Branch secretary’s report at the AGM of 2020

Comrades,

The AGM gives us an opportunity to reflect on our work over the last year, but also on what a communist party is about – what is its core business.

First of all, it is a political party – its aim is to take power in Canberra. This is the aim of all political parties – whether Liberal, Labor, or the Greens.

Secondly, our focus is on the basic needs of the working class and the common people – it’s not rocket science – the things people need to live a proper decent life – meaningful employment, adequate incomes, transport, housing, health, education, arts and sports, access to affordable energy, provision of food and water, protection from dangers such as crime and natural disasters, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment in which to live. Basic human needs which have remained the same through the centuries.

When the trade unions formed the ALP in the 1890s they quite rightly realized they needed a political party to take power in Canberra and run the country to meet the needs of the workers and the ordinary people. Of course, history shows that the ALP was a failure in this regard, because in essence it always accepted capitalism and never challenged its power. Some ALP leaders tried to fiddle around the edges and brought in good things like Medicare (which has been under siege ever since). The corporations quickly got rid of these upstart ALP leaders such as Whitlam and Rudd, with his mining tax. Jeremy Corbyn, the recent Labour leader in the UK, who called himself a democratic socialist, was given short shrift. The Greens are popular in some quarters, but that party is not seen as having a widespread concern for the needs of the people, and of course it believes like the ALP that capitalism can be made nicer.

And this leads to our third point about our Party.

Thirdly, unlike the ALP, we say that peoples’ demands and aspirations based on their needs can NO longer be satisfied under the current economic system – capitalism. Under capitalism, the needs of the working class and their allies continually come into conflict with the needs of big business to maximize their profits. This is what is meant by class conflict. Examples – wages (recent wage growth has been virtually nonexistent while profits of the big corporations have continued their growth), working conditions (contracting, loss of penalty rates, loss of permanent employment, fragmented part time work, the gig economy, etc,); health, water, energy – the corporations want control of the provision of these basic necessities so they can make money from them; housing – the corporations (developers, building companies, real estate) want control of this sector, including public land so they can build large tower blocks for the rich – Honeysuckle which was public land, or big estates where they cram as many houses as they can in such developments in the northern section of Wyong Shire.

So, we say capitalism can no longer satisfy the needs of the people. We want to get rid of it, not reform it. An aim which distinguishes us from the other political parties.

And finally, we want to replace it with socialism-communism, a system based on the needs of the people, where the big enterprises are owned or controlled by the people through their government, and not by private interests and their concern for making money. We have something concrete to put in its place. We are not simply an anti- party.

When we see the CPA as a political party with its focus on people’s needs, then this gives us a blueprint for action.

1. Our propaganda must relate to people’s needs and their neglect or abuse.

2. We must demand that governments fulfil their responsibilities to provide for people’s needs. Pressure on the government in power is what political parties do. Of course, if we had communists in parliament like in Greece, we could do this much better and show clearly whose side we are on.

3. We must show why under our current economic and social system people’s needs are neglected or abused.

4. We must show how socialism would focus on and meet the needs of the people.

Last year we did so through leaflets and petitions – on Energy, Climate change, Banking, and Penalty rates.

Comrades, we are a political party. Let’s contest elections (without of course being under any delusions here), let’s speak up and demand the government of the day fulfils its responsibility to provide for the specific needs of the people. Workers and the common people need to know we, not the ALP, are on their side. Party members in mass organizations (trade unions, peace groups, migrant groups, student groups) need to be able to point to the Party and say this is the political party that is showing the way, not the ALP, not the Greens, not the Liberals. This is the Party that is making sense and best represents our interests. This is the Party that is in the vanguard.

Yes, we are not looked up to in this way at present, we are not leading anything. I’m not delusional. But the question is what we aspire to, what we aim towards, and how we work towards that aim. Otherwise the Party’s role becomes to submerge ourselves in the mass movements, or to tail along behind offering support (a bit like how we are always put at the back in May Day marches). Here the mass organizations like trade unions, peace groups, climate action groups are seen as primary. But comrades, nowhere was capitalism defeated by a mass movement. In Tsarist Russia, in Cuba, in China there would have been no revolution without the vanguard leading role of the communist party. Lenin studied the Paris Commune of 1871 and concluded that its failure was mainly due to the lack of a political party to guide the uprising. Comrades, we must work towards making – some would say our delusions of grandeur – the leading role of the Party a reality.

