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.

May Day 2020: Letter from CPA Central Committee

Comrades come rally, May Day 2020

When the Communist Party of Australia Secretariat met on April 19 it agreed to call on all Party members, workers, left and progressive organisations, union and community activists to become active and vocal in support of May Day this year as part of the ongoing resistance and fight for Workers’ Health and Rights during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Our fight is for socialism as the only political and economic system that is committed to looking after all the people in the community.

The CPA will promote its Health, Workers’ Rights and Socialism campaign and will not allow the Covid-19 social constraints to stand in the way of working-class defence of health, safety and working conditions. Comrades and workers will find new ways to organise during this crisis.

The CPA gives its full support to Trade Unions, Worker Solidarity and left progressive actions on May 1 across Australia and calls all comrades nationally into action.

In Sydney and Melbourne, the CPA calls for full support of the May 1 Movement to get behind planned actions. All Party members should be involved in these activities through their branches.

The CPA demands the best health and safety for all workers who have to work during the crisis and protection of workers’ rights. The Party absolutely opposes workers paying once again for another crisis through government austerity being applied to a significant number of services and jobs in the community and employer aggression both now and when the medical crisis has abated. Workers must not pay for the ongoing economic crisis that the ruling class will force on workers. We will fight this attack all the way.

Capitalism and its market-based response to the current crisis continues to be unable to meet the needs of the people. This pandemic highlights those contradictions that seek profits not solutions that respond to the needs of the people.

The CPA seeks to build the fight to remove these negative features of society that are based on greed and massive private accumulation of wealth.

May Day 2020 will be a day of international worker solidarity and unity. Let our comrades take up the Party struggle on this day by calling to confront the crisis and achieve real change.

The Secretariat considered the changes to Industrial relations being introduced by the Morrison government, especially with regard to employers’ capacity to make variations to agreements (EBAs) under the cloak of the Coronavirus pandemic and rejects them.

Employers must not be granted a greater ability to erode the rights and conditions of workers. Any EBA variation must be voted on by workers and the capacity of employers to manipulate this process with only one day’s notice is unacceptable.

Workers of the World Unite!

CPA Secretariat, 19th April 2020

Joint Statement of the CPA and NCPA on the 150th Anniversary of the Birth of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

The Communist Party of Aotearoa (NCPA) and the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) jointly commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, leader of the Great October Socialist Revolution and founder of the first socialist state.

Lenin and the Bolshevik Party developed and extended Marxism into the modern era against the revisionism and social-chauvinism of the Second International with new thought on imperialism, colonialism, the state, dialectical materialism, socialist revolution and construction.

Lenin’s contribution to Marxism and the advent of the Great October Socialist Revolution brought Marxism to the Asia-Pacific for the first time and inspired progressive forces all over the Asia-Pacific from Chinese youth to Vietnamese patriots, Australian workers and New Zealand miners to hold the red banner of socialism high in their own struggles.

Despite the tragic disappearance of the Land of Soviets nearly three decades ago, the theoretical legacy of Lenin still guides the Communist and Workers’ Parties of the Asia-Pacific region. Guided by Leninism and analysis of the specific national conditions, our Parties construct a better, socialist future for the working people of our countries, and collectively, the region as a whole and in both Australia and New Zealand.

At the beginning of the new decade facing both new challenges and new opportunities, and during one of the greatest public health challenges the world has faced in living memory, it is important that we Communist and Workers’ Parties of the Asia-Pacific region take the time to commemorate the impact of Lenin on both Marxism and the development of our region.

We stand for socialism in our respective countries and the region.

Long Live Vladimir Ilyich Lenin!

Long Live Socialism!

Signatories:
Communist Party of Australia
New Communist Party of Aotearoa

Communist Party of China initiates a global letter, signed by the CPA and 180 communist parties worldwide

The Communist Party of China has written a letter, dated 2 April 2020 and signed by the Communist Party of Australia, along with180 other communist parties. The text of the letter is as follows:

Today, as COVID-19 is spreading rapidly across the globe, it constitutes the most urgent and serious challenge to both the health of humanity and world peace and development.

