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


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.


RSS 2.0

An open letter to those Left

By Gwynn MacCarrick - posted Wednesday, 25 September 2002

"We are all Thatcherites now!" was the angered protest from a Labour backbencher of the British Parliament recently. The MP stated his preference for root canal therapy without an anaesthetic, rather than accept this description of his party.

So too in Australia the cracks in the dam wall begin to spring leaks, at the same time as those who view the world in terms of class struggle are dubbed the lunatic fringe.

What has happened to the progressive Left in Australia? And can the ALP continue to consider itself the natural home of the social democratic mantle?


Within its ranks, Third Way rhetoric abounds, as does paranoia about disunity stifle. Ideology and principles are negotiable, while policy owes more to gravitas and common denominators than to conviction.

The Left in Australia, is the feeblest it has been for decades. And yet this is a time of lowering living standards, worsening working conditions, and a time in politics when the Federal helm commands the least amount of respect of any memorable government formed this century.

This current era of Australian politics might best be described as a policy void and a political vacuum devoid of moral leadership. As political heartlands fade, sterile, bankrupt dogma predominates, whilst the Left in Australia gives way to political irrelevance.

One would have assumed that this was fertile breeding ground, but instead the Left seems to be haemorrhaging.

To a large extent, the Left is responsible for its own demise and doctrinal lapse. Incapable of developing new politics and new responses to a changing and fragmented society, it has clung to a myopic vision of industrial society and failed to make Left philosophy relevant through reinventing and updating what it stands for.

In a quest to court the shifting and fickle middle voter, Labor has traded their very essence and emulated the Right. So much so, that they have arrived at a juncture where they are unwilling, or unable, to find their way home.


Rather than hold to its traditions, Labor has joined the nearsighted race to blame asylum seekers and refugees for the ills of society, offering neither resistance nor alternative to the unprincipled far Right, who are not encumbered by a vestigial commitment to social equality.

John Legge argues that the failure of the Left to repudiate the Thatcherite policies of the 1980s, has resulted in a New Right / New Left paradigm - with a resulting shift in emphasis from justice to rights.

Justice is presumably for all, whereas rights depend largely upon your capacity to defend them. The Left seems paralysed in this debate since they have always worked upon the premise that equality in any real sense is impossible without redistribution.

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

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

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

About the Author

Gwynn MacCarrick is an international criminal law and environmental law expert. She is a Research Fellow with the Policy Innovation Hub, Griffith University and adjunct researcher with James Cook University. She has a BA (Hons) LLB Grad Cert Leg Prac. IDHA., Grad Cert Higher Ed., PhD.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Gwynn MacCarrick
Related Links
Australian Greens
Australian Labor Party
Photo of Gwynn MacCarrick
Article Tools
Comment Comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy