Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

What does ALP factionalism signify?

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Recent public faction fighting in the ALP has seen support for the party federally plummet to new time lows. Coming after a period of time when the government has been under attack for the AWB and not too recently the federal ALP was leading the government on a two party preferred basis, this only goes to highlight the bankrupt nature of the ALP and the proves that it is unviable to try and breathe life back into this dead but still moving corpse.

The open faction brawls show clearly that workers need a new political party, a party that defends their interests and that the ALP is not that party.

Factions in and of themselves are not a bad thing. In a new workers party the Socialist Party would see itself as Marxist faction fighting for a socialist programme. In other words we would be fighting for political goals, for our view of the best way forward for the working class. In the dim past the faction fights in the ALP may have been about ideology but not any more. There used to be division between the left and the right about different policy and differing ideology.

Nowadays faction fights are strictly about getting the numbers so that certain individuals can get positions of power in parliament or in the party. As the factions have not got an ideological basis any longer they have all been captured by the neo liberal, pro big business ideology and agenda. At best the so called left appeals to capitalism to put a more human face.

As an example in the Victorian ALP the ETU led a split from the Victorian left, this split off lined itself up with the Victorian right wing to try and secure itself some positions of power and ultimately ended up getting nowhere. This just demonstrates that you cannot reform the ALP i.e. you cannot just get in and change it. Even the recent events with Simon Crean winning pre selection on Hotham do not represent any victory against factionalism. Crean did not win pre selection on the basis of any ideas or policies he simply did the numbers better.

The recent victories of the ALP in Tasmania and South Australia do not change the fact that the ALP is a faction riddled mess that does not represent the working class. State ALP branch factions and eventually the Federal ALP opposition factions will inevitably stop fighting amongst themselves long enough to win parliamentary positions.

After all if they win office they will have more spoils to fight about. However this will not mean any fundamental improvement for working class people regardless of which faction wins the majority of parliamentary positions as all of them share the same neo liberal agenda as the Liberal party. This even applies to industrial relations; Beazly has stated he will tear up the Howard IR laws but given not hint as to what will replace them.

The only way forward for the working class is a new workers party that represents their interests, one that if it has factions are factions that discuss and disagree about policy and ideology, about what is the best way forward for the working class as opposed to the gangland turf carving on the basis of political power for its own sake that characterises the ALP.

Editorial from April 2006 edition of ‘The Socialist’


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