Victoria: the left-leaning state?

The soundtrack for this post is the song ‘Fish F***’ by Little Johnny Roskam and the Institute of Destruction:

Victoria: the left-leaning state
Melissa Fyfe
The Age
August 8, 2010

Victoria, once the jewel in the Liberal crown, may be the saviour of the Labor government, writes Melissa Fyfe.

Uh-huh. Well yeah, maybe: where ‘left-leaning’ = ‘a tendency to preference Labor over Liberal in state and federal elections’, at least — and perhaps moar? In any event, as evidence that the citizens of Victoria lean left, Fyfe cites, inter alia, current polling on voting intentions @ the 2010 Australian federal election, plus:

Victoria’s high republic vote (49.8 per cent, no other state was higher) and the consistently low vote for the right-wing party One Nation (in the 2007 election, 0.01 per cent of Victorians, or 433 people, cast a first preference for the party, compared with 8426 in NSW). In this election Victoria also holds the Greens’ best chance for a lower house seat, the electorate of Melbourne.

Besides these facts and figures, Fyfe notes that there’s a relatively large number of bookshops in Melbourne — and a left-wing clothing label called Polichicks.


But seriously. In broader historical terms, Fyfe notes in particular the views of the man who helped drive a stake through the heart of the public transport system: John Cain (see : Melbourne tram dispute and lockout 1990 – anarcho-syndicalism in practice, Jura Media, 2006/1997). He reckons:

The trend left probably had its origins in the gold rush of the 1800s… it brought an ”independent and robust” type of migrant. At Federation, Victoria took a protectionist stance, the realm of the left side of politics, while NSW took a free-trade stance, a stance of the right.

The 1930s Depression hit Victoria particularly hard, which Cain says galvanised the political beliefs of a group of Labor men and women – his father, John Cain snr, among them – who valued education and the dignity of work. The spirit of protectionism later extended to the thriving manufacturing base, which provided jobs for generations of blue-collar workers in the Labor heartlands of the inner-city and western suburbs.

Again, maybe so, but obviously, it’s problematic to assume that support for tariffs (among other devices intended to ‘protect’ the development of local industries from the global market) is evidence of ‘leftist’ inclinations, or cultural, political or social values. Rather, protectionism — also sometimes referred to, in an earlier epoch, as ‘nativism’ — may be termed ‘conservative’ in the sense that it harks back to what the journalist Paul Kelly (The End of Certainty, 1991) describes as the ‘Australian Settlement’, consisting of the five pillars of: 1) White Australia, 2) Trade Protection, 3) Wage Arbitration, 4) State Paternalism and 5) Imperial Benevolence. He dates its final disintegration from the 1980s.

That these ‘principles’ were embraced by various Labor parties and Governments is not especially remarkable. From an anarchist, left-wing or progressive perspective, Laborism has invariably been viewed as being essentially ‘conservative’, at least, if not only, in the sense that it seeks to conserve bourgeois privilege (cf. Vere Gordon Childe, How Labour Governs (1923); V.I. Lenin, ‘In Australia’ (1913), et cetera.)

Of these five pillars, ‘Wage Arbitration’, ‘State Paternalism’ and ‘Imperial Benevolence’ have been (largely) maintained, while ‘White Australia’ and ‘Trade Protection’ have been (progressively) abandoned. In fact, the party’s previously vigorous support for keeping The Chinaman at bay is something about which it is no longer possible to speak in polite circles: in contemporary ALP mythology, Good things like ‘fairness’, rather than Bad things like ‘racism’, define the nation, its history, and that of the Australian Labour Party (see also : Within China’s Orbit? China through the eyes of the Australian Parliament, Chapter One: Federation and the Geographies of Whiteness, Timothy Kendall, 2008 | The Bushman’s Bible, Warren Fahey, The Bulletin magazine, February 1, 2005).

So much for the the saviour of Federal Labor. On the other hand, in 2004, the Victorian ALP gave Steve Fielding a Senate seat. It’s unlikely to make that mistake (?) again (in fact, in 2010, Family First is Nos. 41–45 and The Greens Nos. 6–11 on the ALP ticket), but the party is still shitting bricks over the possibility of losing (or continuing to lose) not only political ground, but actual seats to The Greens.

Well… maybe one seat: Melbourne. ‘People are telling me this is the shallowest campaign even. But I say, don’t give in to spin, cynicism and despair. ”There is an alternative. The Greens offer hope – hope for a better tomorrow’.” (Or: Adam Bandt’s plan for Marxists to seize control of the “bourgeois” Greens party revealed!)

