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Can sabotage stop climate change?

By Simon Butler - Climate and Capitalism, April 28, 2021

Despite the climate movement’s growth, epitomized by Extinction Rebellion and Student Strike for Climate, fossil fuel extraction continues to grow, and a safe climate can seem dismayingly distant. Given a choice between forgoing capital accumulation and tipping the whole world into a furnace, our rulers prefer the furnace.

In How to Blow Up a Pipeline, Andreas Malm asks how the climate movement can emerge from the Covid-19 hiatus as a stronger force. In particular, he questions whether the movement’s until now near-universal commitment to non-violent protest is holding it back. “Will absolute non-violence be the only way, forever the sole admissible tactic in the struggle to abolish fossil fuels? Can we be sure that it will suffice against this enemy? Must we tie ourselves to its mast to reach a safer place?”

To make his point, Malm cites examples of popular historic movements, some of which are invoked by today’s climate campaigners as examples of non-violent change. The overthrow of Atlantic slavery involved violent slave uprisings and rebellions. The suffragettes of early 20th century Britain regularly engaged in property destruction. The US civil rights movement was punctuated by urban riots. As part of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa Nelson Mandela co-founded the armed wing of the African National Congress. The Indian National Congress is known for its non-violent tactics but violence also played a role of the resistance to British rule from the Great Rebellion of 1857 until independence.

Malm absolutely rules out violence that harms people, but he wants the climate movement to include sabotage and property destruction in its plans.

He puts forward several reasons why these kinds of protests might help “break the spell” of the status quo. Targeting the luxury consumption of the rich in this way could help to stigmatize the notion that the rich can blithely condemn the rest of us to ecological disaster. Physical attacks on new CO2 emitting devices might reduce their use and make them less popular options for new investment. He also speculates that such actions could help bring together a “radical flank” of the movement, helping to win partial reforms by making elites more keen to compromise with the movement moderates.

Malm believes such tactics could make for some powerful political symbolism: “Next time the wildfires burn through the forests of Europe, take out a digger. Next time a Caribbean island is battered beyond recognition, burst in upon a banquet of luxury emissions or a Shell board meeting. The weather is already political, but it is political from one side only, blowing off the steam built up by the enemy, who is not made to feel the heat or take the blame.”

Malm’s arguments have been met with alarm in some quarters. In a review posted on the Global Ecosocialist Network website Alan Thornett says adopting the book’s proposals would “not only be wrong but disastrous” and anyone who did so would soon have “armed police kicking down their door.” He calls Malm’s argument an impatient “bid for a shortcut” resulting from “frustration compounded by the lack of a socially just exit strategy from fossil energy.”

James Wilt’s review in Canadian Dimension is even harsher: he says How to Blow Up a Pipeline “veers awfully close to entrapment” — a totally unworthy accusation. More to the point, Wilt says Malm doesn’t look deeply at the likely outcomes of his proposals, failing to mention any “planning for the inevitable backlash” and repression activists would face.

But, as Bue Rübner Hansen points out in a Viewpoint Magazine article, Malm’s “provocative title makes a pitch for viral controversy, but its contents are more nuanced and equivocal.”

Green Syndicalism in the Arctic

By Jeff Shantz - LibCom, March 30, 2021

On February 4, 2021, a group of Inuit hunters set up a blockade of the Mary River iron ore mine on North Baffin Island. The mine is operated by Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation and has been extracting iron ore since 2015. Mine operations are carried out on lands owned by the Inuit.

Blockade organizers arrived from communities at Pond Inlet, Igloolik and Arctic Bay over concerns that Inuit harvesting rights are imperiled by the company's plans to expand the mine and associated operations. Solidarity demonstrations have been held in Pond Inlet, Iqaluit, Igloolik, Naujaat, and Taloyoak. In -30C degree temperatures.

Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation is seeking to double its annual mining output to 12 million metric tonnes. This would also see the corporation build a railway and increase shipping traffic through its port at Milne Inlet. These expansions would threaten land and marine wildlife along with food sources essential to Inuit people. The waters surrounding the port are an important habitat for narwhal and seals in the Canadian Arctic. The expansion also threatens caribou and ptarmigans.

A fly-in location, Inuit blockaders shut down the mine’s airstrip and trucking road, closing off access to and from the site for over a week. Notably this has meant that 700 workers have been stranded at the mine site and food, supply and worker change flights have been suspended. Workers have been on site for at least 21 days.

