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Jeff Shantz

Pipelines, Pandemics and Capital’s Death Cult: A Green Syndicalist View

By Jeff Shantz - LibCom, March 29, 2021

We can see this within any industry, within any capitalist enterprise. It is perhaps most clearly apparent, in an unadorned fashion, in extractives industries like mining, logging, or oil, where the consumption of nature (as resources) for profit leaves ecosystems ruined, where workers are forced to labor in dangerous, often deadly, conditions, and where it is all is carried out through direct dispossession, invasion, and occupation of Indigenous lands and through processes of mass killing, even genocide. And when it is all done, little remains except the traces of profit that have been extracted and taken elsewhere.

These intersections have come to the forefront with particular clarity under conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic. The death cult of capital on full display in all its variety of ways.

Green Syndicalism in the Arctic

By Jeff Shantz - LibCom, March 30, 2021

On February 4, 2021, a group of Inuit hunters set up a blockade of the Mary River iron ore mine on North Baffin Island. The mine is operated by Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation and has been extracting iron ore since 2015. Mine operations are carried out on lands owned by the Inuit.

Blockade organizers arrived from communities at Pond Inlet, Igloolik and Arctic Bay over concerns that Inuit harvesting rights are imperiled by the company's plans to expand the mine and associated operations. Solidarity demonstrations have been held in Pond Inlet, Iqaluit, Igloolik, Naujaat, and Taloyoak. In -30C degree temperatures.

Baffinland Iron Mines Corporation is seeking to double its annual mining output to 12 million metric tonnes. This would also see the corporation build a railway and increase shipping traffic through its port at Milne Inlet. These expansions would threaten land and marine wildlife along with food sources essential to Inuit people. The waters surrounding the port are an important habitat for narwhal and seals in the Canadian Arctic. The expansion also threatens caribou and ptarmigans.

A fly-in location, Inuit blockaders shut down the mine’s airstrip and trucking road, closing off access to and from the site for over a week. Notably this has meant that 700 workers have been stranded at the mine site and food, supply and worker change flights have been suspended. Workers have been on site for at least 21 days.

This could, obviously, have posed points of contention, even hostility, between workers and blockaders. Certainly, the company tried to stoke these tensions in its efforts to go ahead with mining operations. In a letter filed with the Nunavut Court of Justice on February 7, Baffinland told the protesters that their blockade is against federal and territorial law, and the Nunavut Agreement. In classic divide and conquer fashion, the company asserted: “You are causing significant harm by blocking a food supply and keeping people from returning to their families.” The company has also gotten the RCMP involved.

Yet an important development occurred a week into the blockade, and after the company’s court theatrics, as stranded workers issued a powerful statement of solidarity with Inuit people and communities and the blockaders specifically. The open letter is signed by a “sizeable minority” of Mary River mine workers currently stranded at the mine site (with 700 workers it represents a sizeable number). They have remained anonymous due to threats of firing leveled against them by the company. In their letter they assert that they recognize the Inuit, not the company, as “rightful custodians of the land.”

The letter represents a significant statement of green syndicalism. One that should be read, circulated, and discussed. It is reproduced in full here.

Tendencies of the Trumpocalypse

By Jeff Shantz - Anarcho Syndicalist Review, July 5, 2017

The rise of Trump and more importantly the far-Right movements around him raise some questions about the nature of the Trumpocalypse (and its relation to Right populism or more to the point to fascism). The question is now being asked whether or not it is true that there is fascism of some sort in the US at the present time. While not providing a firm answer on that question there are some initial tendencies or shaping features that are suggestive and should be addressed. These are outlines of Trumpocalypse rather than hard and fast conclusions.

Fascism refers to a unique and most extreme form of bourgeois rule. This is so because under fascism the bourgeoisie gives up some of its control to shock troops and loses its customary hold over the mechanisms of liberal democracy. Big capital desires fascism to do its dirty work for it and fascism becomes a tool of big capital. Finance capital through fascism gathers all the organs and institutions of the state. Schools, press, municipalities. Not only the executive. Workers groups are crushed. At its heart fascism is an armed movement that uses extreme violence against the Left.

