Outlining a Progressive Future

Where is the Left At? – Australia

As part of this blog I am aiming to provide some analysis of the left wing movement and some monitoring on how the left is progressing as a movement. Although I undoubtedly will be unable to cover all aspects of the left around the world, I think this will provide some information as well as topics for debate about the left. In order to start this discussion I will be providing some brief overviews of where the left is situated in different parts of the world (starting with Australia, the US and Europe and then moving to other parts as I read and learn more). I will aim to discuss both the left as legislators as well as the left as ‘movers’ in societies and will discuss what I consider to be the main areas of movement in each place. I will this discussion by looking at Australia.


After the election of the Kevin Rudd lead Labor Government in 2007 the left is finding itself in a difficult position. Although the policies of the Labor Party are better than those of the previous government, the party is certainly living up to its standards of being more right wing in government than in opposition and are simply not providing many of the sweeping changes demanded by the left in the country. This is leaving the left movement in a difficult situation where it must decide whether it continues to fight for a left wing agenda within the Labor Party or to turn to a different alternative. At the present time those who are arguing for a shift to a new alternative are pointing to the Greens as the possible answer. The arguments behind these two different movements are relatively simple:

Sticking with Labor: Those who advocate sticking with Labor argue that at the current time we are not likely to see any other party become strong enough to win government in Australia and we therefore must place all out efforts into turning the Labor Party into a true left party. Advocates of this movement argue for left wingers to join the party and fight within it to shift it away from the right.

Shifting to the Greens: Those who advocate for a shift towards the Greens argue that the fight to turn Labor into a real left wing party has been going on for a long time with no results. We therefore, it is argued, must look towards a different alternative. With a growing base the Greens are gaining influence all around the country (sitting in every legislature except QLD and NT) and seem like they will continue to grow in the future. It is argued therefore that the Greens do provide a real alternative for the left that could easily gain much more influence with more support, eliminating the need for the left to deal with the Labor Party.

A Middle Ground?

Although I am a member of the Greens I actually advocate somewhat of a middle ground on this issue at the moment. Although I believe we are never going to see the Labor Party turn into a proper left wing party based around the Labor movement and therefore see the need for an alternative, I also believe we need to continue to fight for more left wing policies within the Labor Party, especially given that it is in Government at the moment. It is here that I see the importance of movements such as GetUp in exercising their ability to influence both public thought and the Government to at least rethink some of their right wing policies. Ensuring this pressure continues also helps the growth of the left in general as well as the Greens as it adds to the general acceptance of the left by the public, who then become more inclined to vote for left candidates.

Outside the Parliament

Of course the left wing movement isn’t just based around parliament house and there is a huge amount of other areas where the left is having an important influence. Whether it be through student politics, unions or local climate groups people on the left are actively participating in the political world to affect the change we need. I think we can see the left do this through two different ways:

1.       Broad Umbrella Groups: The biggest of these is obviously GetUp, who is fighting in my opinion on a broad left wing agenda on a range of different issues. GetUp is doing this mostly and very skilfully through the internet, which is creating great opportunities for the left movement.

2.       Issue Based Groups: Whether it be the environment movement, the union movement, the women’s movement or a large number of other movements around Australia a large percentage of those involved in the left are active in particular issue based groups (this obviously happens on the right as well). Many of these groups are growing in Australia (we are now seeing positive growth in unions, growth in climate movements etc.) and are continuing to greatly influence public debate on particular issues.

Bringing the movements together

As with other left movements around the world I think one of the biggest challenges the left faces in Australia is how to bring everyone together. Whether it be bringing those who argue for the Labor Party or the Greens or those who are focused on one of the many campaigns around the country, the left needs to continue to work to come together to solidify as one movement (obviously with many aims that people can focus on). I think this is occurring in the country (with the growth of such organisations as GetUp), but will continue to argue that more needs to be done. I cannot provide the answers for this at the moment but will rather leave it as a thinking point for future discussion.

This has been a very brief discussion on my perspective of the left wing movement in Australia and one that I hope to add to in future posts. I would be interested to hear what other people think about this and the ideas of where the left sits at the moment. Whilst it is hard to pin down where a movement is at I think it is useful so we can see where it needs to go.


April 19, 2009 - Posted by | Analysing the Left, Monitering the Left | ,

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