27th October 2022
Open letter to Victorian Socialists concerning the counteraction against the March for the Babies
On 8 October United for Reproductive Justice (URJ) organised a contingent for the counteraction against the March for the Babies, which Victorian Socialists (VS) had called. URJ includes veterans of organising against fascists, the far right and the anti-abortion movement. Expecting violence from the far right and their police protectors, URJ reached out to VS for information about marshalling and other preparations for this eventuality. Having received no responses, URJ made preparations for any contingency and we went with a clear policy of disciplined unity — because this is what is required when standing up to such dangerous force.
URJ anticipated the possibility of pointlessly risky and dangerous behaviour. And this is indeed what transpired, when marshals led the VS rally of about 200 away from Parliament House toward a huge wall of police, shielded and on horseback. It became clear that the idea was for some to try to break through, ostensibly to intercept the March for the Babies, who weren’t even there. The result was two people, maybe more, being injured by pepper spray. This reckless action left everyone exposed to police attack.
What we didn’t expect was that Victorian Socialists would abandon the counteraction. There was no counteraction! VS led a charge back to Parliament House, made a couple of triumphal speeches and then packed up and left. All this before the March for the Babies arrived.
This is how not to build a movement capable of defeating the far right, whether in defending abortion rights or fighting for any form of justice. The VS “counteraction” appeared more like a pre-election stunt given that two members of Victorian Socialists are contesting the Western Metropolitan Regional seat against March for the Babies organiser Bernie Finn. It accomplished nothing for abortion rights, which the counteraction claimed to be about.
Waging a fight for free, safe, legal abortion on demand and full reproductive justice for all women, trans and nonbinary people — encompassing First Nations sovereignty, housing, healthcare, jobs, equal pay, bodily self-determination for people with disability, full rights regardless of visa status, and so much more — takes the democratic, principled, inclusive building of a massive united front.
United for Reproductive Justice formed from organisations and activists coming together to begin this process. We welcome anyone who wants to be part of building a strong reproductive justice movement, including Victorian Socialists and those who came out to stand up to the March for the Babies.
Jaimie Jeffrey and Debbie Brennan
on behalf of United for Reproductive Justice