Some keen readers may have noticed that The Inkling has not published a feature article since November last year (when Sustainability was posted). There is another feature in the pipeline, but because it is bigger and better than the first two it is much harder and more time consuming to prepare. To keep you entertained in the meantime, The Inkling has decided to give you some idea of what goes on when The Inkling writes these articles.
Communist Party Headquarters
By The Inkling
While trying to work how we can achieve happiness and sustainability I’ve sought interviews with people from different Australian political parties, but the most surprising so far has been my visit to the Communist Party headquarters in Sydney.
The Communist Party of Australia’s website directed me to Denis Doherty as National Organiser for the CPA. The website also had an abundance of reading material, including a communist perspective of local political activity in Australia. I wondered whether that venomous man at the polling booth had read all this material.
Denis promptly replied to my email and gave me his mobile phone number so we could arrange an interview. He was kind and friendly to me on the phone, and gave the impression of being happy to meet with me. He was flexible with his time and gave me plenty of helpful directions to make sure I had no problem finding their address.
The office was nestled amongst terrace houses, warehouses and show rooms in a respectably quiet, leafy inner-city street. As I pressed the buzzer, I imagined being led down a creaky staircase into some dark, underground bunker, where I would be hand cuffed and interrogated by bearded, manic-eyed men in berets, smoking cigars. I was brought back to reality by Denis’ familiar, friendly voice on the intercom, telling me he would be right down to meet me. Soon after, I was surprised, once again, when a cheerful, white bearded man met me at the front door and welcomed me inside.
I was struck by all the typical communist paraphernalia displayed around the reception area; lots of crescents and stars and a portrait of Lenin overseeing operations. It was like peering through a window into another time, and yet there were also posters and headlines crying out references to current worldwide political issues. I was led through a maze of small offices and cubicles where editorial staff were busy at work producing the CPA’s publication The Guardian. I was presented to some wholesome looking people in woolen jumpers who smiled brief, absent minded greetings as we dodged boxes of books and pamphlets.
I was amused to see a modestly-sized Buddhist shrine with a water feature occupying a large corner of the 2nd storey landing. Denis told me it had been left there by the previous tenants, and no one had had the heart to remove it.
My tour came to its conclusion when we reached the boardroom, which I could tell by Denis’s enthusiastic introduction, was his favorite part. He was particularly proud, when he turned on the lights, to reveal a large mural which filled an entire wall, running lengthways down the long, thin room. He explained to me that this was a reproduction of the Sydney Wharfies Mural, which had been painted on the walls of the Waterside Workers’ Federation Australia headquarters in Sussex Street, Sydney from 1953 – 1965. It must be a powerful backdrop to the meetings that take place in that boardroom.
What I quickly discovered from Denis was how patient and determined the CPA is in their approach to bringing about change. There is none of the fiery rebellion or radical action that one might associate with far-left revolutionary parties. Denis was adamant about the CPA’s adherence to a slow and steady campaign, and to separate themselves from any kind of rash, high impact or attention-seeking behavior. He passionately opposes these “stunts”, and refers to the many cases where the tactless, obnoxious anger and aggression of other parties has been detrimental to the efforts made by the CPA through careful negotiation and gradual, but stable cooperation. He said that the party can always improve its performance, its rigour and its attention to detail in pursuing its objectives, sometimes however members can be like Brown’s Cows and be inattentive. On the whole they are very committed and active.
Now more than ever I wondered why the word “communism” is such an unspeakable, touchy word that triggers distaste and rejection. If the actions of the CPA were really as peaceful and non-threatening as they appeared to be, then is it what the CPA stands for that upsets people?
Denis puts the Communist agenda very simply. “We aim for, public ownership of housing, of medicine, education, etc, and we are competing against the neo-Liberal, or economic rationalists’ ideology.”
After more than two hours of discussion Denis ended on a positive note “There’s that continuous battle going on between capitalism and socialism, and even though capitalism thinks it’s won, it still brings up these old issues of Soviet agents, and it still goes on, and it’s still a battle of ideas. But we still think we can win.”