Climate Populism and the People’s Climate March

By Out of the Woods - libcom.org, September 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.

Large demonstrations are planned to push for action on climate change. Here we discuss the potentials and pitfalls of climate populism.

This month, the UN Climate Summit 2014 will begin in New York City. After yet another disappointing round of global talks on climate change failed to produce even the most flimsy of agreements among participating countries, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited world leaders of UN member states as well as individuals and groups from finance, business, and ‘civil society’ to “catalyze ambitious action on the ground to reduce emissions and strengthen climate resilience and mobilize political will” in a voluntary meeting external to the UNFCCC process.1

As if sprung from the process itself, a large mobilization (née protest) emerged external to this already-external meeting, dubbed the People’s Climate March. While the UN Climate Summit is being touted as critical to the attempt by political and technocratic elites to (re)affirm capitalist hegemony on our climate futures,2 the People’s Climate March, we argue, must take this critical opportunity to invent ‘the people’ already coming into being through today’s climate crisis.

Class Struggles, Climate Change, and the Origins of Modern Agriculture

By Out of the Woods - libcom.org, August 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.

Class conflicts and colonial expansion in the context of the Little Ice Age lead to the emergence of capitalist agriculture and the transformation of social relations on a world scale.

The last half-millennium of the Earth's natural history has been a time of dramatic and accelerating change. One has to look to the beginning of the Holocene, with the climatic amelioration after the last ice age and the Neolithic agricultural revolution, to find a period which produced changes of comparable significance for human-environmental relations.1

A diverse range of agricultural practices and social relations proliferated between the Neolithic origins of farming and the early modern period which began some 500 years ago. But in order to explore the future of food production under climate change, it is this transition to modern agriculture which is of most interest. This question is intimately bound up with the origins of capitalism. Here, climate change and class relations combined, and through a series of food crises led to the transformation of world agriculture through enclosures and colonialism.

Green Anarchism: Towards the Abolition of Hierarchy

By C. B. - Anarchist News, August 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.

In the last few decades new forms of activism have begun to emerge that concerned not merely the fate of human society, but of the non-human world – including non-human animals and the environment – as well. In their most radical forms, these struggles culminated in what has been termed by some as ‘eco’ or ‘green’ anarchism. Green anarchism can be taken to consist in any political doctrine that takes some of the key components of anarchist thought – whatever these are deemed to be – and applies them towards critiquing the interaction of humans with the non-human world. This definition is a good start, but is perhaps like many definitions of anarchism unsatisfactorily vague. This essay will propose a more specific definition of green anarchism, which will later be explained as the political doctrine that strives for the abolition of hierarchy in general.

In order for this to make sense, it will first be necessary to say some important things about social anarchism, and in particular its emphasis upon opposing social hierarchy, and from here this perspective will be applied to explain what is meant by green anarchism. I will then tie in some of the most exciting topics of green anarchist thinking – namely animal rights and social ecology – and for this reason I hope that this essay will provide a solid introduction to those that are new to the topic. I will then conclude with an adventurous assertion: green anarchism, as it is here understood, represents the most developed and the most coherent expression of anarchist thinking. I hope that the reader will be enticed (or outraged) enough by this claim to accompany me on an understanding of why I think it is fair.

The green anarchist perspective can be described as emerging from a more general anarchist outlook, which will be described here as ‘social anarchism’. Social anarchism: the view that all social hierarchy should be abolished. What is meant by ‘society’ will be taken to refer quite simply to the human world, whilst what is meant by ‘hierarchy’ is a system of domination that involves the subordination of the interests of one individual or group of individuals by another. Accordingly, we can see that social anarchism strives to eliminate hierarchy from the human world entirely, or in other words that it desires for human relations to be ordered amongst genuine equals, meaning that no one human should have the right to treat another – formally or informally – as their property.

Social anarchism has much in common with more orthodox strains of radical thought, such as classical anarchism, which tends primarily towards opposing the State, as well as Marxism, which maintains instead an economic focus on class and capitalism. Whilst social anarchism shares these aims in common, where it diverges from these ideologies is in its refusal to recognise the State or capitalism as being at the foundation of all that is wrong with today’s world. Rather, as according to a perspective that is broader and more radical, it regards the State and capitalism as being at the surface of a complex structure of domination that casts its roots much deeper: hierarchy.

