Australian history

Australian socialism: Unique and proud

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Australia has become a large influence on global socialism (Screenshots via YouTube - edited)

Socialism in Australia can be traced back through an interesting history of overseas cultures, writes Matty Clarke.

I WAS NOT RAISED a socialist, I was raised an old-fashioned Aussie with roots in socialist ideals stemming from old Irish heritage and an English Freemason grandfather who believed in simplicity, philanthropy and a fair go for all. My journey in life – my walkabout, I guess – led me on a path where I learnt and studied socialism by studying Australian history.

Irish Australia has had a very long socialist history long before Marx and Engels put it into words. Socialism was rooted in its very name, “society”, the idea that society as a whole is more important than profits, wealth or power. I think I was 12 when my uncle from the Irish side of the family introduced me to the English version of Animal Farm and from that moment on, I understood the concepts of the collective good.

Australia itself was once considered what we now call a Democratic Socialist society, until the Howard era brought in both the two-party system and 100% capitalism. We were 50% socialist and 50% free market which, through regulation and national industry, allowed us control to heat and cool our economy.

This did not mean nationally-run infrastructure and business had any protectionism or anti-competitiveness, which the capitalist system in Australia now has, but instead set the benchmark for private companies to compete while offering trained and experienced workers. These well-paid workers only left Government positions for a better wage, meaning private companies only poached the best and most dedicated of workers and handsomely rewarded them.

Australian socialism was so ahead of its time, Henry George, the U.S. socialist who inspired people like Roosevelt, had spent time in Australia learning from Irish Australians and others about this early prototype socialism. Henry even married two Australian Irish women in his lifetime.

These early ideals existed amongst Chinese Australians and, without a doubt, Australia, which was not always the “White Australia” we were led to believe and helped inspire other socialist movements in the region. The connection with regional socialism was so strong that a long history between Australia and China still exists today. Sun Yat Sen, father of the Chinese Revolution, was heavily influenced by Henry George’s works so, without even realising, was inspired by Australians.

The resulting similarity in ideas cemented a bond with both young nations, with our earliest prime ministers being accepting of this new China and even fought alongside them when fighting Japan in both world wars. Even Harold Holt was open to deals with China, to the horror of many conservative politicians who pushed the White Australia policy — these same politicians supported Hitler until two weeks prior to WWII. It seems that the conservative movement in Australia has always been rooted in Nazi-style racial segregation and hate.

This undercurrent of anti-socialism, pushed by modern U.S. McCarthyism, saw the demise of Gough Whitlam and even Gareth Evans. Gareth Evans was brought unstuck by the Howard Government for suggesting Australia hire Cuban doctors to solve a regional doctor shortage that Australia still experiences today.

In many ways, Australia is the forgotten socialist hero of our time and owes its own socialist roots to the many Irish who immigrated here for a better life, new opportunity and freedom from the imperialist ambitions of Europe. Later Australians even founded colonies in South America called New Australia and Cosme which helped found the Latin Socialism we know today.

Without a doubt, little old Australia has probably been the biggest influence on global socialism without the world, or even Australia, realising this. History in Australia is not always written and survives word-of-mouth much like Indigenous peoples which means that unless they kill us all, this history will never be forgotten.

Matty Clarke writes with passion from a working background, inspired by a history of strong journalism in Australia.

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Australian socialism: Unique and proud

Socialism in Australia can be traced back through an interesting history of over ...  
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