The Communist Party Of Australia
and Political/Industrial Violence:
Rationale And Results
Dr. Jim Saleam
September 18 2000
Australian Nationalists study the strategies, tactics and organizational forms of all political movements, in a 'neutral' way. We are not put off an investigation because we do not ‘approve’ of the subject. In that way, we can approach a remarkable (now dead) experiment in Australian communism – the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) (hereafter: CPA (M-L)).
One work (published unfortunately in French) which explained how nationalist forces have ‘approached’ the Left for conduct-models, was: Louis Depeux, National Bolchevisme: Strategie Communiste Et Dynamique Conservatrice (Paris: Editions Champion, 1979). This work discussed the propensity of some activists to divorce Marxist ideology from its political and organizational methods and study the latter in a ‘neutral’ manner. Of course, this approach has been evergreen in nationalist circles across the globe for too many years to recall. There is an extensive Euro-nationalist literature that weaves around this subject.
The present text was the product of an interest held by some Australian Nationalists in the strategies, tactics and organizational methods of the CPA (M-L). In 1971, I first became aware that nationalists had drawn upon Left models, after coming upon an article concerning the Italian "People’s Struggle Organization"; the article jokingly referred to this group and others as "Nazi-Maoist" in tone. Indeed, many persons who subsequently came forward as founders of Australian Nationalism in the period 1976-78, had gone down the road of studying the Left. Subsequently, in the practise of Australian National Alliance (1978-80) and Australian National Action (1982ff.), some ‘Left’ ideas were applied to their methods. It could now be appropriate to restudy these questions as the tasks for an Australian Nationalist party are now very urgent ones.
The CPA (M-L) was a Maoist-style communist party. Our study of it here will be of interest to Australian Nationalists in several areas:
(i) We shall observe particular Maoist criticisms of other Australian communists; this will help us understand how the Left in the 1980’s and 1990’s became a cheerleader and erstwhile bash-squad for internationalist liberals in business and politics.
(ii) We shall see how particular political-police operations directed at the CPA (M-L) drew on the blind anti-communism of certain Australian "rightists"; the method of the political police has stayed the same in the new "anti-racist" struggle to strangle Australian Identity and Independence.
(iii) We shall see in the Maoist organization particular ideas of great worth in the struggle to construct a Nationalist party able to challenge State power. We accept that this party caused the Australian Establishment grave concerns at different points.
(iv) We shall see in the overall crisis and decline of Australian communism an obvious reality: that the Left was irrelevant to the Australian People and that any challenge to the liberal regime had to come from elsewhere.
This paper has been adapted from a 1995 version that was read as an academic paper at the University of Sydney. Footnotes are provided at the end for any reader interested in pursuing this subject.
The Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) (CPA (M-L)) was part of the Australian working class movement in so far as Australian communism was a reflection of the socialist tradition. Despite its impact on Left politics, particular trade union/labour struggles and the political contention surrounding its activities, it has been somewhat ignored by scholars. I shall offer an interpretation of its impact upon the working class/Left milieu given its commitment to non-reformist activism and its consequent use of various forms of violence to achieve its objectives. Simultaneously, this overview illustrates the marginalised nature of Australian revolutionary-socialism in the pervasive sea of Labor/social democratic politics, and whilst under a generalised long-term imploding of support for Marxism as a political option. The use of violence did not overcome these constraints. Two sets of conclusions shall follow: those relevant to the evidence as it flows and those of immediate concern to Australian Nationalists.
1. Basic Foundation Logic.
In 1963-4, the ‘Marxist-Leninists’ under the leadership of Victorian barrister, E.F. (Ted) Hill, split from the Communist Party of Australia (CPA). The CPA (M-L) was founded in March 1964. This split was part of an international crisis for the hitherto pro-USSR communist movement, provoked by Mao-Tse-Tung’s resistance to Moscow’s claim to supremacy and orthodoxy. The resulting creation of ‘Maoist’ parties in western industrialized societies was not as incongruous as appearances suggest. Traditional Marxist-Leninist programme and method contrasted with the theory and practise of the largely parliamentarist, unionist and reform-oriented communist parties. In their search for political power and influence, these parties had made ideological and political compromises, many openly subordinating themselves to the requirements (and dictates) of Soviet foreign policy. (1) It was perhaps inevitable that some intellectuals, older Stalinist cadre and younger Left workers and students, would reject collaboration with social-democratic parties, anti-war liberal peace fronts and reformist trades unions - and opt for a new militancy. The situation in Australian communism favoured this course.
The CPA in 1963 was a tired party, long on heroic memories, but battered by Cold War isolation. With perhaps 4,000 adherents, it had embraced Khrushchev’s idea of a ‘peaceful road to socialism’, a doctrine Mao-Tse-Tung called – "revisionism". (2) There was certainly a nexus between the USSR’s attempt to ameliorate superpower contention into a controlled or managed system of disputation and agreement (which some European nationalists have called the ‘System Of Yalta’), and the revision of class struggle doctrine to permit the peaceful transformation of capitalism into a Marxist socialist order, by democratic means. (3) The obverse doctrine espoused by the Albanian and Chinese parties was that capitalist and socialist ‘rivalry’ could not be addressed by cooperation, disarmament and ‘détente’, but by support for all anti-imperialist struggles, that one system would not yield to the other except by revolutionary violence. Clearly, the latter doctrine did not appeal to the CPA’s trade union officials and the bourgeois intellectual group around Laurie Aarons, the CPA’s rising star. Yet, for some Australian communists, the CPA’s failure to achieve any measure of success (beyond influence in the unions and certain protest movements), was held as indicative of mismanagement and betrayal.
The logic of Maoism possessed an undeniable appeal for frustrated Australian communists. Revolution was held as the dominant trend in the 1960’s world; national liberation struggles were seen as universal and people’s war was announced as the best method of struggle. The combination of national struggles in the post-colonial world, and revolutionary action in the industrial world, would ‘overturn’ imperialism. The new theory contained germs of the apocalyptic and the romantic. A heady revolutionary myth had also spawned the CPA in 1920 in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution. Then, the CPA saw this Russian experience as a model for the forward march of Australian socialism. While rejecting the politics of the Industrial Workers Of The World and their ‘class against class’ direct action unionism, the CPA saw itself as the inheritor of their revolutionary impulse. It took over certain visions of Australia as a ‘working man’s paradise’, but married these images to the goals of the Third International, the Bolshevik organization which would direct the world revolution. The CPA (M-L), with perhaps 300-400 members in March 1964, reasoned that it represented a restatement of the principles which created the CPA and had sustained it until the then-recent period. It anticipated that a successful new course was being charted through the international rupture with ‘revisionism’ and the Soviet communists. (4)
Any missionary psychology is a powerful inducement to action, and the followers of a revolutionary movement may feel less restraint than members of a ‘soft’ party, in determining whether or not to break rules and break laws. As the decade of the 1960’s unfolded, this became more obvious. Hill reflected upon the schism:
"The former Communist Party was deluded by legality and parliamentarism into failing to explain we live in conditions of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie…..a ruthless implacable enemy which resorts to the foulest deceit…" (5)
The formal embracing of Maoism, in so-called ‘Marxism-Leninism-Mao-Tse-Tung Thought’, would have remained nothing but a storm in a Marxist intellectual’s teacup, had not the CPA (M-L) tried to apply it as a revolutionary method in Australian labour politics, and place the ‘class struggle principle’ ahead of any notion of social reform.
