The case for a new workers’ party


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The following pamphlet was published by the Socialist Party in 2006.


Research on the social attitudes of Australians by the Academy of the Social Sciences and by NSW academics Dr Shaun Wilson and Dr Gabrielle Meagher show that “the public have drifted leftwards in their attitudes in major policy areas, supporting working women, public spending, and immigration.”

Their research shows that over 60% of people oppose privatisation and the recent industrial relations changes. Support for income tax cuts over increased spending on social services has fallen from 65% in 1987 to only 36% in 2004. Yet for past 30 years, the political direction of the major parties has been in the opposite direction.

It is has become clear that there is no major political party that represents the interests of ordinary Australians. This means that the growing opposition to anti-worker labour laws, war and environmental destruction is not being represented in the political sphere. Increasingly, the major parties are responding only to market forces, ensuring that their policies are becoming almost identical.

For some time now, the Socialist Party (SP) has been arguing that Australian workers need a new workers’ party to represent their political interests. For reasons we will explain more fully later in this pamphlet, we believe that neither the Australian Labor Party (ALP) nor Greens fit the bill. The ALP has played a key role in the introduction of neo-liberal policies and no longer has democratic structures that ensure workers’ interests are represented. The Greens have no alternative to capitalism and therefore carry out neo-liberal policies when they come into power, as we have already seen at a local level.

We believe that a new workers’ party, if it was organised democratically, was active, and was clearly against the neo-liberal policies that dominate today, would enjoy rapid growth. It would put the voice of workers and young people on the mainstream political agenda in this country. This would lead to immediate gains. Apart from fighting for policies that would cement real improvements to the lives of working people – its establishment would force the ALP to shift to the left.

The presence of a real left alternative, in the form of the small forces of SP, in Yarra Council in inner city Melbourne has led to the ALP pumping millions into the public housing estates after years of neglect. So, one can only imagine the effect a new workers’ party would have.

The massive political vacuum on the left of Australian politics is proven in opinion polls that show big opposition to right-wing policies like privatisation and attacks on workers’ rights. A new workers’ party would rapidly win this support as the experience of the rapid growth of the new German left party, the WASG, has shown recently in that country. Within a short space of time it won almost 10% of the vote in Federal elections in an alliance with another left party. Here in Australia it only took a few years from the creation of the ALP to the coming to power of the first ALP government. Today this process could be even quicker for a new workers’ party such is the crying need for political representation by millions of workers and young people.

The rise of neo-liberalism and its effect on the ALP

The Howard government is waging the most vicious attack on workers, on the environment, and on students in recent times. The dilemma for many Australians is that the ALP opposition offers no real alternative and in fact supports the core economic programme of the Howard government.

To understand why the ALP (and similar parties worldwide) have degenerated so much in the last 20-odd years it is necessary to look at the economic situation in Australia since the Second World War. Whatever criticisms socialists had of the ALP during the 20th century, the party nevertheless maintained its internal democracy and its active working class membership base. So, what has changed in the last period to lead to the current situation in the ALP?

Since the post-war economic boom ended in the early 1970s, capitalist governments everywhere, whether run by traditional conservative parties or social democratic parties (like the ALP) have carried out pretty similar economic policies of privatisation, deregulation, introduction of user pays, spending cuts on social welfare, education and health, and attacks on workers’ rights.

It was a different approach to that taken by capitalists during the post-war boom which lasted from 1945 to the early 1970s. During the boom low unemployment and rising profits allowed workers to win reforms from both employers and government. The modern social security safety net, access to tertiary education for young working class people, and an expansion of the public health system were examples of the ‘crumbs off the cake’ won by workers in this period of high profits for bosses.

By the late 1960s the post-war boom was straining under a falling rate of profit (see appendix A for an explanation of why this occurred). The oil shock of the early 1970s was the trigger that started a new period for capitalism: the end of the long post-war boom and the start of a new, more difficult economic era.

The late 1960s and early 1970s were also a period of great political turmoil all over the world. The Vietnam War and anti-war movement, the revolution in May of 1968 in France, the Soviet invasion of the Czechoslovakia and rising strike action in most countries are just some examples. However, largely because of the lack of workers’ leadership and organisation capable of ending capitalism, the revolutionary wave ebbed especially after the ebbing of revolutionary and pre-revolutionary movements such as the 1975 Portuguese Revolution.

In 1972 the Gough Whitlam Labor Government was elected to power after 23 years of uninterrupted Liberal government in Australia. The enthusiasm of workers pushed Whitlam into withdrawing troops from the Vietnam War as well as a series of significant reforms such as free health care and tertiary education. However, the capitalist state machine and capitalist control over the economy remained and soon they began a serious campaign to undermine the Whitlam government. This was helped by Whitlam’s retreat from reforms towards a beginning of counter-reforms under the pressure of economic crisis. When the Governor General sacked Whitlam in 1975 (in effect a constitutional coup) the ACTU and ALP leaders discouraged the spontaneous strike wave that exploded in the days following the dismissal. The resulting demoralisation allowed Fraser’s Liberals to win the Federal election.

By the mid-1970s, facing a new more difficult economic situation and a workers’ movement that had failed to take power, the capitalists all over the world began confidently and aggressively pushing for new policies.

Governments abandoned the ‘Keynesian’ economic policies that were a feature of the post-war period. This led to a drastic reduction in government intervention in the economy. After the war the government had moved to take control of sections of the economy to help overcome obstacles faced by business. For example, there was state ownership of telecommunications and parts of the transport industry to provide a cheap and reliable base for the private sector to develop).

Now in the 1970s they returned to the ‘liberal’ economic ideas that were the basis for the capitalism of the 19th century. Though hardly ‘new’ this return to market liberalism was dubbed neo-liberalism. The liberal school of economics became famous in Europe when Adam Smith, an English economist, published a book in 1776 called ‘The Wealth of Nations’. He and others advocated the abolition of government intervention in economic matters. No restrictions on manufacturing, no barriers to commerce, no tariffs, he said; free trade was the best way for a nation’s economy to develop. Such ideas were “liberal” in the sense of no controls. That is liberal for the bosses, freedom to do what they want to get yet ever more profits. This is the real meaning of liberalism, it is not liberal for working people who face ever greater restrictions on their rights.

Privatisation allowed capitalists, who are constantly driven by market imperatives, to search for new sources of profit. User pays principles were introduced in everything from access to information to education. Governments implemented cuts to spending on public health, education and social services.

In some countries, like Chile under the Pinochet dictatorship, neo-liberal policies were implemented through the barrel of a gun. In other countries, like Australia, they were sold to workers with the help of Labor leaders and even some union leaders.

Any government that dared to stand up to ever increasingly globalised capital faced the wrath of the international money markets and institutions such as the IMF and World Bank. This was the experience of the French Socialist Party government of Francois Mitterrand who won power in 1981. This government promised increases in employment and more money for health and education to be paid for by increased taxes on big business. Under immense pressure from the International Monetary Fund and French big business who threatened a ‘strike of capital’ (an exodus of their wealth out of the country), Mitterrand eventually ended up u-turning and carrying through counter reforms against the interests of the French working and middle classes.

Inside the traditional workers’ political parties like the ALP here and the Labour Parties in New Zealand and Britain, there was a shift at leadership level. Pro-capitalist leaders, backed by the bosses’ media, began to drag policy to the Right, often in the face of bitter resistance from rank and file party members. In Britain, for example, the process was a stormy affair with a 15-year battle in which our organisation (the ‘Militant Tendency’) played a key role in defence of socialist ideas until we were expelled from the party. The right wing feared the fact that Militant had built the youth wing of the Labour Party into a powerful organisation of 20,000 young people. In Liverpool the Labour Party supported Militant and we built more houses in the 1980s than all the other Labour Councils in Britain added up together.

The consequences of 30 years of neo-liberalism would be known by anyone reading this pamphlet. Suffice to say that after a decade long economic upturn from the mid-1990s, up to 4 million Australians have been left behind and are living below the poverty line. Nearly 30% of workers are employed in casual jobs without any entitlements. Those workers who have managed to raise or maintain their living standards have only done so on the basis on long hours of overtime, high debt levels, great insecurity and stress.

Today there is a great similarity and agreement on key policies between the Coalition and the ALP. Differences, such as they are, are tactical and are around secondary questions such as corruption allegations, questions of process, and ‘who would be the best hands on the pump’ for capitalists. It brings to mind the observation of Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels in the Communist Manifesto: “The executive of the modern state (the government) is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie (the capitalists).”

The Greens

There is a growing ‘market’ in Australia for a party to represent the interests of those who are not big businesses. The Greens have tried to take this space to the Left of the ALP. Their ideas on supporting the environment and refugees and opposing the Iraq War has meant that have won the support of many young people searching for a real political alternative.

However, for two main reasons, they cannot succeed in presenting a genuine challenge to the major parties. Firstly, they have no real alternative to the neo-liberal policies of the major parties – despite sometimes loudly opposing the effects of neo-liberal policies. Their polices are based on moral outrage rather than an alternative political position. When they do get power, they invariably carry on the same policies as the major parties on the fundamental questions. This has been the experience of local Councils, such as Yarra in Melbourne, where the Green-dominated administration between 2002-04 carried out a debt-reduction strategy that was more conservative than even ALP State government guidelines. The preamble to the Green/ALP budget of 2004/05 stated: “new initiatives or projects that are not cost neutral to be justified through a business case”.

Internationally, this has also been the experience of Greens in power, especially in Germany where they have been transformed from pacifism into the most eager proponents of German military intervention in the Congo in Africa.

