March in March: Australian indignados?

Submitted by Matthew on 2 April, 2014 - 10:15

It seemed to come from nowhere, then it was everywhere. It was against everything, but not clearly for anything.

It was the largest political mobilisation for years, but the mainstream media virtually ignored it. It was inspiring and revitalising for workers, union and community activists, but had little support from the larger campaigns and parties.

“March in March” on March 15-17 brought over 100,000 people onto the streets against the Abbott government’s policies — over 30,000 in Melbourne. Rallies were held in all cities and dozens of regional towns. Initiated through social media by a few rural individuals, the call spread rapidly, meeting the broad feelings of discontent with the attacks on so many fronts. Refugees, climate change, union rights, civil rights — these were prominent issues, but among dozens.

Like almost all the left, I was surprised by the numbers. Awareness crept up as I realised friends and family who do not usually attend rallies were going to this one. Clearly this form of broad non-specific protest met the mood: people sick of the constant attacks from governments of ALP and Coalition alike. There were echoes of the “indignados”, of generalised opposition to neoliberalism.

March in March was not built by the larger campaigning groups and parties such as GetUp, Amnesty International the Greens or the ALP.

The organisers’ politics were mild, summed up in their overall slogan of “Australians united for a better government”. They emphasised after the rally that they were not “the left” but all people.

Yet this very broadness and lack of control by larger groups allowed an enormous range of smaller community groups, campaigns, unions and parties to mobilise. In my case, it was building a rally for a local campaign against an environmentally destructive and economically ridiculous Tollway (the Melbourne East-West Tunnel).

The marches marked the re-emergence of a fighting spirit amongst tens of thousands of workers and activists. Yet mass media coverage was minimal – both of the lead up and the rallies themselves. The little coverage focussed on angry slogans directed at prime minister Tony Abbott and the government – complaining these were “hateful”. You would of the Murdoch press, but the usually left-liberal ABC, SBS and Fairfax media also found little worth reporting.

There are plans for follow up marches on 30-31 August 2014.

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