Letters on gay marriage rights, World Youth day, Cuba and NSW Labor’s crisis

Marriage a dubious right

Contrary to the belief that same-sex marriage is a right I argue that it is not a progressive step.

There are at least three reasons why same sex marriage can be perceived as a reinforcement of heteronormative-hegemony.

1. Marriage is integral to economies based on acquisition: is grounded in religious belief and founded on control and ownership of females. Historically these practices are associated with property rights, trading rights and the right to grant goods to the oldest male child thus securing wealth within male dominated social and economic networks.

According to United Nations statistics, while females comprise more than 50 percent of the world’s population, they own one percent of the world’s wealth. Amnesty International statistics reveal that females represent 70 percent of those living in poverty throughout the world. For these reasons all queers are not united on the marriage question. If the basis for marriage is financial this right would tend to benefit males more than females.

2. The UDHR describes a right granted to men and women thereby excluding those who do not define themselves as such. The terms men and women are contested in current gender studies on the grounds that they are culturally constructed as opposites and stereotypes thereby excluding other sexual types.

What of persons who define themselves as intersex, transsexual or bi-sexual? Those persons assert their right to negotiate for social and economic inclusion. It is clearly the case that we, our species, are a plurality not a duality.

3. Finally what of those who assert their right to remain single? Apart from the fact that single persons exist on a single income they are pressured to form permanent unions. Single persons can therefore find themselves socially and economically disadvantaged.

These questions deserve discussion. My proposition is that we work toward a valuing of plurality.

I advocate an extension of the concept multicultural to include the many ways people choose to live. I advocate expansion of choices rather than constriction. I advocate dissolution of the frames through which our experiences are socially, sexually or economically regulated.

Jena Zelezny, Melbourne

Theocratic freedom in Pope-town

Under the World Youth Day Amendment Regulation 2008 that was passed secretly with haste, it criminalised annoyance of a “WYD” participant. Failure to observe the regulation carried a $5500 fine.

While activists from the NoToPope Coalition won a NSWCA challenge, inconvenience to WYD participants remained illegal, the restricted air spaces to prevent advertising, as well as the banning of distribution of things like t-shirts near or in one of the 600 ‘declared areas’ for “WYD”.

Australia would not consider doing this for any other religion or spiritual leader: not the Delai Lama, and certainly not for a senior Muslim cleric. However, it has done it for an institution that is absent in moral authority, evident through its handling of child sex abuse cases and a shocking human rights record.

The whole point of living in a democratic country is to live in a place where such fundamentals like the separation between church and state are observed.

This is so that privilege is not given to one group of people or religion over another, and for public policy and money to be used for all citizens including those who do not believe in a faith and those who do.

So what was the Iemma government doing paying the rent for the Sydney Convention Centre to sell the cloak to the young as a vocation, paying the bond to secure Hyde Park for the event, implementing APEC-style legislation; Rudd giving the Pope a military guard of honour; and, spending over $150 million together on WYD? Lord knows the Vatican can pay its own way, maybe even using some of the $15 billion it makes a year tax-free in Australia?

It is contradictory to take all the legislative and financial measures for a particular religion and a religious leader, to hold an event aimed at recruiting, and still have the decency to say, “welcome to our democratic country!” to any visitor—it’s a sin in itself. Clearly the measures do nothing but favour and further the interests of the Roman Catholic Church in Australia, at our expense, financially and liberally.

This is what democracy should be safeguarding against, but alas, the rights and freedoms of people are not protected in this country, merely ‘implied freedoms’.

David Vakalis, Melbourne

Again on Cuba

James Supple (Letters, Solidarity no. 3) denies that the Cuban general strike of January 1959 played any significant role in the fall of the old regime. He points out that the dictator Batista fled before the strike started.

But Batista was replaced by General Cantillo, who tried to set up a new military-dominated government. The general strike, called by Fidel Castro and built by urban underground activists, not only blocked this plan, but caused the complete disintegration of the old army and police. Soldiers took off their uniforms. Police surrendered to urban fighters. Anti-Batista union activists took over union offices, replacing corrupt pro-Batista officials, and called mass demonstrations.

This inspiring general strike was followed by a period of ongoing struggles, including further general strikes, mass rallies, and workplace occupations, culminating in the expropriation of the property of local and foreign capitalists.

Supple says the protests that forced the resignation of conservative president Urrutia in July 1959 were “mobilised and controlled from above by Castro”. But the distinction between action “from above” and “from below” is artificial. Mass action is not counterposed to leadership.

Supple says that Cuba “should not be held up as a model for the rest of Latin America”. In one sense this is true: a society under siege from imperialism can not be an ideal model of socialism. But Cuba is an example of a victorious revolution that has survived and brought big gains for the people.

Chris Slee, Melbourne

Where is the NSW Labor party headed?

While I agree with Solidarity’s emphasis on the need for a mass campaign against power privatisation in NSW, there is a missing dimension to the magazine’s coverage of the issue: the political crisis inside the NSW Labor Government.

Iemma’s government is now seriously on the nose. Public infrastructure is creaking at the seams, if not falling apart.

There is a steady stream of corruption and other scandals involving senior ministers and the increasing resort to authoritarian police powers for events such as the APEC summit and World Youth Day.

In the midst of this, Iemma and his sidekick Michael Costa have launched an all-out offensive against public sector workers at the centre of which is the privatisation of the electricity industry.

Despite organizational weaknesses, the response from Unions NSW and rank and file ALP members has further isolated Iemma and shown the potential to blunt his neoliberal agenda. It has also transcended to a degree the deeply rooted and fossilised factional arrangements within the NSW ALP.

In these circumstances, what do socialists have to say to ALP supporters about the Labor Party? Do we just tell them to leave and build an alternative or has a space opened up for some reassertion of social-democratic, non-market policies and the building, even if on a modest scale, of a new Labor left?

Mike Grainger, Lewisham, NSW

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