Is Labor Socialist? I Wish

01/11/2020

Constant weariness, a lack of productivity, and general self-loathing has created a cycle resulting in a drought of posting this past month that I simply can’t justify, so let’s attempt to overcome that by breaking in the door to dispel some myths perpetuated by utter fools about socialism and the Australian Labor Party. Just like how the American circus calls Joe Biden and Kamala Harris radical Marxists, if only our leaders were as based as the propagandistic media believes they are.

Queensland just had their State election, and despite all of the perceived uncertainty, Labor has won with a majority government. Unlike a friend of mine who was worried the LNP would grab the win, I knew Labor was going to retain power – it was just a matter of by how much. With the live count taking place on the ABC website not remaining consistent at all, suffice to say Labor has won at least 50 out of the required 47 seats to reach a majority. While they predictably lost South Brisbane to the Greens, Labor did manage to take three seats (at time of writing) from the LNP: Caloundra, Hervey Bay (by a massive swing), and Pumicestone.

Even where the LNP did not lose their seats, Labor had substantial swings to their candidates. The Greens made massive gains in Cooper and McConnel, One Nation was all but wiped out except for their stronghold in Mirani through LNP preferences, and Clive Palmer once more proved that his “party” is nothing more than a branch of the LNP dedicated to slandering Labor. Basically, the expected result (at least for me) with a few nice surprises sprinkled in.

And the Murdoch press is trying so hard to cope. The Courier Mail called the election before Antony Green did, Sky News had their insipid talking heads bobbing along with a Federal Liberal Senator who claimed the Labor Party had “rigged the system”, a “new gerrymandering”, by introducing such dangerous changes as compulsory preferencing and donation reform. They’re reeling from such a tragedy and I’m enjoying every moment of it.

Another fun claim, which I had a short-lived argument with a friend of a friend over, is that now Queensland will have “another term of socialism”, intended in a very serious and very negative way. After suggesting this man had no idea what socialism was, he accused me of mud-slinging, doubled down on socialism being “insidious”, and seemed to backpedal ever so slightly by instead saying Labor was “full of halfwits with socialist ideals” – a bit different to the supposed tyranny implied previously.

But this is a serious argument being put forth by some people. No guesses as to the kind of media those people absorb, victims of propaganda I genuinely feel sorry for and would like to help if they’d go a few sentences without trying to assert a non-existent intellectual dominance. Rejecting the “mainstream media” by resorting to what is very much a mainstream outlet is not as cool as you think.

So, is Labor socialist? Short answer, no. Australia has no viable socialist party, nor even a socialist independent, in any level of government. Even the Greens, who do arguably have socialist ideals, are, in our political arena, very much social democrats, of which Labor is a much paler example of. However, our country’s perceptions of what these terms mean and who fits them is very much driven by the US butchering of them. It is understandable that people would wrongly call Labor “socialist” when, across the Pacific, the Democrats who are further to the “right” than Australia in many respects, even under the Coalition, are currently being called “radical Marxists” by a wannabe fascist.

The question to answer before you can start accusing people of a particular -ism is what the term you’re using actually means. If you can’t produce a definition, even a wrong one grounded in genuine belief, then you probably shouldn’t use it. Once you state your conception of it, you should be open to having alternative views offered that should be taken on the basis of the arguments and facts presented with it.

For example, if you start ranting about Venezuela, China, or the Soviets under Lenin and then Stalin, I will not be persuaded because they never were socialist, even if some might have started out that way or taken bits and pieces of it. Critiquing Maduro’s Venezuela, for instance, requires a lot of historical context and what exactly the policies he, and Chavez before him, actually implemented were. Lenin, well, just look through this site and you’ll see examples of me metaphorically piledriving that opportunistic piece of shit into the ground for what he did the Russian Revolution – and yes, I will argue vehemently with other socialists over this point.

Socialism, in its simplest form and in a single sentence, is workers owning the means of production. That’s it. The State, if it has any role, is not of “owner” but simply a means of popular power to create a socialist society – communism is supposed to be the phasing out of the State once that has been reached, and anarchism just skips the whole State nonsense because fuck Lenin.

All of the above examples did not tick that single box. State ownership of enterprise, such as Norway with their oil, or just public systems of healthcare or education, are not necessarily “socialist”. Union movements are not necessarily socialist (although decent ones can be catalysts for it). A State monopoly on the means of production, like the Soviet Union or China, isn’t even that – they were and are just totalitarian regimes that control the people.

Socialism is about worker ownership, direct democracy in politics (if the State exists) and the workplace. Can you name a political party or prominent Independent who is advocating for that? The closest I am aware of is Jonathan Sri, a Brisbane City Councillor for the Greens, who is more about direct democracy in communities and decision making.

Labor, while it has the backing of the Union movement, doesn’t even go anywhere near the Greens on that front, let alone worker ownership. Hell, the Unions are so powerless now they can hardly do their work, and even they aren’t democratic. Labor has consistently over the years slipped more and more into a reliance on corporate assistance, and on matters like climate change they shoot themselves in the foot trying to play both sides and stumbling.

While I am glad Labor won the Queensland election over the LNP, that’s only because the LNP and the National/Country parties before them have been so devastating that to install them would be a death sentence. Personally, the two-party duopoly is farcical, and neither major party offers a real vision for the State, a concern that only amplifies on a Federal level.

The closest Labor ever got to socialism was Gough Whitlam, and even he had flaws and never actually advocated for socialism, just a similar social democrat branch to that of the Scandinavian countries. Since then, with the exception of Julia Gillard in a brilliant run with the Greens, Labor has been pretty lacklustre. Undoubtedly, they’ve had some major achievements – Medicare, the GFC response, the original NBN plan, etc. – which they should absolutely be commended for and that, compared to how the Coalition has acted, is preferable, but to label them as socialist is just false.

The real opposition, the real alternative, should be going much further. Federal Labor has failed for years to invigorate a large enough movement, and each year they capitulate more and more to the whims of the government. This leaves the Greens as the only serviceable opposition, but then they get smashed by both parties. I couldn’t imagine the reckoning that would befall a genuinely socialist party or candidate that advocates for a system change beyond just making a fairer capitalistic society.

If anyone tries to tell you that Labor is socialist, just tell them they’re wrong. Not only is Labor not like any of the other examples of “insidious” socialist countries out there, but none of those are close to being socialist either. It’s the cliché argument, but while there have been successful ventures of a socialist and even anarchist nature, there has never been a country or mainstream movement that has implemented socialism as the socialists – the people – themselves imagined it.

Previous piece: Governments Can’t Self-Regulate Surveillance

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