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Analysis: How do the EU farmer protests relate to climate change?

By Orla Dwyer - The Conversation, February 5, 2024

From Berlin and Paris, to Brussels and Bucharest, European farmers have driven their tractors to the streets in protest over recent weeks. 

According to reports, these agricultural protesters from across the European Union have a series of concerns, including competition from cheaper imports, rising costs of energy and fertiliser, and environmental rules. 

Farmers’ groups in countries including Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Poland and Romania have all been protesting over the past couple of months. 

The UK’s Sunday Telegraph has tried to frame the protests as a “net-zero revolt” with several other media outlets saying the farmers have been rallying against climate or “green” rules. 

Carbon Brief has analysed the key demands from farmer groups in seven countries to determine how they are related to greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, biodiversity or conservation. 

The findings show that many of the issues farmers are raising are directly and indirectly related to these issues. But some are not related at all. Several are based on policy measures that have not yet taken effect, such as the EU’s nature restoration law and a South American trade agreement. 

The Students Are Right

By Jerome Roos - The Rift, May 23, 2024

It’s been quite a sight. Over the past month, students have been rising up against Western support for the Gaza war and in solidarity with the Palestinian people from California to Kyoto. They’ve had enough: no longer will they allow their governments and universities to be complicit in war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The first protest camp was set up at Columbia University in mid-April, in the historic cradle of the 1968 student protests against the Vietnam War and the anti-apartheid movement of the 1980s. Since then, the demonstrations have spread across the United States. For weeks now, the same chant has been echoing through the “hallowed halls” of academia all over the country: “Disclose, divest! We will not stop, we will not rest!”

In the first week of May, the solidarity encampments crossed the Atlantic and began to spread like a wildfire through Europe as well. I was in London when the first tents went up at UCL and SOAS earlier this month. When I arrived in Cambridge for a conference a few days later, students there had just started another solidarity encampment in coordination with their peers at Oxford. Once I got back home to Amsterdam, I found students there still seething with anger over a violent police crackdown on a series of attempted encampments. Last week, students at my own university, the London School of Economics, launched an occupation as well.

The protest camps and solidarity actions have now spread to at least 247 universities worldwide. There have been demonstrations on campuses in Canada and Australia, in Mexico and Argentina, in Egypt and South Africa, in Lebanon and India, in New Zealand and Japan. What unifies them is a simple set of demands: that universities end their involvement in human rights violations by cutting ties with Israel’s system of apartheid and divesting from the military-industrial complex more generally.

For this, the students have been widely vilified. In the US, President Joe Biden sternly lectured the younger generation that “dissent must never lead to disorder”—as if a few broken windows at Columbia hurt his sensibilities more than the destruction of twelve universities, 280 government schools and 65 UNRWA-run schools in Gaza. Hillary Clinton went even further in her condescension of the students, saying that young people “don’t know very much at all about the history of the Middle East, or frankly about history in many areas of the world, including our own country.”

The situation in Europe has not been much better. In France, the regional council of Paris briefly suspended its funding to Sciences Po after accusing students there of US-style “wokisme.” In the Netherlands, far-right leader Geert Wilders interrupted the formation of his new coalition government to denounce the protesters as “antisemitic scum.” And in Britain, where university leaders have generally taken a more de-escalatory approach, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is needlessly inflaming the tensions with his repeated calls on vice-chancellors to quell the peaceful demonstrations.

Despite this widespread demonization, most students have actually been remarkably reasonable in their demands.

The Strategy of the Green New Deal from Below

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, May 16, 2024

The Green New Deal from Below pursues strategic objectives that implement Green New Deal programs, expand the Green New Deal’s support, and shift the balance between pro- and anti-Green New Deal forces. Not every action is likely to accomplish all of these objectives, but most actions aim to accomplish more than one of them at the same time.

The first set of objectives aim to make concrete changes that accomplish the goals of the Green New Deal. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is an objective of many actions, ranging from insulating urban housing to shutting down mines and power plants. Reducing injustice and inequality is similarly a goal of actions ranging from ensuring access to climate jobs for those who have been excluded from them to putting low-emission transit in vehicle-polluted neighborhoods. Another objective is improving the position of workers through such means as incorporating labor rights in climate legislation, establishing training and job ladders for climate jobs, and actively supporting the right of workers to organize and exercise their power. Green New Deal projects usually aim to accomplish these purposes synergistically, for example by designing climate-protection policies that also reduce injustice and empower workers on the job.

