The Australian is running a series of articles on left-wing politics, called ‘What’s left?’. The answer so far is that more than a set of specific beliefs the left is a particular sensibility.
This idea is most explicitly argued for in Dennis Glover’s contribution this morning:
social democracy springs from an enduring but mysterious human desire to create a better society, the challenge for social democrats today isn’t just to produce a newer and smarter program but to appeal to this moral and political impulse on an emotional as well as rational basis. It has to show passion and character, not just logic.
Glover argues that this desire goes back to the start of Western civilization in ancient Greece. The form it takes varies a lot. What was needed to improve the lives of, say, the 19th century working class is very different to the concerns social democrats have today. But the moral impulses are similar.
For Julia Gillard, the left-wing impulse is emotional:
Even when I was at school, … I had a sense of what I thought was right and wrong in a values sense. Instinctively at home, Labor was our team. Even more importantly than the events, we’d talk about the values behind what was happening in the news. A sense of indignation has always burned in me about what happened to my father [who missed out on higher education]. (emphasis added)