Communist Party of Australia

We acknowledge the Sovereignty of the First Nations’ Peoples.


Journal of the Communist Party of Australia

ISSUE 62October 2016

Socialist Alliance split

The continuous anguish of the organisations variously grouped on the basis of different levels of adherence to Trotskyism may seem something that we should just ignore and go about our business. Though for those of us struggling to win the working class to a position of being for itself and ending the capitalist’s rule of society it is anything but irrelevant. Many worthy individuals are ruined for life and lost to the cause of the working class or even worse trained and educated in Anti-communism through these organisations.

So news of another split in the Socialist Alliance is timely to investigate these organisations and their role in the class struggle. In examining the role of the organisation I seek not to denigrate some fine individuals who within the scope of these organisations are contributing to the struggle of the people. Rather I offer them a road to a more secure and rewarding method of work. It is also through reflection that we might see errors that are common to left groups and thereby advance our own work and the unity of the left.

The latest split is centred on criticisms made by a grouping calling itself the 21st century Socialism

“The tendency launched approximately two months ago, based on concerns that had been simmering in the party for at least the previous four years. Following a series of individual and group efforts to raise questions regarding the political orientation of the party, and questions around party democracy and organisation, a small number of members were faced with a decision to leave the party, or to stay and test the capacity of the party to change. A decision to do the latter resulted in the formation of the tendency some months after the last National Conference.”

After their experience they have come to the following conclusion:

“Prior to and since the formation of the tendency, criticisms of the party’s political and organisational approaches have been met with a contrarian attitude by the party’s entrenched leadership layer. For some years, this layer has consistently treated those who have raised differences with hostility and suspicion, while, in general, refusing to seriously engage with criticisms and proposals. Leading party activists have been driven out of the party. Others have found their positions on leadership bodies systematically undermined, leading to resignations. Others still have been simply locked out of leadership bodies by bureaucratic and self-perpetuating organisational practices that privilege a permanent, clique leadership and its allies. Chief among these is the practice of outgoing National Executives submitting an ‘open slate’ of hand-picked incoming NE members to National Conference.

“While tendencies/factions are technically permitted in Socialist Alliance, it quickly became abundantly clear that any serious challenge to the party’s entrenched leadership layer cannot be tolerated. Publicly, the response from leadership was limited to a statement declaring an ‘appropriate’ future time for engaging with the tendency’s documents, until the party’s recent National Council meeting (June 11-12). It has become evident, however, that a concerted smear campaign has gone on behind the scenes. The virulent open hostility demonstrated on social media towards tendency members was a crude public expression of this fact. Some of these attacks led to a complaint being lodged by the tendency with the NE. The NE’s delayed response urged tendency members not to pursue the complaint further, threatening ‘counter claims’ against tendency members.”

I am not going to get into the actual debate between the two “factions” of the Socialist alliance, many of the issues including forms of publications and the role of the newspaper are common features of discussion and our party has debated these issues internally in a fraternal and comradely manner. What I want to discuss are the questions of democracy and the form of organisation.

I should declare that I am not talking from an uninformed position as I had in my younger years spent time in the Communist League and the Socialist Workers’ Party, forerunners of the Socialist Alliance, and was involved in the Socialist Party at the time we had our own Socialist Alliance with the Socialist Workers’ Party and to some extent the Greens as we attempted to build a Left and Progressive alliance.

The claims of hostility are genuine and going from treasured comrade to “on the nose” must truly have shocked some of those involved. This hostility and the split though are beyond the control of the participants. They are the natural outcome of the organisational principles that the Socialist Alliance adheres to. Such approaches and results are not new.

The Socialist Alliance, despite its protestations to the contrary, has its origins in the Russian Revolutionary Trotsky’s Left Opposition and this is what shapes the organisational principles of the Alliance and those other organisations that derive their origins from this source.

When you have the term Opposition, it is right to ask: “opposition to what?” The simple answer that they give is to “Stalinism”. Historical reality finds though that this simplistic definition of opposition hides a lot of ignorance. In reality, they were in opposition to the building of Socialism in the Soviet Union. They continued this with opposition to the policies of the united front and the popular front, and quite simply they became a permanent opposition to the Communist Parties. In Australia, they continue their opposition to the Communist Party and continue with their simplistic label of Stalinism.

As part of his disagreements with Lenin, Trotsky mounted a view which has been adopted by the organisations that have adhered to interpretations of his views. That is that Lenin’s mistake was to ban factions in the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and that if factions were allowed, then Trotsky and his followers would have prevailed. The mistake in this is the complete lack of understanding of what factions actually are, and the destructive role they play in Communist Parties and in the working class generally.

