, the much smaller Confucius Association, causes widespread gnashing of teeth, as a danger to democracy. 

The AAA’s online gala this year honours Kathy Warden CEO and President of war corporation Northrop Grumman. The other Rockefeller guest was the United States Chamber of Commerce, AmCham for short. Now with offices in five Australian capital cities, it describes itself as “Australia’s largest and most prestigious international business organisation” and “the voice of international business interests”. Back in ’76 we exposed AmCham and AAA as undermining our independence. Things have not improved! 

Like latter day reality TV, in 1976 we had 38 days to organise. We plastered areas the suburbs with screen printed posters inviting people to the first meeting of the Mobilisation Against Rockefeller (MAR). Interstate groups were contacted. A Vietnam vet (a former commissioned officer) and his wife joined. He told us how he and the men under his command painted up army vehicles and planes at night four years earlier: ‘Vote for Whitlam and be home by Christmas’. There were English and American accents, including Tex, who soon launched the CYIA (Committee of Yanks for an Independent Australia). Dogmatic and humorless? Hardly. Tex was involved in an independence show on community station 2SER and helped work on the newspaper, National Southern Cross.

It was a wide reach, to match Rockefeller’s economic empire. According to the first verse of our street theatre’s reworked Christmas carol, 

‘Old King Rockefeller bagged all our best resources
 Then he sent to CIA to muster up his forces
E-sso, Pan Am, White Wings too, Co-olgate Palmolive 
Then he grabbed uranium, for atomic fu-u-el’. 

Of course. The timing of Whitlam’s sacking also involved a US corporate court case over failure to supply uranium, blocked by his government and the will of the people.

Five days before his Sydney visit, MAR and Campaign Against Foreign Military Bases in Australia almost filled a thousand seat venue at NSW Uni with four bands. This was in tune with our emphasis on cultural independence through numerous other concerts, bush dances and events over years, like internationalist Afrika Nights which members helped organise alongside the Pan Africanist Congress and Black Consciousness members, and those fighting for Eritrean liberation. A packed Sydney Town Hall concert with People for Australian Independence and Citizens for Democracy was hosted by Bryan Brown.

These events breathed the history none of us learned at school.

So, on Wednesday March 31, 1976 a thousand people turned up to protest.

We were keen to get close to the Wentworth Hotel, perhaps through the front doors, by dividing into two marches. What a debacle! Only two people knew the not so grand plan. Police let loose with boots and fists. On Elizabeth Street they broke a woman’s ribs before arresting her and a number of others.

Regrouping in Hyde Park, it was left to others to announce legal assistance. We had made no preparations for that. It was an important lesson in looking after people and on focusing long term work alongside everyday people, rather than just the fireworks of big events. We began by fundraising for those arrested.

Work

All this time, other members and supporters continued their daily efforts. On the buses and railways, in hospitals and schools, in factories and academia and the public service, on wharves and driving trucks, their work was quieter, longer-term, deeper, slower and powerful. 

Nurses, both members and supporters, drove the party’s national struggle to protect Medibank, underpinning its strength, one of many struggles we directly helped organise.

The party encouraged young students to become workers. Union militancy was not universal in the late 70s. Some of us found ourselves under attack at work. One was expelled from his job as a bus conductor three times, but workmates came to his rescue. Often workers understood solidarity far better than union officials. Our educational backgrounds in largely migrant workplaces, meant we could effectively voice grievances. Sometimes it was a small issue, delayed arrival of safety gloves, that lit a fire of action. It was a time when lessons came thick and fast.

For this writer, four years on a metal industry process line gave infinitely more than I gave back, including lifelong friendships. It underpinned a real understanding of the web of relationships, collective wisdom and discipline, strategy and tactics that had till then been words on a page. It taught me to ask questions and listen, to rely on the people for strength, to sense when they were ready to act. After being unsuccessfully sacked for the fourth time in four years, I knew my time was nearly up. I did a Dip Ed and headed into teaching, profoundly changed. It didn’t mean I always followed these lessons, or didn’t make mistakes, but at least I had a fighting chance. 

The collective ideological leadership of the party – in study, in discussions, in Vanguard (the longest continuously published left paper in Australia), the Australian Communist and in Ted Hill’s prodigious output above his full-time legal practice defending workers – showed these small battles in their wider context. 

Errors

Rather than left blocs criticised by Hill and the Central Committee, the mistake of younger members and supporters from the mid-80s, was that we had no independent presence beyond the party publications and public spokespeople after People for Australian Independence’s successor, Australian Independence Movement, folded.

Only those who do nothing make no mistakes. But this was a serious one, particularly for a party that lauded Mao Zedong’s The Question of Independence and Initiative in the United front, which warned that when working with others, although concessions could be made, both independence and initiative must be maintained. But beyond our workplaces, we were often subsumed in the united front.

It was not till the rise of Spirit of Eureka in the 90s that Sydney again had a separate anti-imperialist organisation able to take independent action. 

There were other mistakes too. During the Whitlam period, the imperialist power of the Soviet Union, bearing a fake socialist fa├žade that shamed its heritage, grew around the world. Research, at the suggestion of communist veteran Bert Chandler exposed its moves into Australia. 

Few knew that Khemlani loans affair (the final excuse to ditch Whitlam) involved millions from the Moscow Narodny Bank. In Wolloomooloo, it partnered with shady slum landlord and developer Sid Londish. Other ‘development’ deals included Queensland’s Fortitude Valley. Like its US counterpart, the KGB was busy building favourable connections in unions and the ALP generally.

This was important research, showing superpower contention as a great mover in politics then as now, with a rising China. 

But in Sydney our young members and supporters greatly overestimated the power of the new superpower, often seeing it as more dangerous than a weakened US imperialism. While Boris Detentevich rightly joined Uncle Sam in guerrilla theatre, wielding giant missiles, facts spoke for themselves. US imperialism was still numero uno here. It held state power.

