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Capitalist Saboteurs

By R. H. Lossin - Jacobin, September 1, 2016

This April, a natural gas pipeline exploded in Salem Township, Pennsylvania, shooting flames well above the tree line and producing enough heat to send a man to the hospital with third-degree burns. Such explosions, if uncommon, aren’t rare: according to ProPublica, they’ve killed five hundred people and injured four thousand more in the past thirty years.

When infrastructure fails in such a dramatic fashion, it is usually considered an accident. In the rare instances in which events like pipeline explosions are addressed as structural failures, it is only in the most literal sense of the word “structural,” prompting demands for repairs, regulation, and safety measures. But calls for oversight and technological fixes only reassert the accidental nature of what is in fact a problem of class society.

Pipeline explosions are a perfect example of what the late nineteenth-century French syndicalist Emile Pouget called “capitalist sabotage”: the regular and systematized damage done by capitalists to industry, commerce, workers, and consumers in the service of profit.

This is quite different from the sabotage periodically carried out by workers. For workers, Pouget explains, sabotage is “aimed only at the means of exploitation against the machines and the tools, that is against inert, painless and lifeless things.” Capitalist sabotage — “the very life essence of modern society” — “reaps human victims and deprives men of their health by sticking a leech at the very sources of life.”

Capitalists, of course, are well aware of the difference. The energy industry is again instructive. The initial investment in pipeline infrastructure was not necessarily a safety measure — it was a self-conscious assertion of class power.

Pipelines allow oil to flow across vast distances without human labor, wresting control from workers who would otherwise control crucial checkpoints in its distribution network. They decrease workers’ ability to, as Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) organizer Elizabeth Gurley Flynn put it, “consciously withdraw their efficiency” — in other words, sabotage the operation.

IWW Stands in Solidarity with Resistance to Dakota Access Pipeline

By the elected delegates to the 2016 IWW Convention - Industrial Workers of the World, September 3, 2016

The international convention of the Industrial Workers of the World just unanimously voted in favor of an “Emergency Resolution” in solidarity with the resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline!

In the introduction the Chair of the convention acknowledged that the convention is being held on Ohlone land. We also strongly encouraged workers to organize solidarity actions, travel to Standing Rock, and materially support the struggle.

The Industrial Workers of the World stands in solidarity with the resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline. We call on the labor movement and working class to take a stand against environmental racism and join the fight for a just transition as our collective future is at stake. We recognize that the capitalist system that oppresses the working class has always oppressed indigenous people of the World.

Therefore we feel that settlers and indigenous workers should unite to take direct action against colonial industrial capitalism and do everything in our power to restore justice to indigenous people and Mother Earth. An injury to one is an injury to all! #nodapl #sacredstonespiritcamp #redwarriorcamp #waterislife

While There Is A Soul In Prison

By Colin Bossen - Colin Bossen: Writer, Preacher, Organizer, August 28, 2016

Note: I recently have become involved with the Industrial Workers of the World's Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee. I am serving as their contact person for faith-based organizing. It is a volunteer role and one of things that I am doing as part of it is preaching some in support of the September 9, 2016 National Prisoner Strike. The following sermon was the first I preached in support of the movement. I presented it at the First Parish in Needham, Unitarian Universalist, on August 28, 2016. 

It is a pleasure to be with you this morning. Your congregation features prominently in one of my favorite books of contemporary Unitarian Universalist theology, A House for Hope. John Buehrens, your former minister and the co-author of that book, has something to do with me being here today. He was a strong advocate for youth ministry when he was the President of the Unitarian Universalist Association. I had the good fortune to meet him when I was sixteen. He encouraged me both along my path to the ministry and my path to the academy. I also have fond memories of the worship services your present minister Catie Scudera led during her time at Harvard. And I congratulate in calling someone who will no doubt be one of the guiding lights of the next generation of Unitarian Universalists. So, there is a strange way in which even though I have never spent a Sunday with you before I feel as if I already know you a little.

Such familiarity, I suspect, is rather one sided. Most, of maybe all, just know me as the guest preacher. The last in the long line of summer preachers trying to bring a little spirit to Sunday morning before your regular worship services resume next month.

Now me, I am something of circuit rider. Right now I preach at more than a dozen congregations a year while I am finishing up my PhD at Harvard. As I travel around I have the privilege of getting something of the breadth of our Unitarian Universalist tradition. I think since I started in the ministry more than a decade ago I have lead worship at close to a hundred Unitarian Universalist congregations in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Those congregations include the some of the largest and some of the smallest in our tradition.

