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International Socialist Organization (ISO)

A win for Pittsburgh public transit

By Paul Le Blanc and Jonah McAllister-Erickson - Socialist Worker, August 5, 2015

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 authors of this article are long-time members of Pittsburghers for Public Transit; views expressed here are not necessarily those of the organization as a whole.

SINCE PORT Authority of Allegheny County (PAAC) cut 15 percent of its service, residents of Baldwin, Mooncrest and Groveton--working-class suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania--had to walk two miles, over roads with no sidewalks, just to catch the bus.

But on September 8, Baldwin residents active in the struggle of "Buses for Baldwin" and Groveton residents who pushed for service in their county housing authority will be riding the first restored buses, celebrating the sweetness of the victory.

The battle for public transit has been often been an uphill struggle under both Democratic and Republican administrations at the city, county, state and federal levels. Lessons from the Pittsburghers for Public Transit (PPT) campaigns might be useful for others struggling for economic justice today and tomorrow.

Amalgamated Transit Union President Larry Hanley has pointed to Pittsburghers for Public Transit as a model for those defending public transit throughout the country, especially for the ways the organization unites transit riders and workers in its campaigns.

Since the 1980s, business interests and the right wing have crusaded for even more aggressive policies of laissez-faire capitalism (sometimes called neoliberalism). Public services--won over the years through struggles by working people--have been the target of late. Their successful efforts have cut funding for public transit systems, public education, public housing, public parks and libraries, the public postal service and more.

This, combined with a push to lower taxes for the rich and stagnant or diminished wages of working people, resulted in a shrinking tax base that often made public services shabby and inadequate. Right-wing ideologues create the problem, then insist that "privatization" and "market mechanisms" are the solution. But this makes things worse--capitalism functions not to meet the needs of the majority of people, but to maximize profits for private business owners.

The Pittsburgh Port Authority, in consultation with an "economizing" Democratic County executive, Dan Onorato, had already made severe cuts in 2007, and in 2010 approved a new 15 percent cut in service. In autumn 2010, Tom Corbett, a conservative Republican candidate promising pro-business tax cuts and budget tightening, ran for governor of Pennsylvania. His Democratic opponent was the very same Allegheny County executive who had twice cut public transit service. The Republican won.

In January 2011, budget proposals by Gov. Corbett projected an additional 35 percent cut in Pittsburgh's transit service. Right-wing elements argued that transit workers had been too greedy, that public transit was inefficient and unsustainable, and that privatization would provide a solution.

Are you sure we're talking about Syndicalism here?

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 17, 2015

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.

I have been closely following the debate between various members of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and Tom Wetzel (a syndicalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area) which began with Tim Goulet's review of Ralph Darlington's Radical Unionism: The Rise and Fall of Revolutionary Syndicalism on April 22, 2015 and has bounced back and forth since then [See: Misunderstanding syndicalism, by Tom Wetzel, April 29, 2015; Contradictions of syndicalism, by Tim Goulet, May 21, 2015; Syndicalism and taking power, by Brian Kelly, May 26, 2015; and Confusion about political power, by Tom Wetzel, May 28, 2015].

I want to say, before I go any further, that I consider myself a syndicalist, specifically a green syndicalist (the very first IWW member I met was Judi Bari, in 1995, and it was through her that I found my way to the Wobblies). I have been a dues paying IWW members since 1995, and I have a fairly deep knowledge of IWW history, as well as contemporary discussions on matters of strategy and tactics within the IWW.  Two years ago, I cofounded the IWW's Environmental Unionism Caucus with two other IWW members. I am also a member of System Change not Climate Change, and I work fairly closely with a handful of ISO members that also belong to SCnCC. I think there is little to be gained by engaging in sectarian squabbles when our very existence is threatened by the capitalist economic system which all of us, syndicalists and socialists alike agree, must be overthrown and replaced by something different, and I suspect that we'd find much agreement on what that different system would look like and how it would function.

