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In Memory of Fellow Worker Tortuguita

By staff - IWW Freelance Journalists Union, January 30, 2023

On January 18, 2023, Manuel “Tortuguita” Páez Terán was murdered by the Georgia State Patrol in Atlanta, according to comrades with whom they were defending Weelaunee Forest from the construction of an 85-acre police training facility appropriately derided as “Cop City.”

As a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, Tortuguita belonged to the countless ranks of Fellow Workers who seek, in the words of the IWW Constitution, to “take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.” In death, Fellow Worker Tortuguita joins the long list of IWW martyrs who have been murdered by the forces of the state and capital, which exploit all workers and our planet.

To support Fellow Worker Tortuguita’s family in this moment of need, the IWW Freelance Journalists Union encourages all of our members and supporters to donate to, and share widely, the fundraiser established for their funeral expenses.

We also encourage our members and supporters to donate to, and share, the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, which continues supporting Fellow Worker Tortuguita’s comrades who are yet being prosecuted by the state for defending Weelaunee Forest against Cop City.

Fellow Worker Tortuguita may be gone, but if we are able to defeat Cop City, then their spirit can live forever in the hearts of all those who visit Weelaunee Forest for generations to come. To paraphrase the words of another IWW martyr: Don’t mourn — organize!

Activists Demand Independent Investigation After Cops Kill Protester in Atlanta

By Mike Ludwig - Truthout, January 19, 2023

Web editor's note: Tortuguita was a member of the IWW. Please add your name to this protest letter.

An activist was shot and killed by police on Wednesday during a violent raid of the protest camp and community gathering space that has blocked construction of an enormous police training facility known as “Cop City” on roughly 100 acres of public forest in southeast Atlanta.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation initially said a suspect was shot and killed after allegedly firing a gun and injuring a Georgia state trooper during the raid, but fellow protesters and community activists doubt the official narrative and are calling on journalists and legal observers to investigate. Tensions between police and the tree-sitting protesters (known as “forest defenders”) have been rising for months, and activists said they had previously demanded police stop bringing guns and other weapons into the forest to prevent needless injury and death.

Statements from activists identified the person who was killed by police as a protester named Manuel Teran, who also goes by the name Tortuguita. Teran is described as a “generous,” “kind” and “fierce” activist who was a trained medic and ran a mutual aid group as part of the forest defense community.

The killing came as multiple law enforcement agencies swarmed the area Wednesday morning in their latest attempt to “clear” the protest camp. The effort featured search dogs hunting for activists, bulldozers and both lethal and non-lethal weapons, according to statements and posts on social media from accounts associated with the “Stop Cop City” movement. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation claims a handgun and shell casings were found at the scene.

The reportedly wounded state patrol officer was not identified as of Thursday morning, with law enforcement claiming the officer was in stable condition after being treated at a hospital and releasing few other details.

Stopping Cop City and Reconnecting with Abundance: Interview with Abundia Alvarado of Mariposas Rebeldes

By Abundia Alvarado and Dan Fischer - New Politics, January 14, 2023

Abundia Alvarado is a community organizer and a co-founder of Mariposas Rebeldes, a member of the movement to protect Weelaunee Forest and Stop Cop City, and a founder of FaunAcción, and El Molcajete. A Nahuatl and Apache trans femme migrant, she is currently based between Atlanta and Tennessee. In Atlanta, she helped launch an annual money-free gift-economy festival called the Dandelion Fest and is working on projects around the idea of the universe as a “Sacred Web of Abundance.” We spoke about Abundia’s life’s philosophy, its roots, and how it has shaped the trajectory of her organizing.

Since the interview was conducted last month, there have been some developments in Atlanta’s grassroots campaign to stop construction of a highly militarized police training facility, nicknamed “Cop City,” on 85 acres of the Weelaunee forest. On December 13 and 14, SWAT teams and police arrested twelve land defenders and six of them were given bogus “domestic terrorism” charges. All six have been bonded out of jail, but readers can contribute to their legal expenses through the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, follow the movement at Scenes from the Atlanta Forest, and organize solidarity events.

