By Lisa Macdonald
The opposition among Australians to the French government's decision to resume nuclear testing in the Pacific is not yet translating into hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets as they did during the heyday of the peace movement in the 1980s. Nevertheless, it is reflected in the diversity of campaign initiatives springing up around the country.
Asia-Pacific solidarity organisations, environment and peace groups, socialist parties, local councils, trade unions and primary, secondary and tertiary students are protesting and organising at the local and national level.
The focus and types of actions are equally diverse. At an individual level, tens of thousands of people are signing petitions against the tests, and many are participating in an ACTU and Australian Conservation Foundation-backed boycott of consumer goods and services.
At a more organised level, trade unions and peace groups have placed pickets and work bans on French consulates, banks and armament manufacturers. Public meetings, rallies, marches and speak-outs have occurred in all states and territories, with more being planned in coming weeks.
The socialist youth organisation Resistance is organising high school student campaign groups in a number of cities. Greenpeace has launched a postcard-writing campaign, and the Australian Greens, the NSW Local Government Association and the Wayside Chapel are attempting to organise a flotilla of private boats to travel to the test area.
The deep anti-nuclear sentiment in the Australian population is very much a legacy of the peace and disarmament movement during the 1980s, one of the largest and broadest in the world. However, following the end of the Cold War, a decade of economic decline and capitalist austerity drives, and the increasingly right-wing policies of the ALP, the organised anti-nuclear movement is, like all progressive social movements, only a shadow of its former self.
The current campaign to prevent the French tests from proceeding, while it has huge potential, reflects this weakness.
Diversity of organisation and action broadens and strengthens any campaign. It is crucial. But without also developing the networks, structures and resources through which some degree of national (or at least city-wide) communication and coordination can proceed, it will be virtually impossible to enable the millions of potential supporters to express their anger, take collective action and thereby win the campaign.
For this reason, the coming together of groups and individuals in broad, open Hiroshima Day protest organising committees around the country is an important step forward.
The amalgamation, as inclusively as possible, of the ideas, experience, skills, networks and resources of all those people willing to take collective public action is indispensable to pulling off a successful demonstration of public opinion on August 6. In turn, large mass rallies will inspire and encourage both the diversity and unity of the campaign beyond that day.