SMART Railroad Workers Rejection of Single Employee Crews is a Victory for Workers AND the Environment

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 14, 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.

On Tuesday, September 10, 2014, the rank and file union members of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail & Transportation Workers (SMART) General Committee GO—001 overwhelmingly voted down a concessionary proposal to reduce train crew size from 2 to 1 by a margin of 2 to 1 against the proposal.

The proposed change would have resulted in conductorless train operations over more than half of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), the second largest rail carrier in the U.S. According to Railroad Workers United, a coalition of rank and file union members from various railroad workers' unions, this was part of a campaign by the major rail carriers to weaken the already weak and divided rail unions further. Over the past half-century, the railroad bosses have taken advantage of the craft divisions among their workers to reduce crew sizes from a standard of 5 to 2. Now they're pushing to reduce that number to 1. The fact that BNSF was able to convince the leadership of one local to go along shows just how beaten down these unions are.

Fortunately, rank and file militants--some of them dues paying members of the IWW--formed RWU to beat back just such an offensive by the bosses, and--perhaps--turn the tide in what has hitherto been a one-sided class war waged against the workers by the bosses.

The RWU strategy mixed a whole variety of tactics, both old (including "silent agitators" and graffiti) and new (social media), many of them pioneered by the IWW:

Upon learning of the BNSF TA, RWU convened an “emergency meeting” of the Steering Committee and instantly mobilized the network. Thousands of buttons and sticker, flyers and leaflets, “Talking Points” and more were disseminated to BNSF railroad workers in the following weeks. A press release was issued that was picked up by a number of newspapers. RWU members spoke out on radio and TV stations, and organized rallies, pickets and demonstrations at numerous terminals, from large cities like Chicago and Seattle to small towns like Creston, Iowa. RWU members intervened in the debate at the SMART Convention in August, and held a series of telephone conference calls open to all railroad workers to voice their concerns, ask questions, and devise strategies and tactics. A regular e-newsletter with the latest flyers, leaflets, stickers, articles, songs, graffiti and cartoons were issued weekly.

In the end, the workers beat back the bosses attack, and this campaign should provide (the beginnings, at least, of) a model for rank and file workers in business unions to overcome entrenched bureaucratic interests that serve the bosses and not the workers. It can also serve as a model for the IWW's "dual card" strategy.

The vote was also a small victory for the environment and efforts to build bridges between environmental activists and workers. As has been widely reported, the accident that blew up Lac Magentic was the result of a single employee train, and while derailments involving two employee crude-by-rail trains have occurred, the chances of them happening are substantially greater if the crew size were to be reduced to one. Further, the push to reduce crew sizes is part of the ongoing efforts by the rail carriers to maximize their profits by cutting corners on labor costs, safety procedures, and best practices. The workers' victory will likely embolden them to take stronger stands against other initiatives by the bosses that would increase the risk of accident or derailment, and should the workers gain sufficient momentum, they can actually go on the offensive and force the carriers to increase safety, which will reduce environmental impacts significantly.

The BNSF Single Crew Initiative Defeated!

By J.P. Wright - Railroad Workers United Blog, September 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.

The members of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail & Transportation Workers (SMART) General Committee GO—001 have spoken. In a loud and clear mandate, they have told the BNSF railway, their union leaders, and the world, that they do not support single employee train crews. By 2-to-1, the rank and file voted down a tentative agreement, that – had it been ratified – would have resulted in conductorless train operations over more than half of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), the second largest rail carrier in the U.S.

The major rail carriers have been seeking to run trains with a single employee for nearly a decade now. This latest attempt was by far the most blatant and confrontational effort to date. Railroad workers know that there are grave dangers and inefficiencies should such practice be implemented. According to Railroad Workers United General Secretary Ron Kaminkow, “Single employee train operations – with or without Positive Train Control (PTC) – would compromise the safety and security of train crews, motorists, pedestrians, trackside communities, the environment and the general public. Railroad workers are ready, willing and able to fight this concept with everything we have.”

