Basket weavers and true believers : the middle class left and the ALP Leichhardt Municipality c. 1970-1990

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Copyright: Harris, Tony
In the two decades between 1970 and 1990, hundreds of people passed through the ALP branches of Leichhardt Municipality. These were predominantly members of what this thesis calls a 'middle class Left', employed in professions and para-professions like teaching or the public service and motivated, to one degree or another, by the social movements and politics of the late 1960's and early 1970's. This is a social history incorporating the life histories of a selection of these people. It is set against the backdrop of conflicts with incumbent, conservative, working class-based political machines and the political climate of the times. The thesis is in four parts. Part I, the introduction, establishes the point of view of the writer as it shapes what is also a 'participant history'. In this context, and that of the oral history interviews, the introduction addresses the relationship between memory and history. Parts II and III are the body of the thesis and each is lead by a 'photo-essay', recognising the complimentary importance of a visual narrative. Part II sets out the broad political topography of the 1970's and early 1980's. Chapter one describes the middle-classing of the ALP in Leichhardt Municipality, set against a review of the principal literature. It then moves through chapters two to four to examine the three loci of middle-classing: Annandale, Balmain and Glebe. Part III moves on into the 1980's when the middle class Left 'takes power'. It examines, in chapter five, the emerging, sharp, divisions among the Left on Leichhardt Council and in the contests for federal and state parliamentary seats. Chapter six examines the deepening of these divisions in the mid to late 1980's, concluding with the climactic struggle over the Mort Bay public housing project. Chapter seven looks at the diaspora of the Labor Left in Leichhardt at the end of the 1980's as the branch membership declined and many sought out political alternatives to the ALP. Part IV brings the thesis to its conclusion, focussing on the complexities and ambiguities of the middle class Left and drawing out the main socio-political themes of the two decades.
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Harris, Tony
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PhD Doctorate
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