The other reason the Greens retreat from their principles when in power is that, despite the hopes of many in their rank and file, the main emphasis of the party leadership is on electoral politics – that is the aim of winning elections alone rather than also building a movement of workers and the community that challenges neo-liberal policies on the ground (although this tendency is stronger in some parts of the country than others). This weakens their ability to effect change and makes their elected representatives more out of touch with ordinary people than would be the case with representatives of a democratic workers’ party that had strong support.

How should a new workers’ party be built?

We believe that a new workers’ party needs to be broad and open to attract as many working class people as possible. Ideally it should be based on militant unions, student unions, community organisations, local groups campaigning on specific issues, existing socialist organisations, and the large number of individuals who are looking for a left wing alternative. This means, especially in the early stages when trust still has to be built and earnt, the party should not be prescriptive on membership, allowing both groups and individuals to join with the right to argue their position inside the party while simultaneously building the party.

The party needs to use public meetings, membership drives, posters, advertisements and more to attract members.

Internally there needs to be full democracy, with strong local branches and a leadership that is elected annually with the right of immediate recall.

All elected officials inside the party, and those representing the party in Council, parliament or as union officials, should be on the average wage of the workers they represent, plus bone fide expenses.

The party needs to be active. It needs a youth wing involved in student politics, organising among apprentices, young workers and in the anti-war and other movements. It needs a union caucus to debate party policy inside the unions as well as intervening to support every industrial struggle.

The party should not be solely focussed on elections, nevertheless is should stand in elections, wherever possible. As in Liverpool, UK in the 1980s, a socialist-run council can show workers what is possible and put the ideas on the map.

What policies should it have?

A new workers’ party has to clearly stand against the neo-liberal policies that have dominated the major parties here and overseas since the 1970s. To genuinely offer an alternative to the ALP, a new workers party must oppose privatisation, user pays, and all the other features of a neo-liberal programme. The party should call for a national living minimum wage of $20 an hour. There must be a commitment to a massive expansion of public health and education and transport; of public housing; and an internationalist policy of supporting the struggles of workers internationally. Migrant workers on temporary visas need to be organised into unions and brought up to local conditions, not demonised.

It is over the debate of how to pay for these reforms that the differences inside a new workers’ party will manifest themselves. Tariffs, limited government intervention to assist the private sector, ‘buy Australia’ campaigns and the like are no solution in this globalised world. They invite retaliation and imply an illusion in the superiority of local capital. They are also an attempt to ‘export’ the crisis to fellow workers overseas.

Limited attacks on big business, which still allowing them dominance over the economy and the continued existence of a sympathetic state machine, invites a flight of capital overseas, economic chaos and an eventual political counter-attack as the morale of workers and the middle class is undermined. That’s why SP argues now and in the future inside a new workers’ party for a socialist programme to replace capitalism. On the basis of the major levers of the economy (banks, finances centres, major companies) being under workers control and management, a democratic plan could be worked out to develop the economy, create jobs and protect the environment.

What should be the attitude of a new workers party to the ALP and Greens?

There are still genuine people in the ALP who hope in desperation for change. A new workers’ party would work together in a comradely way with anyone inside the ALP, Greens or elsewhere who wanted to campaign around specific issues. It would, where necessary lobby and work with ALP or Green Councils or governments on a case by case and principled basis – this would go hand in hand with slamming their neo-liberal policies, organising political and industrial resistance to them, and standing against them in elections. To those workers who cling onto the idea that we should join the ALP to fight for socialist ideas, we point out the lack of opportunity for rank and file involvement, let alone influence in the party. The truth is that workers can better force the ALP into positions they otherwise wouldn’t take when outside the party rather than inside. They do this, of course, for opportunistic reasons and seek to retreat from such concessions at the earliest possible time.

The SP experience in Yarra has been that our activity has forced the ALP to the left on issues like industrial relations. This ALP has moved in this direction to try to stop a loss in votes to us.

It is correct for unions today to try to influence State ALP governments’ High Court challenge to Work Choices legislation. This is their duty to their members as it is a fact of life that the State governments are under ALP control. It is entirely another thing to see the ALP as the solution to the problems facing the working class.

How likely is a new workers’ party?

The support among active trade unionists and workers more broadly for a principled opposition to the Liberals is growing.

However, it is highly unlikely that the more militant, class struggle union leaders will move in this direction at the moment. In fear of a fifth Howard term at the next Federal election, the ACTU and their allies in the leadership of the union movement have huddled together in fear around Beazley. The militant unions, with gritted teeth, have gone along with this strategy for lack of any alternative that they can see. The unions’ success in getting Kim Beazley to climb off the fence and promise to ban AWAs if elected will strengthen this process. It will take events, either big movements at State level between workers and State ALP governments – or more likely disappointment with a Federal ALP government – for the pressure to be enough for left union leaders to shift towards supporting a new party.

Nevertheless, on the ground inside the ranks of trade unionists and also in the community generally, it cannot be ruled out that movements towards a new party or even a genuine coalition of progressive forces could take place in ways other than through the trade unions. There could be an alliance of community organisations and others outside the trade union movement, in the initial period at least. In the 2008 Council elections in Yarra, for example, the SP intends to run a strong team and is also discussing with local community activists about the possibility of an election alliance. This raises the possibility of the left winning that municipality. Inaction by unions will only delay and complicate the question of a new party – not be a veto over it.

The danger is that continued dilly-dallying on the creation of a new party prolongs the suffering of working class people. It also prolongs the political vacuum. The far right will try to fill this vacuum and will have more success than they deserve if the left is not pro-active. In Britain we have seen the recent successes in council elections for the British National Party (BNP).

As the General Secretary of the England and Wales SP, Peter Taaffe, wrote: “The BNP has sought to fit itself out in some ‘Old Labour’ clothes discarded by Blair and the Blairites. For instance, it says demagogically: “The BNP will take the railways back into public ownership as a single company”. And, in relation to Iraq: “It’s time to take our soldiers home from America’s Iraq war”. It even claims to stand for “strong trade unions… Whether this protest vote will cohere behind the BNP and enable it to become a substantial and stable far-right will partly depend on the resistance of the organised labour movement and the left.” Don’t think the same thing cannot happen here if the opportunities that present themselves are not taken.

Internationally our comrades are involved in an important battle in the new WASG workers’ party in Germany for anti-neo liberal policies. This party was established by left wing members of the main social democratic party (similar to ALP) in Germany and has the support of many trade unionists and young people. It has entered into an electoral alliance with the Left Party and won almost 10% of the vote in the last Federal election. However, especially in Berlin, our comrades inside the WASG have been fighting hard for WASG to take on socialist policies and oppose any government (including the regional government in Berlin, a coalition of SED and social democrats) that implements neo-liberal policies including privatisation of school canteens. In Britain we lead the ‘Campaign for a New Workers Party’, that is getting more and more support as dissatisfaction with New Labour grows there.

Do workers’ need a party at all? Isn’t industrial struggle and rank and file action enough?

There has always been a minority view in our movement that workers should stick to industrial or union questions, and that any involvement in politics would invariably lead to sell-out. For some, like the militant IWW (Wobblies or International Workers of the World) who were strong in the US and Australia in the early years of the 20th century, this came from a confusion of what was meant by politics. The IWW was an anarcho-syndicalist (see glossary), working class organisation that undertook militant industrial action and had a strong internationalist and anti-racist stance, which was very unusual in those days.

The IWW correctly pointed out that it was impossible to use the capitalist state (armed forces, judiciary etc) for working class revolutionary purposes. However, they ignored the fundamental lesson that Marx drew from the experience of the 1871 Paris Commune (the first time the working class took power in any area). Marx recognised that after taking power, workers must create a new democratic workers’ state; the old undemocratic capitalist state, if maintained, would inevitably try and sabotage social change. This, unfortunately, was proved again and again in working class history – for example where elected left wing governments were overthrown by a military coup in Chile in 1973 and a constitutional coup in Australia two years later.

From the correct realisation that workers could not take hold of the capitalist state and use it to advance their revolutionary program, the IWW wrongly concluded that the socialism was an economic, not a political act. They ended up by concluding that they could ignore, not just parliament but the power of the capitalist state itself. They turned their back on non-industrial battles such as fighting for democratic rights, education and health etc. This gave their ALP opponents a free ride in terms of getting the ear of workers on the political issues of the day. As socialist Peter Conrick put it years later: “The IWW was to learn that such sectarian purity did nothing to mobilise the ranks of the Australian workers who shackled their hopes and aspirations to the ALP”.

It is clear that if the working class is not represented via its own independent party that the issues of the day will be dominated by non-workers’ parties and capitalist opinion. One example of the lack of independent working class politics in Australia was shown with the fawning eulogies for Kerry Packer by politicians of all major parties – including the ALP. This world class tax-dodging billionaire was feted as a hero upon his death, while unemployed people accused of rorting a few hundred dollars are attacked nightly on ‘Today Tonight’ and ‘A Current Affair’.

A workers’ party could highlight these inconsistencies and give a socialist, working class alternative explanation (and solution) to daily political events. It would provide a genuine political alternative to policies like Work-Choices.

Australian workers drew a clear understanding of the need for a workers’ party 100 years ago

There are other arguments against independent political action by workers than those seemingly militant reasons put by the likes of the IWW. A right-wing variant of the argument is that workers should support some already existing capitalist party and not establish their own party.

