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How an Old-School Electricians Union Got Behind a Socialist Running on the Green New Deal

By Mindy Isser - In These Times, June 25, 2020

Nikil Saval is an unlike­ly Philadel­phia politi­cian. The social­ist, writer, orga­niz­er and for­mer edi­tor of left-wing mag­a­zine n+1beat long-time incum­bent Lar­ry Far­nese for state sen­ate in the First Dis­trict in a sur­prise upset. Although the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic threat­ened to derail his cam­paign, the issues Saval embraced — a Homes Guar­an­tee, Uni­ver­sal Fam­i­ly Care, and a Green New Deal — have grown more urgent as our econ­o­my has unrav­eled. And mak­ing him an even more unlike­ly can­di­date, he won the back­ing of a con­ser­v­a­tive elec­tri­cians union — a rare feat for a Green New Deal advo­cate. His plat­form, which was proven pop­u­lar enough to beat a fair­ly pro­gres­sive leg­is­la­tor, will be extreme­ly chal­leng­ing to imple­ment. In order to win life-chang­ing reforms like a Green New Deal, Saval and his allies will need to build a broad and pow­er­ful coali­tion — includ­ing with some strange bedfellows. 

Saval’s Green New Deal plat­form includes clean­ing up every tox­ic site in the city with the use of union labor; bas­ing all tax incen­tives, sub­si­dies and con­tracts on project labor stan­dards; retro­fitting schools, libraries and recre­ation cen­ters; and estab­lish­ing a Region­al Ener­gy Cen­ter, which would ​“unite the state’s util­i­ties around the goals of increased ener­gy effi­cien­cy through green build­ings retro­fits, and full elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of Pennsylvania’s build­ings by 2040.” Much like the fed­er­al Green New Deal leg­is­la­tion, many of Saval’s poten­tial poli­cies could mean the cre­ation of thou­sands of union jobs, as some­one will have to dri­ve the new South­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia Trans­porta­tion Author­i­ty (SEP­TA) busses, clean up brown­fields, and update build­ings with green tech­nol­o­gy. Saval also wants to elim­i­nate coal-gen­er­at­ed elec­tric­i­ty by 2025 and achieve 100% clean elec­tric­i­ty by 2030. These aspi­ra­tions would obvi­ous­ly mean that work­ers in extrac­tive indus­tries would lose their cur­rent jobs, which is why build­ing trades unions — and their pow­er­ful labor fed­er­a­tion, the AFL-CIO — have been wary of the Green New Deal nationally.

Green New Deal: top-down or bottom-up?

By Sergio Belda and Victoria Pellicer - Science for the People, Summer 2020

From different parts of the world, we are being called upon to embrace a brand new green deal as an unassailable solution to the climate crisis. The appeal is coming from powerful actors: transnational entities, governments and political leaders (not only those with a progressive orientation),1 major newspaper headlines,2 successful financiers and leaders of large corporations,3 and intellectuals of international standing4 are calling for a great deal that will guarantee us a future that is not only green and sustainable, but truly enjoyable.

With this deal, the solutions to the problems of sustainability that we are suffering from are within our reach, right around the corner. Everyone agrees on the imagined green future we want and how to achieve it. We have the recipe, the technology, and the capacity. We just need the will, the drive, and sufficient investment.5

We are all familiar with the images of this utopian green world. The solutions that it offers delight the senses and the imagination: green, infinite, super-automated fields where fashionable, organic products grow and later fill the unlimited supermarket shelves; a world free from animal slaughter thanks to 3D-printed meat in restaurants, produced in factories and even space stations;6 autonomous electric cars filling wide, smart highways,7 finally expelled from historic city centers, which are now fully dedicated to pedestrian walkways between global franchises offering sustainable menus for all pocketbooks;8 energy produced by majestic wind turbines, bringing new prosperity to the plains of Iowa, Texas and Nebraska and new productivity to the oceans;9 in cities, huge glass skyscrapers with smart apartments on beautiful green tapestries; in the countryside, exceptionally comfortable and spacious single-family homes that are fully sustainable thanks to their intelligent design;10 at all times, unlimited access via our mobile phones to every product and service imaginable, with the peace of mind that they are offered to us without producing any waste that is not subsequently recovered (or whose environmental impact has not been incorporated into the cost and compensated for); and always the personal peace of mind from the knowledge that we are able to monitor our health twenty-four hours a day with portable devices that will not only patiently watch over us, but will also open up a huge new market.11 Images, in short, that reveal the encounter between sustainability, technology, intelligence, new markets, and prosperity. Images that should make us see the new great green deal not as a threat to our current lifestyle, but as the way to save our way of life, our planet, our individual welfare, as well as our capitalist system.12

Extinction Rebellion – in or out?