2. The Rationale For Violence
Several of the defining elements of Chinese Maoism were those which emerged as a response to the necessities of waging a military-political war against the militarily and politically stronger ‘Kuomintang’ party in a country controlled by a vacillating bourgeoisie under pressure from imperialist forces. Mao’s guerilla warfare and protracted war ideas used in that war, were later adopted or adapted to other insurgencies. Mao constructed his party in a permanent struggle that disintegrated the opposition as it proceeded. (6) Demonstrably, no such conditions favourable to armed struggle operated in Australia. However, the general concept of a guerilla-protracted-political warfare could be applied to a civil society: guerilla war without guns! This was the key ingredient of the CPA (M-L)’s strategy and tactics for over twenty years.
The ‘revival’ of Marxism-Leninism in its new Maoist clothing was held as a crucial event; but in a standard formulation offered up continually, it was necessary to "integrate Marxism-Leninism with Australian conditions". The manner in which this was attempted became a justification for political-industrial violence, the basis of the way forward to armed revolution. Some ten central Maoist principles reveal themselves from the literature and are worthy of consideration outside of their content. They are composed here according to Maoist terms:
(i) The Labor Party should not serve as a centre of communist interest. It was not a party of socialism or even of ‘genuine’ social democracy. As laid out by Lenin in a 1912 article, it was a party of liberalism - with some ‘national’ or reformist colouring. Accordingly, the CPA (M-L) rejected the class collaborationist pro-ALP CPA. It then went on to reject Trotskyist theory of ‘entrism’ (into the Labor Party) as a failed model for action. The alternative was an energetic opposition to the Labor Party and its union allies. (7)
(ii) Australian law was class law and a cover for bourgeois dictatorship. Courts, police, jails, secret police and Acts of Parliament were all aspects of this dictatorship. Illusions in the ‘neutrality’ of the State had created a subservient labour movement – and false communists. The alternative was to challenge or ‘contest’ law and authority, to demonstrate in struggle the essential nature of State power. (8)
(iii) The CPA had operated a false conception of organization – large offices, open membership, position-taking in unions and social campaigns, Left-bureaucratic attitudes in such structures and sectarian conduct otherwise. The CPA (M-L)’s alternative was for a few publicly known communists to be supported by a secret organization which sustained union and political action. Communists would move guerilla-like in a sea of sympathetic ‘workers and working people’ (ie. industrial working class and other working groups), inciting strikes and political action, their party connection concealed from the enemy. (9)
(iv) Parliamentarism was a sham which had caused the CPA immense harm and which liquidated communism into the Labor Party. Since communists could not be elected or effectively alter State policy, the CPA (M-L) advocated non-participation in the electoral process. The Maoists sought, hence, to advance the class struggle directly at the base level. (10)
This position was unique on the Australian Marxist Left. It certainly released energies which otherwise would have been wasted on electoral work. The general failure of the Communist Party, Socialist Party, Socialist Workers’ Party and Socialist Labour League candidates during three decades of parliamentary elections to win more than a few percent of the votes in ‘traditional’ inner city ‘Left’ areas - was marked.
(v) A secret organization of the Leninist type was necessary. (Ironically, the CPA (M-L) never held a public meeting until 1990 when it counted for nought) The CPA (M-L) believed that secret police were pervasive and an open party was therefore ripe for disruption. It reasoned also that open-membership encouraged ideological division and rivalries; whilst the closed party was not immune to policemen and dissension, the sanction of expulsion, with or without physical compulsion, could be employed. The ‘secret’ party maintained a stronger public profile as it encouraged a reputation founded upon determination to politically succeed; it could better combat political police efforts at destabilization. (11)
(vi) The Maoist Chinese party discipline-technique of criticism/self-criticism was adopted. (12) The CPA (M-L) sought to inculcate a strong internal discipline just as the CPA had done in earlier times. It wanted to encourage a high degree of homogeneity of thought. With a cadre firmly and consciously motivated, it could mobilize more energetically. Energy and violence are occasional partners.
(vii) The CPA (M-L) was proclaimed to be the party of the Australian working class. This sectarian device (and the Maoist party was not alone in asserting this claim), sharpened the distinction between both Marxism-Leninism and the ALP, and the CPA (M-L) and the "fake-Left" (CPA, Trotskyists, SPA). (13) It was a recipe for intolerance of other Left perspectives and for militancy.
(viii) The CPA (M-L) addressed itself to unskilled and semi-skilled workers (builders’ labourers, wharfies, tramworkers, process workers, labourers). The Maoists made a ‘virtue’ of an accident: most of their initial cadre was located in these areas. They attempted to develop upon this base. Such workers were held to be less trade-routinised, more informal, volatile and organized in larger (usually Multinational owned) enterprises. (14) Confrontationism could be developed outside of ‘soft’ unions or even under the direct control of Maoist organizational structures.
(ix) A ‘Mass Line’ was the essential element of party activism. Since "revolutionary consciousness" could only be introduced to the "proletariat" (ie. the working class) "from without", the clarity of this ‘Line’ was essential. The CPA (M-L)’s publications and actions showed a remarkable consistency over time. While much of the Australian Left was lost in pseudo-popular campaigns and mass movements, the CPA (M-L) maintained its "independence and initiative". The Mass Line involved:
The ‘Mass Line’ was all about ‘psychological action’, the creation of an impression of social disorder which would encourage the destabilization of opposition and invite the solidarity of radical activists with CPA (M-L) perspectives. Mass Line implied also that communists would work without the "Left bloc" atmosphere of special intra-party political and social meetings that narrowed contact with the people. Rather, communists would "merge with the workers", "learn from and teach them". This application of Maoism varied from CPA (and later Socialist Party of Australia – SPA) practise. It had variable success, but demonstrated missionary zeal. Zealousness and violence are traditional partners.
(x) The youth were the objective for recruitment. (16) The CPA (M-L) expansion period (1968-78) coincided with a particular phase in Australian society. The Maoists set out to capture the ‘radical youth market’ and did have some success. Whatever the difficulties involved in the education of young supporters, the activism and latent violence of the target-market, could be counted upon and refined.
Taken in combination, these ideological principles, when added to traditional Marxist-Leninist arguments regarding the violent nature of class struggle, established the CPA (M-L) as a definable Left current. In effect, it raised the issues of terror and violence with stodgy, contented of reformist leftists. Terror and violence are systems and methods. Historian Andrew Metcalfe theorised:
"A terror is the enforcement of a pledge. The insistence anyone disloyal is an enemy .. (ensures that) .. terror ‘closes’ the group. It involves sanctions against both the enemies and members of a group and the sanctions are commonly but not necessarily violent ….. Not all group terror is violent, but because class struggle is about control of the means of production it is possible to … say that the organization of the class struggle is the mobilization of violence …" (17)
Violence separated the Maoist party from the Labor Party and the Marxist Left. The use and justification of violence was a call for the ‘renewal’ of Marxism. Just as Georges Sorel had once attacked official Marxism in the early 20th Century for its fear of violence, effectively showing why the Social Democracy of that day was doomed to falter and split, so the CPA (M-L) explained the failure of Australian Marxism of the modern period as arising from its refusal to appreciate the essential nature of the class struggle. The ‘terror’ united the Maoists and propelled both anti-establishment and anti-Left violence.
