The Push

I’m pretty ignorant of Australian political history. And quite frankly I find it pretty boring.
However a friend of mine notified me of this website discussing “The Push“, an Australian political/cultural movement in the 1950s and 1960s in Sydney. And it’s quite interesting. It briefly discusses Sydney’s freethought society, founded by John Anderson and the libertarian society founded in the 1950s.

So for those of you who (like me) are fairly ignorant of Australian political history and/or too young to know much about movments from the 50s/60s, you may find this web-site interesting.

It also may be interesting to hear any thoughts on this movment from any readers who know more about it or may have even been involved.

Incidentally, I am strongly oppossed to taxpayers paying for websites such as this to exist. I definitely don’t think it’s the job of our government to write political history, or to attempt to control or even define Australian culture.

29 thoughts on “The Push

  1. My perception of the Push is heavy drinking, free-sex hedonism. Not that I’m critical of that, but I don’t believe there was a significant libertarian aspect to it. It was somewhat anti-establishment but that was generational and there was a lot of flirting with communism.

    I also find the disavowal of elitism amusing considering the individuals mentioned.

  2. I read a book about the period, called ‘Sex and Anarchy’, I think. They were left-libbers. Whilst not liking communism as practiced, they did seem to lean to the heavy left end. They seemed to break up around the time that Gough took Canberra.

  3. I think an article about ‘The Push’ is very timely for the ALS. As Dave refers above, my understanding of ‘The Push’ was that it was more of a left-anarchist group. The association with libertarianism appears to me to come from a confusion of the difference between ‘libertine’ and ‘libertarian’, with a recent example being in the Australian documentary on the Bogle-Chandler case which describes ‘The Push’ as a group of libertarians in the context of open relationships and wild parties.

    I say this is timely because IMHO the ALS is tending toward left-libertarianism and, again IMHO, will probably find it’s niche there. Sukrit’s failure to defend his post here because he’s ‘not going to spend time responding in the comments section where my responses will be buried and unseen. I’m going to be writing about foreign policy in main posts only., as his ‘job is not to spend my time spoon-feeding you the basics of libertarian foreign policy. My job is to increase the traffic to the ALS website and edit the posts is a good example of that left-libertarian approach of which I’m sure we’ll have plenty more!

  4. Mike, I hope you’re not a splittist who will start up the ‘New Libertarian Blog’, or ‘Plutocratic Libertarian’! If some opinions are different to mine, I won’t quit because of that.

  5. No Nick, I just joined the Liberal Party :). They’re still shit, but I’m not surrounded by hippies, and their parties aren’t too bad.

    In all seriousness I’d like to see some Menzian style small ‘l’ liberalism out there. For me, that’s a practical way forward. But you go, girl!

  6. The association with libertarianism appears to me to come from a confusion of the difference between ‘libertine’ and ‘libertarian’, with a recent example being in the Australian documentary on the Bogle-Chandler case which describes ‘The Push’ as a group of libertarians in the context of open relationships and wild parties.

    The difference between a libertarian and a libertine. A libertarian believes that one is entitled to do as one wishes insofar as one doesn’t impede the capacity of others to do the same.

    A libertine believes that one is entitled to do as one wishes.

    The Push’s hedonism was more in the first category. We should remember that Australia was a stifling and narrow place in the late ’50s. I doubt very much that the Push’s follies would have anything on the behaviour of the average King’s Cross punter these days.

    Q. What is the difference between a bunch of boho ratbags getting pissed and a literary/artistic movement?

    A. Those constituting a movement publish and/or exhibit occasionally.

  7. #3

    How is Sukrit’s decision not to explain the obvious link between libertarianism and a non-interventionist foreign policy ‘left-libertarian’?

  8. The falling out over John Anderson’s conservativism in the late 50’s coincided with the fracturing of the group. As a key intellectual Anderson spilt with the subculture group towrd the end and founded Andersonian individualism.

  9. How is Sukrit’s decision not to explain the obvious link between libertarianism and a non-interventionist foreign policy ‘left-libertarian’?

    People on the left feel they have no need to justify their position. They feel they have the high moral ground by default, and are therefore beyond question – and that explaining themselves is somehow below them.