Industry or community

From the early 80s through to the late 90s, the party’s chairperson, Bruce Cornwall, and other members and supporters were instrumental in the Peace Squadron which, alongside Paddlers for Peace took to Sydney Harbour each time US warships sailed in. The focus on the enemy was sharp. In 1983, the NSW Government banned nuclear powered ships. 

US policy was to neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear arms, so the Paddlers and Squadron treated all US ships as potentially nuclear armed. Eventual Greens MLC Ian Cohen was famed for his surfboard bow-ride from a US aircraft carrier. One of our loosely defined mob was less shimmering in 1988. He climbed up an accommodating aircraft carrier sewage pipe, stepped on board with “G’day mate!” to an African American Naval Officer in regimental finery, who offered his white-gloved hand to our friend’s poo covered one, and shook it. 

Bruce and others spent decades in working with numerous church and left political groups in the peace movement, including the 400,000 strong Sydney Walk Against the War before the US invasion of Iraq. Others took leading roles in the latter on behalf of their unions. 

Industrial issues also held our attention, including the destruction of the BLF. There were many picket lines, small and large that drew our support or in which we marched alongside workmates.

The oral history, No Surrender, charted the historic three-month strike and occupation of Sydney Harbour’s Cockatoo Island Dockyard in 1989. It honoured the occupiers and strikers who were unable to win the industrial support from the ALP-dominated union movement that would have ensured victory. It drew connections to the bigger struggle for independence and reflected the many hours the author spent on the island in support during the struggle and with the occupiers afterwards.

Community struggles were, and continue to be, numerous and diverse, including small ones that won against offshore sandmining, or gaining East Timorese families refugee status, against hospital closures in Sydney and regional NSW or rapacious overdevelopment. There are too many to list.

No one will do it for you

But the majority of our work has been below the surface of huge events, in the day to day slog of jobs away from media spotlights. Some of us have been deeply involved on state union executives, while maintaining full time work in schools, hospitals and construction sites. We work together and individually to draw together corporate connections, like Rupert Murdoch’s hunt for multi-billion-dollar profits from schools, or that overthrew the corrupt leadership of the Heath Services Union and helped keep hospitals in public hands.

We have been at the heart of actions that hit national front pages or were barely a blimp in local ones.

In unions, we focus on rank and file organisation, pushing for the most militant positions possible in often narrow opportunities, so our workmates can gain a few scraps from the capitalist table, but also learn how to fight effectively to get out from under the US imperialist thumb. We work hard in trade unions, but we try not to succumb to trade union politics.

In connections with First Peoples’ struggles we expose the danger of divisive corporate plans that might otherwise be hidden and stand with them when their enemies try to smash and destroy. First Peoples will lead their own battles, but they are not alone.

We work quietly in numerous community struggles, building webs of connection despite weaknesses rising from the capitalist stew in which we all live. We aspire to something better than individualism and ego. We trust the Peoples of this continent and its islands, for only with them can imperialism be overthrown.

History did not end with the rise of US imperialism as the sole superpower, despite the proclamations of its pet historians. Another dangerous superpower has risen. Yet people still stand in defiance. 

After 100 years of struggle for the classless society of communism in Australia, we are all better placed to move forward, not because we have made no mistakes, but because we accept their inevitability, analysing and learning from them, enriched by them, as we are by what we have done well. 

If you don’t write your own history, no one will do it for you. So, these four articles focus on the role of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) in Sydney and in NSW. But we have to be truthful. We are not the only ones struggling for a better future. There is no sense in point scoring or mud-slinging, to distinguish this or that group from the other. The Peoples of this continent and its islands need leadership. They want a unified and strong response to the destruction, by war or climate change or mounting attacks under Covid’s cover. It is the people versus imperialism. 

To the huge and dangerous forces that face us all, we speak our defiance. 

With the people we raise collective banners. Our actions speak two words – no surrender. 

 

Reflections From Working In The Car Industry In SA


 Written by: Ned K. on 30 October 2020

When I was in my early 20s, I worked in a large car factory in SA for a few years. Previously I had worked in the food processing industry. In both industries in the big workplaces with more than one hundred workers, union membership was close to 100% of all workers. There was also a culture of workers electing their union reps for their departments. Collective action by members over company rejection of log of claims or over company attempts to speed up production lines were common. This was particularly the case in the large car plants like the one I worked in where there were thousands of workers. 

In the car factories there was on-going struggle by workers not only against the multinational car company owners, but also against the union official leadership who played more of a role of controlling workers rather than leading and supporting them in winning their demands.

Luckily for me, the car factory that I worked in had already developed active rank and file organisation which any car worker, not just departmental union reps could join. The company and the union officials were opposed to this level of organisation among workers, fearing that they would lose control of the workers. Workers involved in the rank and file organisation produced and distributed leaflets to let workers know what was going on in all areas of the factory and also exposed collusion between company and union officialdom during major disputes.

These newsletters were popular among migrant workers in the factory. The rank and file organisation in the factory had participants from different cultural backgrounds in the factory, especially those from southern European backgrounds. 

Some of the members of the rank and file organisation were also members of the Party. However they never imposed their view on other members of the rank and file organisation but always supported them and stood with the workers in struggles big and small. 

The company became worried when they could see that the majority of workers in the factory were no longer reluctantly following the recommendations of the union officialdom when disputes arose. More and more, workers looked to the rank and file organisation for leadership. 

Over time, both rank and file organisation members and the majority of car workers supported action over broader industry issues such as nationalisation of the car industry and also broad political issues. With respect to political issues, car workers took strike action when the Whitlam Government was dismissed by Kerr and his US big business masters in 1975. 

During the development of rank and file organisation in this car factory and others like it in SA, Party members who worked in these factories did not reveal their Party membership except to workers who wanted to join the Party. Car workers who joined the Party through working closely with existing Party members understood the need for organisation that could survive in all conditions. The level of organisation and class consciousness of the car workers reached such a level that the car factory multinational owners took one drastic step after another to try and maintain their power over the workers.

