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Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)

Green Unionism on the Chevron Richmond Refinery Workers Picket Line

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Union Caucus, April 15, 2022

Since Monday, March 21, 2022, the workers at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, California, members of the United Steelworkers Local 5 have been on strike and picketing the facility after voting down the company’s latest contract offer, which workers say contained insufficient wage increases. The bosses have responded by bringing in scabs (including managers from other Chevron facilities). The strike has gotten a good deal of media coverage:

However, the capitalist (and progressive) media have mostly missed some important details.

First of all, the striking refinery workers and their elected union leaders continue to emphasize that their issues extend beyond narrow bread and butter issues, such as wages and benefits. A major concern that they continue to articulate is that Chevron continues to try and cut unionized safety jobs and refuses to hire sufficient workers to safely and adequately staff the facility. Workers have complained of 12-hour days and six-day workweeks. All of these deficiencies not only risk the health and safety of the workers, but the surrounding, mostly BIPOC communities as well. Worse still, they have adverse environmental effects, a problem that hasn't been lost on the striking workers. As stated by USW Local 5 representative, B.K White:

“If we had more people and could get a better pay rate, maybe our members wouldn’t feel obligated to come in and work as many as 70 hours a week to make ends meet. We don’t believe that is safe. (that and the use of replacement workers) is at the detriment of the city of Richmond and the environment.”

Even less noticed by the media has been the presence of environmental justice activists (including, but not limited to, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Communities for a Better Environment, Extinction Rebellion, Fossil Free California, Richmond Progressive Alliance, Sierra Club, Sunflower Alliance, Sunrise Movement, and 350), various socialist organizations (including DSA in particular), and members from the nearby front-line BIPOC communities, who have joined the pickets in solidarity with the workers, something the workers have also not hesitated to point out. Indeed, in spite of the fact that many environmental justice activists and community members are harshly critical of Chevron's role in turning the city of Richmond into a capital blight infested sacrifice zone, they recognize that the workers are not their enemies nor are the latter responsible for the damage done by the company. On the contrary, many recognize that the unionized workforce is one of the best mitigations against far worse capital blight (it bears mentioning that there has also been a good deal of support and picket line presence from rank and file workers and union officials from many other unions, including the AFSCME, IBEW, IWW, ILWU, SEIU, UFCW, and the Contra Costa County Central Labor Council).

Such seemingly unlikely bonds of solidarity, though delicate and, at times, fragile didn't arise out of thin air, but, in fact, have resulted from years of painstaking grassroots organizing.

Who Is Working-Class, and Why It Matters

By Van Gosse - Convergence, April 9, 2022

Many political analysts, including some on the Left, are positing a radically new configuration of class in the United States. Their argument, reduced to its essence, is that the traditional markers of class are no longer relevant, and now the great divide is between those who have graduated from college versus the rest. It is further argued that this new class structure is reshaping our political party system in dramatic ways:  the Democrats are becoming the party of the educated, in addition to traditional constituencies among African Americans and single women. Conversely, the Republicans are becoming a party of the working class—defined as the non-college-educated—across traditional racial and ethnic lines (for a cogent example of this analysis, see Matt Karp’s “The Politics of a Second Gilded Age”).

I think this analysis is wrong in all respects.  We need an analysis of how class functions in the U.S. that is based in our distinct history of stratification (and division) along ethno-racial lines.  Beyond that, we need an accurate reading of the Democratic Party in particular, if we are to advance the struggle for a multiracial democracy against white nationalism.

Movement Generation Works to Usher in a Sustainable Just Transition

By Aric Sleeper - CounterPunch, April 4, 2022

In the mid-2000s, when the documentary featuring former Vice President Al Gore, “An Inconvenient Truth,” first alerted viewers that human activity was drastically altering the environment, and global warming would insidiously thaw the North and South poles and raise the sea levels, urban organizers like Mateo Nube heard the warning loud and clear. Nube quickly banded together with other activists in the San Francisco Bay Area to educate their communities about humanity’s devastating impacts on the environment and what needed to be done to try to abate the eventual irreparable changes by shifting people’s views about the economy, which was contributing to the environmental degradation.

“At that time, most of my peers in urban organizing weren’t even discussing climate change,” says Nube. “Once we started digging into it, we realized our peers organizing in Miami might be underwater 50 years from now, and that climate change was a symptom of a much deeper set of interlocking crises rooted in industrial extractivism.”

In 2006, Nube and his colleagues co-founded the Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project to create an analytical foundation for organizers interested in the relationship between ecology and social justice, and as a hub for strategic organizing efforts through workshops, retreats and campaign development.

More than 15 years later, with undeniable signs of climate change becoming more apparent in the form of extreme weather events, which are being experienced with growing frequency every year, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Nube and other longtime organizers are trying very hard not to say, “I told you so.”

“Fifteen years ago [just after we started Movement Generation], a lot of our work was about being a proactive Chicken Little of sorts, telling folks that things are really dramatic, but now we’re way past that,” says Nube. “In the last five years, it’s easy to see that change is afoot.”