    If you don’t think this site is leaning to the left then then throw up a post

    a) advocating abolition of all welfare and replacement by private charity; or
    b) eliminating licensing of private firearms; or
    c) advocating absolute property rights including the right to cut down old trees; or
    d) that the USA has the greatest constitution to appear on earth to this point; or
    e) that more individualism in all areas means a better society; or
    f) advocating privatisation of health, education and policing; or
    f) a skeptical position on Global Warming alarmism; or even
    g) the right of a hotel owner to cater for a smoking clientele;

    and see the response you get.

  10. Mick Sutcliffe,

    Not only are you better than the Liberal party, despite having a glimmer of hope in liberalism in Turnbull, this is what Menzies himself said:

    “Individual enterprise must drive us forward. That does not mean that we are to return to the old and selfish notions of laissez-faire. The functions of the State will be much more than merely keeping the ring within which the competitors will fight. Our social and industrial obligations will be increased. There will be more law, not less; more control, not less.” Robert Menzies ‘The Forgotten People’ (1943)”

    I therefore unfairly and heartlessly conclude that Mr Sutcliffe has rejected his objectivist principles and has now committed himself to socialism and a strict, state enforced morality code.

  11. Yes, Mark, I can remember when I first read that as my heart nearly fell through the floor. Particularly when the rest of the speech was such a great build up. What I eventually learnt from Menzies was that although he was a proponent of liberalism, he knew concepts like laissez-faire scared too many people (especially Australians in the 50s!), and he knew he had to sell his philosophy in some sort of other packaging – which was strong civil society with a somewhat conservative flavour.

    You know, if I want to stand up for drug legalisation and gay rights I can just go to the Greens. It’s kind of chic to support these things. But if I really want to advocate individual freedom and responsibility I’m going to need to work with someone else – that’s really the hard task as it’s not popular. Unfortunately, I don’t think libertarians can get anywhere on their own. Sad but true. But then again, I don’t hate mild conservatives as much ad I hate hippies. Conservatism is a about individual responsibility, gradualism and your obligations to other people. Left wing ideology is all about not taking responsibilty for yourself and finding someone else to be forced to to this, and making large irrational changes on a whim with no thought for the consequences.

    We’ll see how it turns out. I want to be part of a large functioning party for a while and see how they operate. After that, who knows what the future holds. And the social scene is pretty good – you’d like it 😉 .

  12. I want to be part of a large functioning party for a while and see how they operate.

    I’ve been a member of both the Liberal and Labor parties. You’ll only need five minutes to find out, believe me.

    After that it will be like working for the military – all warm and mushy but no place for those who want to make a difference.

  13. Mike Sutcliffe- have you thought about standing for a place on local councils? I think we have to build up to running the country. And it would help if we could sweet-talk someone like Dick Smith into backing the L&D party.

  14. And it would help if we could sweet-talk someone like Dick Smith into backing the L&D party.

    I don’t fancy your chances – he’s an advocate of economic protectionism of Australian products for starters

  15. Mick – Your rhetoric is full of stereotypical views of people as members of a collective.
    .
    Those points you suggest at #12 are interesting but they all reflect pure libertarianism to which people will retort with solid objections and qualifiers. Suggest the elimination of gun licensing and they’ll point out that Martin Bryant may not’ve done what he did had he been required to get a license to own a rifle. And if that’d been the case many responsible gun owners would still be gun owners.
    .
    Now I don’t consider myself a libertarian (or anything else for that matter) but I do share with libertarians the view that liberty is the prime political value and that such liberty can only be sustained when balanced with individual responsibility.
    .
    I also agree that the Left neglects to truly understand this.
    .
    But I fail to see how much progress can be made in furtherance of re-asserting the classical values of liberalism if there is a. no understanding of where its opponents actually come from and b. there’s an insistence on subjecting said opponents to caricature and vitriol.

  16. I don’t fancy your chances – he’s an advocate of economic protectionism of Australian products for starters

    I didn’t want to get into this but since papachango has brought it up I’ll chime in. Dick Smith is a hard working capitalist with that so typical pro-Austalian bent. And if you look into it, pro-Ausralian ends up meaning a proponent of strong civil society and a loyalty to his own. He’s the sort of person who believes laissez-faire and libertarianism are contrary to strong civil society, but most of us think of him as a great capitalist with strong libertarian tendencies even though he’d never consider himself a libertarian. I think you’re right, he’s exactly the sort of person we should try to work with, and definitely not the left.

