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Dave Foreman

Mistaken Identity: the Tortured History of Sabotage, Part 1

By x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, March 3, 2016

The IWW has long been associated, for better or worse, with the tactic of "sabotage", so much so that it has become an essential part of the Wobbly lexicon (even though the tactic predates the IWW by at least a century). As I have detailed elsewhere1, the radical environmental movement, initiated principally, though not exclusively, by Earth First!, beginning in the very late 1970s in the United States, drew much cultural inspiration from the One Big Union (and to a much lesser degree, some of its economic critique of capitalism). One of the most celebrated such "borrowings" was the strategy of direct action.

A classic IWW slogan, which appeared on many of the IWW's literature and imagery, reads "direct action gets the goods". The black cat or the wooden shoe (otherwise known as a "sabot"), often associated with the IWW, symbolizes "sabotage," and these same symbols and slogans would later appear in Earth First! literature and iconography.

Earth First! cofounder, Dave Foreman popularized "monkeywrenching" (sometimes also called "ecofefense"), a series or class of tactics involving small bands of anonymous guerillas entering into wilderness areas slated to be developed or have their resources extracted and vandalized the equipment that was to be used in the process or set traps that would hamper the same equipment from smooth and timely operations. This has often been called sabotage (or sometimes ecotage).

However, sabotage and monkeywrenching are not the same thing. In fact, many who practice, or at least preach, using the latter do not understand the difference, and economic conditions which led to the adoption of the former by workers. Indeed, may of them don't understand sabotage at all, and that's no coincidence. What most people have heard or read about the IWW and "sabotage" is fairly inaccurate, and most accounts are more romantic fiction than historical fact.

Earth First! The Underbelly Exposed

By Chris Shillock - Libertarian Labor Review (Anarcho Syndicalist Review) #6, Winter 1989

The Secret History of Tree Spiking, Part 3

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, April 11, 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.

Note: The Secret History of Tree Spiking Part 1 and Part 2 were written by Judi Bari in 1993.

Twenty-five years ago, a group of Earth First!ers, including Judi Bari, Darryl Cherney, and Earth First! co-founder Mike Roselle held a press release in Samoa, California (a small town west of Eureka, in Humboldt County, northwestern California) at the Louisiana-Pacific lumber mill and export dock. There, they issued the following statement:

In response to the concerns of loggers and mill-workers, Northern California Earth First! organizers are renouncing the tactic of tree spiking in our area. Through the coalitions we have been building with lumber workers, we have learned that the timber corporations care no more for the lives of their employees than they do for the life of the forest. Their routine maiming and killing of mill workers is coldly calculated into the cost of doing business, just as the destruction of whole ecosystems is considered a reasonable by-product of lumber production.

These companies would think nothing of sending a spiked tree through a mill, and relish the anti-Earth First! publicity that an injury would cause.

Since Earth First! is not a membership organization, it is impossible to speak for all Earth First!ers. But this decision has been widely discussed among Earth First!ers in our area, and the local sentiment is overwhelmingly in favor of renouncing tree-spiking. We hope that our influence as organizers will cause any potential tree-spikers to consider using a different method. We must also point out that we are not speaking for all Earth First! groups in this pronouncement. Earth First! is decentralized, and each group can set its own policies. A similar statement to this one renouncing tree spiking is now being made in Southern Oregon, but not all groups have reached the broad consensus we have on this issue.

But in our area, the loggers and mill workers are our neighbors, and they should be our allies, not our adversaries. Their livelihood is being destroyed along with the forest. The real conflict is not between us and the timber workers, it is between the timber corporation and our entire community.

We want to give credit for this change in local policy to the rank and file timber workers who have risked their jobs and social relations by coming forward and talking to us. This includes Gene Lawhorn of Roseburg Lumber in Oregon, who defied threats to appear publicly with Earth First! organizer Judi Bari. It also includes the Georgia Pacific, Louisiana Pacific, and Pacific Lumber employees who are members of IWW Local #1 in northern California.

