Labor Left

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Labor Left
National convenor Doug Cameron
Student wing Young Labor Left
Youth wing Young Labor Left
Ideology Democratic socialism, Social democracy
Colours      Red
House of Representatives
18 / 150
11 / 76
Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Labor Leader and NSW Left member.

The Labor Left (also known as the Socialist Left and Progressive Left) is an organised social democratic faction of the Australian Labor Party. It competes with the Labor Right faction.

The Labor Left operates autonomously in each State and Territory, and organises as a broad alliance at the national level. Its policy positions include party democratisation, economic interventionism, progressive tax reform, and refugee rights.[1]

In New South Wales and Victoria, it is made up of two sub-factions. These are the Hard Left and the Ferguson Left (also known as the Soft Left).

Factional activity[edit]

Most political parties contain informal factions of members who work towards common goals. However the Australian Labor Party is noted for having highly structured and organised factions across the ideological spectrum.[2]

The Labor Left is a membership-based organisation which has internal office bearers, publications, and policy positions.[2] The faction coordinates political activity and policy development across different hierarchical levels and organisational components of the party,[3] negotiates with other factions on political strategy and policy, and uses party processes to try and defeat other groups if consensus cannot be reached.[4]

Many Members of Parliament and trade union leaders are formally aligned with the Left and Right factions, and party positions and ministerial allocations are negotiated and divided between the factions based on the proportion of Labor caucus aligned with that faction.[2][4]


Labor Party split of 1955[edit]

The modern Labor Left emerged from the Labor Party split of 1955, in which anti-Communist activists associated with B. A. Santamaria and the Industrial Groups formed the Democratic Labor Party while left-wing parliamentarians and unions loyal to H. V. Evatt and Arthur Calwell remained in the Australian Labor Party.[5]

The split played out differently across the country, with anti-Communists leaving the party in Victoria and Queensland but remaining within in most other states. This created a power vacuum which allowed the Left to take control of the Federal Executive and Victorian state branch, while its opponents were preserved elsewhere.[5]

From 1965 organised internal groups emerged to challenge the control of the Left, supported by figures such as John Button and Gough Whitlam. After the Victorian branch lost the 1970 state election in the midst of a public dispute with Whitlam over state aid for private schools, the South Australian Left, led by Clyde Cameron, and New South Wales Left, led by Arthur Gietzelt, agreed to support an intervention which saw the Victorian state branch abolished and subsequently reconstructed without Left control.[5]

Labor Left factions from all jurisdictions[edit]

Jurisdiction Major Left Grouping State Conference Floor Percentage 2015 Majority
New South Wales NSW Socialist Left 40%[6][unreliable source?] No
Victoria Victorian Socialist Left 42%[6][unreliable source?] Stability Pact with Centre Unity and NUW
Western Australia Broad Left 65%[6][unreliable source?] Yes
Queensland The Left 50%[6][unreliable source?] Yes (supported by Old Guard)
ACT Left Caucus 51%[6][unreliable source?] Yes
South Australia Progressive Left Unions and Sub-Branches (PLUS) 35%[6][unreliable source?] No
Tasmania The Left 70%[6][unreliable source?] Yes
Northern Territory The Left 60%[6][unreliable source?] Yes
National National Left 48%[6][unreliable source?] No


  1. ^ "Labor faction chiefs lose control, leaving way open for left-wing issues such as gay marriage". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2015-12-31. 
  2. ^ a b c Leigh, Andrew (9 June 2010). "Factions and Fractions: A Case Study of Power Politics in the Australian Labor Party". Australian Journal of Political Science. Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  3. ^ Parkin, Andrew (1983). Machine Politics in the Australian Labor Party. George Allen and Unwin. p. 23. 
  4. ^ a b Faulkner, Xandra (June 2006). "The Spirit of Accommodation:The Influence of the ALP's National Factions on Party Policy, 1996-2004" (PDF). Griffith University. Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c Oakley, Corey (Winter 2012). "The rise and fall of the ALP left in Victoria and NSW". Marxist Left Review. Retrieved 23 January 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i "agitate, educate, opine" (2 September 2014). "What is the factional breakdown at Labor Conferences?". Retrieved 22 January 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]