Some suggest that populism is a more useful term than fascism right now. Yet there are problems with the use of populism to describe the far Right movements today. Centrist notions of populism equate Left and Right. Both are lumped together as non-liberal, against trade, etc., and therefore both are bad. In this way the centrist notions of populism are similar to earlier versions of totalitarianism analysis, as in the work of Hannah Arendt, for example. FDR was referred to as a fascist by some communists. While at the same time Hitler was called a passing phenomenon—to be followed in turn by a victorious proletarian revolution.

At the same time there is a Trumpism—against urbanism, rationalism, metropolitanism. It is a proto-fascist movement. It is about a dynamic. The proposed “purification” of society. A new anthropology—creating the human anew (as in fascism).

Of some importance, there is a tendency to underestimate the movements of contemporary brownshirts in the US. Some commentators might still assume that real fascists in the US live in bunkers in the desert and are merely odd survivalists. But that is a dangerous misreading of current movements. It is an analysis from the 1990s. Fascists today, and this is one thing that can be said about the Trump campaign, have come above ground.

Tendencies of the Trumpocalypse

By Jeff Shantz - Anarcho Syndicalist Review, July 5, 2017

The rise of Trump and more importantly the far-Right movements around him raise some questions about the nature of the Trumpocalypse (and its relation to Right populism or more to the point to fascism). The question is now being asked whether or not it is true that there is fascism of some sort in the US at the present time. While not providing a firm answer on that question there are some initial tendencies or shaping features that are suggestive and should be addressed. These are outlines of Trumpocalypse rather than hard and fast conclusions.

Fascism refers to a unique and most extreme form of bourgeois rule. This is so because under fascism the bourgeoisie gives up some of its control to shock troops and loses its customary hold over the mechanisms of liberal democracy. Big capital desires fascism to do its dirty work for it and fascism becomes a tool of big capital. Finance capital through fascism gathers all the organs and institutions of the state. Schools, press, municipalities. Not only the executive. Workers groups are crushed. At its heart fascism is an armed movement that uses extreme violence against the Left.

Some suggest that populism is a more useful term than fascism right now. Yet there are problems with the use of populism to describe the far Right movements today. Centrist notions of populism equate Left and Right. Both are lumped together as non-liberal, against trade, etc., and therefore both are bad. In this way the centrist notions of populism are similar to earlier versions of totalitarianism analysis, as in the work of Hannah Arendt, for example. FDR was referred to as a fascist by some communists. While at the same time Hitler was called a passing phenomenon—to be followed in turn by a victorious proletarian revolution.

At the same time there is a Trumpism—against urbanism, rationalism, metropolitanism. It is a proto-fascist movement. It is about a dynamic. The proposed “purification” of society. A new anthropology—creating the human anew (as in fascism).

Of some importance, there is a tendency to underestimate the movements of contemporary brownshirts in the US. Some commentators might still assume that real fascists in the US live in bunkers in the desert and are merely odd survivalists. But that is a dangerous misreading of current movements. It is an analysis from the 1990s. Fascists today, and this is one thing that can be said about the Trump campaign, have come above ground.

On cyber syndicalism: From Hacktivism to Workers’ Control

By Jeff Shantz - Workers Control, January 1, 2016

Alternative globalization movements in the global North, from their high point in the Quebec City mobilizations against the Free Trade Area of the Americas in 2001 to the present, have been faced with the challenge of rebuilding and finding new ground on which to re-mobilize since the political reaction set in following the 9/11 attacks which derailed momentum and caused many mainstream elements (especially labor unions) to disengage and demobilize (where not playing to the forces of “law and order” reaction). One effect of the post-9/11 freeze (it has been more than a chill) has been the drift away from grounded community (it was never much involved in workplace organizing), outside of some important cases such as indigenous land struggles, as in Ontario and British Columbia, and some direct action anti-poverty movements (like the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty). Instead much organizing has followed certain lines of flight — crucial in the formation of alternative globalization movements from the Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization in 1999 — to online activism (in indymedia, hacking, social media, and so on).

In some ways radicalism has continued and developed more consistently, or even fully, online than it has offline in community organizing. Partly, this is an effect of the surveillance apparatus and protest policing that has aggressively targeted “on the ground” movements.

