Communist Party of Australia

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Issue #1601      July 10, 2013

Lenin on Australia still relevant

In 1913 Lenin commented on the Federal election in Australia of that year which the Labor Party lost. What he articulated about our society 100 years ago is just as relevant today and in especially understanding the ALP and the leadership of the unions in the lead up to this year’s federal election. The following is an extract.

A general election recently took place in Australia. The Labour Party, which had a majority in the Lower House 44 seats out of 75 was defeated. It now has only 36 seats out of 75. The majority has passed to the Liberals, but this majority is a very unstable one, because 30 of the 36 seats in the Upper House are held by Labour.

What sort of peculiar capitalist country is this, in which the workers’ representatives, predominate in the Upper house and, till recently, did so in the Lower House as well, and yet the capitalist system is in no danger?

An English correspondent of the German labour press recently explained the situation, which is very often misrepresented by bourgeois writers.

The Australian Labour Party does not even call itself a socialist party. Actually it 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. In America, for example, the slave-owners of yesterday are called Democrats, and in France, enemies of socialism, petty bourgeois, are called Radical Socialists! In order to understand the real significance of parties, one must examine not their signboards but their class character and the historical conditions of each individual country.

Australia is a young British colony.

Capitalism in Australia is still quite youthful. The country is only just taking shape as an independent state. The workers are for the most part emigrants from Britain. They left the country at the time when the liberal-labour policy held almost undivided sway there, when the masses of the British workers were Liberals. Even now the majority of the skilled factory workers in Britain are Liberals or semi-Liberals. This is the results of the exceptionally favourable, monopolist position enjoyed by Britain in the second half of the last century. Only now are the masses of the workers in Britain turning (but turning slowly) towards socialism.

And while in Britain the so-called Labour Party is an alliance between the non-socialist trade unions and the extremely opportunist Independent Labour Party, in Australia the Labour Party is the unalloyed representative of the non-socialist workers trade unions.

The leaders of the Australian Labour Party are trade union officials, everywhere the most moderate and capital serving element, and in Australia, altogether peaceable, purely liberal.

The ties binding the separate states into a united Australia are still very weak. The Labour Party has had to concern itself with developing and strengthening these ties, and with establishing central government.

In Australia the Labour Party has done what in other countries was done by the Liberals, namely, introduced a uniform tariff for the whole country, a uniform educational law, a uniform land tax and uniform factory legislation.

How accurate is Lenin! The history of liberal ideology in Australia since 1913 is at one of gradually moving to a Left Liberalism on certain policies such as nationalising some industries to since the 1980s moving to very Right Liberalism, so much so that the ALP’s policies today almost seem to differ little from the conservative capitalists that rule our society. The move by the ALP to the Left in the late 1920s was due to the world-wide communist movement which was eroding their false propaganda that they represent the working-class. Today most of the Greens policies place that party in the category of Left Liberals.

The common catch cry of ALP liberal ideology is “a fair go” which is a very vague term but is basically a plea to the bourgeois conservative establishment for at least some sort of policies that allow everyone “equal” access to climb up the ladder if they work hard enough, so says the rhetoric. Bill Shorten and Paul Howes from the union movement are examples of liberals always pleading to the capitalist’s dictatorship for a “fair go”, even though Labor is the present government. Liberalism is the right of the individual to climb up the ladder. Of course only a small percentage of the population can climb up the ladder.

So liberalism believes in public education for all but not tertiary education. For a second rate public health system if you cannot afford the private health system. For food handouts for the poor via charity organisations or limited government payments but no guarantee of a job. For unions to be allowed to occasionally strike. Liberalism has a history of outlawing or suppressing communist-led trade unions for the benefit of ALP trade unionism.

They argue that the working-class who is missing out is not due to not being given a “fair go” but is due to their own individual laziness. There is 40 percent youth unemployment in a number of areas of Australia. Also the unofficial 10 percent adult unemployment, single parents, most of Aboriginal society, the working poor who cannot even afford a roof over their heads. In other words a big percentage of the population are being abused by liberal ideology.

Lenin stated that the “mass of workers in Britain are turning (but turning slowly) towards socialism”. The question is how slowly is slowly.   

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