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The moral degeneration of the Labor Left

By Marko Beljac - posted Friday, 15 January 2010

The Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party has, following the November 2009 State Conference, formally announced that there exists no branch stacking in the Party. The howls of laughter upon the release of this news could have been heard across the galaxy.

Just days later the Labor Premier of Victoria, John Brumby, "turned the first sod" on the $11.1 million "Australian Centre for Democracy" that doubtless will not have an exhibit on the subversion of democracy within the ALP, which boasts a rich and proud history.

What is really interesting is that the non-stacking announcement was made by Comrade Andrew Giles, a long time apparatchik of the "Socialist Left" faction of the ALP.


According to The Age Comrade Giles stated that, "'I'm really pleased to report ... that no specific allegations of branch stacking were brought before the committee,' Andrew Giles, one of the members on the committee investigating the allegations, told the conference".

This announcement means that the practice of branch stacking will continue and that this will be supported by the Labor Left. To deny the existence of a practice that one knows exists is to sanction its further continuance.

As the Russian dissident Roy Medvedev wrote of Stalin; let history judge.

This must be so because it was not that long ago when it was the Socialist Left that protested the loudest against branch stacking. So The Age was able to report in 2005 that, "The Left argues its campaign against branch stacking is designed to rid the ALP of a range of corrupt practices that are bringing the party into disrepute".

The announcement by Comrade Giles was instantly dismissed by veteran Labor activist Eric Dearicott, who earlier this year observed serious examples of abuse, of the type employed by branch stackers, as membership dues were being collected at the Labor Party's head office.

One should not be surprised that the Left of the Labor Party has put its weight behind what can only be regarded as a defence of branch stacking. A defence that, moreover, entails acceptance of all the associated consequences.


Not so long ago it was the Miscellaneous Workers Union, a key Left union, that led a very vocal campaign against branch stacking. This campaign attracted a lot of media attention. Just before a crucial meeting of the Party's Administrative Committee the Left miraculously dropped its campaign precisely as the push for reform was gathering momentum. The reason was that the apparatchiks of the Left had cut a political deal, giving them greater leverage within the Party, with an alleged stacker they were then seeking to bring charges against.

The Left now has a power sharing arrangement with elements of the right wing Labor Unity faction. This power sharing alliance constitutes the ruling coalition in the Victorian Branch, which explains the Giles announcement. When this power sharing alliance unravels, as it will, watch as the Socialist Left quickly changes its tune on branch stacking, if they find themselves out of power as a result we should hasten to add.

When they do so; let history judge.

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About the Author

Mark Beljac teaches at Swinburne University of Technology, is a board member of the New International Bookshop, and is involved with the Industrial Workers of the World, National Tertiary Education Union, National Union of Workers (community) and Friends of the Earth.

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