Communist Party of Australia

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Issue #1615      October 23, 2013

The way forward

The main document before the CPA’s 12th National Congress in Sydney, October 4-7, was the Political Resolution. The document is the result of Party-wide discussion and amendment over the months leading up to Congress. It guides the work of the Party for the next four years. CPA Assistant General Secretary Andrew Irving introduced the document to Congress. The following are extracts from his comments:

It is a briefer document than in the past to allow for a focus on priorities and offer general guidelines, to be applied with energy, initiative and creativity by Party organisations as new issues arise, conditions change, etc, particularly under an Abbott government and global developments.

CPA Assistant General Secretary Andrew Irving. (Photo: Anna Pha)

This situation will make heavy demands on the Party – politically, ideologically and practically – and we will have to do much better than we have in the past if we are to successfully carry out our role as servants of working class.

Strengthen the Party

The Political Resolution gives priority to strengthening the Party to meet demands on us. It outlines six priority areas where the Party MUST improve its work – we cannot allow business as usual.

The first of these is branches as centres of political activity, a concept still not practised by most branches but ESSENTIAL to connect Party and class. It is no longer acceptable to just run stall once a month or distribute leaflets on an issue we know is politically important. We must get far closer to people in workplaces and localities, take up their issues and link them with our analysis of capitalism and the need for socialism.

No more sitting in comfort on the sidelines comrades – get out there among and with the working class and its allies.

The second priority area is campaigning. The Political Resolution draws Party attention to the need to campaign and looks at the necessity to fight for reforms and to use these struggles to develop the class struggle for real change.

The other priority areas dealt with in the Political Resolution are Party education, recruitment, finance and the Guardian.

A great deal of work needs to be done to develop the sort of movement which can offer serious challenge to capitalism in Australia. We need to educate the working class and its allies, to build understanding and experience, and to create mass movements.

It is juvenile to say “socialism is the answer” when it clearly is not yet here. We need realistic targets, clearheaded perspective and absence of sloganising.

Two stage process

The two stage process is the correct policy at this stage and the basis of the development of our struggle to win support for real change and for a socialist Australia.

It is universally understood that the transformation of the economic base of society from private monopoly control over the means of production to social forms of ownership – including state, municipal, co-operative and other forms – cannot be accomplished overnight. In fact, the term “by degrees” comes directly from the Communist Manifesto itself. But by how many degrees and of what duration between each step or phase of transformation?

The CPA is of the view that society will change from its present capitalist mode of production toward socialism through a series of stages. Society will progress through an anti-monopoly anti-imperialist democratic stage prior to the working class winning power and creating a socialist state.

The first stage in the process of transition to socialism, as outlined in the Party Program and other Congress documents, would weaken the power of monopoly capital and extend the democratic rights and participation of the people.

The socialist stage requires the replacement of capitalist class power with working class power and further steps to break the control and ownership of the economy by capitalism.

When we talk about the “first stage”, what we are describing is actually a lengthy process within capitalism. We are describing points along a continuum that will develop and change over time in a complicated, uneven process of change towards the ultimate achievement of socialism in Australia.

The ruling class will resist any change, any challenge to its power, using all the means at its disposal. This could result in set-backs or rapid progression in the process of change.

Some people have attacked this analysis, condemning it as reformist and calling it “stagism”.

But the concept of stages in the transition from capitalism to socialism does not mean that the CPA believes there is a distinct socio-economic formation between capitalism and socialism, an intermediate stage that is a different form of society.

Over time, capitalism has taken various forms but has remained capitalism in its essence. In his book Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism Lenin was describing a particular historical form or stage of capitalism. Would the isolationists call Lenin’s analysis “stagism” too?

Their rejection of the CPA analysis is in fact a rejection of dialectics, of Marxist-Leninist science. They are denying the dialectical process of quantitative changes leading to a qualitative change. In relation to human society they are denying the need for reforms to accumulate before a revolutionary transformation can take place.

This is reinforced by a statement from the isolationists that “Our goal is to overthrow the Capitalist system not to work within it.” This reveals their metaphysical approach and their inability to distinguish between the gradual reforms that must be won and the achievement of a revolutionary transformation.

The concept of the two-stage transition is not some recent “revisionist tendency” by the leadership. The Socialist Party of Australia Program (adopted at the Second Congress of the SPA in June 1975 and slightly amended at the Third Congress in 1978) outlines the two-stage process which has remained in Party documents to this date.

Party unity and relations

Within the Party we need to develop respect for expression of opinions, comradely relations and interactions between all comrades as normal and acceptable practice in the Party and in our work with others in the community.

We need to develop the unity, discipline and commitment to these principles within the party and by all comrades. Contribution must be based on a strong application of criticism and self-criticism only to strengthen, build and advance positive attitudes towards the Party and its comrades and policy.

There is no place within our Party or the broader people’s and working class movements for destructive and divisive attitudes that use aggression, intimidation, ranting and unproductive attitudes and methods of work.


The Political Resolution deals with alliances and the necessity of a strong Communist Party in the building of a left and progressive alternative.

A political alternative will not be built if we try to play down the Party, or hide its face. Successful work requires our influence to be much greater so our ideas gain acceptance by wider numbers of people.

That will not happen if we do not work with and engage in the battle of ideas with other social forces.

We need a strong Party presence in the mass movement because an advanced perspective of left and progressive unity combined with good policies will be a strong unifying force, enabling a more long-lasting change of direction of politics in Australia.

The CPA some time ago adopted a strategy of building left and progressive unity to contribute to the creation of an alternative political force strong enough to substantially change the direction of politics in Australia.

This is a strategic approach to change which is shared by many Communist parties around the world.

The political alternative is the name given to the complex of political forces who are prepared to change direction, to build struggles and fight for policies for the people, against the interests of the transnational corporations, against the pro-big business policies being foisted on us by governments of all shades.

The forces that form the political alternative can be seen in embryo now in some campaigns like Your Rights at Work in opposition to the Howard government. The wide array of social forces and political groupings in that campaign shows that co-operation around issues is not only possible but effective. When people with different political, religious, ethnic and occupational backgrounds join hands to achieve an objective that all agree on it is a powerful force to be reckoned with.

The working class must be at the core of this mass movement. We must win support for the idea that more fundamental, more lasting change in the people’s interest can be brought about if cooperation and united struggle are taken to a higher level.

Battle of ideas

The Political Resolution takes up the question of change and in which direction. That depends on who is best equipped to win the battle of ideas.

We are confident that the CPA can and will win.

But let’s be clear. We are talking about the battle of ideas within alliances. Of course that is not the only arena in which we need to win the battle of ideas. We need to do it in all areas of our work – the trade unions, peace work, environmental campaigns, within community organisations, etc.

However, since the isolationists seem intent on spreading disinformation about CPA policy, we must stress that we are not raising the possibility of amalgamation of the CPA with groups such as the Socialist Alliance or the Socialist Alternative.

Priority areas of work

The Political Resolution sets out priorities for areas of work. This does not mean we ignore other issues when they arise, but it does mean we try to focus on these to give direction, unity and coherence to our work and to recognise their fundamental political significance for the working people of this country.

These priorities are: Workers’ rights, environment, peace and war, and Indigenous rights.

The Party faces many demands and the Political Resolution offers a way forward to meet these demands.

It is important that, having voted for it, you don’t then put it away on some back shelf. This document must become the guide and director of the Party.

We can continue in our old ways and fail in our historic duty or we can take this document seriously, shake off bad old habits and start to work as active and committed Communists.

Then we can change the world!

Next article – Refugees are human beings

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