Equipment sabotage is a time-honored tradition among industrial workers. It was not invented by Earth First!, and it is certainly not limited to Earth First! even in our area. But the target of monkey wrenching was always intended to be the machinery of destruction, not the workers who operate that machinery for $7/hour. This renunciation of tree spiking is not a retreat, but rather an advance that will allow us to stop fighting the victims and concentrate on the corporations themselves.”

For those not familiar with the tactic of "tree spiking", Earth First cofounder Dave Foreman describes the act in great detail in the book, EcoDefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching. While that text is not official Earth First! literature--in the sense that Earth First!, as a loose ad hoc organization that prefers to think of itself as a movement, has long distanced themselves from the text, and Dave Foreman, due to the latter's borderline racist and classist perspectives, has long been associated with Earth First!, and Earth First! has long been associated (for better or worse) with Tree Spiking, and to this day, there are many Earth First!ers who continue to support the tactic, or--at least--choose not to renounce it.

Chapter 36 : A Pipe Bomb Went Rippin’ Through Her Womb

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

“I knew it was a bomb the second it exploded. I felt it rip through me with a force more powerful and terrible than anything I could imagine. It blew right through my car seat, shattering my pelvis, crushing my lower backbone, and leaving me instantly paralyzed. Slumped over in my seat, unable to move, I couldn’t feel my legs, but desperate pain filled my body. I didn’t know such pain existed. I could feel the life force draining from me, and I knew I was dying. I tried to think of my children’s faces to find a reason to stay alive, but the pain was too great, and I couldn’t picture them.”[1]

—Judi Bari’s recollection of the bombing, February 2, 1990.

“I heard a ‘crack’, and my head began to ring like a sitar…like ‘nnnnnnnnnrrrrrrrrrrrrrr’, and the car came to a screeching halt. The first thought in my mind was, ‘Oh no, not again!’ because last August we had been rear-ended by a logging truck without ever seeing it coming, and here we are again, me and Judi in a car. But this time, my head was bleeding and I knew I had a seat belt on, and I couldn’t figure out how come my head was bleeding if I hadn’t hit the windshield. Then I heard somebody scream out. ‘It’s a bomb, there was a bomb!’ And then it all made sense; somebody had tried to kill us.”[2]

—Darryl Cherney’s account of the bombing, May 24, 1990.

At this point, Cherney looked over at Bari where, “she was slumped in her seat, screaming in pain, but as far as I could tell, her body was in one peace.”[3] Bari recalls only being able to make guttural sounds in an attempt to say “help” and vaguely recalls that Cherney kept repeating “I love you,” to her, and that she was going to live, in spite of what had happened.[4]

The blast distorted Bari’s white 1981 Sabaru GL car’s unibody frame, tore out its left side and sent debris and heavy blue-grey smoke flying into the air. It blew out some of the windows and left a trail of fragments on Park Boulevard.[5] The shattered, smoking car veered 100 feet down the road, clipping parked cars and light poles along the way, and hit another vehicle—a delivery truck driven by 40-year-old Ken Rich from Castro Valley—before coming to a stop against a curb in front of Oakland High School, where students were jogging as part of their physical education class.[6] Had the explosion occurred just forty minutes later, it might have injured the students crossing the road to patronize the local shops for lunch. The nearby public school’s officials would keep the students inside campus buildings for several hours until the blast area was declared safe.[7] Rich’s vehicle then hit a woman pedestrian who had a heart attack.[8] He had happened to have been driving the other way, and noticed the smoke billowing from Bari’s vehicle just before it hit his own.[9]

The explosion startled the workers and owners at nearby businesses. “It sounded like they dropped a bomb from a jet or something,” recalled the manager of a nearby Oil Changers, “the whole street just shook.”[10] One of the garage mechanics, who identified himself as “Charles”, added, “It sounded like a cherry bomb in a tin can. It was pretty loud. I kind of felt it in my body, and I was inside.”[11] Sokhi Dosanjli, the clerk at a local convenience store reported that the smoke was so thick that, “You couldn’t see anything for awhile”, including the nearby MacArthur Freeway.[12]