The Socialist Worker’s Party and the descendants of that party have afforded us the opportunity to study what happens if factions are not only allowed but are actually forced on those wishing to raise differences in a party professing to be a communist or at least a revolutionary party. The first thing this practice does is to force differences into opposition with the existing party. They deny the individual their rights. It is only through a faction that your view can be held. So rather than building a collective, at best a negotiation ensues and more often than not another organisation is created with its own set of loyalties, its own leaders. Thus the party ceases to be a unified collective and inevitably a split occurs as an all or nothing position prevails.

The essence of Marxism-Leninism is Dialectical Materialism i.e. the unity of matter and motion. Thus we are studying the movement of the material world and to do so we must have a unity of theory and practice. The view that one group of individuals in a party are more important or more possessed of the facts is undialectical and denies the nature of Materialism. Thus the rise of factions gives precedence to ideas of matter and thus descending into idealism divorces ideas from the material world. This is not the philosophy of a Communist Party but that which leads to its destruction and isolation.

The Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative operate in opposition to the Communist Party and instil and train their comrades that the Communist Parties are undemocratic and “Stalinist”. They concentrate their efforts on youth and tend to operate sects that are grouped around individuals. They have simplistic views of the world and like most sects create an enclosed environment. At times the Communist parties have been under such pressure that this environment can be created. Communist Parties though seek to be amongst the people and call for a life as part of the working people.

In the environment that we have, these sects can appear to be something more substantial but this is not the case. They are unstable formations as they rest on unstable classes.

The current split has interest as it is the result of a flirtation with Anti-Leninist ideologies. The revisionist attacks on Marxism that occurred post 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) had some common themes and have fed on the confusion that ensued as the US Imperialists unleashed their attack on existing Socialism. The unscientific approach of the CPSU towards dealing with the issues of the Cult of the Personality and distortions that occurred post war in the theories of Marxism-Leninism opened the door to revisionist trends. These included Eurocommunism and the trend towards student and non-working class radicalism. The ideas of divorcing the peasant wars from the working class and the students leading rather than forming a part of the working class.

“De-Stalinisation” became a banner for those seeking to undermine the leading role of the working class and overthrowing the dictatorship of the proletariat. This factional and unscientific approach of raising personality and anti-personality to the level of cults and anti-cults undermined the efficacy of Marxism-Leninism. So cults around Trotsky, Mao and Stalin become a form of activity rather than movements of the class.

In this environment, the experiment of people’s democracies as a new form of the dictatorship of the proletariat was on the actual experience. Anti- Sovietism assumed new forms and the experience of the working people was wasted. The United States Imperialists were able to hijack democracy as a slogan and to have the Communist Parties moved in popular culture to the role of “Left Nazis”. This victory in ideology by the Imperialists is what has led to the rise of these Neo-Trotskyist organisations. Neo-Liberalism as an ideology has a left variety which while masquerading as left and progressive is actually a cover for the democratic dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and presents the overthrow of Socialism as the restoration of democracy and somehow a liberation. This has given new life to Trotskyism and other forms of Sectarianism and left opportunist supporters of Imperialism.

It should not surprise us that these forces end up supporting Imperialism as this is modern Capitalism. The essence of the opposition of the Trotskyist groups is that it leads them out of the reality of the struggle into a world of make believe.

The world we find ourselves in is dominated by Imperialism and is a Capitalism in decline as the forces of production collide and are confined by the Capitalist relations of production. It is at full flight in its drive to war in desperation to restore empire and profits. The current situation in which we no longer have a Soviet Union sees a restoration of extreme rightists such as the Bandera Fascist gangs of Ukraine and ISIS in the Middle East. In this situation the groups banding around the Trotskyists are prominent in supporting the drive against China. They have supported along with the liberal left the overthrow of governments that has seen reactionary regimes installed in Libya and ongoing civil wars, particularly in Syria. In China, they have supported the so called democracy movement and thus have sided with capitalist and colonial restoration.

The basis of all these groups centres on their oppositional politics, this includes within the working class movement. The practice of opposition to Communist parties leads them in practice to support rightist groups. It often puts these groups in alliance with right-wing Social Democracy, in practice as a Left front of Anti-communism.

The Socialist Alternative is another group who in true form call other Trotskyist groups Stalinists and continue their opposition to existing Socialism. Operating as a sect they purport to be Marxist but are in disagreement with the formation of Communist Parties and oppose the formation of Socialist states. The indoctrination of their members is thorough as they continue on with lessons on the revolution in Germany in 1918 -21 and place all sorts of nonsense in front of their members. This indoctrination resembles a religious sect and the practice of cultism is rife. It is a revisit of the barracks communism with the uniformity and fear of the communist party. They proscribe their members from reading other literature and are prone to grab material out of the hands of their members screaming don’t touch that it’s “Stalinist”. More work in exposing these groups is required.

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