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Earth Liberation Front (ELF)

Can sabotage stop climate change?

By Simon Butler - Climate and Capitalism, April 28, 2021

Despite the climate movement’s growth, epitomized by Extinction Rebellion and Student Strike for Climate, fossil fuel extraction continues to grow, and a safe climate can seem dismayingly distant. Given a choice between forgoing capital accumulation and tipping the whole world into a furnace, our rulers prefer the furnace.

In How to Blow Up a Pipeline, Andreas Malm asks how the climate movement can emerge from the Covid-19 hiatus as a stronger force. In particular, he questions whether the movement’s until now near-universal commitment to non-violent protest is holding it back. “Will absolute non-violence be the only way, forever the sole admissible tactic in the struggle to abolish fossil fuels? Can we be sure that it will suffice against this enemy? Must we tie ourselves to its mast to reach a safer place?”

To make his point, Malm cites examples of popular historic movements, some of which are invoked by today’s climate campaigners as examples of non-violent change. The overthrow of Atlantic slavery involved violent slave uprisings and rebellions. The suffragettes of early 20th century Britain regularly engaged in property destruction. The US civil rights movement was punctuated by urban riots. As part of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa Nelson Mandela co-founded the armed wing of the African National Congress. The Indian National Congress is known for its non-violent tactics but violence also played a role of the resistance to British rule from the Great Rebellion of 1857 until independence.

Malm absolutely rules out violence that harms people, but he wants the climate movement to include sabotage and property destruction in its plans.

He puts forward several reasons why these kinds of protests might help “break the spell” of the status quo. Targeting the luxury consumption of the rich in this way could help to stigmatize the notion that the rich can blithely condemn the rest of us to ecological disaster. Physical attacks on new CO2 emitting devices might reduce their use and make them less popular options for new investment. He also speculates that such actions could help bring together a “radical flank” of the movement, helping to win partial reforms by making elites more keen to compromise with the movement moderates.

Malm believes such tactics could make for some powerful political symbolism: “Next time the wildfires burn through the forests of Europe, take out a digger. Next time a Caribbean island is battered beyond recognition, burst in upon a banquet of luxury emissions or a Shell board meeting. The weather is already political, but it is political from one side only, blowing off the steam built up by the enemy, who is not made to feel the heat or take the blame.”

Malm’s arguments have been met with alarm in some quarters. In a review posted on the Global Ecosocialist Network website Alan Thornett says adopting the book’s proposals would “not only be wrong but disastrous” and anyone who did so would soon have “armed police kicking down their door.” He calls Malm’s argument an impatient “bid for a shortcut” resulting from “frustration compounded by the lack of a socially just exit strategy from fossil energy.”

James Wilt’s review in Canadian Dimension is even harsher: he says How to Blow Up a Pipeline “veers awfully close to entrapment” — a totally unworthy accusation. More to the point, Wilt says Malm doesn’t look deeply at the likely outcomes of his proposals, failing to mention any “planning for the inevitable backlash” and repression activists would face.

But, as Bue Rübner Hansen points out in a Viewpoint Magazine article, Malm’s “provocative title makes a pitch for viral controversy, but its contents are more nuanced and equivocal.”

The Kaleidoscope of Catastrophe: On the Clarities and Blind Spots of Andreas Malm

By Bue Rübner Hansen - Viewpoint Magazine, April 14, 2021

The course of history, seen in terms of the concept of catastrophe, can actually claim no more attention from thinkers than a child’s kaleidoscope, which with every turn of the hand dissolves the established order in a new way. There is a profound truth in this image. The concepts of the ruling class have always been the mirrors that enabled an image of order to prevail. - The kaleidoscope must be smashed. 

- Walter Benjamin, Central Park1

Recently, I announced my intention to write a long essay about Malm to a circle of degrowth communists. One, a researcher and activist of US pipeline struggles, was exasperated at Malm’s apparently contradictory embrace of a strategy of pushing the capitalist state to do the right thing in Corona, Climate and Chronic Emergency (2020) and his stringent support of sabotage in How to Blow up a Pipeline (2021). Another friend, who is a veteran leader in the climate justice movement, responded that Andreas Malm has “single-handedly saved Marxism from irrelevance over the past few years”. High praise for Malm and a harsh reproval of Marxism.

The frustration with Malm’s lack of clarity and the praise for his ability to bring together Marxism and environmentalism are of a piece: they both attest to the enormous expectations generated by his work, and his willingness to place himself in a position of intellectual leadership. More substantially, they testify to the difficulty and importance of the synthesis he is working towards. 