By various - New Internationalist, December 5, 2019

In October 2018, Extinction Rebellion (XR) launched a series of protests that mobilized thousands of (many first-time) activists and caught the attention of the media.

The rebels had three key demands: that the UK government tell the truth about the climate devastation by declaring an emergency, the establishment of a citizen’s assembly to overview a repeal of climate-negligent laws and the enactment of new policies in line with climate science.

They injected a new sense of energy and urgency into the climate movement. Thousands joined non-violent actions; London bridges were blocked, hundreds arrested. But the group has also come under fire for neglecting more political questions of justice, power and racism.

One month since XR burst on to the UK climate scene, five climate-concerned campaigners – from both in and outside the movement – give their views:

Populist alliances of ‘cowboys and Indians’ are protecting rural lands

By Zoltán Grossman - Waging Nonviolence, May 17, 2019

By appealing to the hearts and minds of their white neighbors, Native Americans are carving out common ground and building unity through diversity.

This article was first published by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

The sea of red on recent election maps make it look like rural areas are uniformly populated by Republicans. And conventional wisdom suggests that those Americans are largely conservative populists who question many government regulations and do not welcome cultural diversity.

But the growing influence of Native American nations in some rural areas is starting to change that picture. Empowered by their treaty rights, they are beginning to shift the values of their white neighbors toward a populism that cuts across racial and cultural lines to challenge large corporations.

I’m a geographer who studies the relationships between tribes and rural white farmers, ranchers and fishers. In my book “Unlikely Alliances: Native Nations and White Communities Join to Defend Rural Lands,” I relate what I learned through dozens of interviews with Native Americans and their non-Native allies who described how the tribes are fusing the power of their sovereignty with the populist grievances of the tribes’ historic enemies.

By teaming up to defend the place they all call home, they are protecting their lands and waters for all.

Extinction Rebellion Must Evolve to Tackle Our Systemic Climate Crisis

By Steve Rushton - Occupy.Com, May 9, 2019

The movement known as Extinction Rebellion (XR) has pushed climate change firmly into the British consciousness, clearing the political hangover left by the never-ending Brexit fog. But there are constructive critiques to this monumental, London-centred climate activism that bear mentioning. Namely, what does this movement need to do to gather enough popular support and halt the ongoing climate meltdown.

XR takes over London

For 10 days in April, Extinction Rebellion created headline disruption, taking over prominent sites across London, including Parliament Square. They demanded that the UK government "tell the truth" about the scale of the climate crisis; enact legally binding policies to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025; and do both through a Citizens Assembly (more on citizens assemblies here).

People last month participated in the tens of thousands, and many of then were new to activism. Holding these sites created space for public assemblies and direct action. When police arrested activists – more than 1,000 in total – more came forward until jail cells were full. Actions went far beyond London, from road blocks in Brussels to stopping a coal train in Australia, and die-ins as well as other actions from India to South Africa to Seattle.

Pressure from XR made Labour table a motion in Parliament to declare a climate emergency. The Welsh assembly did the same just days before. Now, as XR expands its effective activism globally, it is worth asking: what does this movement need to do to stop the climate catastrophe?

Socialist Dog Catchers (or Presidents) Won’t Save Us

Gender Diversity in the Peasant Movement

Translated by staff - La Via Campesina, October 3, 2016

The global peasant movement La Via Campesina is slowly beginning to open up to the subject of gender diversity. By Paula Gioia, member of the coordinating committee of ECVC

Food Sovereignty is also connected to gender relations – and to respecting different ways of life and the rights of LGBTTQI*. The movement of landless peasants in Brazil is showing this and providing important inspirations for debates in Europe.

Since its founding in 1993, La Via Campesina has promoted Food Sovereignty and a change of the capitalist and patriarchal power relations that are dominating our world today. La Via Campesina is an international movement of peasants, land workers and landless people, fisher folk, pastoralists and migrant workers. It has about 200 million members, organized in more than 160 organizations in 73 countries. In Via Campesina, feminist approaches to Food Sovereignty have played an important role in our peasant movement from the start, to counteract discrimination and all forms of violence against women in rural areas. The participation of women in leading positions has been central to all Via Campesina organizing and campaigning, with all committees made up of 50% men and 50% women. But only after more than 20 years a debate on sexual and gender diversity is slowly beginning.

The visibility and recognition of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, trans*sexual, intersexual and queer identifying persons (LGBTTQI*) within Via Campesina

have found little consideration in our debates so far. As a movement that is the global leader in the political project of Food Sovereignty and fighting against social exclusion based on the principles of collective living and mutual respect, we must commit to widening this framework to include the rights of LGBTTQI* peasants and food producers.

