Reforging the Communist Party of Australia

Marcus Larsen of the Communist Party Advocates reports on its conference in Australia

Over the weekend of March 9-10 a meeting was held in the Australian industrial city of Wollongong. The meeting resolved to form an organisation, Communist Party Advocates, with, as our founding principles state, “the central aim of reforging a Communist Party in Australia.”

The formation of CPA is important in that it is a beginning to the long and arduous process of reforging a revolutionary party in Australia after the Communist Party of Australia succumbed to its long, inexorable process of liquidation in 1990. The meeting was attended by people from Sydney, Melbourne, Wollongong and Perth which is giving us an important national identity in our embryonic stages. People attending came from a variety of backgrounds, with Party and non-Party histories and experience in the trade union movement, the unemployed workers’ movement, the women’s movement and the student movement.

Importantly, the CPA is struggling to provide a nexus, an organisation and theoretical focus which is not based on any particular sectarian world outlook. As our basic principle states:

“CPA aims for the unity of communists at the highest possible level and struggles against all forms of sectarianism and opportunism in the revolutionary and workers’ movement. Our goal is to unite all pro-Party forces into the one organisation.”

The meeting heard a political report from comrades from Wollongong on the process of liquidation of the old CPA, as well as a history of the unemployed movement in that city.

This was followed by a theoretical opening on the Communist Party, and the first day concluded with discussion on an opening on capitalism and class composition in Australia. Day two discussed an opening on debates around the materialist conception of history and concluded with discussion and debate on our strategic perspectives, our structures and the content of our basic principles.

The major organisational question we are now facing is that of centralisation versus federation. The founding meeting agreed to allow the existence of ‘autonomous’ cells to operate under the guidelines, not of a central leadership, but of our basic principles. This creates a definite tension amongst people in the organisation as to whether we move immediately to a centralised form of organisation (my preference) or whether we continue along a federalist line.

In my opinion, the best way to form a centralised leadership would be to take one of the local cells to become a national leadership, for it is essential that our new organisation adopts a national identity. If we move along in a ‘federalist’ manner, or in the manner of the ‘Marxist circle’, we are in constant danger of slipping back into the marsh of liquidation. Our other debates - on rules, our mass work, our immediate strategic objectives - are in my opinion linked, but are secondary to this question.

However, we have learnt the first lesson - that it is impossible to be an individual communist. We are slowly moving to an understanding of what it means to be a pro-Party formation in a period of liquidation.

As well as our organisational questions we will embark on developing mass work.

Initially, we are working towards the formation of a united front defence of the Maritime Union. This union, with a militant history on the waterfront and in shipping, is in the front line against the new conservative Liberal government. The Liberals’ attack on the Maritime Union is as strategically important to the ruling class in Australia as was the attack on the NUM for the British ruling class. We are proposing that localities form Maritime Union defence committees which are based on rank and file support for the wharfies and seamen in the upcoming confrontation on the waterfront.

As a pro-Party grouping in formation, we welcome contact with the Provisional Central Committee of the CPGB. In the pages of our forthcoming journal, The Communist Advocate, and in the pages of the Weekly Worker, we hope to maintain healthy debate and polemic that is in both our interests and in the interests of reforging the world communist movement.