Faced with this unprecedented situation, we, major political parties of various countries tasked with the weighty responsibility of improving people’s wellbeing, promoting national development and safeguarding world peace and stability, hereby issue our joint appeal as follows:

We pay our loftiest tribute to all the people, health workers in particular, who devote themselves to saving lives and protecting people’s health. We extend our heartfelt sympathies and solicitude to those who are suffering from pain and whose lives are under the threat of COVID-19 as well as the bereaved families of those deceased. We also express our deep mourning for the unfortunate loss of lives in the outbreak.

We recognise that if the COVID-19 outbreak is not effectively and promptly contained, it will inflict even greater harm to the lives, safety and health of many more people, and exert a severe impact on the economic and social development of most countries as well as on international exchanges and cooperation. We call on all countries to put the lives, safety and health of the people above everything else and take resolute and forceful measures to put an end to the spread of COVID-19.

We support countries to put in place contingency plans and strategies for combating COVID-19 in light of their specific national conditions and to strengthen cooperation, with equal emphasis on containing the further spread and on patient treatment. Meanwhile, modern science and technology must be applied to the full to ensure the quickest and best possible results.

We call on the general public of all countries to comply with prevention and mitigation measures with a due sense of social responsibility. We encourage countries to fully leverage the strength of civil society organisations and volunteers with a view to unleashing the power of all social sectors to combat COVID-19.

We encourage all countries, while devoting efforts to epidemic control, to adopt an integrated approach to ensure economic and social development, take targeted measures to protect vulnerable groups and the SMEs, and honour their commitment to people’s living standards and social progress. We call on all countries to step up the international coordination of macroeconomic policies to maintain stability of global financial market as well as that of industrial and supply chains, and to reduce or exempt tariffs for trade facilitation so as to prevent world economic recession. Countries are also encouraged to maintain an appropriate level of international exchanges, in particular to facilitate the cross-border transportation of urgently needed medical equipment and protective materials for the fight against COVID-19.

We are aware that the virus respects no borders, and no country can respond to the challenges alone in the face of the outbreak. Countries must enhance their consciousness of a community with a shared future for mankind, proactively rendering mutual help and support to one another as the situation becomes more difficult. Closer international cooperation, coordinated policies, concerted actions, and mobilisation of resources and forces globally will enable us to defeat this virus, a common enemy to all of humanity.

We take note of the significant progress in the fight against COVID-19 in China and some other countries, which has bought time and offered experience to the rest of the international community. We highly commend countries including China for adopting an open, transparent and responsible attitude to disclosing related information in a timely fashion, sharing experience on response and patient treatment, and in particular providing medical and other supplies to the best of their ability to other affected countries. These represent a major contribution to the global fight against COVID-19, boosting the hope and confidence of countries that they can win this battle.

We welcome the Extraordinary G20 Leaders’ Summit Statement on COVID-19 and support countries to strengthen the sharing of experience and medical cooperation in containing the outbreak, including joint research and development of specific medicines, vaccines and tests. We call on the provision of material, technical and other support to developing countries and countries with vulnerable public health systems. Let the sunlight of cooperation disperse the darkness of the pandemic.

We call for science-based professional discussions on issues like prevention measures and the origin of the virus. We strongly oppose the politicisation of public health issues and the stigmatisation of other countries under the excuse of COVID-19. We stand firmly against all discriminatory comments and practices against any country, region or ethnic group, and call on governments of all countries to take proactive measures to protect the health, safety and legitimate interests of foreign nationals and students they host.

We are of the view that the COVID-19 outbreak has laid bare the need for all countries to further foster the global governance outlook of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration and to support the leading role of the United Nations and the World Health Organisation in global public health governance. We call for all parties to enhance coordination and cooperation within the framework of the G20 and other international mechanisms for effective international prevention and control as we strive to build a global community with a shared future for public health.

As major political parties from countries of the world, we undertake to maintain close communication under the unusual circumstances, and ensure better performance of the due role of political guidance for the purpose of injecting political energy into the global fight against COVID-19. We firmly believe that our current difficulties are only temporary, just as the sunlight shall eventually shine after each storm. If the international community makes concerted efforts with confidence and resolve and takes a science-based and targeted approach, it will definitely win the final victory in the global blocking action against COVID-19. It is our belief that, after the pandemic, the community with a shared future for mankind will emerge stronger and humanity will embrace a brighter tomorrow.