Within the international context of LVC, incorporating the rights of peasants and food producers that identify at LGBTTQI* is still being sensitively explored and developed. However on localized and regional levels there are grassroots movements who are members of LVC that are already engaging with and incorporating the rights of LGBTTQI* peasants and food producers into their organizations. One example is the Brazilian movement of landless workers (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra – MST), whose experiences can serve as important reference points to the debates arising currently in the European context of Via Campesina.

Naomi Klein: "If you can marry an economic justice agenda with climate action, people will fight for that future"

Interview by Agnès Rousseaux and Sophie Chapelle - Basta!, April 24, 2015

Given the massive inequalities generated by capitalism and the ecological urgency of climate change, "everything can change", Naomi Klein claims in a new book. Provided we do not "give in to despair", because "too many lives are at stake", and "fight for a more just economic system". The Canadian anti-globalization activist and essayist is famous for her inspired criticism of capitalism: No Logo denounced the tyranny of global brands, and The Shock Doctrine the brutality of neoliberal reforms. She now takes aim at the total impunity of major oil and gas corporations which have declared war on our planet. Interview and video.

21.000 signes

Basta! : We seem to be heading straight toward climate disaster. We know what will happen if we do nothing about climate change, yet nothing really changes. Why is it so?

Naomi Klein : It’s not that we’re doing nothing – we’re actually actively doing exactly the wrong things. We have an economic system that defines success and progress as infinite economic expansion. Any kind of expansion is deemed good. Our emissions are going up much faster than they were in the 1990s. In the past decade, we had very high oil prices, which has created huge economic incentives for fossil fuel companies to push into new, more expensive, higher-emitting forms of extraction, such as tar sands and fracking. We also have a system that allows multinationals to seek out the cheapest means of producing their products, with cheap labour and cheap energy – which has lead to the deregulated burning of coal. All this is making the problem much worse.

You say that transnational corporations such as ExxonMobil, BP and Shell have declared war on the planet...

The business model of these companies is to find new fossil fuel reserves, which is the exact opposite of what we need to do in order to fight climate change. A research from the Carbon Tracker, three years ago, showed that the global fossil fuel industry has five times more carbon in their proven reserves than is compatible with keeping temperatures below two degrees warming… That’s the target our governments agreed to in Copenhagen, and that’s a target that is already a very dangerous one for many communities. But it provides us with a global carbon budget. We know how much carbon can be burned while still giving ourselves a fifty-fifty chance or better of meeting that target, and these companies have five times more carbon in their reserves than that amount. That explains why fossil fuel companies so actively fight the very dissemination of honest, climate science, why they fund politicians and organisations that deny the science of climate change, and why they fight every serious attempt to respond to climate change, whether it is a carbon tax or whether it is support for renewable energy.

Why such impunity?

Fossil fuel companies, particularly oil companies, are the most powerful companies in the world. Wars have been waged by our governments to protect their interests. It’s in the nature of fossil fuels that they’re concentrated in specific geographical locations, very expensive to get out of the ground, to transport, and to process. And so it lends itself to concentration of wealth and power, with a fairly small number of huge players , both state-run and privately owned, and that kind of concentration of power also lends itself to political corruption, both of the legal kind and the illegal kind. Hence the impunity.

Our Climate is a Public Trust

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, October 20, 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.

Can an ancient legal principle with roots in Roman law serve as a tool for the climate protection movement?

On October 23, Alec Johnson, aka “Climate Hawk,” is scheduled to go on trial for locking himself to a construction excavator in Tushka, Oklahoma as part of the Tar Sands Blockade campaign to block the route of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. He intends to argue that resisting the pipeline was necessary in order to protect the public trust – the common property right of the people to essential natural resources. Johnson will be the first defendant anywhere to make a necessity defense based on the duty of government to protect the climate under the public trust doctrine.

In a speech in Nacogdoches, TX on the day of the 2014 Peoples Climate March, Johnson said, “When it comes to our commons, to our public property, we the people have rights in a public trust.” The public trust doctrine means “we have rights when it comes to how our public commons are administered.” He will argue that his blockade of Keystone XL pipeline construction was necessary because the pipeline threatens our atmospheric public trust and state and national governments are failing to protect us against that threat.

Meanwhile, last week a petition was filed with the US Supreme Court by five youth plaintiffs seeking a decision that the Federal government is obligated to protect public trust assets like the atmosphere and the climate that under the public trust doctrine belong to the people. Behind this case lies a unique organizing effort by the group Our Children’s Trust, which has brought together young people and their legal supporters to file suits and petitions not only in Federal court but in every state in the US and several other countries. Then-sixteen-year-old Alec Loorz, founder of Kids v. Global Warming and lead plaintiff in the federal lawsuit, explained its public trust claim: “The government has a legal responsibility to protect the future for our children. So we are demanding that they recognize the atmosphere as a commons that needs to be preserved, and commit to a plan to reduce emissions to a safe level.”

