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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.”

2022 Oil Change International Supporter Briefing

Three Workers Dead in Grain Silo, Including a Child. OSHA Can Do Nothing

By Jordan Barab - Confined Space, September 22, 2022

In what may be the largest mass casualty workplace event this year, three workers were killed after being trapped in a grain silo in Pennsylvania. The workers included a 47-year-old, a 19-year-old and a 14-year-old. A 16-year-old boy died at the same farm in March when he was trapped under a horse-drawn manure spreader that weighed more than 10 tons.

And despite the high death toll and age of the workers, neither OSHA nor the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division (which enforces child labor laws) can do anything about it.

The Center Daily Times reports that Andrew Beiler, 47, and his two sons — a 19-year-old and a 14-year-old whose names were not released — died of asphyxiation from “silo gas.” Apparently, “One of Beiler’s sons was working in the silo when his father checked on him, Michael said, citing first responder reports. The eldest Beiler jumped in to help, but was overcome by the gas. His second son followed, but was also overcome.”

Rescuers dying when trying to rescue the original victims is not uncommon in confined space or trenching incidents. Before OSHA’s confined space standard was issued in 1993, more rescuers died in confined spaces than initial victims.

Grain silos are well known death traps that kill dozens of workers, often children, every year. When grain gets stuck, workers often go in at the top of a silo to loosen the grain or “walk it down.” But when the grain starts flowing, it can suck the worker down like quick sand causing suffocation. Often multiple workers die when others go into the grain in an attempt to rescue the first victim. Although there has been no investigation yet, these deaths are currently being blamed on “silo gas” (usually carbon dioxide or nitrogen dioxide) which forms when grain decomposes and can result in a person collapsing and dying within minutes, either due to oxygen displacement or toxicity.

OSHA’s grain handling standard requires employers to protect workers by training them, stop the conveyor system that moves grain at the bottom of the silo, use safety harnesses and provide a trained observer to respond to trouble. The standard also requires the air to be tested before entry and that the silo be ventilated.

Global Climate Jobs Conference: Strategic Orientation

Global Climate Jobs Conference: Climate politics racism and refugees

Climate Politics and the Ukraine War

By staff - Fight the Fire, September 2022

There are three aspects to the war in Ukraine.

First, the war began as a Russian invasion. A large majority of Ukrainians support the resistance by the Ukrainian armed forces. This is a fight for democracy. Invasion is always an act of dictatorship, whether in Ukraine, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq or Palestine.

Putin’s invasion is of a piece with his previous military interventions in Chechnya, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan and Syria. This is part of reestablishing Russian power and influence in the region of the old Soviet Union and the previous Russian Empire.

But Putin is also afraid of the spreading movements for democracy in Belarus and Central Asia. And he is afraid of the growing internal opposition in Russia. Military excursions to solidify internal power are a constant in the history of Putin’s Russia.

A victory for Ukraine would make the movements for democracy in Central Asia and Eastern Europe stronger.

But then there is the second aspect: this is a real war between Russia and Ukraine. But it is also a proxy war between the United States / NATO and Russia.

What this is not is a confrontation between the forces of democracy led by Biden, Scholtz and Macron and the forces of dictatorship led by Putin. What Russia is doing to Ukraine now, the US has done to many countries. Joe Biden supported the American invasions of Vietnam, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Washington, Paris and Frankfurt have supported the Israelis, the Assads in Syria, the Saudis in Yemen and Sisi in Egypt. The list goes on and on.

The most important climate crime in the world right now is the US economic blockade of Afghanistan. The purpose of this blockade is to punish the Taliban and the Afghan people for defeating the American military. The blockade has turned a serious drought caused by climate change and a massive earthquake into a serious famine.

A victory of Ukraine over Russian invasion would also strengthen the power of NATO and American imperialism in many parts of the world.