Shannon Mar was immediately aware that something had gone horribly wrong. Since she was leading the way, she did not immediately see the blast, but she quickly heard it and smelled the residue of explosives. She recalled, “The car shook, heat rushed through the windows, and I smelled sulfur. I looked in the rear-view mirror, and (all I could see was) smoke.” Bari’s car rolled past her own just before hitting Ken Rich’s vehicle and then hitting the curb. Marr immediately came to a stop, exited her car, and ran to Bari’s bombed-out vehicle (where Ken Rich was already standing) to determine the condition of her friends. Marr said, “Judi was stuck in her seat. She kept saying, ‘It hurts. It hurts. I can’t breathe.’ Darryl had a gash over one eye and it was gushing blood.”[13]

Meanwhile, Dave Kemnitzer had fallen slightly behind, but by now he had arrived near the intersection of MacArthur and Park Boulevards. He emerged from his vehicle screaming, “It’s the loggers! The loggers are trying to kill us!” At that moment, Ken Rich ran to Bari’s car and saw Cherney emerge. He recalled, “I’ve been in Vietnam and I’ve seen bombed out cars before. This one took a heavy hit. I’m amazed the people are still alive.”[14] Rich had been trained in first aid, but he described Bari’s car as “so mangled” that he felt it would be more effective, “to let the paramedics treat the victims.” He then recalled Marr running up to him, exclaiming, “They’re my friends!”[15]

Bob Vandemeer, the president of a San Rafael demolitions company, just happened to have been driving behind Bari on his way to an Oakland A’s baseball game.[16] The force of the explosion made him bounce up in the seat of his pickup truck. He then noticed, “a big blue cloud of smoke (which) smelled like gunpowder. (Then) things started falling from the air—parts of (Bari’s) car.”[17] After the explosion, he immediately summoned police from his mobile telephone.[18] He then approached the vehicle where Rich, Marr, and Kemnitzer were congregating. He, like Rich, reported, “(Bari) was unconscious, and sort of smashed up against the door on the driver’s side…As I approached, (Cherney) popped up, bleeding pretty bad all over. He started yelling, “Help! Get me out of here!”[19]

Chapter 18 : The Arizona Power Lines

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

So now I’m a-sitting in prison,
A jump-suit and flip-flops I wear,
I’ll be out with good time by two-thousand and nine,
Hope there’ll still be some old growth back there,
And the man who looked just like Jesus,
He sure ain’t a sharing my cell,
‘Cause he was a spy for the FB of I,
And they busted Dave Foreman as well.

—Lyrics excerpted from, He Looked a Whole Lot Like Jesus by Darryl Cherney and Mike Roselle, 1990.

“I’m proud to be here fac­ing harassment by the FBI. I think I’m here because I’ve been effective in bringing attention to the crisis on this planet…my involvement will be curbed when I’m (lying) in the desert like Ed Abbey.” [1]

—Dave Foreman, June 1989.

Truth be told, by this time Earth First!ers had already been the victims of state repression. COINTELPRO, the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program, a creation of J. Edger Hoover, had been used since the 1950s to infiltrate and disrupt leftist organizations, often through the use of agent provocateurs, ostensibly to prevent a violent overthrow of the US Government. Most of the charges against such groups for any real crimes have either been found to be groundless, or, as in the case of the Black Panthers for example, many of the crimes were orchestrated by the undercover agents themselves in an attempt to discredit the organization. These efforts usually succeeded, and most of these dissident groups were undermined, rendered ineffective, or destroyed utterly. [2] The judgment of history has generally shown these organizations to be innocent of most of the charges against them, and even if they were considered a menace to society at the time, much of what they believed has eventually become mainstream thought, at least to some degree. [3] Yet, COINTELPRO continued after Hoover’s death well into the 1980s. [4]

