The attacks against Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) for using the word “fuck” on a recent poster are so ridiculous that 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.
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, Rhinehart 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 push back early if we want to limit the damage and reduce the number of items he ticks off his agenda.
CAAH 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 that 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 on youth services, community organisations and Medicare.
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.