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On the Famous Debate: Socialism in Australia (1967)

Although an overwhelming majority of students at the last Union debate ("That there is no need in Australia for a Socialist Party") voted in favour of Socialism, the result is less edifying for socialists than may seem at first glance.

Both sides agreed essentially on the topic. The only differences were matters of emphasis. The socialist side wanted a little more equality and slightly more competition in industry. Complete nationalisation was certainly not essential but even if it were, there would be few real differences in society, except the obvious economic ones.

The main aim was to give the people a larger share of the capitalist cake. And who would deny them this? Certainly not the Liberals: Socialism was only an extension of the welfare state and involved no radical change in society at all. The Liberals agreed that there should be a more equitable distribution of the produce of society.

Whence it followed (though none of the speakers pointed this out) that there was already a basically socialist party in power in Australia - The Liberal Party! The proclaimed politics of the Liberal Party are socialist!

People mentioned "quality of life" few times - and when they did, quality of life was exemplified by better economic Conditions. Nobody was worried about individuality, happiness and freedom in a society where "the fetishism of commodities" is all but the official doctrine. Not one speaker pointed to the entirely different framework in which a socialist society exists. Socialism begins with individual freedom and dignity, and recognises that a truly free person can only exist in a truly human society.

Socialism implies a positive and radical transformation of capitalist society in all its aspects. Nationalisation of industry can only provide the economic basis for the new society. It can only be a condition for the free development of the individual.

According to these conventional socialists, the only real criticism to be levelled at the Liberal Party is that they are failed liberals!

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