You’ve described your childhood surroundings near Monterrey, Mexico, as a “web of abundance”. Could you elaborate on some of the values you picked up in this environment – including from your Nahuatl and Apache family and from the local community as well as the broader ecosystem – which continue to inform your organizing?

I grew up in a neighborhood called Canteras in the outskirts of Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, the third largest city and center of the Mexican business and economy, located in the desert land, surrounded by a beautiful web of abundance that saved me from the daily horrible reality of extreme poverty. Canteras was full of different cacti—many of them edible like the nopales which have tunas (prickly pears)—that I collected almost all year round. There were different varieties of chiles, my favorites being the tiny yet potent piquin. For my sweet tooth, there were blackberries, mulberries, and many other desert foods and flowers. So even though we were food insecure at my household, I still ate so well and plentifully. Canteras’s web of abundance (or WoA, for short) was everything to me. I played in it all day, befriended animals and plants, and imagined other worlds outside the neighborhood and its physical and mental constraints. I relentlessly explored every inch of that land and learned something new every day from all the plants, animals, insects, fungi, etc, that were part of that particular WoA. There were a lot of waterways, little waterfalls, and pools to bathe in. It was heaven for a curious and very active little girl (although I didn’t yet identify as a girl outwardly).

This particular land where I was born and grew up was owned by a very rich landowner, but my mother helped organize 120 families to occupy it and settle there. The occupation was successful and the Canteras neighborhood was born.These 120 families were mostly Indigenous people from different parts of Mexico but mainly Nahuatl people like my father’s family. I learned about their cultures and traditions by paying attention to the staples they grew (such as corn, tomatoes, chilis (especially chile piquin), blackberries, mangoes, oranges, peanuts, bananas, and avocados), the way they cooked them and the dishes they made. My neighbors helped each other to grow food and shared the harvests. One value that was instilled in me during these early years was respect for all the plants, ecosystems, and animals, and always being aware of other species’ jurisdictions or territories. Canteras was also the home of many kinds of snakes like the rattlesnakes, copperhead, coralillo and the mysterious (mythical) Alicante snakes. My family was so lucky we never got bitten by a snake even though I encountered them every day in the mountains. I knew where they lived and hung out and was careful not to intrude then. That respect and awareness is something that I carry on with me and that informs my activism around animal rights. Regarding human jurisdictions, I was never good and always transgressed their boundaries.

An Ambiguous Paradise Built in Hell

By Dan Fischer - New Politics, January 7, 2023

Book Review of: Dilar Dirik, The Kurdish Women’s Movement: History, Theory, Practice (London: Pluto Press, 2022).

On November 20th, Turkey launched Operation Claw-Sword, a large-scale campaign of drone attacks killing civilians and militants in the predominantly Kurdish regions of Syria and Iraq.1 Then, in Paris on December 23rd, a shooter murdered three Kurds in a disturbing echo of the city’s 2013 shooting that killed the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)’s co-founder Sakine Cansız and two other women.

While the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) suspended military cooperation with Washington, not for the first time, in protest of the assaults that the United States has allowed fellow NATO member Turkey to carry out, Parisian Kurds have also protested en masse against Western complicity in their people’s extermination. Some youths have set cars and garbage bins aflame, echoing the city’s yellow vests insurrections of recent years as well as the ongoing feminist uprisings in Iran where protesters, including non-Kurds, have adopted the Kurdish slogan of “Woman, Life, Freedom.”

Just as world leaders abandoned Jews during the Holocaust, and have kept Bashar al-Assad’s genocidal regime in power (as my co-author Javier Sethness and I previously argued in News and Letters, and as Omar Sabbour argued in these pages), they’ve also systematically approached the Kurds, the world’s largest stateless nation,2 from a deeply realpolitik position. For example, after infamously green-lighting Saddam Hussein’s massacre of Iraq’s Kurds and Shiites in 1991, Washington sent weaponry to Turkey throughout the 1990s enabling the deaths of tens of thousands. Although Washington has militarily supported the SDF since 2015 and has provided air cover in their attacks on ISIS strongholds, committing and covering up war crimes in the process, the United States’ leadership has no intention of permanently supporting Kurdish groups’ direct-democratic experiment of Rojava.