They sacked militant union rank and file representatives, spied on workers to find out which workers were involved in rank and file organisation. When this failed to stem the rising tide of worker solidarity and collective actions, the multinationals resorted to mass sackings which included targeting workers they thought were part of the rank and file organisation. The union officialdom was aligned with the ALP politically. They came out in the daily press and supported the multinationals’ targeted sacking of rank and file leaders.

Unfortunately the car factory owners with the collusion of the union officialdom did a pretty thorough job of smashing car workers’ rank and file organisation. One lesson from this for any workplace today in any industry is that like in society generally, workers’ organisation does need to be like an iceberg so that the boss class and their lackeys in parliament or union officialdom can never know the total membership of the workers’ organisation. In the car industry in the 1970s in SA the multinationals showed they were prepared to cast the net wide when layoffs came, in order to maximise their chances of getting rid of any suspected Party members and progressive rank and file workers.

My experience of working in the car industry in the 1970s showed me that the Party’s ideas about the need for the workers to become the ruling class of a socialist Australia were true. That experience also showed that a special type of organisation was needed to win for workers. It had to be strong enough to withstand all the tactics of the bosses to divide the workers. The nature of the class society in which we lived then and still live in today requires a workers’ leading organisation which has membership deep among the workplaces and workers’ communities. 

The big factories with thousands of workers in them were fertile ground for development of working class leaders. These workplaces have largely gone now due to how capitalism has developed in Australia. However, the workplaces of today are in some ways places including workers of diverse backgrounds who have experienced harsh conditions and tremendous struggles before their arrival in Australia. They are now participating in workers struggles in their new home and taking leading roles in these struggles, whether they are farm workers, hospital workers or mine workers. The future is bright for the working class in Australia 

 

The Communist movement in Australia - 100 years

 


Written by: Alice M. on 29/10/20

30th October 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Communist movement in Australia. 

The Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) pays tribute to the founders of the Communist Party in Australia and the generations of workers and comrades who dedicated themselves to building the communist movement in Australia.

Communism instils confidence in the power of the people led by the revolutionary working class, to end capitalism and build socialism - a society run by the working class for the people, and begin laying the foundations for the classless society of communism.

Communism is not romanticised utopia, a wishful ideal.  It’s a logical conclusion reached by Marx and Engels through their scientifically researched examination of the material conditions of capitalism and class struggle.  They concluded that the irreconcilable contradictions between labour and capital in the capitalist relations of production creates the necessary material conditions and tools that compel the socialist revolution and the seizure of power by the revolutionary working class. 

Marx and Engels’ findings were further developed by Lenin, Stalin and Mao through their revolutionary practice and working out their countries’ revolutionary road to socialism.  The general principles they developed in the course of their revolutionary practice have universal application, enriching the theory and practice of Communism.  But Lenin and Mao insisted that the Communist Parties of each country should not merely uphold and be guided by these general principles, but they must chart their own countries’ road to socialism in line with their local historical, economic, political and social conditions. International conditions play an important role in influencing internal events, but are not decisive. 

As with all living things, the growth of the Communist movement is constant, uneven and doesn’t flow in straight, uninterrupted lines. Communism grows out of material conditions.   In its turn, the Communist movement acts on and changes the material world. 

Capitalism and imperialism create fertile ground for the revolutionary seeds of socialism and communism.  The revolutionary working class and its organisation, the Communist Party, are vehicles of socialist revolution.  The Communist Party of the working class is entirely different from capitalist parliamentary parties which serve capital and keep the working class chained to capitalism and its institutions. 

Communism is not a dogma.  It’s a science in the service of the people.  In its 100 years the Communist movement has made a significant impact on the development of working class revolutionary consciousness and working class struggles in Australia.   The practice of communism in a world dominated by capitalism and surrounded by its bourgeois ideology is not without its shortcomings and setbacks.  Nevertheless, the Communist movement is constantly moving forward, at different paces depending on prevailing material conditions.  It’s a powerful force for change when connected to the real world of working class and people’s struggles.

Many rich lessons can be learned from the achievements and shortcomings in development of the Communist movement in Australia over the past 100 years.

The birth of Australia’s communist movement 
Class struggle in Australia began with the European colonisation and the brutal theft of the First People’s country by British colonial imperialism.  Throughout the 19th Century Australia’s working class grew in numbers and class consciousness.  Trade unions were formed and industrial action regularly broke out. 

Rebellion and resistance to capitalist exploitation expressed itself in the Eureka Stockade rebellion, the 8 hour day struggles, the shearers’ strikes of 1891 and many others.  Militant working class ideas of 19th Century Europe were brought to Australia.

Australia’s working class accumulated rich experiences of struggle in the period preceding, during and after the imperialist World War 1.  The 1917 October Revolution introduced the more scientific socialist consciousness into the spontaneous battles against conscription, imperialist war and relentless attacks on the working class.

The Communist movement and its party in Australia were born out of local Australian conditions and politically inspired by the 1917 October Russian revolution.  But the Communist Party of Australia and its ideas of socialism were still in the early stages of development.

Depression, Fascism and War
During the global economic Depression in late 1920s and throughout the 1930s communists in Australia fought side by side with the people in all struggles against the economic depression, poverty, homelessness, and unemployment.  Communists were activists in trade unions, workplaces, communities; they were organising with the unemployed, the poor, the homeless, the farmers, students and academics.  

Communist Party members diligently studied Marxism to understand the economic situation and the political tasks to change the world through class struggle.  They stood side by side with workers in factories, suburbs and rural communities fighting against poverty, unemployment, low wages, homelessness, and organising resistance to evictions. Many were unemployed, living in poverty themselves and evicted from their own homes.  They tirelessly explained how and why capitalism exploits workers and were instrumental in organising resistance by the working class shouldering the burden of the capitalist economic crisis. 