It is argued here that the implicit and explicit basis of Maoism’s break with the ‘revisionists’ centred on their acceptance of the notion that the Australian State was a machine of capitalism, and it represented nothing more and nothing less than congealed violence in the defence of that system. The militants believed that the violence of this State would ‘one day’ perish in the revolution. In the interim, the logic of the Maoist dispensation meant a guerilla fight with State power. Violence was not relegated to some distant day-of-the-barricades, but could be applied at various points in the present. There was hence an open exhortation to violence. Violence is as much psychological as physical. The Maoists sought to answer the threat of State violence (and even terror) with their own mystique. To strike at State supporters, police, provocateurs, media, academics and other allies of ‘capital’, would be to cut off the tentacles of the State, just as the armed guerilla would strike at the immediate representatives of State power in the colonial countries– to induce fear!
And where would this political guerilla war - lead? It would escalate step by step as the system disintegrated. The path would open at some point of the system’s crisis, to general strike action, armed violence, and in due course (if necessary or possible), a seizure of power by an armed body.
3. The Application Of Violence 1969-74.
The CPA (M-L)’s first taste of revolutionary labour-political violence centred on the Clarie O’Shea struggle of April 1969. O’Shea, Maoist secretary of the Victorian Tramways Union, was imprisoned over his non-compliance with orders of the Arbitration Court (the so-called ‘penal powers’ residual in the Arbitration Act). Over a million workers went on strike throughout Australia in protest and there were violent clashes between workers and police in several cities. The Vanguard wrote:
"How do workers break from the grip of trade unionism? When the working masses took action recently against the imprisonment of C.L. O’Shea, people from all sections of the community rallied to their support. The class clash became clearly defined .. it went past the boundaries of orthodox trade unionism. It defied the trade union bureaucrats." (18)
O’Shea, in his WORKERS’ POWER VERSES PENAL POWER, argued that: workers acted spontaneously in their interests outside of the "economist" trade unions (economist: purely economic-struggle structures). The ALP and Left union leaders tried to contain mass action; the violence of people directed against the police was healthy. (19)
O’Shea’s position as a Maoist was strengthened in his union and the CPA (M-L)’s reputation for militancy was enhanced. A group of "rebel unions" inside the Victorian trade union movement coalesced around this time. The Building And Construction Workers/Builders’ Labourers’ Federation (BLF), Painters And Dockers Union, Waterside Workers’ Federation, Tramways Union, Clothing Trades Union and twenty-two others, represented a so-called "class struggle" wing of the movement for several years. Maoist influence was strong. In a repeat of the O’Shea situation, Norm Gallagher was jailed in February 1971. Local strikes in Melbourne and clashes with police resulted. (20)
The O’Shea affair occurred as the CPA (M-L) intersected with a growing Left student movement in Melbourne universities. Barry York, one of the activists later wrote :
"Student movements arise during periods of acute and rapid change in institutional structures and traditions are made obsolete or less relevant." (21)
So it appeared. In the ‘new’ universities such as Monash and La Trobe, some students were attracted to Maoist politics. After an "Anti-Imperialist Week" in September 1970, a student march saw violence with Special Branch police. Another march occasioned police violence visited upon hundreds of students. The shift to the Left on campus was obvious. (22) Students began to ‘contest’ university authority and several Maoist students – Albert Langer, Brian Pola, Barry York, Fergus Robinson – were imprisoned for violation of university orders which banned them from campus grounds. Their struggles also took on a non-university setting after heavy cultivation of the leading activists by CPA (M-L) leaders.
In 1970, the CPA (M-L) initiated a broad front organization – the Worker Student Alliance (WSA). It was to serve as (i) a public transition belt for militants to progress into the communist cadre organization (23) and (ii) a force for the development of street action, student activism and factory organization. It has been estimated the WSA came to have 500 Melbourne members, with 150 in Adelaide and smaller groups in Sydney and Perth. (24) The WSA was to carry out Lenin’s WHAT IS TO BE DONE? plan to construct a union of the intelligensia and workers in a single structure. It also united various strands of radicalism: student-vanguardism, spontaneist-Maoism and romantic militancy. The WSA was dominated by the students, with Albert Langer (later a party Vice-Chairman), as its public spokesman.
The WSA was the agitation-propaganda organization par excellence. It sought to apply CPA (M-L) slogans and strategies to immediate situations. Its newspaper – Struggle – attempted to demonstrate that Maoist cadres could "raise the level of consciousness" through each "people’s struggle" (ie. anti-war, anti-imperialist, labour or student issue) while winning ground-level victories. It had some successes, but stumbled absolutely over the issue of fascism.
Maoists were proud of violent confrontations in which Left activists and workers played a role. Vanguard reported anti-police violence at a demonstration against U.S. Vice President, Spiro Agnew (25); representatives of U.S. corporationns were assailed at Monash University (26); Builders’ Labourers had clashed with police (27). In MEET FASCISM’S CHALLENGE, the CPA (M-L) "recognized" State violence could only be answered by counter-violence – particularly at demonstrations. (28) In January 1971, the WSA applied violence-in-mob-action in a curious watershed in Left-Jewish-Police-Right relations.
On January 31 1971, a mass rally on the Yarra Bank in Melbourne drew thousands of Melbourne Jews, ‘anti-fascists’ and the WSA supporters to protest the activities of the neo-nazi ‘National Socialist Party of Australia’ (NSPA). Langer incited a considerable part of the crowd to ignore prominent Zionist leader of the Jewish Ex-Servicemen’s Association, Abraham Cykiert, and march on the Nazi headquarters in Carlton. In the ensuing riot, the building was ransacked. (29) The incident set off a gang war between the NSPA and the Maoists in several cities; but the NSPA’s retaliatory effort had another dimension.
The CPA (M-L)/WSA maintained continuously throughout 1971-3, that the NSPA was a creature of the ASIO/Special Branch network, designed to curb the Maoist upsurge and otherwise damage the Left’s potential. This pamphlet affirms that this position was correct. The political police were concerned and decided to act. This truth was to remain – concealed.
The Maoist commitment to violence had not damaged Hill who served as the keynote speaker at the Melbourne 1971 May Day. The Left across Australia seemed to be developing a menacing capability. It was a time of economic-slowdown; the Vietnam War was at its height and the youth culture had elements outside of mainstream views. The presence of a Cold War political police almost rendered certain that a Dirty Tricks operation would be directed at the Left. We now know that ASIO targeted Left activists in a project called ‘Operation Whip’ Ultimately, the use of the NSPA allowed the political police to answer Maoist violence outside of the law, dealing with their violence measure for measure.
