Some people – conservatives and libertarians – have problems with those who oppose the Commission of Audit’s – and, very soon, the Abbott Government’s – proposal to charge $6 (or $5, there seems to be confusion amongst the news networks about what it is) to see your general practitioner: or, GP. This FAQ aims to answer some of their political challenges masked as innocent questions.
Before we begin, the main reason given in order to support this scheme is to cut ‘unnecessary’ GP visits i.e. disincentivise people from going to the GP for non-serious issues, and therefore ‘better target’ people who really need medical attention, as reported in the Daily Telegraph. In other words, lines are too long and we need to deter people away from misuse.
For anyone that knows me, you know that I believe the University of Sydney Union is a joke. It’s a joke because of what it does, what it fails to do, and how it is organised. But you pay around $100 a year to fund it, and it’s the self-declared centre of student life, and you realise it has a $20 million budget, and that it’s the first non-academic thing most students see when they first enter university, and it’s not so funny anymore.
Four years after starting University, and what was once an organisation I admired for its bars and student societies and democratic control is now what I am most disappointed in after finishing my studies and facing graduation. What follows is a list of my frustrations with the Union.
This is an edited version of a comment I made in the USYD Ethnocultural and People of Colour Collective regarding the debate between class/materialist politics and identity politics following a blog post by Tim Scriven. In order to respect collective autonomy, I have edited out mentions of other people in the group and their comments. Other things that have changed include the statistics for the gay marriage/minimum wage polls, which are based off a David Sirota article, that were slightly inaccurate the first time around.
I believe quite strongly in class struggle. I don’t think the analysis of class struggle as the primary struggle is one that says workers are more important than other oppressed groups, but rather, that oppression will not completely end until the class distinction between the bourgeoisie and proletariat is eradicated. Class politics is not opposed to intersectionality, because nothing in class politics denies that oppressions can overlap. Class, after all, is not an identity (even though Marx talks about ‘class consciousness’) but a mode of existence and a stratification in society. You can’t self-identify as proletariat or bourgeoisie – it is just something you are based on your positioning within society and capitalist means of production. It’s partially why I don’t think the term ‘low SES’ is that useful. I’ve read a lot of articles on the issue of class that came in after Marx, and the argument is that for class struggle to win, you need the liberation – or at least, the beginning of the liberation – of women, queer people, people of colour, people with disabilities, etc. However, the opposite is not true: there can be leaps forward for women within the capitalist state while maintaining the oppression of other groups.
Not only that, but there will always be an underclass of any oppressed group while capitalism still exists. There may be more female parliamentarians, quotas may be achieved for boards, etc. but that will just widen the gap between working class women and bourgeois women. Until class is abolished, the place of women within capitalism will not be abolished: the role of unpaid domestic labour, the role of the mother. That’s why so many modern socialists incorporate gender politics into class; even old socialists like Emma Goldman were renowned for being materialist feminists. There is not much point in making sure that women enter the ruling class, because that just changes the demographics of your oppressor rather than substantially liberating the oppressed. To put it another way: why does it matter if there are more female police when ultimately they’ll still be brutalising the working class while propping up systems of oppression, including the patriarchy? Same with class and race, and the politics of imperialism and fascism as functions of capitalism. Crises of capitalism lead to the Nazi Party – just one example of the connection between economic and racism. Another is warfare, a product of capitalism and the competition between states. War creates the nationalism that generates racist scaremongering.
I wrote a Facebook status about this, but I wanted to say more but couldn’t really in the context of a…status.
I’m not going to pretend I’m a hardcore activist, that I’ve been to all the rallies or spend all my time organising. But I consider myself someone who cares about the world and what happens in it, and that I want to change the things that happen to negatively affect our lives.
Which is why, in the aftermath of any action like the strikes, I feel so down – when reading the comments from people who mock or criticise or condemn us when we just want to make the world better.
I can understand why people would be upset by being yelled at, or being blocked at a picket line. That isn’t what makes me sad.
It is how, after putting our bodies on the line, coming face to face with violence, being spit on by the media, fighting against people and corporations with billions of dollars, taking action, organising with others, showing solidarity with others, defending each other, there are still people who will do anything to put us down.
As anyone who will be reading a blog written by a hack and publicised on Twitter and Facebook will probably know, the USU Board recently approved of a club called ‘LifeChoice’ that aims to (1) “promote the dignity of human life from conception till natural death”, (2) “foster discussion on the issues of abortion and euthanasia”, and (3) “provide information about alternatives to abortion and euthanasia”. The club is also, in order to achieve its aims, planning on “regular small group discussion on life issues aimed at group members” as well as “the holding of public fora on issues related to our aims aimed at the university community at large”. (All quotes taken from the ‘LifeChoice Sydney Constitution’)
In other words, an anti-choice – or, what people called inaccurately pro-life – group (although I feel as though many people haven’t focused on the equally-sinister-goal of opposing euthanasia. Both issues are issues of bodily autonomy).
But enough of that – there is enough very accurate and very meaningful material floating around the social networks about why this is disgraceful, a lot of it written by people who have more right to talk about it, i.e. women and male-identifying people who can become pregnant. What I want to focus on is the ‘purpose’ of the USU, or University of Sydney Union. A lot of debate has invoked things like ‘free speech’, ‘diversity’, ‘safety’, ‘progressive politics’, etc. I think the purpose of the USU has been called into question, and what role it has in the university, and also why it seemingly allows any club to exist on campus. Obviously this will be tied into the LifeChoice issue too.
So, obviously a bunch of shit has been happening at USYD, including the university cutting staff and students protesting etc. etc. I think I’ve probably been a bit too…vocal, and aggressive, so I think I’ll clarify what I think here. That being said, I am unapologetically in favour of my position, as I believe that activism is incredibly important on campus, especially when it comes to education activism. But perhaps I wasn’t saying it in the right way, and was getting on peoples’ nerves too much. So here are the different categories of people who say the line, in a far more…reasoned and friendly way…