May Day 2020: A Look Back

While we celebrate a May Day of 2020 like no other, a look back at the history of May Day in Australia.

AUSTRALIA’S MAY DAY PAST AND PRESENT

Norm Jeffery

Identification of the Australian labour movement with the celebration of May Day had its beginnings in Barcaldine, Central Queensland, on 1st May, 1891 – seventy-one years ago.

Communist Party marching May Day 1966.

In the midst of the great 1891 Shearers’ strike, the workers of Barcaldine in almost complete solidarity utilised the 1st May to popularise their economic demands in a united demonstration.

It is interesting to note also, that during the stormy period of May, 1891, the Eureka Flag was flown in Barcaldine.

On a somewhat broader scale was the first May Day celebration in Melbourne and for that matter, in any of the Australian capital cities, 1st May, 1893, was the occasion of a march to the Yarra Bank where a meeting was held. These two simple but dramatic facts, Barcaldine and Melbourne draw attention to the historic recognition and extension of the decisions made by the International Socialist Congress, held in Paris, 1889, to establish May 1st as the International Working Class Day.

Frederick Engels was one of the driving forces for this Congress. His indefatigable insistence, his influence in the organisation of mass Socialist Parties helped to make the 1889 Congress possible. But, the sponsors for the 1st May decision were the American representatives.

They came mostly from Chicago, where the United Labor Movement, fighting to win the eight-hour day, set 1st May 1886, for a general strike to achieve their aim.

It was a magnificent display of solidarity and many employers conceded the eight hour day. It was under the stimulus of this struggle that the proposal for 1st May was submitted to the Paris Socialist Congress in 1889.

EIGHT-HOUR DAY

So, as I have stressed in previous statements, May Day is associated with the establishment of the eight-hour day in America and Europe.

Australia, of course, pioneered the world in the winning of an eight-hour working day in 1856, when the building workers of Sydney and Melbourne registered a great victory.

But, May Day has always in its original authorisation and subsequent universal distribution, been associated with working class struggle. This is the paramount feature of “the day we celebrate.”

Lenin in St Petersburg stirred the workers into action in the early and mid-eighteen nineties, for better wages, improved conditions and shorter hours.

Frederick Engels stirred restlessly in his old age at the rising tide of struggle and was delighted with the 1889 decision.

He jeered at the fears of the rapacious bourgeoisie about the call for mass demonstrations on 1st May.

In Vienna the wealthy capitalists and aristocracy were so panic stricken that they hid the family jewels and other belongings symbolic of their ill-gotten loot.

Over the years from 1886, 1889, to 1962 May Day has expressed the will of the proletariat to fight for their demands, yet it must be recognised that May Day always meant more than that.

It symbolised class opposition to exploitation, poverty and hunger; it is identified with the against imperialism and war, besides arousing the masses to the inspiring solidarity of united working class action.

Therefore, it is not accidental that May Day becomes integrated with the victory of Socialism in the USSR, peoples of China and all Socialist countries. In these countries it is a great joyous day of the people pledging their solidarity for greater socialist victories and avowing their support for the proletariat in all capitalist, colonial, and newly independent countries.

WARMONGERS

Australians are thus marching with the multimillion masses irrespective of colour, nationality, or sex. Also, we identify May Day with our own struggles for the 35-hour week, higher wages, democratic rights, Trade Union unity and above all, a common determination for peace and defeat of the imperialist warmongers led by Yankee imperialism.

By tradition and practice it is just as much Australian as our native land. As Australians it links us internationally with the useful people of all lands – this basic truth is expressed in the declaration of the World Federation of Trade Unions and summarises our aims for 1962 May Day.

“Let us display united action in a strong and confident common front of the workers and trade unions for the preservation of peace and satisfaction of our demands.

“The working class of the world, acting in unity with all progressive forces can solve all current problems facing mankind. War is not inevitable, it can be averted. Peace can be preserved and strengthened.”

“Long live May Day, 1962.”

This article originally appeared in Tribune May, 1962.