CPA National Party School Program

Following on the earlier post on the events page concerning the CPA National Party School on 14-15 March, 2020, here is a program for the school:

Saturday:
9:00 AM-11:45 AM: Introduction to Marxism and the three components and constituent parts of Marxism
12:00 AM – 1:00 PM: Finish the three component parts of Marxism
1:00 – 2:00 PM: Lunch at the Federation Hotel
2:05 – 3:30 PM: Lance Sharkey’s Book ‘The Trade Unions: Communist Theory and Practice of Trade Unionism’ and then a panel of Union activists about how the principles Lance Sharkey outlines are useful in their work and the role of communist trade unionists
3:30 – 4PM: Coffee break
4:00 PM to 6:00 PM: Understanding China 
6:00 PM – late: Dinner and drinks

Sunday:
9:00 AM – 10:45 AM: Conducting effective political interventions (rallies, social movements,) and effective banner painting skills
11:00 AM -1:00 PM: The national question, with Hannah Middleton
1:00 – 2:00 PM: Lunch
2:05 – 4:00 PM: Communist interventions and campaigning in local government
4:00 – 4:10: Ending ceremony

Keep Flying the Red Flag: It Attracts New Members

This post is copied from The Guardian (The Workers’ Weekly). It was written by two relatively new members of the Newcastle branch of the CPA.

How do new members join the CPA? The ways are many, but for the two of us it was a similar experience: it was due to the Red Flag.

We are both new members of the local Newcastle branch. Sure, we have longer histories as to why we joined, but let us focus on how it was the Red Flag that helped us make an active move to join the CPA. In our different ways, we had been at a march-cum-rally. In Newcastle, these events involve various groups, from unions through to the CPA. And at these events, it has been the custom for local party members to participate and, where possible, fly a big red CPA flag.

Let us tell our stories.

Brynn writes:

Then, like a swollen river that has broken bank and wall, The human flood came pouring with the red flags over all, And kindled eyes all blazing bright with revolution’s heat, And flashing swords reflecting rigid faces in the street.

When I was a child the Bushwhackers cover of Henry Lawson’s poem was played so often, on a bootlegged tape of my father’s, that I can’t hear it today but be taken back to the autumn of 1985. Those lines particularly stuck with me. The questions it caused me to ask my parents are what set my political compass. Time passed and soon without realising I was working two jobs and political opinion was something I thought I had no time to indulge in.

Fast-forward to March 2014: then it was that I saw the Red Flag above the anti-Abbott march in Newcastle. I was stunned! The Communist Party of Australia existed! It all came back to me. My father’s music, my grandmother’s stories, my great grandfather’s. The sight of the flag that day steeled my resolve to join the Party, and eventually I did. How many are there who have a similar past to mine? When they see “the symbol bright and plain” would they too gather to it? Those whose ancestors were workers, who worked in mines, or manufacturing jobs long since gone? Who have heard the stories of the power of the union, the power of solidarity and collective bargaining? We who have the opportunity of work today may only know the gig economy, working when we can, at the whim of employers, for what we can get. Yet there are still those of us who remember the stories of our forebears and know that the rights left to us were fought for by those who strode under the Red Flag.

And Roland writes:

The first time I saw the flag was in December, 2014: the hammer and sickle, the five stars of the southern cross, and “CPA” on a large Red Flag. I was thrilled to see it, since it told me that the CPA was alive and well, and that there is a local branch. A seed was planted, although it took a while to bear fruit.

The next year, I saw the flag again at another event, and I followed up by sending an email message or two to the central committee. They gave me the local branch secretary’s contact details. After a few talks over coffee with a couple of local members and an invitation for them to attend a “China Road” conference I was organising (sponsored by the Academy of Marxism in Beijing), I eventually raised the question of joining the party. I did so – at long last – towards the end of 2018.

There may be a host of ways to get out the news about the party: word of mouth, social media, the website, The Guardian and Australian Marxist Review. But the Red Flag should certainly be up there with the most important. After all, it is a flag with more than a century of history. It gives an unambiguous message to inquirers and new members like ourselves: the Communist Party is here, it is alive and kicking, and it stands for a clear platform.

Keep flying the Red Flag!