Vanguard reported that a Brisbane Nazi had entered the East Wind Bookshop (the Maoist shop) and:
"claimed the police on duty at their punch-ins were there to protect them from effective retaliation from those against whom they used violence." (30)
The man at issue was Gary John Mangan. In an interview with the author in the 1980’s, he confirmed that these words were the truth. Indeed, in 1971, Mangan was expelled from the NSPA because of a loose-lipped attitude to the political police connection. (31) It was Nazi leader Cass Young who had removed Mangan from the NSPA and it was this man who collaborated closely with the political police. Vanguard had reported Young was "under the control of Special Branch" and so friendly with them in Victoria that he "conferred openly with Inspector Larkins" at the trial of a Nazi charged with assault. (32) One former NSPA member, Claude Woods, named Special Branch detectives "Shuert" and "Luks" as Young’s regular contacts. He said Young "accepted" a sort of "guidance" in selecting Left targets. (33) Special Branch detectives in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane provided the neo-nazis with the addresses of various Maoist and Left activists, and often refused by obstruction to investigate property damage and other attack. (34) The Maoists countered: Woods said the homes of Nazis were singled out for vandalism in 1971-3. (35)
The Maoists made another enemy: Cykiert. From late 1971 until 1973 he met in secret with Cass Young. (36) Precisely how the meetings were first initiated could not be determined. Yet, this unholy alliance was ‘logical’. Zionists could employ a neo-nazi anti-semitic group on several levels. The Nazis could operate against pro-Palestine Left groups and ensure the Zionist structures had time to ‘reintegrate’ into controlled groups, those Jews who had followed Langer in the Carlton riot. The subterranean Maoist/Zionist struggle continued until 1979, when the Maoists lost effective control over 3CR radio which had to its credit, intensified the spread of anti-Zionist, and pro-Palestinian propaganda in Melbourne. Vanguard published a welter of anti-Zionist material in the 1970’s and Langer subsequently founded a ‘Jews Against Zionism And Anti-Semitism’ to reply to mainstream Jewish sympathy for Israel. It was perhaps this anti-Zionist line taken by the CPA (M-L) and the Zionist reply to it, which introduced pro-Palestine positions into the Australian Left. Cykiert urged the Nazis to act against the CPA (M-L), and from my interpretations of discussions with Young in November 1981 and January 1982, suggested the NSPA would enjoy support if it did so.
The relationship between Young and Cykiert was known to many in the former NSPA; the author is further advised the subject was discussed at a disorderly meeting of the Victorian Jewish Board Of Deputies after this fact was publicly exposed by me in the 1980’s. I also state here for the first time in print, that in January 1973, after an ‘information-collecting-visit’ to Young’s Nazi headquarters, I was driven by him to Melbourne city. Curious as to his conversation, I subsequently concealed myself, and witnessed a meeting commence between the two conspirators in Queen Street, Melbourne. This relationship must have been known to ASIO. I confirm the information in David McKnight’s AUSTRALIAN SPIES AND THEIR SECRETS, whereby it was said that ASIO ran an agent in the NSPA. This agent was close to Cass Young and wrote in the NSPA magazine under the nom-de-plume – "Ravensbruck". This "Ravensbruck" wrote articles against the WSA and contributed his own photographs of WSA leaders taken in unlikely settings (which implied the photographs were from ASIO).
For the CPA (M-L), ‘anti-fascist politics’ was correct because fascism was considered as the final reserve weapon of capitalism in crisis. A survey of Vanguard (1970-77) and Struggle (1971-3), carried out for this discussion, revealed a preoccupation with fascism. It was understood broadly (too broadly) for a communist position, as any authoritarian use of courts, police or parliaments, any increase in police or secret police funding and so forth. But there was no fascist movement and neither the neo-nazis (who saw themselves as potential allies of the Liberal-Country parties in suppressing communism) nor the League Of Rights, could really satisfy any acceptable definition of fascism. The Maoists therefore, made a major error of judgement, and were responding to phantoms in league with the police and other Establishment figures. Their fury was ‘understandable’, since Maoist bookshops in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in 1971-3, were regularly vandalized; but it was a misplaced concern.
On some occasions, persons with NSPA or Right connections were apprehended for anti-Maoist offences and were treated leniently by the courts. (37) WSA leaders were attacked and homes damaged. In one piece entitled "Violence And The Law", Vanguard urged self-defence against all provocation. (38) Eventually, they opted for direct action. In June 1972, 100 WSA supporters broke into the Nazi office, a house in St. Albans. Vanguard said:
"..the seizing and destruction of all Nazi files and propaganda … is not individual terrorism It is correct mass action." (39)
Struggle went on to publish the names and addresses of all Melbourne Nazis seized in the ‘mass action’. It defended the protestors who were arrested for malicious damage of the St. Albans house. The February 1973 court appearances of the Maoists involved, led to further clashes with police and Nazis. Eventually in August 1973, one wharfie, Harry Bouquet, was imprisoned for assaulting Nazis at the courtroom fracas. Maoist Ted Bull who controlled the Waterside Workers’ Federation, called a waterside strike on August 23 to demand Bouquet’s release. (40) Clearly, the actions of the NSPA had fed a vociferous counter-action.
The NSPA’s campaign of violence continued in early 1973 with arsons and shotgun attacks upon Maoist premises. Finally in May 1973, at Melbourne’s Dallas Brookes Hall, during a meeting addressed by the Deputy Prime Minister Jim Cairns to welcome a Viet Cong delegation to Australia, Nazis left off poison gas. (41) Maoists attacked police and Nazis outside, and the police responded avidly. This incident however, provoked a security crisis. The poison gas affair was possibly a ‘payback’ by ASIO against the ALP government’s endorsement of the "raid" carried out by Attorney General Lionel Murphy upon ASIO’s Melbourne headquarters earlier that year. (42) Murphy alleged publicly that ASIO officers had set up a parallel shadow structure to snipe at the government as retaliation for his investigation of political police links with the Croatian Ustasha. The NSPA now found itself under intense scrutiny. It was a weak link in the political police chain of operations.
In late July, Young shut down the NSPA. A deal was struck. If Young moved from Melbourne and abstained from political activity, no further investigation of the poison gas incident would take place. There would be no other investigation of other offences including weapons matters. Young moved to Sydney in August 1973. The released files of the New South Wales Special Branch corroborate the evidence of an eye-witness who told the author that the NSPA’s membership and other records were passed over to ASIO at police headquarters. It is clear that Special Branch had a copy of the NSPA membership records and other documents, duly provided by "X" and "Y" (Young and his wife). Ostensibly, these materials were given over in December 1973.
The NSPA melted away; as an auxiliary force of the political police, it was now a ‘dangerous’ tool. ‘Disengagement’ from it appears to have occurred in all states. Abruptly, one of the main ‘targets’ of Maoist activism – disappeared. In a sense, the Maoists were now in a cul de sac. Of course, the WSA still had support, such as the group around the activist cell at the Broadmeadows car plant (Melbourne) which helped incite anti-police violence in June 1973. However, the WSA was in crisis.
Violence had been engaged in by the youthful WSA members, particularly against the neo-nazis. Although violence can isolate an organization from its actual purposes, it can also enforce group solidarity which was important for the youth generally. It demonstrated purpose and commitment and when successfully employed showed the ‘potential’ of the movement. It can also exhaust its participants when it leads to no over-riding political result. The "anti-Nazi" struggle contained a ‘moral’ aspect whereby the students and young workers would extirpate a group dressed in the clothing of Hitler’s ‘genocidalism’. However, politics and morality can be poor lovers: the Nazis were essentially provocateurs and straw-men and the moral display did not move labour into the Maoist camp. The Maoists had limited resources and the toxic wine of violence clouded judgement; at the end of the day, there were no fascists, and the sidetracking of the CPA (M-L)/WSA was a victory for the political police.
