The Guardian 14 December, 2005
Communists move towards
closer international co-operation
There is an increasing trend within the international Communist movement towards co- operation and cohesion. That was my conclusion following my attendance at this year's International Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties in Athens in November.
When I attended an earlier Athens Conference (as it is now customarily called) a few years ago, the CP of Canada made a modest proposal for some voluntary co-operation among parties that wished to be involved in formulating campaigns and relevant campaign materials.
Many parties shied away from the proposal amidst cries that it was an attempt to "create a new Communist International"! This year, there were open calls for exactly that.
The Conference is organised by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), and from the beginning the KKE's organising has been excellent. In earlier years the Conference was held at a university but is now held in the admirably equipped KKE headquarters building.
Seventy-three parties attended this year's Conference. Several others sent written contributions that will be included in the Conference documents.
The topic (Current Trends in Capitalism: economic, social and political impact. The Communists' alternative) was sufficiently broad, one would have thought, to encompass most parties' concerns. Nevertheless, some chose to ignore it, and simply to report on recent developments in their own country with little or no attempt to relate those developments to the topic or to general trends in capitalism.
On the other hand, 70 or so prepared speeches on the same topic inevitably leads to a fair degree of repetition, as speaker after speaker told us what capitalism was, in very similar terms. So the speakers who departed from the topic at least provided some welcome variety.
Notable was the complete absence of the "doom and gloom" of the early '90s. There were still instances of right opportunism to be seen (as well as a relatively small amount of leftism) but one was most conscious of a prevalent confidence and optimism, a confidence in the correctness and viability of socialism.
In her opening address, Aleka Paparhiga, the General Secretary of the KKE, said: "To describe the current problems, to paint them in the blackest colours is not nearly enough to achieve the mass mobilisation of all the peoples on Earth.
"Without abandoning the policy of revealing all the crimes that are being committed today, we must expand our discussion and common action to include the issue of the Communist alternative and the prospect of socialism.
"This does not mean in the least that we are abandoning action on urgent problems, especially when the people's standard of living keeps dropping, when war and state repression, poverty and hunger are growing.
"Today's major problems cannot be eased; and even less can they be solved without a movement that disputes the capitalist system as a whole."
Inevitably there were differences: some parties, eg in Germany, Italy and parts of Scandinavia, supported the European Left Party, while others rejected it as a manoeuvre by social- democratically inclined parties.
While some parties (eg the CP of Lebanon) reported the huge amounts that their countries had lost as a result of globalisation, some other countries (eg CP of Turkey) disputed the very existence of globalisation and transnational corporations ("All companies are nationally based.").
While the CP of Estonia referred to "so-called globalisation", the CP of Denmark said categorically that capitalism today is "a global phenomenon with transnational companies and a transnational workforce. The national working class is being replaced by a transnational one. The monopolies have outgrown the state."
The Unified CP of Georgia said "Globalisation today is a new world war." She echoed our Party in distinguishing between globalisation as an objective process and "capitalist globalisation in the interests of transnationals".
On the other hand, the threat to the environment was mentioned in the contributions of many parties, expressed in several cases as "the threat to life on Earth". The comment of the CP of the Peoples of Spain that "there can be no relationship between capitalism and the environment" was a popular sentiment.
Most delegates expressed themselves in favour of co-operation among Communist parties including joint actions. A number of them called for more co-ordination and exchange, but here there was some hesitancy. Some at least are clearly wary of possibly giving away control over their own activities.
Nevertheless, as the renamed Hungarian Workers' Party (now the Hungarian Communist Workers' Party) said: "Co-operation is essential if we are to combat capitalism."
However, the Conference's traditional practice of resolving all issues by consensus meant that in practice any minority or even an individual holding a contrary view can frustrate a resolution that every other delegate might support.
There is clearly a move towards introducing voting on such things as resolutions. For the first time, resolutions this year were circulated to all participating parties and their support or otherwise recorded.
To the visible distress of the delegate from the Tudeh Party of Iran, only about a third of delegates would sign the resolution on Iraq. The resolution, besides calling for the complete removal of all foreign troops from Iraq, expressed support for what the CPUSA described as the "courageous struggle of the Iraqi CP in a complex and dangerous situation".
However, the resolution also condemned terrorism and, despite support from the CPs of Syria, Jordan, Israel, Sudan, Egypt, Bahrain and the Working People's Party of Cyprus (AKEL), a lot of parties would not sign it on the grounds that "terrorism" was used by the bourgeoisie to include armed struggle (or even class struggle).
The CPA, along with delegates from Germany, Britain, Ireland and the USA, was one of those which did sign the resolution.
In our contribution to the Conference on behalf of the CPA, I expressed our view that a first priority for the Communists' answer to the barbarity of capitalism is to develop the struggles of the people and, in particular, those of the working class.
I reported on the fact that, "for the first time in many decades the working people in Australia and their trade unions have taken to the streets in massive demonstrations against the attempts of the government to impose regressive industrial laws and so called "anti-terror laws' which destroy many long-held democratic rights.
"Based on this movement, we call for a broad democratic people's movement that unites all left and progressive parties, trade unions, community organisations and progressive individuals.
"The validity of such a call was reflected", I said, "in the success of the recent trade union demonstrations that united left, centre and right-wing trade unions in what is seen as a common struggle although tactics sometimes differ.
"Our second step is to develop an understanding that such a coalition can provide an alternative government to that of the corporations and to form a people's government, led by the working class, but including all progressive political parties, trade unions, community organisations and individuals."
Over dinner at the hotel, one evening, the talk turned to "anti-terrorism" laws. One of the organisers from the KKE informed the table I was at, "you should see the new terror laws in Australia — they're much worse than those in Britain".
So, thanks to Howard, the Libs and big business, we have attained a most unwanted status.