Here at blogging the end we don’t normally blog about day to day politics, we hold ourselves a little above the fray. However, the attacks against CAAH for use of the word “fuck” on a recent poster are so ridiculous that I feel something has to be said.
First up, let’s deal with the absurd complaints about democracy and representation. CAAH doesn’t claim to represent the queer community. It’s not claiming to speak on your behalf. You don’t have to agree with everything it says. CAAH meetings are open and publicly advertised; everyone is more than welcome to participate. It certainly hasn’t “hijacked” the same-sex marriage campaign, it’s been at the forefront of the campaign from the very beginning, often in the early days it was the only group campaigning on the issue after more mainstream gay groups wrote the cause off as too “extreme”. CAAH has been consistently organising rallies and actions drawing in hundreds, sometimes thousands of participants. Meanwhile other groups have favoured largely invisible and seemingly meaningless lobbying campaigns. On balance I think it is figures like Roodney Croome who have hijacked the movement, declaring themselves leaders and holding court over what tactics are and aren’t allowed.
Nor was CAAH itself “hijacked” by Socialist Alternative. The proposed poster received enthusiastic support from the Greens, independents and anarchists within the collective. The only tendency within the collective which opposed the poster was socialist alliance. More than 75% of those present voted in favour of the proposal. I’m not a member of Socialist Alternative, in fact my politics are at the very opposite corner of the radical left, but I and everyone I talk to in the collective, with the exception of my friends in Socialist Alliance, support the decision wholeheartedly.
Secondly, let’s get real on what the queer rights campaign is going to look like in this environment. Tony Abbott is going to be an ugly, ugly prime-minister for pretty much everyone who isn’t part of the ruling class. His election signals the determination of Murdoch, Rhineheart et al. to commence a vicious program of austerity, held together by a politics of hate, fear and division among the working people. We all know this to be true, even if we wouldn’t use precisely those words to say it. We need to pushback early if we want to limit the damage and reduce the number of items he ticks off his agenda.
Community Action Against Homophobia has taken the admirable step of signalling early that they won’t nod sagely while he destroys lives, mumbling that at least he has a “mandate”. They’re carving out a space for a resistance to Tony which is stiff and fierce- not some pliant “loyal opposition”. They’re getting in early, setting the tone, and not waiting till it’s too late.
The advocates of moderation keep saying that tone matters, and I agree. The pleading, falsely “positive” tone they suggest; fiercely on message and fiercely single issue, will at very best, scrape through marriage equality. It definitely won’t create the kind of fight-back we need to defend our community against broader attacks- attacks on youth services, community organisations and Medicare.
In any case Tony Abbott is not going to be persuaded via constant cajoling moaning. If he’s willing to say publicly that gays make him feel uncomfortable, what do you think his real views are? I’ve read his stuff in Honi, from when he was president. I fear I could hazard a few guesses.
We need to energise opposition if we want gay marriage passed, let alone if we want to protect our community from Abbott’s broader agenda. Any idea that we’re on the home-stretch and just need to do a little sweet talking should have been thoroughly discredited by Abbott’s election. It’s time to toughen up.
Finally, I just want to say that even if this poster is a strategic mistake (and I repudiate that claim completely) a far worse strategic mistake is dividing the movement by publicly attacking and undermining activist work you disagree with. Lord knows we put up with a lot of nonsense from the so called moderates in the queer rights movement for the sake of unity, the least they could do is extend a similar courtesy.