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XRTU HUB at The Big One: Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group

The Problem with Only Striking

By IWW Bruxelles - Industrial Worker, April 26, 2023

As the 12th day of the strike against the pension reform in France comes to an end, while the media are launching their usual refrains about violence (which should be condemned,) and the number of demonstrators is decreasing (or not) let’s take the time to analyse the consequences of the orders coming from above and the systematic recourse to the strike as the only mode of action.

It’s obvious that today in France, blockades and sabotage are taking place in some places, but we have to admit that the strike dynamic is omnipresent and that it seems, in the eyes of the majority unions, to be the only way to make the government bend. But it has its limits, which are significant.

First of all, it burns us out as workers, because a lot of effort rests on a few people. The trade union dynamic in France is such that the organisation of the struggle is based on few people. As a result, militant burn-out is just as likely as Macronist repression.

Then economically, faced with the “wait and let rot” strategy from the other side, it seems difficult to believe that our most precariously-situated colleagues and comrades will be able to hold out on strike for long. We know that solidarity and strike funds are being organised, but will it be enough?

Finally the “others.” We know that a very favourable opinion exists in favour of the struggle against the pension reform and this is not by any means negligible. But what does this “silent majority” do? Not the strike in any case. Indeed, not everyone can go on strike, because it costs money, because we are afraid of the employers’ reprisals or of the police violence, or for all sorts of other reasons.

If the strike doesn’t suit these people, how can we still put pressure together? We have to find techniques of struggle that do not exclude a part of the population and that can have a global effect against the political strategy of the Macronists.

The idea that all workers who feel concerned can participate within their means in a struggle they believe in should be a priority objective!

The Problem with Only Striking

By IWW Bruxelles - Industrial Worker, April 26, 2023

As the 12th day of the strike against the pension reform in France comes to an end, while the media are launching their usual refrains about violence (which should be condemned,) and the number of demonstrators is decreasing (or not) let’s take the time to analyse the consequences of the orders coming from above and the systematic recourse to the strike as the only mode of action.

It’s obvious that today in France, blockades and sabotage are taking place in some places, but we have to admit that the strike dynamic is omnipresent and that it seems, in the eyes of the majority unions, to be the only way to make the government bend. But it has its limits, which are significant.

First of all, it burns us out as workers, because a lot of effort rests on a few people. The trade union dynamic in France is such that the organisation of the struggle is based on few people. As a result, militant burn-out is just as likely as Macronist repression.

Then economically, faced with the “wait and let rot” strategy from the other side, it seems difficult to believe that our most precarious colleagues and comrades will be able to hold out on strike for long. We know that solidarity and strike funds are being organised, but will it be enough?

Finally the “others.” We know that a very favourable opinion exists in favour of the struggle against the pension reform and this is not by any means negligible. But what does this “silent majority” do? Not the strike in any case. Indeed, not everyone can go on strike, because it costs money, because we are afraid of the employers’ reprisals or of the police violence, or for all sorts of other reasons.

If the strike doesn’t suit these people, how can we still put pressure together? We have to find techniques of struggle that do not exclude a part of the population and that can have a global effect against the political strategy of the Macronists.

The idea that all workers who feel concerned can participate within their means in a struggle they believe in should be a priority objective!

Not Too Late: Changing the Climate Story from Despair to Possibility

Rosemary: Platform at XRTU Hub, The Big One

A Frontline Response to Andreas Malm

By Madeline ffitch - Verso, April 22, 2023

Earth First! activist Madeline ffitch responds to Andreas Malm: "What if the mass climate movement was focused on supporting frontline direct action?"

By the time I read How to Blow Up a Pipeline, I had already seen its neon cover around, the unmistakable title plastered across the front in large block print. I had seen activists reading it, but not the activists I’d expected. These were well-heeled and buttoned-up types, people from environmental nonprofits, people I would associate with a permitted rally rather than an act of eco-sabotage. When I showed the book to one of my movement elders, a far less well-heeled person, they grimaced. “Who the hell comes up with a title like that?” they asked. “Does he think this is a game?” This movement elder, known for being grumpy and speaking plainly, is a decades-long veteran of direct-action eco-defense, a walking repository of tactical knowledge and movement history. They’re also an old Earth First!er. I’m a slightly younger one.

In his sensationally titled book, Andreas Malm tells us that between 1973 and 2010, Earth First!, the Earth Liberation Front, the Animal Liberation Front, and related groups pulled off 27,100 separate acts of direct action and sabotage. These would seem to be laudable examples in service of Malm’s central proposal, which is that climate activists must be willing to escalate tactics and consider property destruction. Yet Malm includes these actions only in order to disqualify them. “All those thousands of monkeywrenching actions,” he writes, “achieved little if anything and had no lasting gains to show for them. They were not performed in dynamic relation to a mass movement, but largely in a void.” Malm goes on to say that these actions “petered out just as the climate movement came into its own.”

