Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here’s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.


 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

Subscribe!
Subscribe





On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.
___________

Syndicate
RSS/XML


RSS 2.0

‘Coming to the Party’ raises some difficult questions for Labor

By Tristan Ewins - posted Wednesday, 1 November 2006


In a timely contribution to debate on the future of the Labor Party, Where to next for Labor? - Coming to the Party, edited by former Minister and ALP President Barry Jones, is a welcome collection of views on what strategies are necessary to revitalise the ALP and, ultimately, win government. Issues considered range from the impact of factionalism to the decline of Labor’s traditional blue collar working class constituency, as well as the necessary work of building mass movements, and reviving structures for rank-and-file participation and influence in the ALP.

Barry Jones’ own chapter, as well as Julia Gillard’s contribution, are both positively scathing of the factional system they see at the root of many of Labor’s ills. As Jones argues:

Major factions have become recruiting and executive placement agencies, having lost any ideological basis … Rank and file members are disappearing, and those who remain have become marginalised …

Advertisement

In a similar vein, Gillard insists:

The factional structures of Left and Right are now ossified and devoid of meaning ... The factional labels do not mean very much any more, which can hardly be of a surprise in a world in which the meaning of the terms “Left” and “Right” are the subject of global debate.

The concentration of political power into the hands of a few in the ALP and the politics of power and patronage which stifles independent voices all intensifies the feelings of disempowerment and disillusionment among grassroots activists.

It can be argued, however, that those of a similar political persuasion will likely coalesce formally in one way or another regardless of this, and there must surely be some sense that factionalism in one form or another is inevitable. What is more, while it can be argued that Labor’s parliamentary ranks should be more broadly representative, and the road from union officialdom to parliament ought not be so well-trod, union affiliation remains an important anchor for the ALP in the organised working class.

Gillard’s attempt to distance herself from the language of “Left” and “Right” can be viewed in a number of ways. First, there is an ongoing argument, sustained by those such as David McKnight, about the relevance of an essentially linear spectrum of Left versus Right in a world where post-materialist politics and attempts by some to synthesise socialist, liberal and conservative perspectives into a new philosophy, are throwing past comfortable assumptions into question.

Against this, it can be argued that the Left’s egalitarianism remains a strong point of distinction between socialist, social-democratic and traditional Conservative and neo-liberal thought: and that the Left’s identity, as such, is worth preserving as against attempts to create an essentially “new” movement.

Advertisement

Some might think, rather, that Gillard is attempting to “have it both ways”: to broaden her appeal as a potential leadership contender by distancing herself from her roots in the Left, while at the same time holding on to her Left support base.

Perhaps, in a take on the question of factionalism not considered by this book’s authors, part of the answer to the “faction question” is the democratisation of the factions themselves: including efforts to build mass membership of those groups, empowerment of those groups’ activists through democratic channels and the fostering, within those groups, of a culture of grassroots political, practical and theoretical exchange, including grassroots policy development.

This needs to be as open a process as possible and for the Left in particular, socialist politics and principles need to be taken out of the closet: instead of representing something parliamentarians and prospective politicians dare not advocate openly or forcefully for fear of embarrassing the party, or complicating political ambitions.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. All

The complete version was originally published in the Labor Tribune.



Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

22 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with del.icio.us Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Tristan Ewins has a PhD and is a freelance writer, qualified teacher and social commentator based in Melbourne, Australia. He is also a long-time member of the Socialist Left of the Australian Labor Party (ALP). He blogs at Left Focus, ALP Socialist Left Forum and the Movement for a Democratic Mixed Economy.
.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Tristan Ewins

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Tristan Ewins
Article Tools
Comment 22 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend
Advertisement

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy