An independent forum of strategy, tactics and history in the Australian left, green and labour movements
Attitude to the ALPExtract from pp 7-8 of the Joint Statement of the Socialist Party of Australia and the Socialist Workers Party, April 1984
IntroductionIn 1984, when the Socialist Party of Australia (now the Communist Party of Australia) and the Socialist Workers Party (now the Democratic Socialist Perspective) were discussing possibilities for unity in a single party, the two parties produced a joint statement, which included a section on the Labor Party.
The two parties thought they had important differences, but in fact their positions were quite similar, and much more reasonable than either party holds today.
The SPA and the SWP recognise the Australian Labor Party (ALP) as a reformist, social democratic party which, while introducing reforms under the pressure of workers' demands, preserves the capitalist system. In this way, the reformist position of the ALP is an obstacle to socialism. However, the SPA and the SWP have differences on how to handle relations with the ALP.
The SPA believes that the ALP is not a socialist party and has no perspective, not even an elementary plan, to change the social system. The ALP combines a number of trends and factions. Reformism, the dominant ideology of the Labor Party, seeks to modify the excesses of capitalism, while preserving the system intact. However, the overwhelming membership of the ALP genuinely seek to improve the position of working people.
The SPA stresses the importance of the united action of the working class and regards it as a cornerstone of any revolutionary policy. United action should be sought on all issues which strengthen the struggle against capitalism and this is the main criteria for united action. Consequently, united action is not a tactic but a permanent demand at each stage of the development of the revolutionary process, although the issues upon which it will be possible to develop unity will change as conditions change. The SPA sees the development of united activity between members and supporters of the SPA and the ALP as being in the interests of the workers and would assist to implement many of the policies of the two parties which are in common. The SPA sees the need to build and strengthen the movement of all the forces opposed to capitalism and in favor of socialist change. This movement includes many members and supporters of the ALP.
The SWP considers the formation of the ALP, as a party based on the unions and designed to represent the working class politically, an important step forward. But the leadership and program of the ALP have always been reformist, with the result that Labor governments end up protecting profits instead of the interests of working people, just as the Hawke Government is doing now.
Despite this record, most workers continue to have illusions about what can be achieved through the ALP and they support it against the parties of the employers. It is important to seek to ensure that workers' inevitable disillusionment over Labor's betrayals do not cause them to turn to the right, to the capitalist parties. In order to avoid this, it is essential for socialists to orient to the ongoing struggle of left-wing forces in the ALP to develop and implement progressive policies.
The SWP believes that a Labor Government provides the best conditions for defending the interests of working people (since the ALP is more subject to pressure from the unions) and for workers to learn in practice that their fundamental needs cannot be protected by reformism. It therefore supports Labor against the Liberals in elections while explaining the elements of a socialist program that would be necessary to really represent the workers.
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