It’s not without good reason that Labor is nervous. The collapse of ‘social democracy’, and the reasons for it, have been flogged to death elsewhere, and while reports of its death may — or may not — be exaggerated, the existence of a ‘leftist’ version within the Labor Party is now surely only the stuff of myth. Beyond this, a good barometer of the level of concern within Labor ranks about the political appeal of The Greens is the shrillness with which muck-raking, right-wing Labor apparatchik Andrew Landeryou has responded to their wily charms. After noting that Bandt was apparently looking to buy a house in Parkville, Landeryou uncovered an email, published in 1995, in which Bandt describes The Greens as being “in many ways bourgeois”, concluding his online message with the words “Towards an anti-capitalist, anti-social democratic, internationalist movement”.

Landeryou definitely deserves points for spotting, but Bandt is hardly the only former student radical who in adult life has found a political home that is “in many ways bourgeois”. As evidence, one need look no further than, say, Paul Howes (or Michael Costa or Jim Bacon or…). Nevertheless, the idea that The Greens is the new home of The Reds is fast becoming a commonplace of both elite and popular opinion (see also : Eric Abetz? WTF?, marcus westbury, August 26, 2009 | Why the NSW Greens are so hard left, Stephen Mayne, Crikey, February 1, 2006).

Further, of the thousands of former student leftists who have maintained some continuing involvement in political organisation, relatively few have done so by way of the ALP, the principal exception to this being a declining trade union sector (over which the party continues to maintain a political stranglehold). Which is not the same as saying that there are no leftists in the ALP, of course, and while the Greens have long maintained a commitment to ‘social justice’, there are those who remain unconvinced of their political potential (see : Adam’s amazing pitch to Melbourne, Alex White, August 3, 2010).

See also : The fairytale of Howard’s battlers, Peter Brent, Mumble (The Australian), August 10, 2010.

Bonus left-leaning!

In April 1972, sixteen sticks of gelignite exploded in the Communist Party’s Brisbane office, lifting the floor of the building almost six centimetres off the ground. Later the same evening, three rifle shots ricocheted through the Maoist East Wind bookshop…

The next month, the terror campaign returned to Melbourne with an attempt to set the Third World bookshop alight. A week later, the East Wind bookshop in Little Londsdale Street received a fire-bomb through the front door, while Molotov cocktails hit the Radical Action Movement’s headquarters in Palmerston Street, Carlton, the China Friendship Society, and the Source bookshop in Collins Street…

Many naturally suspected the NSPA of involvement in the bookshop attacks, since the Nazis had previously clashed with the Left. In January 1971, the NSPA announced a fascist rally to be held on Melbourne’s Yarra Bank. The Left and the Jewish community organised a counter-rally. When the Nazis did not appear, thousands streamed up to their headquarters in North Carlton. The party’s leader Cass Young later complained:

    All this time we could hear a noise such as that at a football ground, getting louder. Looking outside, I saw that a huge crowd was coming down the street towards our headquarters.

    Within minutes there were several thousand people, mostly reds and those of the chosen race, milling around outside. We closed all the doors and windows and I posted sentries at the back and on the roof. We hoisted the mighty flag of our race — the swastika — and the Eureka flag at the top front window. The crowd outside began throwing anything it could get its hands on: eggs, tomatoes, rocks and tins. Soon all the windows had been smashed by flying missiles.

In June 1972, the NSPA tried to hold its annual conference. The fascists kept the location secret. Protesters instead marched to a triple-fronted brick veneer in St. Albans, which served both as Young’s house and the new [neo-]Nazi HQ. To resounding chants of ‘Death to the Nazis’, they tore the building apart. Surveying the wreckage of his property, Young lost some of his enthusiasm for overt displays of Nazism, and the NSPA collapsed in a bout of internecine warfare, a process nicely captured in the title of David Harcourt’s study of Australian Nazism: Everyone Wants to Be Fuehrer.

This anonymous clan of slack-jawed troglodytes has cost me the election, and yet if I were to have them killed, I would be the one to go to jail. That’s democracy for you.

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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One Response to Victoria: the left-leaning state?

  1. @ndy says:

    “Yeah. So the Wikipedia entry on AWU boss Paul Howes brings me a steady stream trickle of traffic. And his recent remarks warning the voting public about the perils of Lee Rhiannon — another former Leninist, in her case the Socialist Party of Australia — brings another. One former Leninist whose youthful biography on Wikipedia makes no reference to his flirtation with Trotskyism is Michael Costa.”


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