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strategy and tactics

Class Struggle Environmentalism, Degrowth, and Ecosocialism

By x344543 - IWW Eco Union Caucus, May 27, 2023

Calling for "DeGrowth" without conditions or even "Ecosocialist DeGrowth" is far too vague and could potentially alienate the working class (and no version of socialism, let alone ecosocialism, can be achieved without support of the working class.

Consider the report that the UC Labor Just Released: Fossil fuel layoff - The economic and employment effects of a refinery closure on workers in the Bay Area. This report de­tails the experience of union refinery workers who have lost their jobs at the Martinez

On October 30, 2020, the Marathon oil refinery in Contra Costa County, California, was perma­nently shut down and 345 unionized workers laid off. The Marathon refinery’s closure sheds light on the employment and economic impacts of climate change policies and a shrinking fossil fuel industry on fossil fuel workers in the region and more broadly.

In the aftermath of the refinery shutdown, workers were relatively successful in gaining post-layoff employment but at the cost of lower wages and worse working conditions. At the time of the survey, 74% of former Marathon workers (excluding retirees) had found new jobs. Nearly one in five (19%) were not employed but actively searching for work; 4% were not employed but not look­ing for a job; and the remaining 2% were temporarily laid off from their current job. Using standard labor statistics measures, the post-layoff unemployment rate among Marathon workers was 22.5% and the employment rate was 77.5%. If workers who have stopped actively searching for work were included, the post-layoff unemployment rate was higher at 26%.

Former Marathon workers find themselves in jobs that pay $12 per hour less than their Mar­athon jobs, a 24% cut in pay. The median hourly wage at Marathon was $50, compared to a post-layoff median of $38. A striking level of wage inequality defines the post-layoff wages of former re­finery workers. At Marathon, hourly pay ranged between $30 to $68. The current range extends as low as $14 per hour to a high of $69. Workers reported benefits packages comparable to their pre-layoff Marathon benefits.

Workers found jobs in a range of sectors. The single most common sector of re-employ­ment was oil and gas, where 28% of former Marathon workers found post-layoff jobs but at wages 26% lower than at Marathon. These lower rates of pay stem from loss of seniority and non-union employment.

Overall, workers reported worse working conditions at their post-layoff jobs, even in higher wage jobs. Workers described hazardous worksites, heavy workloads, work speed-up, increased job responsibilities, and few opportunities for advancement. Above all, workers cited poor safety prac­tices and increased worksite hazards as the most significant and alarming characteristics of degraded working conditions.

Some caveats:

  • While this report frames the closure as a result of energy transition in its press releases and in the media, they admit that the refinery really closed due to COVID, although the employer is opportunistically retool­ing the refinery for "renewable biodiesel" (a greenwashing scam, mostly);
  • Job losses and retooling happens all the time under capitalism.

This is NOT an example of "DeGrowth" andy more than it is an example of "Decarbonization" or "Energy Transi­tion", because fossil fuel profits are experiencing record and/or near record highs (for a variety of reasons)

Solidarity is Not Enough

By Northumbria IWW - Organise!, May 26, 2023

Up to half a million workers in the biggest industrial action in a decade; the number of days lost to strikes biggest since the Thatcher era; largest strike in the history of the health service; worst year for strike action since 1989. Calls for indefinite strikes, hashtag #generalstrike trending. 

There’s an image been going the rounds of left circles for a while – four identical photos of a woman sitting, head down and miserable, by a production line – the captions, “before Brexit, after Brexit, before the election, after the election”. It could as well say, “before the pandemic, after the pandemic” and I’m surprised I haven’t seen someone do that. 

The pandemic gave focus and force to a movement against the intensification of work. The four-day week, the 6-hour day, rising complaints about work-life balance and burnout, demands for hybrid work, all threaten employers’ attempts to recoup the financial cost of Covid. For some there has been a reintensification of work after a period of relative ease working from home. For all of us, realities of life before and after the pandemic have given the lie to the tentative freedoms many of us felt and cautiously explored during the lockdown. The significance of the resistance against work discipline could be seen by the slew of articles in the business and right-wing press in the past year condemning an irresponsible and selfish horde of quietly quitting, millennial serial quitters. After the lockdown, there is a swell of feeling for a deintensification of work. 

Threats to the value of shareholder returns must be dealt with so in response to these sentiments, we have a manufactured crisis – the Bank raised interest rates to trigger an artificial recession to reimpose work discipline via the cost-of-living. This has sparked widespread anger, and the traditional organs of the Left have mobilised to take the reins. The fightback against austerity has been union-led. Public sympathy for the strikes has been strong, but moral support, coins in collection buckets or posts on social media won’t address the wider issue, and nor will marches and rallies. Last summer, an RMT comrade from Bristol AFed commented, If passengers, staff and all workers across the country come together … but despite those early, heady days of chatting to fellow workers on picket lines, there is a vanishingly small chance of this now. The government’s anti-strikes bill is likely to keep future union demands – and action – modest.

