Forum discuss CPA history

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BY GRANT COLEMAN

PERTH — Organisers of a June 30 forum on the history of the original Communist Party of Australia got a rude shock when participants were more interested in discussing the future of socialism than condemning CPA mistakes.

Eighty-five people attended the forum, which was organised by the Society for the Study of Labor History. The SSLH will be putting together a written contribution focusing on the party's history from the end of World War II through to the party's dissolution in 1991, using the forum as part of its material.

Advertising a "warts and all" approach, the leaflet publicising the meeting asked, "Why did they bother?". But condemnation of activists for daring to struggle did not comprise much of the actual discussion. Instead, most participants praised the commitment and dedication of CPA members, without denying their many mistakes.

Melbourne University academic Stuart McIntyre, author of Militant: The Life and Times of Paddy Troy and The Reds, said that the Western Australian branches of the CPA faced more repression than most. McIntyre joined the CPA while in WA in the 1970s. He described the party as "internationalist" and argued that the communist movement in this country was "above all a movement of the oppressed".

Most participants were optimistic about the future of socialist activity. It was evident that the growing international anti-corporate movement had inspired many former CPA members. Australian Manufacturing Workers Union state president Keith Peckham, who joined the CPA in 1973, described the M1 and S11 protests as positive steps forward for progressive activists in Australia and as "the most important movement at the moment".

The discussion ranged over the role of the CPA in the 1954 waterfront strike and the Aboriginal rights movement, 1956 Khrushchev revelations about the Stalin regime's mass repression of Soviet Communists and the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.