In the late 1800s, Australian politics was dominated by two capitalist parties representing the two wings of the ruling class: Free Traders and Protectionists. There was no party representing workers, although there were some small socialist organisations. The trade unions were relatively strong with 21.5% coverage, possibly the highest in the world at the time.

The economic boom of the 1870s and early 1880s had strengthened the working class in terms of its size and its organisation. The rise of monopoly capital and modern industry in Australia necessitated a stronger central state to assist in capital accumulation for business. A growth of secondary (manufacturing) industry with its assembly-line techniques led to a rise in the unskilled working class. This added a dynamic element inside the previously craft-union dominated workers’ movement.

In the 1890s, an economic depression saw workers and unions face a more aggressive employer class. While there had been some moves in the direction of a workers’ party, it took the big industrial disputes of the 1890s to change Australia forever, deepen class consciousness, and lead to the creation of the ALP.

Between 1890-94 the unions suffered a series of strike defeats with successful employer lockouts assisted by the use of the police and military. Union membership temporarily dropped. Unions huddled together for warmth through amalgamations and federation. This fact, coupled with a greater understanding of the limits of unionism, led to a growing understanding by workers that they needed to be represented outside the workplace as well as in the workplace. They sought protection from anti-union legislation and from the repression of the state machine. They needed laws and policies to improve their living standards. This would necessitate a workers’ party to fight for legislative change.

The impetus for the creation of Australia’s first broad based workers’ party also came from the small socialist parties of the day. In fact, the initial call for the ALP to be formed came from the Australian Socialist League.

For a small minority of political conscious workers, they saw a workers’ party as a path to socialism. For some of the union leaders, however, it was a bargaining agent on the political arena, a means to blunt the rough edges of capitalism. As WG Spence, the founder of the Amalgamated Miners’ Association, saw it – the formation of an independent workers’ party would “introduce co-operation instead of competition…not because we are going to abandon the principles that guided men in the days of the old unionism but because we must unite on the common platform when we speak, and when we vote for reforms that are necessary.”

As this suggests, the politics of most of the union leaders and future Labor leaders was reformist. That is, they sought to improve the capitalist system for workers, not replace it with socialism. Apart from fighting for demands such as wage rises and state education they also demanded reactionary policies such as the White Australia Policy.

As SP explained in its 2002 pamphlet on the history of refugee policy in Australia: “Events like the Eureka Stockade (the 1854 armed uprising of Ballarat miners against unjust taxation), the growth of trade unionism, and especially the three massive industrial strikes of the 1890s left their mark on the ruling class. They preferred to give a few extra crumbs from the cake to the bureaucracy that was developing at the top of the unions and young Labor Party. The ruling class implemented a White Australia Policy in return for ‘national unity’ and relative class peace sold to the workers by the bureaucracy at the top of the workers’ organisations…In the absence an alternative socialist strategy for the movement, the (union and Labor leaders) saw no alternative to the policy of controlling labour supply to keep their standard of living high. The spoils of the vast continent were to be divided out amongst bosses and a privileged section of workers through tariff protection and a White Australia Policy.”

Establishment of the ALP: It had a dual character

From the start the Labor Party had a dual character. Obviously, the creation by unions and workers of their own independent party, no matter how flawed politically, was a big step forward for the class. The ALP reflected the workers identifying as a class. From a low political base, workers had an independent forum to discuss and debate the way forward – something that does not exist today!

However, from the start it was also dominated by a group of ex-union and ex-worker leaders who lived a higher life style than the rank and file and who were solely focused on parliamentary reform.

Since colonisation the ruling class in Australia had been divided and weak and was really just a fan club for British imperialism. Only in the face of a rising and national workers movement did they begin to unify themselves and move towards federation. In fact, such was their weakness that the Labor Party itself carried out many of the tasks traditionally associated with the growth of capitalism.

This was commented on by Lenin in a 1913 article on the ALP: “What sort of peculiar capitalist country is this, in which the workers’ representatives predominate in (parliament) and yet the capitalist system is in no danger? The ALP is a liberal-bourgeois party, while the so-called Liberals in Australia are really Conservatives. Capitalism in Australia is still quite youthful. The ALP 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. 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 Labor Party, which will make way for a socialist workers’ party.”

There was always a feature of the ALP that made it a party of a wing of the ruling class. Throughout the 20th century ALP played a key role for capitalism, in power at key conjunctures ensuring the working class was in check during difficult times for capitalism: the 1930s depression, during both World Wars, the end of the post-war boom; and at the real start of the neo-liberal offensive – the Hawke/Keating governments of 1983-96.

ALP touched by radicalisation of World War

During the First World War the ALP Federal government of the ex-socialist Billy Hughes, under pressure from British imperialism, attempted to introduce conscription including calling two referendums to get the necessary approval from the electorate.

A massive reaction developed led by the Catholic Church (who opposed Britain), Irish Australians, the left in the trade unions and ALP, and most importantly the militant Industrial Workers of the World. Twice the combined, motley anti-conscription forces won the referendum. Hughes and his clique were expelled from the ALP (while he was Prime Minister!), and he subsequently linked up with the capitalist opposition to form a new right wing government. Forever onwards he was the ultimate Labor Rat.

These developments, on top of the radicalisation in Australia and throughout the world because of the war and effects of the Russian Revolution, were reflected inside the ALP and unions with a shift to the Left in policy and huge debates opening up on policy with genuine working class involvement. Victorian Trades Hall Secretary EJ Holloway wrote a preface to Trotsky’s pamphlet ‘The World Crisis’, labeling it “a great speech”.

How times change! As early as 1917 the NSW ALP Conference declared that war was the inevitable outcome of capitalism and “peace can only be accomplished by the united efforts of the workers of all countries involved”.

When the Communist Party (CPA) was established in Australia in 1921 Lenin himself encouraged it to orientate to the ALP. Most politically active workers were members and the vast bulk of the class voted Labor.

When a powerful left wing group left the ALP in 1921 after they narrowly lost a policy vote they quickly disintegrated. This highlighted the importance of a principled orientation to the ALP. A proposal to have united front between the ALP and CPA was only narrowly defeated, showing the latent sympathy for socialist ideas amongst the ranks of the ALP. In 1921 the Labor leaders adopted a policy for the socialisation of industry – the famous Socialisation Objective. This was because of the great pressure the leaders were under from the class – as their leader Scullin put it was aimed to: “prevent revolution by force”. Later Arthur Calwell explained the Socialisation Objective as a means to combat “the spurious claims of the communists to be a working class party”.

Communist Party wastes opportunity to influence Labor workers

In its early years the Communist Party of Australia attempted to influence the rank and file of the ALP. However, this was to change as the CPA changed under the direction of Moscow.

By the late 1920s, Soviet society and the Communist International (CI) were firmly under the control of Joseph Stalin and his cronies, the head of a bureaucratic degeneration of the 1917 revolution. Internationally, Communist Parties led by the CI were political ambassadors for Stalin’s line of the day, rather than independent revolutionary parties, linked together in a democratic international.

Stalin rejected the ideas of the socialist opposition inside the CI, led by Leon Trotsky, who argued for a central economic plan democratically decided by the workers and poor farmers. Stalin supported the rich peasants (the kulaks) and internationally the policy was reflected in instructions to the Communist Parties to only lightly criticise the social democratic labour and union leaders. The consequence of this error was best seen during the British General Strike of 1926, when the British CP became a mere left appendage of the reformist union leaders, who sold out Britain’s greatest industrial battle. Worse was in China where, under Stalin’s orders, the Communist Party handed over its membership list to the bourgeois Kuomintang party of Chang Kai Shek, who then massacred CP leaders and workers in Canton in 1928.

Inside Russia, however, the Kulaks were increasingly becoming a possible political threat to Stalin’s rule.

CPA helps keep workers in Labor’s control

In 1928 a new line was developed in Moscow by Stalin. Worried by an internal threat from the kulaks and burnt by the defeat of the British General Strike and disaster in China, the ‘theory’ of social fascism was developed. Inside Russia, the Kulaks overnight faced repression and deportation. Forced collectivization was introduced, and it left undermined Soviet agriculture for decades. Repression of internal socialist opposition was stepped up, including the exiling of the co-leader of the 1917 revolution, Leon Trotsky. Internationally the Communist Parties were instructed in a new policy.

From now on the social democratic and labour parties (who had the bulk of support of workers in almost every country) were classified as ‘social fascist’, that is socialist is words, but fascist in deed – no different in essence that ‘normal’ fascists. This ultra-left policy was to allow Hitler to come to power in 1934, as the powerful German Communist Party refused to enter into a united front with the larger Social Democrats to stop the fascists.

In Australia, the Communist Party stopped all orientation to the ALP. When the workers became radicalised during the Great Depression, ‘socialisation units’ were established inside the NSW ALP that pushed for the nationalisation of the economy. Up to 700,000 trade unionists supported these socialisation units. This reflected a groping in the direction of a revolutionary programme by thousands of workers. But for the CPA it meant nothing and they refused to try and influence these important and exciting developments. An historic opportunity was lost.

The victory of Hitler in Germany led to a new change by Stalin. Social fascism was dropped and the Communist Parties were told to revert back to a popular front programme of developing alliances, not only with the social democrats, but also the ‘democratic’ capitalists. To do this they watered down their programme to a level deemed necessary to keep the democratic capitalists onside. The disastrous results of this new policy were best seen in the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. The Communist Party did everything possible, including the assassination of anarchists and socialists, to ensure the social aspects were taken out of the struggle so as to keep London and Paris comfortable with Stalin. This allowed the Franco-led fascists to win and keep Spain in a dictatorship until the 1970s.