The cyber sphere has provided some spaces for maneuver not available in the streets or in the hood. On the one hand, movement commentators have noted the decline of movements in the period after 9/11 up to the moment of brief resurgence manifested in the Occupy encampments. On the other hand, the cyber disobedients have offered some inspiration and reason for hope. Indeed, the networks of the web have been perhaps uniquely important in allowing for some ongoing activity connecting social movement organizers during the period of decline and dissipation of struggles. Indeed, this is always an important task — maintaining movements through inevitable low periods of struggle and sustaining some capacity for collective re-emergence and revival as possibilities for an uptick of struggles open up.  This was perhaps more difficult in periods prior to the development of the web when opportunities for communication, skill sharing, and resource circulation were more limited or localized and when demoralization within face-to-face circles could finish a movement.

The future potential of movements in struggle will rely in part on the growing convergence, even symbiosis, of the cyber disobedients and the direct actionists of the streets. Even more important will be the grounding of this action and organizing in specific workplaces and neighborhoods in ways that challenge fundamentally relations and structures of ownership, control, and exploitation.

Canada’s New Anti-Terrorism Act and the “Green Syndicalist Menace”

By Jeff Shantz - Anarcho Syndicalist Review, Summer 2015

IWW EUC note: This article was written before the results of the recent election in Canada, in which voters ousted the Conservative Party in favor of the (ostensibly centrist) Liberal Democrats.

On January 30, 2015 the ruling Conservative Party government of Canada introduced its most recent terror panic based legislation, in the form of Bill C-51 (the Anti-Terrorism Act). The Bill has now passed House of Commons vote, on May 6, and is in final approval steps at the Canadian Senate.  Under the guise of “fighting terrorism” (people in Canada are much more likely to be killed by a moose than by a terrorist) C-51 criminalizes not only specific actions (“illegal protests,” “unlawful assembly,” wildcat strikes) but symbolic (including online) expressions of support for things like “economic disruption” (choose what that means).

In many respects C-51 stands as an attack against rank and file mobilization and action, beyond legal collective bargaining contexts, and against working class organizing beyond legislative challenges (i.e. direct actions). The Bill would formalize Conservative Party opinion, as already stated by former Environment Minister and current Finance Minister Joe Oliver who identified environmental activists as radical and terrorists. It is introduced in a context of growing government and corporate concern over emerging alliances against extractives industries.

This is the most recent of Conservative Party attempts to target and criminalize direct action and more militant organizing. It comes at the same time as freedom of information requests unearthed an RCMP “Critical Infrastructure Intelligence Assessment” report on “Criminal Threats to the Canadian Petroleum Industry.” The RCMP document dedicates several sections to attempts to construct environmentalists and indigenous activists as threats to workers (and as terrorists). Clearly they see an important, and from their view necessary, wedge to drive between budding green syndicalist alliances, as between dockworkers and anarchists at some Westcoast ports and between rank and file resource workers and pipeline opponents.

The Bill contains a number of provisions that would explicitly target workers and workplace actions. These would focus on wildcat strikes, strikes of any kind that impact extractives industries or transport, and actions like slowdowns or disruptive job actions. Any workplace actions that occur outside of legally recognized union endeavors or collective agreement provisions could be targeted.

On Sabotage and Pipelines: A Green Syndicalist Commentary

By Jeff Shantz - Infoshop News, January 25, 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.

We are currently in what might be called an era or period of pipelines. New ones are developing frequently and already built ones are undergoing expansion or twinning. There is no continent that is not traversed by pipelines, which spread like arteries/varicose veins across their terrain. And these pipeline networks are all slated to be expanded. Most pipelines on the planet are currently situated in North America and Central Asia and not coincidently these are the subject of much conflict and contestation. Highly contested pipelines in the North American context have not even been constructed yet, from the Northern Gateway development and Kinder Morgan twinning in British Columbia to the Keystone XL from Alberta to Houston to the Line 9 development across eastern Canada. Politics are waged on the basis of concern (about what a pipeline might result in) as much as, or more than, a basis of currently existing reality.

Much of the green movements, even some deeper green ones, pursue a politics of publicity, a politics of PR, which is largely the terrain of capital. The pursuit in such politics is positive public opinion. This differs greatly from a politics of sabotage (though sabotage must be properly contextualized and explained publicly). A politics of sabotage creates an intolerable situation that requires a positive resolution.