Movement Generation’s first weeklong retreat in 2007 united Bay Area activists to simply unpack the climate crisis and its origins. Nube found that the initial retreat’s participants were shocked by the information, and ready to act, but they didn’t know what the abatement of climate change looked like in practice.

“To use a ‘Matrix’ parallel, folks came out of the retreat saying, ‘We’ve eaten your red pill, so what’s next?’” says Nube. “But the retreat was a grand experiment, and the outcome was to really start thinking about what the work of creating a just transition looks like on the ground.”

Since then, Movement Generation’s annual weeklong retreat has become its flagship program. Other organizations have branched off from Movement Generation’s efforts, like the Climate Justice Alliance and Seed Commons, which all have their frameworks based in the philosophy and practices of a just transition. For those unfamiliar with the concept, a just transition is the process of shifting from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy.

“To put it another way, a just transition is moving from a banks and tanks economy to a sharing and caring economy, or moving from a me and I stance to a we and us stance, as we digest and process a very dramatic reality [resulting from the climate crisis] on the planet Earth,” says Nube.

One key strategy to ensure a just transition in the scope of the environment, according to Nube, is to relocalize, which Movement Generation facilitates through their programs like Earth Skills and regionally focused EcoSchools workshops. Meanwhile, Movement Generation’s four-part workshop series Course Correction examines the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and what it means to move forward within the framework of a just transition.

“In January 2020, when the pandemic started to become serious, we realized that this outcome had been a part of our instructional course material for some time,” says Nube. “If you’re continually paving over vibrant ecosystems and constraining the capacity for the species in an ecosystem to thrive, one of the things that will happen is that a virus will jump and spread. The industrial economy and corporate capitalist globalization have created a system of viral superhighways.”

Nube and others at Movement Generation moved their workshops primarily online and soon found that they were reaching thousands instead of hundreds of people. They also realized how economic inequities were highlighted in the context of the pandemic, and that large-scale social support is possible when backed by political resolve.

“We saw how easy it could be to build something else and transform systems when the political will is there,” says Nube. “There’s a lot of potential in the knowledge that all systems are human creations and can be changed. They’re not ordained and fixed by a deity. That’s a gift that the pandemic gave us, with the contradiction of what it means to have a pandemic that’s so destructive.”

Nube points out that the pandemic and all other environmental crises humanity currently endures were created by outdated economic systems and attitudes founded in racism and exploitation, and enforced with violence. One of the critical flaws in the mainstream environmental movement, according to Nube, is to think of conservation as something that is outside the influence of human systems.

“The military infrastructure that enforces white supremacy and anti-Blackness is the same system that facilitates the… [destruction] of the Earth. You can’t disconnect one from the other,” says Nube.

#8March – Declaration of the Peasant Women of La Via Campesina Southern and Eastern Africa

By staff - La Via Campesina, March 31, 2022

Declaration of working women of La Via Campesina and Allies during the two days’ workshop held at MVIWATA Headquarters, Morogoro, Tanzania

We women, representing our fellow working women from the smallholder farmers’ organizations from 10 countries under the umbrella of La Via Campesina, Political parties and Social movements from various African countries including Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Mozambique, Ghana and Eswatini.

Our two days meeting aimed to advance our struggles and we have identified the following:

  1. Despite the differences we have in terms of cultures, geography and environmental conditions, together we have similar challenges that require our unity and solidarity in addressing it including the right to acquire, own and use land, commercialization of women bodies and social services including education, water, and health; the increasing violence against women and children and the general oppression of the working class, especially working women. This manifest itself in various forms of economic, social, physical and psychological.
  • These challenges are systemic and are indicative of the system’s failure to recognize and protect working women and their rights in economic, social, political and cultural spheres.
  • The existing women and men relationship are the product of a wide-ranging system of exploitation and oppression whose signs and symptoms manifest themselves in the face of increasing sexual violence especially against women, exploitation of one sex by the other, mistrust between the two sexes. The rising assumption that these two sexes are enemies, the collapse of family values ​​and the disintegration of families with the aim of pursuing employment.
  • That oppressive systems, hidden within neo-liberal policies and that use a man as a tool to abuse women through patriarchy that manifests itself through various economic, social, cultural and political relations in our society have continued to affect us and our society as a whole.
  • Gender-based violence has long and deep roots rooted in the patriarchal system that has been plagued, created and expanded over the years and so the revolution of that system is the solution to violence against women.
  • The solution to these challenges is a systematic change to create equal rights that require strategies built through unity and solidarity of peasant women and men, activists and all friends who support the struggle to overthrow the abusive, oppressive and perpetual system of violence against women.

Understanding Sunrise, Part 2: Organizing Methods

By Dyanna Jaye and William Lawrence - Convergence, March 24, 2022

Sunrise melded mass protest, electoral work, and distributed organizing to great effect, but 2020 upended its plans and forced a reassessment.

