Delegates in Discussion
One of the most important aspects of Congress is the general discussion. All delegates were given the opportunity to make contributions during the Congress, and the majority of comrades did so. Their contributions were many and varied, taking up issues raised in the documents before Congress, elaborating on the needs of the Party or sharing experiences and ideas. These issues included communist youth, migrants, women, the environment, trade union struggles, public education, party building and education, the role of the Party and working class, building alliances, anti- globalisation, the role of markets and property relations under socialism and the transition to communism.
MARIE LEAN: Historical perspective In her contribution, Marie Lean from Adelaide, pointed to some of the difficulties that new, especially younger members, have in understanding the strength and influence the Party once had, and as a result what the possibilities are. "The point is we need the history and analysis to be written down. "This was the period of the Cold War at its height. It was a period in which one's own relatives didn't want to know one. Communist academics had employment difficulties; and lone members in some workplaces without support had to keep a low profile. "Comrades in some industries who were sacked because of their political and trade union activities, knew they had to then move from one job to another three times before they were relatively safe again, because they knew the employers only checked on their last three places of employment. "Nevertheless the Party and the left trade unions were very strong and very public. "There was the `No Referendum' in 1951 when the Menzies Government tried to outlaw the Communist Party. "A lot of things have changed since then... Many workplaces comrades once used to leaflet have disappeared, or instead of walking from the bus or train into the workplace most workers drive cars into the company car parks and are less accessible. "The Communist and left Labor leaderships we had in a number of unions have almost ceased to exist and are not being replaced. "Nevertheless", said Ms Lean, "life itself is forcing many unions into struggle again."
TONY OLDFIELD: Class struggle The attitude of employers towards communists has not changed since the days that Marie Lean spoke of. This was confirmed by Tony Oldfield's contribution. "In the last two years I've experienced a major culture shock. After working in a well organised union shop in the Metal Industry and being the convenor of the Combined Union Shop Committee for 14 years, I was retrenched and had to start all over again in a new workplace. "After many attempts to find work in the same industry, it became obvious I was on a blacklist. "I was forced to take a job in a flour mill, where there were more casuals than permanents and it was a union workplace in name only, no union activity in the workplace, a delegate who was a supervisor and in the bosses pocket and no real history of militancy amongst the workers. "A common story, I think." Mr Oldfield said that Party work in the trade unions and the need for workplace Party organisations were priority areas of work, "fundamental to our growth and influence amongst the general working class and to re- establish our credentials and credibility as a legitimate organisation in the labour movement. "The history of the old CPA also enforces the argument that strong Party Workplace Organisation and leadership within the unions won the CPA much influence and the ability to mobilise large numbers of workers to win many working class reforms that the Australian people still enjoy to this day. "But I don't believe that this should belittle the role of suburban branches — they are both equally important. "I think we counter the suburban branch against the necessity for workplace branches and this in my view is incorrect. "Both have an important place in our structure", said Mr Oldfield. "We need to look at the objective reality and how to overcome the hurdles we face. "We need to confront our history and analyse some of the mistakes we have made. "We should look at the period, when the SPA had a number of large industrial branches — namely the Building Branch and the Maritime Branch. Why did we lose a large number of those members? Why did many of those comrades pose the importance of the union against the Party and industrial work against political work? "Why was there a greater importance placed on winning official positions in unions, rather than building solid union and workplace activists? "Why did many leading Party trade union leaders get sucked in by the Accord and take an economist political position? "We need to be seeking answers to some of these questions and try to avoid the pitfalls that have been made in the past."