As people’s resistance to economic crisis grew, so did the state repression.  The Crimes Act was extended, declaring Communist Party activities unlawful; anti-trade union legislation and other laws suppressing people’s democratic rights to protest were rolled out.  The deepening state repression was met with more resistance and calls for greater democratic rights.

Communists organised and led mass movements against war and the rise of fascism; against the racist White Australia Policy and the Immigration Act used not only against the Asian and non-British European people, but also against communists.  They opposed the rise of Hitler and defended the Soviet Union.  They worked closely with and supported the First People’s campaigns and struggles against discrimination, for justice and equality.  Many were artists, writers, performers and musicians who became deeply involved in many of the people’s struggles.  Australian Communists joined the International Brigades to fight against the fascist Franco regime in Spain.

In 1937 Port Kembla wharfies refused to load pig iron on the ship Dalfram for export to imperial Japan.  The relentless and desperate anti-communist propaganda, vilification and demonising of communists and the Communist Party only strengthened their conviction and confidence in the power of the working class and socialism.

In the early years of World War 2 the Communist Party was briefly banned.  But this did not deter Communists and supporters from continuing to work underground, switching to different methods of work to protect the party’s mass work, the members, sympathisers and activists.  They opposed the traitorous “Brisbane Line”, and even organised guerrilla units to harass any Japanese invasion.

Many leaders of the long 1949 miners’ strike were members of the Communist Party.  The Labor Chifley government sent the army to smash the miners’ strike.

1950-1951 Communist Party Dissolution Bill 
In 1950 the Menzies government introduced the Communist Party Dissolution Bill to ban the Communist Party.  The target of the attack was not only the Communist Party but the strong and well organised working class movement, militant unions and the democratic and progressive organisations in Australia. 

The legislation would give power to the Menzies government to declare individuals and organisations as Communists or sympathisers and ban their activities.  Rank and file union activists, union officials, peace and social justice activists, could be sacked from their jobs.  Workers campaigning for higher wages, equal pay for women, world peace, could be caught in the net, declared communists and face 5 years’ imprisonment.  The Menzies government was preparing to set up concentration camps capable of holding 1000 communists and their families.

On 22 September 1951 in a nationwide Referendum on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill a majority of Australian people rejected the reactionary Menzies government’s attempt to ban the Party and crush the working class and progressive movements.  The defeat of the Referendum was the result of the 18 months of colossal united front mass work led by the Communist Party of Australia and D. H. Evatt (then Opposition Leader of the Labor Party).  Across the country, unions, peace and democratic rights and civil rights organisations, people from many different walks of life and political backgrounds, in cities and rural communities, were actively organising against the ban on the Communist Party.  The Australian people’s defeat of the anti-Communist Bill stands alongside the mass struggles at the Eureka Stockade, the World War 1 anti-conscription struggles, the 1969 mass battle against the penal powers, the 1966-1971 mass mobilisations against the Vietnam War, the 1998 MUA dispute, the opposition to 2003 Iraq war, and Your Rights at Work mobilisations in 2005-2007.

1956 - Differences in the movement 
In 1956 a major rift developed in the international communist movement precipitated by the change of direction in the Soviet leadership led by Khrushchev after the death of Stalin.  Khrushchev rejected the principles of Marxism, scientific socialism and the enormous achievements of the Soviet people under the leadership of Stalin and the Soviet Communist Party. This impacted on the entire international communist movement dependent on political and ideological leadership from the Soviet Union.  It led to some abandoning Marxism-Leninism and scientific socialism.  

Within the CPA the differences were not solely centred on Khrushchev’s rejection of communism and slandering Stalin’s contribution to the communist movement.  Even before the 1956 major split in the international communist movement over the Soviet Union, political differences were growing within the CPA over the course of socialist revolution in Australia.  The change of direction in the Soviet Union and disagreements in the international communist movement crystalised the existing political differences within the CPA.  Differences were emerging over the communist party’s approach to parliamentarism, trade unionism, the bourgeois state, communist organisation in the period of bourgeois dictatorship and communist methods of work.   Dependency on the Soviet Union for guidance and direction was a major shortcoming in the CPA from its inception in 1920. In many ways this was inevitable, but it held back the will and ability of the Communist movement in Australia to investigate and work out independently the political situation in Australia. By 1964 there was still little willingness amongst some in the leadership of the old CPA to correct this major error and develop its own class analysis of Australia and our road to socialism.  It reflected the historically colonial origins of European Australia and looking for overseas guidance.  

Differences over the course of Australia’s socialist revolution and the abandonment of Marxism by the new Soviet leadership continued, leading to the formation of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) in 1964.

1964 – A new direction 
In 1964 the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) was formed, setting itself the task of scientifically investigating and examining Australian conditions through the study of Marxism. The founding members of the CPA (M-L) and its Chairman Ted Hill set themselves the task to uphold the revolutionary integrity of the Communist movement in Australia founded in 1920. The founders of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) in 1964 began the task of rectifying the mistakes and shortcomings in the old Communist Party to strengthen the work of CPA (M-L) members and supporters in serving the working class and the socialist movement. 

The first 40 years of the Communist Party were examined.  Shortcomings and weaknesses were identified and the CPA (M-L) set about correcting ideological and political mistakes in the CPA’s approach to bourgeois parliament, trade unionism, the bourgeois state and revolutionary organisation, and the left blocism that separated communists from the people.  The CPA (M-L) condemned the vilification of Stalin and the rise of revisionism under Khrushchev’s leadership.

Australian conditions
Analysis of classes in Australia revealed Australia as an economic, political and military dependency, controlled first by the British, and after World War 2, replaced by US imperialism.  It recognised the anti-imperialist character of Australia’s socialist revolution, exposing imperialism and the local comprador bourgeoisie as the dominant class, with small farmers, small businesses as potential allies of the working class. The two main classes standing against each other are the imperialist class (mainly foreign capital and some local monopolies) and the working class, with the small to medium businesses between the two main classes.