Many Earth First!ers naïvely assumed they were immune, or at least highly resistant, to infiltration by provocateurs. This was due, they thought, to their lack of formal structure. Earth First! cofounder Mike Roselle likened them to the Yippies, which he’d been part of in his younger days, stating “You couldn’t infiltrate the Yip­pies. It was like infiltrating a marshmallow.” Judi Bari seemed to agree with this pronouncement, declaring, “There was nothing defined. It was a movement with a way of being and a feeling, and our extreme decentrali­zation makes it difficult for the FBI to even under­stand us, much less infiltrate us,” and, it wasn’t as if Earth First! didn’t take steps to minimize the danger. [5] As Greg King stated,

“We do have to get to­gether and plan our actions, and we do have to be clandestine. Often times we have to worry about the phones we use, and sometimes we have to worry about whether we have an infiltra­tor in the group. We don’t worry about it very much, but some­times you can, especially when you’re dealing with such powerful and insidious people as Charles Hurwitz of the Maxxam Group. [6]

Earth First! was soon about to find out that they had much to learn and plenty to worry about.

Capital Blight: Who’re You Calling “Immigrant”, Pilgrim?

By x344543, May 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.

A recent article on details a jingoist anti-immigration group’s efforts to wrap itself in a green cloak and (once again) obfuscate the real cause of environmental destruction. The (inaccurately named) organization in question, “Californians for Population Stabilization” (CAPS) attempted to use Earth Day (April 22) to argue that the primary cause of ecological destruction is immigration (read: an influx of poor brown skinned people from south of the US-Mexican border, naturally).

This tired old dog has been asked to hunt so many times, it’s hard to see how anyone could imagine that it can, but sure as I write these words, there it is.

I’ll admit that this is a bit of a trigger for me. I am, by any standards you could imagine, the descendents of varying strains of white, central European and Mediterranean immigrants of several generations back (five or six in most cases), but my ancestors (Jews, Irish, and Hungarians) suffered greatly at the hands of more dominant empires among those regions, so perhaps it has imbued me with a stronger sense of empathy for the downtrodden peoples in what currently constitutes “America”. I don’t take too kindly to insulting racist propaganda—even if it tries to fly a green flag, and CAPS certainly fits that description.

Chapter 10 : Fellow Workers, Meet Earth First!

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

It was inevitable that the two would meet, really. Earth First! was challenging the corporate extraction of resources, but it wasn’t combating it at its source: the point of production. The problem was that the business unions theoretically could, but in practice they would not. They were too invested in their role as junior partners in the capitalist economy, which left them incapable of fighting it. There was only one union in the United States that could, and luckily, it still existed, even if it was but a shadow of its former self.

That the IWW influenced Earth First! is obvious. If the opposite was true in the early days of Earth First!’s existence, it is difficult to say. Initially, there was no direct or textual reference made by the IWW to Earth First! in its official publication, The Industrial Worker, prior to February 1988, although there was a one-time reproduction of one of Mike Roselle’s images (frequently used in the Earth First! Journal’s “dear shit fer brains” letters section), slightly altered and used in the Industrial Worker’s own letters section in September 1983.

The IWW did take note of general environmental struggles and actions within the pages of the Industrial Worker. For example, in the October / November 1980 issue there was a lengthy article titled, “Big Mountain Dine & Hopi Bat­tle Mine Interests”, a struggle which Earth First! supported for many years. In the June 1981 issue included a lengthy article about the Bolt Weevils”—which predate Earth First!, but serve as one of its inspirations—called, “The Power Line Protest in West Central Minnesota”. Earth First!er Roger Featherstone, was once involved in this campaign. There was a similar, uncredited article about this movement, simply called “Bolt Weevils” in the May 1, 1984 issue of the Earth First! Journal. An isolated column (that does not mention Earth First!) called “Ecology Notes” appeared in the Decem­ber 1982 issue. The same column never appeared again, however. By 1983, articles about ecologically oriented workers’ struggles became more and more frequent, but Earth First! was never mentioned, even if Earth First! was involved in the struggle. Meanwhile, the Wobblies were rarely mentioned in the Earth First! Journal except for a few occasional letters from self-identified IWW members, or former members. [1]

