Our Socialist Objective Is What Makes Us Labor

On the same day the NSW Labor Conference voted to do away with our party’s socialist objective, the Tasmanian Labor Conference unanimously supported this motion:

Conference recognises the Australian Labor Party’s socialist objective as the great ideal from which our movement draws its common purpose.

Conference notes the practical incarnation of this objective has changed throughout the decades and that it will continue to evolve.

Conference understands our socialist objective to mean that Labor will use the tool of government to eliminate the anti-social features of capitalism through a practical legislative agenda. We recognise the deficiencies of the private sector and openly champion the great things we can achieve collectively through the public sector.

Our objective means we support the role of the state in managing the economic cycle to support full-employment, a more equal distribution of wealth, and fairness in the operation of our markets.

Conference believes our objective enshrines us a party of ‘labour’ and binds us in solidarity with our sister parties through our membership of the Socialist International.

In moving the motion I spoke about what our objective says about the enduring values of our Party.

Our objective reads:

“The Australian Labor Party is a democratic socialist party and has the objective of the democratic socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange, to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation and other anti-social features in these fields.”

These are the defining words of the core objective of the Australian Labor Party as outlined by Chapter 1 of our National Platform.

Not exactly modern language, but it represents something powerful and important.

This is the great ideal from which our movement draws its common purpose.

Our party was established to pursue a radical objective; to transfer power and opportunity from the privileged to the masses, to enhance equity, and spread social cooperation.

The pursuit of this radical cause has always meant that we face stiff opposition from the entrenched forces of the status quo.

But that does not mean we should shirk from the challenge of pursuing the great cause of our movement.

We are socialists. And we should be proud of that fact.

Our socialist objective means that we are sensible enough to recognise that blindly pursuing ‘competition’ and ‘free-market’ solutions to our problems will not create the better society we all desire.  

It means that we believe every citizen should have equal access to the very best comprehensive, free, publicly funded health and education services from cradle to grave.

Our objective means we recognise the deficiencies of the private sector and openly champion the great things that we can achieve collectively through the public sector.

We believe in a more equal distribution of the tax burden - away from wage-earners and towards capital and inherited wealth.

We support regulation of our financial system, true competition, and real fairness in the operation of our markets.

We recognise the fundamental role of the state in managing the economic cycle to support full-employment.

We know that when private economic demand falls the state must step in to boost aggregate demand, and when the good times come the state can step back and consolidate its fiscal position.

However, far too often our political representatives fall for the right-wing dogma of business-oriented advisers with devastating consequences for our longer-term budget, our economy, and employment.

The great objective of socialism is one that has changed throughout the decades, but it is one that we cannot afford to abandon.

It is at the core of who we are. It binds us in eternal solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world in labour, social democratic, and democratic socialist parties.

It’s what keeps us from being just another party of the centre that stands for very little other than that we’re not as crazy and cruel as our counter-party of the right.

It’s what makes us a party of ‘labour’.

In the 21st century we must ensure we are regarded as the party of social progress and economic equity. We must be the party that fights the scourge of discrimination and advances the cause of the disadvantaged and the dispossessed.

We must never support the removal of ‘socialism’ from our objective.

To be a unionist is to be a socialist. The two are utterly inseparable.

Socialism is everything and anything we have ever stood for and it must continue to define our bold and urgent mission as a force for social and economic change.

We should be proud that Tasmanian Labor will stand resolute in our firm commitment to our socialist objective, even while in other places other elements of our party seek to dismantle it.

At next year’s National Conference Tasmanian delegates will carry the flame of comrade Ben Chifley’s ‘Light on the Hill’ and continue the march ever-forward to socialism.

Adam Clarke is President of Tasmanian Young Labor and a member of the National Policy Forum.

Showing 4 reactions

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  • commented 2015-05-05 21:39:37 +1000
    apologies for the typo; in the second sentence ‘another’ should read as ‘a number of’.

    Also I should specify that the ‘joint-multi-stakeholder’ co-ops would also be different than a pure workers co-ops in that they would include investment from regions. So for instance SPC-Ardmona might have been re-established as a co-op with the region of Shepparton take a stake – on the understanding that the economic contribution to the region is crucial and must be maintained. The aid package from the Victorian Conservative Napthine Govt helped keep operations open – But there were better alternatives. Likewise it would have been wonderful if the Federal Government had reacquired the Holden brand and teamed up with the regions that stood to lose tens of thousands of jobs; as well as with the affected workers. But something on that scale would probably be deemed too radical even by the Party’s Left.
  • commented 2015-05-05 21:27:23 +1000
    Chris Warren is right that co-operatives can play a crucial role in promoting socialism in the modern day. A ‘democratic mixed economy’ for today must involve another strategies: That includes strategic public ownership via public infrastructure and natural public monopolies, as well as strategic government business enterprises. It should also mean a co-operative enterprise in the form of pure workers co-ops, consumer co-ops, and joint-multi-stakeholder co-ops. The ‘joint-multi-stakeholder co-ops’ specifically could mean a mix of workers’ control and ownership; regional control and ownership; and where necessary a public stake-holding. As Chris argues Co-ops can be vulnerable in the capitalist market. Compared with the monopolistic transnationals there is a point beyond which national-based co-ops may find it hard to source the investment necessary to expand operations and achieve the necessary economies of scale to remain competitive on the global market. Government can held with tax breaks, injections of investment to expand operations, and provision of cheap credit. Though we should not fool ourselves that growing the co-op sector would not encounter resistance. Hence a ‘cap’ on the scale of government assistance may be necessary to avoid a backlash for the foreseeable future. And also the role of CONSUMER’S co-ops should not be under-estimated as well. Because there need to be checks and balances. And a monopolistic workers’ co-op could adopt an overly-self-interested outlook – which in turn can be contained through the power of the associated consumers; and hopefully through competition – either between co-operative and private enterprise; or ideally between various co-operative enterprises themselves.

    Great to see Young Labor activists developing innovative interpretations of the Socialist Objective! :)
  • commented 2015-03-22 14:09:52 +1100
    An excellent presentation.

    I would only add that a socialist economy (properly understood) is the only way inflation can be obliterated, full employment entrenched, and a sustainable economy achieved. It also is the only way society can guarantee a reasonable living standard for all workers in their later years. Those whose budgets are only derived from minimum wages and salaries, can only afford housing that is priced according to socialist costings.

    The ALP needs to recognise there are different forms of socialism. Australians are astute enough to develop a form of socialism suitable for our conditions. For example cooperatives have a proven track record and are a form of socialism. They just need to be protected from unfair competition from capitalists. A policy calling for a major development of cooperatives and for protecting fair labour standards, should be supportable for all true labour activists from the Right across to the Left. It will unite the ALP and increase it relevance to the Australian community at large.

    Competition and free markets generate no problems within socialism provided the standard conditions apply – free entry, equal information, numerous participants, etc. and providing the money supply is not perverted by different participants having unequal access to credit as under capitalism.
  • commented 2015-02-25 20:12:36 +1100
    Tasmania showing it is truely an Australian Labor Organisation.