Communist Party of Australia
Anna Pha, Member, CPA Central Committee Executive
The Communist Party of Australia expresses its appreciation and warmest thanks to the Communist Party of Greece for its hospitality and organisation of this important meeting. And what more appropriate centre could there be than to meet in Athens at this time of deepening capitalist crisis and heightened class struggle?
The Communist Party of Australia strongly supports the strengthening of relations between communist and workers parties as well as with trade unions and people’s movements around the world. International solidarity and globalisation of the struggle are imperatives.
We note that in some regions, communist parties have regular meetings and ask whether there is the possibility of stronger relations and co-operation in the Asia-Pacific region.
Bolivia’s President Evo Morales addressing the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit in 2009 spoke about the struggle between “the culture of life and the culture of death”. The culture of death is capitalism, its highest and most dangerous form, imperialism. The culture of life is that of the indigenous peoples, the South, and all the oppressed and exploited people on our planet.
The struggle is to save our planet, for peace, for survival, for basic human rights such as jobs, food, health services, education and clean water. It is the struggle for socialism.
The bankruptcy of capitalism is becoming more evident by the day to more and more people around the world who are joining the fight, as witnessed here in Greece and to a lesser extent in Australia.
Race to the bottom
Decades of neo-liberalism have undermined national sovereignty and drained governments of their assets and robbed them of key basic instruments to manipulate economic conditions. It fuelled the growth of and domination of the most parasitic of all capitalist conglomerates, the financial institutions and banks.
The present economic and financial crisis has a number of components including currency wars; inter-imperialist rivalries; and strengthening the domination of monopoly capital, in particular establishing a more direct and open dictatorship by the banks and financial institutions over governments. It also has the aim of and is being used as part of a global employer offensive to take back over a century of gains won by workers’ and other people’s struggles. It is part of a process of “equalisation” or “third-world-isation” of labour in the higher paid industrialised nations.
There is open acknowledgment by capitalist governments in the industrialised states that they are no longer prepared to provide for society as in the past, whether it be unemployment benefits, education, health, housing, transport and pensions. The “welfare state” is being dismantled and individuals left to fend for themselves.
As capital heightens its pursuit of ever-larger profits, the drive is on to reduce the cost of labour power, repress trade union struggles, slash corporate taxes and social expenditure. Hence the austerity measures — the sacking of public servants, reductions in their salaries, cuts in pensions and other social security payments and social services including health and education.
In Australia we call it “a race to the bottom”.
The Australian Federal Government’s budget deficit is 2.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and its net debt 8.9 percent of GDP. They are relatively small figures, but this has not stopped the government pursuing a budget surplus.
The government intends to return the budget to surplus during 2012-13, in the name of “fiscal responsibility”. It uses the budget surplus as an excuse for public sector cutbacks and other austerity measures. These measures have been in train for a number of years, in small increments, rousing far less political opposition than in Europe or the US where cuts are more dramatic. While the conditions and approach are different they have the same goal.
The austerity measures shift the burden of the crisis onto the backs of working people, reduce their purchasing power — a classic recipe for a crisis of over-production. Any profit gains will be short-lived.
There is also an attempt to put the cost of recovery onto “developing” countries, in particular in the Doha round at the WTO and in relation to climate change talks. There is a certain irony in the role socialist China is playing, the growing economic dependency of a number of European nations, the US and Australia on its investments and trade. Recession in Europe, the USA and other industrialised nations will have an impact on China which in turn could have a serious impact on Australia’s economy.
Capitalism has always failed to meet the basic needs of hundreds of millions of people. With the climate crisis, it will eventually fail all humanity. The struggle for sustainable development is in essence a struggle to restrain and restrict capitalist corporations and to compel an end to environmentally damaging production processes.
In response to the growing environmental crisis, the Australian Government has played a leading role in trying to replace the Kyoto Protocol with a political agreement. It adopted a carbon tax to enable big corporations to participate in global carbon markets, to buy the right to pollute at the expense of the development of poorer nations. The carbon tax has served as a diversion from taking serious measures to reduce Australia’s carbon footprint, the largest per capita in the world.
Government support for market-based policies has stifled almost all voices that question this policy and effectively ruled out the planning, regulation and legislation for the necessary measures to ensure a sustainable future.
However, the corporations, despite their immense wealth and political power, can be constrained. With a massive mobilisation of working people we can begin to take steps towards environmental sustainability and towards the social transformation necessary to complete this process.
New US Asia-Pacific strategy
Recognising the increasing importance of the Asia-Pacific region economically and strategically, during a recent visit to Australia US President Obama stated that he had made “a deliberate and strategic decision — as a Pacific nation, the United States will play a larger and long-term role in shaping this region and its future, by upholding core principles and in close partnership with our allies and friends.”