In voting down this contract, the SMART GO-001 rank and file have won a decisive victory, not just for the trainmen and engineers on the BNSF, but for every railroad worker in North America. While the victory belongs to them, it is of course shared by all those who assisted – engineers (both UTU and BLET); union brothers and sisters from other crafts and carriers who rose to the occasion and helped out; family members who took part in pickets, rallies and demonstrations; fellow unionists and citizens who grasped the importance of the struggle and pitched in to help.

Invitation to sign on statement to denounce corporate takeover of Climate Summit

By La Via Campesina - September 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.

We call upon all fellow social movements, peoples organizations and environmental and climate justice movements to sign on this statement and join us in this call to action.

On the 23rd of September, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, will host a Climate Summit in New York, bringing political leaders, big business and a highly select few civil society representatives. The Summit has been surrounded by a lot of fanfare but proposes voluntary pledges for emission cuts, market-based and destructive public-private partnership initiatives such as REDD+, Climate-Smart Agriculture and the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative. These are all false solutions of the green economy that seeks to further commodify life and nature and further capitalist profit. The undersigned social movements that all together represent more than 200 million people around the world, denounce this corporate take over of the UN and the climate negotiations process and call for a deep systemic change.

Climate change is the result of an unjust economic system and to deal with the crisis, we must address the root causes and change the system. There will be no going back from the climate chaos if we do not fight for real solutions and do nothing to confront and challenge the inaction of our governments’ policy-making being hijacked by polluting corporations. It is crucial for us to unify and strengthen our economic, social and environmental struggles and focus our energies on changing the capitalist system.

To sign on the statement, please send the name of your organization to: espaceclimat@gmail.com If you would like to be included in the statement to be released to the media, please send us your endorsement on or before September 14, 2014.

The Karl Marx Tree: How Southern Pacific Railroad killed a socialist colony in the name of creating Yosemite National Park

By Marc Norton - 48 Hills, August 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.

It’s called the General Sherman tree today, but the settlers of a socialist colony named it for Karl Marx

There has been considerable hoopla this summer around the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln putting his signature on the Yosemite Grant Act of 1864. Lincoln set aside Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias for public use and preservation. Yosemite subsequently became a national park in 1890.

Missing from this commemoration are the machinations of corporate power brokers, specifically the Southern Pacific Railroad, in the founding of Yosemite National Park. The very same legislative act that created the park in 1890 also destroyed a socialist experiment in collective living and enterprise – the Kaweah Colony – that had been organized socialists and labor activists based in San Francisco.

The Kaweah Colony posed a political and economic challenge to the dominance of capital in general, and to Southern Pacific in particular. With the support of Southern Pacific, the act that created Yosemite National Park was amended in secret at the last minute to expand the newly created Sequoia National Park, in order to expropriate lands that the Kaweah Colony had settled.

Southern Pacific had its way, and the days of the Kaweah Colony were numbered. The road that the colonists had hacked out of the wilderness with their collective labor was stolen by the park service, without compensation, and served as the main route into Sequoia National Park for decades. The giant sequoia that the Kaweah colonists had named the Karl Marx Tree, by volume the largest known living tree in the world, was renamed the General Sherman Tree.

The power of capital triumphed over the power of the people.

We may celebrate the existence of Sequoia National Park, but the fact remains that the park is, in the words of Jay O’Connell, the foremost historian of the Kaweah Colony, “the incidental beneficiary of a giant corporation’s less than benevolent actions.”

An Open Letter to my Fellow Railroad Workers

By Jen Wallis - Railroad Workers United, September 4, 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. The author wants to make it clear that her views are not necessarily those of her union, Railroad Workers United, or the members of either.

Dear fellow rails:

On Tuesday, September 2, 2014, five residents of Seattle and Everett working with Rising Tide Seattle, stopped work at a Burlington Northern Santa-Fe Rail Yard in Everett by erecting a tripod-structure on the outbound railroad tracks, directly in front of a mile-long oil train.

Just to be clear, I had nothing to do with the action. Direct actions are the result of affinity groups, who plan these things completely amongst themselves within their own organizations. All I did was share the message of how dangerous one-person crews would be. I'm thrilled that they listened, but I'm actually opposed to most formal coalitions. All of the ones I've been involved with have ended by either imploding because of the hostile factions they inevitably splintered into, or became appropriated by the bureaucrats. I'm more inclined to simply keep lines of communication open between our respective movements, but personally it goes much deeper than that.