My peripatetic career causes me to divide Unitarian Universalism crudely into two wings: the liberal and the abolitionist. Unitarian Universalism is occasionally called a liberal religion. This label refers to our understanding of human nature. Historically we have understood human beings to contain within them, in the words of William Ellery Channing, “the likeness to God.” As contemporary Unitarian Universalist theologian Rebecca Parker has explained, this does not mean that we think human beings are necessarily godlike. Instead, it suggests that rather than being born innately flawed or depraved, as orthodox Christianity has long taught, we are born with the capacity to choose and to become. Reflecting upon the suffering that we inflict upon each other Parker writes, “We are the cause and we can be the cure.” In this sense liberal religion means a recognition that much of what is wrong in the world was wrought by human hands. By joining our hands and hearts together we can, and we do, heal much of that harm.

I am not thinking of the liberal religion of Channing when I say that Unitarian Universalism can be crudely divided into two wings. I suspect that if you are here this Sunday morning your view of human nature is at somewhat similar to Channing’s and Rebecca Parker’s. Whether politically you are a Democrat or a Republican, an anarchist or a socialist, a liberal, libertarian or a conservative, if you are a Unitarian Universalist are a liberal religionist.

My division of our community into the abolitionists and the liberals focuses on our attitudes towards social reform. The majority liberal tradition believes in incremental and pragmatic social change. The social institutions and practices that exist, exist. When confronted with the intractable problems of America’s justice system liberals think the key question is: how can we make this system work better for everyone? How can we ensure that police are not racist? That everyone gets a fair trial and that prisons are humane?

Abolitionists demand the impossible. Rather than seeking to reform existing institutions they dream of creating new ones. Instead of asking how existing social institutions and practices can be reshaped they ask: what are those social institutions and practices for? In the face of a justice system that appears patently unjust they ask: Why we do have the system in the first place? What is its essential social function? Is it meeting this social function? Is this social function something we want met?

I place myself in the abolitionist camp. The essential difference between the two wings is that abolitionists see social institutions and practices as historically constituted while liberals take them as more permanent. A less fancy way to put that is that abolitionists think that the things we do and the institutions we create come from somewhere, will only last for so long, and will eventually be replaced by something else. Liberals focus on fixing what is now. Abolitionists imagine what might be.

Why Environmentalists Should Stand with Prisoners on September 9th

By Panagioti - Earth First! Newswire, September 7, 2016

September 9th is the 45th anniversary of the Attica Uprising in New York, where national attention was drawn to the problem of prisons in this country. This year there will public demonstrations in support of prisoners who have a called for a coordinated national work strike in response to extreme abuses they face, including toxic environments, discrimination, censorship, and literal slavery based on the 13th Amendment’s exemption of prisoners.

Prisoner-led groups like the Free Alabama Movement and the Free Ohio Movement have issued calls for “No School, No Work, No Shopping” on September 9, both to disrupt business as usual for the day and to encourage students and workers to participate in solidarity events.

Below is a listing of over 40 events being planned around the country.

The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons (FTP) is calling for action in solidarity with the IWW Union’s Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) and other prisoner-led groups in planning activities around Sept 9th.

As I have expounded on in a series of recent articles published over the Earth First! Newswire, prisons all over the country are coupled with environmentally hazardous land uses that threaten prisoners’ health and surrounding ecosystems. (Check out this map for a visual representation of the chronic prison pollution problem.)

At federal prisons, for example, UNICOR factories have been cited for unsafe working conditions and environmental hazards across the nation. For this reason, FTP is planning a demo at the Coleman prison complex, where over 7,000 people are locked up and subjected to slavery at the largest federal prison factory in the US.

In another prison/ecology example, the federal Bureau of Prisons is proposing to build a new maximum-security prison and slave factory on top of a former strip mine site in the coalfields of Letcher County, Kentucky. Any federal prisoner could, at any time, find themselves transferred to this prison, subjected to the health risks associated with a site where the air, water and soil are polluted by decades of coal mining and processing, which is still ongoing in the surrounding mountains.

Along with putting prisoners on a toxic site, that prison would also impact local people who live nearby, turning their community into a prison town. Construction alone will waste $444 million of federal tax dollars which could be used to address the crushing poverty that so often forces people into prisons in the first place.

The proposed site also sits a mile from a rare pocket of eastern old-growth forest that is home to dozens of Appalachian plant and animal species listed as threatened or endangered.

For more information on Sept 9th, Letcher County and other related issues, visit FightToxicPrisons.org

Also, for additional info on the topic of toxic prison slavery, check out these recent writings of Texas prisoner organizer Malik Washington.

Indigenous Property Rights and the Dakota Access Pipeline

By Logan Glitterbomb - CounterPunch, August 30, 2016

As this article is being written, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe are preparing to challenge Dakota Access, LLC and the U.S. Army Corps in court over environmental concerns and property rights disputes.

