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Basket weavers and true believers : making and unmaking the Labor left in…

by Tony Harris

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In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of people sought membership of the ALP branches of the inner-Sydney municipality of Leichhardt. These were people whose politics had been shaped by the social movements of the times and by the hopes and disappointments associated with the Whitlam Government. The political clashes between this Left and the working-class-made-good patriarchs of the local labor Right have become legendary. Yet as the fruits of victory were in reach, the Left began to fall apart in often bitter conflict. By the beginning of the 1990s many of these participants, in what has sometimes been called the "middle-classing" of Labor, had deserted the branches and switched their allegiance to Independents, Democrats and The Greens. This is the story of of this turbulent transition told from the point of view of the members at the branch level, and the ALP political life they sought to construct. As the ALP struggles with its identity and purpose at the beginning of the 21st century, Basket Weavers and True believers provides a timely case study of the recent making and unmaking of the Labor Left.… (more)
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In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of people sought membership of the ALP branches of the inner-Sydney municipality of Leichhardt. These were people whose politics had been shaped by the social movements of the times and by the hopes and disappointments associated with the Whitlam Government. The political clashes between this Left and the working-class-made-good patriarchs of the local labor Right have become legendary. Yet as the fruits of victory were in reach, the Left began to fall apart in often bitter conflict. By the beginning of the 1990s many of these participants, in what has sometimes been called the "middle-classing" of Labor, had deserted the branches and switched their allegiance to Independents, Democrats and The Greens. This is the story of of this turbulent transition told from the point of view of the members at the branch level, and the ALP political life they sought to construct. As the ALP struggles with its identity and purpose at the beginning of the 21st century, Basket Weavers and True believers provides a timely case study of the recent making and unmaking of the Labor Left.

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