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Capital Blight - Smoke and Mirrors

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 11, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

This past week reports of a recent trend (but hardly a new phenomena), called "rolling coal", have gone viral in the green media--in particular on Grist and the Huffington Post. Essentially, predominantly white, working class, rural truck drivers are venting their frustrations on "effete, latte sipping, Prius driving, city-dwelling, liberals" by installing devices in their trucks that actually belch smoke and lower their own gas mileage on command. This display of reactionary machismo is detailed in a recent article by Elizabeth Kulze. As the famous comedian, Jack Benny would probably say--in the complete opposite context--"Only in America...".

As one would expect, the comments sections following these articles are full of harshly critical comments directed at these coal rollers, and not entirely without justification, but the anger is misdirected.

To be sure, it's not a classist or elitist slur to properly refer to attitudes such as these as retrograde. Back in the day the Wobblies had a nickname for members of our own class who would side with the bosses. We called them "blocks" (after the block-headed Ernest Riebe cartoon character, "Mr. Block") or "scissorbills", cultural memes which may have influenced both Charles Schulz (Think of Lucy Van Pelt calling Charlie Brown "blockhead") and the Beatles ("Billy Shears" possibly derives from "William Shears), but our fellow workers never forgot who the real enemy was: the employing class.

Why would anyone in their right mind go to such lengths to actually pay money to install such a moronic device on their vehicle and vent their anger at members of their own class? Clearly this is not logical in any sense. Only a fool would deliberately set their own house on fire, crap in their own bed, or piss in their own beer, but that is precisely what these coal rollers are doing. No matter how much they hate those "Commie tree hugging unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs" or whatever, they're ultimately shooting themselves in the foot by spewing more greenhouse gasses into the Earth's atmosphere. Even if the effect is mostly negligible by itself, it still enables the capitalist class by enabling the latter's divide and conquet tactics which keep the 99% divided and at each other's throats.

We've seen this type of behavior before. In 1989, in timber dependent communities, after the US Government (finally) announced intentions to consider listing the Northern Spotted Owl as a "threatened" species (after years and years of lawsuits, campaigning, and frustration by environmentalists), the big timber corporations used a combination of propaganda, pseudoscientific nonsense, and false front astroturf "wise use" groups (as well as a few compliant business union officials) to whip timber workers into a vigilante mob hysteria against the environmental community.

Unfortunately, many environmentalists foolishly vented their frustration at the timber workers and not the timber workers employers, but this was a tactical mistake. Most timber workers didn't actually support this vigilante mob hysteria (though the corporate controlled media made it seem otherwise), but the capitalists wanted us all to think that the divisions were greater than they actually are, and things are no different now. This whole, sorry affair is simply more smoke and mirrors from the employing class.

Consider these "coal rollers". Obviously these are people who've swallowed the Kool-aid being pushed by the right wing capitalist media that global warming is "a hoax" and that environmentalism represents a covert conspiracy by a "cultural elite". This is nonsense, of course, spread by the capitalist class. The fossil fuel interests, led largely by the Koch Brothers have poured $billions into funding climate change denial, primarily because they stand to lose $trillions in profits if their fossil fuel assets become "stranded", which will no doubt happen if civilization is to survive, because 80% of the known fossil fuel reserves must remain unextracted and we must transition as quickly as possible to renewable energy--primarily wind and solar. Priuses represent a convenient symbol--much like the spotted owl--that the Koch Brothers and their fellow capitalists can use to misdirect the anger of the working class, which should rightfully be directed towards the anti-worker Koch Brothers.

This is unfortunate, but it's not surprising, because both the mainstream business unions and big green environmental organizations have a pattern of supporting the employing class rather than the 99% of us that make up the non-capitalist class. Fellow Wobbly Noam Chomsky has been saying, for over a quarter century now--that this situation is made all the more worse by the fact that working class institutions have been destroyed here in "America". He has also pointed out, however, the conditions have never been more ripe for a genuine, green libertarian-socialist alternative. A perfect example of such an opportunity is the potential for those communities who oppose crude-by-rail to find common cause with disaffected railroad workers who both suffer (or die) when these "bomb trains" explode and wipe whole communities like Lac Magentic off of the map, but that's only the beginning.

These "coal rollers" are symbolic of the failure of what passes for "the left" in the country to organize and organize right. We need to organize a mass based, intersectional, transformative movement to challenge the destruction of the environment, the growing repressiveness of the military state, and the crushing economic exploitation of capitalism. A good start can take place at the People's Climate March in New York in September, but let's not stop there. We need to achieve nothing less than the building of a completely new world in the rotting, toxic, and dysfunctional shell of the old. The IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus is one place to make this happen. Let's do this now, before it's too late.

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