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.