Trade Unions
The CPA (M-L) views trade unions under capitalism as having two sides.  They are important working class organisations in resisting capital’s relentless grinding down and intensifying the exploitation of workers.  They are important schools of class struggle. The other side of trade unions under capitalism is their inherent bourgeois ideology which ties workers to capitalism and diverts struggle away from ending capitalist exploitation of the working class and the fight for socialism.

The old CPA’s main aim for Communists working in trade unions was to simply capture official leadership positions.  Trade unions were seen as vehicles for change to socialism.  This political view denied an aspect of trade unions’ role in maintaining the dominance of capital and co-opting workers to capitalism.  The main emphasis had been on communists capturing leading official positions in unions, abandoning the essential mass work of protracted struggle and political education.  

This practice led to communists deserting working class independence from the ALP and capital.  The switch to social democracy by these “communist” leaders reached its peak during the 1983 Hawke and Keating’s ALP Accord with the ACTU.  Some leading CPA members, also in leading positions of peak trade unions, including the ACTU, strongly pushed the Accord on workers, much to the disgust of many rank and file members and organisers. It was inevitable that some of these leaders took the next logical step of leaving the CPA to join the ALP and seeking preselection for parliamentary seats. Ultimately, this and the abandonment of Marxism led to the CPA becoming irrelevant, and it was only a matter of time before the remaining members dismantled it in 1991. The same so-called communists had supported the deregistration of the BLF by the Hawke government in 1980s.

Parliamentarism
An important area of political difference was the attitude to parliament and parliamentary elections. For many years the CPA stood candidates for election, with little result or influence. There was virtually no analysis or criticism raised that parliament was a bourgeois institution; on the one hand it was formed by democratic election, and on the other hand it relied on the two-party competition (Liberal – Labor) promoted by the bourgeois media and the wealthy capitalist patrons of the main parties. The illusion that democracy was the right to vote every three years for a parliamentary party was assumed to be the only real democracy that would reflect the needs and desires of the masses. The CPA accepted and strengthened this illusion, and encouraged the further deception that socialism could be achieved through this bourgeois institution. 

The CPA (M-L) has never rejected the idea of standing members for parliamentary election.  However, in our view parliament can be used to advance the revolutionary objectives of the working class in the right timing and conditions, but importantly as a reflection of working class support, rather than a means of getting that support. Furthermore, it would be mainly as a platform to promote the revolutionary position of the Party and support the revolutionary struggle of the people, in times when this was legal. The great distinction of the CPA (M-L) position was - and continues to be - the emphasis on mass work among the people in workplaces, communities, trade unions and progressive organisations.

In 1970 a group of CPA members loyal to the new revisionist leadership of the Soviet Union after the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia and unhappy with growing “New Left” tendencies, split from the CPA, forming the Socialist Party of Australia.  In 1994, not long after the old CPA dismantled itself the SPA took the name CPA.

Methods of work – mass work
The CPA (M-L) identified errors in the old party’s methods of work. Left-blocism and a self-satisfied left bubble of likeminded people became a problem in the Communist Party of 1950s.  It wasn’t easy to be a communist and belong to the Communist Party in the Cold War period of 1950s.  It was easier to socialise and seek comfort from politically like minded people and congregate in Party headquarters.  This led to the isolation of many communists from the people. 

Party membership was publicly known with members and sympathisers under constant surveillance by the state, exposing activists and workers.

The CPA (M-L) moved away from this left echo chamber organisation.  Instead members were urged to integrate with ordinary people in workplaces and communities, working and learning from the people how to connect the goals of socialism with the day to day struggles of the people, without abandoning the integrity of communism and succumbing to the all-pervasive pressures of capitalist ideology and culture surrounding us.  It required a change in practice and attitude by communists towards ordinary people as the teachers of communists, instead of communists being arrogant know-alls.  

Organised and systematic study of Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao were now closely linked to the revolutionary practice and development of Marxist theory in Australian conditions. Communists must be anchored to the people in workplaces, communities, in anti-war and peace campaigns, in people’s environmental struggles.  We don’t seek the lime light, the spectacular and the self-importance of capitalist individualism.  

Revolutionary Organisation
In the view of Marxist-Leninists, Communist Party organisation must serve the politics and ideology of the revolutionary working class.  A Communist Party operating in the hostile environment of capitalism and the bourgeois state obviously must protect its organisation, members and supporters.  The years of reactionary anti-communist propaganda, outright lies and distortions has planted distrust and suspicion about communists and communist parties.  We continually strive to overcome the obstacles standing between communists and the people.

The CPA (M-L) organisation and work are best characterised as the Iceberg principle.  Only the top tip of the iceberg is visible to the state.  The exposed tip is a small number of public people.  Party members are the fish swimming in the sea of the people.  They don’t hide their communism from the people they work with, but nor do they go out of their way to proclaim themselves to the bourgeois state.  

Revolutionary service to the people
Amongst some of the publicly known founding members of the CPA (M-L), who were also former members of the CPA, were union leaders.  In Victoria they included Paddy Malone, Victorian State Secretary of the Builders' Labourers' Federation; Norm Wallace, Assistant State Secretary; and Norm Gallagher later National Secretary of the Builders’ Labourers' Federation.  Ted Bull, Victorian State Secretary of the Waterside Workers’ Federation, Harry Bouquet and Peter Close along with other wharfies and seafarers; Clarrie O’Shea, the Tramways Union Secretary who led the 1969 Penal Powers struggle;  Mel Mooney; Ted Hill Chairman of CPA (M-L), Dulcie Steffanou, Betty Oke, Betty Little-O’Shea, Fortis Antipas, and many others.  In South Australia they included Charlie McCaffrey (ex-Ironworkers Federation and State Secretary of the CPA), Dr David Caust, Marjorie Johnston, and Roy and Muriel Baynes.  In NSW they included Bert Chandler, Syd Clare and Jim Dabron.  In Queensland they included Jim Sharp and Don Wilson.  And there were many other exemplary working class Communists across the country steeled in the hard lives and fierce battles of the Great Depression, WW2 and the Cold War.  More information about some can be found at http://cpaml.org/ourcomrades.php.    

