[Marxism] The Comintern and Social Democracy
ozleft at optushome.com.au
Tue Jun 15 19:09:41 MDT 2004
A Trojan horse within Social Democracy
By David McKnight
By Bob Gould
Ozleft has posted a chapter from Espionage and the Roots of the Cold
War: The Conspiratorial Heritage, by David McKnight (Frank Cass, London,
David McKnight teaches in the Humanities Faculty at the University of
Technology, Sydney. He began his activity on the left as a high-school
student, when he joined the youth group, Liberation, organised by the
late Denis Freney, in the late 1960s. He later joined the Communist
Party of Australia and was for some years a journalist on Tribune, along
with Denis Freney.
I have a number of fundamental differences of opinion with David
McKnight's views, particularly as they have evolved in recent years,
including his attitude to the war in Iraq and a recent lengthy political
statement directed at the labour movement. Nevertheless, as Karl Marx
was fond of saying, "history is whole cloth" and McKnight has published
two books of very considerable intellectual and practical value, from a
socialist point of view.
The first was Australian Spies and Their Secrets (Allen and Unwin,
1994), a comprehensive study of the bourgeois spy agencies in Australia
up to that time. (This book is also of some interest to me because it
includes some aspects of my personal collision with those spy agencies
and their activities spying on me.)
The second book is Espionage and the Roots of the Cold War, which is
mainly a study of Communist Party activies aimed at undermining the
military forces of capitalist states.
The chapter, A Trojan horse in Social Democracy, is of a somewhat
different character. It is a study of the successful entry work of the
CPA in the NSW Labor Party between about 1935 and 1941.
This is an episode in Australian labour history that is sometimes
mentioned but has never been examined in depth, except in McKnight's book.
In the long period of its existence the CPA conducted activity directed
at the Labor Party for considerable periods. Up to about 1925-26,
immediately after the formation of the CPA, this experience is discussed
in E.W. Campbell's Short History of the Australian Labour Movement. From
about 1947 to the revolt of ALP branches during the coal strike of 1949,
the CPA also conducted some activity directed at the Labor Party.
After 1952, as the Cold War split developed in the Labor Party, and
Communist Party leader Lance Sharkey published a pamphlet about that
conflict, the CPA also paid great attention to developments in the ALP.
It encouraged the development of a Labor left, which was frequently
under its influence, although this influence was sometimes challenged by
smaller groups of Trotskyists.
For most of its history, the CPA did not afford itself the luxury
practised by most current Marxist sects of treating the Labor Party, its
leadership and ranks as an undifferentiated reactionary whole. Neither
did the pioneer Trotskyists in Australia, for most of their period of
activity, adopt such an unscientific attitude towards the Labor Party.
A recently published book, Local Labor, by Michael Hogan, about the ALP
in the inner-Sydney suburb of Glebe, notes that one group of
Trotskyists, led by Joe Boxall, entered the Labor Party as early as
1937. Most socialists of the Marxist sort have taken developments in the
Labor Party very seriously, and the current sectarianism of the Marxist
sects towards Laborism is an aberration. It is a serious error given the
still massive grip of the ALP and the unions on the working class and
the left half of Australian society.
One weakness of David McKnight's chapter is that he doesn't discuss the
Australian Labor League of Youth, of which the CPA won the leadership
during its entry work in the Labor Party.
The ALLY, a large organisation, was the vehicle for the recruitment of
hundreds, and possibly thousands, of activists to the CPA's version of
the socialist movement. Many of the activists who sustained the CPA for
the next 20 or 30 years were recruited from the ALLY. There is some
description of this activity in Audrey Blake's autobiography, A
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