Inside Australia, the CPA (once Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941) played a strike-breaking role to keep workers at work and refuse to fight against the terrible conditions faced by workers. The early Australian Trotskyists, organised in the small Workers Party, had a strong base on the Balmain docks at the time and fought a heroic and initially successful fight against slave-labour like working conditions.

These CPA errors, reflecting the errors of the Soviet bureaucracy, meant that while the party was as powerful as any in the English-speaking world (after the Second World War it had 23,000 members and controlled around half the trade unions) the bulk of politically-active workers were in the ALP and the vast majority of workers voted Labor.

Marxists and the ALP

After the war it was generally accepted by all non-Stalinist socialists that an orientation to the ALP and its working class base was absolutely necessary. Even groups like the Democratic Socialist Party had a slogan – in the 1983 Federal election (when they were called the Socialist Workers Party) – for “Labor to power on a socialist programme”.

At times during the post-war period it was entirely correct for Marxists to orientate to the Communist Party rank and file when there was a particularly horrendous betrayal for example the invasion of Hungary in 1956 or the crushing the Prague Spring in 1968. However, this was never easy because of a lack of tradition of democracy inside these parties.

By the 1970s the parties that now make up the sections of the Committee for a Workers’ International (that the Socialist Party is part of) were mainly operating as Marxist factions inside the Labor and Social Democratic parties of the world. During the late 1960s, the1970s and early 1980s the new neo-liberal assault led to massive worker and student struggles. These were reflected inside these parties. For example, in Britain, the Militant Tendency (the forerunner of the Socialist Party in England and Wales) had majority influence in Liverpool, Britain’s 5th biggest city, controlled the 20,000-strong Labour Party Young Socialists and had three national MPs. We ran the City Council in Liverpool during the 1980s, building more houses for working class families than all the other Labour Councils in the UK added up together!

No other group of Marxists ever had such a powerful position inside the working class in the advanced capitalist world.

Start of right wing offensive: from capitalist-workers party to capitalist party

All this began to unravel with the defeat of the heroic British miners’ strike of 1984-85. This marked a defeat for union militancy and the left wing in Labor Party. The right wing of the Labour movement, backed by big business and the media, launched a fierce offensive starting with the expulsion of the Militant Tendency from the Labour Party. What followed was a counter-revolution inside the Labour Party, paralleled internationally inside other social democratic parties, against both left wing policies and internal democracy. As a result, there was an exodus of workers and young people from these parties.

New Labour under Blair is just the clearest example of this process which also occurred in Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. The traditional check on the leadership’s pro-capitalist bent from an active working class rank and file disappeared as the membership fell. Whatever power came from branches and Conferences was undermined as the power of head office and the parliamentary party (in particular the cliques around the leadership) took near total control. Only the trade union leaders had some check on the party leaders, although this was weakened as finances were increasingly sourced from big business and state coffers. Trade unions contributions made up only 11.8% of funding to the ALP in 2001/02, with 29.4% from business. As memberships in the ALP and Liberal Party collapse, both parties have supported greater state funding through $2 for every first preference vote. For the 2004 federal election, public funding amounted to $41.9 million. The Liberals received $17.95 million and the ALP $16.7 million.

The factions within the ALP, while maintaining their left and right tags (even socialist left!) were in reality gangster-like clans with the sole purpose to fight over the spoils of office. As Mark Latham put it in his infamous but nevertheless at times insightful Latham Diaries: “The faction bosses see power as an end in its own right, a chance to dispense patronage and entrench their position at the top of the Party hierarchy.”

By the early 1990s it was clear that the social democratic parties and Labor Parties of the world had undergone a qualitative transformation from being bourgeois workers parties into being bourgeois parties, despite many cases of continued affiliation from trade unions. The CWI affiliates in most countries began ‘open work’ as independent socialist parties.

Some other socialist organisations on the left disagreed with our analysis initially, but now most have had to accept reality.

Latham’s Diaries clearly spell out our perspective – albeit from the bitter perspective of an ex-right wing leader of the ALP. He wrote: “Face the facts: Labor is stuffed. Its branches are rorted and its membership base is a joke.”

“….I remember making lengthy policy submissions to the National Conference from the Werriwa Federal Electoral Council in the early 1980s, with some expectation they might influence and shape the debate. Such was my romantic attachment to the cause of Labor, inspired by the reforms of the Whitlam government and a belief that working-class politics could change the country. Today, such a notion is absurd. The prospect of local Party units influencing the national policy debate is inconceivable. Party members do not even try, knowing it to be a waste of time and effort.”

Some say the creation of a new workers’ party is unrealistic, in fact trying to transform the ALP along socialist lines is the real utopian dream.

Labor’s key role in the neo-liberal offensive

The neo-liberal counter-reforms in Australia actually began in the last days of the Whitlam government in the mid-1970s. Despite his iconic image gained as a result of the constitutional coup against his government by the Governor-General in 1975, the Whitlam government supported the Indonesian invasion of East Timor and, after an early period of reforms, lurched to the right in 1974, undertaking spending cuts and attacking militant unions and ‘dole bludgers’. Whitlam later admitted: “The budget by (his Treasurer) Hayden provided the essential framework for the Fraser government.”

Whitlam was in fact from the right wing faction of the ALP.

However, the serious launch of the neo-liberal assault came under the Hawke-Keating ALP governments of 1983-96. Users pays was introduced, for example with HECS for tertiary students. Tariffs were drastically cut and foreign banks allowed into the local economy. Privatisation began in earnest and government spending cuts were stepped up.

An Accord between government and unions to keep wages down to boost profits was the centre piece of the Hawke-Keating government. It was sold to unions as a form of workers’ control yet (as we explained at the time in what was very much a minority position in the movement).

Keating later admitted one of causes of the late 1980s boom as “the gift to business through the higher profits coming from six years of wage restraint”. The share of wages and salaries in national income fell from 74% to 63.3% in the first seven years of the Accord. Meanwhile profit’s share rose from 26% to 36.7%. The vast majority of union leaders supported the Accord and helped police it inside the working class.

The few militant unions that defied the dominant paradigm were demonised and/or crushed – such as the BLF and Pilots Federation and the leadership of the NSW and Victorian Nurses.

The collapse of Stalinism through the mass movements of 1989-91 was due to the internal contradictions brought on by decades of bureaucratic mismanagement. Initially the mass movements sought democracy and were not explicitly calling for a return to capitalism. However, the lack of a democratic socialist alternative meant that the movement eventually turned in the direction of capitalist restoration.

The absence of workers’ control in the Stalinist states meant that the bureaucracy made all the key decisions – this led to bottlenecks and a collapse in quality which in turn led to economic stagnation. However, the presence of a non-capitalist Stalinist block albeit undemocratic and run by a bureaucracy had been a check on capitalism. This check was now gone and the US became the sole superpower, allowing it to swagger as never before. The initial example of this new world order was the first Iraq war.

The ideological effects of the collapse of Stalinism had an obvious positive: Stalinism has been a big factor in discouraging workers from the ideas of socialism. However, there was also a negative. Amongst layers of active labour movement activists, it seemed to crush their hopes of any alternative to capitalism. Inside the unions in particular where the CPA still had some strength, there was a demoralisation amongst a layer of shop stewards and union activists. All this fast-tracked the push to the Right in policy and leadership inside the workers’ movement.

Even before the collapse of Stalinism, the ex-communist trade union leaders had played a key role in drafting and selling the Accord to the working class. Now in the 1990s, the collapse in any left opposition to neo-liberalism from the union and ALP left was even clearer. Despite massive demonstrations against the Kennett government in Victoria in 1992-93, the ex-CPA member John Halfpenny, then Trades Hall Secretary, called off the movement and put up the white flag to 350 school closures and thousands of public sector job losses.

Rise of militant unionism in the 1990s

Resistance, when it finally appeared inside the workers’ movement, did not come from the ranks of the ALP which was, by that time, a vehicle for power for leadership cliques, rather than a party reflecting the mood of workers. Starting in the mid-1990s a layer of younger union officials and union delegates won elections in several important unions on militant programmes that rejected the Accord politics of the past and promised a revival of traditional trade union methods of struggle.

This process was strongest in Victoria, with militant rank and file teams winning union elections in the Electrical Trades Union, metals division of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, the plumbers union and others. The most known to the public was the Workers’ First group led by Craig Johnston in the AMWU metals division. After a series of important victories for members in terms of pay rises and improvements in working conditions, the lack of politics (working class, socialist politics) inside the faction started to become a hurdle. Union militancy was a big improvement on the previous moderate leadership of John Corsetti, but it was not enough. The manufacturing sector of the economy was the most effected by the global flow of capital to areas of higher profit overseas. Thousands of jobs were lost.

What was needed was a militant programme of occupations and mobilisation of workers around calls for the nationalisation of companies threatening closure, in the process arguing for a socialist economic plan instead of the devastation of capitalist restructuring. This could only come from the union leading a break-out from Labor and beginning the process of establishing a new workers’ party on such a programme. The militancy of Workers First in relation to their bosses was unfortunately sometimes mirrored in a naïve hope of a deal with their national leadership who remained firmly in the Accord politics of the past. Workers First became isolated in Victoria, with no real alternative to the half-hearted economic nationalism and Keynesian politics of their national leaders. The faction turned inwards becoming more a service to its members than a bridgehead in the fight to reverse the rightward direction inside Australia’s unions.