This could, obviously, have posed points of contention, even hostility, between workers and blockaders. Certainly, the company tried to stoke these tensions in its efforts to go ahead with mining operations. In a letter filed with the Nunavut Court of Justice on February 7, Baffinland told the protesters that their blockade is against federal and territorial law, and the Nunavut Agreement. In classic divide and conquer fashion, the company asserted: “You are causing significant harm by blocking a food supply and keeping people from returning to their families.” The company has also gotten the RCMP involved.

Yet an important development occurred a week into the blockade, and after the company’s court theatrics, as stranded workers issued a powerful statement of solidarity with Inuit people and communities and the blockaders specifically. The open letter is signed by a “sizeable minority” of Mary River mine workers currently stranded at the mine site (with 700 workers it represents a sizeable number). They have remained anonymous due to threats of firing leveled against them by the company. In their letter they assert that they recognize the Inuit, not the company, as “rightful custodians of the land.”

The letter represents a significant statement of green syndicalism. One that should be read, circulated, and discussed. It is reproduced in full here.

A Great Victory Has Been Won over Fossil Capital

By Ulf Jarnefjord - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, October 28, 2020

On Monday, September 28, 2020, Sweden’s largest oil refinery, Preem, decided to withdraw its application for an expansion of its refinery in Lysekil on the Swedish west coast.

After massive protests from the climate and environmental movement for several years, Preem announced that they had withdrawn their application to expand the oil refinery in Lysekil. This is a great benefit for the climate, for democracy, for the environmental movement, and for everyone’s future. The message is that activism pays off.

It would have been completely irresponsible to further expand fossil fuels when we are in a climate emergency, and time is running out quickly for the small carbon budget that remains. We have just 7 years to limit emissions in line with the 1.5-degree target.

In the days before the announcement, Greenpeace had blocked the port of Lysekil with its ship Rainbow Warrior, to prevent an oil tanker from entering the port and unloading its cargo. Climate activists from Greenpeace also climbed and chained themselves to the cranes at the crude oil terminal.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg has Tweeted that Preem’s decision to suspend the expansion of the oil refinery in Lysekil is a “huge victory for the climate and the environmental movement,” since otherwise it would have been impossible to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The youth organization Fridays For Future emphasizes that it is not time to pay tribute to the oil giant: “This decision is not because Preem has suddenly acquired a moral compass. Preem is still an oil company and we should not allow them to use this decision as a way to paint themselves green and appear responsible. We will ensure that this becomes a turning point for the fossil fuel industry in Sweden and serves as an example when Preem starts planning new environmental crimes.”

If we are to succeed in reducing emissions and meet our commitments in accordance with the Paris Agreement as quickly as necessary, there is also no choice between “better” and “worse” fossil fuels. We must invest all our resources in completely dismantling the entire fossil fuel economy, quickly. It is not possible to consider heavy oil as a useful residual product when we know that the oil must remain in the ground.

Draft Resolution - Stop Line 3

Draft Resolution - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, December 24, 2018

The following resolution is a draft only and has not yet been adopted by any IWW branch or the union as a whole. We will update this post if and when that changes. We are posting it here as a recommended resolution.

Whereas: The existing Line 3 is an Enbridge pipeline that transports crude oil from Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin spanning northern Minnesota and crossing the Leech Lake and Fond du Lac reservations and the 1855, 1854, and 1842 treaty areas;

Whereas: Since Enbridge Line 3’s construction in 1961 it has experienced severe corrosion that has led to countless spills and ruptures;

Whereas: Instead of decommissioning Line 3 and paying for its removal and the rehabilitation of the lands it has despoiled, Enbridge is pushing to expand and replace it (they call it a "replacement" but it is larger, with a higher volume and in a new corridor);

Whereas: At $7.5 billion, the proposed new Line 3 would be the “largest project in Enbridge’s history” and one of the largest crude oil pipelines in the world, carrying up to 915,000 barrels per day of one of the dirtiest fuels on earth, tar sands crude;

Whereas: Line 3 is poised to be a linchpin in tar-sands infrastructure, committed for decades to advancing a dying industry that is a major source of greenhouse gases, poses a direct threat to the lives and livelihoods of indigenous communities, and creates a perpetual risk to large sources of clean water including Lake Superior (also a large part of Minnesota’s tourist economy and a potent symbol to the region’s people);

Whereas: Economically, the tar-sands are doomed; and environmentally, they are a disaster;

Whereas: In approving Line 3, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission failed to adhere to even its modest mandate “to balance the private and public interest,” instead prioritizing the short-term profits of foreign corporations and their phony claims of “good jobs” over the will of Native communities, the overwhelming majority of Minnesotans (hundreds of thousands of whom have spoken out in opposition), and the very future of the planet without which there can be no “public”;

