DONATE NOW TO HELP UPGRADE LIBCOM.ORG

Green bans - the coolest things ever?

19 posts / 0 new
Last post
Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Jun 21 2006 15:24
Green bans - the coolest things ever?

Have put a couple of bits about green bans (environmental industrial action) in /history.

In New South Wales, Australia between 1971 and 1974, builders blocked over £7billion development before the national union leader stopped the campaign.

It started in Kelly's Bush:

http://www.libcom.org/history/articles/kellys-bush-green-ban/index.php

and grew from there:

http://www.libcom.org/history/articles/green-bans-australia-construction/index.php

Anyone know about any more green bans that have happened elsewhere in the world?

Skraeling
Offline
Joined: 7-04-06
Jun 22 2006 05:21

i've read Verity Burgmann's book on the Green Bans. Its called Green Bans, Red Union (i think). Very interesting. The NSW BLF had a Maoist leadership but they were sort of what has been called "direct action Maoists" and they did some great stuff.

there is also a fantastic video about the NSW BLF called "Rocking the Foundations" (directed by Pat Fiske). Worth seeing if a little workerist. I have a copy somewhere.

i think the NSW BLF was quite unique (from wot i've read anyways).

There was a green ban in Auckland, New Zealand in 1977-78 at Bastion Point. It sort of combined green politics with unions and indigenous struggles. Bastion Point was Maori land that was confiscated by the state. When they tried to turn it into an expensive housing development (its in one of flashest suburbs of Auckland overlooking the harbour), local Maori occupied the land. the occupation lasted a long time and was supported by the Auckland trades council who declared a green ban on the site. they even contributed concrete trucks (i think) to help barricade the occupation. this was great as the Auckland unions were controlled by Stalinists at the time.

but in the end Maori and their supporters were forcibly removed from Bastion Point resulting in mass arrests.

Dave Antagonism
Offline
Joined: 18-01-06
Jun 22 2006 11:02
Quote:
The NSW BLF had a Maoist leadership but they were sort of what has been called "direct action Maoists" and they did some great stuff.

Hm actually i think the maoists were at that stage either in the Socialist Party of Austalia (SPA) of the Communist Party of Australia Marxist Leninist (CPA-ML) . The NSWBLF leadership were part of the Communist Party of Australia that had been influenced by new left ideas and had been involved in the Workers' Control conferences

mad love

Dave

martinh
Offline
Joined: 8-03-06
Jun 22 2006 11:15
Dave Antagonism wrote:
Quote:
The NSW BLF had a Maoist leadership but they were sort of what has been called "direct action Maoists" and they did some great stuff.

Hm actually i think the maoists were at that stage either in the Socialist Party of Austalia (SPA) of the Communist Party of Australia Marxist Leninist (CPA-ML) . The NSWBLF leadership were part of the Communist Party of Australia that had been influenced by new left ideas and had been involved in the Workers' Control conferences

mad love

Dave

The Maoists controlled the federal BLF, which was eventually to crush the NSW branch in conspiracy with the employers. F***in lefty politics! roll eyes

The NSW BLF were CPA influenced by the new left stuff. There were green bans in other parts of Aus at the time, but I don't know of anywhere else outside what Skrealing mentions. TBH, the Green Bans shouldn't be overstated outside of the context of a union that won substantial gains for its members who were then prepared to embrace the wider left agenda encompassing the green bans, women working on sites, gay rights, racism, etc.

Regards,

Martin

Steven.'s picture
Steven.
Offline
Joined: 27-06-06
Jun 22 2006 11:31

Was there complete support from the rank+file for the bans? Did they push for it, or was it imposed from above? If the former, was there conflict when the NSW leadership were expelled?

Skraeling your 1977 example sounds good - any links?

I know there were attempts at green bans in the US with agitation from Judi Bari (IWW/EF!), did these meet with any results anyone know?

martinh
Offline
Joined: 8-03-06
Jun 22 2006 11:46
John. wrote:
Was there complete support from the rank+file for the bans? Did they push for it, or was it imposed from above? If the former, was there conflict when the NSW leadership were expelled?

Most green bans came about because the people affacted approached the BLF. From my understanding, there was support for them, it was a time of boom in construction and there was no shortage of work.

Anyone supporting the NSW leadership was blacklisted by the employers after the Maoists shut them down, and expelled from the union. Most of the women were driven out of the industry as well. The leadership weren't divorced from the rank and file and practised rotation and limited tenure.