Behind the scenes, however, individual Wobblies and Earth First!ers frequently came into contact with each other. Dave Foreman later revealed that he had regularly corresponded with Utah Phillips. Franklin and Penelope Rosemont had also been in contact with Foreman as well as Roger Featherstone, a veteran of several environmental campaign, who described himself as “a roving reporter for Earth First!” [2] In Tacoma, Washington, IWW members Barbara Hansen and Allen Anger lived in an apartment in the same building as the IWW hall along with long time member, and then branch secretary, Ottilie Markholt. They were friends with George Draffan, who had been a member of the IWW when he was in college, long before joining Earth First! in the 1980s. [3] Colorado IWW member and oilfield worker Gary Cox was also sympathetic to Earth First!. Cox had read The Monkeywrench Gang, become a subscriber to the Earth First! Journal, and had attended an Earth First! speaking event by Dave Foreman and Roger Featherstone at the University of Colorado. [4] A handful of IWW members were Earth First!ers themselves, including a musician known as “Wobbly Bob”. [5]

Nevertheless, the first actual mention of Earth First! in the pages of the Industrial Worker touched on the Cameron Road tree spiking and the injury to George Alexander.

Chapter 6 : If Somebody Kills Themselves, Just Blame it on Earth First!

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

Haul it to the sawmill, Got to make a buck,
Your blades are worn and dangerous, Better trust your luck,
Don’t stop for the workers’ safety, Never fear the worst,
‘Cause if somebody kills themselves, Just blame it on Earth First!,

—Lyrics excerpted from L-P, by Judi Bari, 1990.

“Anybody who ever advocated tree spiking of course has to rethink their position.”

—Darryl Cherney, June 1987.[1]

Earth First! received much negative press for its advocacy of biocentrism, the notion that all species (including humans) were intrinsically valuable. Their slogan “No Compromise in Defense of Mother Earth!” was forceful and militant, and given the misanthropic leanings of some of its cofounders, it was often taken to mean that they valued the lives of nonhuman species above humans—even if it meant the suffering or death of the latter—which wasn’t actually the case. The situation was complicated further by Earth First!’s advocacy of monkeywrenching: industrial “ecotage” which included everything from deflagging roads to putting sugar in the fuel tanks of earth moving and/or logging equipment. Earth First! cofounder Dave Foreman described monkeywrenching thusly:

“It is resistance to insanity that is encapsu­lated in Monkeywrenching…(it) fits in with the bioregional concept. You go back to a place and you peacefully re-inhabit it. You learn about it. You become a part of the place. You develop an informal and al­ternative political and social struc­ture that is somehow apart from the sys­tem… it’s also a means of self-empowerment, of finding alternative means of relat­ing to other people, and other life forms…there is a funda­mental difference between ecodefense resistance and classic revolutionary or terrorist behavior.” [2]

Such a description, while informative, was hardly likely to silence critics on the right. The most controversial of these controversial tactics by far, was Earth First!’s advocacy of “tree spiking”, the act of driving large nails into standing trees in order to deter timber sales. [3]

Chapter 5 : No Compromise in Defense of Mother Earth!

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

“One man, Charles Hurwitz, is going to destroy the largest remaining block of redwoods out of sheer arrogance. Only we the people can stop him.”

—Dave Foreman, October 22, 1986.[1]

Well I come from a long, long line of tree-fallin’ men,
And this company town was here before my grandpappy settled in,
We kept enough trees a-standin’ so our kids could toe the line,
But now a big corporation come and bought us out, got us working double time…

—lyrics excerpted from Where are We Gonna Work When the Trees are Gone?, by Darryl Cherney, 1986.

