My Environmentalism Will be Intersectional or it Will be Bullshit

By Adam Ramsey - Open Democracy, March 26, 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.

There is no such thing as neutrality. If you are neutral in situations of oppression, you have chosen to side with the powerful. Desmond Tutu's mantra is a key tenet of my recently adopted trade – journalism. It is often uttered by activists in movements against injustice – a cry of those attempting to shake people out of passivity. In the world I live in at least, it has become a platitude.

Like all platitudes, it's easy to ignore. But to do so is risky. Whether it's class or gender or race or sexuality or disability or nationality or religion or age, our civilization is built on pyramids of oppression. If politics is the art of living together, then any conversation about politics, including environmental politics, is in part a conversation about people of unequal power living together, and so a conversation about injustice.

This doesn't mean that the injustice is always mentioned. Just as you can talk about the weather without referring to the climate, it's possible to discuss politics without talking about power. When detailing the intricacies of a technical issue, it's often easy to lay to one side the various pertinent inequalities. In individual conversations this can be fine. You can't be expected to always mention everything about an issue all at once.

But as rain becomes rivers, conversations become narratives. And as rivers shape the land, narratives shape our politics. If a national political conversation takes place without discussing power, then we are being silent in the face of injustice. We are siding with the powerful. For most of the environmental movement, the main influence we have is our contribution to the flow of public debate, so how we use it has to matter.

Talking about power in general isn't sufficient either. Because power is complex. Injustices are manifold. There is a word, coined by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw which explains this: 'intersectionality'. “My feminism will be intersectional” Flavia Dzodan famously wrote “or it will be bullshit”. The point is that if you seek to attack one power structure but do so by treading on other oppressed groups, then you are still perpetuating oppression. This is an immoral thing to do. But if you believe that injustices stem from a system, and if you therefore wish to dismantle that system, then it is also strategically foolish. The person you just stood on should have been your key ally. We need to build links – intersections – between movements against all kinds of oppression. Our struggles are bound up together.

Chevron Buys Newspaper, Advertising To Push Dirty Energy

By Thor Benson - Vice.Com, March 27, 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.

Richmond is tucked into California’s western tricep, a former wine town with a population just over 100,000. Under the administration of Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, the town is the largest city in the United States with a Green Party mayor. It’s also an oil town—in 1901, Standard Oil set up a tank farm, choosing the location for its easy access to San Francisco Bay. Soon after, a western terminus of the Santa Fe Railroad was built in Richmond to handle the outflux of crude. Over the course of the 20th century, Standard Oil became the Standard Oil Company of California (SOCAL), and later, Chevron.

Throughout the 90s, the Richmond refinery was fined thousands of dollars for unsafe conditions, explosions, major fires, and chemical leaks, as the plant oozed chlorine and sulfur trioxide into Richmond’s atmosphere. In August of 2012, the Richmond refinery exploded after Chevron ignored the warning of corroding pipes from the local safety board. The disaster was linked to aging pipes, which were simply clamped instead of replaced altogether. Some 15,000 residents in the surrounding area were forced to seek medical treatment, and Chevron’s CEO, John Watson, got a $7.5 million dollar raise.

Now that some time has passed, Chevron has decided to modernize the refinery and has simultaneously sponsored the creation of the Richmond Standard, an online newspaper that is decidedly positive about anything the company does. The paper, whose name is a sly reference to the company that Chevron grew out of, covers minimally reported local stories on crime, public meetings, and sports. It also features a section called “Chevron Speaks,” which works as a place for the company to put forth its ideology. According to SF Gate, “the idea of the nation’s second-largest oil company funding a local news site harkens back to an era of journalism when business magnates often owned newspapers to promote their personal, financial, or political agendas. Now that mainstream newspapers are struggling to survive, online news sites are testing ways to fund their operations.”

‘Blame-the-Worker’ Allegations Reveal Deep Divide Between Labor, Management

By Stephen Lee - Tony Mazzochi Center for Health, Safety, and Environmental Education, March 10, 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.

Feb. 27 — Worker advocates and some labor scholars contend that employers routinely blame and punish employees for sustaining on-the-job injuries, reflecting a fundamental dysfunction in labor relations.

Employer representatives dispute those claims, saying the allegations are purely anecdotal and require knowledge of employers’ motives that workers don’t have.

