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Anarchism and the death of social democracy

Anarchism and the death of social democracy

Gillard’s ministerial reshuffle has been likened to arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Analysts differ on what constitutes the sinking ship; is it Gillard’s prime ministership? The Gillard government? The Australian Labor Party?

All seem agreed, however, that Gillard’s ministerial reshuffle will do little to alter the ultimate fate of the sinking ship, whatever it may be.

The underlying motivation behind the reshuffle has also attracted the attention of analysts as it seems to have rewarded the froth – Arbib probably doesn’t know how to spell his own name and Shorten’s ego hides an essential mediocrity, which brought Gillard to power and supported her “leadership” at the recent National Conference. The reshuffle itself appears also to have been enabled by the defection of Peter Slipper.

The entire affair is mainly a sideshow best left for discussion on ABC Insiders, which usually focuses on such trivialities.

My interest here is directed toward the ship, not the deck chairs.

I submit that what is sinking is social democracy itself.

That social democracy would fail was foreseen eons ago from within the Left, most specifically from the libertarian wing of socialist thought otherwise known as “anarchism” or better still “anarcho-syndicalism.”

But why say that social democracy has failed?

We forget that what we call “social democracy” initially was meant to serve as the parliamentary road to socialism. To be sure social democracy, especially that associated with the German SPD, in its early days was programmatically Marxist. But the revisionism of Eduard Bernstein served to codify the practical existence of a more evolutionary and parliamentary approach to socialism. In other countries, such as the United Kingdom, where Marxism was not as prevalent within the labour movement, such codification wasn’t really necessary.

The key idea of the social democratic approach was that socialism could come about by something akin to an algorithmic procedure; step-by-step through piecemeal reform enacted by democratically elected governments, rather than through a singular extra parliamentary revolution.

This idea found its most important expression in Australia with the socialist objective of the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

In reality social democracy, to a greater and lesser degree, everywhere became associated with the development of a social contract between capital and labour. Australia was no exception.

  • About the Author

Marko Beljac has been awarded a PhD at Monash University and he has taught at the University of Melbourne. He is interested in the interface between science and global security and currently is writing a book on nuclear terrorism. He maintains the blog Science and Global Security and is co-author of An Illusion of Protection: The Unavoidable Limitations of Safeguards on Nuclear Materials and the Export of Australian Uranium to China.

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About Darin Sullivan (1968 Articles)
President of the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union and a professional firefighter with more than 25 years’ experience. Father of two daughters, he lives and works on the NSW South Coast, Australia. He is a strong advocate for firefighters and emergency service workers with an interest in mental health issues and caring for those around him. He is a Director on the NSW Fire Brigades Death and Disability Super Fund and works with charities including ‘The Movember Foundation’. As a leader and activist he has long been active in the campaign for action on climate change. Now a Station Commander in the fire and rescue service in NSW and has decades of experience fighting fires, both rural and urban. He is passionate about highlighting the impact climate change is having on fire preparedness and fire behaviour in Australia, and the risks associated with inaction on climate change. Darin is also a spokesperson for the Australian Climate Media Centre.
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