And I heartily campaign for marriage equality.
But marriage be damned.
In Australia, same sex marriage is explicitly banned. This ban is not about marriage, it’s about marking out queers as less than equal.
Young queers grow up being told that marriage “is the cornerstone of our society”, and that they can’t get married. The conclusions should be pretty fucking obvious to even the most dense. Young queers are being told they are not normal, they are wrong, they are threatening, they are being told they are less than human.
A ban on same sex marriage gives very real comfort to homophobes and religious freaks, it tells them that their beliefs are supported by the state. It serves the interests of conservative religious institutions, reinforcing their power; the ruling class it seems still has some need for their role as moral police.
But first and foremost its about dividing people, it’s about dividing the working class. Dividing the working class into marginalised and privileged groups is key to maintaining the power of the ruling class. Your jobs are threatened by foreigners! Your marriages are threatened by queers! Your property is threatened by the blacks! NOW GET INTO LINE.
This is no greatly hidden process. Divide and rule works, and is consciously practised. The Howard government’s explicit ban on same sex marriage occurred in the lead up to the 2004 election. “Illegals” no terrified like they did in 2001, and Mark Latham looked like offering the Howard government a bit of a challenge. We now know this ban was adopted at the same time as the Howard government conspired to enact a massive attack on the conditions of the working class in the form of Work Choices.
Anarchist and Socialists who I consider friends critique this position, on the grounds that the campaign for same sex marriage is vulnerable to co-option by the ruling class.
Of course it is! Every campaign is! Today’s radicalism is tomorrows product, re-branded, packaged and sold back to us. Anyone for a Cherry Guevara icecream, or your very own Guy Fawkes mask?
If we reject every campaign that risks co-option by the ruling class, if we demand nothing short of total revolution now, we will find ourselves in an isolated self serving political ghetto of the most pure, the most self righteous, the most ineffective and the most irrelevant, for all time. Sound familiar?
You can’t will a revolution out of thin air, and you cannot some how expect that the mass of people will come around to your point of view as if by magic.Yes, Stonewall was a riot, and yes, the radical history of the liberation struggle MUST be defended. But we’re not at Stonewall and it’s not 1969.
The sad fact is that we don’t get to pick the political terrain. Radical ideas will only be advanced when radicals meet people where they are at now.
And an increasingly large cross section of the working class is at events like Equal Love Albury Wodonga, or at Reclaim the Night, or at demonstrations against 457 visas.
I want to make it clear I don’t endorse any of these campaigns uncritically (especially NOT the 457 campaign). But the skill and task of the radical is to be able to engage critically with what exists, and advance an alternative and more systematic explanation of the vectors of oppression that at least some people have decided to confront.