Whereas: In issuing a Certificate of Need for Line 3, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission also ignored the findings of the reviewing administrative law judge who said there is no need for a new pipeline on Enbridge’s preferred route;

Whereas: Line 3 will provide nowhere near the number of permanent union jobs the the project’s promoters promise they will (Enbridge itself estimates the number at around 25; its marketing and lobbying campaigns are designed to obscure this fact) and the Minnesota Department of Commerce has indicated that more local and long term jobs would actually be created by decommissioning the existing pipeline;

Whereas: More jobs could instead be created by investing in the infrastructure our communities actually need, such as clean water, affordable and livable housing, and widespread public transportation;

Whereas: Far more permanent union jobs can be created at comparable wages by repairing other aging and far more vital pipeline infrastructure, such as water mains in Flint, Michigan and elsewhere, or repairing leaks in existing oil and gas pipelines which, if unfixed, release harmful amounts of methane--a known greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming at a rate multiples greater than carbon dioxide;

Whereas: Far more jobs currently exist in the growing renewable energy sector than in the declining fossil fuel sector;

Whereas: Though these renewable energy jobs are currently typically nonunion, unions, if so determined, could easily develop a successful organizing program using solidarity unionism that could revitalize the struggling labor movement;

Whereas: Enbridge Line 3 will not deliver the promised "energy security" or "energy independence" promised by its promoters (many building trades and AFL-CIO union officials among them);

Whereas: Oil pipelines such as the proposed Line 3 “replacement” tend to leak and create unnecessary risks to the surrounding environment, both through methane gas leaks as well as crude oil spills--which in the case of heavy tar sands oil are literally impossible to clean up as the toxic substance sinks deep into the ground and into aquifers that supply millions of people with water;

Whereas: Such pipelines endanger the communities along their routes, including many indigenous communities whose tribal sovereignty has been ignored and violated during permitting processes by agencies subject to regulatory capture by the capitalist interests that promote them;

Whereas: Continued new construction of such pipelines will contribute massively to the acceleration of already dangerous levels of greenhouse gas emissions, which in turn are contributing to already dangerous levels of climate change and could lead to a dead planet with no jobs of any kind;

Be it Resolved that: the IWW declares and reiterates its steadfast opposition to the construction of the Line 3 “replacement”;

Be it Further Resolved that: the IWW stands in solidarity with First Nations, union members, environmental activists, and community members who oppose it;

Be it Further Resolved that: the IWW urges rank-and-file members of building trades unions, the Teamsters, and other unions who have declared support for Enbridge Line 3 to agitate and call upon their elected officials to reverse their support; and

Be it Finally Resolved that: the IWW supports a just transition away from fossil-fueled colonial capitalism which countless workers and activists of all stripes have been developing and visioning for decades, and declares its intention to fight for the implementation of a real and transformative--in other words, anti-capitalist and anti-racist--Green New Deal.

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.

Organizing at the Frontiers: Appalachian Resistance to Pipelines

By the BRRN Radical Ecology Committee (REC) - Black Rose, September 6, 2018

Trade union leaders stand with imprisoned fracking campaigners

By various - Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group, October 10, 2018

Update: the sentences of all three men have been quashed on appeal as 'manifestly excessive'

As trade unionists, we the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the four non-violent anti-fracking activists who have been convicted of 'causing a public nuisance', three of whom are now serving custodial sentences.  We strongly condemn this judgement and the dangerous precedent it sets for the right to protest and take non-violent direct action against threats to the climate and the environment.

These are by far the longest prison sentences imposed on activists defending the environment since those jailed for the Mass Trespass in 1932. It can only be seen as politically motivated in support of a government that has shown it is prepared to ride roughshod over the democratic rights of citizens to achieve an end for which it has no popular support.

This is a clear example of the state acting in the interests of big business in the face of opposition to fracking by the community at Preston New Road, and across the UK more widely.  It is important to recall the concerns raised by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Assembly in his report in 2016 regarding the "collusion between law enforcement authorities and private companies" in relation to fracking protests.

At the TUC Congress in 2018, the trade union movement called for a moratorium on fracking in England which has already been stopped in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Many of us believe it should be banned in full.  There is no safe fracking. It is not safe for the environment, water supplies, citizens or workers, or in addressing climate change concerns.

Trade unionists have long seen their legitimate rights oppressed with the use of force, and are proud to support of our sisters and brothers taking a stand against injustice.  The treatment of striking miners at the so called 'Battle of Orgreave' remains a potent symbol of the underhand tactics of the state against the working class for which justice is still being sought over thirty years later.