But these and other publicly known leaders are only the tip of the much larger CPA (M-L) organisation and members working with the people.  The political influence of the CPA (M-L) and its members is much wider and deeper, than the public appearances.

Throughout the late 1960s and 1970s young activists and militant workers were joining the CPA-ML.  Fresh from national anti-Vietnam war protests and the Clarrie O’Shea Penal Powers battles they were schooled in the experiences of mass struggle and inspired by the working class leadership of the CPA (M-L).  Political study, discussions and learning from the CPA (M-L) veterans gave them profound understanding of the necessity for protracted and patient mass work and deep connections to the people.   Independently of the CPA (M-L) they formed the Worker Student Alliance that spread across 5 states.

Many became leaders in the struggles of the people in workplaces, unions and communities.  Most were publicly unknown. John Cummins, the former State President of the CFMEU, was one of these many young working class activists.  John left the university, got a job as a builders’ labourer, joined the union and became one of the working class’ long time courageous leading sons.   John always upheld Marxism-Leninism, studying and applying Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao in his union work as a militant and revolutionary worker serving the working class.  He was a leading member of the CPA (M-L) collective leadership.

Mass work
The CPA (M-L) approach to mass work and the communist party organisation operating under the capitalist state meant most of the party and its members involved in the struggles with the people are not publicly known.  This enables communists to work and learn from the people in the day to day struggles, all the time developing the theoretical and political course of Australia’s road to socialism. Communism is not rammed down workers' throats.  Communists listen, respect and learn from the people, introducing socialist politics according to the level of consciousness and conditions. Not as an abstract utopia, but connected to people’s real lives and experiences, without needing to prove themselves by constantly waving red flags.  

The other side of this publicly unseen work is that achievements in people’s struggles are often not credited to the Party and its members.  

Inevitably, mistakes are made and learned from.  It’s not the making of mistakes in themselves that is the problem, it’s the inability to recognise and correct mistakes.

During the 56 years members have always been active across many workplaces, unions and communities - amongst the manufacturing workers, construction workers, electricians, plumbers, railway workers, tramway workers, nurses, teachers, car factory workers, rubber workers, factory workers in multinational food processing corporations, cleaners, rural workers, in services and hospitality industries, public servants, bank workers, Council workers, postal workers, retail workers, students, doctors, lawyers, scientists, accountants, academics, and many others. Amongst migrants in factories and ethnic communities. But as much as most of their day to day political involvement with the people is protracted, unspectacular and not publicised they are often known and respected by the people with whom they work.

We’re involved in child care centres and kindergartens, community health centres, school communities, parents’ groups, local environment, in working class suburbs fighting against freeways, multinational corporations and oil refineries for protection of local communities and the environment, fighting for public education.

The 1969 Clarrie O’Shea Penal Powers struggle is a testament of the CPA-ML Party’s political work serving the people.

In national moratoriums leading opposition to US imperialism, against conscription and supporting the National Liberation Front of Vietnam. In the late 1960s and early 1970s during the powerful national Moratorium mass movements against the Vietnam War, CPA (M-L) activists and supporters were calling out US imperialism as the main enemy in the war against the Vietnamese people and Australia’s master.   The national movements for Australia’s independence grew out of these struggles.

CPA (M-L) members were at the centre of struggles against the CIA engineered dismissal of the Whitlam government, the fight to defend Medibank, against the ID Card, against apartheid in South Africa; in solidarity with the independence movements by the people of Timor Leste, West Papua and Bougainville.   

In 1974 members and supporters initiated and led campaigns against US military bases, organised the Long March to North West Cape, demanded the closure of Pine Gap and all US military bases in Australia.

CPA (M-L) members are always involved in the many battles of Australia’s working class in workplaces and communities.  There’s not enough space in this long article to acknowledge all of them.

CPA (M-L) members were among the rank and file workers in the manufacturing and metals Union (now AMWU) vigorously opposing the Accord concocted by the ACTU and Hawke.  A rank and file metals union group and its newspaper were viciously attacked and members vilified by the Union leadership and threatened to blacklist them across the industry.  Homes of rank and file outdoor Council workers battling the ALP sell outs controlling their union were shot at in the middle of the night.  Much is already known about the history of the BLF under sustained attack by the capitalist state with the help of Labor governments. 

In mid 1980s the CPA-ML was warning about imperialism devouring Australia’s manufacturing, de-industrialising and restructuring Australia’s industries and tightening imperialist domination.  CPA (M-L) members and party literature warned that imperialist policies of “globalisation” were undermining and destroying the foreign dominated car industry, steel manufacturing, the tools industry and promoting the privatisation of public utilities. The Party was warning that the capitalist and imperialist restructuring is creating two tiers of workers – a small core of permanent workers and a large periphery of casual low paid workers with few rights and conditions. 

In the 1970s and 1980s  in the long-going big battles in the giant multinational car factories in South Australia and Victoria communists and their supporters were with car workers battling not only against the multinational car company owners, but also against the union official leadership who played more of a role of controlling workers rather than leading and supporting them in winning their demands.  Party members were active in car workers’ rank and file organisations and strongly supported by the majority of workers.   Over time, both rank and file organisation members and the majority of car workers were supporting action over broader industry issues such as nationalisation of the car industry and broad political issues.  The bosses, in collusion with the ALP aligned union leadership, tried to crush car workers’ militancy and their rank and file organisation. Representatives of the rank and file organisation were sacked.  But this did not end the militancy of car workers.

In Victoria’s LaTrobe Valley, home to the state’s power stations, Party members and supporters stood up to Hawke and led the long strikes for wages and conditions.  They led the massive struggle against privatisation of the state’s power generating stations in the LaTrobe Valley.  

