Socialism in Australia

Socialism in Australia dates back to the earliest pioneers of the area in the late 19th century.[1] Notions of socialism in Australia have taken many different forms including the utopian nationalism of Edward Bellamy, the Marxism of parties such as the Communist Party of Australia, and the democratic socialist reformist electoral project of the early Australian Labor Party.[2]

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Pre-federation Australian socialism was highly influenced by philosophical ideologies arising from the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Social scientists who had visited Australia at the time noted the lack of influence from continental socialist ideologies such as Marxism, labelling it as having "socialism with no doctrine".[3] In particular, the works of the American author Edward Bellamy were highly influential, which advocated for the democratic nationalisation of all industry.[4] The prominent movement Australian Socialist League was by the 1890s "modelled on, of all things, Daniel De Leon's Socialist Labor party".[3] Due to the significant influence of American socialist writers, the political sociologist Robin Archer has described that pre-federation "Australian leftism was more American than American leftism itself".[3]

Socialist colonies

In the late 1890s, the colonies of Cosme and New Australia were founded in South America by groups of Australian socialists.

The settlement of New Australia was founded in 1893 by the supporters of the utopian socialist William Lane. Lane's socialism was inspired by Edward Bellamy as well as his unorthodox belief that race played a role in preventing a socialist society from forming.[2] Due to these beliefs, New Australia was built around the values of creating "a brotherhood of English-speaking Whites" which preserved the "colour-Line" which was seen as necessary in order to achieving communism.[5] After conflict over Lane's supposed incompetent management, 58 colonists left New Australia in 1894 to found the colony of Cosme several kilometres south and the original colony was soon after dissolved.[6]



Socialism was a major ideological force behind the Builders Labourers Federation and green bans in the 1970s. The Victorian branch of the union was primarily led by members of the Maoist CPA (M-L) such as Norm Gallagher, while the New South Wales branch was led by members of the CPA such as Jack Mundey.[7] In 1974, Gallagher and several affiliated Maoist workers occupied the New South Wales branch office and expelled CPA affiliated unionists.[7] After union officials, including CPA members, agreed upon the Prices and Incomes Accord in 1983 which traded lower rates of industrial action for parliamentary reforms, it signalled "the end of the renegade, guerrilla actions of the BLF to stop work and take radical protest activities". The union was de-registered shortly after during the Labor Hawke government, and members were blacklisted from working on construction sites.[7]

Contemporary era

Following the collapse of the communism in Europe during the 1990s, belief in public ownership collapsed, resulting in the fall of the Communist Party of Australia and the shift of Labor Left towards non-socialist ideologies.[8] The Communist Party of Australia was dissolved and the assets of the Communist Party were thereafter directed into the SEARCH Foundation,[9] a not-for-profit company set up in 1990 "to preserve and draw on the resources of the Communist Party of Australia and its archives."[10] In 1996 the Socialist Party of Australia, a splinter party from the CPA, changed its name to the Communist Party of Australia claiming the party was the rightful successor to the original party formed in 1920.[11]

Political historian Geoff Robinson describes the contemporary left as a "movement of parties and electoral campaigning."[8] There are currently three federally registered socialist parties which run in elections: Socialist Alliance, Socialist Equality Party, and the Victorian Socialists.[12] Although Socialist Action and the Communist Party of Australia are not registered for federal elections, they have successfully contested local government elections in the City of Yarra and the City of Auburn.[13][14] There are several organisations and parties which do not run in elections, either for ideological reasons or due to practical reasons, including the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist–Leninist), Socialist Alternative, and Solidarity.

Socialist organisations in Australia


Socialist Alliance


Communist Party of Australia (1920)

The Australian Communist Party was initially established in 1920.[15] Within the decade the party became aligned with the Soviet Communist International and renamed itself to the Communist Party of Australia.[15] Following the 1930s, the party followed Marxist-Leninism, until the party became increasingly critical of the USSR in the 1960s.[7] In 1967 the party ceased receiving funding from the USSR and from the 1970s onwards the party adopted eurocommunist theories.[7] The Communist Party of Australia dissolved in 1991.[15] The SEARCH Foundation was established as a successor organisation.[16]

Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist)

In 1961, the pro-China faction leader Ted Hill was expelled from the Communist Party of Australia during the events of the split between the USSR and China.[7] Hill in the following years led a split from the party which cumulated in the formation of the Maoist Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist).[7]

Communist Party of Australia (1971)

In 1971, a group split from the Communist Party of Australia due to their criticisms of the Soviet Union and formed the Socialist Party of Australia.[17] In 1996, following the dissolution of the original Communist Party of Australia in 1991, the Socialist Party of Australia re-named itself to the Communist Party of Australia.[17]

Australian Communist Party

Formed in 2019 as a split from the 1971 Communist Party of Australia.


Socialist Action

Socialist Alternative

Socialist Equality Party



1870 to 1960


1960 to Present

See also


  1. Fry, E. (1982). A Hundred Years of Socialism in Australia. Australian Left Review, 1(80), 44–51.
  2. Burgmann, Verity (1985). In Our Time: Socialism and the rise of Labor, 1885 -1905. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 0868615293.
  3. Archer, Robin (2008). "Chapter 8 Socialism". Why is there no labor party in the United States?. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691149349.
  4. Toth, Csaba (2012). "Resisting Bellamy: How Kautsky and Bebel Read Looking Backward". Utopian Studies. 23 (1).
  5. Cosme Monthly, June 1895
  6. Australian Encyclopaedia Volume 2, p 191, Angus and Robertson Limited, 1926
  7. Piccini, Jon; Smith, Evan; Worley, Matthew, eds. (2018). The far left in Australia since 1945 (1st ed.). Routledge. ISBN 9780429487347.
  8. Robinson, Geoff (2019). Being Left-Wing in Australia: Identity, Culture and Politics after Socialism. Australian Scholarly Publishing. ISBN 978-1-925801-79-8.
  9. "SEARCH Foundation". SEARCH Foundation. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  10. "SEARCH Foundation (Australia)". Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal. Retrieved 29 June 2019.
  11. "CPA – About Us – An Introduction". Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  12. "Current register of political parties". Australian Electoral Commission. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  13. "Socialist elected to Yarra council". Green Left Weekly. 6 September 2016.
  14. Boyle, Peter (6 September 2016). "Fourth socialist elected to a local council in Australia". Green Left Weekly. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  15. "Communist Party of Australia - Institution". Reason in Revolt. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  16. Website, About the author SEARCH Foundation Facebook. "OUR MISSION". SEARCH FOUNDATION. Retrieved 2019-11-13.
  17. "Socialist Party of Australia (II) - Institution". Reason in Revolt. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
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