The flows of energy economies are subject to interruptions. This is done by business for the manipulation of prices, for example. But these flows can be interrupted for other uses by workers and/or their communities. For syndicalists, sabotage has typically referred to withdrawal of efficiency by workers. This brief commentary provides initial thoughts for a discussion of a politics of sabotage against pipelines and oil flows. Sabotage, from a green syndicalist perspective, poses direct challenges to capital flows and an impetus for rethinking green politics in the age of extreme energy.

Common Misconceptions and Entangled Histories: a Review of Jonathan K London's Academic Revisionism of Earth First! - IWW Local #1

By x344543 - August 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.

In my efforts to uncover as much potentially useful information as I can for the IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus's website, the results of which generally wind up in our Green Unionism library, I occasionally come across an unexpected nugget of gold. Other times, it turns out to be iron pyrite (Fool's Gold). Such was the case with Jonathan K London's muddled academically oriented article, "Common Roots and Entangled Limbs: Earth First! and the Growth of Post-Wilderness on California's North Coast", published in Antipode 30:2 in 1988.

The article begins auspiciously describing the pioneering "green syndicalism" of Earth First! - IWW Local #1, as led by Judi Bari, Darryl Cherney, Greg King, et. al. London observes that Local #1 (which he describes mainly as "North Coast Earth First!"--that the IWW's role in that history is frequently omitted is not the fault of London):

"offer(ed) the promise of a truly radical movement, by which I mean one that truly confront(ed) capital’s interlinked degradation of both natural and human communities. This article examines the efforts by the North Coast Earth First! to inscribe a new community of activists and timber workers joined in the struggle to contest corporate claims on the redwood forest."

These conclusions match my own direct experiences, having worked alongside Bari, Cherney, and others between 1995-98 and having helped usher in what ultimately became the "Blue-Green Alliance" (that this effort was co-opted by reformist elements was sadly beyond our control).

Having established this, London unfortunately proceeds to the very dubious conclusion that Local 1 ultimately alienated the timber workers with whom they achieved common ground by, "by redefining the redwood forest as the exclusive property of the activists themselves."

A careful examination of London's presentation of the information in which he attempts (vainly) to make his case reveals that he offers no substantive proof to make such a conclusion, and what historical accounts he does reference are carelessly cited out of historical continuity and context. It betrays a lack of deep understanding of the actual issues, and instead suggests a very shallow--perhaps even sectarian--examination of what really happened in the so called "Timber Wars".

Book Review: Green Syndicalism - an Alternative Red/Green Vision, by Jeff Shantz

By x344543 - July 24, 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.

I have known of Jeff Shantz now for several years, having been an IWW member since 1995, having also been a subscriber to (and for half a decade the web administrator for) Anarcho-Syndicalist Review (to which he was a frequent contributor), and having run in radical environmentalist circles during the last years of Judi Bari's life (1995-97).

Neither he nor I have crossed paths until just recently, and that is largely due to the emergence of the IWW's Environmental Unionist Caucus (EUC). In forging the IWW EUC, we looked primarily to four sources for our inspiration:

(1) The IWW and its rich history, which--according to our late Fellow Worker Franklin Rosemont--has a good deal of nascent "green syndicalist" tendencies which are not well studied (and Rosemont did a fair share of his own);

(2) The pioneering efforts of Earth First! - IWW Local #1, organized and led by the late Judi Bari, which put what Jeff Shantz calls "green syndicalism" into the most advanced practice known about in the redwood forests of northwestern California from 1988-98;

(3) The Australian Green Bans of the early 1970s; and

(4) Contemporary movements in opposition to fracking, tar sands, and mountain top removal coal mining, with particular attention paid to the indigenous peoples' leadership of these campaigns.

I have also suggested we look to the efforts of three additional inspirations, these being Chico Mendes, Helen Keller, and Karen Silkwood, because there are many insights we can gain from their experiences, and far too little has been written about them.

In his book, Green Syndicalism - an Alternative Red/Green Vision, Shantz focuses primarily on Local 1 and Judi Bari, describing her work as representing one of the only examples of fully developed "green syndicalism" put into practice, even if on a limited scale.

To Shantz, "green syndicalism" succeeds where all other environmental movements and class struggle tendencies fail, because it alone addresses the shortcomings of the others.

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