Scab is always taunt

BETTER PEOPLE THAN YOU or I have fought against shifting displacement. The Green Bans are the well-known heroic story of the beginning of built-environment heritage protection and the last hurrah of working class militancy in Australia. The Builders Labourers Federation (BLF), a union made up of low-skilled demolition and construction workers, made common cause with the interests of preservationists and aesthetes of cultural significance. From the unlikely teaming-up of singletted Communists and connoisseurs of Georgian buildings, NSW retains its Rocks, its Kelly’s Bush, its significant buildings and its Heritage Act 1977.

One side betrayed the other. Thirty years passed and the Accord, the recession, neoliberalism (whatever that is) and the slow death of Australian trade unionism left only the bourgeois brick-appreciators left to think about cities. ‘Heritage’ suburbs simply became high-priced low-rise prizes for people who bought in cheap, working class communities got bumped out to the fringes through policy and price, and the jewel of the Rocks is now a sold-off sterile tourist AirBnB camping ground. Which brings this blog post to Elizabeth Farrelly, journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald, architecture writer, academic, scab.

When the journalists at the SMH and Age took industrial action against the round of cuts—made more humiliating by their CEO Greg Hywood, who, with gigantic crab-like claws, shovelled himself a seven-figure bonus—Farrelly decided for incoherent reasons of her own, she would defy the custom of strikes, and cross the picket. It isn’t done to cross picket lines, you know. If you’re the kind of person who feels any sense of communal identity, as a professional, as a worker, as someone who produces a quality product, or even just as someone who thinks, it’s a shameful thing to do. To cross a picket line shows that you value the interests of your employer over anything else, and is a slap in the face to people fighting for something. It’s rude.

I should not be surprised. Farrelly has always been the banner bearer of the fuck-you-Jack-I’m-alright class of Australian bourgeois, the ones who were fortunate enough to buy cheap in the inner city, and who treat the colossal windfall benefit—cultural as well as financial—as merely their due. She is the champion of the urban overdog, the hero of the status quo, who always prefers a community-in-place to any possible change. (I personally cannot wait until this class, middling-rich on a global perspective, are simply pushed aside and proletarianised by Ayn Rand-reading tech dickheads from San Francisco, and grafting nouveau-riche Chinese bagmen).

I’m not going to link to the articles. Read them yourselves.

As others have pointed out on twitter, her logically tortuous apologia for scabbing actually reads as a defence of collective action: organise to win. You didn’t join a union because they didn’t do anything for you—why would they, if you didn’t join? You didn’t feel a part of the strike because you didn’t have a full-time job—but you’re not prepared to support other freelancers who did choose not to file?

More to the point, to scab utterly spits in the face of the one heroic era Farrelly, as an urban and architectural writer, purports to hold dear—the heritage conservation of the Green Bans era. The BLF did not win their victories by commitment to truth-telling, by being special canaries, or by loyalty to an abstract sense of justice. They won because they were loyal to each other, and because they joined. They didn’t scab.

Elizabeth Farrelly: you deserve to be ashamed, and I never want to read a fucking word from you about the Green Bans, or heritage, ever again.

[Thanks to my comrade Alicia for the heading.]



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