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Issue #1612      September 25, 2013

Active and United for a Socialist Australia

The Communist Party of Australia will be holding its 12th National Congress in Sydney from October 4-7, under the banner of “Active and United for a Socialist Australia”. The period since the 11th National Congress in 2009 has been one of rapid change. Capitalism is in crisis on all fronts and its effects are being felt around the world – economic, food, water, refugee and environmental crises as well as ongoing conflicts and the threat of new wars, possibly nuclear. These crises have a common thread – their origins lie in the system of capitalism.

Social and economic inequality have continued to rise during those years. The capitalist ruling class and its governments are waging an all out offensive on trade union and democratic rights and taking back past gains of workers’ struggles. At the same time ongoing militarisation and war have drained government coffers and pose new threats to security around the globe.

The main document to be considered by Congress for adoption is a Political Resolution. Congress will also be considering some amendments to the Party’s Constitution and electing a new Central Committee.

Around 70 delegates are expected from across Australia. A number of newer and younger members are attending their first Congress and looking forward to taking part in setting the direction of the Party’s work over the next four years.

The Central Committee distributed a first draft of the Political Resolution to Party members in April. Over the following months, Branches have discussed the document and drafted many amendments. These amendments have strengthened the document, and the final draft to go before Congress was circulated to Congress Delegates early last week.

The draft Political Resolution states, “Our Party’s immediate tasks are to build our numbers, to strengthen Party unity and activity, to develop the class struggle and to build the movement to challenge the power of monopoly capital. We are committed to fighting for workers’ rights, democratic and proletarian internationalism, the preservation of peace and the environment, with a perspective of socialism.”

There is particular focus on the question of class struggle – not just its economic form – but political and ideological – and the need to win the battle of ideas.

“Our goal is the creation of a society that will set about eliminating the problems inherent in capitalism – war, exploitation, environmental destruction, oppression, poverty, unemployment, ignorance, bigotry, racism, discrimination and the lack of access to services and rights,” the draft Resolution states.

Hopes dashed

The highly unpopular and discredited Howard Coalition government had been swept out of office in 2007 in an historic campaign uniting many diverse community organisations and trade unions. But the campaigning did not continue following the election of Labor in 2007.

By the time of the 11th Congress in 2009, it had become clear to many people that Labor was not going to fulfil their hopes for a better Australia. The change of leadership from Rudd to Gillard and then to Rudd again failed to gain the confidence of the majority of the population.

Bankruptcy of Labor

Labor failed to repeal WorkChoices as promised. It did phase out individual employment contracts (AWAs) but most of the Howard government’s legislation was left intact. The secretive Australian Building and Construction Commission retained most of its draconian powers and received a boost in funding to continue to hound and persecute building workers and their trade unions.

While Kevin Rudd moved quickly to ratify the Kyoto Protocol as promised, his government failed to follow through with the necessary actions to address climate change.

On the economic front, the federal government’s stimulus packages did provide some welcome, albeit short-lived, relief to pensioners and others on low incomes, but they were primarily designed to bail out the crisis-ridden capitalist system, in particular to rescue big business and the finance sector.

Labor continued to pursue the same economic rationalist deregulation and privatisation policies as the Coalition. State Labor governments embarked on massive privatisation programs, selling off the people’s remaining assets and exposing workers to further sackings and attacks on wages and conditions.

There was plenty of money for corporate tax cuts, fossil fuel rebates and billions of dollars of new military equipment but not enough to give the unemployed an extra $50 a week or help pensioners out. People with chronic illness lost access to dental care under Medicare and struggling single parents saw their meagre incomes slashed.

The much needed and hoped-for increase in funding for public health and education systems, measures to address climate change, humane treatment of asylum seekers, and social welfare reforms were not delivered.

There were promises of great education reforms and an insurance scheme for people with disability; the money is still not on the table. In the case of the Gonski reforms, a huge price tag is attached to the promised extra funding – privatisation of public education.

The federal intervention in the Northern Territory continued, with little done to improve the housing, health and other social services and job creation programs for Indigenous communities.

Labor failed low income workers, the unemployed, the under-employed, women, Indigenous Australians, pensioners, the sick, pensioners, single parents and carers. It also failed the environment and in foreign affairs.

The bankruptcy of Labor in the tight grip of the Right, its inability and lack of political resolve to make even a few important social reforms or protect the “battlers” could not be more apparent.

The hopes and expectations of the electorate were dashed and Labor was unceremoniously thrown out of office in the September 7 federal elections this year.

Coalition nightmare

The new Coalition government has still to reveal most of its policies. If its first day in office is any indicator, then the Australian people have reason to be alarmed and concerned. The environment, science and women were jettisoned. The GST is back on the agenda, despite Tony Abbott’s claims “he has no plans”.

The trade union movement has a huge struggle on its hands for survival. It will be WorkChoices on steroids. With the support of other reactionary Senators the Coalition has plans to wipe basic trade union rights, slash wages and living standards and end “the age of entitlement”, meaning social security.

The Abbott government will move quickly to destroy the public sector and bring in the harsh austerity measures such as those imposed on the people of Greece and other EU countries. The only hope to blocking the worst measures will be the Senate and struggle on the ground outside of Parliament.

This struggle is not just an economic one but political and ideological. The ideological struggle centres on raising consciousness of the class nature of the capitalist system and the existence of the class struggle.

Struggle for real change

The working class has its trade unions which play an important role in defending and promoting the interests of workers, but it also needs a political party of its own. The Labor Party does not fulfil that role, although within its ranks there are many sincere working class members who hope it will change, that it will return to more progressive policies of a bygone era.

The Communist Party, without any apology, declares itself to be a working class party. It openly and proudly takes sides, the side of the working class. That is the fundamental difference. The Communist Party and its paper the Guardian are on the side of the workers and want to change the system to one that protects and promotes workers’ interests – socialism.

The failure of the major parties to meet people’s needs is facilitating the rise of neo-fascist and other extremist forces as people look elsewhere for solutions. The ruling class is creating fear and fostering divisions in the working class on the basis of race and religion to prevent the unity of the people in support of left and progressive alternatives.

This can be seen in Greece and elsewhere where neo-fascist and other ultra-right, anti-people forces are on the ascendancy. It is also becoming more evident in Australia with the growth of right-wing Christian parties and the direct intervention of mining magnates in the political process, all with extensive support from the mass media.

The Australian people cannot sit around and wait in hope that a revamped, more democratic Labor Party can knock out the Coalition in three or six years time and deliver for the people. It just won’t happen.

The struggle must be taken up now for real change in the interests of the working class, Indigenous Australians, immigrants and refugees, women and other victims of the capitalist system, in particular neo-liberalism.

The main focus of the draft Political Resolution to be considered by Congress in October is the question of bringing about such change in Australia. Central to this is the strengthening of the Communist Party for the tasks ahead and “building a broad people’s movement for real change led by the working class. The essence of this movement must be anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist and democratic”.

The main Congress slogan, “Active and United for a Socialist Australia”, reflects the necessity of changing the socio-economic system in Australia and building that movement.

If you would like to know more about the CPA and its aims, then you are very welcome to attend the opening of the Party’s Congress which will take place on Friday, October 4.

Next article – Culture & Life – John Pat – 30 years on

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