Among environmentalists, a deep disillusionment with Marxism is common. The critiques are by now familiar: Marxism’s commitment to the unfettered development of the forces of production is attached to the idea of human domination over nature. Malm, as we will see, comes out of a very different tradition of Marxism, and one that has done much to demonstrate that Marx - unlike most of his 20th century readers - was an ecological thinker. Malm extends the theoretical and philological groundwork of John Bellamy Foster and Paul Burkett, and more recently Kohei Saito2, into a more empirical engagement with contemporary ecological problems, profused with a profound sense of political urgency.3

Malm is one of too few Marxists to center the question of what needs to be done in the climate crises, and certainly the most prominent. In short, Malm presents as a man of action, both in theory and in practice. His books detail organizing for the 1995 COP1 climate summit in Berlin, deflating SUV tires in Southern Sweden in 2007, and occupying a German coal mine with Ende Gelände in 2019. For Malm the academic, the question of action is also front and center: 

Any theory for the warming condition should have the struggle to stabilize climate - with the demolition of the fossil economy the necessary first step - as its practical, if only ideal, point of reference. It should clear up space for action and resistance (The Progress, 18). 

Malm’s practice may be described with a paraphrase of Gramsci’s old formula: optimism of the will, catastrophism of the intellect. “The prospects are dismal: hence the need to spring into action” (FC 394). It is this approach that has made his name as more than a scholar, but as a militant thinker, and it is this reputation that frustrates readers looking for strategic clarity. Is Malm a Leninist (and therefore authoritarian) or is he a movementist who is ready to try anything from lobbying the capitalist state to blowing up pipelines? The work of any prolific and wide-ranging writer will contain ambivalences, even one as committed to clarity and decisiveness as Andreas Malm. Not all these ambivalences are Malm’s alone: In our current ecological predicament unanswered questions abound: How can we come to want the abolition of the energetic foundation of our everyday life? How do we feel about the end of growth and progress? Is the state part of the solution or the problem? Such questions entail ambivalence because of the gap between what needs to be done, and what we want to do - given our attachments to the present state of things.

Malm develops a method designed to abolish ambivalence: herein lies the clarity of his work. His approach may best be described as kaleidoscopic: it orders the heterogeneous shards of history through the mirrors of his theory of history, while a singular eyepiece provides focus, and the basis for a unified political perspective. But this method only avoids ambivalence in theory. When it comes to practice, ambivalences reappear – but in the blindspot of theory. Reviews of Malm’s individual works may miss these blindspots and ambivalences, but once we read them side by side, we can begin to understand that they are structural to his work.4

Lighting a spark: How to Blow Up a Pipeline

By Harry Holmes - Bright Green, December 14, 2020

How to Blow up A Pipeline starts with what will be a familiar image for many. It’s the yearly climate negotiations, activists have streamed towards the conference space, pleading with representatives to ratchet up their ambition to tackle the climate crisis. People block city traffic with banners, with activists dancing and playing music in the reclaimed streets. The next day brings a giant public theatre performance, with environmentalists pretending to be animals run over by cars whilst ‘negotiators’ walk around with signs saying ‘blah blah blah.’

Was this a collection of Extinction Rebellion activists performing and blocking traffic? Was it even earlier, in 2015 at the Paris negotiations? Maybe it’s 2009, during the economic crisis and the Copenhagen conference? No, this image comes all the way from COP1, the climate conference that started it all – in the lost world that was 1995.

Speaking straight from his experiences of this first COP, Andreas Malm’s recollection of these early climate protest indicates a wider malaise – a certain sluggishness of environmental strategy. Despite the growth in awareness around the climate crisis and the rapid increase in the number of people organising for environmental justice, there has been limited change in the actions climate groups are willing to take to defend life.

In How to Blow Up a Pipeline, Malm has written a short and gripping manifesto which aims to wrench the climate movement out of its complacency. By convincingly arguing against movements’ dogmatic attachment to milquetoast non-violence, Malm makes clear that as the climate crisis escalates so too must the tactics of those seeking to defend life. Not content simply dispelling the misguided understandings of pacifism environmentalists hold, How to Blow Up a Pipeline gives a balanced assessment of the conditions which make sabotage, vandalism, and other forms of strategic direct action necessary in a warming world. Coming out of the pandemic, with movements regrouping and attempting to navigate the mess that is the 2020s, this book is the shock to the system the world needs.

Eco-Prisoner Marius Mason is out of Administrative Segregation!

By staff - Fight Toxic Prisons, May 12, 2017

On May 8, Marius Mason was moved out of the Carswell Federal Medical Center’s (FMC) Administrative Unit, into general population. While this is a far cry from freedom, for the first time in nearly seven years, Marius is able to see the sky and feel the grass beneath his feet.

