The Meaning of World Revolution
1924 — Fifth Congress of the Comintern, Moscow, USSR
Comrades! Listening to the speech made by our English comrade [Arthur] MacManus in response to Comrade [Grigory] Zinoviev’s statement, and to his explanation of English Communist Party practice, I felt how very similar the Australian Communist Party’s practice is to that of the English Party. We too have to join the Labour Party, build the united front, and make our Party really come alive.
On the question of entry to the Labour Party, there are some difficulties in Australia that are greater and more crucial than those obtaining in England. We have to develop our capacity for action in a very large country with a very small population. Australia is larger than the United States. It is twenty-five times as big as England, Ireland and Scotland and has a population of five-and-a-half million, mostly in the coastal area and the large coastal cities. It is very difficult to organise our Party in these widely separated centres, Then we have the difficulty that the Australian trade unions have always stood for a ‘white Australia’, i.e. that no coloured workers are to be admitted to Australia because it would exert pressure on the living standards of Australian workers. With capitalism developing and concentrating as it is, and especially having regard to the ever-advancing problem of the whole Pacific region, it would be pointless to try to ignore the question of coloured workers. Our propaganda, our message, is not about bringing in cheap coloured coolie labour, but that Marx never said ‘White proletarians of all lands unite!’ but ‘Proletarians of all lands unite!’: so, faced with capitalism’s current offensive, we cannot accept any exploitation of coloured workers, because any such exploitation is bound to be followed by reduction of the wages of white workers. Precisely in the same way as what is happening now, when depressing the wages of German workers in the Ruhr to coolie level is forcing down the wages of English and even Australian workers. The practice we have developed of gaining access to the Labour Party through the trade unions has been difficult but effective. I shall instance a few results of what we have done in this connection. The Times contained a telegram of May 3 saying that the National Party and the Country Party were forming an alliance to combat a working-class offensive which was assuming serious proportions. The right wing of the Labour Party is not a serious danger to capitalism, but what does matter is that the CP is on the point of penetrating the Labour Party and will soon fully belong to it and form a resolute element in it. That is what is terrifying the capitalists at this time. I would like to say that we have progressed still further, because we already have signs of fascism in Australia. You will see, from a quotation that I am going to read, that fascism is already rearing its head amongst us, which shows that serious work in the direction of world revolution has been achieved. I am quoting a piece of advice given to the Labour Party by the Australasian, a capitalist newspaper. Just before the Labour Party Conference, the Australasian writes:
Two courses are open to that part of the Conference which is opposed to the communists. One is to expel them by force, the other to pass a resolution excluding communists. If neither of these measures is taken, what might follow is a splitting of the Labour Party into two almost equal parts. At present, communists and anti-communists appear almost equally strong in any votes on relevant issues, with the anti-communists keeping the upper hand by only a very narrow majority.
To focus further on this question I shall now read a quotation from Common Cause, an organ of the New South Wales miners. It is reporting on the Labour Party Conference, at which a report was presented about the proposed accession of the Communist Party:
Our committee, after consultation with a number of experienced members of both the State parties and the Commonwealth Labour Party, is of the opinion that the Australian Labour Party is big enough to include all sections of the Labour movement. Having regard to the probable imminence of State and Commonwealth elections, and considering the urgent necessity of cooperation by all workers’ parties with the Australian Labour Party to ensure the election of Labour governments and to deal with the serious problem of unemployment, the chaos in the nation’s finances and the extraordinarily violent attacks being made on the trade unions, we call upon all workers to support the Australian Labour Party not as several parties but as one single Party. Furthermore we propose that the incoming leadership should accept all workers’ parties, so as to establish unity, and that when setting up committees from the membership it should be authorised to include Messrs Beasly and Kilburn.
This is happening because the Labour Party has an overwhelming need of the Communist Party in the elections, and we are hoping that both the Commonwealth government and the government of New South Wales are going to be Labour governments.