EDDIE CLYNES: Common enemy Eddie Clynes from the Blue Mountains in NSW began his contribution by quoting the first sentence of the Political Resolution: "The world- wide struggle between the people and the transnational corporations is intensifying." "The range of social forces under attack from imperialism is wider than ever before. The working class is imperialism's main enemy, but not its only enemy. Every aspect of life on the planet is falling under the prey of imperialism", Mr Clynes pointed out. "That is why there is such a range of social strata, interest groups, NGOs and others struggling against imperialist globalisation. That is why many communist parties around the world are exploring and analysing the politics of alliance building. "We cannot hold with the analysis of globalisation in the Political Resolution and then demand what some call `only a fundamental change', one in which only the needs of the working class are catered for. "This ignores the other strata, or over-estimates the speed at which they will accept fundamental (socialist) change. It assumes the wave of forces against globalisation are all anti-capitalist, or it ignores the fact that they are not. "We cannot bypass or skip over the necessary steps of building unity, building understanding and confidence, in going forward. All are necessary for all the various sections of an alliance to move forward together. "The `one fell blow' theory of achieving socialism was never a reality, even in the Russian Revolution, but the time of transition has grown in proportion to the growth of the divergence of social forces being compelled into struggle against imperialism. "How we present our program for change has a profound effect on people's appreciation of the Party and their attitude towards us; whether they see us as a serious organisation or not; whether they see us as mature and realistic; whether what we are proposing is achievable i.e. has a logical chain of steps leading from now to the future. "An important historical achievement of our Party, a historical service to the working class and the socialist movement, has been the elaboration of intermediate steps, steps in the transition from where we are now, to the struggle for socialism. "There are a number of intermediate goals to achieve before the working class takes political power and a socialist reconstruction of society becomes a reality." Mr Clynes spoke of his experience at one of the workshops at the S11 actions in Melbourne. "I started to explain how we see change taking place, some of our immediate goals, the logic of the unity of social forces which we talk about. "There was interest in it... breaking the two-party system, the possibility of a nation-wide alternative political alliance, strong mass movements struggling for demands, linking up with the struggle for left and progressive political representation, an alliance of left and progressive forces in parliaments, a common anti-economic rationalist program, opening up the real possibility of a new type of government in Australia, the task of such a government, representing and working closely with the mass movements to, in the first place, make inroads into monopoly power, expanding the public sector..."
PHILIP PELADARINOS Fighting for workers' rights Philip Peladarinos who is from Melbourne works for a welfare organisation where the workforce has had to fight for its rights. As in many other workplaces, the company decided to replace the award, in this case the Social and Community Services Award, with an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA). The company wanted to reduce overtime rates; be allowed to retrench staff without reason; transfer staff without consultation to anywhere in Victoria; and have part-timers work up to 38 hours a week without pro-rata penalty rates. "In the EBA process, the company chose the `non-union approach' of the Industrial Relations Act. This does not provide for Union involvement in the negotiations. "Simultaneously, the company was not interested to negotiate at all. All they were interested in was to inform staff and have the voting 14 days after the distribution of the EBA", said Philip. Philip outlined the steps taking in organising a meeting with Australian Services Union (ASU) organisers and authorising the ASU to represent them in consultations. It was not easy as the union was weak and the workforce not concentrated in one location. "We tried to establish links among the various sites and have at least one contact staff member opposing the EBA in each workplace. "During the process of discussing the EBA we managed to force the company to negotiate with the staff and to force the company to meet with the Union organiser... "Now we have the prospect of a union campaign around wages for workers in the industry. We recruited tens of members in the Union and we are in the process of forming a strong and militant ASU branch. "We have managed to establish communication among all sites and three out of the 14 being 100 percent unionised." They also succeeded in having the voting date postponed twice in order to have full discussions with the workers and redraft the EBA. When it came to the ballot management failed to get the necessary majority support for its demands.