4. Violent Confrontation With The Left
For the Marxist Left, Maoism was a destabilizing influence. The exclusivist CPA (M-L) had proclaimed that the "splendid working class" had "cleansed the ranks" of Australian communism in the 1963-4 schism. Little dialogue with the CPA occurred thereafter. Rather, the scene was one of rancorous abuse directed at the CPA leaders – Aarons, Bernie Taft, Pat Clancy, John Halfpenny, Laurie Carmichael, Jack Mundy Peter Symon and others. (43) The name-calling and labelling perhaps obscured the crisis within the CPA where pro-Soviet and ‘Euro-communist’ ideas clashed, and where the ‘revisionist’ line and the New Left pseudo-militant posture all struggled for predominance. The mutual-aversion did encourage some verbal and physical harassment of CPA union officials and some clashes on campus (44) The exclusion of the CPA’s faction in the BLF by an aggressive nation-wide takeover by Norm Gallagher in 1974, also involved violence. In fairness to the argument advanced by the Maoists which is under investigation in this pamphlet, it is noted that the CPA (M-L) considered the CPA as an obstacle to the further radicalization of the Left. This judgement, given the 1980’s development-towards-dissolution of the CPA, was probably one with merit. It was sensed by the Maoist leadership long before, and the push was on to occupy ‘territory’ before the CPA destroyed potential recruits and cadre.
The further split in the CPA in 1971, which produced the rabidly pro-Soviet Socialist Party of Australia (SPA), did not change Maoist attitudes to the other fractions of Australian communism, but merely gave them a new whipping boy. The SPA was variously tagged as a vehicle of "Soviet social-imperialism" and a means to shackle the workers to the Labor Party "left wing". (45) In the 1970’s, various SPA offices were damaged, student activists harassed, and union leaders (particularly in the Building Workers’ Industrial Union) intimidated. Some SPA members spoke of the Maoists with a mixture of trepidation – and loathing. (46)
However, it was not the more traditional Marxists who roused the CPA (M-L)’s ire so much as the revived Trotskyist movement. The CPA (M-L) was not simply ‘Maoist’, but also ‘Stalinist’. The Socialist Youth Alliance/Socialist Workers’ Party (SYA/SWP), the Socialist Labour League (SLL) and the Australasian Spartacist League, became ‘targets’. The Maoists clearly conceived of Trotskyism as a competitor for the same political niche and clientele. The SYA had formed in 1970, participated in anti-Vietnam War activism and appealed to leftist students and youth. It sought to pick up the mantle of revolutionary socialism from the "Stalinist" CPA. (47) The SLL, which formed in 1971, opted for a recruitment program amongst working class youth, fielded candidates in Labor electorates and tried to represent a pole of attraction for Left-Labor workers. (48)
Abuse preceded violence. In "Youth Are The Most Vigorous Force In The Revolutionary Movement", Vanguard equated Trotskyism with drug-taking, sex-obsession, homosexuality, pop-culture and apoliticism; it was dubbed a "diversion". (49) At the base level, Trotskyism’s history in Australia shows that appreciation to have remained correct. At a 1972 Adelaide anti-war march, while Maoists waged "guerilla" hit and run efforts at police lines, Trotskyists were supposed to have buckled under to police directions. (50) When Maoists demanded (at meetings or in propaganda) the expulsion from Australia of U.S. military bases, Trotskyists would criticise them for "chauvinism". (51) In 1976, Adelaide Maoists accused Trotskyists of misusing young people (SYA) and using gangterist methods to raise funds off unemployed youth for an irrelevant newspaper-building campaign (SLL). (52) One Maoist accused Trotskyists generally – of cowardice. (53) One Adelaide Maoist militant (Louise King) told the author that SYA members were assaulted at Flinders University in 1972. She also added later, that activists from the "Worker Student Alliance For Australian Independence", would jostle or punch sellers of the Trotskyist papers Direct Action and Workers News – particularly at the gates of the car plants where Maoist cells were active in 1976-77. (54)
The Spartacist League became a victim of a series of bashings. Neil Florrimal, Spartacist activist at La Trobe University was beaten unconscious in 1977 by three students from the "Students For Australian Independence". In 1978, another La Trobe Spartacist Andrew Georghiou, was thrown through a plate glass window. The organizer of this assault, Danny Hacking, told the author that his action was not spontaneous. The use of violence against the Trotskyists was supported by "Independence Movement" (usually CPA (M-L)) officers. (56) Hacking also participated in assaults on SYA/SWP and Spartacist members at union rallies. Trotskyists denounced Maoists for regularised thuggery. It could be concluded this anti-Left violence was widespread and indicative of a type of ‘commitment’ the Trotskyists did not share.5. The Independence Movement Phase Of Violence 1975-80.
The transmutation of the WSA groups in the various states into "Independence Movement" sections (1975-6), was a major CPA (M-L) initiative which brought the Maoist movement to its apogee. The CPA (M-L) adhered to Mao-Tse-Tung’s "Theory Of The Three Worlds". This theory argued that the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. represented the superpowers – the "First World"; advanced industrialized countries like Australia were in the "Second World"; the post-colonial states of Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia were the "Third World". The ‘racist’ nature of this "theory" was overlooked by all and bore that curious echo of Mao’s 1920’s mentor, Li Ta-Chao who saw the colonial world as a "proletariat" and the white world as a "bourgeoisie". In the Australian context the Three Worlds ideas was applied this way: since the Second World countries were victims too of imperialism, revolution "would proceed through stages", the first stage being "anti-imperialist national independence" struggle (57). This struggle would unite all against the superpowers. This notion placed the CPA (M-L) in contradistinction to Trotskyism which continued to maintain the validity of "permanent revolution". The basis for violent confrontation was set. Further, Maoism was in conflict with the CPA. Laurie Aarons sniped:
"The Maoists, in a ridiculous extension of … Chinese experience speak of a national bourgeoisie with potential as a revolutionary ally in the struggle for national independence … The Maoist nonsense should not blind us to the fact that they have given voice with some success to deeply felt national sentiment." (58)
Of course, the Maoist party did transpose Chinese precepts onto Australian conditions, a factor which demonstrated too, the difficulty of building any sort of domestic communism. Yet, the main point conceded by Aarons was the fact that the CPA (M-L) in raising the slogan "Independence For Australia", had struck a responsive chord.
The ‘independence line’ was developed consistently after the Fraser-Kerr "coup" against the Whitlam Labor government in 1975. The CPA (M-L) argued that superpower contention lay at the basis of the misuse of the monarchy’s reserve powers to secure Australia politically and economically for "U.S. imperialism" and to "counter Soviet imperialism". (59).
The ‘independence line’ broadened the potential of the CPA (M-L). The Eureka Flag was raised and other nationalist iconography utilised (Ned Kelly, Blinky Bill, colonial patriotism and old-Labor icons). The "Independence Movement" groups could recruit amongst republicans, anti-foreign bases campaigners, anti-uranium protestors, unions concerned with deindustrialization, Left-culture groups and anti-war campaigns. This Independence Movement contained some 4000 members in 1977-78. The CPA (M-L) controlled organized ‘muscle’ and held influence over various cause-movements. It was a turf the Maoists sought to protect against any and all challengers. This Stalinist exercise may have been a case of cynical marketting, but, and it was a big but, many people attracted into the Independence Movement found the goal of Australian Independence in a world of Multinationals, global banks and superpower rivalry, satisfying and logical. To protect this ‘potential’, the sanction remained - violence.
One victim was Alan Birtley, coordinator of the Eureka Students’ League (ESL), a Nationalist student group based mainly at Melbourne University (1974-6). The ESL had also taken up the Eureka Flag. Vanguard called for "appropriate action". (60) In August 1976, Birtley was violently assaulted by Maoist militants in an incident described by Vanguard as a "meting out of people’s justice". (61) The ESL was terrorised in various ways and essentially ceased operations. A similar Nationalist challenge over the Eureka Flag and ironically the very slogan "Independence For Australia", was also met with violence. Frank Salter, secretary of Australian National Alliance, was clubbed down at the University of New South Wales in February 1979 (62) This time however, there was no back-down by the ‘Right’ to Maoist violence. The University of New South Wales had been a ‘Maoist stronghold’ for some time, clashes occurring there previously in 1976 between the "Independence Movement" and SPA/SWP students during a visit by a Soviet Embassy official (63). But Australian National Alliance continued to appear there and contributed to wresting the Eureka Flag off the Maoists.