Green New Deal projects generally embody another set of objectives: educating and inspiring people. This happens through direct educational efforts like workshops, community forums, webinars, educational materials, and making known what has been accomplished elsewhere. Many programs involve basic education on climate, justice, and labor issues.

Campaigns like those for the Washington and Illinois clean energy and jobs acts involved long and extensive educational campaigns. But much of the inspiration and education provided by the Green New Deals takes the form of expanding the limits of what is believed to be possible by showing the power of people when they organize — and by constructing exemplary projects that inspire people to believe that more is possible. These exemplary actions produce powerful evidence for the value and feasibility of the Green New Deal.

Green New Deal from Below initiatives also support a shift in power. They bring into being organized constituencies and coalitions that can serve as political building blocks for more extensive Green New Deal campaigns. Green New Deal projects also create institutional building blocks, ranging from energy systems to transportation networks, that can become part of the economic and social infrastructure of a national Green New Deal. They help overcome the divisions and contradictions that weaken popular forces by engaging them around projects that embody common interests and a common vision. And they reduce the power of the anti-Green New Deal forces by dividing them, disorienting them, undermining their pillars of support, and even at times converting them.

The fight for the Green New Deal is inevitably entwined with the fight for democracy. Green New Deal from Below initiatives provide models for — and show the benefits of — popular democracy. Green New Deal from Below projects show that through collective action people can make concrete gains that benefit their real lives. They thereby contribute to building a base to protect and extend governance of, by, and for the people at every level. They represent a local embodiment of participatory democracy. And they create bastions for reinforcing representative democracy against fascism in the national arena.

The program of the Green New Deal, beneficial as it may be, is not in itself adequate to solve the deeper structural problems of an unjust and self-destructive world order. One of its strategic objectives, therefore, must be to open the way to wider, more radical forms of change.

Student Gaza Protesters Are Enforcing the Law

Strategic Perspectives of the Green New Deal from Below

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, April 30, 2024

The Green New Deal from Below represents a unique formation which therefore requires – and has developed — a unique strategy. It is not the same as an electoral campaign, a civil disobedience struggle, a neighborhood organization, a union recognition or contract campaign, an issue campaign, or other familiar forms of social action, though it may have similarities to all of them. It is necessary to recognize this uniqueness to avoid being caught up in familiar but inappropriate tactics.

If power were distributed equally in American society there might well be Green New Deals by now in a majority of American cities and states. But in reality, power is concentrated in the hands of a tiny minority – far smaller even than the notorious “1 percent.” Under normal circumstances the rest of the people have little influence over the basic decisions that determine our lives. The right to vote is precious, but it confers only limited influence over governments and even less over the corporations that shape economic decisions and in practice largely shape the policies of governments.

Yet ultimately the power of the powerful depends on the rest of us accepting and even enabling them. The withdrawal of our acquiescence and cooperation can render them powerless – as the old labor anthem goes, “Without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn.”

The problem of Green New Deal strategy is in essence how to organize and mobilize the potential power of the people. One way is to use the power that we have within existing institutional structures. But in a grossly unequal system, voting and other institutionalized forms of action are likely to have only limited impact. From its start, the Green New Deal has combined action within the political system with direct popular action in the streets – and, uninvited, in the halls of power.

Solidarity Forever: Building Movements Amid Today’s Crises

How Social Movements Escape Silos

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, March 11, 2024

The principal problems of movement unity do not involve uniting the already like-minded, but drawing together those who are siloed or even antagonistic. But how do we move past such fragmentation? My observation as a historian of social movements is that a crucial reason for movements to de-silo, cooperate, and converge is from a perception of the possibility of gaining power to affect problems through greater cooperation and mutual support.

To show that such overcoming of divisions does actually happen, and that it is related to the aspiration for more effective power, let me briefly sketch four examples of de-siloing, growing cooperation, and partial convergence among movements.

