Environmental or Ecological Unionism?

By Steve J Payne - The Green Red Show, September 11, 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.

There is ample evidence that the people wrecking our economy are the exact same people destroying the environment. A 2007 study by Harvard Professor Stephen Pacala found that the top 8% richest people on earth (500 million people) are responsible for 50% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Further, the top 15% are responsible for 75% of greenhouse gas emissions. The bottom billion people on earth are responsible for almost no greenhouse gas emissions. The richer you are the more greenhouse gases you emit – a global redistribution of wealth would inherently entail a significant decline in greenhouse gases.

That top 15%, however, includes many people who would not be considered rich in their own country. Stephen Pacala argues for a tax on anyone globally making more than $30,000-$40,000 a year. However, people in that income range are not responsible for creating the economic system they labor and live under. Car owners did not create a transit system that favors individual automobiles. That system was created by a select few for profit.

The top 1% of Americans owns 43% of wealth in America and the top 5% own 72% of the wealth. It is here that we find the people responsible for creating an economic order that enforces mass consumption and lifestyles detrimental to the environment.

Anyone fighting the 1%; fighting for a redistribution of wealth, including labor unions, is on some level fighting an ecological fight, even if they might be loath to admit it.

But what would a unionism that actively embraced ecology look like?

June 11th International Day of Solidarity With Marie Mason, Eric McDavid & All Longterm Anarchist Prisoners 2014 Call Out

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.

Note: Marie Mason is a dues paying member of the IWW.

Though it may not seem like it from the depths of winter, June 11th is quickly approaching. As a revitalization of the day of support for eco-prisoners, the International Day of Solidarity with Marie Mason, EricMcDavid and Long-term Anarchist Prisoners has seen a huge outpouring of support and love for both Marie and Eric from all corners the globe over the past 3 years.

Significantly, in addition to the well-spring of both material and immaterial support, we've seen the proliferation of solidarity actions in many diverse contexts spreading the spirit and contributions to our struggles of those the state has attempted to disappear. Coordinated international solidarity has begun to flourish, with information about long-term anarchist and environmental prisoners crossing many geographic and linguistic barriers.

These efforts have had very tangible effects in the lives of Marie and Eric (and many others). Fundraisers have helped them remain true to their vegan principles, loved ones have been able to visit regularly even across vast distances, new generations of radical folks all over the world have reached out to them in solidarity. In short, June 11th has been greatly successful in helping to keep Marie, Eric and many other long-term anarchist and environmental prisoners in our hearts and minds, and to keep them alive in our struggles.

But this process of remembering - of "keeping alive" - is a tricky thing.

Our struggles and movements are often mired by a lack of memory, a lack of understanding and connecting with the past as a way to inform our actions in the present. This is both a product of the techno-alienation of our age as well as a consequence of tactical repression by state forces. The state, for the time being, has the ability to kidnap our comrades and bury them alive, to force them to languish in cold steel and concrete for decades on end. They're ripped from our communities, from our lives. And in their place exists a painful void.

The state, for its part, is banking on the veracity of the old adage "time heals all wounds"; it is hoping that this void will shrink and that we will "forget". If held in captivity long enough, so thinks the state, the actions of our courageous comrades will fade into the oblivion of history and we on the outside will be left without their constructive and loving presence in our struggles. We must fight against this repressive tendency; we must never forget.

Towards an Ecological General Strike: the Earth Day to May Day Assembly and Days of Direct Action

By Elliot Hughes and Steve Ongerth - March 30, 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.

We know that both the workers, the community, and the planet are exploited by the state and capitalist forces that rule over our lives, but now the ruling class is escalating that attack and we must come together to fight back or ourlivelihoods will be completely destroyed.

Recently the concentration of CO­2in the Earth’s atmosphere exceeded 400 ppm. Which greatly surpasses the 350 ppm that scientists argue is the limit to avoid run away climate change. As the capitalist class continues their “extreme energy” rampage including offshore oil drilling, tar sands mining, mountain removal, and fracking, a mass movement to oppose these forms of energy is rapidly growing and radicalizing. Recently, there has been an increased amount of oil spills, pipeline ruptures, oil train derailments, refinery fires, and chemical dumps. These disasters have not only destroyed the environment, but they have also injured and or killed the very workers whom the capitalists depend on to extract these “resources”.

