The Socialist Macro-Sect in the 'Digital Age': The Victorian Socialists' Strategy for Assembling a Counter-Public

  • Ian Anderson RMIT
Keywords: digital parties, macro-sects, communication, digital media, organisation


The Victorian Socialists (VicSocialists) are a socialist electoral organisation in Australia which has had some electoral success as a regional fourth party behind the Greens. This article seeks to address what kind of organisation the VicSocialists are, what communicative techniques the organisation employs in assembling a counterpublic or constituency, and what this case study illustrates in terms of the broader formation of counterpublics in the ‘digital age’. This article characterises the VicSocialists as a “macro-sect”, a new organisational form. The macro-sect is something more than a socialist micro-sect and less than a mass party, while optimistically conceiving of itself as a proto-mass party. The macro-sect strategy is distinct from another 21st-century party-form, the digital party. Unlike the digital parties, which tend to fetishise digital media, the VicSocialists treat digital media soberly as just one tool in the formation and mobilisation of counterpublics, a tool with serious limitations. Additionally, digital media is complementary with face-to-face communication (such as doorknocking) in important ways. A study of a parallel US macro-sect, the DSA, similarly found that activists were ambivalent about digital media, yet strongly used it for promotion. This commonality with the DSA suggests the international emergence of a new organisational form, with a distinct communicative strategy for forming counterpublics in the so-called ‘digital age’ – one which necessarily uses digital media, yet does not fetishise it.