Socialist Equality Party (Australia)

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Socialist Equality Party
SecretaryJames Cogan (interim)
Founded1933 (as Workers Party)[1]
2010 (in current form)
HeadquartersPO Box 574
Strawberry Hills, NSW 2012
Youth wingInternational Students for Social Equality
Political positionFar-left
International affiliationInternational Committee of the Fourth International
Official website

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) is a Trotskyist political party in Australia. The SEP was established in 2010 as the successor party to the Socialist Labour League, which was founded in 1972 as the Australian section of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI).

One of the only two federally-registered self-proclaimed socialist parties in Australia (the other being Socialist Alliance), the SEP is sometimes described by other parties on the left as sectarian and ultra-leftist.[2]


Background and foundation as Workers Party[edit]

The Communist Party of Australia (CPA) was founded in 1920 in response to the founding of the Third International in 1919.[3] Lenin and Trotsky, ideological models of the SEP, supported the development of a "united front" between communist and social democratic parties, such as the Australian Labor Party (ALP), to oppose the rise of fascism.[4] At the Fourth Congress of the Third International the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI) decided that Communists should participate in the Labor Party, because of a peculiar rule which allowed other organisations to affiliate to the ALP.[4]

"The Australian Labour Party is even more outspokenly a trade union party than its British counterpart, with an equally petty-bourgeois, reformist set of leaders. Nevertheless, the masses in their bulk continue to cling to the Labour Party. Does this mean to say that if the working masses are to be won for Communism, we should work within this mass party? The Communist International answers the question in the affirmative. The joining of the Labour Party opens wide perspectives for the development of the Communist Party, and provides a possibility for Communist sympathisers in the Labour Party to find practical application for their revolutionary desires."

—Letter from the ECCI, suggesting a practical application of the united front tactic in Australia.[4]

The Fourth Congress would be the last congress at which internal opponents of Stalin, such as Trotsky's Left Opposition, would be able to openly discuss party tactics.[4] In Australia, in 1924 CPA members were purged from the ALP.[4] CPA membership declined and relations with the Comintern worsened. No Australian delegate attended the Fifth Congress of the Communist International in 1924.[4] The Stalinist persecution of trotskyists soon came to Australia however, when, following the publication of the ECCI’s Open Letter in the Workers’ Weekly on 6 December 1929, the CPA Congress, held at the end of the month, denounced the current leadership (which was critical of the Stalinist line of the Fourth International) and installed a new central committee that declared its "unswerving loyalty" to the Stalinist line.[4] The Comintern, still sceptical, sent Harry M. Wicks (known by the pseudonym Herbert Moore) from the United States to reorganise the CPA. Over the next year Wicks (who, it was later discovered, was a long time spy and agent for the FBI[4]) took control of the party, rewriting its program and constitution and reorganising the leadership through a series of purges of members of the Left Opposition.[4]

By 1932, The Militant, the newspaper of the Communist League of America (CLA), the first non-Russian trotskyist organisation, was being published in Australia.[1] In 1933, Trotsky called for the founding of the Fourth International.[5] In 1933 the Australian branch of the International Left Opposition founded the trotskyist Workers Party.[1] The Workers Party went into direct confrontation with the CPA over WWII, which trotskyists characterised as an "imperial war" while the CPA Stalinists supported the war.[1]

End of World War II and refoundation as Labour Socialist Group[edit]

In 1941, the CPA and Workers Party were banned by the Australian government, and Australian trotskyists reorganised as the Labour Socialist Group (LSG), led by Nick Origlass.[6][7] At its annual conference on Easter in 1952, The LSG adopted entrism sui generis, a renewed united front strategy proposed by the secretary of the Fourth International, Michel Pablo.[6] However, the ALP refused Origlass and other leading trotskyists attempts to join the party. The ALP demanded the dissolution of the party newspaper, The Socialist, to accept their membership.[6] The Socialist was liquidated in August 1952, and SLG members were accepted into the ALP.[6]