And at a Climate Justice Tribunal across the street from the UN climate summit last month a judicial panel, after hearing evidence of devastating impacts of climate change around the world, declared that governments have a duty under the public trust doctrine to halt climate destruction. Organized by the Climate Justice Alliance and inspired in part by the International War Crimes Tribunal organized during the Vietnam War by renowned philosophers Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre, the Tribunal’s judicial panel found that “Based on the evidence we have heard here today, the nations of our world are in violation of their most fundamental legal and constitutional obligations.” It called on governments to honor their duty to protect the atmosphere, which belongs in common to the world’s people, and halt their contribution to climate destruction.

Some courts are already starting to apply the public trust doctrine to protecting the atmospheric commons. Last December the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned a law that prevented local communities from blocking fracking. The plurality opinion held that public natural resources are owned in common by the people, including future generations. Because the state is the trustee of these resources, it has a fiduciary duty to “conserve and maintain” them. The state has “a duty to refrain from permitting or encouraging the degradation, diminution, or depletion of public natural resources.”

Will courts force governments to fulfill that duty? So far several state courts have accepted important parts of the youth plaintiffs’ argument, but none have ordered a government to act. But in the meantime, thousands of people are sitting-in and blockading to halt climate-destroying activities. The judicial panel of the Climate Justice Tribunal declared that “those who blockade coal-fired power plants or block tar sands oil pipelines are committing no crime.” Rather, they are exercising their right and responsibility to protect the atmospheric commons they own along with all of present and future humankind. They are acting to prevent a far greater harm — indeed, “a harm that by virtue of the public trust doctrine is itself a violation of law on a historic scale.”

Alec Johnson says that “we the people” are “armed” by the public trust doctrine to demand that governments “recognize their responsibilities as trustees and exercise their fiduciary responsibility to act with the highest duty of care” to sustain the resources necessary for society to endure. “Enforcing our children’s rights to climate justice is no crime.”

Jeremy Brecher is a historian of social movements, a founder of the Labor Network for Sustainability, and author of Climate Insurgency: A Strategy for Survival (Paradigm Publishers, January 2015).

Social Self-Defense: Protecting People and Planet against Trump and Trumpism

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, January 14, 2017

Introduction: These are times to try our souls

Donald Trump and a powerful collection of anti-social forces have taken control of the U.S. government. They seek permanent domination in service of their individual and class wealth and power. Trump’s presidency threatens immigrants, African Americans, Muslims, workers, women, children, the elderly, the disabled, LGBTQ people, and many others. Indeed, it threatens all that holds us together as a society. We the people – society — need to defend ourselves against this threat and bring it to an end. We need what resisters to repressive regimes elsewhere have called “Social Self-Defense.”

The term “Social Self-Defense” is borrowed from the struggle against the authoritarian regime in Poland forty years ago.  In the midst of harsh repression, Polish activists formed a loose network to provide financial, legal, medical, and other help to people who had been persecuted by the police or unjustly dismissed from their work. Calling themselves the Committee for Social Self-Defense (KOR), they aimed to “fight political, religious and ideological persecution”; to “oppose breaches of the law”; to “provide help for the persecuted”; to “safeguard civil liberties”; and to defend “human and civil rights.” KOR organized free trade unions to defend the rights of workers and citizens. Its members, who insisted on operating openly in public, were soon blacklisted, beaten, and imprisoned. They nonetheless persisted, and nurtured many of the networks, strategies, and ideas that came to fruition in Solidarity – and ultimately in the dissolution of repressive regimes in Poland and many other countries.[1]

From the day Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, thousands of people began to resist his agenda. Demonstrations against Trump broke out in American cities; police chiefs, mayors, and governors declared they would not implement his attack on immigrants; thousands of people signed up to accompany threatened immigrants, religious minorities, and women; technical workers pledged they would not build data bases to facilitate discrimination and deportation. Discussion of how to resist the Trump regime broke out at dining room tables, emails among friends, social media, and community gatherings.

It is impossible to know whether the Trump regime will rapidly self-destruct; successfully impose a reign of terror that dominates the U.S. for years or decades to come; or deadlock indefinitely with anti-Trump forces. We do know that the future of the planet and its people depends on resisting and overcoming Trump’s agenda. The struggle against Trump and Trumpism is nothing less than the defense of society – Social Self-Defense.

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