Labor’s Oligarchic Temptation

Having passed the phases of decline, decadence and collapse, New South Wales Labor limps towards annihilation in 2011. Not without irony, that year marks a century since the publication of Political Parties, Robert Michels’s classic treatise on “the iron law of oligarchy”. This obscure coincidence is notable, since Michels’s thesis bears directly on the shabby saga in New South Wales, if not on Labor as such. Michels argued, essentially, that owing to disparities in the education levels of their officials relative to their rank-and-file and voters, parties of the Left were prone, over time but inevitably, to be usurped by…

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