10-13 July 1985, Tokyo, Japan.

Speech to the International Symposium on “Struggle for prevention of nuclear war and total ban and elimination of nuclear weapons”.

I would like to begin by thanking our Japanese comrades for the kind invitation to the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) to send a representative to this International Symposium, and to say how honoured I am to be present here, particularly in this year, the 40th anniversary of the atomic bombing of your cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is entirely fitting that this anniversary should be an opportunity to strengthen the international movement that aims to prevent such a horror from ever occurring again.

The CPA supports the methods which the JCP has adopted in organising these international symposia. Being opportunities for members of communist and workers parties of many nations to meet and exchange views without restrictions on debate or pressures to agree to fixed statements, they are a good example of the tolerance and mutual respect that we would like to see govern all inter-party relations both internationally and nationally. I would like to use this opportunity to discuss recent developments in the broad disarmament movement in Australia, and some of the CPA’s views on the disarmament question.

On Sunday 31 March this year (Palm Sunday in the Christian calendar) Australian people marched, as they have done for the last few years, in their hundreds of thousands. This year the estimated crowds were even larger than the record-breaking quarter of a million who marched in 1984 – the estimates are put at 370,000. The major slogans were: Stop MX tests; No Nuclear Warships; No Tomahawk Cruise Missiles; Stop Uranium Mining; and No Nuclear Bases.

The continued growth of the disarmament movement in Australia has reflected, of course, the growth of the movement internationally. But recently one of the major issues affecting the movement has been the decision of New Zealand’s Labour Government to try to ensure that the ANZUS (Australia-New Zealand-United States) defence pact is re-defined to exclude the acceptance of the US “nuclear umbrella”. Many Australians were appalled by what they saw as a complete over-reaction by the US Government to NZ’s request that nuclear-armed and nuclear-powered ships not be used in their waters. They were equally dismayed by the weak reaction of the Australian Labor Government, which virtually supported the USA’s stand, despite the official Labor Party policy of opposition to nuclear weapons.

The weakness of the Labor Government, seen in its slowness to implement party policies relating to support for a nuclear free and independent Pacific, its strong defence of the Australian-US alliance, and its change of policy on uranium mining, led to a remarkable development on the Australian political scene. This was the formation of a single-issue Nuclear Disarmament Party (NDP) just six weeks prior to the early Federal election called for December 1984. There can be no question that this Party – with its three simple demands “No nuclear weapons; no foreign bases; no uranium mining” – responded to a felt need in the Australian political environment.

Despite a massive attack on the NDP by representatives of all the other establishment parliamentary parties, mainly on the grounds that it was only a single-issue party, it gained over half a million first-preference votes for its Senate candidates across the country, the proportion of its votes ranging from 12% down to 7% in the different states. It also succeeded in having one of its members elected as a Senator in the state of Western Australia, the main port of which is host to most of the nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed ships of the US navy in the Indian Ocean fleet.

The strength of the NDP lay in its ability to swing large numbers of people into political action – particularly young people who otherwise would not have bothered to register their votes. Such was the huge media coverage that the party gained, both before and after the elections, that nuclear disarmament did become a major issue in the election campaign, and the two major parties were forced to pay attention to the issues raised.

The weakness of the NDP lay not just in its being a single-issue party, but in the manner in which it was formed. The speed with which its existence was announced displeased many activists in the anti-nuclear movements around the country, most of whom were not consulted prior to its formation. The focusing on the three simple demands ignored a lot of other political questions during the short political campaign, and these have started to be raised in the months since the election – with sharp differences of view coming to the surface resulting in a split at their first national conference held in April this year.

There can be no question that this split in the NDP has been a set-back for the movement in Australia. As such, it is a matter of concern to all communists in Australia too. The CPA advocated a first preference to the NDP in many states and many of our party’s members had worked actively for the NDP in the election campaign. The sharp divisions now evident in that party, while perhaps not unexpected, only serve to emphasise the difficulty of building democratic movements for social and political change – whether they be movements focused on a single issue such as nuclear disarmament, opposition to uranium mining, women’s liberation, or land rights; or broader movements for revolutionary changes to the existing power structures in society.

For some years now, the CPA has been a strong supporter of the view that building a democratic socialism capable of winning majority approval in a country like Australia will come out of a process that respects the right of all oppressed and exploited groups to organise autonomously. Our vision of a diverse and creative socialist society entails that the means of achieving that goal must also encourage creativity, diversity and enthusiastic mass involvement. This is, of course, a slow process particularly when the ruling culture encourages passivity, acceptance of a social division of labour, and acceptance that the major decisions governing our lives should be made only by politicians who are elected every few years. But we believe that there can be no short-cuts to building democratic socialism. The methods by which we deal with diversity within the movements must fully face the many dilemmas that arise, and we must work to resolve them in as non-sectarian and constructive a manner as possible.