On the surface, very little seemed to have changed in Scotia for its more than 800 residents, but deep down, they all knew that the future was very much uncertain. Some seemed unconcerned, such as 18 year Pacific Lumber veteran Ted Hamilton, who declared, “We’re just going on as always,” or his more recently hired coworker, millworker Keith Miller, who had been at the company less than six years and who stated, “It doesn’t bother me much.”[2] Indeed, many of the workers seemed to welcome their newfound financial prosperity. [3] However, there were at least as many workers whose assessments were quite pessimistic, including millworker Ken Hollifield, a 19 year veteran who opined, “I’m sure this place won’t be here in five to seven years.” Former millworker and then-current owner of the Rendezvous Bar in Rio Dell, George Kelley, echoed these sentiments stating, “For 2½ years they’ve got a good thing going. After that they don’t know what’s happening.” Dave Galitz dismissed the naysayers’ concerns as typical fear of change, but careful estimates of the company’s harvesting rates bore out the pessimistic assessments. In the mills and the woods, however, production had increased substantially, to the point that many were working 50 and 60 hours per week. If there was to be any organized dissent, it would be difficult to keep it together, because the workers had little time to spare.[4] There seemed to be little they could do outside of a union campaign, and the IWA had neither been inspiring nor successful in their attempt.

Deep in the woods however, the changes were readily obvious. In 1985, the old P-L had received approval from the California Department of Forestry (CDF) to selectively log 5,000 acres.[5] With John Campbell at the helm, under the new regime, the company filed a record number of timber harvest plans (THPs) immediately following the sale, and all of them were approved by the CDF. There was more than a hint of a conflict of interest in the fact that the director of the agency, Jerry Pertain, had owned stock in the old Pacific Lumber and had cashed in mightily after the merger. [6] Since the takeover, the new P-L had received approval to log 11,000 acres, 10,000 of which were old growth, and there was every indication that these timber harvests would be accomplished through clearcutting.[7] Pacific Lumber spokesmen who had boasted about the company’s formerly benign forest practices now made the dubious declaration that clearcutting was the best method for ensuring both long term economic and environmental stability.

P-L forester Robert Stephens claimed that the old rate was unsustainable anyway, declaring, “About five years ago, it became apparent that there is going to be an end to old-growth. We simply cannot operate on a 2,000 year rotation.”

Public affairs manager David Galitz repeated what would soon become the new regime’s gospel, that clearcutting had actually been in the works for some time before the hint of a merger, even though in actual fact, this was untrue.

Pacific Lumber’s logging operations which had hitherto been idyllic by comparison now outpaced those of even Louisiana-Pacific and Georgia-Pacific. They tripled their logging crews, bringing in loggers from far away who had never known the old Pacific Lumber and had no particular loyalty to the fight to prevent Hurwitz’s plunder of the old company. [8] Most of the new hires were gyppos, and there were rumblings among the old timers that the quality of logging had decreased precipitously. In John Campbell’s mind, such inefficiencies were likely to be temporary and any small losses that occurred were more than offset by the much larger short term gain. The expense to the viability of the forest, however, was never entered into the ledger.[9] One resident who lived very close to the border of Pacific Lumber’s land relayed their impressions, writing:

“I live at the end of (the) road in Fortuna. Maxxam’s Pacific Lumber logging trucks drive by our house six days a week now. (It has) never been like this in the past. Ordinarily, logging was five days a week in summer…

“From Newberg Road you can look up and see the damage they are doing to the badly eroding hills, now bare of third growth. They are logging third growth from their graveled road now. As the trucks come by, it is amazing to see how small their (logs are), like flagpoles.

“What will be the value of their property when all of the trees are gone? Are they trying to eliminate all other competition—L-P, Simpson, etc.—as their long-range goal?”[10]

Environmentalists expressed alarm and outrage at the sweeping and regressive changes that had been instituted now that Hurwitz had assumed control of Pacific Lumber. John DeWitt, executive director of Save the Redwoods League, the organization that had been instrumental in coaxing the Murphy Dynasty to adopt sustainable logging practices in the first place, expressed these fears stating, “We thought they practiced excellent forestry over the past 125 years and deplore the fact they’ll double the cut. It may result in the ultimate unemployment of those who work at Pacific Lumber.”