The student milieu provided Maoism with a layer of activists who were inclined to accept violence as a political means. The President of Melbourne University Students’ Council, Jewish ‘conservative’ Michael Danby, also felt the impress of Maoist terror. Fingered as an informant for the Commonwealth Police on the activities of anti-Zionist students, he was bashed and hospitalised for two months in 1977. The Zionists retaliated through the media with the inevitable charge of "anti-semitism" and the drive to eliminate Maoist control over the radio-broadcasts of 3CR.
The Independence Movement also contained an ‘ex-criminal’ thug element. One-time National Action organizer in Melbourne, Eugene Donnini, was recruited into the Independence Movement courtesy of Maoist infiltration of the Prisoners’ Action Group; he was at Pentridge gaol under sentence for armed robbery. Donnini told the author that upon release from custody, he and some other ex-prisoners, were "provided" with jobs on BLF building sites. They were obliged to enforce Norm Gallagher’s authority. Donnini maintained it was an "open secret" that malicious damage to the property of "anti-independence" companies or persons, was sanctioned. Left opponents, Right opponents or police at demonstrations, were all targets. Violence was just another "weapon". (64)
The Independence Movement was expected to establish a façade for, and a commitment to, striking at rivals or enemies. This atmosphere created one peculiar ‘cultural inter-action’. The popular bands, Bushwhackers and Redgum, joined the Movement and promoted its message at performances and through their widely available records and tapes. These bands authored many songs justifying violent national and class struggles. (65) They often appeared on building sites and Eureka Day celebrations to ‘normalize’ the violence the Maoists enforced. Margaret Panter, CPA (M-L) member and secretary of the Australian Independence Movement (Victoria), told the author in private conversations, that the "cultural struggle" would "implant Marxism-Leninism firmly inside" a cultural movement. These bands offered a "response" to the violence implicit in the Australian State, "Australianizing" the Maoist argument on the "need" for violent revolution. (66) This also encouraged to action, those involved in the immediate ‘dispensation’ of violence pending revolution.
An ‘ex-criminal’ component was also present in the Adelaide group. Vanguard reported violence at car plants in that city, aimed at "reformist" union leaders. Louise King told the author that former prisoners who obtained work with ‘Chrysler’, controlled the Maoist cell. (67)
The ex-prisoner element (see also below) might also admit the conclusion that Maoism sought to harness the larrikin element in Australian working class culture, to provide occasions or circumstances where it could be relied upon. Larrikinism is however, spontaneous in character. Yet the anti-law element in Maoism was present and organized, and in the creation of a sub-culture harking back to bushranging and even convictism, it was attempting to create a type of ‘permanence’ to ground struggle, a no-go culturally autonomous area from which political guerilla war could be built.
Generally, Independence Movement militants did move guerilla-like in the various mass protest movements of the Fraser years. ‘The Australian’ newspaper spoke of a "Growing Threat" from "anti-democrats" within the broad labour movement and protest groups. (68) Jefferson Lee, Maoist president of the Australian Union Of Students (AUS), used that organization to garner campus support for ‘anti-Kerr’ demonstrations, anti-uranium and anti-U.S. bases campaigns. Tasma Ockenden, 1977-78 AUS president, told the author that the Maoists sought to coordinate and activate the mass campaigns of the time, to turn the "maintained rage" (of the Kerr ‘putsch’) into continuously fuelled confrontations. (69) The character of some of the demonstrations in the years 1975-8 did seem to justify the intolerance of a party attempting to gain hegemony over a large phenomenon. Although the CPA (M-L) employed a subjective logic – which always had ‘people’s struggle’ reaching ‘new heights’ - there was something to crow about. The potential was present to establish Maoism as the dominant Left current, the advent of which would have altered the quality of Left politics and undoubtedly too – the evolution of the Right. A ‘national communism’ would have presented a curious political circumstance that would have demanded a different Right (I touch on this in the conclusions).
But none of this speculation was to take substance. The crisis - and then decline - of the Independence Movement and of the CPA (M-L), had nothing to do with any idea that confrontation, intimidation and violence lost it public acceptability. Rather, it came from internal disputes over the direction of the Red Chinese state and the local Maoist movement. ‘Rebel!, a journal issued by a dissident Maoist organization, the ‘Red Eureka Movement’(REM), wrote:
"The Independence Movement … is far wider than AIM and similar organizations. The way to build strong, genuinely broad mass organizations for independence is not by watering down our line in the hope that masses will come and join us … but by taking our line of revolutionary Independence and Socialism out to the masses …" (70)
These Maoist dissidents, who then set up a front movement – the Movement For Independence And Socialism (MIS) – saw the disappearance of the socialist content of their effort inside the broad church. Further, they believed (correctly) that the CPA (M-L)’s fullsome devotion to Mao-Tse-Tung Thought had degenerated into an uncritical devotion to the Chinese state and its anti-Soviet foreign policy. (71) The issue which caused the 1963-4 split had returned in a new way. Indeed, it was precipitated by the fall of China’s ‘radicals’, the ‘Gang Of Four’ who denounced the growing trend of revisionism in the Chinese party. Hill’s group followed the Chinese "revisionists" who focused on building an international front against the Soviet Union – which included Fraser’s Australia, Japan and the U.S.A.
One REM/MIS supporter saw the CPA (M-L) as losing its balance; it had pursued a one-sided approach in attacking "Soviet imperialism", while ignoring the obvious fact that the Australian State was a creature of the American imperialism. This pleased China, but did not serve in mobilizing an Australian audience. It was one thing to say the Soviet Union was the rising imperialism, and correct to notice it had interests in Australia, but it was not the dominant imperialism and certainly not in Australia. The cadre split deepened, with Langer taking charge of REM/MIS. The Independence Movement did not recover.
It is unnecessary to carry out further discussion into the logic and history of this schism; but this dispute was noted at the time by the anti-Maoist Left as hastening the demise of the broad movement. By 1982, the Independence Movement was a small ‘front’ group operating nationally, but a mere shadow of the force of 1978. It drifted into the ridiculous. By following the shifts in Chinese foreign policy, it toned down its attacks on the pro-Chinese Malcolm Fraser and the "anti-Soviet" U.S. military bases. (73) It condemned itself to utter sectarianism, confusing the ‘mass’ membership and public influence – which drifted away. In a happy sequence of events, the Eureka Flag and the idea of ‘Australian Independence’ fell into the possession of Nationalists.
6. The Builders’ Labourers And Maoist Violence.
By the early 1980’s, the only real repository of CPA (M-L) influence was within some Victorian unions and the national BLF. It was a bad time for unionism. Unions were abandoning the old class notions of the past, but this did not help the movement. It was under pressure from new economic rationalists and a rampant, aggressive, reconstructionist economic ideology, which sought to recast the fundamentals of Australia’s protected economy towards free trade, service industries and high immigration. The Maoist movement was now isolated and while it could score points off the CPA/SPA influenced unions which were hardly ‘militant’ defenders of members’ rights, it was now ‘set up’ and ripe for destruction. The press was eager, ready to label violence and militancy as pariah behaviour. Allies for any determined effort to do anything – would be hard to come by.