On July 26, 2016 the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe discovered that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had given its approval for a massive 1,172 mile pipeline to run through the Hunkpapa Nation territory near Cannonball, just within a half-mile of their reservation.Energy Transfer Partners, a Texas-based energy company, plans for the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross Lake Oahe and the Missouri River, disturbing many sacred indigenous sites and burial grounds which exist on land supposedly protected by ancestral treaties between the tribe and the United States.

Energy Transfer Partners plans build, own and operate the proposed $3.78 billion pipeline which will “transport up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil fracked from the Bakken oil fields across four states to a market hub in Illinois.” According to Dakota Access, LLC, the pipeline will also “cross 209 rivers, creeks and tributaries” along the way. Most pressing to the tribe however is the fact that it could potentially destroy ancient burial grounds and other sacred sites as well as threaten the Missouri River which currently acts as the tribe’s main source for irrigation and drinking water.

Twin Cities IWW General Defense Committee’s Statement of Solidarity with the Sacred Stone Camp

By Erik Davis - Twin Cities General Defense Committee (Local 14) of the IWW, July 17, 2016

To the Sacred Stone Camp,

Greetings. Our group is a collection of working class militants that fight for the abolition of the wage system, private property, and capitalism. The Twin Cities General Defense Committee (GDC) Local 14 of the Industrial Workers of the World formed initially as an avenue of legal defense for workers who were facing legal persecution in the 1920’s for their labor organizing, but has now transformed to encompass community organizing and community self-defense. The GDC is committed to pushing, advancing, and participating in struggles that fall under defense of the broader working class. This includes liberation struggles for colonized peoples, and defense of the land and water which we all depend on for life.

We are a union comprised of and run by workers themselves: democratically and horizontally. There are no bosses in our union, unlike the big business unions which have supported the pipeline and the extraction industry bosses. While we know that the bosses and business unions use the poverty and desperation for living wages and security to recruit to and promote the extraction industry, we aim to help break the harmful alliance between unions and the energy bosses and build active working class solidarity with Native people and all those fighting to defend the earth from capitalist exploitation and destruction.

If the Bakken pipeline is built, it will inevitably break, and this break will contaminate the drinking water of millions of people while pushing our ecosystem to the brink of destruction. All of those who put their time, energy, and bodies on the line to stop this pipeline are doing crucial and vital work in defending both life and land from the ruling class. Through these words and our contributions to the Sacred Stone Camp in money, materials, and labor, we hope that our commitment to both your fight for sovereignty and the health of the land and water that all life depends on is made clear.

In Solidarity and Struggle,
Twin Cities General Defense Committee (Local 14)

No Badjacketing: The State Wants to Kill Us; Let’s Not Cooperate

By the members - The Twin Cities GDC, Local 14, August 16, 2016

We prepared this short piece after several comrades were badjacketed in public and with pictures on social media at the 4th Precinct Shutdown. We believe those individual cases have been dealt with, and don’t wish to cause unnecessary division by complaining, or publicly calling any group or individual out. Instead, this is intended to provoke reflection, and conversation, amongst all of us, as to how to deal with the suspicions we may have of people we don’t know in our growing movements, without creating the sorts of divisions among ourselves that does the work of the State and the police for them. We intend to act in solidarity with those who know how to act in solidarity.

We ask that all organizations and groups working for a better world in which we have killed White Supremacy, Capitalism, and all other forms of oppression, consider that (1) none of us represent the mandate of all the people, (2) that we may have instead genuine and important strategic and tactical differences between ourselves about the best ways to accomplish that world, (3) that we will not win by pretending these differences do not exist, or dictating against difference, but instead by engaging on these differences in the most democratic and least hierarchical ways possible.

Therefore, we ask that groups and individuals read this document against the practice ofbadjacketing, discuss it, and consider publicly endorsing here that we will refrain from the practices of badjacketing. This is not a call to be lax about security; indeed, many of us have been very involved in the provision of security at the Fourth Precinct. Instead, it is a call to be democratic and accountable about our security practices.

Rally to End Toxic Prison Slavery in Solidarity with September 9 Nationwide Prison Strike

By staff - The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons, August 11, 2016

Sept 9th is the 45th anniversary of the Attica Uprising in New York, where national attention was drawn to the problem of prisons in this country. This year there will public demonstrations in support of prisoners who have a called for a coordinated national work strike in response to extreme abuses they face, including toxic environments, discrimination and literal slavery based on the 13th Amendment which wrote prison slave labor into the U.S. Constitution.

The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons (FTP) is calling for action in solidarity with the IWW Union’s Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) and other prisoner-led groups in planning activities around Sept 9th.

We are spreading the word to our prisoner contacts to invite friends and family on the outside to participate in these necessary efforts to address the violations of civil rights and environmental justice that still occur behind bars.