As I said, the divisions within the NDP were not unexpected. The public response to the NDP initiative to advance the cause of nuclear disarmament through the formation of a single-issue political party triggered a movement-wide debate about the best strategies and tactics to use. The movement in Australia includes activists from the existing political parties, unions, the women’s movement, the movement against uranium mining, the churches, various professional groups such as doctors, nurses and lawyers, aborigines, the homosexual community, and many others. Each of them has sought to organise and educate their own members about the issues involved, and they often do not come together in action with members of the other groups except on occasions such as the Palm Sunday march. However, the growth of coalition work around the march and other limited issues has provided the opportunity to extend debate and educational work.

For the CPA, much of our educational work in the movements seeks to develop the links between the movement against nuclear weapons and the movement against nuclear power. It is the view of many Australian communists that the mere fact of state ownership, planning and control of the uranium mining industry, and its concomitant nuclear power industry, is no guarantee that the extremely complex problems of nuclear waste disposal, reactor safety, or miners’ protection from radiation danger, would be satisfactorily solved. In addition, there can be no guarantee that the plutonium produced as part of the nuclear power production process would not be diverted to the making of nuclear weapons.

The development of communist theory and practice in Australia has included looking at nuclear technology as a choice of technique that is particularly suited to the over-centralisation of power and control in advanced industrial societies which can pose threats to democracy and citizens’ rights. The production of nuclear power requires the ability to marshall huge resources in terms of capital, science, technology and public security, a task beyond the reach of any but the largest corporations or the state. Many scientists and environmentalists have questioned the values behind the choice of development of this particular technology for the production of power as against more benign and decentralist technologies such as solar power. It has not gone with out notice, either, that historically the civilian use of nuclear technology for the production of power was adopted by capitalist corporations in the USA only after much “bribery” through the offer of government subsidies and other assistance, to get over what has proved to be an accurate estimation that this technology is not a cost-effective means of producing electric power.

The arguments against nuclear technology as being too centralist have been combined with the demands of the women’s movement to break down the sources of patriarchal and centralised power in favour of a society that encourages greater control over one’s life in the personal and public arenas. The autonomous organisation of women’s anti-nuclear groups in Australia, such as Women against Global Violence, is an important and growing feature of the strength of the disarmament movement in our country. Their analysis of war as an outcome of patriarchal violence on a global scale mirrors the feminist analysis of male violence at the personal level. These movements have added some new dimensions to the traditional Left analysis of power and violence; and have also contributed new forms of political activism to the anti-nuclear and anti-war movements.

The views described above have helped to sharpen the Australian Left’s vision of the desirable socialist society we seek to build. The abstract right to self-determination must extend to all facets of society: the right of living things to continue to exist on this planet safe from nuclear holocaust; the right of nations to determine their political and economic systems; the right of workers to determine in cooperation with consumers what they produce and how they produce it; and the right of women, men and children to live their lives without being subject to personal domination and violence.

The history of the development of this theory and practice in the CPA has led it to accept the legitimacy of actions raised in the mass movements in which communist activists find themselves. In Australia, many of our energies will continue to go into the struggle for a nuclear-free and independent Pacific. This will include publicity of and support for the demands of the small Pacific nations of Belau and Marshall Islands to implement their anti-nuclear constitutions against the obstruction of the USA. It will also include support for the campaigns to stop nuclear testing in French territories in the region or the proposals by nuclear powers to dump nuclear waste in the Pacific; and support for the growing campaign against nuclear energy in the Philippines where reactors are proposed for earthquake-prone regions in that country.

The CPA will also continue to strengthen the understanding of non-alignment within the Australian disarmament movement, to mean not that the two major nuclear powers are equally to blame for the existing arms race (which is the view of some part of the movement in Australia), but that our movement must not be seen as an agent of any foreign power.

The threat of nuclear war is now so great, in the context of severe capitalist crisis and the rising struggles of the most impoverished peoples to break out of imperialist domination, that bold new initiatives are called for to break the long-standing impasse over nuclear weapons. The joint call by the JCP and CPSU for a complete ban on nuclear weapons as an immediate task is such an initiative, as is the unilateral six-month freeze on European deployment by the USSR. So too are New Zealand’s denial of entry to nuclear-armed warships, and the continuing efforts of countries like Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia and Greece for an easing of inter-bloc tensions.

We would like to put forward other proposals for consideration too: that the USSR implement a unilateral 10% cut in its missiles and warheads. This would put immense pressure on the USA and other nuclear powers to prove their commitment to the process of nuclear disarmament by following suit; that the current negotiators between the USSR and USA consider an immediate 50% cut in each side’s missiles and warheads, and thirdly that world peace requires urgent action on other fronts as well, such as an attack on world poverty, and elimination of other brutal forms of weapons such as biochemical weapons.

We look forward to learning from the views of other comrades here, and will endeavour to build greater links between the Australian and international movements for nuclear disarmament; for a peaceful world in which all nations are free to chart their own destinies; for a lessening of economic inequalities within and between nations; and for a course of technological and industrial development in harmony with social needs and the natural environment.

Thank you.

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