Facebook Google Menu Linkedin lock Pinterest Search Twitter



Dec 8, 2011

The Drum, gay marriage and knowing your history

How did the cultural left win the war on marriage equality, asks Kevin Donnelly at The Drum? His answer? Radical leftists completed what he claims Antonio Gramsci called “the long march through the institutions”, to control the heights of debate.

User login status :


How did the cultural left win the war on marriage equality, asks Kevin Donnelly at The Drum? His answer? Radical leftists completed what he claims Antonio Gramsci called “the long march through the institutions”, to control the heights of debate.

These cunning leftists apparently commanded the cultural heights, and changed the meaning of words — “discrimination” for example, from a positive thing to a negative thing — in a manner described by St George of the Orwell. Where will it end, Donnelly wails: “Same-sex marriage “raises the problem that if marriage is now to include gays and lesbians, what right do we have to exclude bisexual and transgender people?”

Um, Kevin, I don’t mean to alarm you, but bisexuals and transgender people are already allowed to marry — as long as they marry someone of the opposite sex. Transgender people already have some leeway in which gender they classify themselves in and, um, on bisexuals, do you actually know what they actually are? The simpler explanation for the success of the marriage equality campaign is that the cultural base of social life changed over the past two decades, from a vestigial Judeo-Christian one, to one where market relations and consumption — and the notions of formal equality, exchangeability  that come with it — came to the centre of social life.

Attitudes have been manipulated, Kevin wails again: “To be conservative, on the basis that there are some things from the past that are worthwhile holding on to, is to be old-fashioned, out of touch and guilty of continuing past injustices.”

Indeed, and what has convinced people that conservatism is a bad thing? How about three decades of top-down economic reconstruction, in which people were told that the new economy, new technology, globalisation, cutting-edge, next gen, etc, were compulsory, and the worst things in the world were protectionism, localism, collectivism, etc. The path to marriage equality didn’t begin five years ago — it began, you might say, when Sunday trading was abolished and capital finally triumphed over the Sabbath, quashing any notion that the state should have any regard to traditional values in setting the rules.

Your problem isn’t the left, Kevin — it’s your compatriots on the Right — the Turnbulls, Kennetts and Costellos — whose vision of social life involves a world entirely composed of individual contracts between people, and no institutions to be spared ceaseless transformation. In that framework, the objection to marriage equality becomes as archaic as trying to maintain a commitment to fault-only divorce.

The “cultural left” could have redefined the whole dictionary but they wouldn’t have got anywhere much before around 2005. It’s only after a period in which capital has made all cultural barriers to individual wants into a denial of human rights that the campaign became possible — because marriage equality cuts with the cultural grain of neoliberalism. All the marriage equality movement had to do was work hard, and do its research — a wise move, if only so that one knows that it was Rudi Dutschke, not Gramsci, who advocated a “long march through the institutions”. 

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


Guy Rundle is Crikey's correspondent-at-large. He was co-editor of Arena Magazine for 15 years, and has written four hit stage shows for Max Gillies, two musicals, numerous books and produced TV shows including Comedy Inc and Backberner.

Get a free trial to post comments
More from Guy Rundle


We recommend

From around the web

Powered by Taboola


Leave a comment

5 thoughts on “The Drum, gay marriage and knowing your history

  1. Sancho

    Donnelly and Rundle are swinging wildly, each trying to land a punch on the political Left or Right, but neither seems willing to consider any historical context beyond the past twenty years.

    In the 20th century we had two world wars, followed by an explosion of mass media, which prompted massive social rethinking and allowed us to showcase the Vietnam war as the politically grotesque waste that it was. Consumerism and the market made sure there was a TV in every home, alright, with the result that citizens of western democracies could see the absurd nonsense of the Cold War, which led many people to engage in a culture war to ensure greater tolerance at home.

    Rundle doesn’t make any defence of gay marriage or the right of homosexuals to the same rights as everyone else, but it’s also impossible to ignore that Donnelly’s arguments are the exact same ones that were raised against women’s suffrage, evolution, interracial marriage and even the possibility that left-handers aren’t in leagues with the devil, and are equally hollow.

    The most noteworthy part of this intellectual bitch-slap fight is that Donnelly follows the now-standard conservative pattern of skipping reasoned argument, and instead leaping into a florid conspiracy theory.

    Really, as a member of the Left, I wish I could get invited along to one of these meetings where we all sit down and plan exactly how to seize academia for the purpose of destroying the social structures of the mid-20th century, how best to use our army of zealous Marxist climatologists to undermine capitalism, and which foreign infants will need a comprehensive fake history so that we can position them to become US president and rule the world on behalf of Kenya and Al Qaeda.

Leave a comment