‘Before the triumphs and the tragedies‘, Inside Story, 2 June 2020
Review of Becoming John Curtin and James Scullin: The Making of the Modern Labor Party, by Liam Byrne.
It was a time of intense political ferment [says Abjorensen], and the radical Curtin and the moderate Scullin frequently found themselves on the opposite sides of the debate about what Labor stood for. Was it seeking to reform the capitalist system from within or radically restructure society along socialist lines?
The book goes into much detail of internal Labor politics, before during and after the Great War, especially the battles over the socialist objective of the party, 1919-21. Byrne comes to a pessimistic conclusion about Labor today, claiming
it has ceased to be a party of ideas; it no longer articulates a vision of what might be. Byrne argues that while the socialist tradition is now merely historic, and that the prevailing moderate tradition, devoid of its historic rival, has become enervated and incapable of devising new schemes for transformative change that would fundamentally alter Australia over the longer term.