  17. Adrien, I agree. I think libertarians need to get real and rebadge themsleves to have any real chance in a political sense. However, I do think exploration of the libertarian philosophy is invaluable and the ALS should continue to rise and play a vital role in teaching this philosophy. It’s just that when you get into real world politics then libertarianism won’t cut it. So in addition to the beautiful libertarian philosophy the ALS needs to show libertarians how to relate to the real world.

    What I’m personally saying is that I’m willing to compromise. I’m willing to step back and and work with others who are a bit fearful of freedom – in order to actually gain more freedom than we currently have. I just don’t think the left is the place to do it – after all, they stand for the collective as the definer of the individual, and the right stands for the individual as the basic building block of civil society.

    Also, I don’t believe that the ‘solid objections and qualifiers.’ are really that solid. For example, I believe that a society exists by the morality of it’s citizens, so gun licensing will have a negligible effect on public safety as immoral people will find a way to hurt others, and this continues to be proven to be the case. If society is moral then empowering it’s citizens is a good thing. If it’s immoral then nothing can save it. However, I acknowledge that while this perspective is a valid intellectual argument it’s not possible to sell it politically. You’ve got to be smarter than that if you want to bring your ideas to the mainstream.

  18. ALS is tending toward left-libertarianism

    not me, pal. nor Terje. nor fleeced.

    it is interesting to note how pacifist the Oz version of libertarianism is. direct contrast to the UK, which was what i was raised on. more similar to the US, i guess.

  19. I think the way for the LDP to insert itself into the Oz mainstream is to a, acknowledge that most Australian’s will have a problem with the agenda as a whole but b. Will agree strongly with the core principle of freedom and responsibility and c. May vote for the LDP for the same reason they vote for the Greens: not because they want ’em in govt but because they want their agenda on the mainstream agenda.
    .
    To make it worthwhile the LDP will have to prioritize what it wants to achieve and be realistic about it. I’d suggest (tho’ I acknowledge it’s risky) that being totally honest with electorate re points a,b and c might be the way to go.
    .
    Many people will have a ‘yes, but’ reaction to libertarianism but they will feel strongly that governments don’t have the right to make certain thing illegal and will want that voiced. And no-one else does.

  20. I’d like to share your optimism, but I don’t think the libertarian position on a) and b) is any way sellable. It’s got to be gradual progression along this line. c) might have value in some sense, but you still need to reassure people by some means that this new freedom won’t destroy their world somehow.

    I don’t feel libertarians can be completely honest and expect success. It’s more about adopting the philosophy of liberalism as your moral basis and then getting out into the real world and working with what you’ve got. I think a smart operator could be successful and advance things in the right direction by selling this philosophy in gradual increments.

    That’s where I’m at anyways.

  21. To make it worthwhile the LDP will have to prioritize what it wants to achieve and be realistic about it.

    There’s nothing wrong with the LDP’s priorities. Its focus is still on lower taxes plus “your choice, not the government” on social issues.

    I believe they are quite saleable but require money and people. We have very little of the former and too few of the latter.

    But this is still early days. The Christian Democrats haven’t got past 2.5% or the Greens about 8% and they’ve each been at it 25 years.

  22. I’d like to share your optimism,
    .
    What optimism?
    .
    I don’t feel libertarians can be completely honest and expect success.
    .
    Uh no. This is politics. If you want to be completely honest go on Jerry Springer.
    .
    There’s nothing wrong with the LDP’s priorities. Its focus is still on lower taxes plus “your choice, not the government” on social issues.
    .
    La la la di da – Please witness the last election and the strife that befell Ivan Millat’s sister-in-law. Then please consider what people like Andrew Bolt are going to do with the ‘your choice not the government’s’ thingy if it becomes apparent you might pinch a Liberal senator’s seat.
    .
    I’m not talking about policy I’m talking strategy. Good strategy says that a minor party doesn’t spread its energy over a million candidates for a million lower house seats it can’t possibly win. Especially candidates like Mr Dobell who is, shall we say, a bit of n’er too well fastened ordnance a rollin’ o’ th’ deck. .
    .
    It puts its money and its mouth into one candidate who’s got a chance. Not my business, just my opinion.

  23. “Then please consider what people like Andrew Bolt are going to do with the ‘your choice not the government’s’ thingy if it becomes apparent you might pinch a Liberal senator’s seat.”

    He might have to reveal his true colours to the public, which may not be pretty.

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