Moscow, meanwhile, has boosted its energy ties with Ankara and has entertained talks about Turkish use of Syrian airspace to bomb Kurdish towns, and, even more ominously, orchestrated a Erdoğan-Assad rapprochement that will likely spell catastrophe for Syrian Kurdish autonomy. Communities of various ethnicities have protested across Northern Syria in late December and early January. One of their concerns has been that Turkey will return Syrian refugees into the hands of the Assad regime.

Sadly, some loud and well-funded elements of the global left have for several years aided (what Leila al-Shami and Noam Chomsky among other signatories have criticized as) an “‘anti-imperialism’ of fools” which joins in the multipolar abandonment of the Kurds, Arabs and other Southwest Asian ethnicities and peoples. Such propagandists, along with right-wing allies, have tragically joined in the imperialist powers’ divide-and-conquer techniques, facilitating ethnic war, and have been complicit in the destruction of perhaps the brightest revolutionary hope since 1994’s Zapatista uprising. In this context, I write a bit hastily and imperfectly—but enthusiastically—to recommend Dilar Dirik’s study of Kurdish women’s resistance movements. It does not tell the whole story by any means, but it tells enough of the story to invite readers to take the nuanced and messy stance that Kurdish anarchist Zaher Baher has summarized: “Our attitude towards Rojava must be critical solidarity.”

Climate Change As Class War: A Review

By Tom Wetzel - Ideas and Action, December 6, 2022

As the burning of fossil fuels continues to pump up the size of the carbon dioxide layer in the atmosphere, the global warming crisis becomes ever more acute. In its “Code Red for Humanity” warning in 2021, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said: “The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk. Global heating is affecting every region on Earth…”

But we’re losing the climate battle thus far. In Climate Change as Class War, Marxist geographer Matthew Huber argues that the climate movement is losing because it is rooted in the “professional class.” He argues that this class lacks the power to defeat the powerful capitalist interests that drag their heals against the kind of drastic cutting back of fossil-fuel burning that is needed. For Huber, the climate movement needs to be rooted in the working class to have sufficient power to enact radical structural reforms needed to effectively fight global warming. 

Huber analyses the existing climate movement as consisting of three layers. First, there are the “science communicators” like James Hansen who try to do popular education about climate change science. A second group are “policy technocrats” with expertise in law or policy studies and work in think tanks, the university world, or non-profits. Their orientation is to craft “smart” policy solutions. A third group are the “anti-system radicals” whose exposure to the science of environmental devastation “leads to a kind of political radicalization.” Huber views these groups as part of the “professional class” and tries to use his theory of this class to explain the politics of the climate movement. Huber pinpoints two features of the climate movement that he sees as sources of weakness: (1) The emphasis on high levels of personal consumption as a factor in global warming, thus leading to a “politics of less” — especially a feature of “degrowth” politics; and (2) an emphasis on science education. “Making climate politics purely about science evades the question of power. It allows us to attribute…inaction on climate change as simply due to misinformation rather than a lack of power.”

Huber appeals to the theory of the “Professional-Managerial Class” (proposed by Barbara and John Ehrenreich) to try to explain the origin of these features of the “professional class” climate movement. Here he points to the centrality of credentials which mediates the access of the “professional class” to the labor market. This includes “the existence of a specialized body of knowledge, accessible only by lengthy training,” degree and licensing programs, professional associations, which he regards as “forms of class organization.” This tends to encourage acceptance of meritocratic ideology which favors decision-making power for managers and professionals. This emphasis on the importance of knowledge and the role of professionals tends to favor the science education emphasis of the climate movement, as Huber sees it.

In the Ehrenreichs’ theory of the PMC their class position is based on their control over cultural and social reproduction. This is how teachers and writers are included in the class. Among both Marxists and libertarian socialists, however, class has historically been seen as an institutional group-to-group power relation in social production, as in Marx’s concept of capital as a social power relation. Looking at it from this point of view, I think the PMC theory tends to paper over a distinction between two different class groups. First, there is a group I call the bureaucratic control class. This group’s class position is based on their relative monopoly of decision-making power, via bureaucratic hierarchies that exist to control labor and run corporations and government agencies day-to-day. This includes not only salaried managers but high-end professionals who work closely with management to control labor and defend corporate interests, such as corporate lawyers, HR experts, and industrial engineers who design jobs and work organization. This class power relation is the basis of the clear antagonism between this layer and the working class. 

