Bongiorno, Francis Robert
This is a thesis about the development of labour politics in Victoria in the period between 1885 and 1914. The emergence of the Labor Party is a central theme, but the evolution of the Party is related to the broader political process in which it was involved. Labor's relations with unionism, liberalism and socialism as well as the anti-Labor forces moulded its character. The Labor Party was a field in which competing aspirants for political authority utilised various political languages in the...[Show more] political struggle. Before 1895, most unionists envisaged only minimal state intervention
in industrial relations. They believed that the main struggle for the rights of labour should be carried on outside the parliament. In the years between 1885 and 1890, there was a formalisation of industrial relations which enhanced the status of the Trades Hall Council by increasing its importance in the settlement of industrial disputes. In the 1880s and 1890s, relations between capital and labour acquired broader political meanings than before, a process which was a precondition for the emergence of a Labor Party. The Party which emerged in Victoria in the 1890s differed from its counterparts in the other colonies in its organisational form, ideology, and political strategies. There was no stable extra-parliamentary organisation to which parliamentarians could be held responsible. The Labor Party did not pursue an independent working-class political strategy, but remained attached to the Liberal Party. At the same time, working-class candidates consolidated an ouvrieriste political tradition whose central tenet was that the interests of the working class could only be properly represented in parliament by those who had belonged to a trade. In the early 1900s, in the context of an anti-Labor political mobilisation, there was a growth of support for Labor and a formalisation of Party organisation. The Labor leadership consolidated the Party organisation. In this period, the major theme of labour political discourse was the advantages of voting for a pledged candidate. This appeal met with only limited success, since traditional ways of understanding political representation were firmly entrenched among electors.
By 1914, the Labor Party had strong union support, but this was a relatively recent phenomenon. Union support for the Party grew slowly between 1900 and 1914, with little progress before 1909. With the development of the state wages board system and compulsory arbitration in this period, however, industrial relations were further "politicised". Relations between capital and labour became enmeshed in party conflict, contributing to political alignments. In the labourism which emerged after 1900, there was an emphasis on working-class political agency, derived from both socialism and unionism, but there were also strong continuities between Victorian liberalism and labourism. The Labor leadership mobilised voters by appeals to populist collectivities as well as through the language of economic class. These populist cross-currents not only provided a sense of continuity with an earlier colonial liberalism, but were a way of resolving tensions in Labor's diverse constituencies and mobilising discontent for party political purposes. The emphasis in labour political discourse on universal categories, however, tended to marginalise female activists by ignoring the political significance of gender difference. In 1914, the Party was dominated by men, and its agenda tended to emphasise the concerns of its male constituents.
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