The third aspect of the war is political. Putin is the leading figure in the growing global movement of the racist right. Other leading figures include Modi in India, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Trump in the United States, Orban in Hungary, Le Pen in France and Duterte and Marcos in the Philippines. There are many more leaders, in many more countries, that constitute this reactionary international, which is a bullwark for climate chaos.

The US Could Be on the Verge of a Nationwide Railroad Strike

An interview with Ross Grooters - Jacobin, August 18, 2022

With railroad companies refusing to offer employees a favorable contract, 115,000 railworkers could soon launch a nationwide strike. We spoke with a train engineer about the industry’s brutal working conditions — and why a strike could spread like wildfire.

With railroad companies refusing to offer employees a favorable contract, 115,000 railworkers could soon launch a nationwide strike. We spoke with a train engineer about the industry’s brutal working conditions — and why a strike could spread like wildfire.

Rail unions in the United States representing 115,000 workers have been locked in negotiations with rail carriers for over two years. This week, a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB), convened by the Biden administration to intervene in the dispute, issued its recommendations for a settlement. The railroads have stated their support for the deal, so the outcome is now in the hands of the twelve unions that represent freight railworkers — as well as Congress, which could intervene to force a deal.

But many railworkers are opposed to the PEB recommendations, which they view as lopsided in favor of railroad companies. They point to their deteriorating working conditions — including inhumane schedules and “lean production” policies that pile on work and threaten their safety and that of the public — and ask why they should accept givebacks when companies don’t even respect their labor. Indeed, in the PEB recommendations, the board reports that “the Carriers maintain that capital investment and risk are the reasons for their profits, not any contributions by labor.”

Some workers are now talking about a national strike — an action that that hasn’t occurred since 1991 and that could have massive economic and political effects during an election year and an uptick in labor activity.

In a conversation with Joe DeManuelle-Hall of Labor Notes, Iowa-based freight engineer Ross Grooters discussed how working conditions on the railroad have gotten worse, why he opposes the deal on the table, and what a national rail strike could look like in the United States.

Green Workers Alliance Condemns WV v. EPA Ruling; Calls Out Big Utilities for Role in Climate Destruction

By staff - Green Workers Alliance, June 30, 2022

“We can’t rely on Washington to lead the way...Workers, consumers, and everyday citizens must lead the transition away from fossil fuels.”

Washington D.C. - In response to the Supreme Court’s decision in West Virginia v. EPA, Green Workers Alliance, a worker-power organization made of current and aspiring renewable energy workers, released the following statement:

Today’s outrageous decision in West Virginia v. EPA is the culmination of a long-running campaign by the fossil fuel industry and investor-owned utilities to take away the government’s abilities to regulate their dangerous emissions. The utility industry wants to keep us hooked on fossil fuels so they can rake in huge profits while emitting harmful and deadly pollution at the expense of the people, the planet, and workers. But we won’t let the far-right majority of the Supreme Court dictate our future. We are taking the fight directly to utility companies to force them to use more renewable energy and help create millions of good, green jobs.

“The West Virginia v. EPA decision will increase pollution and utility costs, making people sicker while lining the pockets of greedy politicians and corporations. We can’t rely on Washington to save us from climate change and we are running out of time. Now more than ever, we need to organize the people who can lead the transition away from fossil fuels: renewable energy workers,” said Matthew Mayers, Executive Director of Green Workers Alliance. “This is a tragic day for our communities and for the environment, but we have a plan to hold Big Utilities accountable.”

“Right now, people are being laid off from solar and wind jobs because projects are delayed or canceled. Many are going back to oil and gas jobs. Instead of weakening our ability to clean up our energy production, we need utilities to step in and buy more renewable energy so these projects get back on track. But with this new case and similar ones to possibly come forward, renewable energy workers may be even more displaced,” said Crystal McCoy, a heavy equipment operator on renewable energy projects and Green Workers Alliance member.

