It wasn’t Labor that was under attack in the early 1950s, when Doc Evatt took up the fight against the dissolution of the Communist Party.
It would have been easy to sit back. Some in Labor made the case that staying out of the fight was in our Party’s electoral interest.
Evatt chose democratic principle, rather than party advantage.
He personally led the legal case in the High Court, and toured the country endlessly making the case for a ‘no’ vote in the referendum.
Our Party is under attack now – with an attempt to interfere in the very structure of Labor by governments in Queensland and in New South Wales.
We need to rediscover the spirit of Evatt to fight these attacks.
The attacks fall into three categories. The NSW Government has attempted to ban unions from paying to affiliate to Labor. They have prohibited donations from collective organisations, instead favouring wealthy individuals. Queensland will follow suit, requiring ballots of union members prior to union donations. These changes currently only apply to state and local campaigns.
Make no mistake; this is now a full scale assault on the structure of Labor as a party representing working people. It is an attack on Labor, not at the ballot box, but in the legislature.
Initiated by the conservatives, aided and abetted by the Greens Party, it is a legislative attempt to separate the labour movement and the Labor Party.
Working people established the Labor Party to fight for the values they shared. They fought for them collectively – knowing it was the only way ordinary people could influence politics. In the social media age, that view may be less fashionable, but it is no less true.
Even if these attacks proceed, some in our movement believe that Labor will survive as a parliamentary party. That may be; however Labor and its mission will be fundamentally altered in the process.
We need to rediscover the spirit of Evatt to fight these laws. They will be challenged in the High Court, but we need to campaign against them more broadly.
Our message to the conservatives is that they should have the confidence to contest our ideas, not to legislate the structure of our Party out of being.
Our message to the Greens Party, much as they want to replace us – they say so themselves – is that they should follow Evatt’s example in 1950 and choose to support a democratic principle, rather than narrow party self interest.