We have, furthermore, Labour governments in Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia. The two latter were elected this year. In Queensland the Labour government has been in office for some time, and, as I have said, we are hoping that Commonwealth and New South Wales Labour governments are going to emerge. These are the important factors. It is probable that, in order to attain this goal, the Labour Party will admit the Communist Party so as to have a united front in fighting the elections.
The Australian Trade Union Congress has declared in favour of admitting all genuine workers’ parties and groups to the Labour Party, while leaving them the right to their own propaganda and organisational activities, but requiring their loyal acceptance of Conference decisions. The matter will now come before before the State parties at their conference next month, and if, as I hope, the decision goes in favour of the CP, admission will be on the following basis: ‘So long as the Communist Party is purely a propaganda party and does not put up candidates apart from the Labour Party, it is authorised to organise inside the Labour Party as well as outside it.’ Once this question is settled we shall be able to carry on working.
I surely do not need to tell you that we are not aiming at entry into the Labour Party in order to help it in any way. In Australia we had our experience with Labour parties in 1911-12. Labour parties came to power in the Commonwealth government and in various States. We know how little they were able to achieve. We know what an enormous amount they were not able to achieve, and we know too that these parties, the Commonwealth party and the New South Wales party, were led by two lawyers, Mr. Hughes and Mr. Holman, and that, as soon as war broke out, these two gentlemen changed sides, became imperialists, and destroyed the Labour Party. So the workers know very well that, if they want to win, they can rely only on themselves, The Australian Labour Parties are far more revolutionary than the English Labour Party. When we hear talk of the English Labour Party it seems absurd to us that it can be called a Labour Party at all. I should like to mention something with a very important bearing on the united front. As I have said already, the Labour Party has become the government of Western Australia. As you know, a so-called Labour Party is in power in England. Mr. Macdonald has said that it actually holds the power in its hands:
I have the power, I want to bring certain things to an end, and today I have the power to do it.
Now the office of Governor of Western Australia recently became vacant and needed to be filled. Since this is an imperial post, the nomination has to come from King George, and the person who advises him is Macdonald.
There is a trade unionist in the Colonial Office. But whom did they appoint as Governor in Western Australia, where the Labour Party is in power? An officer and a Conservative. If that isn’t sabotage, sabotage of one Labour Party by another, I don’t know what else it could be called. I’m going to go further. I am going to criticise the English Communist Party over this, because I think it was their duty to criticise this behaviour by the English Labour Party. If they had done so, if the news had reached Australia that the English Communist Party had protested, protested so loudly that it was heard in Australia, protested against the forcing of a Conservative, military individual on a State, Western Australia, where the Labour Party is in government, then this would, in my opinion, have aroused such enthusiasm in Australia (Australia being a country much given to enthusiasm) as would have been of service not only to the Australian Communist Party but to the English Communist Party as well. These things are significant factors when considering the question of the united front, and I think they deserve a corresponding degree of attention.
I am very glad to be able to speak here today, because I want to say to my comrades of the Pacific region, my comrades from India, from the Malay peninsula, from China, Indochina, Korea and all the other territories, that the Australian CP has no colour prejudice and no wish for a ‘white Australia’. We know that we in the Pacific region have got to unite, we know that the capitalists capitalists in the region are united, whereas little or nothing is being done to bring the great Communist Parties of the area together for united action. So I am glad to seize the opportunity to extend the hand of friendship to our comrades from all the Pacific countries and to say to them that, with help from the great International, by reaching agreement between ourselves, and if the English Communist Party will concern itself not only with England but with events in the Pacific region, we shall reach a point where we shall have a mass Party behind us, and Australian workers will grasp the meaning of world revolution and unite in the cause of that revolution.
Source: Official Report of the 1924 Congress.
Also: Something to Learn from Russia: Plus Capitalist Development in South Africa & Other Writings Articles and Speeches, by Dora Montefiore, PJ Haney (Anarcho-Communist Institute, 2015).