The hashtag #generalstrike is over-optimistic and workers’ self-management is not on the table. The current wave of strikes is not about how the economy is run, but about workers having some say in how the proceeds of the economy are distributed. Union bureaucracies will settle for a few gains, retain authority over their members and then want to see this wave of solidarity and militancy fade into the background routine. Meanwhile, pay rises can be absorbed by productivity deals and changes to conditions so that returns to shareholders are maintained. Away from the workplace, pay rises can be absorbed by inflation until the anti-work wave is deemed to have dispersed, discipline has been reimposed and we’ve been put back in our box – and then the recession will magically go away. 

Review - The Lucas Plan: A New Trade Unionism In The Making?

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Union Caucus, May 11, 2023

As the climate crises continues to deepen and as climate justice movements continue to rise to meet it, the concept of a just transition and/or a just transformation continues to be an ever present topic of discussion. However, most of these discussions remain in the abstract "what if?" realm, rather than the specific. Further, many workers and unions, even more revolutionary workers and unions, express skepticism due to lack of concrete examples of a just transition in practice.

The burning question is, do examples of worker crafted, specific concrete transformative plans exist and what do they look like?

Indeed, they do, and one of the best known examples is the Lucas Plan.

(From Wikipedia) The Lucas Plan was a January 1976 document produced by the workers of Lucas Aerospace Corporation. The shop stewards at Lucas Aerospace published an Alternative Plan for the future of their company. The plan was in response to the company’s announcement that thousands of jobs were to be cut to enable industrial restructuring in the face of technological change and international competition. Instead of being made redundant the workforce argued for their right to develop socially useful products.

In the most basic sense, the Lucas Plan was an example of green syndicalism in practice. 

What's even better, is that it's actually a well documented example, and The Lucas Plan: A New Trade Unionism In The Making? (Second Edition, Spokesman: 2018), by Hilary Wainwright and Dave Elliot, covers it all in rich, thorough detail. The book documents how the Lucas Aerospace, Shop Stewards Combine Committee, devised the plan, formed workplace committees, and devised a strategy to achieve it.

The workers possessed the necessary skills and determination to realize the plan, and they overcame many challenges, including craft divisions within the various unions that represented the Lucas Aerospace workers, as well as different left political tendencies among the rank and file workers and their shopfloor leadership. What these workers were unable to overcome were the inevitable refusal of the capitalists to agree to their demands, made all the more immobile by opposition from the workers' unions' officialdom, lack of support or interest from the various organized left parties and movements and obstruction from both of England's major political parties (Labour and Conservative).

The authors rely heavily on interviews and testimony from many of the workers who participated in the struggle, and as a result the account offers a variety of perspectives and honest self-criticism. The authors and the workers interviewed offer much advice on how to avoid the mistakes of the past.

Daniel Randall RMT at the XRTU Hub, The Big One

Finlay Asher from Unite and Safe Landing at The Big One Trade Union hub

Clara Paillard from Unite Grassroot Climate Justice Caucus at the Big One Trade Union hub

Equity for a Green New Deal at The Big One Trade Union hub

Review - A Planet to Win:Why We Need a Green New Deal

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Union Caucus, May 11, 2023

In spite of this book's straightforward sounding title, A Planet to Win, Why We Need a Green New Deal (Verso, 2019), by Kate Aronoff, Alyssa Battistoni, Daniel Aldana Cohen, and The Riofrancos, this relatively short and concise book would be much more accurately titled, "Why we think our version of the Green New Deal is the best one of the lot," because there isn't a single "Green New Deal", but several, as we have noted here on ecology.iww.org. This, however, is not necessarily a negative aspect of this book.

The authors, all of them ecosocialists with a transformative approach, are quick to explain that the particular Green New Deal they seek is one that addresses most critiques of the Green New Deal in general. 

  • Would the Green New Deal repeat the mistakes of the original New Deal and exclude BIPOC people? Not the authors' version.
  • Would the Green New Deal rely heavily on social democratic Keynesian state intervention? Not the author's version!
  • Would the Green New Deal perpetuate endless growth in hubristic ignorance of the natural limits to growth, not if these authors have any say in the matter;
  • Would the Green New Deal further the continued exploitation by the Global North of the Global South? Not if the authors have anything to do with it!
  • Would the Green New Deal merely be a case of the capitalists saving themselves, with a putatively green branding? Absolutely not, the authors say.

Certainly, if given the choice, that sounds quite good to me. Clearly these authors aren't content with a naive faith that just because something is called a "Green New Deal" it will actually be a good deal.

Stop the Cumbria Coal Mine: XRTU at The Big One

NEU Climate Change Network Paul Atkin

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