The one major study which does exist of the BLF neither made reference to Gallagher’s membership of the Central Committee of the CPA (M-L) nor to the use of its facilities by communist activists. There was also no reference to the strategy/tactics of the BLF in union matters being in any way related to Maoist precepts. (74) Incredibly too, the 1982 ‘Report’ of the Royal Commission into the BLF, ignored this issue also. It did say however: "This organization is run by a relatively small number of autocratic personalities." (75). The men named – Dalton, Wallace, Cummins, Materson, and Donelly – were all believed members of the CPA (M-L) or the Independence Movement. Originally, Gallagher’s power developed out of a Victorian CPA cell in the BLF which defected to the Maoists at the time of the split, and a steady recruitment in the other state sections of the union over a ten year period. Control was institutionalised in 1976 by a ‘Building Workers For National Independence’; this cell within the union served to discipline it ideologically and organizationally, as the control mechanism for Gallagher/CPA (M-L) authority. (76) From this time, Gallagher’s Maoists, in undisputed authority since the 1974 purge of a CPA group in the New South Wales branch, imposed "guerilla tactics" on the BLF.
The Royal Commission referred to "sudden stoppages of work, banning of jobs or sections of jobs, banning of overtime, banning of the use of cranes .. stopping of concrete pours", all designed to "create an image of irresistible power". (77) A BLF journal defined these methods as "Guerilla Tactics". It argued that the scheme was a product of "cold hard political thinking", and contained three elements: selective targetting of uncooperative bosses, no general strikes or whole-site strikes unless necessary, selective on-site action with relaxation and intensification of pressure to enforce the demands. (78) The Royal Commission described these tactics as "vindictive" and – blackmail. It probably was the case. To enforce its image the BLF also took to public demonstrations, office occupations (of insurance companies that refused to pay injury claims) and other intimidation. (79) Gallagher was nicknamed ‘The General’ within the BLF.
Necessarily, these principles of conduct were the application of Maoist ideological-political-organizational principles to the conduct of labour struggles. It was innovative. However, it was nurtured into ‘adulthood’ at a time when the political environment was unfavourable (as above). To become effective in reversing the crisis of the labour movement, it had to be adopted or imposed upon a significant section of the labour movement. By the early 1980’s the ‘attrition’ of the old-Left labour leaders who might have been responsive to a new ‘class struggle’ trades union wing was obvious, and the new softer union leaders worse than unresponsive. (80) The Liberal government had been determined, but the new consensus Labor government in office after 1983 desired to manage the internationalization of Australian capitalism in a way that the Left would fall into line behind promises of a ‘social contract’ (the ‘Accord’) between business and labour.
The BLF was placed under attack at first by the Liberals. The Laborites continued the offensive. The existence of a defacto conspiracy to break the BLF is not the issue here. After Gallagher’s imprisonment and other intra-BLF problems, the union was ultimately ‘outlawed’ (deregistered) and taken over in its functions by the ‘Left’ Building Workers’ Industrial Union (BWIU) and the ‘Right’ Australian Workers’ Union. Ironically too, the SPA had influence in the BWIU, a fact which bore out the Maoist thesis on the essentially ‘reformist’ nature of that party. The State and its reformist union bureaucracy had snuffed out the BLF by 1989, and with this came the veritable end of the CPA (M-L) as it had been. It was thence a party of about 150 diehards with no discernible base of support.
7. Final Phase.
By 1986, the CPA (M-L) leadership had time to think again, after the resignation from the leadership by an aged Ted Hill and the infirmity of much of the older membership. Gallagher’s trial for corruption had generated a few sympathetic noises from the CPA and the SWP; some attempts were made to mobilize labour support for his plight. However, the Australian Left in general was adrift by the-mid 1980’s. The New Right had organized against it too efficiently, and the ‘Accord’ politics of the ALP had marginalized it. The Left sponsored several talk-fests in these years to debate where it was going but while long-standing enmities were muted (81), no road forwards was discerned. The CPA melted into ‘social movements’ (dissolving in 1990), and while the Trotskyists screamed and shouted at whatever demonstration was going, there was no avenue for a fresh approach. The SWP actually ‘dumped’ Trotskyism and in 1989 renamed itself the Democratic Socialist Party and moved off to pose as a "Green" as well as "Left" party. At least, it tried! Other Trotskyists were not as sophisticated!
The CPA (M-L) called off its war without due ceremony. In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down and within two years, the Soviet Union was a memory. By 1993, the CPA (M-L) was talking about common ground with the SPA, a party ‘lost’ after the collapse of its respective ‘worker’s fatherland’. It was then clear too, that China had taken off down the capitalist road. If the public cared about these fractions of the Marxist Left, a quiet laugh would issue at the broken hopes and the search for new alliances with former enemies when old systems broke up. But it was the Trotskyists who now ‘represented’ the Australian Left. The Maoist experiment in Australian communism was dead.
8. General Conclusion.
This section, as promised, divides. We first review what we can conclude from the evidence presented. Then, we apply the evidence and our findings to base conclusions relevant to the development of Australian Nationalist ideology, politics and organization.
(a) Conclusions From The Evidence.
The CPA (M-L) undertook an experiment. It brought together Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist purists from the CPA and sharpened their capabilities with Mao-Tse-Tung Thought. These Australian Maoists had a romantic perception of the Australian proletariat and a faith in the viability of the communist myth. They attempted to fuse their dream with a fighting organization. It could be said by some that the CPA (M-L)’s belief in armed revolution against the Australian State was unreal at all times, particularly so in the 1980’s period of New Right offensive, with the grind down of the old Cold War (which shrank the 1960’s/early 1970’s anti-war movements which offered illusory hopes to much of the Left) and under the new conditions of Cold War 2 after 1980 (the advent of Reaganism in America). Possibly so. Yet the other parties of the Left had no success at all. Was the Australian Left simply destined to wither and die? Misled as it was by all sorts of ‘theorists’ and opportunists, all with an angle which failed to confront the essential nature of State power: that it rested upon force and illusion?
The Maoists understood from their time of party-foundation through to their schism in 1977-8, that a Left party with elan and clarity could possibly take charge of the various class-struggle unions and social protest movements, outbidding and out-performing their Left rivals in the process. Maoist violence made sense when viewed in this context. From these realizations, sprang the CPA (M-L)’s strategic-tactical principles enumerated above. The gap between resources and opportunities would be bridged by systematized violence; but short of weapons and terrorism, this violence would have a sharp physical yet political-psychological content.
Maoist violence was consequently directed at State agents, Right groups, Left competitors and employers. Violence against police and political police brought a stern reaction that then fed retaliation during the period of the student dominated WSA. We saw the political police use phantom Nazis and then a program of counter-violence which won the Maoists support in some areas thereby threatening the influence of the CPA/SPA and Trotskyists. Yet the Maoists ‘lost’ this contest since the fascist enemy did not exist (!) Violence against employers upset the union movement generally, if not every worker, and was a recipe for marginalization under specific conditions which, as it turned out, did eventuate. Violence against other leftists was nonetheless logical. A revolutionary force whatever its quality, competing against ‘similar’ formations for the same clientele, is all-but-propelled into pre-emptive violence. It must strike before the opponent can occupy the ground, or push him off what he has before circumstances develop that allow this rival to mislead a mass upsurge. Since the CPA (M-L) was never concerned with public image, it had only to ponder the effect of its violence upon its potential market. Hence violence aimed at the Trotskyist movement was inevitable and ‘rational’ since they challenged for the student/youth ‘radical’ market. This slice of Maoist violence was a failure, as it was apparently not generalized to the point where any and all means were being used to fatally undermine the target. The Trotskyists too, showed resilience. Other targets for anti-Left violence like the CPA/SPA were larger entities with support bases slow to disintegrate; they were also supported from the ‘outside’ – the CPA by the international ‘Euro-communist’ style Marxists, and the SPA by Soviet money.
