The Guardian May 17, 2000


Editorial:
The ALP's "socialist" objective

A NSW Young Labor conference held over the May Day weekend adopted a 
resolution to "broaden" the ALP's membership pledge.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Young Labor's President Troy 
Bramston said that the proposed amendment is a "two-step" procedure and 
that "In the end, the socialist objective will be irrelevant and we're 
trying to broaden the pledge and modernise it."

The present objective of the Labor Party as recorded in the Party's 
Constitution refers to the ALP being a "democratic socialist party" with a 
commitment to "the democratic socialisation of industry, production, 
distribution and exchange to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation 
and other anti-social features in these fields".

The resolution adopted by Young Labor (by an 80 per cent vote) suggests 
that the Party's "fundamental objective" should be "the pursuit of a 
society built upon freedom, equality, democracy and social justice." The 
elimination of exploitation finds no place in this definition.

The change called for by the NSW Branch of Young Labor appears to be in 
line with an earlier call by Australian Young Labor (the Party's national 
youth body) to eliminate the ALP's present "socialist" objective.

The ALP is not now and has never been a genuine socialist party. The 
socialist objective was inserted in the early 1920s. It is occasionally 
trotted out by ALP leaders when speaking to audiences which are known to be 
rather militant. These ALP leaders make references to socialism as a means 
to maintain the illusion that somehow, sometime, the ALP could become a 
real workers' party. When speaking to big business gatherings, however, the 
Party's leaders are at pains to convince the captains of capital that they 
have nothing to fear from an ALP government and that, in fact, an ALP 
government is a better "manager" of the system than is a Liberal Party 
government.

The proposed references to "freedom, equality, democracy and social 
justice" could just as easily be mouthed by John Howard. But, none of these 
objectives can be fulfilled within the context of capitalism, now running 
amok with economic rationalism and the domination of the economy by the big 
banks, finance houses and other corporations.

The proposed Young Labor amendments would eliminate any class 
considerations, any real questioning of capitalist society or action to 
bring it to an end. This is being proposed under the slogans of 
"modernisation" and "broadening".

It is not socialism that has become "irrelevant" by today's "modern" 
capitalism. Socialism is becoming more relevant by the day as the living 
standards and rights of the working people are swept away by rampant 
globalisation in the hands of the transnational corporations.

The objectives of the Labor Party have always been limited to the 
attainment of reforms within the capitalist system. Even the long-held aim 
of "public ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange" 
which, in early times, did lead to Labor Governments setting up Qantas, the 
Commonwealth Bank, Australian National Line, etc, is being overturned by 
both Labor and Liberal governments in the unseemly race to privatise 
everything, to outsource everything, to hand over to private enterprise 
everywhere.

Perhaps the removal of the Labor Party's socialist objective will 
"modernise" in the sense that it will at long last show to everyone what 
the Labor Party really is.

It is worthwhile recalling what Lenin wrote about the Australian Labor 
Party as long ago as 1913:

"Actually [the Labor Party] is a liberal-bourgeois party, while the so-
called Liberals in Australia are really Conservatives... This strange and 
incorrect use of terms in naming parties is not unique...

"Naturally, when Australia is finally developed and consolidated as an 
independent capitalist state, the condition of the workers will change, as 
also will the liberal Labour Party, which will make way for a 
socialist workers' party." (LCW Vol 25 pp 216-217)

That time has come and it would be helpful for the Labor Party to proclaim 
for all to see, its thoroughly "liberal-bourgeois" reality.

It will then be up to those with a socialist conviction to build that large 
and influential workers' party that Lenin foresaw, the embryo of which 
already exists in the form of today's Communist Party.
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