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Red Innovation

By Tony Smith - Jacobin, Issue 17 - Ours to Master, Spring 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The technological dynamism of capitalism has always been a powerful argument in its defense. But one of its secrets is that at the heart of this change we find neither bold entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, nor established firms.

Investments pushing the frontiers of scientific knowledge are just too risky. The advances sought may not be forthcoming. Those that do occur may not ever be commercially viable. Any potentially profitable results that do arise may take decades to make any money. And when they finally do, there are no guarantees initial investors will appropriate most of the resulting windfall.

There is, accordingly, a powerful tendency for private capital to systematically underinvest in long-term research and development. Despite popular perceptions that private entrepreneurs drive technological innovation, the leading regions of the global economy do not leave the most important stages of technological change to private investors. These costs are socialized.

In the quarter-century after World War II, the high profits garnered by American corporations due to their exceptional place in the world market allowed corporate labs to engage in “blue-skies research” projects. But even then, public funding accounted for roughly two-thirds of all research and development expenditures in the United States, creating the foundations for the high-tech sectors of today.

With the rise of competition from Japanese and European capital in the 1970s, private-sector funding of research and development increased. However, long-term projects were almost entirely abandoned in favor of product development and applied-research projects promising commercial advantages in the short-to-medium term.

Basic research continued to be funded by the government, like the work in molecular biology that supported the move of agribusiness companies into biotechnology. The same was true for projects of special interest to the Pentagon — the developments associated with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, for instance, which paved the way for modern global positioning systems — and other government agencies.

But medium-to-long-term R&D in general was in great danger of falling into a “valley of death” between basic research and immediate development, with neither the government nor private capital providing significant funding for it.

For all their rhetoric touting the “magic of the marketplace,” those in the Reagan administration recognized market failure when they saw it. They began to offer federal and publicly funded university laboratories various carrots and sticks to undertake long-term R&D for US capital.

Mines, Water, Roads, Borders

By Chaparral - Chaparral Respects No Borders, March 1, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The Resolution Copper land grab is also a water grab, with a projected use of millions of gallons per year and contamination of more; and during what could be a mega-drought. Water is often compared to gold as its value increases the more scarce it becomes, which means we may soon be fighting not only the increasing privatization of land, but also of water. Despite the fact that the Resolution Copper deal, having been snuck into a defense bill, involves an exchange of land, it is being done to the advantage of a transnational mining corporation and to the detriment of the Chi’Chil’Ba’Goteel/Oak Flat/Apache Leap area and the people who hold it sacred. This land grab represents a continued prioritization of economic development in so-called Arizona, which means more resource-extraction and increased international trade (specifically with or through Mexico). Mining and other industries shaped by trade-related demand bring not only risk to water, but also more roads like Interstate 11 and rail (which require land acquisition), and increased border militarization. US trade policy is largely culpable for the violence on the border and south of the border.

Economic development is portrayed as bringing more jobs, but these “free-market” policies, as in the case of NAFTA, are meant to redistribute wealth to the hands of the rich. Because of their trade relationship and connecting infrastructure, Arizona and Sonora have a shared fate as land, water, safety, indigenous ways of life and sacred sites are all at risk. The state governments enable resource-extraction and other infrastructural projects, lucrative to those who would build them and those who would finance them, through subsidization and protection with our tax dollars.

Arizona's connection to a port in Guaymas, Sonora is crucial to the Arizona mining industry. Copper is one of the fastest growing US exports, and much of what is and would be mined in Arizona would be transported down to where mining companies such as BHP Billiton (of Resolution Copper) and Freeport McMoran do business at this Mexican port on the Sea of Cortez. Guaymas is also significant because shipping companies can have lower standards for working conditions in Mexico versus the US. This port is the southernmost point of the CANAMEX Corridor, the NAFTA trade route connecting Canada and Mexico through five US states including Arizona. The Port of Guaymas has been expanding over the years and brings along its own set of problems in the vicinity, requiring its own energy sources and water, damaging the environment, impacting the local communities, etc. Arizona is counting on the continued growth of the Mexican economy, yet the importance of the Port of Guaymas also signifies that a lot of exports from the US are meant to cross the Pacific ocean (especially if the Trans Pacific Partnership goes into effect), not stay within its favored trade partner's borders.

EcoUnionist News #32

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, February 10, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

USW Refinery Workers Strike News:

Rail Safety:

Carbon Bubble:

Green Jobs and Just Transition:

Global Anti-Capitalism:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All!:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

Noam Chomsky: Can Civilization Survive Capitalism? Could a functioning democracy make a difference?

