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The years of the first Labor government in New South Wales (1910-16) saw increasing tension between the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary wings of the NSW Labor Party, with hostility directed especially towards Attorney-General and then Premier William Holman. By 1915 the 'Industrialists', led by the Australian Workers Union (AWU), resorted to a new form of internal party organisation in order to take control of the state executive and conference and impose discipline over Members of Parliament. The virulence of the split in the party over conscription in 1916 was intensified by the activity of this faction. The organisation was closed down in 1919 because of a struggle for control within the faction between the moderate leaders of the AWU and the more radical ambitions of the One Big Union fraction. The structure and culture of the Industrial Section, later the Industrial Vigilance Council, set the pattern for later factional organisation in the NSW and Federal Labor parties. It is of the essence of modern mass political parties that they give shelter to many, often seemingly incompatible, political opinions and allegiances. However, it is not inevitable that they will be divided into factions--in the sense that the word 'faction' has come to have in modern politics. For the purposes of this discussion a faction is a formally organised group within a party, with its own power structure, that attempts to influence policy and promotion within the wider party. The existence of one faction almost inevitably results in the creation of opposed faction/s so that internal party competition is conducted between clearly recognisable and organised teams. Faction politics in the contemporary NSW branch of the Australian Labor Party (ALP), where various groups are acknowledged with an explicit or implicit convention of proportional representation and some sharing of spoils, is only one highly institutionalised and late developing form of this phenomenon.

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Australian Society for the Study of Labour History

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