Labour History

Are We ‘All Socialists Now’? New Liberalism, State Socialism and the Australian Settlement

Labour History (2012), 102, (1), 87–98.

Abstract

Addressing a Labor party conference in 1908 Andrew Fisher claimed that ‘We are all Socialists now and indeed the only qualification you hear from anybody is probably that he is “not an extreme socialist”’. Despite this proclamation, the far-reaching reforms implemented by the second Fisher government of 1910-13 were of a piece with the earlier initiatives of Deakin’s liberal governments. Moreover, Fisher’s attempts to reconcile class antagonisms had much in common with the new liberalism of the period. It was common for many social liberals up to and including F.W. Eggleston to distinguish between good and bad forms of socialism, and for some Labor figures (such as H.V. Evatt) to claim the legacy of Australian liberalism for the labour movement. This paper explores the relationship between new liberalism and state socialism in the decades before the class divide came to dominate the Australian party system.

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Endnotes

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Tregenza, Ian