Backed by the federal and state police as well as the media, the national AMWU leadership launched a partially successful counter-attack that led to Johnston being jailed and Workers First pegged tightly inside parts of the union in Victoria.

The lesson is clear. Militant union leaders will either have to cave into the ALP or organise outside the ALP. Of course, short-term relationships are necessary between militant union leaders and State (and in the future Federal) ALP governments. It was entirely correct for unions to fight hard to get Beazley to take a stronger position against individual contracts (Australian Workplace Agreements – AWAs – which force workers to bargain as individuals with their employer). Pressuring and lobbying ALP governments is one thing – this is a fact of life for any union today, to say otherwise would be ultra-left and not at all understood by union members – but to think the ALP is the solution to problems of working class people is an entirely different matter.

Drawing a conclusion that workers need to create a new workers party does not mean that the ALP and Coalition are the same in every respect. In the last analysis they both support capitalism and its neo-liberal agenda, however their traditions are different, including their relationship to trade unions. This can and must be capitalised on by unions, including those who support a new workers’ party.

Do we need a new workers’ party at all? Why not just build a mass revolutionary party?

There are some on the fringes of the workers’ movement who argue against building a new workers party on the basis that socialists should concentrate on developing their programme and seek to recruit to that alone. Others argue for a new workers party, but say it should take on a revolutionary programme.

The Socialist Party has a Marxist programme that fights for the overthrow of capitalism. We are linked to over 40 sister parties in the Committee for a Workers International.

SP has clear and precise views on all world events from the Middle East to China to nationalism and neo-colonialism. While we work with others in our movement for social change in a comradely fashion, we do not shy away from saying our programme, method, and analysis is correct and can be compared favourably to any other.

However, we also want to involve the broadest mass of workers possible into struggle. At this stage in the class struggle, the vast majority of workers moving into action will, in the first instance, be attracted to broader formations and ideas. We need to have a political forum to get all workers involved or at least as many as possible around a common anti-neo liberal programme. There is potentially a very big audience for this. Inside such a party SP would not only get stuck in building the new party and taking on responsibilities inside the party, but also boldly and in an organised way put forward its own perspectives and programme. Other organised tendencies will also exist, whether they are open about it or not.

This basic approach of building up support for Marxist ideas while at the same time also supporting a broad organisation of workers and youth into trade unions, student unions, and a political party has always been the approach of genuine Marxism.

For example, immediately after the formation of the CPA some of it leaders (WP Earsman and then NSW Labor Council Secretary Jock Garden) visited Lenin in Moscow in 1922. At that stage the ALP had shifted to the most left wing stance it was ever to have, thanks to the radicalising effect of the war, the anti-conscription fight, the NSW General Strike of 1917, the split by Billy Hughes and more.

Lenin did not tell them to only build their own party but also orientate to the mass workers’ party of the day – the ALP. He stated: “I am very certain that if our party got to work with the masses in the Labor Party they would find very, very good material suitable of membership of the Communist Party, but do not make the mistake of attacking the Labor Party in general. Remember the masses make up the Labor Party and they are always good. You must be sure to divide the bourgeois labor leaders from the masses and your criticism should be aimed at isolating these leaders from the masses…if we are the real leaders, we must prove it by always being with them in all their struggles.”

The importance of a workers’ party

After the death of Marx, his closest collaborator Fredrick Engels fought hard to build a mass workers party in the USA as well as helping the forces of socialism to grow. He welcomed the moves by New York unions to stand workers’ candidates, despite a very weak programme which was far from being socialist. He wrote at the time: “The masses must have time and opportunity to develop, and they have the opportunity to only when they have a movement of their own — no matter in what form so long as it is their own movement — in which they are driven further by their own mistakes and learn from their experience”.

Of the New York trade unions’ candidate for Mayor, Henry George, Engels wrote: “George is a bourgeois, born and bred, and his plan of meeting all state expenditure out of rent is merely a second edition of the Ricardian school’s plan, i.e. purely bourgeois.” However, he urged socialists to work for George’s campaign. A strong showing in the municipal elections in November 1886 would mark “the entry of the Americans into the movement”, an event “of world historic importance”, he said, “for a country that has newly entered the movement, the first really crucial step is the formation by workers of an independent political party, no matter how, so long as it is distinguishable as a labor party”. At the end of 1886, he wrote that “the great thing is to get the working class to move as a class” and that “a million or two of working-men’s votes next November for a bona-fide working men’s party is worth infinitely more at present than a hundred thousand votes for a doctrinally perfect platform”.

While it is clear Engels was bending the stick a bit, the point is that a mass workers party plays a crucial role in opening up political debate and involvement to thousands of workers into politics and educating them in socialist ideas.

For the Socialist Party to insist that a new workers party immediately take on our full programme before we would support it, is to put the cart before the horse. We do not hide our ideas, we sell our paper, move resolutions and debate at meetings. However, we do not have an ‘ultimatumist’ position. We want the new party to gather some steam. We need to get it moving around a basic anti-capitalist, anti-neo liberal programme. “The first really crucial step is the formation by workers of an independent political party, no matter how, so long as it is distinguishable as a labor party”, as Engels put it. We are for full democratic debate and discussion from the start, as a way to clarify policies and to agree concrete action. At the same time, we don’t want a new party to be an academic talking shop.

False Starts: Progressive Labour Party and Socialist Alliance

In the mid-1990s a group of ex-ALP and ex-Communist Party members established the small Progressive Labour Party (PLP). Militant (as the Socialist Party was then called) supported the PLP as an opportunity to rally around elements to the left of the ALP. However, from the start it was dominated by an older layer of activists who brought with them Stalinist-methods of organisation. They were very wary of Militant and its support and involvement in the PLP in Victoria and Western Australia.

The undemocratic nature of the PLP had the effect of making it harder to recruit to the PLP amongst young people. On top of that, the PLP approach was to debate in great detail its programme at the expense of any real independent involvement in the working class movement. This meant the opportunity to build the new party amongst active workers and young people was lost.

After the successful S11 protests in 2001 the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP), influenced by the electoral successes of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), believed a broad left formation, led by themselves, would put them in a key position in the workers’ movement.

The SSP was a broad socialist party created in the late 1990s by SP’s sister party in Scotland, then called Scottish Militant Labour (SML). However, a minority of SML members were (in our opinion correctly) concerned that the way the majority of SML comrades created the SSP would lead to a liquidation of our organised presence inside this broad party. This led to experienced SML comrades taking leading positions in the SSP but a gradual weakening of our ideas. Our international the CWI and a minority of our comrades in Scotland were in favour of the SSP being created but opposed the increasingly nationalist and opportunistic direction of its politics. Today we continue to play an important role in the SSP fighting for socialist politics and class unity. On the other hand, what were the ex-majority in the SML are themselves split and some at least are verging on nationalist and opportunistic ideas.

In Australia, however, the only groups interested in creating the Socialist Alliance were other left groups – no unions, community organisations or green groups were interested in joining. A real new workers’ party must include (or have a realistic possibility of soon including) much wider forces than existing left wing parties. For example, forces such as left wing unions, community organisations, and the many left-thinking individuals who are searching for alternatives.

We stated clearly in a February 2001 letter to the newly formed Socialist Alliance: “No such forces exist as a basis for this proposed alliance. It would be a fundamental error to be under the illusion that a new viable party will be created by the gathering together of the already-existing small left parties and a very thin layer of non-aligned individuals. This layer, in addition to being small, is also overwhelmingly made up of long-standing activists, rather than of fresh layers just moving into struggle. We are in favour of a new mass party for the working class. This will not develop immediately but over a period and this process cannot be viewed in isolation from the class struggle and the situation in the workers’ movement. Any attempt to declare a new party of the working class before the forces necessary to make such a formation real have congregated, will end up the same way as the PLP.”

A factor in the failure of Socialist Alliance to grow was their methods. They proved incapable of undertaking the patient work necessary to influence broad-based campaigns and therefore didn’t earn the trust of workers to lead big movements. The approach of groups like the DSP was of concentrating on selling their paper over and above the long and hard work necessary to build-up and win campaigns. It was the leadership of big movements such as the successful defeat of the Poll Tax in the United Kingdom that laid the ground for the initial successes of the Scottish Socialist Party.

The Socialist Alliance, six years on, is now reduced to the DSP alone. Almost all the other small socialist groups have departed as well as many of the left wing individuals who were members.

A longer analysis of the Socialist Alliance is in Appendix B, the ‘SP statement on the future of the Socialist Alliance’.


The ALP no longer provides a vehicle for working class interests. It supports neo-liberalism. The Liberals want the same but without the good services of the ACTU. The two wings merely reflect the same in-house friendly family feud the ruling class had in the 19th century between Free Traders and Protectionists.

Workers and their unions and community organisations obviously have to deal with and lobby the ALP, such is its influence. They also have to have a comradely relationship with ALP members who want to fight with them around common goals. However, there is very little possibility of social change through the ALP such is the lack of internal democracy and the domination over policy and positions of influence by power-hungry, pro-capitalist factional leaders.

The Socialist Party calls on militant trade unions, politically-active workers, genuine community and student organisations and anti-capitalist, anti-war and radical youth activists to take the brave step workers took in Australia in the 1890s and start the process of establishing a new workers’ party. If we don’t, the ALP will continue on its ways and the far Right will attempt to capitalise. If we do, we can expect a massive response as can be seen in the rise of the WASG in Germany since its formation in 2005.

We will continue to raise this call in our movement and we expect to get more and more support for it as the experience of Labor in office is absorbed by working class people.