“Blame-the-worker” policies take many forms, James Frederick, the United Steelworkers’ assistant director for health, safety and environment, told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 27: discipline for workers who suffer injuries, incentives for those who avoid them, signs promoting the number of consecutive days without lost-time incidents or programs in which workers are assigned to monitor each other for safety violations.

“All of these programs, what unites them is [that] they say, ‘If you get injured, it’s your fault, so we’re going to give you a prize because you’ve worked safely, or we’re going to punish you because you worked unsafely,’ ” said Nancy Lessin, a United Steelworkers employee representative.

End Chrysler subsidies: New Transport Vision Needed

By the Vancouver Ecosocialist Group - Rank and File Canada, March 26, 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.

Chrysler Corporation announced last month that it plans to invest $3.5 billion to retool its assembly plants in Windsor and Brampton, Ontario and produce new lines of vehicles. But it set two big conditions—that the federal and Ontario governments provide $700 million in subsidies, and that the union of assembly line employees, Unifor, accept wage concessions, notably lower salaries for new hires.

Unifor and the two levels of government agreed to the subsidy demand. We believe this a wrong choice for society, including for autoworkers. This statement is an argument for an alternative path.

Chrysler has publicly withdrawn the subsidy demand in order to avoid the public criticism and scrutiny it stirred up. But Globe and Mail auto industry analyst Brian Milner has written, “There isn’t a jurisdiction that has managed to retain or win an auto plant for decades without significant incentives of some sort… Mr. Marchionne [Chrysler CEO] knows he will get his public money somewhere.”

Since 1965, the year the U.S.-Canada Auto Pact trade agreement was signed, every auto assembly investment in Canada has received generous government grants. Today, jurisdictions in North America are competing intensely for auto industry investment through subsidies and tax breaks. Chrysler, meanwhile, never paid back $800 million of the $2.9 billion in loans it received from the federal government during the 2008 financial crisis. The company declared $3.2 billion of profits in 2013.

Workers Revolt in Bosnia-Herzegovina

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.

Want to know what a real workers' revolt looks like (as opposed to what happened in Ukraine)?

Watch this video. (No wonder this stuff isn't being reported here). 

For more information, visit this page.

Tesoro: A Track Record of Pollution, Hostility to Workers, and Meddling in Politics

By Eric de Place - Sightline Daily, March 21, 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.

Right about now, oil executives in Texas are boarding a plane bound for the Northwest. Their goal? To steam roll opposition to the monster oil train terminal that Tesoro wants to construct on the downtown waterfront of Vancouver, Washington.

Hot on the heels of learning that the local city council is narrowly opposed to the project, the oil refining giant is going on a full court press lobbying mission in Vancouver, Washington. The companies leadership, including senior VPs and CEO Greg Goff, will be meeting behind closed doors with members of the city council and the Port of Vancouver. Then on Tuesday, March 25 from 1:00 to 2:00, they are holding a private meeting with 40 business leaders at the Heathman Lodge.

As a public service to the community of Vancouver, it’s worth explaining what Tesoro is—and why their oil train terminal has no place on the Columbia River.

Chapter 6 : If Somebody Kills Themselves, Just Blame it on Earth First!

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

Haul it to the sawmill, Got to make a buck,
Your blades are worn and dangerous, Better trust your luck,
Don’t stop for the workers’ safety, Never fear the worst,
‘Cause if somebody kills themselves, Just blame it on Earth First!,
L-P…

—Lyrics excerpted from L-P, by Judi Bari, 1990.

“Anybody who ever advocated tree spiking of course has to rethink their position.”

—Darryl Cherney, June 1987.[1]

Earth First! received much negative press for its advocacy of biocentrism, the notion that all species (including humans) were intrinsically valuable. Their slogan “No Compromise in Defense of Mother Earth!” was forceful and militant, and given the misanthropic leanings of some of its cofounders, it was often taken to mean that they valued the lives of nonhuman species above humans—even if it meant the suffering or death of the latter—which wasn’t actually the case. The situation was complicated further by Earth First!’s advocacy of monkeywrenching: industrial “ecotage” which included everything from deflagging roads to putting sugar in the fuel tanks of earth moving and/or logging equipment. Earth First! cofounder Dave Foreman described monkeywrenching thusly:

“It is resistance to insanity that is encapsu­lated in Monkeywrenching…(it) fits in with the bioregional concept. You go back to a place and you peacefully re-inhabit it. You learn about it. You become a part of the place. You develop an informal and al­ternative political and social struc­ture that is somehow apart from the sys­tem… it’s also a means of self-empowerment, of finding alternative means of relat­ing to other people, and other life forms…there is a funda­mental difference between ecodefense resistance and classic revolutionary or terrorist behavior.” [2]

Such a description, while informative, was hardly likely to silence critics on the right. The most controversial of these controversial tactics by far, was Earth First!’s advocacy of “tree spiking”, the act of driving large nails into standing trees in order to deter timber sales. [3]

Capital Blight - Oil Town Rebellion

By x344543 - March 22, 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.