Somewhere we have a copy of "Rocking the Foundations" and intend to do a video showing of it sometime, probably after the summer.

smile

Regards,

Martin

bastarx
Offline
Joined: 9-03-06
Jun 22 2006 14:47
Dave Antagonism wrote:

Hm actually i think the maoists were at that stage either in the Socialist Party of Austalia (SPA) of the Communist Party of Australia Marxist Leninist (CPA-ML) . The NSWBLF leadership were part of the Communist Party of Australia that had been influenced by new left ideas and had been involved in the Workers' Control conferences

mad love

Dave

The CPA-ML (Maoists) split from the CPA in 63. The SPA (hard-line Stalinists including most of the union bureaucrats) split in 71 leaving the CPA as a fairly New Left organisation.

The NSW BLF leaders stayed with the CPA. Often they were more radical than the membership. They had to fight hard within the union to put a ban on building work at Sydney Uni after a student was expelled from his residential college because he was gay.

But however radical the leaders were they were unable to escape the union straighjacket when the state and employers sent the federal union, led by a Maoist gangster called Norm Gallagher, to take over.

Pete

martinh
Offline
Joined: 8-03-06
Jun 22 2006 14:57
Peter wrote:

But however radical the leaders were they were unable to escape the union straighjacket when the state and employers sent the federal union, led by a Maoist gangster called Norm Gallagher, to take over.

Pete

Peter,

How might they have "escaped the union straightjacket"? Had they not been in the BLF, do you think they would have achieved as much?

BTW, I noticed in the latest Rebel Worker an initiative to publish news from bus drivers in Canberra. Anyone you know?

Regards,

Martin

bastarx
Offline
Joined: 9-03-06
Jun 22 2006 15:11
Quote:
How might they have "escaped the union straightjacket"? Had they not been in the BLF, do you think they would have achieved as much?

On your first question I'm not sure but don't you think it's a real problem that a pretty combative section of the class can be stopped almost stone dead by a bureaucratic takeover of the union?

I really should read that book sometime, I did read bits years ago. Not sure how much I'd trust the Burgmann sisters though - Meredith is an MP and Verity an academic. Hardly surprising that when writing about class struggle they'd focus on it's representation.

Clearly in the case of the BLF a radical union was able to advance the struggle up to a certain point. Probably never would have happened without the union but could have gone further if some of the BLs had developed a practical critique of the unions.

Quote:
BTW, I noticed in the latest Rebel Worker an initiative to publish news from bus drivers in Canberra. Anyone you know?

Yes. Not me.

OliverTwister's picture
OliverTwister
Offline
Joined: 10-10-05
Jun 22 2006 15:24
Quote:
Clearly in the case of the BLF a radical union was able to advance the struggle up to a certain point. Probably never would have happened without the union but could have gone further if some of the BLs had developed a practical critique of the unions.

Like syndicalists? tongue

bastarx
Offline
Joined: 9-03-06
Jun 23 2006 00:46
OliverTwister wrote:
Quote:
Clearly in the case of the BLF a radical union was able to advance the struggle up to a certain point. Probably never would have happened without the union but could have gone further if some of the BLs had developed a practical critique of the unions.

Like syndicalists? tongue

The BLF basically were syndicalists. Not anarcho ones maybe.

It's a mistake to look back at history and say things could have been so much better if people had had the same sort of ideas as me. More useful might be to ask, 'why did the class struggle take this form and why couldn't it go further?'

The fact that a few radical unions have briefly bucked the trend in no way counter-balances the fact that unions have sabotaged most major and countless minor working class struggles.

Pete

EdmontonWobbly's picture
EdmontonWobbly
Offline
Joined: 25-03-06
Jun 23 2006 01:18

As far as I know the bombing was fairly effective at stopping Judi Bari and the outreach to timber workers. 0Tthe fact that it was even attempted was a major step forward for the environmentalist movement and its a real shame more of that isn't going on. I come from logging country myself, a pulp mill is the biggest employer in my home town, and there could be a lot of really powerful organising that could happen there if the environmentalists would stop cozying up to small businesses and try and organise some timber workers.

OliverTwister's picture
OliverTwister
Offline
Joined: 10-10-05
Jun 23 2006 02:57

Pete thanks for that, that's a good point.

My point was simply that "radical unions with a practical critique of unions" fits the bill of syndicalists.

My red card wrote:
The trade unions foster a state of affairs which allows one set of workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same industry, thereby helping defeat one another in wage wars. Moreover, the trade unions aid the employing class to mislead the workers into the belief that the working class have interests in common with their employers.
Skraeling
Offline
Joined: 7-04-06
Jun 23 2006 06:49
Dave Antagonism wrote:
Hm actually i think the maoists were at that stage either in the Socialist Party of Austalia (SPA) of the Communist Party of Australia Marxist Leninist (CPA-ML) . The NSWBLF leadership were part of the Communist Party of Australia that had been influenced by new left ideas and had been involved in the Workers' Control conferences

mad love

Dave

yeah your right. i had a memory stuck in my head that they were Maoists, must have got a few wires crossed.