By Stephen Jolly, 2006


Appendix A

Profit rates

Marxists explain that the source of profit in capitalism is the unpaid labour of workers; the new wealth created by productive workers.

Workers are paid a wage for work undertaken over a period of time and during that time their labour creates a good or service that can be sold by their employer. The employer uses some of this capital or wealth to pay wages, some is reinvested back into company – the rest is profit. This latter amount is the unpaid surplus created by workers, taken by bosses – and it is the source of new profit. The working class only get paid a proportion of the new wealth they create and therefore cannot buy back all they create – this creates periodic crises of over-production.

Yet the very driving force of the post-war upturn – the constant introduction on new and modern technology by bosses to get a head start over their competitors – became their on-doing. The replacement of labour with new capital meant that the source of profits (workers) was being pushed aside proportionally by greater investment in new technology.

As a result, under the surface of this long economic boom there was a gradual reduction in the rate of profit experienced by bosses. For example, the US rate of profit stood at 22% at the start of the post-war boom, before undergoing a decline in the period from 1967 to 1977, when it stood at about 10%.


Appendix B

SP Statement on the future of Socialist Alliance, 24th January 2006

An ongoing debate has been taking place in the workers movement as to which is the best way forward towards building a new workers party. The DSP in particular have had lengthy debates about the future of the Socialist Alliance project. The Socialist Party has produced this document as a contribution to that debate.

There is a discussion inside the Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP) about the Socialist Alliance (SA). Workers and youth who are desperately hoping for some real left wing alternative to the ALP can learn many political lessons from a study of this debate.

Just as a tradespersons’ work is only as good as their tools, so also in politics ideological clarity and a study of the historic experiences of our movement is as vital to success as commitment and organisation.

This Socialist Party (SP) statement is aimed at achieving a clearer view of how workers can best create a new workers’ party, based on the experiences of Socialist Alliance.
Prior to the public release of the January 2006 DSP Conference Resolution, ‘DSP – SA relations’, it seemed that there were two clear factions inside this party. There was a minority, led by the now deposed National Secretary John Percy, who argued that the SA experiment was seriously undermining DSP strength.

Percy wrote recently: “Resistance (DSP’s youth wing) is probably now the weakest in our history … We can’t put the blame on objective circumstances. Idiots like SAlt have been able to grow … We’ve just had the smallest Resistance conference since our founding national conference in 1970…We’re almost back to the level, just over 1000 sales, that Direct Action was in the late’80s, when we made the switch to GLW (it was just under 1000). The average number of sellers is falling.”

Percy drew the empirical conclusion that the DSP should pull out of SA and concentrate on building their own party. It initially seemed that the DSP majority, led by Peter Boyle, simply wanted to keep on with the SA experiment, with an optimistic perspective that SA would grow and make electoral breakthroughs as the ALP and Greens politically exposed themselves in the period ahead.

However, the resolution (which was passed unanimously; the minority lost 3 to 1 an amendment to change the party’s name back to Party instead of Perspective) shows that even the majority have now decided to greatly reduce their work in SA.

In words, they continue to genuflect before the idea of SA strength. Peter Boyle’s letter to the SA National Executive states: “Congress assessed that the SA is well placed to advance (campaigns) and that continuing to champion left unity through SA and beyond is vital to improving the chances of turning the tide in favour of the working class and building a strong anti-capitalist movement in Australia.”

However, the DSP resolution clearly points to the opposite conclusions. The key points in the resolution are:

1.”…despite our best efforts, over the past two years we have not been able to build the Socialist Alliance into an effective new party “.

2.”While the Socialist Alliance has fielded candidates in state, local and federal elections, the votes obtained have generally been lower than that previously obtained by Democratic Socialist Electoral League and other socialist candidates. This generally poor result, combined with Howard’s re-election, has resulted in a drop in participation and activity in most Socialist Alliance branches since late 2004.”

3.”Our December 2003 resolution to integrate as much of the resources of the Democratic Socialist Party into the Socialist Alliance as possible was based on an over-estimation of the political conditions. This attempt at integration failed because the conditions to build the Socialist Alliance into a new party did not exist.”

4.” the DSP has to continue to take urgent steps to replenish its cadre base and maintain the political, organisational and financial viability of its own structures…In short, the DSP has not been able, and cannot afford, to operate as a purely internal tendency in the SA.”

Why has SA not worked for the DSP?

After the successful S11 protests in 2001 the DSP felt they were entering a more favourable political environment and purchased or rented new offices in city suburbs, took on extra full timers, and moved to establish SA.

Influenced by the Scottish Socialist Party, they believed a broad left formation, led by themselves, would put them in a key position in the workers’ movement. They believed the tactic of proposing membership of SA to other left parties would either trap these groups inside a DSP-led SA or expose them to accusations of sectarianism (like they tried on SP at the time).

This has been admitted by John Percy himself: “Remember what was the actual initiating event that prompted us to think about this tactic?…We thought, ‘Here’s an opportunity to make an approach to the local International Socialist Organisation, for joint work, joint election campaigns and a regrouping of the left.’ They either had to respond positively, or suffer a political blow and organisational losses. In that respect, our tactic worked: they’re certainly a lot weaker than they were in 2001, suffering splits and attrition…We’ve suffered also, but not as much as them” (J Percy, ‘Party-building report to October 2005 DSP national committee on behalf of national executive minority’, The Activist Vol 15, No12, October 2005).”

One can only imagine the demoralising effect these cynical comments would have on the majority of rank and file SA members who worked hard to build the organisation. They had the view that SA was the best way to build an alternative for workers and genuinely worked to build on these ideas. The comments of John Percy, so different to the public comments by DSP leaders in the past as to what SA was all about, say more about him and his colleagues in the DSP leadership than they do about most ordinary and genuine SA members.

At the time SP argued that a coming together of far-left groups did not equal a new workers’ party – in fact it would inevitably lead to infighting and disaster for all who got involved. The DSP bitterly attack their erstwhile allies in their resolution: “While the smaller affiliates have remained opposed to, obstructed, or abstained from most collective political activity in the SA, too few leaders and activists have so far emerged from the majority of SA members who are not in any affiliate group.”

A real new workers’ party must include (or have a realistic possibility of soon including) much wider forces than existing left wing parties. For example, forces such as left wing unions, community organisations, and the many left wing-thinking individuals who are searching for alternatives.

The overall strategic aim of SP is to build a mass, revolutionary party capable of leading the working class in the struggle to change society. But this does not happen instantly or in a straightforward way. The mass of the working class will look to ‘broader’ formations and test them out, again and again, in the process of coming to revolutionary conclusions.

The creation of new formations and new, broad mass parties of the working class represents a stage in mass consciousness. We call for new, fighting, mass parties of the working class, which are open, democratic and federal in structure. Where possible, we go beyond making this general propaganda and we campaign energetically for new parties.

But, of course, the creation of new, viable parties depends on the class struggle and the combatively and confidence of the working class and youth. Since the collapse of Stalinism and the shift to the right by the social democratic parties, the working class in most countries is left without a mass party.

The process of the establishment of new parties has proven slow and complicated, including some false starts. However, in Germany, Brazil, and some other examples, new formations are playing an important role. The CWI is active in these new formations and has an important influence in some cases.

When, for a considerable time, CWI sections did ‘entry’ work in the labour and social democratic parties, in the post-war period, we had access to many thousands of advanced workers and youth. Often entry work entailed making some tactical concessions, particularly when we were under attack from the right wing. But we never sacrificed our ideas and programme. Our successes in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s are a good example of this flexible and principled approach.

But, today, the DSP lower their banner (and do all the work and pay all the bills for the SA) to work in an organisation that is, essentially, mainly themselves. This reflects the DSP leaders’ reformist and opportunist approach. However, this opportunism has not brought the gains the DSP leaders thought possible.

We stated bluntly in a February 2001 letter to SA: “No such forces exist as a basis for this proposed alliance. It would be a fundamental error to be under the illusion that a new viable party will be created by the gathering together of the already-existing small left parties and a very thin layer of non-aligned individuals. This layer, in addition to being small, is also overwhelmingly made up of long-standing activists, rather than of fresh layers just moving into struggle. We are in favour of a new mass party for the working class. This will not develop immediately but over a period and this process cannot be viewed in isolation from the class struggle and the situation in the workers’ movement. Any attempt to declare a new party of the working class before the forces necessary to make such a formation real have congregated, will end up the same way as the Progressive Labour Party.”

Now, five years later, the DSP is forced to echo our arguments in their resolution: “This attempt at integration failed because the conditions to build the SA into a new party did not exist. To persist with such an integration plan would have jeopardised real gains of the socialist movement in this country “.

Why has the SA not made an electoral breakthrough?

The DSP answer to this is: “The main reason for the SA’s poor votes is the electoral rise of the Greens, who now capture most of the broad left vote…However, as elected Greens candidates at various levels of government are politically tested, the space for candidates to the left of the Greens will open up – as was demonstrated by the election of Socialist Party member Steve Jolly to the Yarra Council.”

However, the inevitable disillusionment with the Greens will not automatically led to a growth in socialist votes or support. Yes, in Yarra, the Green/ALP-run Council from 2002-2004 opened up potential space for the Socialist Party. But it was our ability to link with the concrete concerns of ordinary people in the area, articulate those concerns, and organise or co-organise their resistance to the Council and State government that meant enough voters trusted us to make a small electoral breakthrough.

