The BLs

Comment on the article in WL64-5 on the New South Wales Builders Labourers's green bans in the early 1970s.

By Martin Thomas.


Greg Mallory's article in WL64-5 described the New South Wales Builders Labourers' great insurgency in the early 1970s. The BLs initiated 'green politics' - on a different axis from the middle-class parties that would later take it up - and fought inspiring battles for workers' control.

But how did they do it? Crucial, I think, was the unstable but rather dramatic left turn in the 1970s of the Communist Party of Australia, to which about 100 NSW BLs belonged. Its Moscow-loyal and Beijing-loyal wings had split away, and the CPA briefly bobbed loose on the waves made in Australian politics by student protests and the industrial upsurge after the 1969 strikes which smashed the Penal Powers.

That created space for the development of a minority of workers who could 'carry' the big issues in the union. The CPA's rapid right turn after 1975, alas, ensured that the BLs' insurgency left little lasting political residue.

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