This welcome news comes weeks before the Fight Toxic Prisons convergence, to be held in the city of Denton, Texas, near FMC Carswell. The environmental activists and prison abolitionists organizing the conference have identified Carswell, located on a Fort Worth military base, as a prime example of a “toxic prison” worthy of national attention. Carswell has long been the subject of complaints about general conditions, as well as being of special concern due to its Administrative Unit, which has housed political prisoners and individuals suffering from serious mental illness. Anti-nuclear activist Helen Woodson was held in the facility until her release in 2011, and other political prisoners, including Aafia Siddiqui and Ana Belen Montes, remain there today.

Since Mason’s confinement in the Administrative Unit, advocacy efforts from his community and his lawyer have been ongoing. Advocacy work has included not only efforts to have him moved from the overly restrictive environment of the Unit, but a successful campaign to secure gender-affirming hormone treatment, making him the first known prisoner authorized to begin female-to-male gender transition in federal custody. Also during his time in the Admin Unit, the BOP has adjusted its policies on solitary confinement. Carswell administrators gave no explanation for Marius’ redesignation. Needless to say, friends and supporters believe the move is long overdue.

Shortly after his sentencing in 2010, Marius was moved from FCI Waseca to the highly restrictive administrative unit at FMC Carswell. After litigation, a FOIA request yielded a document indicating that his redesignation was due to his “radicalizing and recruiting other inmates.” No specific information was provided about why an inmate might be placed into the unit, or how Marius might be able to transition out of it. Indeed, more information is available about the BOP’s Communication Management Units (CMUs), created with the stated purpose of monitoring alleged so-called terrorists, than about the administrative unit at Carswell.

For several years, Marius’ lawyer, Moira Meltzer-Cohen, attempted without success to get the BOP to provide a written statement justifying the decision to keep him in the Administrative Unit. According to Meltzer-Cohen, the few written documents about the facility’s Administrative Unit state that it exists in order to coerce compliance with institutional safety. Upon successful behavioral modification, the inmate presumably is to transition back to general population. Marius remained in the administrative unit for years with an almost flawless disciplinary record. The facility’s redesignation of Marius into general population therefore seems to be a belated, but welcome compliance with the BOP’s own stated goals.

We are hopeful that this move may mean better control over his diet and more reliable mail service.

Meltzer-Cohen stated, “We wish Marius a lot of luck in this transition. While we may never know the reason for it, this does draw attention to the fact that the BOP finally seems to be acting in accordance with its own policy on administrative segregation in Mason’s case, after years of avoiding it.”

The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons (FTP) sends love to Marius in this move and extends solidarity to all people in administrative segregation as a penalty for their beliefs or mental health conditions which the BOP doesn’t want to deal with. We support the call to immediately close Carswell’s Administrative Unit entirely.

We also call on the BOP to address the long history of abuses in general population which Marius is entering. The Carswell Federal Medical Center has been the subject of more than a decade of scrutiny by groups such as the ACLU, which released an extensive report calling it a Hospital of Horrors.

No System but the Ecosystem: Earth First! and Anarchism

By Panagioti Tsolkas - Anarchist Studies, March 31, 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 a clear case to be made for the connection between ecology and anarchism.1 Many philosophers, academics, and radicals have elaborated this over the past two centuries2. But reviewing the history of this theoretical relationship is not the goal here. The movement surrounding anarchism in the past 200 years has certainly included its fair share of theory, yet what has rooted anarchist ideas so deeply in human society is the prioritization of action. It is this action-based relationship between the ecological movement and anarchism that we explore.

How has anarchism inspired and shaped ecological action in recent history, and how might it continue to? The experience of Earth First! over three-and-a-half decades embodies the most critical aspects of this question.

While Earth First! (EF!) has never considered itself to be explicitly anarchist, it has always had a connection to the antiauthoritarian counterculture and has operated in an anarchistic fashion since its inception3. In doing so, it has arguably maintained one of the most consistent and long-running networks for activists and revolutionaries of an anarchist persuasion with the broader goal of overturning all socially constructed hierarchies.

In Oppose and Propose: Lessons From Movement for a New Society, which covers an under-acknowledged antiauthoritarian history, author Andrew Cornell makes a case about MNS carrying the legacy of nonhierarchical radical activism from the civil rights and anti-war era of the ’60s into the anti-nuke era of the ’80s. Cornell points to MNS essentially carrying the torch just long enough to spark what would become the global justice movement of the late ’90s.

