In 1913, Lenin made an important statement on the labor party in Australia. It is true that there have been many developments since then and on some minor details of fact Lenin was not quite correct but the principle stands. Here is the statement.
The parliamentary elections took place in Australia recently. The Labour Party, which had the majority in the Lower House, having forty-four seats out of seventy-five, suffered defeat. Now it only has thirty-six seats out of seventy-five. The majority has passed to the Liberals, but this majority is very unstable, because in the Upper House, thirty out of the thirty-six seats are occupied by Labour.
What a peculiar capitalist country is this in which Labour predominates in the Upper House and recently predominated in the Lower House and yet the capitalist system does not suffer any danger! An English correspondent of a German Labour newspaper recently explained this circumstance, which is very often misrepresented by bourgeois writers.
The Australian Labour Party does not even claim to be a Socialist Party. As a matter of fact it is a liberal-bourgeois party, and the so-called Liberals in Australia are really Conservatives.
This strange and incorrect use of terms in naming parties is not unique. In America, for example, the slave-owners of yesterday are called Democrats, and in France, the petty bourgeois anti-socialists are called “Radical Socialists.” In order to understand the real significance of parties one must examine, not their labels, but their class character and the historical conditions of each separate country.
Capitalism in Australia is still quite young. The country is only just beginning to take shape as an independent state. The workers, for the most part, are emigrants from England. They left England at the time when Liberal-Labour politics held almost unchallenged sway there and when the masses of the English workers were Liberals. Even up till now the majority of the skilled factory workers in England are Liberals and semi-Liberals. This is the result of the exceptionally favourable, monopolist position England occupied in the second half of the last century. Only now are the masses of the workers in England beginning (slowly) to turn toward socialism.
And while in England the so-called “Labour Party” represents an alliance between the socialist trade unions and the extreme opportunist Independent Labour Party, in Australia, the Labour Party represents purely the non-socialist trade unionist workers.
The leaders of the Australian Labour Party are trade union officials, an element which everywhere represents a most moderate and “capital serving” element, and in Australia it is altogether peaceful, and purely liberal.
The ties between the separate states of Australia in united Australia, are still very weak. The Labour Party has to concern itself with developing and strengthening the country and with creating a central government.
In Australia the Labour Party has done what in other countries was done by the Liberals, namely, introduced a uniform customs tariff for the whole country, a uniform Education Act, a uniform Land Tax and uniform Factory Acts.
Naturally, when Australia is finally developed and consolidated as an independent capitalist state the conditions of the workers will change, as also will the liberal Labour Party which will make way for a socialist Labour Party. Australia serves to illustrate the conditions under which exceptions to the rule are possible. The rule is: a socialist Labour Party in a capitalist country. The exception is: a liberal Labour Party which arises only for a short time as a result of conditions that are abnormal for capitalism.
Those liberals in Europe and in Russia who try to “preach” to the people that class war is unnecessary by pointing to the example of Australia, only deceive themselves and others. It is ridiculous to think of applying Australian conditions (an undeveloped, young country, populated by Liberal English workers) to countries in which a state and developed capitalism have long been established. – June 1913 (“In Australia”).