Malm gets a lot right in his slim neon polemic, but when he dismisses existing traditions of militant eco-defense, he undermines his own good ideas. Direct action is not made relevant by its link to mass movements. It is the other way around. The more out of touch the climate movement is from what is happening on the frontlines, the more irrelevant it becomes. The frontline might sound to some like revolutionary jargon, but it’s simply another name for the often rural and sparsely populated places where people must defend their homes and lifeways from being sacrificed to industrialization. Here, theory is put into practice. There is real work to do—dishes, chopping wood, hauling water, physically stopping a pipeline from being built—and this means that the abstractions that bog down mass movement participation (ideological pacifism, climate fatalism) are less likely to gain a foothold. If the climate movement is looking for direction, as Malm claims, it would do well to pay attention to the tactics and strategies of those who defend the land and water far away from major centers of commerce and policy, often with only a handful of people and by whatever means necessary. In comparison to mass movement maundering, the ethical and strategic clarity on the frontlines is bracingly refreshing.

Workers Aren’t Stupid: Dissecting Liberal Talking Points with David Griscom

Railroad Workers United: “We Would Never Concede Our Right to Strike”

By Ron Kaminkow - Jacobin, April 15, 2023

Congressional progressives, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have defended their railroad strike vote by pointing to rank-and-file support. Here, Railroad Workers United clarifies the group has always unequivocally opposed denying railworkers their right to strike.

On April 11, 2023, Jacobin published a transcript of an interview by editor at large David Sirota with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In the context of a general discussion about differences between the “progressive” wing of the Democratic Party and the Biden administration, the subject of the vote to break the strike of the railroad workers came up.

In defending her votes — one to approve seven days of sick leave for railworkers and one to support the president’s bill to block the strike — Ocasio-Cortez states that she was acting on the wishes of Railroad Workers United (RWU) and other groups of railroad workers. She states in the interview, “When you look after the vote, folks like RWU were saying, ‘This is what we asked them to do.” Later she says, “Because, for example, with the rail vote, the only partners that I had leading up to that were railworkers. And if that’s what they asked us to do, then that’s what we did.”

But Ocasio-Cortez is clouding the reality of the situation by referring to “the vote,” when in fact there were two separate and distinctive votes. One bill proposed seven days of paid sick time, while the other bill blocked railworkers from striking; these bills were completely independent of one another.

Tony Mazzocchi: Radical American Labor

Editorial: The Jevons Paradox Myth

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Union Caucus, April 6, 2023

As the climate crises deepens and the push to decarbonize the world's energy systems intensifies, a chorus of skeptical and pessimistic voices continually warns against placing hope in renewable energy as a solution (whether partial or wholly), arguing instead for vastly reducing energy consumption (as well as everything else). One of the most commonly invoked pieces of putative evidence made to bolster the argument is the oft cited, but poorly understood concept known as "Jevon's Paradox" (see also Wikipedia for a quick reference).

For example, in an article featured on the degrowth blog, Resilience (run by degrowth advocate Richard Heinberg), "Resources for a better future: Jevons Paradox", author Sam Bliss declares:

In 1865, (English economist William Stanley) Jevons found that as each new steam engine design made the use of coal more efficient, Britain used more coal overall, not less.

These efficiency improvements made coal cheaper, because steam engines, including the ones used to pump water out of coal mines, required less coal to produce a given amount of useful energy. Yet increasingly efficient steam engines made coal more valuable too, since so much useful energy could be produced from a given amount of coal.

That might be the real paradox: the ability to use a resource more efficiently makes it both cheaper and more valuable at the same time.

In Jevons’ time, more and more coal became profitable to extract as more and more uses of coal became profitable. Incomes increased as coal-fired industrial capitalism took off, and profits were continually invested to expand production further.
A century and a half later, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that as industrial processes have gotten more efficient at using dozens of different materials and energy sources, the overall use of these materials and energy sources has grown in nearly every case. The few exceptions are almost all materials whose use has been limited or banned for reasons of toxicity, like asbestos and mercury.

In an economy designed to grow, the Jevons paradox is all but inevitable. Some call it the Jevons phenomenon because of its ubiquity. Purposefully limiting ourselves might provide a way out.

This is by no means the only such example, nor is it even necessarily the most illustrative one, but it perfectly summarizes the all too often careless application of what is an overused and debatable trope.

There are several problems with Jevon’s Paradox and the way in which Bliss presents it:

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