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What’s left? Anthony Albanese and the redbaiting of Jim Casey

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Anthony Albanese, by John Graham / @JohnGrahamArt

With Anthony Albanese declaring he will recontest Grayndler, then launching a vicious attack on an opposing "socialist" candidate, the left should be worried, writes Alex Jones.

When a key figure of the left faction of the ostensible “left-wing” party in the nation makes an attack on an opposing candidate for being a “socialist” (shock, horror!), there should be some cause for concern.

On the 28th of January, Anthony Albanese announced his decision to recontest the seat of Grayndler with an added dose of redbaiting. The recipient was Jim Casey, the Greens candidate for the Federal seat of Grayndler and a past member of the International Socialist Organisation. He is also the Secretary of the NSW Fire Brigade Employees Union.

It is commonly accepted wisdom in mainstream politics that the mark of the word “socialist” on your character or policy positions is akin to political suicide. Just in case there was any doubt, Albanese remarked – in reference to SA Premier Jay Weatherill’s isolated support in Labor circles for an increase in the GST to 15% – that

“We are not a Stalinist party.”

Weatherill will not be coerced to toe the party line. The Labor Party itself, on the other hand, whether willing or not, is feeling the magnetic pull of what Tariq Ali calls “the extreme centre.” Political discourse is shifted more and more to the right. The Labor Party remakes the “Left” in its own image — a centre-right, neoliberal institution, free of its embarrassing historical associations with socialism.

This is odd, since the fourth objective in the constitution of Albanese’s party still clearly states that

'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.'

Note that the reference to Stalin, the Soviet dictator, was no coincidence. It is quite a feat for a senior Labor member to be able to tar all leftist politics with the same brush. The planned movement in the announcement from socialism to Stalinism within a matter of sentences is meant to equate the one with the other. And all roads lead to the villain of the piece: Jim Casey.

There is something jarring about the timing of Albanese’s comments, however. Domestically, it makes perfect sense, as the 'radically redrawn electoral boundaries' of Grayndler mean that Albanese will be under further pressure to counter increased support for the Greens.

Internationally, though, at least in regards to the USA and the UK, the timing is poor. Support for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders in the U.S. is rising, while last September the UK Labor Party elected Jeremy Corbyn as their leader. Both are self-avowed “democratic socialists”.

The last Roy Morgan poll put Albanese just behind Tanya Plibersek as preferred leader of the ALP. So it is not beyond the scope of possibility that he may one day lead the party. His recent comments suggest that he is out-of-step with the democratic socialist foundations of the ALP.

Labor at large are out-of-touch with it, in my view.

You can follow Alex Jones on Twitter @AlexJon08509680. The John Graham feature image is available from the IA store.

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