STEVE GIBSON Building socialism Steve Gibson, also from Melbourne, looked to the future, to the question of building socialism and forms of ownership and market forces. "We start from the position and inevitably end at the same position. That is that a socialist economy must be built using the legacy bequeathed to us by the pre-existing form of society but with the objective of completely overturning all of the fundamentals of that society during the process of maturing the new society, the socialist society. "It is our conviction that forms of ownership of the means of production other than public ownership are completely incompatible with that goal. "In fact, we are convinced that to entertain thoughts of private ownership continuing beyond the point of a mature socialist society must cause us to turn on its head all that we have learned and striven for over many years. "To expect a central planning authority to properly and effectively handle the economy and ensure the steady and predictable building of the public social fund is incompatible with the play of market forces. "To suggest that the needs of the people cannot be met without supply and demand mechanisms being incorporated into the socialist economy, in our view displays a lack of confidence in socialist planning, which would lead inevitably to a lack of confidence in our ability to achieve socialism itself. Steve concluded by saying, "we have declared in our consideration of our entry into the 21st Century that it will be the century of socialism and so it will, but not by accident or good fortune".
DORA ANTHONY Building the Party Dora Anthony, a Sydney delegate and one of the comrades involved in the building of the new Communist Youth organisation was concerned about how we attract new members to the Party. "I was talking with a person at the Opening night on Friday. He made the comment that he would not join the Party, but at the same time he admitted that of all the left parties in Australia the Communist Party is the party of the future. "People's perceptions of the party are brought about by many different factors. "They are influenced by the enormous weight of anti-communist propaganda which is spread throughout the whole world, the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe and so forth. In Australia we don't have the big traditions that some other communist parties have in other countries and here a lot of people don't know we exist or don't want to know we exist. "I think that one of our important tasks in building the Party at the present time is to look at how we present ourselves to people. People will join the Party if we have good policies and if the Party shows some real concern for them." The recruitment of younger members is of particular importance to building the communist movement. "In the youth area, we are planning to establish a communist youth organisation. Through this organisation we aim to have many activities around youth issues and in the process we hope that many young people will eventually join the Party. "So how do we appeal to young people to join the Party? "I think that at the outset, the Party must show a real concern for young people. It is good but not sufficient for The Guardian to run articles on youth matters. All levels of the Party must show a real interest in youth. "Party meetings have many issues on their agendas — economic issues, international issues, trade unions and so forth. I think it is important that issues related to youth must be on the agenda of party meetings. It's a question of whether the Party is oriented to youth and sees the youth as important. We need to be seen as the Party for the youth", said Dora. Dora continued her contribution by raising the question of our work with migrants, and the need to give attention to issues that specifically affect migrants. "We must have forms of party organisation in which migrants will feel comfortable and they will want to join because they see that the Party recognises them and recognises their form of work in the migrant communities. "We can't just say that everything we write in The Guardian or everything we do in the Party applies to all Australians. We don't follow the Pauline Hanson line that everyone is Australian and that a person's background should be ignored."
VINICIO Applying our experience Vinicio, a West Australian delegate, drew on his experiences in his country of birth, Guatemala. "In our resolution we talk about building an alternative and the changes we would make. "Other comrades even go further in the discussion. They talk in a complicated philosophical and economic terminology. At the end we get caught on how transformation of class relations should happen from a socialist to a communist society. "This actually makes me remember that in my experience in the underground struggle in Guatemala there were these comrades with great theoretical knowledge capable of analysing in a dialectical way the reason why there was no tap water in the middle of the jungle but incapable of walking next to the simple guerrilla fighter down the river to collect the water for the day. "The fighter knew nothing about philosophy but was clear of the tasks of the day. "Yes, comrades sometimes we are more worried about things that could happen 20, 50 or 100 years down the track but we fail to understand what has to be done on a day to day basis. "The Political Resolution is right — we must build the Party inside the working class. Workers do not need to learn a new consciousness, they just need to wake up and learn how to use their power in an organised way. "We need a Party whose social composition is in contact with the reality. "Comrades, in conclusion we have the theoretical instrument. "We have a fair and just resolution. "The more important task after this Congress is to build a capable party to put this resolution to practice. "We also need to design a flexible and viable political alliances policy to be part if not the only, leadership of the Australian working class. "Viva the CPA."