This type of approach is undertaken by all healthy, non-sectarian socialist parties and is the reason the CWI has had comrades elected to Councils/Parliaments etc in Ireland, England, Sweden, Germany etc. This approach is however light years away from the approach of all the main foundation affiliates of SA: the DSP, International Socialist Organisation and Socialist Alternative.

The SSP initially made electoral gains, but this was partly due to previous campaigning work by the CWI in Scotland (which was the main force behind the SSP), in the 1980s and 1990s, including leading mass struggles against the Poll Tax and other struggles.

Successful revolutionary parties cannot merely relate to the class via posters, selling their paper and organising meetings. These, of course, are vital for every revolutionary party, but should be a means to the end not an end in themselves. Methods like these mean that these parties can never gain real influence in the movement and thereby objectively waste the talents and energies of their members. The real tragedy of SA is that a layer of activists will now drop out of politics as a result of their experiences.

Doug Jordon, who is a socialist and a member of the Greens, wrote recently about this discussion: “The DSP is also unable to acknowledge to any great extent the achievements of other socialist groups that stand outside the SA. While it mentioned the election of Steve Jolly to the Yarra Council, Green Left Weekly has seldom given much coverage to some of the campaigns he has been involved in. While it claims Jolly’s victory is due to the failure of the Greens to live up to promises, it is almost certainly has as much to do with the grassroots campaigning the Socialist Party has carried out in the area for many years. Unlike nearly all the other self-proclaimed vanguard parties, the Socialist Party actually engages in campaigns that address issues of concern to people. These may not be the big issues that the vanguard parties decide are the crucial ones, but they do provide a bridge and open up the possibility of a wider hearing for radical ideas. Sneering references to the size of the Socialist Party outside Melbourne cannot cover up the fact that it has achieved something that no socialist group has achieved for about 40 years – the election of a socialist to local government in a major urban area.”

A new workers’ party

From declaring that they would be or already were the ‘new workers’ party’, the DSP have had to face up to reality. Now the DSP seem to be supporting our call for a ‘new workers’ party’. This is at least partially influenced by the small and early steps forward we have made in raising this idea in Victoria with the November 15th public meeting at the Comrades Bar and the upcoming debate during our summer school.

The DSP claim the idea came from Craig Johnston, at their National Fight back Conference in 2005. In fact, Craig argued against SP members at this conference who put forward the idea of uniting to build a new workers’ party along the lines outlined earlier in this statement. He came out loudly against this idea, with a remark, which earned great applause from DSP members: “I’m already in one, it’s called Socialist Alliance”. Now, only a few months later, reality has forced the DSP to change their position and “champion” the need for a new workers’ party.

We will continue to work with progressive community groups, left wing unions, and left wing leaning individuals to build support for a new workers’ party. The fact that the DSP now grudgingly shares this perspective reflects the growing support for this idea in our class.

One example of the lack of independent working class politics in Australia was shown with the fawning eulogies for Kerry Packer by politicians of all major parties – including the ALP. This world class tax-dodging billionaire was feted as a hero upon his death, while unemployed people accused of rorting a few hundred dollars are attacked nightly on ‘Today Tonight’ and ‘A Current Affair’.

A mass workers’ party would highlight these inconsistencies and give a socialist, working class alternative explanation (and solution) to daily political events. This would lift the level of political understanding of millions and undermine the ideas of racism and disunity. In Germany the growth of new semi-mass working class parties like the WASG has been a major boost for our movement.

SP appeals to the SA members who are genuine in their commitment to build a new party to join us in this task. We have a great deal of respect for many of their members who have consistently worked in workers organisations.

Let’s do all we can to further this call inside the trade unions, and the broader layers of the working class.


Glossary of terms and organisations

ACTU – Australian Congress of Trade Unions

The national peak body of Australia’s trade unions.

ALP – Australian Labor Party

Most influential political party in Australian history.

AMWU – Australian Manufacturing Workers Union

A powerful left wing union comprising an alliance of metal, printers, vehicle and food workers unions.

Australian Socialist League

Formed in Sydney in 1887. It is membership held a wide variety of viewpoints: state socialism, anarchism, and ‘modern socialism’, which lead to the collapse of the party in 1889. It reformed in 1890 and by 1893 had 15 branches and more than 9000 members in NSW, along with branches outside NSW. Its politics were predominantly reformist state socialist. It was active in the early Labor Party but fell out with the party over the party’s move to the right. From 1905 it adopted IWW politics. Some of its former members joined the Communist Party of Australia.


The manifestation of anarchism in the trade-union field, which adds to opposition to parliamentary action and political parties the conception that independent trade unions are sufficient to carry through the emancipation of the working class from capitalism. Anarcho-syndicalists envision a new social order managed by trade unions.


The class of modern capitalists, owners of the means of social production (factories, banks etc) and employers of workers.

Capitalist class

The capitalist class (also known as the bourgeoisie or ruling class) comprises people who own and trade in means of production and who hire workers to work for them, using those means of production. Under capitalism, the ruling class own the land, factories, machinery and everything else that is needed to produce wealth.

They obtain a profit from the work of their employees because the value of goods/services produced is greater than the cost of wages and materials. Therefore, the capitalist class obtain surplus value from the work of their employees.

Capitalists make up a small minority of the world’s population. They are a parasitic class, consuming most of the wealth of society, but contributing nothing to producing that wealth.

CEPU – Communications, Electrical, Plumbing Union

A powerful left wing union comprising an alliance of the electrical, plumbing, postal and communication workers unions.

CFMEU – Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union

A powerful left wing union comprising an alliance of the mining, forestry and construction workers unions.

Communist Party of Australia

Founded in 1920 and dissolved in 1991. It achieved its greatest political strength in the 1940s and even defeated a referendum to ban the party in 1951. At its peak just after World War Two it had 23,000 members and control over half of Australia’s trade unions. Later faced a 1960s pro-China split-off (Communist Party of Australia-Marxist Leninist) and a 1970s pro-Moscow split-off (Socialist Party of Australia (SPA) – no relation to the Socialist Party today).

Committee for a Workers International (CWI)

The international organisation uniting like-minded socialist organisations including the SP in Australia, SAV in Germany and SP in England and Wales.

Democratic Socialist Perspective (formerly Democratic Socialist Party)

Left wing Australian socialist party that produces ‘Green Left Weekly’ and is the main force behind the Socialist Alliance. Has policy position of uncritical support for leaders such as Castro and Chavez. Half way between a Stalinist and Trotskyist position.

Engels, Frederick (1820-1895)

Lifelong friend and collaborator of Karl Marx. Principal works: The Condition of the Working Classes in England, The Manifesto of The Communist Party (with Karl Marx), The German Ideology (with Karl Marx) Anti-Dühring, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and The State.

Howard, John (1939- )

Liberal Prime Minister since 1996.

IWW – International Workers of the World

An anarcho-syndicalist organisation, relatively strong in the US and Australia in the early years of the 20th century. Almost alone at the time in having internationalist and anti-racist politics and played key role in defeating conscription during World War One.

Keynesian economic policies

Keynesian economics also called Keynesianism, or Keynesian Theory, is a capitalist economic theory based on the ideas of 20th century British economist, John Maynard Keynes. Keynesian economics promotes limited government intervention in a capitalist economy to overcome the extremes of boom and slump.

The rise of Keynesianism marked the end of laissez-faire economics (economic theory based on the belief that markets and the private sector could operate well on their own, without state intervention). It is the capitalist alternative to neo-liberalism.

Labour theory of value

This is an economic theory (expanded by Marx) that equates the “value” of an exchangeable good or service (i.e. a commodity) with the amount of labour required to produce it. This is distinct from “free market” theory in which value is determined by supply and demand.

Left Party or PDS

The Left Party (In German: Die Linkspartei.), formerly Party of Democratic Socialism (Partei des Demokratischen Sozialismus, PDS) is a left-wing reformist political party in Germany. It is the legal successor to the Socialist Unity Party (SED), which ruled East Germany (the German Democratic Republic) until 1990. In the process it shifted from a Stalinist to a Reformist position.

Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich (1870-1924)

Restored Marxism as the theory and practice of revolution in the imperialist epoch after it had been debased by the opportunists and revisionists of the Second International. He initiated the tendency that became known as Bolshevism, which was the first to point the way on how to build the kind of party needed to lead a working-class revolution.

He was the first Marxist to fully understand and explain the central importance of the colonial and national struggles. He led the first victorious workers’ revolution in 1917, and served as the first head of state of the Soviet government. He founded the Communist International and helped to elaborate its principles, strategy, and tactics. He prepared a fight against the bureaucratization of the Russian Communist Party and the Soviet state, but died before he could carry it out.

Marx, Karl (1818 –1883)

Marx was as an influential German philosopher, political economist, and revolutionary organizer of the International Workingmen’s Association. Although Marx addressed a wide range of issues, he is most famous for his analysis of history in terms of class struggle, summed up in the famous line from the introduction to the Communist Manifesto: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle”.


Marxism is the system of analysis that was developed by Karl Marx. Marx bought together and developed the three main ideological currents of the 19th century: classical German philosophy, classical English political economy, and French socialism combined with French revolutionary doctrines in general. In doing this he developed dialectical materialism, a scientific approach to understanding the way that material conditions influence the constantly changing factors that make up the world.

Acknowledged even by its opponents, application of the Marxist method provides the basis for understanding the development of society, the world’s problems and how they can be solved. Marxism has provided key guidelines for analysing and building the working class movement worldwide.