For years, the communities of Western and Northwestern Contra Coast County and southwestern Solano County, located on the San Pablo and Suisun Bays, northwest of the San Francisco Bay have been dominated by the fossil fuel industry (and to some extent--until 1993--by the US Military Industrial Complex), and the capitalists running that industry have run each of these communities essentially like company towns.

Under these conditions, all official institutions, including elected city, county, and regional governments, most other businesses, and even the unions that supposedly "represent" the workers in these facilities are beholden to the dominant capitalist interests. Dissident residents or workers--if there are any--often find themselves isolated and alone if they can even find the courage to speak out at all. Complaints about working conditions, corrupt union officials, bought politicians, environmental racism, toxic pollution, and capital blight often fall on deaf ears and are usually dismissed as the product of "outside agitators", even "unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs" or some such thing.

In this northwestern Bay Area region, there are four corporate refineries that dominate the towns of Avon and Pacheco (Tesoro), Benicia (Valero), Martinez (Shell), Richmond (Chevron), and Rodeo and Crockett (Conoco-Phillips), and--as one would expect--dissenters have indeed had a difficult, almost impossible time being heard.

Chevron in particular has run Richmond as a virtual company town as long as it has existed (indeed, the refinery predates the town's founding).  For years, the people of the nearby residential neighborhoods have complained of toxic pollution and political double standards that favor the corporation--allegations that are supported by mountains if evidence. Until recently, the local politicians were entirely loyal to the company.

The environmental struggles of these communities--mostly composed of African-Americans, Asian, Latino, and working class White people--have often been ignored by mainstream environmental NGOs. Locally based environmental groups, including the West County Toxics Coalition and Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), have had to do the vast majority of the work of bringing attention to the plight of their residents. On occasion, Greenpeace and Earth First! have given attention to them, but for the most part, it's been locals--most of whom are not typically activist oriented--who've borne the brunt of the struggles.

Many of these refineries are unionized--mostly by the United Steelworkers Union, with a minority of the workers instead belonging to IBEW Local 180. Naturally, the leadership of these unions has oriented themselves towards capitalist interests, who have on numerous occasions tripped over themselves to voluntarily speak on behalf of their capitalist masters.

For example, in 1999, after four refinery workers were killed in a fire, at the Tosco (now Tesoro) facility in nearby Avon, CBE spoke up on behalf of the deceased and called for stricter regulations of refineries (to protect both workers and the environment). Tosco, of course, opposed the proposed regulatory changes, instead calling for more watered down oversight which--CBE argued--left the foxes guarding the hen-house. Rather than support CBE, Jim Payne of the PACE union local that "represented" the workers at the time excoriated the environmentalists, declaring,

"It absolutely infuriates me that those damned tree-huggers would place this regulation in jeopardy,"

Certain residents of the nearby communities of Avon and Clyde were not especially welcoming of CBE either because--naturally--Tesoro used their substantial economic and political leverage to convince these people that CBE were "outside agitators", perhaps even "unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs" (imagine that!).

This incident was very similar to the PCB spill in Georgia Pacific's lumber mill in Fort Bragg, California, that took place a decade earlier, in which the union leadership of IWA Local 3-469 (one Don Nelson) essentially took the company's side, leaving the rank and file workers to seek outside help from Earth First! and the IWW. Those efforts were led by Anna Marie Stenberg and (you guessed it), Judi Bari.

In spite of years of frustration and the corporations' seemingly iron rule, aided in large parts by their attempts to divide and conquer workers and environmentalists, the political winds in these northwestern Bay Area refinery towns appears to be shifting. Dissidents are gaining traction within their communities, no longer finding themselves isolated from their fellow residents. Workers employed by these industries are speaking out and even making alliances with environmentalists, the communities are finding that they can elect politicians willing to chart a course independent of the dominate corporate forces, and regulatory agencies—who usually provide official cover for the capitalists they’re ostensibly charged with regulating—are actually showing signs of actually demanding accountability from the powers that be.

