Colin Humphries


Australian Mirrors

(Winter 1966/67)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.27, Winter 1966/67, p.34.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Industrial Labour and Politics
Ian Turner
Cambridge, 52s 6d

However interesting and absorbing in itself, a study of Labour politics in Eastern Australia between 1900 and 1921 would seem to be of little interest to non-specialists. But that is far from being the case with this book. The situations it describes are ones which constantly recur in Labour politics. The institutions of the Australian Labour Movement are just sufficiently distinct from those of this country for the outcomes to throw light upon the nature of the latter. The permanent and recurring feature is that of ‘betrayal.’ A Labour Government is elected, which then implements the policies of its opponents until eventually the question of whether it is to formally merge with them becomes merely academic. Its supporters, disillusioned, then lose interest in parliamentary position-hunting for a period to return to various other sorts of activity. The Australian context with which this book is concerned brings out some of the factors in this process very clearly. In particular it shows the real divergence of interest between the trade-union bureaucracy and the parliamentary careerists. In the case of Australia this was sufficiently great for the trade unionists, who more or less directly controlled the party machine, to expel a whole government from the party.

It only needs to be added that the book is well written, sympathetic to the left – although the author seems to hold no hope of us ever escaping from the circle of betrayal – and worth at least a borrow from the public library.

Last updated on 16 November 2009