The primary FTP events will occur on Sept 10th at 10am in front of the Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) of Coleman, located at 846 NE 54th Terrace, Wildwood, Florida 34785. 

This location is the largest prison factory in the entire country, producing material goods for government agencies nationwide. Much of the very furniture which accommodates the offices of the bureaucrats that we live under is made by prison slaves at this facility.

Federal Prison Industries, also known as UNICOR, has over $34 million in contract obligation coming out of Bureau of Prison (BOP) facilities in Florida. This is three times higher than any other state in the country.

In addition, this prison is also home to one of the most famous political prisoners in the world, Native American activist and warrior, Leonard Peltier, who has been incarcerated over 40 years for his participation in the 1973 stand-off at the Pine Ridge Reservation and the liberation struggle of his people who experienced genocide and witnessed ecocide at the hands of the government who now holds him prisoner.

Also, it’s no coincidence that FCC Coleman is surrounded by a vast wasteland of rock mining operations, an industrial activity with a record of creating giant toxic ponds across Florida. Prisons all over the country are coupled with environmentally hazardous land uses that threaten prisoner’s health.

As another example of this, the federal Bureau of Prisons is now proposing to build a new maximum-security prison and slave factory on top of a former strip mine site in the coalfields of Letcher County, Kentucky. Any federal prisoner could at any time find themselves transferred to this prison, subjected to the health risks associated with a site where the air, water and soil are polluted by decades of coal mining and processing, which is still ongoing in the surrounding mountains.

Along with putting prisoners on a toxic site, the prison would also impact local people who live nearby, turning their community into a prison town. Construction alone will waste $444 million of federal tax dollars which could be used to address the crushing poverty that so often forces people into prisons in the first place.

The proposed site also sits a mile from a rare pocket of eastern old-growth forest that is home to dozens of Appalachian plant and animal species listed as threatened or endangered.

We feel that the existence of this industrialized, slavery-based system of mass incarceration stands as a primary obstacle to universal goals of freedom and harmony with the earth. Its continued existence is among the ultimate symbols of injustice in this country.

Stop Prison Slavery!
No New Toxic Prisons!
End Mass Incarceration!
Defend the Earth!
Free All Political Prisoners!

The Bisbee deportation of 1917

By Sheila Bonnand - University of Arizona, 1997

"How it could have happened in a civilized country I'll never know. This is the only country it could have happened in. As far as we're concerned, we're still on strike!" ~ Fred Watson*

Plane Stupid stands in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter's #ShutDown

By Paula - Plane Stupid, August 6, 2016

[On the morning of Friday, August 5, 2016] #UKBlackLivesMatter carried out a series of actions across the UK following a call for a #ShutDown.

Their actions were highlighting that for Black and Brown people, every day is a crisis in a system based on White Supremacy. That racism can be felt in many different ways, from the extreme brutality inflicted by police and state violence, which has resulted in 1,562 people losing their lives in police custody in the last 20 years; to the abhorrent detention of people fleeing war-zones; to the subtle and insidious forms of racism such as Black people being up to 37 times more likely to be stopped and searched. #BlackLivesMatter call for a #ShutDown of racism, and only by taking disruptive direct action are their voices beginning to be heard. Business as usual is a crisis. Therefore, we must #ShutDown.

By no small coincidence, some of these actions affected two major UK airports: Heathrow and Birmingham. For us the links between our struggles are clear. Expanding aviation, which is driving climate chaos, is part of the same way of thinking that is driving racism in the UK. Politicians and businessmen want to expand aviation to make more money for them and their friends. Also, the majority of flights in the UK – over 70% -  are taken by a rich minority of the population – just 15%. Globally, just 5% of people have ever taken a flight. The rich minority benefit, whilst other people pay the cost. This can be through losing their homes and or suffering pollution which affects their health locally and globally. The rich want to profit at the cost of other peoples' lives and communities.

Climate change is already killing 300,000 people a year and this will only get worse. The effects of climate change aren't colour blind, as it is primarily Black, Brown and indigenous people in the Global South who feel the effects first and hardest. The UN estimates there will be 75 million climate refugees by 2030. We're already able to see the effects, for instance, in Syria. It is only because those in power don't consider these lives to matter that they can make such life destroying decisions. The rich in the Global North benefit whilst the Global South pays the price. This is Climate Colonialism. This is Environmental Racism.

Our movements have a lot to learn from one another and have so much in common. Fundamentally, systemic change is needed to bring an end to both racism and climate change. People of colour's struggles have much to teach us, historically and in the present day, about what it means to be affected by these issues and how to fight back. #BlackLivesMatter are bringing these issues to the fore, and showing the rest of us that direct action is necessary to bring about change. It's time to #ShutDown.

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