[Marxism] The Australian Labor Party and I

Ratbag Media ratbagradio at gmail.com
Wed Oct 7 19:15:50 MDT 2015

*My easy penchant* for being disparaging of the Australian  Labor Party
seems to have turned into a passionate hobby. The way the Laborites try to
rewrite the party's history and selectively focus on a smattering of
reforms  irritates me no end.

Sure it is a social democratic party; supposedly it sponsors and protects
the welfare state; it apparently is open to progressive ideas and
individuals and should be the home for many a caring soul or trade
unionist...yardderder yardderder.

Been there. Done that.

Been in and out of the ALP a few times. Worked closely with some notable
Labor Party parliamentarians over the decades. The ALP and I go way way

Today's apologists for Labor who wax on nostalgically about Gough Whitlam's
1071 days in office* argue that Labor's genotype for  social reform still
exists, all we need do is bare with it and be patient.

What this wistfulness misses is that in the past 40 years, history and
capitalism has had its way with the ALP and the 'window' that Whitlam
exploited no longer exists. Today, what's required of Labor is not to
distract the populace with a promise to reform  their lifestyles, but to
remake capitalism more keenly than the Tories.

It's Tweedle 'balance sheet' Dee or Tweedle 'balance sheet' Dum.

CARTOON IMAGE: Evolution of Australian Democracy:

This shift was brutally engineered in the period 1981 to 1983 as the trade
union and ALP alliance girded itself in what later became the Prices and
Incomes Accord.By dint of promissory notes and bullying, the great bulk of
the country's left -- including the then Communist Party --  was sentenced
to rank corporatism at the behest of the Hawke/Keating government as the
whole trade union movement was held hostage to restructuring of the
Australian economy at the behest of the Big End of town.

'Reform' ceased to be about 'us' and became all about 'them'.

In one foul swoop Labor carried Australian capitalism to a happier
for-profit place than even Margaret Thatcher or Ronald Reagan could dream
of. And Labor did this with the complicity of most of the rest of us.

Being anti-Accord guaranteed you pariah status.You'd be thrown out of
meetings. Accused of being Santamaria** stooges. In one instance one guy
tried to kick me down the Newcastle trades hall steps because wouldn't sign
up to the package.

The bullying was relentless because* the Hawke government was the Accord.*

The 'reforms' -- the ones supposedly for our benefit -- failed to
materialise or last.The self imposed  trade union quiescence was
accompanied by a collapse in union membership across the country. Nay
sayers like the airline pilots or the Builders Labourers Federation were
savaged by cops and  courts.

Any outbreak -- such as the 1985 Queensland SEQEB dispute --was keenly

The years leading into and during the Hawke/Keating government saw the ALP
consciously remake itself from a party of 'reform' into one of
restructuring. Democracy in the party was squashed  in sync with an
undermining of membership control in the trade unions.

The whole kit and kaboodle of what's oft referred to as 'struggle' was
keenly steered to the right.

The lefts who'd so keenly signed on to the shift were held hostage to its
route. Indeed, the heartland politics of Labor -- the platform folk seek to
be sentimental about even today-- were dumped or diluted by the new
dialogue of neoliberalism.

While the ALP has always been keenly pragmatic, Australia's 'New Labor'
simply chose to march to a different corporate drum while hoping that its
lefts would  remain  complicit in the trajectory.

Of course they were. They remained true believer loyal.

>From uranium mining to East Timor to the 1991 Gulf War to smashing
recalcitrant trade unions , the Laborist consensus marched relentlessly
rightward despite the occasional bone thrown our way.

CARTOON IMAGE: Heroes of Bi-Partisanship

All the party had to do was be less right wing than the Tories; more
considerate than they...and seemingly accessible and less arrogant.

Sound familiar?

I'm not talking about the 21st century folks; I'm going back 25 years.
That's when the gangrene really set in.

Today's party is merely  the Accord's zombie.

So please don't come at me  with pathetic hopes that the good ole days can
return.  They died long ago and you are engaging in necrophilia.


* Gough Whitlam , Labor prime minister 1972-1975
** B.A. Santamaria Right Wing ideologue and anti communist who split the
ALP in 1954

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