Socialist Australia

Australian Socialism

Australian Socialism: Your Guide

Australian Socialism

Australian Socialism pre-dates Marx and Engels. While it experienced a long dormant period, reports of its death have been exaggerated.

The word socialism is 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 more popular in Australia than in the United States. There are differences in what Australians and Americans like and don’t like about socialism. Australians for example are more likely to support public ownership of important national assets.

Australia even saw a communist (Fred Paterson) 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, embracing 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.

Stoking fears of the communist ‘bogey man’ and red baiting have become an outdated strategy for right wing critics in the major parties. This is happening as a younger generation perceives the villain of our times is not the ghost of the Soviet Union, but the global climate crisis.

Socialist Alliance

In 2001 members from various socialist organisations united under the Socialist Alliance banner. The party is a well known voice of Australian Socialism.

Socialist Alliance has a strong focus on grassroots activism. The party stood in some seats for the first time at the 2022 federal election and has a growing membership base.

Four Socialist Alliance members have served on local councils. They are Sue Bolton (Moreland City Council), Sam Wainwright (City of Fremantle), Rob Pyne (Cairns Regional Council) and Sarah Hathway (Greater Geelong).

Sarah Hathway Socialist Alliance Councillor for Greater Geelong.

Victorian Socialists

The Victorian Socialists (VS) is a democratic socialist party formed in 2018 out of an electoral alliance of various socialist parties, organisations, community groups and trade unionists. VS has one elected representative, Jorge Jorquera, who was elected as a Councillor on Maribyrnong City Council in 2020.

Jorge Jorquera of Victorian Socialists
What is Socialist Alliance?

Socialist Alliance is a minor political party in Australia. Socialist Alliance was formed in 2001 from an alliance of various socialist organisations and activists. The party is involved with the trade union, environmentalist and student movements in Australia.
Socialist Alliance

What is the Victorian socialist movement?

Victorian Socialists (VS) are a Victorian based electoral alliance of various socialist parties, organisations, community groups and trade unionists. The party seeks, “to put politicians on a worker’s wage so they live like the rest of us” and “to get socialists into parliament who will fight to make workers richer and billionaires poorer”. VS is a minor party with a left wing socialist agenda.
Australian Socialism Victorian Socialists

What is Socialist Alternative?

Socialist Alternative is a revolutionary Marxist organisation. The party stands for the overthrow of capitalism and the construction of a world socialist system.

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.

However, 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 Australian 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 Senator Mehreen Faruqi and the Member for Griffith, Max Chandler-Maher have taken up the Socialist cause.

Max Chandler-Mather
Max Chandler-Mather

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.

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.

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