The popular theoretical section called Marxism Today, which was featured in every issue of the Party paper Vanguard for many years, and continues today online on the website www.cpaml.org, was originally started and maintained by a group of young railway workers. As well as this, they distributed Party material, and held union positions in their work depots and on state committees for many years. At all times they kept up their close links with fellow workers and supported and guided many struggles. None of this could have happened had there not been regular contact, encouragement and suggestions from the Party leadership.

The tide to socialism and communism is unstoppable. It demands a united communist movement finding common ground to work together in the revolutionary service to the people.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

More than meets the eye – the CPA(ML) in NSW Part 3 – Whitlam, Uncle Sam and the People


 Written by: Louisa L on 29 October 2020

In 1974 Sydney, ten years after the party was formed, an already heated atmosphere was overlaid by venom with the takeover by the federal Builders Labourers Federation of its NSW branch. A recent Vanguard article, ‘Mundey and Gallagher, two lives in working class struggle’, covers that period and pays tribute to both antagonists in that dispute. 

From the beginning, the party was known for its militancy and the BLF continued to be, as it was under Jack Mundey’s leadership, a lightning rod for young activists. But it was soon overshadowed by more immediate battles.

Whitlam

On July 4, 1975 Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and other dignitaries were farewelling Marshall Green, U.S. Ambassador at a posh Wentworth Hotel party. Green arrived after Whitlam’s election to interstate protests led by our activists pointing out he was a hatchet man, a CIA coup-master. Indonesia, where up to two million people were massacred just ten years earlier (and the first time the USA used Islamist forces to wield weapons) was his career highlight.

This was an intense time.  Through the 60s and 70s Sydney was a major Australian destination for refugees from murderous CIA-coups in South America. The most recent was Chile, just three years before our protest. 

Campaign Against Foreign Military Bases in Australia leaflets warned Green had almost certainly set up mechanisms for the overthrow of the Whitlam Government. Yet some then and now ridicule our Party’s concern with the forces of the imperialist state and our consequent determination to be immersed with the masses, like Mao Zedong’s “fish in a sea of people”. Ironically, the youngest of us were, like other left groups, behaving as a left bloc. Events would soon change that.

Whitlam’s overthrow saw massive protests and birth of organisations, including People for Australian Independence. It had no snappy title but launched the following year taking over where Worker Student Alliance left off, it captured the vibe of the moment. Hundreds of Eureka flags were screen printed in a Darlinghurst flat. Thousands of ‘Independence for Australia’ badges and tens of thousands of leaflets were grabbed by eager protesters. Independence made perfect sense. An unelected representative of a foreign government had sacked Australia’s elected government. 

Party members and supporters devoured Marxist Leninist classics in small study groups and branches. Our collective lens focused on their application in Australia. So, when young members of the old CPA eventually tried to counter the Eureka flag’s popularity with a badge, impaling out of context Marx’s words ‘Workers have no country’ (originally ‘working men have no country’) we shook our heads. Didn’t they remember the old party’s Eureka Youth League the decade before our party’s ejection from it? There was arrogance on both sides.

If other left groups called us bourgeois nationalists, the facts and the people showed otherwise. 

CIA

These days CIA involvement in the bloodless coup against the Whitlam Government is well known to activists, but in early years after it, that was definitely not the case. Our comrades did much of the early research to join the CIA dots.

Students for Australian Independence leaflets, distributed early in 1976 charted the similarities to the lead-up to the Chilean coup and outlined Governor General Sir John Kerr’s service to the CIA. Unlike Chile, the army never got off grey alert, as ACTU President Hawke, himself tainted with CIA connections, stood down trade unions immediately. 

Yet we were more critical than most protesters, seeing Whitlam’s wage indexation, for example, as disarming the people, because workers no longer had to organise collectively for wage increases. As time passed indexation was indeed whittled away till it was scrapped.

Like every left group of the time we were sectarian, but we refused to separate ourselves from the masses of everyday people by raising indexation inappropriately to attack a much-loved leader. 

NSW University was the most working class university and where our supporters were strongest. When Whitlam, the toppled hero, visited early in 1976 he was met with the two questions he was due to answer the very day he was sacked, “What’s at Pine Gap?” and “Is Richard Stallings a CIA agent?” Whitlam refused to answer the first, and in fact may not have known. While Pine Gap paraded as a joint military base, it has always been US run for a peppercorn rent, today outsourced to US war corporations like Raytheon Industries. Whitlam answered the second affirmatively, about Stallings, who rented his Canberra home from his good mate Doug Anthony, then Country Party leader. 

By then we were already on the trail of that other CIA man, the Governor General.

Sir John 

Sir John Kerr was an easy target, rotten on so many levels before he sacked Whitlam. Legal counsel against equal pay for Aboriginal workers in the Territory, the judge who jailed Clarrie O’Shea in 1969, with clear links to the CIA… 

We tracked his moves through the Sydney Morning Herald’s Vice Regal column. Everywhere he went, we, our mates and anyone else we could let know turned up, sometimes in busloads, roaring. The Royal Motor Yacht Club, opening something-or-other, anywhere he thought he could feel safe among his adopted class. Didn’t matter. We hunted and hounded him, the protests growing. Some members of the larger and less militant Citizens for Democracy, in which CPA(ML) members were also involved, joined as protests grew. Till Kerr went overseas and stayed there, returning to be buried in a secret grave with no state honours. 

Politics is not about individuals, though they have their importance. But public pressure built through the year largely because of the protests we led, till general anger overflowed again on the first anniversary, Remembrance Day, 1976. The working class and its allies remembered. The ALP took charge. 

But our street theatre from the edge as the crowd grew was pointed. A bosses’ cop. A CIA agent. A capitalist fat cat. Uncle Sam. And the people. 