We need investment in a publicly owned and democratically controlled energy system, which can oversee the transition to renewable energy.  A transition that is just by providing social protections for workers, and creates unionised sustainable jobs across all sectors as we develop a new zero carbon economy.

First U.S. City to Ban Fossil Fuel Expansion Offers Roadmap for Others

By Kevon Paynter - Yes! Magazine, February 5, 2018

On a clear July morning three years ago, dozens of environmental activists pushed their kayaks into the Willamette River in Portland while others rappelled 400 feet from the top of St. Johns Bridge in an attempt to block a Shell Oil ship and its drilling equipment from leaving the port and entering Alaskan waters.

A key piece of Shell’s arctic drilling fleet, the vessel had arrived in Portland for repairs but its departure was delayed by protesters chanting “coal, oil, gas, none shall pass!” during two days of civil disobedience that became known as Summer Heat.

By the time the vessel finally sailed, the stage had been set for what would be a yearlong battle, culminating in an ordinance that banned construction and expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure in the city.

Last month, the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld Portland’s ban as constitutional, affirming the city’s power to regulate the safety and welfare of its residents and sending a powerful signal to cities that they too can take the lead to limit fossil fuel use.

nd while the court ruling could set precedent for similar climate action elsewhere, how Portland passed the nation’s first fossil fuel infrastructure ban holds important lessons for how other communities can use grassroots activism to implement the renewable energy transition in their cities.

Crimethinc Podcast #61: The Olympia Train Blockade

Native rights and resistance after Standing Rock

Nick Estes and Ragina Johnson interviewed by Khury Petersen-Smith - Socialist Worker, January 24, 2018

One of Donald Trump's first acts as president was to sign executive orders to push through construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and Keystone XL Pipeline. Both projects were flashpoints of Indigenous resistance, especially DAPL, which sparked a rebellion at Standing Rock that galvanized months of protest and political action around the country.

The executive orders signaled Trump's hard line against Indigenous protest, as part of his broader attack on oppressed people, the working class and the environment. More recently, Trump announced the reduction of protected lands at Bears Ears National Monument, amid a series of insults toward Native Americans, such as his disrespect of Navajo veterans when they visited the White House.

Nick Estes is a co-founder of the Red Nation website, and Ragina Johnson is an activist and member of the International Socialist Organization. Both participated in the Standing Rock resistance and other struggles, and have written prolifically on Indigenous politics. They talked with Khury Petersen-Smith about the state of the struggle after Standing Rock and the questions of Indigenous oppression and self-determination that lie before us.

France: ZAD declares victory as airport plan dropped!

By staff - Freedom, January 17, 2018

In a communique the famous horizontal community Zone à Defendre (ZAD) has declared a “historic victory” and called for “expropriated peasants and inhabitants to be able to fully recover their rights as soon as possible.”

The entirety of the land area devoted to the airport project — 1,650 hectares of land declared as being of public utility in 2008 — currently belongs to the State, with the exception of three roads crossing it. the ZAD has argued that this land should be kept in public hands and, rather than turned into an airport, put into forms of public lease for the benefit of the community and wildlife.

Responding to reports that the Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport project is now officially dead, reps for the ten-year environmental occupation campaign wrote:

This afternoon, the government has just announced the abandonment of the project.

We note that the declaration of public utility [key to enabling large projects to function and compulsory purchases to happen] will not officially be extended. The project will definitely be null and void on February 8th.

This is a historic victory against a destructive development project. This has been possible thanks to a long movement as determined as it is varied.

First of all, we would like to warmly welcome all those who have mobilised against this airport project over the past 50 years.

Regarding the future of the ZAD, the whole movement reaffirms today:

  • The need for expropriated peasants and inhabitants to be able to fully recover their rights as soon as possible.
  • The refusal of any expulsion of those who have come to live in recent years in the grove to defend it and who wish to continue to live there and take care of it.
  • A long-term commitment to take care of the ZAD lands by the movement in all its diversity — peasants, naturalists, local residents, associations, old and new inhabitants.

To implement it, we will need a period of freezing the institutional redistribution of land. In the future, this territory must be able to remain an area of ​​social, environmental and agricultural experimentation.

With regard to the issue of the reopening of the D281 road, closed by the public authorities in 2013, the movement undertakes to answer this question itself. Police presence or intervention would only make the situation worse.

We also wish, on this memorable day, to send a strong message of solidarity to other struggles against major destructive projects and for the defense of threatened territories.

We call to converge widely on February 10th in the grove to celebrate the abandonment of the airport and to continue building the future of the ZAD.

Acipa, Coordination of Opponents, COPAIn 44, Naturalists in struggle, the inhabitants of the ZAD.

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