The same capitalist economic system is destroying the Earth is destroying the lives of the workers. Some of their methods of class warfare include eroding health and safety standards, downsizing and outsourcing the workforce, establishing a “blame the worker” safety culture, and creating dangerous labor conditions all around. These same conditions that endanger the workers are also directly harming the communities around them, for example while the oil town communities develop cancers and asthma from air pollution, the workers often breath in a higher density of these toxins because they work in direct proximity with them.Yet, these same bosses through their use of propaganda are able to convince many of these exploited workers that environmentalists are their enemy and threaten their jobs. We must debunk this myth and come together to take direct action for health and safety and a halt to the destruction of our world.

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.

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.

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”!

Energy Crisis and Social Crisis

By Miquel Amorós - libcom.org, March 13, 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.

Every sector of the economy depends on it: energy of one kind or another. Energy makes the world go round and the power that rules the world is linked to the way energy is produced and consumed. The capitalist regime did not really gain momentum until the steam engine and the energy produced by the combustion of coal could be harnessed to industry. The initial dependence on coal was the cause of the vast size and appalling filth of the first industrial factories and cities; as the basis of the productive process, this dependence was responsible for the centralization of the entire system and the intensive exploitation of labor power. The internal combustion engine and the turbine put an end to the rule of coal, but not to the basic characteristics of society that had been created by it. Although the generalized use of electricity and gasoline made production more flexible and extended the range of consumption, facilitating the decentralization of factory production and the unlimited geographical expansion of the cities, social development continued to proceed within the framework that had been established by “carboniferous” capitalism: not only was the model of concentrated and hierarchical power maintained, but it was further reinforced by the new technologies. The refinement of machine production only reduced the role of the workers in the productive process, intensified exploitation and stabilized the class order. The new technologies consolidated class society and reinforced the foundations of domination.

Petroleum and electricity allowed productive activities to be relocated far from primary energy sources, that is, they capitalized the world. The extreme separation between the production and consumption of energy made transport the main strategic factor and at the same time the weak link of the system. Any serious disruption in the energy supply would cause all of society to collapse very quickly. Capitalism cannot exist without an extremely robust privatized distribution network to connect energy sources, which are under the control of financial enterprises or state-based mafias, with their consumer hostages. The expropriation of energy resources is a most instructive characteristic of social inequality: the proletarian from this perspective is the person who does not have unrestricted access to free energy. This explains why the ruling class strives to maintain the private ownership of energy resources and thus to keep the population in the most complete dependence. By fighting against the socialization of energy resources, locally controlled power generation and distribution networks and consumption, the ruling class is simply defending its social status.

Without cheap, inexhaustible and easily accessible energy, industrial society cannot continue to grow. The ruling class became aware of this “energy reality” when oil prices spiked after the creation of OPEC in 1973. The response was two-pronged: on the one hand, massive investments in nuclear power; on the other, the arms race of the great powers that was required by geopolitics, that is, the art of controlling of the world’s main oil and gas fields. The militarization of the world became indispensable for the system’s survival. This was a deliberate choice: it was the only way that power and servitude could be maintained.

Cowboy-Indian Solidarity Challenges the Keystone XL

By Brian Ward - System Change Not Climate Change, March 18, 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.

Earlier this month nearly 400 students were arrested in front of the White House protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline . The next group of people to head to Washington, D.C. will be the Cowboy Indian Alliance, farmers and ranchers and American Indian communities living along the proposed northern part of the Keystone XL pipeline, mostly based in Nebraska and South Dakota. They will camp out near the White House for a week beginning April 22 (Earth Day), ending with a mass demonstration on April 27th.

The Alliance is representing people on the front lines of the Keystone XL. Their goal is to protect their land and water for future generations. The proposed pipeline is planned to go through the Ogallala Aquifer (Northern Nebraska), which is the largest source of water for drinking, ranching and farming in the area. If there was a spill, and pipeline spills aren’t uncommon, it would put crops, public water supplies and wildlife in danger.

This type of coalition is rare in the Western United States. Ever since the encroachment of settlers onto native lands, many whites and Native Americans have been at odds over water, land, and hunting rights. The U.S. laid its foundation on stolen native land and resources, which further expanded its interests internationally as it became the global power it is today.

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