did the Communist Party of Australia really supercede its Leninist background after 1971? I don't know much about it. I see they went for Eurocommunism in the 1970s. A lot of Leninist parties adopted an anarchistic veneer worldwide in the 1970s. Was the CPA one of them? I wouldn't call the CPA New Left, New Left influenced certainly, but the New Left, in my view, was by definition anti-political party, extra-parliamentary (in Ozzie the main New Left orgs as far as i know were the Students for a Democratic Society and Students for Democratic Action-- but i maybe wrong again, memory fuzzy oncemore)

I know Jack Mundey, a prominent leader of the NSW BLF, fraternised with anarchists and the Sydney Libertarians in the 1970s.

maybe the NSW BLF can be called "green syndicalists" which seems quite accurate (they even had temporary union officials who if i remember right had one year in office) but such a green label overlooks their wider non-green social agenda as Martin points out.

i forgot to mention that in the 1970s, in response to the rather impressive class struggle upsurge of the times, quite a few unorthodox semi-syndicalist or syndicalist unions across the world sprung up, like the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM) in Detroit. And in response to May-June 1968, a number of French unions adopted self-management as their goal, such as the CFDT, but their version of self-management i believe differed from the revolutionary syndicalist one, and to many it was seen as basically a recuperation of the May events. I think even the Stalinists talked of autogestion (self-management).

So in that international context, the NSW BLF was not super unique, but their green bans were, as was much of their other wider social agenda (i think).

in terms of the Green Ban in Auckland in 1977-78, hardly anything is written about it. Most focus on the clash between Maori and the state (which is kind of understandable, given that its a huge historic feature of New Zealand/Aotearoa), and only mention it in passing.

There is a video and a book on Bastion Point, but they are not up online. I can find only this: from a good article by Evan Poata-Smith:

Evan wrote:
The occupation of Bastion Point and the subsequent eviction intensified the experience of direct conflict with the state. The occupation again brought together the diverse Pakeha left, and mobilised wide public support (Walker, 1990: 218). The Auckland Trades Council placed a ‘green ban’ on the area declaring that no work would begin on the planned sub-division. A North Shore contractor even donated six trucks, including two bitumen tankers to help with a planned blockade (Auckland Star, 1977).

paheka= white, European. i got it wrong on the concrete trucks.

there is also a wee bit of footage of the tv news of the police being sent in to evict the occupiers

gentle revolutionary
Offline
Joined: 31-10-04
Jun 23 2006 14:18

One of our Wobblies in London worked as an organiser for BLF, he says green bans are still sometimes being conducted, although on a much lower scale than in the glory days.

Dave Antagonism
Offline
Joined: 18-01-06
Jun 24 2006 08:00
Quote:
did the Communist Party of Australia really supercede its Leninist background after 1971? I don't know much about it. I see they went for Eurocommunism in the 1970s. A lot of Leninist parties adopted an anarchistic veneer worldwide in the 1970s. Was the CPA one of them? I wouldn't call the CPA New Left, New Left influenced certainly, but the New Left, in my view, was by definition anti-political party, extra-parliamentary (in Ozzie the main New Left orgs as far as i know were the Students for a Democratic Society and Students for Democratic Action-- but i maybe wrong again, memory fuzzy oncemore)

A lot of my older comrades from Wollongong were CPers during the 1960/70s/80s. They are a mixed bag at the very least. One comrade was involved in Solidarity(UK) , another has always described himself as an anarcho-communist, one is stalinist of the highest order, others are social democrats....i do not know how this expressed itself organisationally, but there was a lot of internal conflict; especially in Wollongong in the 80s when the Accord came through. There was an unemployed branch that was pretty much pitted againts the leadership. I am going to a friends mums 70th ( the whole family were party members) and i will see what i can find over a few beers....

cheers

Dave

Jason Cortez
Offline
Joined: 14-11-04
Jun 24 2006 08:38

Martin the "somewhere" is my house. Gentle does yoor fellow wobbly fancy doing a short talk at our film showing later this summer (no date at present)? Did you get my pm?

gentle revolutionary
Offline
Joined: 31-10-04
Jun 24 2006 13:46

Yeah got your pm, I'll be away for the summer, so try with Adam (an Aussie & London Wobbly, good speaker) through the email I gave you.

David in Atlanta
Offline
Joined: 21-04-06
Jun 27 2006 18:24
martinh wrote:
John. wrote:
Was there complete support from the rank+file for the bans? Did they push for it, or was it imposed from above? If the former, was there conflict when the NSW leadership were expelled?

.

Somewhere we have a copy of "Rocking the Foundations" and intend to do a video showing of it sometime, probably after the summer.

smile

Regards,

Martin

Martin, could you maybe digitize the video for us? I'd heard vaguely about the green bans but hadn't really read up on them until i spotted this thread. The more i read the more Jack Mundey sounds like my kind of commie