By Noam Chomsky - Alternet, February 2, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

There is “capitalism” and then there is “really existing capitalism.”

The term “capitalism” is commonly used to refer to the U.S. economic system, with substantial state intervention ranging from subsidies for creative innovation to the “too-big-to-fail” government insurance policy for banks.

The system is highly monopolized, further limiting reliance on the market, and increasingly so: In the past 20 years the share of profits of the 200 largest enterprises has risen sharply, reports scholar Robert W. McChesney in his new book “Digital Disconnect.”

“Capitalism” is a term now commonly used to describe systems in which there are no capitalists: for example, the worker-owned Mondragon conglomerate in the Basque region of Spain, or the worker-owned enterprises expanding in northern Ohio, often with conservative support – both are discussed in important work by the scholar Gar Alperovitz.

Some might even use the term “capitalism” to refer to the industrial democracy advocated by John Dewey, America’s leading social philosopher, in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

Dewey called for workers to be “masters of their own industrial fate” and for all institutions to be brought under public control, including the means of production, exchange, publicity, transportation and communication. Short of this, Dewey argued, politics will remain “the shadow cast on society by big business.”

The truncated democracy that Dewey condemned has been left in tatters in recent years. Now control of government is narrowly concentrated at the peak of the income scale, while the large majority “down below” has been virtually disenfranchised. The current political-economic system is a form of plutocracy, diverging sharply from democracy, if by that concept we mean political arrangements in which policy is significantly influenced by the public will.

There have been serious debates over the years about whether capitalism is compatible with democracy. If we keep to really existing capitalist democracy – RECD for short – the question is effectively answered: They are radically incompatible.

It seems to me unlikely that civilization can survive RECD and the sharply attenuated democracy that goes along with it. But could functioning democracy make a difference?

EcoUnionist News #20

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, January 12, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Story:

IWW Campaigns:

Carbon Bubble:

Other News of Interest:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

When History Knocks

By Sam Gindin - Jacobin, December 30, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Naomi Klein is a longtime movement and media icon, a gifted synthesizer and popularizer who, over the past two decades, has been a leading chronicler of anti-corporate, anti-globalization, and anti-capitalist social movements (a series of “anti”s that undeniably needs some unpacking).

Who else on the Left gets a sympathetic interview on the evening news of Canada’s publicly owned television broadcaster before the release of her latest book? And who else, as a preview of that book, is immediately given a chance to explain to a national audience why, from the perspective of the environment, capitalism is “the main enemy?”

Klein’s writings and talks have provided “the movement” with needed context and coherence, and served as a conduit and catalyst for discussions, contributing to its recruitment and growth. Her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, is the climax of her highly influential trilogy and also registers how much her perspective has changed over the last fifteen years.

This shift centers on both her assessment of the movement — more than ever before, Klein expresses frustrations with the movement she is part of and still sees as fundamental to social change — and her deeper appreciation of capitalism “as the main enemy.” On this latter point, her earlier criticisms of particular aspects of capitalism have now expanded into suggesting — or at least coming very close to suggesting — that capitalism has become the central barrier to human survival and progress.

Klein’s trilogy began with No Logo, which came out in 1999 and exposed the manipulative and exploitative underbelly of consumer culture. Fortuitously published amid the Battle of Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization and later branded the “bible of the anti-globalization movement,” No Logo built on the moral crusade across university campuses against the corporate use of sweatshop labor for that culture. But it mistakenly separated supposedly “good” and “bad” corporations, obscuring the larger social system in which these companies lived and acted.

Klein’s second major book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism also arrived at a propitious moment: in 2007, just before the financial implosion and the most dramatic economic crisis since the Great Depression. This time Klein chronicled how corporations and capitalist states pounce on the opportunities provided by man-made or natural crises to “ram through policies that enrich a small elite.” In this case, though, the focus on crises underplayed what capitalism does between crises.

Again displaying a penchant for well-timed releases, Klein’s This Changes Everything reached bookstores two days before October’s massive Climate March in New York City. Here it is no longer capitalism’s bad apples that are the focus, nor capitalism’s ability to use crises against us, but the organizing principles of the system itself — and the environmental consequences that follow. “[O]ur economic system and our planetary system are now at war,” Klein writes, “and it’s not the laws of nature that can be changed.”

