Each year on Mayday, locals from the small West Coast town of Blackball organise a day of commemoration and celebration of the town’s past, and of political dialogue. For those of you who don’t know, the special importance of Blackball was that in 1908 miners from the town went out on strike to secure “crib time”, effectively a meal break. It was a hard-fought industrial struggle, but the miners were successful. The organisation required for the successful strike and political profiles forged in its heat led to the formation of the Federation of Labour (later the CTU) and ultimately the Labour Party. Hub of the celebrations tends to be the hotel named as “Formerly the Blackball Hilton” (think that’s the legal way to describe it!) where the walls are decorated with historic banners, photographs, newspaper clippings and the like, illustrating the proud history of the town and the movement it gave birth to.
It was my huge pleasure this year to be able to represent the Green Party in Blackball. Even though it’s physically close to where I live, it feels like a national stage. Others present included the Ambassador of Cuba, Labour MPs Claire Curran and Damien O’Connor, and my old friend and former Green Party MP Sue Bradford, as well as many other progressive people from both the West Coast and from around the country.
A highlight this year was the opening of a memorial to the 1908 crib time strike, developed by the team of local people who have been working towards the vision of a museum of working class history. A theme for the political discussions was how progressives can organise on the issues and principles that we hold in common, and both Claire Curran and I spoke after dinner on “A Progressive Agenda for the Next Decade”.
My speech was fairly wide ranging – covering the relationship between economy, environment, growth, climate change, peak oil, our Green New Deal and more!