Further: Australian Maoism had particular problems of its own:
(a) When the WSA was liquidated into the national communism of the Independence Movement, some tension existed about the place of ‘socialism’ within it.
(b) The contortions of Chinese foreign policy acted eventually to create a rift between the Stalinist cadre type loyal to his new workers’ fatherland under every circumstance, and the ‘idealists’ who were loyal to Red China only for as long as it appeared to follow the revolutionary vision. China’s tilt towards America became too much for the latter to swallow, and schism followed.
(c) The Gang Of Four affair in 1976 signalled that China too would go down "the capitalist road". The schism in 1978 was partly fought over the contradiction between Mao-Tse-Tung Thought and the Chinese post-Mao system, wrecking the revolutionary purism of the CPA (M-L). (82)
(d) The split in Australian Maoism was mirrored globally; the international rifts then intensified local divisions from 1977 onwards. (83) These divisions remained permanent, reducing Maoism to sectarian existence.
(e) Because other Left forces were never so-successfully intimidated by the Maoists, that they were overcome, they remained in the wings, ready and able to exploit opportunities granted them by the faltering trend.
The movement’s singular problems were such that violence could not overcome them. The class struggle agencies were withering away by this time in the late 1970’s. The last hope in the unions (specified by the BLF’s growing economic guerilla warfare campaign) could not be realized, leaving Maoism an anachronism by the mid-1980’s.
The whole Left was in crisis by then making any effort to redefine Maoism impossible. The Left milieu was imploding. The Maoists needed their help to fend off the attack on the BLF by the State. Yet much of that Left was ‘liquidating’ into social movements (homosexual ‘rights’, environmentalism, Land Rights) which never challenged the State at all. Indeed, on ‘anti-racism’ and opposition to industrial-protection, the Left (particularly the Trotskyists) became indistinguishable from the capitalist parties. The implosion of the Left became a creeping disease that destroyed its political will.
This paper was about political/industrial violence and hence was restricted to this issue and was not meant to be any sort of patch-history of the Australian Left. Certainly, this subject has been touched on. The final point here derives of a lesson the rest of the Left forgot: the Maoist party was the only Left party to recognize the importance of violence to a radical movement and which accepted it as a political norm and hence a weapon like any other. That may be their legacy to the political discourse of Australian Left politics.
(b) Lessons For Nationalists.
The evidence and our findings tell us that the Australian Left had enmeshed itself with liberalism long before the 1990’s. By refusing to properly characterise the State as a coercive weapon, it fostered dreams about ‘reform’. No wonder it has followed the anti-racist/one world/open borders/free trade philosophy with consistency since the late 1980’s. The Maoist criticism of the 1960’s Left was therefore ‘correct’ in these terms. Today, the Trotskyist Left deludes itself that in the conditions of New World Order capitalism, the one-world revolution can draw nearer. Because it defends this aspect of globalisation, it is co-opted by the State when these ‘principles’ are challenged.
The Trotskyist reaction to the One Nation Party and Nationalist activism are well known and illustrate this point. Because the Left abandoned the idea of violence in its own interest, this did not mean it might not practise it when ‘encouraged’ by the State. The Trotskyists therefore find themselves in the same relative position to the State that the ‘anti-communist’ Right did in the 1960’s/1970’s. Trotskyism serves as an auxiliary of the globalising system it verbally criticises.
The experience of the CPA (M-L) shows that any party which refuses to accept the ‘democratic’ pretence of the State, can expect to be the victim of processes to restrict its potential - or to break it. The Maoist experience shows the State’s program can be fought against, but that it might take unusual forms (in their case, the neo-nazi violence campaign) and a guard must therefore be kept against provocation. In the contemporary time, Nationalists would therefore guard against Trotskyist and ‘anti-racist’ provocation as well as keep a dark eye upon the activities of rightist cranks who can also serve State requirement.
The CPA (M-L)’s prescriptions for a successful strategic and tactical approach should also interest us. Should we be concerned with ‘public image’ when it is a hostile media that shapes the public’s perception of our politics? Of course, there are things one would never do, but image-driven politics could only be a falsity. Why would we therefore tailor our politics and our structures for momentary ‘support’, usually thought of as ballot box support? Why would we embrace parliamentarism when it is impossible to win that way? Could we learn to apply the idea of a closed party, democratic but thoroughly disciplined, pursuing a defined political line on both long-term and short-term issues? Could we target specific groups for recruitment because we can build support there? Can we not wage political-guerilla war against the State and its support agencies in commerce, academia, media and elsewhere? To wage a legitimizing struggle as we go, creating new sub-cultures and ‘autonomous areas’, building a new reality as we destroy the old?
The specific character of communism demanded that it talk about armed revolution. Certainly, the Australian Nationalists do not ‘advocate’ armed struggle. But we must recognize the paramount function of force in the modern Australian State. We will ‘get nothing’ we are not prepared to take.
There is an ideological-political matter of no little relevance. The CPA (M-L) set out to mobilize the particular Australian republican/nationalist/labour heritage. Of course, it did so selectively. After all, one aspect of this heritage (pointed out endlessly by those good internationalists – the Trotskyists) was a commitment to ‘White Australia’. However, it did show there was a broad public sympathy for the political ‘re-activation’ of this heritage in the service of winning modern Australian Independence. Times have moved on since the 1970’s and certain pools of old-labour supporters have dried up in the ravages of age. But there are still blocs of working class people who revere the old traditions and people of all ages who adopt the tradition as the only one for Australia. The New World Order capitalism which now pushes ‘globalisation’, has inadvertently too called forth a new generation of working people (workers, farmers, small-business people) who see the virtue of national economic independence for Australia outside of the system of the Multinationals and international banks.
This means that the unionist, the student, the pensioner and those under economic stress everywhere, are a potential social basis for Nationalism. The ‘selective’ (and false!) use of the old heritage by the Maoist party does nonetheless teach us how it is possible to approach broad layers of people in a reasoned way and get a hearing. Our republican/nationalist/labour heritage of the 19th and early 20th centuries are there for mobilization. The importance of being able to approach the common man in a ‘populist’ way implies being able to break free of the old Left/Right divide. The ‘heritage’ we have relied upon permits this. It is possible to be both patriotic and ‘radical’ in the defence of the rights of the ordinary Australian to the fruits of his labour in a free society.
Lastly, Australian Nationalists do not fear to take up any idea about strategy and tactics and organization if it works. The hour is late for our country. Let the last word go to Henry Lawson:
To arms! To arms! The cry is out,
To arms and play your part,
For every pike upon a pole will
Find a Tyrant’s heart
Whilst repudiating the "peaceful road to socialism" and accepting essential Stalinist methodology, Maoists did believe in separate national roads to socialism. Internationally, Maoism did not become a significant trend on the Left until after the May 1968 ‘Paris uprising’.