Refoundation as Socialist Labour League[edit]

Inspired by the British Socialist Labour League, Nick Beams and other young Australian radicals founded the Socialist Labour League (SLL) in 1972. [8][9] Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the SLL supported strikes against the Fraser (Liberal) and Hawke (ALP) governments.[10] The party's newspaper, Workers News, was circulated in all major cities.[10]

In its 1992 perspectives resolution, the SLL drew a balance sheet of the response of the petty-bourgeois "left" tendencies to the demise of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Communist Party of Australia in 1991, arguing that "As long as the working class was dominated by and subordinated to the vast apparatuses of Stalinism and Laborism, they were happy to define themselves as ‘socialists’ and even as ‘Marxists’ or ‘revolutionaries’. They formed part and parcel of the petty-bourgeois buffer, created by the ruling class in the aftermath of the war, to suffocate the working class."[11][12]

"The very name ‘Socialist Equality’ makes clear the connection between socialism and the most basic strivings of the working class for a just society, based on social equality and the right of all people to a decent and productive life."

—SEP Statement of Principles, adopted unanimously at January 21–25, 2010 founding congress.[13]

Refoundation as Socialist Equality Party[edit]

The Socialist Labour League was officially refounded as the Socialist Equality Party in 2010, with its founding congress held in Sydney on 21–25 January 2010, where it unanimously adopted a statement of principles.[14]

Popular support and electoral results[edit]

In elections, the party's strongest state has historically been New South Wales. Demographically, the party is stronger with younger voters.[15]

In the 2016 federal election the Socialist Equality Party fielded two senate candidates in each of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, two candidates in New South Wales for the House of Representatives and one in Victoria for the seat of Wills, which also had a Socialist Alliance candidate.[16]

House of Representatives[edit]

House of Representatives
Election year # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
2010 11,160 0.09[a]
0 / 150
2016 1,608 0.01(#37/47)[a]
0 / 150


  1. ^ a b In 2010 SEP was only on the ballot in New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia.


In the 2013 federal election the party increased the number of states it fielded Senate candidates for to five, compared to two in the previous election.[17]

Election year # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
2010 13,945 0.11[a]
0 / 76
2013 9,774 0.07[a]
0 / 76
2016 7,865 0.06(#43/50)[a]
0 / 76


  1. ^ a b c In 2010 SEP was only on the ballot in New South Wales and Victoria.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party, Part 4". World Socialist Web Site. 3 March 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Communist Party of Australia, Manifesto to the Workers of Australia, December 24, 1920, viewed February 15, 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party, Part 3". World Socialist Web Site. 2 March 2010. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  5. ^ It is Necessary to Build Communist Parties and an International Anew’, The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, op. cit., p. 431.
  6. ^ a b c d Cite error: The named reference historicalfoundationpart5 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  7. ^ Red Hot: The Life and Times of Nick Origlass, op. cit., p. 103
  8. ^ Cite error: The named reference historicalfoundationpart1 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  9. ^ "The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party, Part 7". World Socialist Web Site. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  10. ^ a b "The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party, Part 8". World Socialist Web Site. 8 March 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  11. ^ A Socialist Strategy for the Working Class, Socialist Labour League, Marrickville, Australia, 1992, pp. 45–46
  12. ^ Industrial relations and the trade unions under Labor: from Whitlam to Rudd, op. cit., p. 17
  13. ^ From the Socialist Labour League to the Socialist Equality Party, Labour Press Books, Bankstown, Australia, 1996, p. 2.
  14. ^ "Statement of Principles". World Socialist Web Site. 12 March 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  15. ^ a b "Socialist Equality Party calls for radical change". Reportage Online. 20 August 2010. Retrieved 28 November 2012.
  16. ^ "Candidates for the 2016 federal election". Australian Electoral Commission. 12 June 2016. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  17. ^ Cite error: The named reference senatecandidates2013 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).

External links[edit]