It’s noteworthy that school teachers, newspaper reporters, script writers, and nurses all form unions and occasionally go on strike. These lower level professional employees are not usually part of the management apparatus, and don’t manage other workers. As such, they have a structural position like the core working class of manual workers, not the bureaucratic control class. The people in this lower professional layer often have college degrees, and sometimes do show elitism towards the core manual working class. They also tend to have more autonomy in their work. However, the “skilled trades” in the early 20th century often showed elitism towards less skilled manual workers and often had relative autonomy in their work. But we generally regard skilled blue collar workers (such as tool and die makers) as part of the working class. 

Lower level professional employees may be tempted to middle class meritocratic ideology. As such they will be in a conflicted position, as they also share the subordination of the working class position. This is why Erik Olin Wright’s phrase “contradictory class location” is appropriate for this group — a point that Huber concedes.

A Friendly Critique of Bookchin’s Politics

By Usufruct Collective - Usufruct Collective, September 8, 2022

Bookchin is our favorite political philosopher. Which does not mean we think he is right about everything. Despite us agreeing with most of Bookchin’s political philosophy, we also think it is important to critique it. And yet, most every critique of Bookchin’s political philosophy, even when true, leads to an overall politics less coherent and liberatory than his own. Critiques of Bookchin–from those more close and distant to his views– usually straw man him or fail to properly sublate him. Most critiques of Bookchin do not simultaneously take the most liberatory parts from his philosophy, while subtracting the worst parts of his philosophy, while adding other philosophical and political dimensions in such a way that closer approximates coherence, rationality, and ethics. Our goal is to sublate Bookchin; not to straw man him, not to discard liberatory dimensions of his political philosophy and praxis, and not to treat him like he is beyond critique. 

Some people will say that the big problems with Bookchin’s philosophy emerge later in his life. And there is both some truth and falseness to such an evaluation. Older/Later Bookchin simultaneously includes 1. Places where Bookchin made some of his most crucial errors but also where he made 2. Some of his greatest elaborations of philosophy, ethics, and political form, and content. From the 1960’s until 2004 there are continuous features to his overall politics– continuous features that do not amount to a mere skeletal lower common denominator but arguably the most essential features of his worldview in general. Such continuous features include: social ecology, direct democracy, means and ends of communal and inter-communal self-management, the development of oppositional and reconstructive politics as part of a revolutionary process, non-hierarchy, direct action, mutual aid, and libertarian communism specifically. These features are consistent in his work from “Post Scarcity Anarchism” until “The Communalist Project” (Bookchin 2007, Bookchin 2018). And we are in agreement with the above features of Bookchin’s politics. That being said, there are also ways he did change his mind overtime for better and for worse. By discarding features of Bookchin’s politics that we think are errors while adding features to his political project that are not present or sufficiently present in his recorded philosophy and worldview, we would still be agreeing with the most important features of his philosophy and worldview– or at least what we consider to be as such. In this sense, our attempt at a ruthless critique will be relatively friendly. 

Justice 4 Jackson. Help us Fix Jackson’s Water System and Build More Autonomy and People Power in the City

By Kali Akuno - Cooperation Jackson, September 5, 2022

Jackson, Mississippi is currently suffering through an unprecedented water crisis. After decades of systematic and intentional neglect due to environmental racism, capital flight and deindustrialization, the city's water system has collapsed. 

This collapse didn’t have to happen. As a result of the city’s declining tax base over the decade, it cannot pay for the repairs by itself. Nor should it have to. Jackson is the Capitol of the state of Mississippi, which means it is the base of state government and resources. In addition, it is also where the Federal government’s administrative resources in the state are concentrated. These entities use the water system, just like the cities over 160,000, predominantly Black residents do. They must pay their fair share in overhauling and modernizing the system. 