However, I also recognize the need to debate strategy, tactics, theory and praxis if we're to be effective as revolutionaries and devise a winning strategy to successfully combat capitalism. This debate on syndicalism to some extent qualifies, but I've also noticed a good deal of sectarianism from some of the ISO folks in this discussion, not to mention some rather glaring omissions and inaccuracies. The most recent entry, from comrades Joe Richard and Ty Carroll (The Wrong Place at the Right Time), represents for me a particularly egregious example.

Are there too many people? - Population, Hunger, and Environmental Degradation

By Chris Williams - International Socialist Review, January 2010

“COULD FOOD shortages bring down civilization?” This was the title of an article in the May 2009 edition of the magazine Scientific American by Lester R. Brown.1 The article begins: “The biggest threat to global stability is the potential for food crises in poor countries to cause government collapse. Those crises are brought on by ever worsening environmental degradation.”

Brown is no fringe character; he has won numerous environmental awards and authored over 50 books addressing various aspects of the environmental crisis. Until 2000 he was president of the Worldwatch Institute, which publishes the influential and authoritative State of the World annual reports as well as the annual publication Vital Signs. A major preoccupation of Brown for more than three decades has been the idea that the world is perennially on the brink of running out of food because increases in human population are outstripping food supply. Now he is equally concerned that overpopulation is a major driver of ecological devastation. While Brown has been a resource-depletion doomsayer for decades, he is echoed by many others. Neo-Malthusian arguments are resurfacing with a vengeance as explanations for the recent global food crisis and, even more so, among people genuinely concerned by the ongoing, and indeed accelerating, destabilization of planetary ecosystems.

The return of Malthus
A number of liberal writers and publications have raised the specter of growing population as an unpleasant yet necessary topic of conversation. Johan Hari, a writer for the Independent, posed the question in one of his columns last year, “Are there just too many people in the world?” While noting that Malthusian predictions have consistently been wrong and often used as arguments against the poor, he nevertheless concludes that, “After studying the evidence, I am left in a position I didn’t expect. Yes, the argument about overpopulation is distasteful, often discussed inappropriately, and far from being a panacea-solution—but it can’t be dismissed entirely. It will be easier for 6 billion people to cope on a heaving, boiling planet than for nine or 10 billion.”2 An editorial in the Guardian newspaper from March of this year, entitled “The Malthusian question,” even while rejecting the more outrageous population-reduction arguments and overt Malthusianism of organizations such as the Optimum Population Trust, confirms in alarmist terms the relevance of population-based arguments to environmental decay:

Yet human numbers continue to swell, at more than 9,000 an hour, 80 million a year, a rate that threatens a doubling in less than 50 years. Land for cultivation is dwindling. Wind and rain erode fertile soils. Water supplies are increasingly precarious. Once-fertile regions are threatened with sterility. The yield from the oceans has begun to fall. To make matters potentially worse, human numbers threaten the survival of other species of plant and animal. Humans depend not just on what they can extract from the soil, but what they can grow in it, and this yield is driven by an intricate ecological network of organisms. Even at the most conservative estimate, other species are being extinguished at 100 to 1,000 times the background rate observable in the fossil record.”3

The notion that population growth is the foremost cause of environmental degradation and societal destabilization is raised in the Summer 2009 issue of Scientific American’s publication, Earth 3.0—Solutions for Sustainable Progress. The cover article, titled “Population and Sustainability,” by Robert Engelman, vice president for programs at the Worldwatch Institute, poses the question: Can we avoid limiting the number of people? It begins:

In an era of changing climate and sinking economies, Malthusian limits to growth are back—and squeezing us painfully. Whereas more people once meant more ingenuity, more talent and more innovation, today it just seems to mean less for each [emphasis in original].4

Engelman does not believe that coercive population control methods are necessary, primarily because, as he notes, they haven’t worked. Nevertheless, he urges governments, institutions and people to consider how we can best reduce population growth in order to conserve resources, reduce our ecological footprint, and prevent conflict over worsening environmental conditions.

The Fine Print I:

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