 

Operation Noble Fury – how the US marines plan to fight China


 Written by: (Contributed) on 29 October 2020

A recent media release from the US Defence Department about regional defence and security provision and a so-called battle plan, Exercise Noble Fury, has revealed a changing military strategy. Pentagon planning would now appear to be concentrating upon rapid deployment from temporary military facilities based on remote outposts to attack China's armed forces.

In recent years the US Defence Department has also pushed Island Chain Theory (ICT) as a dominant factor with military planning. The theory, however, was largely discredited during the previous Cold War although it has been used in recent times to attempt to encircle and contain China's rising influence across the vast region by preventing access and egress to areas of the region. Military planners would now appear to have been upgraded ICT for other uses, with far-reaching implications for Australia.

In early October the US Noble Fury military exercise saw more than a hundred marines flown to a remote Japanese island, Iejima, near Okinawa in the East China Sea as part of  'expeditionary advanced base operations'. (1) The covert operation had the specific aim of enabling US-led military planning to use remote islands and atolls to attack China's warships and missile sites on the basis of guerilla-style actions whereby rapid deployment would be accompanied by equally rapid egress from theatres of war. It was noted during the early stages of the exercise the marines also 'captured' a suitable landing strip.

Exercise Noble Fury then included long-range artillery rocket systems being flown by night onto Iejima, assembled and made operational for a 'notional attack'. Within minutes after the attack the equipment had been dismantled, placed back on board a plane and exfiltrated to another island and different location for a repeat rapid deployment operation.

It is, perhaps therefore, no surprise to find ICT has been used by the Pentagon in recent times as a basis for regional military planning; long lines of small landmasses possessing geo-strategic significance are used for demarcation of sensitive areas. The military plan holds that China's rising regional influence can be held back behind the island chains to prevent their ready access to the main part of Oceania, including Australia and New Zealand. Other significant factors now, however, appear to have to be considered.
 
The commanding officer of Noble Fury, General David Berger, was also noted for being responsible for scrapping all maritime tanks and heavy weight artillery equipment in favour of lighter systems which could be used for rapid deployment, adding weight to the statement 'Noble Fury was a new-style exercise', and, 'part of a new fighting blueprint for the US marines that is expected to be fully operational by 2030'. (2) The light, quick and powerful operation, alongside close integration with the Navy, is seen by Berger as the key for the Marine Corps' ability to fight China.

A number of other developments can, perhaps, be best seen in that light.

When Japan nationalised about 280 remote islands in 2014, for example, an official diplomatic statement from Tokyo announced they were 'important national territories', although nothing further was specified at that time. (3) The development was, however, accompanied by Japan re-interpreting Clause Nine of its pacifist constitution to enable the country's armed forces to join US-led military exercises.

Similar problems arising on the Korean peninsula include the northern DPRK recognition of the official Military Demarcation Line which is an extension of the 1953 armistice line, while the southern ROK has recognised the Northern Limit Line drawn by the US. This demarcation has effectively denied the DPRK access to a twelve-mile maritime boundary accepted under international law, which has led to numerous diplomatic rifts over small landmasses.

Elsewhere, other countries including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, all have territorial claims to numerous small landmasses in the South China Seas.

It is, therefore, important to note that the recent Noble Fury military exercise, was a typical operation detailed by the Defence Department consisting of 'marines … firing … rockets and missiles at designated targets before escaping by helicopter to another island'. (4) The changing military strategy will also include small units spread across the region 'on captured uninhabited islands and atolls in time of conflict' and has far-reaching implications for countries across the Indo-Pacific region. (5)

Remote landmasses, with contested territorial claims, would appear to have been ear-marked by the Pentagon as geo-strategic assets for future temporary use at time of real-war scenarios.

It is significant to note throughout the duration of Exercise Noble Fury the marines were kept in direct contact and their actions co-ordinated with signal-intelligence from warships based elsewhere which, in turn, were connected to ground-based permanent facilities. (6)

The developments rest upon other military planning with a strong emphasis upon Australia and military facilities including Pine Gap. The Avalon 2019 International Air-show publicity, for example, contained several references about intelligence facilities designed to 'see deep' into the region, together with the ability to 'strike deep', when required. (7)

Elsewhere, it was noted the Australian Defence Forces had enhanced air mobility with the acquisition of ten C-27J Spartan air-lifters designed to provide 'much greater flexibility in moving personnel and cargo to remote locations, whether across northern Australia, or into the Pacific and PNG'. (8) Reference to PNG was also accompanied by planning for the Lombrum naval base on Manus Island to become a major military facility which has also included a neighbouring air-field.

It is important to note in the 2012-14 period, the US also re-opened numerous military facilities across the region, for what was stated as 'rotational presence' and the ability to operate on the temporary basis from outlying facilities, if, and when, required. (9) Many of the facilities are also inside the arc which swings from Pine Gap in Australia to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and Guam in the northern Micronesian part of the Pacific, both having been upgraded as major hubs for US-led regional military operations.

Australia has been placed in a front-line position with these developments; senior US Air Force officials have already been quoted as stating northern base facilities were ready for 'complete interoperability' and were regarded 'a valuable strategic asset by the US in its military planning'. (10)

Australia could easily be drawn into a regional real-war scenario following a military decision taken in the Pentagon

We need an independent foreign policy!


1.     US marines move fact to 'shoot and scoot', Australian, 22 October 2020.
2.     Ibid.
3.     Japan to nationalise 280 islands, The Age (Melbourne), 10 January 2014.
4.     Australian, op.cit., 22 October 2019.
5.     Ibid.
6.     Ibid.
7.     A gap to close in next-generation defence, Avalon 2019 Special Report, Australian, 26 February 2019.
8.     Spartan lifter could be ADF's first gunship, Australian, 26 February 2019.
9.     US eyes return to south-east Asian bases, The Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 29 June 2012.
10.   Strategic alliance in north enthuses visiting US chiefs, Australian, 22 August 2019.