Monday, 7 October 2013

The Party That Lost it's Soul - The Australian Labor Party

The Party That Lost it's Soul - The Australian Labor Party

The Australian Labor Party is currently deciding on who it's next Leader will be, having lost office a month ago today. But it is a party that has lost it's soul, I hope this article explains why it once had a soul and why it has now lost it's soul.

Australia in the 1880's was in boom times, Melbourne the largest city was called Marvelous Melbourne and it was. It was the second richest city in the British Empire, only London was richer. Not bad for a city that only came into existence in 1836. But after the boom comes the bust and in the 1890's came economic depression. Mass unemployment, fortunes lost, homes foreclosed and with it came labour unrest and strikes. But the power of the workers wasn't strong and they lost most of the big labour disputes of the 1890's. 

The response was the creation of the Australian Labor Party, it was formed from the Trade Union movement and assorted left of centre groups. But most of it's members were ordinary working class men who wanted the rights they had protected and a better life for their families. They believed in social capital, that society and it's members were more important than profits, sounds Conservative doesn't it? Unfortunately one idea that caught on very quickly was one that Conservatives reject and that is class warfare. The idea that classes are in constant warfare with each other and that exploitation was the base of all class interaction.

Having said that the early Australian Labor Party was very Conservative on many issues, it was patriotic to both Australia and the British Empire, to be Australian was to be British because both peoples were from the same stock, but born in different places. They believed in a white Australia because they also believed in the working man having both a job and a living wage capable of raising a family on. Cheap foreign labour was not to be allowed to destroy the working class.

The Australian Labor Party is Australia's oldest political party and while it was mostly working class, it had the political leftovers as well. The Socialist, proto-Communists and other assorted "freethinkers" who didn't fit anywhere else. Their influence waxed and waned but the party remained solidly working class until the 1960's. The Australian Labor Party has always been a fighting party, it fights it's political enemies where ever they exist, whether inside or outside the party. It is infamous for it's factional infighting, something the Australian people find both amusing and horrifying. They ask "if you cannot govern yourself how can you govern the country?".

But they did govern, their shortest Government was 4 months, their longest 13 years. But considering their influence they haven't been in Government anywhere near as long as they might have been. The Australian Labor Party has had three divisive splits where large chunks of the membership have either walked out or been expelled. (whether you walked out or were expelled often depends on who's telling the story)The First was in 1916 over conscription during the First World War, the Second was over economic management in 1932 and the last was over Communism in 1955. In the first two instances Labor was in Government when it split. Each by themselves was traumatic but more seriously was that each in turn alienated working class people who's place was taken by those more left of centre. 

In the 1920's Socialism was adopted but compared to the British Labor Party it was mostly decoration. 

The Australian Labor Party, the party of the white working class, introduced mass non-British immigration in the 1940's "populate or perish" was the message. It remained committed to a white Australia until the 1960's. But seemingly overnight it changed, in reality it had been moving leftward for decades. In December 1972 the Australian Labor Party won office by one seat. It set out to change Australia, to make it one of the most progressive countries on Earth. It didn't forget the working class but now it's attention was to be shared with, Aboriginals, Feminists and Ethnic groups. When a conflict occurred between these groups and the working class, it was the working class who were told to give way. Sometimes the working class said no, in which case they held an inquiry and if that didn't work they held another and then another. The Australian Labor Party was no longer a working class party but it didn't understand that. 

The most successful Labor Government was the Hawke/Keating Government of 1983-96. Everything it did was called a reform, whether it was good or bad. But it ended the idea that Australian industry should be protected and Australia entered the age of globalization and so did it's workers. The good thing about globalization is it brings down prices, good for the cost of living. The bad thing about globalization is that it destroys jobs, labour is too expensive in Australia so firms go overseas or never even put the jobs here in the first place. Unemployment which was an issue before, rose and stayed high, cementing in place a permanent underclass of the once working class who now either never worked or got at best casual jobs. For those with jobs there is the now the constant worry that the company they work for will decide to give them the sack and move overseas.

The Australian Labor Party: 
It once believed in loyalty to the British Empire and Crown, now it is Republican 
It once believed in predominately British immigration, now it supports mass immigration from anywhere 
It once believed in a white Australia, it now believes in a multicultural society 
It once believed in tariffs to protect Australian industry and jobs, it now believes in free trade 
It once believed in full male employment, it now supports feminism 
It once supported the family, it now supports homosexual marriage 
It once supported the right of the working man to have a job, it now supports welfare.         

It has rejected and betrayed everything it once believed in, it is a party that has lost it's soul. It took decades but it is now a wraith, a mere shadow of what it once was. It talks about it's great history, but it has betrayed it's history. It only exists because the the Liberal Party scares the working class to death. It is not love of Labor that keeps it alive but fear of the Liberals. If a party existed that supported the working class but was still economically sensible the Australian Labor Party would simply fade away.

Labour is the British/Australian way of spelling the word. Labor is the American way of spelling the word. For some reason the Australian Labor Party uses the American and not the British/Australian spelling of the word. It was spelt Labour before 1912.

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  1. The way Labor treated Pauline Hanson and her supporters was a testament to how far Labor had travelled from its origins as a working class party. Hanson and her supporters were ordinary, working class people who were justifiably concerned about mass immigration and the rapidly changing face of Australia. But Labor, which would once have rallied to Hanson's side, just called them racists, xenophobes, bigots and told them to shut up and accept their multicultural destiny.

  2. Thank you Mark for your article giving insight into a history of the Australian Labor Party. It is not very often that one finds a comprehensive article on a blogspot about politics that reports a short history of Labor Party politics in Australia. The article is factual, and free from emotion and competitive bias.

    It is disappointing to see the extent of change that has taken place in the party since its early days in the 1890s. During the first 50-60 years of their development they had a long struggle fighting for the workers’ rights. Their early intentions were sincere. I am not here to elaborate upon, or assess your article, but I sincerely appreciate your observations of what happened to the party over the years.

    Like many areas of politics, business and education, organisations seemed to succumb to influences from within which broke down their original intent and ambition. When Australia became more prosperous over the past 50 years or so, maybe political parties were drawn closer together, as they fought for conditions to improve their lot; when the dollar was floated on world markets, all political parties would have reached out further to take advantage of new opportunities.

    My knowledge of advanced economics is limited to that of olden times. Circumstances change, but mankind does not change – it’s a natural desire to work and improve our lot in life as individuals, families, and among our working fraternity. There is currently a malaise in people’s attitudes in general, but economic tough times ahead may bring a swing back to older attitudes about “work”. In our inherited Westminster system of government, we will always have opposing parties – this is healthy. But I think it’s a pity that occasionally, they both cannot see the light simultaneously, to pull together, and build Australia up into the great economy that it can become.

    Our country is a heartland, in that it has almost all the resources to stand alone, yet has much available to share on the international scene. Australia certainly proved that she could work well with internationals during the growth and implementation of The Snowy Mountains Scheme some 50 or so years ago.

    We are all responsible to contribute and further the good nature of our people, and produce the various resources available from our marvellous land.

    (Thank you for the reminder as to how the spelling of “Labour” became “Labor” during our political history ... VivH)

  3. Dear Mr. Panther

    Hanson would always have been controversial for Labor, but it could be argued that if Labor still supported what it once did Hanson would never have gotten the support she did.

    Dear VivH

    Thank you for your message and I totally agree with you.

    Mark Moncrieff