Jackson’s elected officials have been asking the state government to make a substantive contribution to the system for decades. However, the Republican, predominantly white, party leadership that has dominated state government for generations now, fundamentally refuses. They would rather the city collapse than structurally enable and support its Black political leadership and Black life in general.

Enough is enough! The State and Federal governments must provide the City of Jackson the resources it needs to completely overhaul and modernize the city's water filtration and delivery systems. The new system must be designed with ecological sustainability in mind, and it must be built by the working people of Jackson. Money must not be an issue. If the government can generate billions of dollars to provide immediate and long term aid to the governments of Ukraine, Taiwan, and Israel so readily, then it can generate them for the people of Jackson. 

Justice for Jackson Entails the implementation of a Just Transition that adheres to the following principles and demands: 

  1. That the State and Federal government immediately fund the complete overhaul of the Jackson water treatment and delivery systems. 
  2. That the new system fully remains within the democratic control of the city of Jackson. 
  3. That the new system be built by the people of Jackson and that over 50% of the contracts awarded be granted to either contractors from Jackson and/or Black and other minority contractors to ensure equity and the development of intergenerational wealth in our communities. 
  4. That the new system be ecologically designed and built with as many locally and or regionally sourced resources as possible. 

Blockade Australia: Our Perspective

By staff - Black Flag Sidney, July 27, 2022

Blockade Australia (BA) is a climate activist group whose primary strategy is to shut down activity at fossil fuel sites and disrupt the economy as a form of protest. So far, they have coordinated two major blockades in NSW: in November 2021, they disrupted $60 million worth of coal exports for eleven days in the Port of Newcastle; in March 2022, activists blockaded terminals for five days at Port Botany; at the end of June, they attempted a six-day blockade of Sydney’s economic centre.

Their activism has been met with alarming state violence. Earlier this month, around one hundred police raided a BA camp of activists and made several arrests. The Port Botany blockade earlier this year triggered the bipartisan enactment of new laws in NSW Parliament, increasing the penalty for protesting without police or state approval to up to $22,000 in fines and/or two years’ imprisonment. These laws will affect all protests which are unapproved by police, and should be fiercely opposed.

BA doesn’t formally adhere to a specific political ideology, although their social media activity suggests anti-capitalist and anti-electoral leanings. They aim to create a “consistent and strategic” disruption “that cannot be ignored,” to temporarily shut down the fossil fuel industry’s operation and force a “political response,” though BA does not define what this would look like concretely.

Overall, BA’s strategy relies on small affinity groups rather than a political organisation to coordinate individual non-violent disruptive stunts, a strategy which places them outside of the mass movement for working class liberation. It’s important to note here that we condemn in the strongest terms the state violence against BA activists. We express our solidarity to activists who, like us, are interested in building “power… opposing the colonial and extractive systems of Australia.” We argue, though, that BA cannot build this power with isolated actions and sporadic disruption alone.

War and climate justice: a discussion

By Simon Pirani - Peoloe and Nature, July 22, 2022

OpenDemocracy yesterday hosted a useful, and sobering, discussion about the war in Ukraine and the fight for climate justice, with Oleh Savitsky (Stand with Ukraine and Ukraine Climate Network), Angelina Davydova (a prominent commentator on Russian climate policy) and me.

Goodbye Russian Gas, Hello Rapid Decarbonisation

By Simon Pirani - Open Democracy, May 20, 2022

We must cut Russian fossil fuel imports and change our energy use, to combat both the cost of living crisis and the global climate crisis.

Three months into the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine, European politicians and officials are working out plans to reduce fossil fuel imports from Russia to zero.

This week, the European Commission published a plan to end Russian gas imports by 2027. Climate campaign groups say it can be done much sooner.

This is a historic turning point. Gas imports from Russia started in the 1960s and came to symbolise not only a flourishing trading relationship with Europe, but also a geopolitical partnership that survived the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

How strong is the case for Europe’s labour movement and civil society to support sanctions against the Russian economy, and specifically against Russian fossil fuels? Which sanctions could be effective? And could an embargo on Russian oil and gas imports give a push to decarbonisation and the fight to prevent dangerous global warming?

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