“Our enduring interests in the region demand our enduring presence in the region. The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay,” Obama said. The Asia-Pacific region is “a top priority”.
Reflecting US strategic and economic interests, Obama sent a thinly veiled message to China: that it needs to change its economic policies, its political system and accept US “values” and US domination of the Asia-Pacific region — or else!
At the same time US and Australian leaders announced that for the first time ever, US Marines will be stationed in Australia.
Australian defence forces will be further integrated into the US military under US command. There will be a build-up of US warships, submarines, B-52 bombers, fighters, other aircraft and equipment, supplies and weapons (possibly nuclear) based in Australia. The new US bases (funded by Australia) will be used for training exercises by the US on its own and with regional allies.
US plans to encircle or contain China are well under way. They are not new, but were given a lower priority as the US turned its focus to the Middle East. Now the Asia-Pacific region, with the new addition of the Indian Ocean, is again the US target.
Rapprochement with Burma is part of the US strategic encirclement of China. The US wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, wooing of India and Burma, and efforts to install compliant regimes in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgystan cover the west flank of China.
On the east flank, the US has recently escalated tensions on the Korean Peninsula, with the aim of setting up bases on China’s border in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It has bases in South Korea, Japan, Guam and Diego Garcia. The US was forced to remove its bases from the Philippines, but it remains a close ally, with regular visits by US warships.
The US is preparing for war in the Asia-Pacific region, and it could be nuclear. China for its part seeks friendship, co-operation, non-interference in affairs of other countries and trade on a mutually beneficial basis. The US-Australia military/political alliance increasingly poses contradictions for Australia and divisions within Australia’s ruling class.
“Corporate Australia recognises our economy is fundamentally tied to China, not America”, said the managing director of one large mining company. Australia owes its GDP growth to its export of mineral resources to China and other parts of Asia and to record bank profits. What remains of its once strong manufacturing base is in crisis, as are the retail, housing construction and tourism sectors.
Militarism is an essential part of the drive for world domination by the United States, ably assisted by NATO in the Middle East and Europe. Australia has signed away its political and military independence to US imperialism.
The majority of Australians do not support the military actions taken in tandem with the US, want Australian forces brought home from Afghanistan immediately, and oppose the current huge levels of military spending. However, a solid majority still support the broad concept of the US-Australia military alliance, believing it offers US protection from external threats.
Social democrat and conservative parties have been thrown out of office in a number of countries, in most instances only to be replaced by another government pursuing the same austerity measures or even worse. Where will they turn next? To the left or further to the right?
In Australia there has been a concerted ideological campaign over the past three or so decades, deliberately aimed at dulling class consciousness, promoting individualism and portraying trade unions as a “third party” interfering with relations between workers and their boss. This campaign along with a number of other political and economic have factors, has seen the rate of trade union membership decline from a peak of 60 percent to just over 20 percent of the workforce.
There has been an all-out global offensive on working people by monopoly capital and the powerful financial institutions. The alternative must be presented to the people in a persuasive way that motivates them to act.
As the KKE said in a recent statement (“The deep crisis concerns the capitalist system itself”), “The front we need today must not be simply an ‘anti’ front. It must say where the people should go.” This positive aspect is largely lacking in a number of protests, such as the Occupy movement with its slogan of “We are the 99%.”
Without working class leadership, without the leadership of communist and workers’ parties, these movements remain handicapped and limited in policy direction and what they can achieve.
The main thrust of the CPA’s economic policy expresses the anti-monopoly, anti-imperialist aspirations widely embraced by popular forces today but it is also democratic, foresees governments taking responsibility for people’s welfare, priority given to meeting people’s needs and raising their living standards. It is centred around government planning; re-regulation and control of financial instruments and institutions; stimulation of the economy in ways that benefit working people; expansion of the public sector; income redistribution through such means as taxation reform, social welfare, provision of services, raising wages and pensions, job creation, and research and development of renewable, sustainable energy sources.
These policies take into consideration both immediate requirements of the time and have a longer-term focus on the ultimate goal of socialism.
Restoration of trade union rights would facilitate the struggle for change. The CPA is also very aware of the need to raise class-consciousness and to politicise the labour movement and community struggles, which are largely dominated by right-wing social democracy. There is only one national trade union centre, which is in the tight grip of social democracy.
Despite the difficulties, there has been a recent and very encouraging upsurge in struggle against the present employer offensive. Nurses, teachers, police (!), community, transport, building and other workers have taken to the streets defending jobs and services as well as wages and working conditions.
It may appear that time is running out for what might be the decisive struggle for the “culture of life”. However, the CPA remains confident that the 21st Century is the century of socialism.
Its achievement depends on a successful struggle to overcome capitalism and imperialism. This in turn depends on the organisational, political and ideological maturity of the communist parties around the world and on their ability to play a leading role in shaping humanity’s future.