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Australian Socialism pre-dates Marx and Engels. While it experienced a long dormant period, reports of its death have been exaggerated.
The word socialism was based on “society”, the idea that society as a whole is more important than individual profits and wealth. Indeed, Australian socialism was so ahead of its time in the 1800’s that Henry George, (U.S. socialist) spent time in Australia learning from Irish Australians about early socialism
Examples of Socialism in Australia
Early socialists briefly took power in the state of Queensland in 1899, thus becoming the first socialist government in the world.
Socialism is generally much more popular in Australia than in the United States, but there are nuances in what Australians and Americans like and don’t like about socialism.
Indeed a communist by the name of Fred Paterson was elected to the Queensland Parliament in 1944.
Australian Labor Party
Some of the early Australian Labour Party (ALP) governments proclaimed a socialist agenda. Indeed, throughout most of the 20th century there was a strong socialist faction within the party. However, they invariably failed to constitute a majority when the ALP was in government.
Finally, under the Hawke and Keating Governments, the ALP abandoned any pretence of a socialist agenda. Indeed they embraced neo-liberal reforms and market-based policies that the party holds to this day.
Australia Socialist Party
The term ‘Socialism’ is again being used more often in political debate. Many candidates are no longer afraid to describe themselves as socialists. This coincides with generational change. At the same time the communist ‘bogey man’ and red baiting has become a far less useful strategy for right wing candidates in the major parties. The villain of these times is not the former Soviet Union, but Climate Change.
Members from various socialist organisations united under the Socialist Alliance banner in 2001. Hence it is a well known voice of Australian Socialism.
Socialist Alliance has a strong focus on grassroots activism. However, the party stood in some seats for the first time at the 2022 federal election and has a growing membership base.
The Victorian Socialists is a democratic socialist party that was formed in 2018 out of an electoral alliance of various socialist parties, organisations, community groups and trade unionists. Subsequently, in November 2020, the party had one elected representative, Jorge Jorquera, a Councillor on Maribyrnong City Council.
Communist Party of Australia
The Communist Party of Australia was founded in 1920 with a membership of around 20,000 at its peak. However, the party experienced steady decline from 1945 onwards and was officially dissolved in 1991.
The new Communist Party of Australia was formed in 1971. Today’s CPA is a traditional Marxist–Leninist party with the objective of the revolutionary transformation of Australian society and the establishment of socialism in Australia.
At the time of writing the CPA was unregistered, falling short of the number of registered members required to constitute a political party under the Australian Electoral Act.
Australian Socialism and The Greens
The Australian Greens, commonly known as The Greens, are a confederation of Green state and territory political parties in Australia. Following the 2022 federal election, the Greens became the third largest political party in Australia by vote and the fourth largest by elected representation.
Prominent members of the Australian Greens have supported socialist policies over the course of the parties existence. Looking back one of the most prominent socialists within the party was Senator Lee Rhiannon. However more recently Mehreen Faruqi, and the Member for Griffith, Max Chandler-Maher have taken up the Socialist cause within the party.
Australian Socialism Today
Many socialists saw the 2022 federal election as a promising sign for the movement. Consequently, government moved from the ‘Conservative’ Liberal National Party to the ‘Centrist’ Australian Labor Party. The election also saw the best ever result for the Australian Greens, with the election of four members to the House of Representatives and a record number of Senators.
Micro parties Socialist Alliance and Victorian Socialists also polled well in some areas, signalling a re-energising of Australian Socialism.
Socialist Alliance is an Australian political party. In 2001 Socialist Alliance was formed from an alliance of various socialist organisations and activists.
Victorian Socialists are Victorian based electoral alliance of various socialist parties, organisations, community groups and trade unionists.
Socialist Alternative is a revolutionary Marxist organisation. The party stands for the overthrow of capitalism and the construction of a world socialist system.
Examples of Australian Socialism
Progressive policies that exist in Australia are the outcome of socialist struggle. These include public health care, public housing and the NDIS.
However, these policies are constantly under attack from neo-liberal conservatives who seek to slash public funded services in favour of a ‘survival of he fittest’ approach that rewards the wealthiest one per cent of Australians.
From the 1970’s onwards, many socialist campaigns focussed on reducing environmental destruction. The Green Bans Movement by the Builder’s labourers Federation (BLF) was a leading example of this.
Thank you for reading about Australian Socialism.
- Australian Left links
- Australian Socialists
- Fred Paterson
- Public Services Sector
- Simple Definition of Socialism