An independent forum of strategy, tactics and history in the Australian left, green and labour movements
Jock Garden's speech to the 1922 Congress of the Comintern
Speaking on behalf of the Australian delegation, I may say that we affirm the theses as given by Comrade Lozovsky. Although the Australian Communist Party is a small party, I believe it has found the keynote to organisation, so far as the Anglo-Saxon movement is concerned. The Communist Party in Australia has a membership of nearly 1000, and yet is able to direct just close on 400,000 workers — that is, including 237,000 in the State of New South Wales — all organised workers — and 110,000 organised workers in Brisbane, Queensland.
The Communist Party is based in Australia, on the nuclei system. Every union has its nuclei from 20 down to two. Every nucleus leader must meet once a week with other nucleus leaders from the unions and discuss the problems of their organisations and the problems of the working class of Australia.
The Communist Party, along with the leaders of the nuclei, formulate the policy. On every burning question that affects the working class, you will find that the nuclei leaders are the first in the field to give direction to the working class how to meet the situation.
The Labour Council of New South Wales constitutes 120 unions. Yet the Communist Party has full control of the Executive. Out of the 12 members of the Executive eleven are members of the Communist Party, and they direct these 120 unions, and the policy of each union.
We have the same basis of organisation in the Labour Party of Australia as in the English Labour Party – that is, the party is based on the Trade Union Movement; and we have the same difficulties confronting us as the English Party has. When we quarrelled with the Australian Labour Party in 1919, when we were beaten by six votes at the conference, we isolated ourselves, took no part in politics whatsoever, and directed all our energies to the industrial field. Everybody set out for the organisation of the workers, to break down craft barriers and make one union in every industry. The moment we decided to make political activity [an important part of our trade union activity] there was the ASP, SLP, and the Breakaway section of the Labour Party to contend with. The ASP called a conference of all militant workers of New South Wales to come together to form a Communist Party. The trade union movement decided to be represented and sent delegates.
In June 1921, the Labour Party put out a signal of distress. They called upon the workers to give all their aid, and we decided that we would attend this conference called by the Labour Party. In Melbourne in June 1921, the largest conference that has ever been held in Australia assembled and there were present delegates representing 700,000 workers. What did we find? We found that we were able to change the policy of the Labour Party. The Labour Party believed in the maintenance of a White Australia, believed in nationalisation. We changed the objective from nationalisation to socialisation of industry by revolutionary political and industrial action. But the Labour Party was not satisfied — they went aside from the conference and called a conference of their own in October 1921. They deleted the words “by revolutionary political and industrial action” and inserted the words “by constitutional means.” Another congress was held in June of this year, and the Trade Union movement, along with the Communist Party, said to the Labour Party, that they would only endorse the policy of the June Conference of 1921. The 1922 Conference endorsed the policy of June 1921, and went further — they instructed the Labour Party to throw open their doors for the affiliation of the Communist Party, with freedom for the Communist Party for propaganda and organisation.
Again, when the capitalist attacks against the workers were launched, we got all the workers together and, instead of allowing one section to go down one after another, we said, “The working class of Australia stand solid, speak with one voice and act together.” We decided on these lines. The employers appealed to the Government. A conference was decided upon. Some of the Unions objected. We authorised delegates to go to the conference, and out of 18 delegates from [across] Australia, the workers’ side found nine Communists from different parts of Australia. And what were the results of that conference? The employers left the conference. They said that all that we were doing there was enunciating the doctrines of Lenin and Trotsky. We were nothing more than in the pay of Russia, and we were not there for the good or the benefit of the working class of Australia. We came back with the propaganda message to the masses. The masses rallied round our banner, and Australia is the first country in the world that was able to withstand the offensive, and able to say, “No longer will you reduce our wages, no longer will you tamper with our hours, no more will you lengthen our hours. We will shorten our hours instead of lengthening them.” It was the only country in the world which resisted the capitalist offensive, because the masses rallied round the slogan “Hands off wages and hours.” And the whole policy was directed by the Communist Party in Australia — small in numbers, but strong in power and influence.
The result of this militant activity has been the linking up of the union forces into one big union which is breaking down all craft barriers. We believe that if the Anglo-Saxon countries — England, America, Ireland, etc — develop the same lines of policy that we have developed, it will be found that the Anglo-Saxon Communists will have the power to direct the future policy of the masses in those countries.
Jock Garden's speech was originally printed in Report of the Moscow Congress published by Martin Lawrence, London, 1923. The session on the trade union question was held on November 20-21, 1922. The chairman was Comrade Neurath, and the speakers were Comrades Lozofsky, Clark, Lansing, Kucher, Heckert, Sturm, Taska, Lauriden, Pavlik, Garden and Rosmer. Jock Garden’s speech is on pages 280-282.
Created on October 17, 2003