JULIA Gillard will today attack the dominance of Labor’s factions by proposing to broaden the party’s base through online memberships and trialling US-style primaries to choose candidates.
The Prime Minister will also ask party officials to recruit 8000 members a year – double the current rate – and adopt issue-based campaigning in the style of activist group GetUp! to reconnect with the community…
…Her proposals are broadly in line with the spirit of the report, which noted that Labor’s membership was ageing and haemorrhaging, leaving the party unable to man some election booths in last year’s election. It proposed a system of US-style primaries for preselections in open or non-Labor held seats, with a guaranteed 20 per cent share of the vote for union members, 60 per cent for ALP members and 20 per cent for non-member supporters.
Under current arrangements, Labor chooses its candidates using branch-level elections that are validated by state or national councils. As these committees are dominated by trade-union-backed party factions, candidates are often appointed on the basis of deals and trade-offs, leading to a high proportion of former union officials or politicised former political staffers finding their way into the nation’s legislatures…
…Ms Gillard will use today’s speech to call for “a community organising approach to make sure the party grows and that it is connected to the community.”
The move appears to pick up on another of the proposals of the Faulkner-Bracks-Carr review – the introduction of a community-organising model similar to that of GetUp!, which conducts campaigns on individual issues.
Ok, You get the point. Labor would have you believe that it has become alienated from the Australian “Community” and needs to reconnect, over the traditional factional power structure. This is all true to some extent. Except for the fact that there is no such thing as a community. As a word in the English language it exists, but as a feature of the modern western state, no. Few people actually know each other or have anything in common past five houses down from their own. Modern living is an atomized one. If labor were to refer specifically to towns, villages, sporting clubs, then one could speak of communities.
The English portray this quite well in their frequent BBC village-side-murder detective series. The police detective, usually from the city, is always a foreign interloper into the gossip and culture of a real village community. Murders here have back story and intrigue. City or large metropolitan detective series are just random gruesome acts of murder performed in general apathy. Why would we care? It was just some guy, 2 blocks down from that great sushi restaurant.
A community of what? What does labor want the community to be composed of? Labor doesn’t want to mention that other c word – culture, because that would tell the lie to their sophistry. In essence we are talking about culture not community. A community is nothing without its culture. Hence sporting and hobby clubs form very strong communities with their subsequent rules and rituals. Labor uses, and I have hinted at in the title of this post, ‘community’ as an abstract construct. I’m sure real communities would be displeased to be thought as an abstract construct. The fact is that, community thought of here doesn’t exist, its a purely philosophical notion that I have described before in an earlier post.
What labor really wants, and what that other Chicago community organizer of hope and change has achieved is to create a sort of militia. Now that sounds extreme, but it is what Getup and Move on is. A pressure group that uses single issues, collective weight and unorthodox tactics to “persuade” various persons, institutions, political parties that pursuing certain policies is inconvenient for them.
Labor once had this, in its militant workers unions. Only the hardcore cadre were ready for direct action, of course. Few of the working class actually were involved in socialism and its discontents. But that’s the whole point of a militia, it attempts to be greater than the sum of its members.