Over the weekend, I was part of a series of protests in Sydney outside the Labor Party’s National Conference. Left-wingers came from across the country as the Labor Party debated important issues such as same-sex marriage, refugee rights and uranium mining. With Gillard pushing Labor’s right-wing agenda, it was crucial to have thousands outside pressure the party to take decent positions, because it’s clear the ALP won’t do so willingly.
Even the Labor ‘Left’, I’d argue, have dragged their feet on same-sex marriage and putting up a decent fight to the Malaysian solution and offshore processing. Putting faith in those inside the party to change things really holds back social movements. Despite the biggest gay rights protest in Australian history, and the ongoing movement pressuring the ALP to change the Labor Party platform in favour of equal marriage rights, a deal with the Right inside the party for a conscience vote railroads the policy toward failure.
Whilst some of the Left have made excuses for why the Labor Left are too gutless to cross the floor over offshore processing, the Right threatened to cross the floor over same-sex marriage before the conscience vote deal was made. The Left, begging for credibility, yet again fail to fight for principle whilst the Right of the party do what they like. The likes of Garret prove again that the Labor Party is nothing but a graveyard for principled left-wing activists, and putting faith in them is suicide.
Though the Left, in this instance, did seem to vote in the right way on most policies on the floor of conference, I’d argue it was due to pressure from outside the party. Prior to the conference, and in previous years, deals and capitulations meant that often motions didn’t even make it to the floor.
So I took it at great offence that some were chanting ‘Thank you Labor’ on the Saturday’s Equal Marriage demo and Labor Party speakers used the opportunity to congratulate themselves and further promote the project of social democracy, so discredited at the moment, when it has been such an impediment to progressive change such as same-sex marriage. Support for Equal rights in Australia has been in the majority for some time now, but it took until this weekend for the Left to move to change the party platform.
The victories have only ever come from pressure from ordinary people, ordinary workers pressuring their union leadership, or left-wing movements outside the party forcing the party to change the position or risk irrelevance.
So there is still a fight to win same-sex marriage, to make it law, and I’d argue that it won’t be through pressuring Abbott and the Liberals, but the party in government. And the Malaysian Solution is far from dead so it will require renewed effort amongst refugee activists to bury it again and keep it that way.
For further analysis on the ALP National Conference, I’d recommend an article by Rick Kuhn, ‘Labor Party contradictions out in the open at conference’ from the Socialist Alternative website.
Note: I’ve edited some aspects of my post from last night to include the fact the Left of that party did actually vote the right way in this instance.