This devastating decision from a far-right Supreme Court that is out of step with the majority of the American public makes clear Washington will not lead the way on the transition to a green economy. Workers, consumers, and everyday citizens must shift our attention to Big Utility companies and demand they dramatically increase their renewable energy use and set higher labor standards for their renewable energy contractors. Labor, community, and environmental groups must coordinate pressure and hold utilities accountable in the fight for climate justice. With power from the grassroots, we will fight corporate greed and build a power sector that is good for the environment, workers, and utility customers.

War in Ukraine: reflections and proposals for internationalist union action

By Simon Pirani - Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières, March 31, 2022

From the Solidaires Union web site. These notes from the Solidaires Union bureau set out its approach to building solidarity with Ukrainian working-class resistance to Russian military aggression. They are a useful starting point for discussion.

This statement is based on the assessment made during the Solidaires national board meeting in March, the contributions of our member organizations, the work of our international commission, and inter-union exchanges both nationally, through the inter-union CGT/FSU/Solidaires, and internationally, through the International Labour Network of Solidarity and Struggles. All of this has also been fuelled by the exchanges and reflections held within larger unitary frameworks in which we take part. [1]

Beyond producing assessments and analyses, union commitment is about action. The following proposals are based on the international work that Solidaires has been doing for years and are expressed in the initiatives, connections and publications of recent days. They aim to respond – on the basis of concrete actions and not useless polemics – to the sectarianism displayed by some statements from other trade union organisations, and especially to the hypocrisy of government and employers’ declarations.

The introductory statement to the debate of the national board the 9th March recalled the position of the Solidaires union from the first day of the war (actually even before the start of this war, since all that follows is part of the tradition and practice of internationalist unionism that we try to implement):

□ The immediate withdrawal of Russian troops – the right of peoples to self-determination – the need for an immediate ceasefire and for building a negotiated peace – supporting people fighting against war, especially in countries at war – the dignified and massive reception of all refugees, regardless of their origin, and the fight against all inequalities and discrimination – taking part, on our own terms, in mobilisations and demonstrations for peace – (joint) participation in the initiatives of solidarity with the Ukrainian people, such as the “union convoy” which aims to provide Ukrainian workers with relief supplies – denouncing nationalism and capitalism as the causes of war – internationalism, as an alternative to nationalism – fighting to end tax havens – the urgency of an ecological transition towards the end of the massive use of fossil fuels.

End the addiction to fossil fuel- support the Ukrainian resistance

By Alan Thornett - Red Green Labour, March 24, 2022

Putin’s merciless invasion of Ukraine – which is his next step in the restoration of the Russian empire – has been stalled by the remarkable popular resistance that has been mounted against it. The southern port city of Mariupol is been flattened by Russian artillery and is facing a humanitarian catastrophe but has refused to surrender. On the other hand, the invaders have been pushed back on several fronts.

The Ukrainian resistance has relied heavily on both Western economic sanctions and Western military aid including hand-launched anti-tank and surface to air missiles without which Putin’s blitzkrieg might have been unstoppable. The economic sanctions have not just put Putin under pressure at home, but they have given the population the confidence to resist such an overwhelming force.

As the Russians have met much stronger resistance than they expected they have resorted to ever more indiscriminate, long-range bombardment of the civilian population with missiles launched from ships in the Black Sea and from Russia itself. The result of which has been a rapid escalation of civilian casualties. Putin has thousands of planes and missiles, of course, and could wipe Ukraine off the map. But whether that would be politically sustainable (or survivable for him at home) is another matter.

Russia is now a brutal kleptocracy, with Putin as the new Stalin. Anti-war demonstrators facing up to 16 years in jail and opposition politicians, who oppose war, driven into exile. Ten million people, a quarter of the population, are internally displaced and with almost five million already refugees abroad. Many thousands, mostly civilians, are dead. EU countries, to their credit, have opened their borders, suspended visa requirements, and taken in millions of people. This is in sharp contrast to Boris Johnson’s miserable Little Englander government that has been running around in circles in a (very successful) attempt to give refuge to as few people as possible.

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