Writing in the Guardian last week, Simon Copland’s piece March in March does not offer credible alternatives has attracted howls of derision from left and right alike.
Copland has set out to crticise the left for not building an alternative but has failed to outline how that alternative might emerge. Some of his critics point out that this is stating the bleeding obvious, others point out the simple truth that protests can build and that most revolutions have started with a population protesting that enough is enough.
In that context what Copland appears to be trying to say is that the left in Australia has not connected with a comfortably well-off Australian middle-class. Again, say some of the 400 people criticising the article, this is hardly in-depth commentary.
The real challenge is how to build a political movement that does engage the middle class, or accelerate the sense of dispossession so that the middle class is activated. The return of an active left in Europe is an example of the latter and raises the far more interesting question as to how and whether the Greens and the Socialists/Anarchists might work together in the future. Given the imminence of the G20 in Brisbane and the Abbot Goverments first counter-reformation budget that issue has some urgency.
In hindsight, the scale of the March in March simply reveals in hindsight that Copland was out of touch with the scale of dissatisfaction amoung voters. That is hardly a crime, we all misread the tea leaves some days. Given the media’s deliberate ignoring of the march, anyone with influence in the media should have been using it to increase awareness of the march and reasons for the protest.
What is more important, though, is that we dedicate our energies to building an alternative vision of the future. We have to establish not only that that future is possible and desirable, but that the counter-reformationists are out to destroy it, so that the majority of people will fight for it.
Copland is right that change is going to be partially driven by investors making decisions that influence corporate behaviour and partly by redefining the debate, but fails completely to recognise that the March in March is an important step to build a determined and cooperative effort between activists, protestors, community groups, welfare providers and political parties.
As became clear at the recent Cloudstreet forum on civil-liberties at Jaegara Hall simply shouting at people who are shouting with megaphones that they do not have the answers is not an answer in itself. That discussion highighted the need to create forums that allow these alternative visions to flourish. In addition to protesting against the G20 summit, we need to build an alternative vision by hosting a summit that develops and promotes that alternative view.