Sunrise Movement grew from a labor of love by 12 young people, including the two of us, into the most prominent climate justice organization in the country. We put the Green New Deal on the map, strengthened the Left insurgency in the Democratic Party, and helped drive youth turnout to defeat Trump in 2020. Climate change became a political priority for the Democratic Party, and Sunrise directly influenced Biden’s Build Back Better agenda.

In the last year, though, despite a few impactful protests demanding ambition and urgency from Congress, Sunrise members and observers alike have noted a loss of strategic clarity and organizing power compared to 2017 through 2020. And it’s not just Sunrise: the entire Left has struggled to make the jump from punching upwards in the Trump era to winning material reforms in the Biden era.

In this essay, we’ll pull back the layers of Sunrise’s organizing model: how we actually recruited young people and united them in a structure for collective action. We’ll first discuss the major influences on Sunrise’s organizing and run through how it all played out in practice, the good and the bad.

We share a diagnosis that a central shortcoming in Sunrise’s organizing model was the absence of a sustained method of mass organizing at a local level, which left us nowhere to go once we could no longer rely on the fast-but-shallow growth of distributed organizing methods. We’re proud of the movement’s accomplishments while humble about its shortcomings. We offer our reflection in the practice of learning together in public; we hope our transparency can empower the next generation of movement builders—in Sunrise and across movements—to lead transformative organizing for the next era.

Understanding Sunrise, Part 1: Strategy

By William Lawrence - Convergence, March 14, 2022

Sunrise Movement made climate change a key political issue, but new conditions require new theory and strategy.

The state of Sunrise Movement, one of the more successful and visible U.S. Left organizations to emerge in the last five years, reflects trends in the broader Left. We hit a high-water mark with Sen. Bernie Sanders’ February 2020 victory in the Nevada caucus. Shortly after, the revenge of the Democratic establishment and the COVID pandemic halted all momentum and put Sunrise into a rear-guard attempt to salvage what could be won in a Biden administration. The underwhelming first year of that administration has left us floundering.

Today, a private and public reckoning is well underway. A new generation of leaders is taking account of Sunrise’s successes and failures, and working to design the next life of the movement. Early Sunrise leaders—of which I am one—are in the process of moving on, and handing over leadership of this youth organization to a more youthful cohort.

As a leader in Sunrise’s development from its founding in 2017 through early 2021, I feel obliged to offer an evaluation of our strategy and methods. My aim is to offer a detailed account of Sunrise’s aims and influences, in order that the next generation of strategist-organizers both inside and outside Sunrise may learn from what we did well, while overcoming our limitations.

You can consider just about every word of this essay as a self-critique and a practice of learning in public. As ever, I write with deep appreciation for all the climate justice fighters who find a place to place their hope amidst the looming dread of this crisis.

Part 1 of this essay, which you are reading now, focuses on Sunrise’s strategy, including our demands, rhetoric, and relation to the US party system. Part 2 will look at Sunrise’s methods of organizing.

I hope these essays not only illuminate our specific choices and why we made them, but demonstrate how the theoretical concepts on which we build our organizations actually shape their development. Sunrise’s successes owe much to the theories underpinning our strategy and methods, and our failures reveal much about where these theories fall short. I hope my reflections on these recent experiences may aid in developing better theory to face the challenges of the 21st century.

Richmond Progressive Alliance Listening Project, Episode 9: We Deserve Nothing Less

#8M2022: Break the Bias, says National Farmers Union, Canada

By staff - La Via Campesina, March 10, 2022

Women grow much of the world’s food, often on small scale farms and often to feed our own local communities, but too often the word farmer is associated with men. The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is Break the Bias. Under this theme we are all asked to imagine and work towards a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination. We are asked to come together to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive world where difference is valued and celebrated.

To Break the Bias, we as women farmers need our stories and experiences told and shared, not just among ourselves but with the wider community. We need to hear and celebrate the stories of a diversity of women farmers and food growers, including from those of us who are part of BIPOC and 2SLGBTQ+ communities. 

But we are aware that increasingly in Canada and around the world, the journalists who can help us Break the Bias by learning about and better understanding each other as well as the power struggles and structures which aim to maintain the bias, are facing intimidation, abuse and harassment. In Canada in the last few months, we have seen female photojournalists, reporters and opinion writers arrested, subjected to online hate and threats of violence, and sent death threats. Around the world women journalists and journalists from Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) and 2SLGBTQ+ backgrounds are too often subjected to intimidation, online harassment and threats of violence. Journalists from diverse backgrounds have important experience when it comes to understanding and sharing our diverse stories and experiences. As women farmers and women from rural communities our stories and experiences are already too often not told and too often deemed unimportant.

As we strive to Break the Bias, on this International Women’s Day, we are calling on each of us to speak out against the initimidation, online harassment and threats of violence against women jounalists in Canada and around the world. The National Farmers Union (NFU) is calling for support for a diversity of women journalists across alternative and mainstream media, in the hope these women will help us tell our stories as women farmers and food growers committed to food sovereignty.

Richmond Progressive Alliance Listening Project, Episode 10: Imagine

Richmond Progressive Alliance Listening Project, Episode 8: Union Proud

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