Green Bans and Beyond is an autobiography by legendary NSW Builders and Labourers Federation (BLF) branch secretary Jack Mundey. It covers the socially-conscious industrial actions of the union, beginning with the effort in the 1940s and 50s to democratise the union, taking it away from conservatism and corruption and turning it into a militant and combative institution. This was later followed by the Green Bans, in which the union teamed up with the community to protect the city’s environment, history and low income housing. Throughout the book he writes about the old Communist Party of Australia, describing in particular the strain of being an organisation that fought tooth and nail for democratic rights at home while defending tyranny abroad. At the end he writes about his feeling of betrayal at the hands of the federal leadership of the BLF.
The main take-away we can gain from this story is that there needs to be involvement from everyday members of unions. With rank-and-file support these socially-conscious industrial actions can be sustainable. There are many other interesting ideas that come up in this book which I will build on in later articles.
I found the book engaging even though I usually find reading a bit of a chore. Every time I pick this one up I find it hard to put it down. This book should be on the reading list of anyone interested in the history of the communist, environmental and union movement.
For people interested in the Green Ban movement there will be a film screening at Common House at 6:30pm on the 13th of July.