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Issue #1614      October 16, 2013

Active and United for a Socialist Australia!

The 12th National Congress of the Communist Party of Australia was a significant milestone for the Party. An exhaustive process of pre-Congress discussion and preparation was brought to fruition. Congress lived up to its slogan, “Active and United for a Socialist Australia”. There was strong agreement on the political line of the CPA and Congress concluded on a note of unity and enthusiasm that bodes well for the task of building the Party to face the challenges ahead – challenges that have become more urgent with the election of an Abbott government. Delegates unanimously adopted the main document before Congress, the Political Resolution outlining the strategic path forward in the struggle against capitalism and for a socialist future in Australia.

Michael Perth calls for contributions to the Congress Appeal on opening night. (Photo: Anna Pha)

In the months leading up to Congress, members in their Branches and at State and District conferences, spent hours discussing and drafting amendments to the Political Resolution. Members also had the opportunity to share their views and ideas party-wide by contributing to two discussion journals.

The work of the Party since its last Congress was finally on display and plans for the future presented to delegates and observers from around the country.

Public recognition

The tone for the Congress was set at the public event that kicked off the three days of discussion and deliberations. The multicultural Topraq Music Group sang a medley of Turkish, Persian and Arabic workers’ songs to the accompaniment of traditional instruments. Congress delegate Ovidio Orellana from Brisbane sang songs of protest from his native Guatemala. Kylie Salisbury of the Auburn Branch recited the famous Brecht poems Questions from a Worker who Reads and In Praise of Communism.

The theme of internationalism and solidarity was brought home with a very moving video greeting from the Peace Delegation of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP) currently negotiating an end to the armed and social conflict in Colombia with the government of President Santos at talks in Havana, Cuba. The greeting can be seen at youtu.be/YFe56tF-ybs.

MC, Party President Vinnie Molina, introduced CFMEU NSW President Rita Mallia who congratulated the CPA on its role in strengthening workers’ resistance to the employer assault and declared her pride in her union’s long tradition of militancy and solidarity, including international solidarity. Rita wished delegates well in their important work.

CPA General Secretary Bob Briton’s speech expressed willingness on the part of the Party to work with others at the task of turning the calamitous neo-liberal agenda around. He pointed out that new forces will have to be brought into play against the monopoly assault on workers’ gains achieved over decades of struggle and that a union/community alliance would be a great place to start. He said the Party must step up and show leadership at this crucial time of economic and environmental crisis.

Michael Perth from the Port Adelaide Branch led the appeal for donations to the Congress Appeal. The result – donations and commitments of over $10,000 on the night – was another vote of confidence in the CPA.

The evening ended with Auburn Branch member Sylvia Salisbury singing a moving version of Bread and Roses and leading a rousing rendition of The Internationale.

Firm commitment

The Congress heard a frank, self-critical report on the work of the outgoing Central Committee from the General Secretary. Education, communication and professionalism in its work and propaganda will be target areas for the Party over the next four years. The shortcomings mentioned in no way detract from the strong body of work done in the interests of workers and their communities by Branches since the 11th Party Congress.

More than 40 delegates took to the floor in general discussion on the Political Resolution and their work. This work in trade unions, among the youth, in support of people breached by Centrelink, with refugees in detention, on the environment and for the many concerns of residents in working class suburbs was clearly in evidence in delegates’ contributions. Some of these activities were reflected in the great audio visual presentation put together by Blayne Welshe for Congress.

Congress identified the necessity for humility and patience in our political work and the need to be close to the people and build unity in the interest of developing the struggle for working class power.

An impressive display of materials used by the Battler Group, which successfully contested elections in the council area of Auburn in Sydney’s western suburbs, illustrates the necessity of consistent patient work. It has taken 12 years of hard work by Party and other members of the Battler Group to achieve the outstanding result.

There were some differences over the Party’s position on the likely stages in the struggle for socialism in Australia as set down in its Program. At the end of the debate, however, the Party united with an overwhelming majority in support of the current position, which is also contained in the Political Resolution adopted by Congress.

Bob Briton thanked outgoing Central Committee members, former General Secretary Hannah Middleton in particular. He also thanked former National Organiser Denis Doherty for his dedication and work.

Youth/leadership

Another very encouraging development coming from Congress was the formation of a network of younger members committed to build a national youth organisation for the Party. An initiative of young members in Sydney in recent times is to be built upon to attract young people to the ideas of Socialism and Communism and to help the Party get its message across to the youth of Australia.

It is a daunting task given the many distractions out there but the enthusiasm of the young people at their meeting held during the Congress and the report-back to the delegates shows great promise.

At its first meeting on the evening of Sunday October 6, Bob Briton was re-elected CPA General Secretary and Vinnie Molina was re-elected Party President. Other positions will be filled at the next scheduled meeting of the Central Committee on the weekend of November 2 and 3. Congress decided on a smaller Central Committee for the coming period with three new members from a wide range of backgrounds.

Thanks

Delegates gave long and loud applause for two special presentations on the last day of Congress. Party stalwarts Donna McLaren and Ina Heidtman received commendations for their decades’ long contributions to the Party and to the working class. Donna couldn’t attend for family health reasons and was greatly missed. Ina’s humble response to the award made a strong impression on the audience.

The work of holding a National Congress is detailed and taxing. The 12th Congress was an outstanding success and testament to the power of the collective. Its committees and other volunteers ensured the smooth running of the gathering. Special mention should be made of the comrades of the Beloyannis Branch who provided the catering at no cost to the Party and the other volunteers from the Preparatory Committee who took charge of this crucial job. The use of the CFMEU’s excellent venue was another stand-out contribution that was greatly appreciated.

The importance of the Congress, aside from cementing the bonds between members from all over the country, is the promise it holds out for the improvement in the work of Communists in what are very challenging times in the history of Australia and the world.

Next article – Editorial – Labor’s new leader and lessons in democracy

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