Gays and Labour in New Zealand

Philip Ferguson plf13 at it.canterbury.ac.nz
Thu Feb 7 18:23:02 MST 2002


And now for something completely different. . .

In the past couple of days on the antiwar/anticap list in NZ - which
consists of a Trotskyist group, a Maoist group, a class-struggle anarchist
group, Revo, and various non-aligned Marxists and Bookchin/Chomsky-style
anarchists, and came together around building opposition to the 'war on
terror' - there has been a bit of a discussion on sexuaity, esp gay
liberation and gay politics.

It's been quite interesting, because the gay activists on the list have a
fairly strong class outlook.  And these are mainly people from a new
generation who are very critical indeed of 80s/90s 'queer' identity
politics and where it leads.

The following is the latest contribution to the discussion, from a young
(bisexual) activist called Nick Kelly.  Nick was a leading figure in Young
Labour as well, the youth wing of the LP.  He was physically removed from
the recent LP conference for daring to interject with antiwar comments
during the speech of the Great Leader Helen Clark at the conference.
(Theyt are also in the process of expelling him from the LP.)  The LP here
is quite largely run by feminists, lesbians and gay men and at Revo we have
been scathing about both the nature of the LP these days (a horrible party
of pro-imperialist liberal cafe-society yuppies, and not any sort of
workers party as most Trots here still maintain) and queer politics.

Sometimes to North Americans our critique of all this sounds a bit extreme,
but this is because our country is run by politically correct liberals, we
have no big moral right, even the new right here is liberal on gay rights,
abortion, women's advancement etc.  We just critique our rulers with the
same strength as North Americans critique theirs - it's just that ours are
of somewhat different political complexion.  Anyway, it is encouraging to
see that what we say finds confirmation in the views of younger gay
activists confronted with the horror that is the gay wing of the NZ
establishment.

Anyway, here's Nick Kelly's post:

>I think my main encounters with the Gay Liberation movement has been in my
>time in the Labour Party - in particular Young Labour.
>I think Labour is one of the only political parties (parliamentary ones
>anyway) to have a Queer Branch (Rainbow Labour).
>It never stopped amazing me the not only Right Wing but bloody conservative
>and even small minded many of the gay people on young Labour were. Young
>Labour is a very right wing group of young ambitious wanna-be MPs just
>finishing their law degrees bla bla bla...
>But the Gay ones were usually the worst. For example when we were debating
>globalisation, there was this ultra right wing block who didn't even want to
>debate the issue, the leaders of this group were the so-called gay leaders.
>They were always the ambitious ones, they always tried and often did hold
>the top jobs. And sure enough if it was a close race and contender would use
>sexuality as a vote puller (usually successfully).
>
>As someone who is Bi Sexual (though I desperately dissagree with labels like
>this...but thats another e-mail)I've always found this infuriating. As has
>been said often the Gay Liberation people are now quite anti-left, and make
>fun of activists and unionist (after all they arn't in cafe society :-)
>After questioning this for a while this is the best conclusion I can come up
>with:
>
>The openly queer communtiy of our society (as much as you can generalise
>about such a group) is basically a middle class community...as sexuality is
>a middle class privilage.
>The reason for this is that understanding and openness about sexuality comes
>from education - in our sociey the education recieved at a teritary level.
>As we all know in our society only the middle class and privilaged can ever
>recieve tertiary education (for a variety of reasons like the schooling
>system, user pays bla bla).
>Theres probably a better explanation for it than this, but the queer
>community ain't working class (generally).
>How many queer people do you know who live in state house suburbs?
>
>So the middle class queer movement don't actully have a problem with the
>current power structure, wealth distribution etc. They just want to be
>better within it. Eg, Rainbow Labour main (and only) policy is for
>homosexual marriage. There are also a number of men (and Rainbow Labour is a
>very male dominated group) who desire to be the first gay PM.



Considering he's quite young and probably fairly new to politics, and that
Marxism isn't exactly widespread here, I think his insights are quite
impressive.

We've had two female prime ministers in a row and, in recent years, a
majority of the top jobs at any one time have been held by women, so I
think it quite on the cards that we'll have a gay PM before too long.
(Actually, there are suspicions that we already do, but I mean an openly
gay one.)

Philip Ferguson









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