The Communist Party and trade union work in Queensland in the third period: 1928-1935

Penrose, Beris Gene (1994). The Communist Party and trade union work in Queensland in the third period: 1928-1935 PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Penrose, Beris Gene
Thesis Title The Communist Party and trade union work in Queensland in the third period: 1928-1935
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1994
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Total pages 380
Language eng
Subjects 1606 Political Science
160601 Australian Government and Politics
Formatted abstract
This thesis examines the development of the CPA's ideology and practice during the period from 1928 to mid-1935. It concentrates on the party's trade union activities in Queensland, following the various changes in the communist party line, as they were dictated by the Comintern.

It seeks to understand why the CPA changed from a party that, in the 1920s, advocated the revolutionary overthrow of Australian capitalism by the working class to one that, later, sought merely a more equitable distribution of the nation's wealth to the working class within a democratic, capitalist framework.

This thesis argues that central to the shift in its revolutionary ideology was the increasing domination of the CPA by Moscow and the subordination of the party's interests to the demands of Soviet foreign policy. Consequently, programmes such as the Third Period Line and the Popular Front, which were enthusiastically adopted by the CPA, bore little relationship to the circumstances faced by the party in Australia. Rather, these programmes arose from national and international policy considerations of Stalin's ruling bureaucracy.

Easing the process of subordination to the Comintern was the increasing internal bureaucratism of the party which acted as a restraint on free debate and discussion of the Comintern and party policy. Dissent was met with ostracism, denunciation and expulsion.

As trade union work had always been central to the CPA's strategy of building influence within the working class, it provides some of the clearest illustrations of how the party's work was coloured by its control by Moscow. The Third Period line, with its emphasis on creating a militant rank and file movement in the unions, allowed the party to rebuild a network of shop floor militants and to re-establish a degree of job control which had been almost eliminated by the series of union defeats in the early years of the depression.

The success of the CPA in its rank and file work allowed them to capture official positions within the trade union bureaucracy at a time when the party was discarding the Third Period line for the more moderate Popular Front. Co-incidentally, pressures exerted on communist union officials led them to temper their militancy somewhat. This, as well as the adoption of the Popular Front, reinforced and accelerated the conservatising trends on the party's ideology.

This thesis concentrates on the Third Period (1928-1935) as it was during this era that the transition within the party took place. However, it should be stressed that those who joined the party during this period were not consciously aware of the significance of the changes taking place within the party. Rather, their loyalty to what they believed was a socialist regime, and to Stalin whom they believed to be the foremost leader of the international proletariat enabled them to rationalise away many of the inconsistencies in CPA and Comintern pronouncements and policies. In fact, their persistent activity in the workplace and amongst the unemployed, despite continual harassment from the state, the employing class, the media and even conservative elements in the ALP and union bureaucracy, kept alive the ideal of a society based on equality and freedom.
Keyword Communist Party of Australia -- History
Labor unions and communism -- Queensland -- History.
Depressions -- 1929 -- Queensland
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Document type: Thesis
Collections: Queensland Past Online (QPO)
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Created: Fri, 23 Oct 2009, 15:00:56 EST by Ms Christine Heslehurst on behalf of Social Sciences and Humanities Library Service