Globalization from below, also known as the anti-globalization or global justice movement, brought together a highly diverse range of movements and organizations from all over the world. After gestating for years in response to “globalization from above,” globalization from below burst into public view with the 1999 “Battle of Seattle” that shut down the attempt to establish the World Trade Organization as a neoliberal economic constitution for the world. As author and activist Vandana Shiva put it in the aftermath of the Battle of Seattle, “When labor joins hands with environmentalists, when farmers from the North and farmers from the South make a common commitment to say ‘no’ to genetically engineered crops, they are not acting as special interests. They are defending the common interests and common rights of all people, everywhere.”[1] That process has continued in myriad forms, notably in the global gatherings of the World Social Forum.[2]

Chapter 34 : We’ll Have an Earth Night Action

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

Download a free PDF version of this chapter.

Now Earth Day 1990 was Dennis Hayes’ vision,
But instead of bringing us together it only caused division,
He said turn down your thermostat and recycle toilet paper,
And as long as they contribute don’t confront the corporate rapers.

—lyrics excerpted from Earth Night Action, by Darryl Cherney and Mike Roselle, 1990.

Amidst all of that was going on behind the Redwood Curtain, and the timber wars which were now raging nationally, the 20th anniversary of Earth Day was fast approaching, and even that was full of controversy. The hullabaloo wasn’t over the hype building over the twentieth Earth Day, (the original having been conceived not just by Dennis Hayes, but also the United Auto Workers), but rather the growing corporate and state influence over the planning of the events commemorating it. Instead of rallies, demonstrations, speeches, and teach-ins addressing the increasing threats to the environment, in particular by the increasingly destructive evolution of capitalism, the day was shaping up to be a collection of “innocuous ‘feel-good’ festivals” designed by the corporations to “put a shine on the tarnished images of this planet’s despoilers.” The very “earth-raping” corporations whose records were most deserving of criticism had their hands on the purse strings. Worse still, control over organizing the events had been placed in the hands of the local city and county governments. In municipalities and counties where resource extraction or land speculation funded the campaigns of local politicians, there would be every incentive to soften criticism of such activities. As Earth First!er Jeffrey St. Clair put it, “If your issue is growth, how cleanly can you articulate that when the very people you’re fighting are sitting on the planning committee?” The foxes were once again seizing control of the henhouse. In city after city, corporate influence was “green-washing” the event, and some of the worst offenders were the timber corporations clearcutting on California’s North Coast.[1]

Popular Enforcement of International Law from Vietnam to Gaza

Unions Must Go Beyond Calling for a Cease-Fire in Gaza

By Jeff Schuhrke - Jacobin, February 13, 2024

Four months into Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza that has killed over twenty-eight thousand Palestinians, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) — the US labor federation whose member unions represent 12.5 million workers — issued a statement on February 8 urging a negotiated cease-fire to end the violence.

The move came after over two hundred US unions and labor bodies — including national unions like the United Electrical Workers (UE), American Postal Workers Union (APWU), United Auto Workers (UAW), International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), National Nurses United (NNU), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), National Education Association (NEA), Communications Workers of America (CWA), and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) — had already made cease-fire calls of their own. Many unions, especially at the local level, have also expressed solidarity with the Palestinian liberation movement.

With the backing of the AFL-CIO and the nation’s two largest unions (NEA and SEIU), support for a cease-fire is now the mainstream position of the American labor movement. Given US labor officialdom’s history of providing substantial political and material aid to the state of Israel — along with its frequent partnering with US empire (which I examine in my forthcoming book, Blue Collar Empire) — this is a remarkable development highlighting the power of rank-and-file organizing to push union leaders on critical issues, and signaling the possibility of building a more internationalist labor movement.

Now, the task for rank-and-file members who successfully organized to get their unions to issue cease-fire statements increasingly is to translate that commitment into concrete action to stop what the International Court of Justice considers Israel’s plausible acts of genocide. Across the US labor movement, networks of pro-Palestine workers are continuing to organize to get their unions to cut economic ties with Israel, put pressure on political candidates and elected officials, and interrupt the flow of union-made weapons and research to the Israeli military.


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