Every age has their growing pains. Growing as a society means that those who advocate social or economic change are invariably encumbered with a lot of “isms” or “ists” for their beliefs. More than 100 years ago, and for centuries before that, it was not universally accepted that slavery was wrong. If you believed that it was, you were labelled a “abolitionist”, along with the other colorful labels that went with it. If you helped slaves gain their freedom, you went to jail. Now it is universally accepted that enslaving people is wrong.

100 years ago, it was not universally accepted that women should have the right to vote. If you believed that women had the right to vote, you were called a “suffragist”, along with all of the labels and misconceptions that went along with it. Believing in it often landed you in jail. It was a controversial opinion to be held in that era, but in America, it is now universally accepted.

Just 50 years ago, if you believed that Jim Crow laws were wrong, you were called a “civil rights activist”, along with all of the horrible names that went along with that. If you believed that segregation was wrong, you often went to jail. Now at least it is not directly advocated, though we still have a ways to go.

All of these changes, which are now universally accepted as truths, came about as the result of numerous acts of non-violent civil disobedience and direct actions. The actual legislation came about much later as the result of public pressure.

Climate change is not a myth. It is scientifically proven, and many of the effects of the causes we have made in the last 30 years are irreversible. We have the opportunity to stop the destruction, but we are well past the time to act on it. It’s upon us right now. It is our obligation to our children and their children’s children to stand up and say, “Enough! This is no longer sustainable for our planet!”.

An Arresting Experience: Doing direct action at BNSF Delta Yard

By Patrick Mazza - Cascadia Planet, September 8, 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.

Following is the story of why I and four others engaged in an act of civil resistance at BNSF Delta Yard in Everett, Washington September 2.  The act was intended to draw attention to a Petition for Redress of Grievances Inflicted by Fossil Fuels.  Please sign our petition here

I am a veteran climate activist.  I have written about the climate crisis for over 25 years and for most of the last 15 worked full-time to advance climate solutions.  I have spent a lot of time trying to stop global warming sitting in front of a computer.  On September 2, 2014 it was time to sit in front of a train. 

Five of us attached ourselves to a tripod made of three 18-foot steel poles erected across a train track at Delta Junction, the north end of BNSF’s Everett Delta staging yard.  I locked myself at the foot of one of the poles.  School teachers Liz Spoerri and Jackie Minshew and coffee shop owner Mike Lapointe fastened themselves to the others. Abby Brockway, a house painter and artist, ascended to perch at the top.

Our banner, “Cut Oil Trains, Not Conductors,” expressed solidarity with railroad workers fighting against dangerous, single-person train crews.  During the day the action drew numerous supporting honks from truckers driving across the bridge above.

Around 150 yards to the south an orange BNSF engine was linked at the head of a black mile-long snake of tanker cars filled with North Dakota Bakken shale oil.  This is the same extraordinarily unstable crude that on July 6, 2013 leveled several city blocks and incinerated 47 people at Lac-Megantic on the Quebec-Maine border.  That exploded in fireballs after derailments October 19, 2013 in Edmonton, Alberta and November 8, 2013 in Aliceville, Alabama. A derailment and fire December 30, 2013 in Casselton, North Dakota erupted in a toxic plume that forced evacuations in a five-mile radius.  Another Bakken train derailed and was engulfed in flames January 7, 2014 in Plaster Rock, New Brunswick.

Every week oil trains each carrying up to three million gallons of volatile Bakken crude trundle through Seattle 8 to 13 times and Washington up to 19 times, according to BNSF’s own figures. Sightline's Eric de Place reports that oil unit train traffic through Washington has risen from essentially zero in August 2012 to an average of 2.6 trains a day. They run past stadiums and heavily populated neighborhoods, and through tunnels underneath Seattle and Everett.  Just this July 24 a nearly 100-tanker train derailed beneath the Magnolia Bridge in Seattle.  Fortunately no toxic fireball . . . this time.

Bill McKibben of 350.org Gets Schooled by Amanda Lickers of Reclaim Turtle Island

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.

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