A similar case can be made for Earth First!, particularly within the decade between the formal end of MNS and the 1999 uprising against the World Trade Organization in the streets of Seattle. Except rather than formally calling it quits, as MNS did in ’89, EF! stuck around, stumbling through several waves of internal strife and state repression to continue into its 35th year as a decentralized, horizontally-organized, anticapitalist, antistate force to be reckoned with.4

As many anarchist-oriented projects come and go, it is worthwhile to explore how and why those efforts that persist over decades are able to do so. Even more importantly, in this time of global urgency surrounding an escalation of overlapping ecological crises (extinction, extraction, climate change, etc.), and the recuperation of environmentalism by a “green” industrial economy, the story of Earth First!—for all its imperfections and baggage—has crucial lessons for ecological revolutionaries.

EcoUnionist News #19

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, January 7, 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:

Carbon Bubble:

Other News of Interest:

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

Former ELF/Green Scare Prisoner “Exile” Now a Fascist

By Valdinoci - New York City Antifa, August 5, 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.

It’s been an open secret for months that Nathan Block (better known as “Exile”), a former Green Scare prisoner who served a number of years in prison for several Earth Liberation Front actions, has become a fascist. This has been known not just through numerous personal accounts from Olympia, but from copious postings on his tumblr blog Loyalty Is Mightier Than Fire (Exile has confirmed to local anti-fascists that the blog is his).

Do you believe Anarchism and Nazism are compatible? All the anarchists killed by fascists could not be reached for comment.

Do you believe Anarchism and Nazism are compatible? All the anarchists killed by fascists could not be reached for comment.

If you are unfamiliar with the more obscure references to Nazism and the postwar fascist movement, except a few decorated swastikas, Exile’s blog might look like a creepy spiritual goth kid’s elaborate art project. However, if you understand the references, it is immediately obvious that Exile is going out of his way to promote a slew of fascist writers and imagery, especially those influenced by Esoteric Nazism and other forms of mystical fascism.

The most prominent is Julius Evola, an Italian Traditionalist philosopher who attacked the “modern world” as decadent and corrupt. (Evola is the go-to guy for fascists who want a Situationist, Frankfurt School, or anarchist-style critique of capitalism and the consumer society.) Evola worked for the Nazi SS and was the main intellectual figure in Italy’s vibrant postwar fascist milieu. Third Positionism – an anti-capitalist, racial separatist, and ecological version of fascism – has its origins partly in Evola. The very title of Exile’s blog comes from a quotation in one of Evola’s most famous political books, Men Among the Ruins, and Evola quotes are found throughout the blog. Exile has told people that “Evola will show us the way.”

Exile also likes to quote Miguel Serrano, a postwar esoteric Nazi from Chile. Serrano, along with the better-known Savitri Devi, promoted worshiping Hitler as a deity. Serrano wrote numerous books about Hitler; these ideas have influenced the spiritual parts of the neo-Nazi movement such as the Hitler-worshipping New Order organization (formerly the American Nazi Party).

In addition to these obscure Nazi references, Exile’s blog contains a slew of other Nazi images, including swastikas, as well as black suns and runes used by the Nazis. Some of these images are reproduced below; they are taken both from his tumblr, as well as from his “Likes” on other tumblrs.

Read the entire article here

To Wrench Or Not To Wrench: Another IWW EUC Member's Opinion

Above: IWW Member and ELF arsonist Marie Mason with her Sabo-tabby

By X343464 - November 22, 2013

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.

As one of the founders of the IWW EUC, I think we should not condemn nor condone arson or insurrectionary ecology. In our provisions we state:

The Ecoterrorist and Me

By David Rovics - Counter Punch, November 25, 2013

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.

“Pinocchio asked Jiminy Cricket, ‘how do you become fully human?’ Jiminy Cricket said, ‘you develop a conscience, and then follow it.’”

That’s probably not exactly how the dialog went. That of course is from the story of Pinocchio, and I could look it up. The rest I can’t.

Sitting on plastic chairs, around a plastic table, inside a room with thick cement walls and massive, steel doors, was Marie Mason, Peter Werbe, and me. On top of the table was a little bag of peanuts and a bag of very mediocre trail mix. These are the only vegan options available from the vending machines in the room Peter and I were taken to before we were escorted into the visitation room in Marie’s cell block. Nearby sat a sleepy-looking prison guard.

Peter and I were spending the weekend in prison. Marie is in her fifth year of a 22-year sentence at the Carswell federal women’s prison in Fort Worth, Texas. She is being held in a highly repressive, so-called Administration Unit of the facility. She’s not allowed to give interviews, or write anything for publication anywhere. The few people approved to visit her, somewhat bizarrely, include me and Peter, one of the most notorious anarchists of Detroit, sitting at the table with us.

