The Australian Labor Party is the single biggest block to the development of the socialist movement in this country. It has held the great majority of the working class in the straitjacket of parliamentarist reformism for the last 100 years — although today this hold is increasingly being called into question.
Under the slogan ‘Socialism In Our Time’, radical and socialist elements played an important role in the initial push for a Labor Party, but were defeated by a combination of the parliamentarians and the trade union bureaucracy.
By the early 20th century the ALP had become entrenched as a reformist, parliamentarist party, accurately described by Lenin in 1913 as a ‘liberal capitalist party’ — a political agency of the capitalist class within the labour movement.
Yet despite the clear record of the past century and the ALP’s ever-more rightward trajectory today, some sections of the left continue to mistakenly regard Labor as some sort of workers’ party, albeit with a procapitalist leadership.
Jim McIlroy’s Marxist analysis of the ALP’s formation shines a bright light on the party’s real nature and helps illuminate the way forward for the socialist movement.