Alternative Unionists and Syndicalists Spark Major Protest in Spain this March 22

By the IWW's International Solidarity Committee

The Andalusian union SAT which is syndicalist-oriented and an ally of the anarcho-syndicalist unions CGT and CNT has sparked perhaps the major protest of the year:

The CGT and CNT are working to turn the protest into a general strike see

http://www.rojoynegro.info/articulo/agitaci%C3%B3n/cgt-participa-apoya-las-marchas-la-dignidad

http://www.cnt.es/noticias/22m-cnt-en-marcha-cnt-en-lucha

Report below from International Marxist tendency, http://www.marxist.com/dignity-marches-everyone-to-madrid-on-march-22.htm

On Saturday, 22 March, Madrid will witness one of the main social and political mobilisations of the year, the March for Dignity. The aim is to gather hundreds of thousands of people in Madrid, from around the country in order to show opposition to the anti-working class and anti-social policies of the past few years. The demonstration will march under the slogans “Do not pay the public debt”, for a “Basic income to all those without resources”, “No more cuts”, “Bread, Housing and Jobs for all” and “Down with the Troika Governments.”

Speech to NUMSA: Anarcho-Syndicalism for South African Unions Today

Speech by Lucien van der Walt - March 7, 2013

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.

Speech to metalworkers: Anarcho-syndicalism for South African unions today?

Lucien van der Walt

Lightly edited transcript from Lucien van der Walt’s discussion at 1st National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) Political School, September 2013. From his debate with Solly Mapaila, 2nd deputy GS of the South African Communist Party (SACP) on anarcho-syndicalist versus Leninist views of the revolutionary potential of unions.

Captures van der Walt’s main points: the debate on the anarcho-syndicalist view that revolutionary trade unions, allied to other movements, creating a self-managed worker-controlled socialism through mass education, counter-power and workplace occupations; anarcho-syndicalism as a working class tradition; the anarcho-syndicalist view that unions can potentially be more revolutionary than political parties including Communist Parties, & be revolutionary without leadership by parties; the view that electioneering can be replaced with direct action campaigns; that the Spanish Revolution (1936-1939) shows unions taking power and making a bottom-up worker-controlled revolution; and how NUMSA’s current actions refute Marxist-Leninist theory; other problems with that theory’s traditional approach to unions; and the implications of all of this for current debates over the form of a new socialist movement in South Africa and elsewhere; and the nature of the South African ruling class and the primary social contradictions.

Lucien van der Walt is co-author of “Black Flame: The revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism” (w.Michael Schmidt, 2009, AK Press) and co-editor of “Anarchism and Syndicalism in the Colonial and Postcolonial World, 1870-1940” (w. Steve Hirsch and Benedict Anderson, 2010, Brill). He has a long history of involvement in the working class movements.

Initial input in response to David Masondo’s presentation, titled “From Rustenburg to Ongoye: The Evolution of the SACP’s Programmatic Approach”

[…] LUCIEN: Okay now, Comrade David, you lay out only two options.

First: we fix the SACP or, second, maybe we set up a SACP Mark 2, the new version, the new edition.

Comrades who are auto workers know that every couple of years you bring out a new car. The problem is that a car is a car. And a car can’t fly, and if there is a problem with cars only some changes can be made. There are certain things that they can’t do and certain things they can do. Same for parties.

Maybe the question is to think about the political form itself. Is the political party an appropriate form? Do we need a party to carry out the political vanguard role of the working class? Why can’t this role be done by a trade union? Right now, actually, that’s what’s happening. We are debating if it’s a possibility, but right now we have a situation where NUMSA is ALREADY providing a vanguard leadership to the working class. Not just in its own ranks. Sections of COSATU [the Congress of South African Trade Unions], sections of the unemployed, sections of social movements, they all look to NUMSA.

You now want to bring the SA Communist Party back on track, although you have left it far behind. You’ve left it behind; you, the unions, are far ahead of that party. You are also two steps to the left of the Communist Party. You are playing a vanguard role that the Communist Party hasn’t done. But then, you say: “No, we must go back to the Communist Party to have a vanguard”!

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