In characteristically accessible language, Klein summarizes the alarming scientific consensus on climate change. But the significance of This Changes Everything doesn’t lie in Klein’s detailed and passionate description of the urgency of the environmental crisis. Rather, its importance lies in Klein’s determination to demonstrate that changing our relationship to nature is inseparable from changing our relationship to each other — by “transforming our economic system” (I’ll return later to ambiguities in how this is interpreted).

The immediate threat to the earth “changes everything” in the sense that just adding “the environment” to our list of concerns is not good enough.

The sheer scale of the problem necessitates a politics that can take on capitalism. We must do away with any notions, Klein asserts, that the environmental crisis can be contained and eventually rolled back through policy tinkering (though addressing symptoms is necessary); technical fixes (though sensible technological advances should be vigorously pursued); or market-based solutions (no qualification necessary — it’s silly to expect the market to solve problems it was instrumental in creating). Something far more comprehensive is required.

EcoUnionist News #14

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, December 29, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Story:

Other News of Interest:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

Climate Crisis, the Deindustrialization Imperative and the Jobs vs. Environment Dilemma

By Richard Smith - TruthOut, November 12, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Since the 1990s, climate scientists have been telling us that unless we suppress the rise of carbon dioxide emissions, we run the risk of crossing critical tipping points that could unleash runaway global warming, and precipitate the collapse of civilization and perhaps even our own extinction. To suppress those growing emissions, climate scientists and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have called on industrialized nations to slash their carbon dioxide emissions by 80 to 90 percent by 2050. (1)

But instead of falling, carbon dioxide emissions have been soaring, even accelerating, breaking records year after year. In May 2013, carbon dioxide concentrations topped the 400 parts per million mark prompting climate scientists to warn that we're "running out of time," that we face a "climate emergency" and that unless we take "radical measures" to suppress emissions very soon, we're headed for a 4-degree or even 6-degree Celsius rise before the end of the century. And not just climate scientists have made warnings, but also mainstream authorities, including the World Bank, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and others. In 2012, the IEA warned that "no more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if we hope to prevent global warming from exceeding more than 2 degrees Centigrade." (2) In September 2014, the global accounting and consulting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers warned that

For the sixth year running, the global economy has missed the decarbonisation target needed to limit global warming to 2˚C . . . To avoid two degrees of warming, the global economy now needs to decarbonise at 6.2 percent a year, more than five times faster than the current rate, every year from now till 2100. On our current burn rate we blow our carbon budget by 2034, sixty-six years ahead of schedule. This trajectory, based on IPCC data, takes us to four degrees of warming by the end of the century. (3)

Yet despite ever more dire warnings from the most conservative scientific, economic and institutional authorities, and despite record heat and drought, superstorms and floods, and melting ice caps and vanishing glaciers, "business as usual" prevails. Worse, every government on the planet is pulling out all the stops to maximize growth and consumption in the effort to hold on to the fragile recovery. (4)

The Problem Is Capitalism

By Fred Magdoff - NYC Climate Convergence, September 20, 2014

A. The Environmental Crisis

The "environmental crisis" is actually a number of crises, including the following:

Rick Berman Exposed in New Audio; Hear His Tactics Against Environmentalists and Workers' Rights

By Lisa Graves - P.R.Watch, October 30, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Ecology.IWW.ORG Editor's Note: The recently revealed news about Rick Berman's playbook of dirty tricks aimed at anti-fracking climate activists should come as no shock. Berman is well known for his virulent anti-union and anti-consumer astroturf websites, but he is only one of the more outspoken capitalist commissars, of which there are many. If any more proof is needed that environmental activists and workers have a common adversary in the capitalist system, this should more than suffice:

Rick Berman, the king of corporate front groups and propaganda, has been caught on tape detailing his attacks on public interest groups in the labor and environmental movements, including on efforts to increase the minimum wage for workers.

As noted in a new story by Eric Lipton at The New York Times, Berman met with energy company executives at the posh Broadmoor Hotel earlier this year to raise money from them to attack groups representing citizens concerned about clean water, clean air, and the future of the planet. But Berman's "win ugly" tactics apparently did not persuade all of his prospective clients for his lucrative business of creating tax-exempt non-profit front groups that then contract with his for-profit PR firm to give corporations cover for his attacks on their opponents. The way Berman profits from this arrangement has spawned a legal complaint to the IRS.

An audio tape of Berman and his associate, Jack Hubbard, has been provided by a person at the Broadmoor event to the Center for Media and Democracy, which publishes PR Watch and has long tracked Berman's deceptive PR operations.

Readers can listen to the full tape here and read the transcript here.

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