Middle Class or Petit Bourgeoisie

This class is made up of small business people like proprietors, farmers, artisans, and tradespeople. The petty bourgeois are, broadly speaking; people who employ labour but also labour themselves. Because of their circumstances, the petty bourgeois have interests in common with both the working class and capitalist class, although they are ultimately part of the capitalist class.

Militant Tendency

The former name of the Socialist Party in Britain, most often used when we were members of Labour Party.

Mitterrand, Francois (1916-1996)

French Socialist Party President from 1981 to 1995. His early policies, aimed at a more equal distribution of wealth and overcoming the economic stagnation, were fervently opposed by the right-wing parties. They were also undermined from the outset by massive capital flight from the country. He soon u-turned and began introducing neo-liberal policies.


Neo-liberalism is a set of economic policies that have become widespread during the last 25 years or so.

“Neo” means we are talking about a new kind of liberalism. The old kind was the liberal school of economics which became famous in Europe when Adam Smith, an English economist, published a book in 1776 called The Wealth of Nations. He and others advocated the abolition of government intervention in economic matters. No restrictions on manufacturing, no barriers to commerce, no tariffs, he said; free trade was the best way for a nation’s economy to develop. Such ideas were “liberal” in the sense of no controls.

This application of individualism encouraged “free” enterprise,” “free” competition — which came to mean, free for the capitalists to make huge profits as they wished.

Economic liberalism prevailed in the United States through the 1800s and early 1900s. Then the Great Depression of the 1930s led the economist John Maynard Keynes to a theory that challenged liberalism as the best policy for capitalists.

He said, in essence, that full employment is necessary for capitalism to grow and it can be achieved only if governments and central banks intervene to increase employment. But the capitalist crisis over the last 25 years, with its shrinking profit rates, inspired the corporate elite to revive economic liberalism. That’s what makes it “neo” or new. Now, with the rapid globalization of the capitalist economy, we are seeing neo-liberalism on a global scale.

The main points of neo-liberalism include:

THE RULE OF THE MARKET. Liberating “free” enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no matter how much social damage this causes. Greater openness to international trade and investment. Reduce wages by de-unionising workers and eliminating workers’ rights that had been won over many years of struggle. No more price controls. All in all, total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services. To convince us this is good for us, they say “an unregulated market is the best way to increase economic growth, which will ultimately benefit everyone.” It’s like Reagan’s “supply-side” and “trickle-down” economics — but somehow the wealth didn’t trickle down very much.


REDUCING THE SAFETY-NET FOR THE POOR, and even maintenance of roads, bridges, water supply — again in the name of reducing government’s role. Of course, they don’t oppose government subsidies and tax benefits for business.

DEREGULATION. Reduce government regulation of everything that could diminish profits, including protecting the environment and safety on the job.

PRIVATISATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatisation has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.

ELIMINATING THE CONCEPT OF “THE PUBLIC GOOD” or “COMMUNITY” and replacing it with “individual responsibility.” Pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves — then blaming them, if they fail, as “lazy.”

Around the world, neo-liberalism has been imposed by powerful financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. It is raging all over Latin America.

The first clear example of neo-liberalism at work came in Chile (with thanks to University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman), after the CIA-supported coup against the popularly elected Allende regime in 1973. Other countries followed, with some of the worst effects in Mexico where wages declined 40 to 50% in the first year of NAFTA while the cost of living rose by 80%.

Over 20,000 small and medium businesses have failed and more than 1,000 state-owned enterprises have been privatised in Mexico. As one scholar said, “Neo-liberalism means the neo-colonisation of Latin America.”

The beneficiaries of neo-liberalism are a minority of the world’s people. For the vast majority it brings even more suffering than before: suffering without the small, hard-won gains of the last 60 years, suffering without end.


The policy that diverts the workers from struggle for their basic interests and objective; that seeks to solve the workers’ problems by reforms only, but not by ending the rule of the capitalists. Reformism sows illusions about “gradual” and ever-increasing improvements for the workers under capitalism, which is impossible.

Ruling class

Marx explains that the nature of the ruling class in class society changes depending on the historical situation. Currently, in advanced capitalist countries, the ruling class is the capitalist class.


Incorrect policy, or correct policy incorrectly applied, which tends to isolate the revolutionaries from the masses, leaving them few in number, a “sect”.


A theory or system of social organization that advocates the ownership and control of land, capital, industry, etc. by the community as a whole. In Marxist theory it represents the stage following capitalism in a state transforming to communism.


Engels defined the State as “a particular power of suppression”. The apparatus of State power (army, police, courts etc) in the hands of one class to suppress another, or other classes. In capitalism, it is in the hands of the big capitalists, bankers etc to suppress the workers.

Engels continued: “The State has not existed from all eternity. There have been societies which have managed without it, which had no notion of the State or State power…the (socialist leading to communist) society which organises production anew on the basis of free and equal association of the producers will put the whole State machinery where it will then belong – into the museum of antiquities, next to the spinning wheel and the bronze axe.”

Stalin, Joseph (1879 – 1953)

Became a Social Democrat in 1898, joined the Bolshevik faction in 1904, was co-opted to its Central Committee in 1912, and elected to it for the first time in 1917. In 1917 he favoured a conciliatory attitude to the Provisional Government before Lenin returned and oriented the Bolsheviks towards winning power. He was elected Commissar of Nationalities in the first Soviet government, and general secretary of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) in 1922.

In Lenin’s Testament written shortly before his death he describes Stalin as being “too rude”, and called for his removal from the post of general secretary because he was using it to bureaucratize the party and state apparatuses. After Lenin’s death in 1924, Stalin formed a Troika with Zinoviev and Kamenev and gradually eliminated his major opponents, starting with Trotsky. He began major forced industrialization in 1929, and launched the “Great Terror” in the mid-1930s where he wiped out a generation of Bolsheviks, becoming the virtual dictator of the party and the Soviet Union in the 1930s until his death in 1953.

The chief concepts associated with his name are “socialism in one country,” “social fascism,” and “peaceful coexistence.” The term Stalinism, which is another word for proletarian bonapartism comes from Joseph Stalin. His biography by Trotsky, uncompleted when the latter was assassinated by Stalin’s henchmen in 1940, is entitled Stalin, An Appraisal of the Man and His Influence.

Surplus value

Surplus value is the unpaid surplus labour performed by the worker for the capitalist, serving as a basis for capital accumulation. The German equivalent word “Mehrwert” means simply value-added, but in Marx’s value theory, the extra or surplus-value has a specific meaning, namely the amount of the increase in the value of capital upon investment, i.e. the yield regardless of source or form.

The problem of explaining the source of surplus value is expressed by Frederick Engels as follows: “Whence comes this surplus-value? It cannot come either from the buyer buying the commodities under their value, or from the seller selling them above their value. For in both cases the gains and the losses of each individual cancel each other, as each individual is in turn buyer and seller. Nor can it come from cheating, for though cheating can enrich one person at the expense of another, it cannot increase the total sum possessed by both, and therefore cannot augment the sum of the values in circulation”.

Trotsky, Leon (1879-1940)

Born Lev Davidovich Bronstein, Leon Trotsky became a revolutionary in 1896 and a collaborator with Lenin on Iskra in 1902. He broke with Lenin the next year over the nature of the revolutionary party and aligned himself with the Mensheviks. He broke with the Mensheviks in 1904 and tried during the next decade to reunite the party. In the 1905 revolution, he was the leader of the St. Petersburg Soviet and developed the theory of permanent revolution.

In 1915 he wrote the Zimmerwald manifesto against the war. He joined the Bolshevik Party in 1917, was elected to its Central Committee, and organized the Bolshevik insurrection that made the new Soviet state possible.

His first government post was as commissar of foreign affairs. Then as commissar of war he organized the Red Army and led it to victory through three years of civil war and imperialist intervention. He formed the Left Opposition in 1923 and fought for the next decade to return the Soviet Union and the Communist International to Leninist internationalism and proletarian democracy. Defeated by the Stalin faction, he was expelled from the Communist Party and the Comintern, and exiled to Turkey in 1929.

In 1933 he gave up his efforts to reform the Comintern and called for the creation of a new International. He viewed his work on behalf of the Fourth International as the most important of his career. In 1940, murdered by a Stalinist assassin at his home in exile, in Mexico.

WASG – Labour and Social Justice – The Electoral Alternative

(In German – Arbeit und soziale Gerechtigkeit – Die Wahlalternative or WASG) is a German left wing new workers party founded in 2005 by activists disenchanted with the then Social Democratic/Green federal government. CWI’s German section, the SAV, are members of WASG fighting for that party to take on socialist ideas

Whitlam, Gough (1916- )

ALP Prime Minister 1972-75. Sacked by Governor General in constitutional coup. Implemented reforms including withdrawing troops from Vietnam and introducing free health and tertiary education before shifting to counter-reforms. Supported Indonesian invasion of East Timor

Working class

Although not always clear cut, the working class is normally considered to be made up of people who work for wages. They generally do not own property and have no way to support themselves other than selling their labour for an hourly rate. The huge majority of the world’s population are in this category. Karl Marx defined the “working class” or proletariat as “those individuals who sell their labour and do not own the means of production”.

Under Capitalism, the working class are responsible for creating the wealth of society (e.g. buildings, bridges, furniture, new inventions and “intellectual products”). Though they create wealth they do not own it. Under Capitalism the wealth is owned by the ruling class. The proletariat are subdivided by Marxists into the ordinary proletariat and the lumpen proletariat, those who are extremely poor and cannot find legal work on a regular basis. These may be beggars or homeless people.


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