Peter is a journalist – host of a popular Detroit radio talk show, and a long time staff member of the almost half-century old Fifth Estate magazine. I have also dabbled in that profession to some small extent. But no one visiting this prison is allowed to bring a notepad, a writing utensil, a recording device, or anything else other than car keys and a few dollars, which you can spend on the vending machines in the general visitation area. So anything I write here that attempts to represent Marie’s words are my efforts to remember our conversations of several days ago.

Peter and I are both old friends of Marie’s. Our visit includes fond reminiscences shared by these two Michiganders of the Detroit newspaper strike way back when, and of the many concerts of mine that Marie, a talented musician herself, organized over the decades. Such as the one she organized at the Trumbullplex alt-space back in the 90′s, when I first met her, Peter, David Watson and other members of the Detroit anarchist community.

Peter is a member of Marie’s support committee, and he’s been working with other good people on a campaign to get her moved from this prison-within-a-prison back into a somewhat less draconian “general population,” preferably closer to where most of her friends and relatives reside.

Capital Blight: To Wrench or Not to Wrench, a Response

By x344543 - October 29, 2013

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.

A few days ago, I read To Wrench or Not to Wrench: A Brief History of Direct Action in the Environmental Movement and its Potential Consequences, Ethical Implications, and Effectiveness, by By Jeriah Bowser, of the Hampton Institute with particular interest, because it deals with a subject with which I have a good deal of familiarity. Having worked alongside Judi Bari and her fellow Earth First! - IWW Local #1 organizers, I learned a good deal from listening to the ongoing and evolving discussions and debates over strategy and tactics within both Earth First! and the IWW, and so Bowser's article immediately caught my attention.

To be certain, I wanted to make sure I read his piece very carefully, because the subject he covers is particularly contentious and--in my humble opinion--often misconstrued in any number of frustrating ways. I found some things to agree with in Hampton's piece, but there are some glaring errors and oversights in his argument, not to mention some very dangerous and damaging mistakes as well.

For starters, Bowser establishes a false dichotomy between environmental (or other) groups which "engage in direct action" and those that "stick to the democratic process". There are many that do both and see no contradiction in doing so. There is an old debate about "working within the system" versus "tearing the (rotten) system down". Certainly the IWW advocates the later in regards to capitalism ("capitalism cannot be reformed") philosophically, but as a matter of day-to-day survival the IWW is not adverse to working within established systems to make small gains, knowing full well that ultimately the IWW's intended end, the abolition of wage slavery and the establishment of a cooperative commonwealth (that lives in harmony with the Earth) cannot be achieved within the context of capitalism, no matter how much one tries to reform it. Often times, the IWW alsoadvocates working outside the system through direct action, specifically at the point of production. Most times, the IWW favors the latter, but sometimes the boundaries aren't entirely clear. The same holds true with radical environmentalists.

On the flip side, Bowser either naively or even dangerously lumps all forms of "direct acton" together and all groups that engage in a whole range of direct action tactics into a single grouping. Specifically he conflates Earth First!, Earth Liberation Front (ELF), and Animal Liberation Front (ALF) into one category. I suppose that's essentially accurate on a certain level, and it's been a good long time since I have been an "active" Earth First!er (however that is defined), but when I was active in Earth First! (1995-98), we never engaged in or advocated some of the tactics commonly associated with either ALF or ELF, including, especially arson. Arson was not only not condoned, the Earth First! groups I worked with specifically eschewed such tactics as counterproductive and self destructive. To my knowledge, that is still the case, even if Earth First! favorably reports on the activities of ELF and ALF.

Bowser also makes few distinctions between the veritable aresnal of direct action tactics that exist, simply labeling "tree sitting, blocking logging roads, and street protests" as "passive, non-violent" civil disobedience, then mentioning "tree spiking, or driving huge nails into trees" as an escalation of Earth First!'s militancy. He then goes on to declare that the Billboard Liberation Front (BLF) escalated those tactics by "defacing" billboards (although, perhaps "culture jamming" would be a more accurate term, because simple defacement and repurposing the message into an anti-capitalist or ironic satire is substantially more meaningful) followed by "burning" (or) "cutting them down". I know of no proven examples of the latter, but I'll accept that I don't know everything and take the author at their word. However, the author then goes on to state that "arson slowly emerged as the preferred method of resistance, however, and was co-opted by other emerging environmental and animal rights groups- most notably the ELF and ALF," as if there were a logical and linear progression from one to the other, which is a dubious argument.

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