Labor running scared?

So I received this in my PO Box this morning. No envelope. Apparently members can use their union membership to campaign for the ALP – but not for the actual issues mentioned (it’s good that the unions would use their workplaces to campaign for issues but why just for the ALP?).

ALP 'letter'

The text can also be found on Cath Bowtell’s site as a personal endorsement from ‘campaign volunteer Edwina’. It was authorised by State Secretary and Campaign Director, Nicholas Reece.

Read the comments. Really, this is activism?

Benjamin Laird

Benjamin Laird is a Melbourne-based computer programmer and poet. He is currently a PhD candidate at RMIT researching poetry and programming and he is a website producer for Overland literary journal and Cordite Poetry Review.

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  1. This is a beat up and you know it.

    It’s clear that Edwina supports Cath Bowtell and wrote a blog post for Cath’s website, as well as writing a letter. She even says in the opening sentence that she’s a campaign volunteer.

    The letter clearly says who it is from, and who it was authorised and printed by. (This is required in the Electoral Act by the way.)

    Local residents are entitled to support, volunteer and assist campaigns and let their neighbours know about it. That sounds like activism to me.

    1. Hi Alex. I have no problem with Edwina campaigning for Cath Bowtell
      and this piece did appear on her website first (that’s why I linked to
      it). Yet, I think a lot of energy is poured into this election
      campaign that is absent for the rest of the year.

      I was also surprised to receive an unsolicted, unaddressed letter in
      my post office box, as it has no publicly accessible way of putting
      mail in (other than mail posted directly to me).

      It was one of those moments that you realise the lost potential of the
      union movement. If we had union members / activists organising around
      these issues or leafleting about workers’ rights (ABCC), same-sex
      marriage demonstrations, refugee rights, Indigenous rights – well, it
      would be fantastic. But instead I get a leaflet about the ALP.

      1. There’s nothing actually stopping union members and activists generally from organising around these issues. People don’t need to be directed to do activism around these issues.

        Yes, the ALP supports many things which are fucked and it would be great to see unions play a larger role in pushing social change. Instead of bemoaning about people letterboxing for the ALP, organise people, get a bunch of leaflets, go and head outside the inner city, doorknock and talk to people about why gay marriage, Indigenous and refugee rights are important to change their minds and make it an issue. Shift people who don’t hear these debates by talking to them and you’ll help shift the debate itself.

        1. I don’t see the two activities as mutually exclusive.

          I do find it the sad state of modern politics that both the supposed grassroots ALP (as opposed to the Federal consensus) and the Greens spruik progressive causes but spend 90% of their activity on electioneering (perhaps this was always true? A logical conclusion of parliamentary politics).

          That being said I’m not sure unconvinced people are the problem. There are many current issues (and past issues) that most people disagree with but that doesn’t change what Liberal/Labor do. If the grassroots parliamentary party activists participated in building demonstrations they would most certainly be bigger (as they say they believe in the causes and given the few this weekend they are more than happy to have their candidates speak at the rallies e.g. Greens at refugee rally, ALP/Greens at same-sex marriage).

          And they all clearly know how to get a leaflet into your hand / email in your email box / mail in your mailbox.

  2. “Sure, the Greens make lots of promises…”.

    Is it just me or does this argument not make much sense, in that the ALP is saying if the Greens had a shot at forming government they would basically no longer be the Greens?
    Surely that applies to the ALP as well,…which makes me think that they entire process is fatally flawed, in that there is no point having any principles whatsoever if you want the job of running the nation…

    1. Yes, it’s a very strange leaflet.
      ‘I support the ALP precisely because it’s out there campaigning against the things that I believe in.’
      Uh huh …

  3. This reminds me of something Julia Gillard said at a press conference in “Packenham” [sic] the other day. In response to a journalist’s suggestion that the ALP’s awful “welfare modernization” include some of Tony Abbott’s old policy suggestions, the PM said:

    “Well when we look at Mr Abbott’s track record on all of these things, to coin a phrase, Mr Abbott’s all talk and no action. Of course, as a Government Minister he could have made these changes. He served as a Government Minister in this direct area of policy – track record of reform equals zero. Track record of reform out of health equals cuts. That’s Mr Abbott’s track record in Government.

    “So yes, you know, he writes books and, you know, chatters away about these things but in terms of getting anything done, this is the Government that has stepped up to welfare reform and we will step up again to reinforce the basic messages – kids should be in school and people who can work, should work.”

    Gillard’s claim – that while the Coalition talks a big game of reactionary “reforms”, the ALP can deliver – fits the historical record far better than does Edwina’s sales-talk about a “force for progressive change”.

    And, geez, is there anything more depressing than a cynical young university Laborite?

  4. The leaflet appears to be an effort to spin the same message in a different way. But it’s been done so badly. If Edwina is meant to sound as if she’s speaking from the heart – a true believer – she doesn’t. The leaflet reads like any other media release, leaflet or piece of spin that we’ve heard and read a million times before. You’d think with all that money and all those media advisers they could get a little more creative and interesting than this.

  5. The article I mentioned on Boris’ post is also relevant to his thread. Clicktivism is ruining leftist activism argues that activism has been commodified, so we now have these insidious political marketing campaigns that have the appearance of a grassroots campaign. People interpret this as activity, which, in turn, undermines the Left.

  6. It is worth adding that Cath Bowtell got an APPALLING reception when she spoke at the equal love rally on Saturday. She should have just said she disagreed with the party platform and was going to do what she could to change it. Instead she said that the ALP is the only party that has stood up for equality. Which just gave people the green light to start booing (scuse pun please).

    It’s like the ALP left has become very out of practice campaigning to an audience that sits to their left. Or were they ever any good at it? Every time they speak, it is like they are trying to convince themselves they made the right political life choice.

    1. Appalling reception, yes.

      But isn’t it Bowtell’s – and other ‘progressives’ – role to agitate for change within the party? What’s the point of running on policies your party doesn’t support? What exactly are you promising you’ll do for your voters?

  7. Looks like she’s listening to your questions, Jacinda, this just went up:

    Which makes the ALP platform look even stranger. If she is arguing that the ALP achievements make it the natural place for those who seek to eradicate discrimination, what’s with the squeamishness around the concept of marriage?

    Seems like the sum total of her argument is: favour pragmatism over principle.

  8. Gosh, what a knot you tie yourself into once you take that stance. She says she’s going to ‘advocate for further improvements’ within the ALP without ever spelling out why further improvements are needed — that is, without mentioning that her party opposes the things she says she supports. I mean, the post is headed ‘standing up for equal rights’. Who is she standing up against? Well, Julia Gillard, one presumes.

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