We need to out-mobilise the far-right conspiracists

November 20 rally. Photo: Martin Hirst

I’m a rank and file member of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU). I want to acknowledge those CFMEU comrades who have made the effort to come and support today’s rally.

I joined the union six years ago: I was excited to be part of this union that has its roots in the mighty Builders’ Labourers Federation’s (BLF) Green Bans of the 1970s. I was probably a bit naive and thought I had joined the actual BLF! It’s fair to say that the CFMEU today is not the BLF of the 1970s. But that’s a product of lower union density and a weaker left, and stronger anti-union laws.

Nonetheless, the CFMEU is still a strong union that has been able to win decent pay and conditions improvements in our industry. Meanwhile, pay in other industries has stagnated around the grossly inadequate minimum wage. The CFMEU is also effective at fighting for safety on construction sites which requires ongoing vigilance.

There is a strong grassroots culture of unionism in the organisation.

Those same idiots who are once again rallying at the Victorian Parliament today organised a rally at our offices on September 20. They attacked it, smashing it up with bottles and rocks. They violently assaulted elected officials and staff.

This sort of attempt to try and disrupt, attack and intimidate one of the strongest unions is absolutely disgraceful. Unacceptable. It is straight out of the far right’s playbook.

I’ve had my disagreements with my union. But there are ways to raise concerns: talk to a delegate or organiser; come to a branch meeting.

What you don’t do is to have a tantrum, join up with a bunch of arseholes from outside of the union, and go and smash up the union office and attack staff and officials if you don’t get your way. That’s not how debate and democracy works. You don’t win a political disagreement with violence and intimidation.

There are valid concerns to be raised about the pandemic lockdowns: the lack of proper financial support; the heavy handedness accompanying the lockdowns; the raid on comrade Chris Breen’s home; and the growing militarisation of the police, with new weapons being used against protestors.

Even these do not justify death threats and intimidation.

The so-called freedom protestors have no alternative vision for how to keep people safe from COVID-19. Many don’t even think COVID-19 is real.

They aren’t calling for more funding for hospitals and better pay for healthcare workers. They just want to abolish all virus control measures and let it run wild.

The far right has suddenly discovered “civil liberties”. It wasn’t them protesting against the new, bipartisan-supported “anti-terror” laws over the last two decades. It was not the far right protesting against the apartheid rate at which First Nations people are jailed in this country.

It is not the far right who have been fighting to free innocent refugees and asylum seekers from  indefinite detention in concentration camps. It was not the far right protesting the public housing tower lockdowns and providing mutual aid. It was us.

Zane Alcorn. Photo: Martin Hirst

Shame on those making death threats to politicians and their family members, be they Labor, Greens, Animal Justice Senator Andy Meddick or Reason Party Senator Fiona Patten. Shame on those bringing gallows to parliament and encouraging people to bring guns. Shame on those seeking to relativise the Holocaust by comparing safe, lifesaving vaccination programs to forced medical procedures administered by the Nazis. Shame on the Murdoch media for its role in whipping up hysteria against “dictator Dan”. And shame on those comparing proof of vaccination certificates to apartheid.

There is a vaccine apartheid, but that affects people in the global South not being able to access this lifesaving vaccine because rich countries and corporations won’t share the patents and won’t provide vaccines for free, as they should.

Shame upon those who spat on and assaulted nurses at vaccine and testing clinics.

Shame on those who, despite knowing all of this, march alongside known neo-Nazis who make the threats, bring the gallows and the crossbows, who have attacked unionists and socialists and health workers, and who still refuse to call out this despicable conduct and try and claim this is an ordinary, peaceful protest movement.

It is clearly not ordinary and it is clearly not peaceful.

I want to briefly mention an example of how we can respond to the far right and conspiracists, and it’s from Italy. The conspiracists and far right attacked the head office of the Italian equivalent of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the General Confederation of Italian Labour on October 9.

What was the response?

A week later, on October 16, all affiliated unions in Rome organised a massive mobilisation: an estimated 100,000 people turned up. This is how we can confront the conspiracists and far right and demoralise them.

We know from recent rallies in the city — Black Lives Matter, women’s marches, Invasion Day rallies, union marches and climate strikes — that when our side wants to we can mobilise ten times what the conspiracists and far right have been able to.

Let’s do that. I urge all unions and all progressives, let’s have a big united rally to push back against these bastards.

I want to finish with a message for the conspiracists.

You need to back off. Go home. Your attempts to use intimidation, threats and violence to try and force your views on your political opponents are absolutely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

[Zane Alcon gave this speech to the rally on November 20.]