The Guardian 12 October, 2005
10th CPA Congress resounding success
"The main tendency in this Party is that we are growing", said CPA General Secretary Peter Symon in his concluding remarks to delegates at the 10th National Congress of the CPA. It was a very positive and unifying Congress, with most delegates making a contribution to the wide-ranging discussion. Congress called on every Party organisation to prepare for the battles ahead and to "work to unite workers and the community at large in defence of their living standards, working conditions and democratic rights".
More than 60 delegates participated. They met over the long weekend of September 30 to October 3 and came from all states of Australia except the NT, along with a number of observers from among the party membership. A substantial number of delegates were attending their first Congress. Many were young and relatively new members (at least one year’s membership is required to be a delegate.) They brought a welcome and fresh perspective after a period with little growth in the Party’s membership.
Delegates, Party supporters, their families, members of the diplomatic corps from the socialist countries and Party supporters filled the CFMEU hall at Lidcombe, in Sydney on the opening night on September 30. The main banner, behind the speakers carried the slogan, BUILD THE PARTY IN THE WORKING CLASS; EVERY MEMBER AN ACTIVIST. Everyone was welcomed by the Party’s President Hannah Middleton who opened the Congress.
The CPA’s Assistant General Secretary Warren Smith set the mood with a rousing, militant and well-received speech on the political situation and tasks before the Party. (see opening night speech)
"Our Party works for a society where people’s needs come first. Publicly owned enterprises must play a major role in the economy. People’s participation and democratic decision making are paramount. In our vision of an alternative society, the purpose of the economy must be to fulfil people’s needs, not to produce ever increasing wealth for private corporations", said Warren Smith.
He made a special call to non-members: "We look forward to working with you in the future and we hope that some of you will also join our ranks in the struggle.
"The aim of the Communist Party of Australia is to establish a society that is fairer, co-operative, more democratic and far more enriching for the people than the present society. Such a society can only be a socialist one", he said to resounding applause.
"This goal is not something just for the future. People are suffering from capitalism now! Increasingly, people are rejecting capitalist values and institutions ... they are looking for answers, for an alternative to war, environmental destruction, exploitation and poverty. Many more of us are needed who can explain and fight for such an alternative."
"The struggle against the military, political and economic forms of corporate globalisation is the dominant and defining political trend for the foreseeable future. This movement is what is new, what is coming into being and what will be the fundamental determinant of this new century, a century of socialism."
There was an especially warm welcome to the delegate from the Socialist Party of Aotearoa (New Zealand) Dale Frew. In his contribution on the opening night Dale spoke of the similarities between developments in Australia and what happened in New Zealand. (An interview with Dale will be published in a future issue of The Guardian.)
The main documents before Congress were the Political Resolution and an updated Party Program.
On Saturday, General Secretary Peter Symon presented the Report of the work of the outgoing Central Committee. He noted the dramatic changes that have taken place since the last Congress in 2001 and how the Party has responded in Australia.
During that period the CPA has given particular attention to the issues of the Howard Government’s industrial relations legislation, to militarism, democratic rights, public health and education and its internationalist work. It organised activities to mark the 60th anniversary of the defeat of fascism and the 150th anniversary of the Eureka Stockade.
The Guardian, party education, finances, the work of party organisations and individual members and recruitment were among the issues examined, often in a very frank and critical manner, but with a view to improving the Party’s work.
"We are facing a still strong, powerful and cunning enemy in the class war for a future of peace, prosperity and security. Society has the means to make these conditions available for everyone but it is the system of capitalism that stands in the way", said Peter Symon.
"Let every communist resolve to join this struggle with renewed conviction and energy. Australia must not lag behind but we must have a strong Party made up of active members with clear eyes as to where we are going and what we have to do. Many events allow us to have confidence in the Australian people, that they too will join in the struggle for a new world."
Anna Pha, member of the Central Committee and Guardian editor presented the Political Resolution. (see Political Resolution) In doing so, she pointed out that the document had undergone a period of nearly 11 months of study, discussion and consideration of amendments by all party organisations and members. Hundreds of amendments were proposed and the overwhelming majority were included by the Central Committee in the final draft. They substantially enriched and improved the document.
Anna Pha pointed to the many changes that had taken place since the 9th Party Congress, noting setbacks and some of the extremely encouraging developments in Latin America and the growth of people’s movements around the world. She noted that while so much had changed, so much of what we had said four years ago remained valid. "There have been a number of changes in the economy of capitalism although its basic characteristic of exploitation of working people has not changed."
The Political Resolution reiterates the outlook and tasks of the Communist Party and looks at some of the changes taking place.
"The decisive factor in this historical period has been and remains the unparalleled level of action by millions of ordinary people against the injustice and misery inflicted by capitalism and for reform and revolutionary transformation", the Resolution says.
Central Committee member Rob Gowland introduced the amendments that had been proposed to the Party’s Program. (see Program) These amendments had not changed the main political and ideological thrust of the Program, but updated some of the content reflecting changes over the past two decades since the Program was first adopted. With some restructuring it aimed to clarify the likely process of the transition to socialism in Australia.
Rob Gowland said, "Our Party has for some considerable time now argued that the transition to socialism in Australia will proceed through two or more stages, beginning with the building of a movement capable of breaking the two-party electoral system and moving on to bring about the establishment of a left and progressive people’s government …"
The Program affirms that "The Communist Party of Australia is guided in its work by applying to all issues of the day and to all problems the scientific socialist theory founded by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels and further developed by Lenin".
"Socialism", the Program says, "makes it possible to achieve equality of opportunity and the elimination of poverty; friendship between all nationalities; the extension of democratic rights; international peace and disarmament.
"Socialism is a humane form of society which replaces the profit motive with the fulfilment of people’s needs and the development of people’s abilities as the driving force of social development."
The amendments to the Program and the Political Resolution were adopted unanimously.
Congress elected a new Central Committee and adopted short resolutions on a range of topics including Iraq and Afghanistan, the Asia-Pacific region, Cuba and building the Party in the workplaces.
For more detailed coverage of the Congress see other articles in this issue.
Next week: extracts from delegates’ contributions
and messages of greetings from other organisations and parties.