Full Text

Australian left

Peter Beilharz

Subject History
Social Movements » Collective Behaviour

Place Oceania » Australasia

Period 2000 - present
1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

Key-Topics communism, reform movements, revolution, socialism

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.00155.x


The left in Australia across the twentieth century had two main coordinates – the USSR and the Australian Labor Party (ALP). The mistake made by the Australian communists was to imagine that the experience of the Soviet Union was entirely relevant to Australia – but it was not. The mistake made by Australian radicals more generally was to imagine that the Labor Party would somehow become the vehicle or encourager of the cause of Australian socialism. They were also wrong, though they did much good work in the process of testing these fantasies. Early Australian radicalism was much influenced by both American and British movements and ideas, from Bellamy to Henry George. Australian practices, such as arbitration and conciliation, which were forged in league with New Zealand, were in turn highly influential in the north. The left in Australia had a strong new liberal impulse, where the project of the state was seen to be that of civilizing capitalism. Other parallel trends like anarchism and syndicalism were equally apparent. Provincial Labor governments were active from the 1890s. The Federal Labor Party agreed to a Socialization Objective in 1921, which, as elsewhere, functioned as the Sunday China. The Federal Labor government followed a deflationary policy in the Depression. The Golden Age of Labor emerged in the 1940s, in direct parallel to the British case, though with less ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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