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EcoUnionist News #58

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 27, 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 Stories:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW

Against Deep Green Resistance

By Michelle Renée Matisons and Alexander Reid Ross - Institute for Anarchist Studies, August 9, 2015

The Radical Turn?

For a book that advertises itself as a “shift in strategy and tactics,” Deep Green Resistance (DGR) has an overwhelmingly dispiriting tone, and is riddled with contradictions.[1] While DGR provocatively addresses many pressing social and ecological issues, its opportunistic, loose-cannon theoretical approach and highly controversial tactics leaves it emulating right-wing militia rhetoric, with the accompanying hierarchical vanguardism, personality cultism, and reactionary moralism. By providing a negative example, DGR does us the service of compounding issues into one book. Take it as a warning. As we grasp for solutions to multiple and compounding social and ecological crises, quick fixes, dogmatism, and power grabbing may grow as temptations. By reviewing DGR, we are also defending necessary minimal criteria for movements today: inclusivity, democracy, honesty, and (dare we suggest) even humility in the face of the complex problems we collectively face. None of these criteria can be found in DGR, and its own shortcomings are a telling lesson for us all.

It is instructive that the group based on DGR has become geared almost exclusively to outreach, not unlike a book club. At certain times, they claim to forbid their members from participating in illegal activity after having attempted a short-lived attempt to generate a grassroots, direct action network. At other times, DGR members claim to be involved in nonviolent civil disobedience. The ambiguity of their attempt at organization stems from the muddled ideas of two of the book’s authors, Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith, who forced out the main organizer, Premadasi Amada, as well as their other co-author, Aric McBay, over the question of inclusive gender policies.[2]

DGR’s organizational body (distinct from the book, but modeled after it) leads us to agree that they have been rightly accused by former members of acting like a cult rather than as part of a larger movement. They seem much more interested in lionizing their leadership than in taking direct action.[3]

DGR’s approach is purely ideological; they intend not to form their own groups or cells to carry out direct action, but to teach the need for direct action to the supposedly ignorant masses. Such an attitude of approaching from above, rather than joining in solidarity, is degrading to peoples’ ability to self-organize. We must equally lead and be led by engaging in struggle, not standing outside of it. Our ultimate conclusion is that DGR’s goal of “civilization’s” destruction through “underground” attacks against infrastructure manifests both an ideological and strategic misdirection, foreclosing the potential for participatory democracy and direct action as it veers into intellectual dishonesty and irreconcilable political contradictions.

Are you sure we're talking about Syndicalism here?

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 17, 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.

I have been closely following the debate between various members of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and Tom Wetzel (a syndicalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area) which began with Tim Goulet's review of Ralph Darlington's Radical Unionism: The Rise and Fall of Revolutionary Syndicalism on April 22, 2015 and has bounced back and forth since then [See: Misunderstanding syndicalism, by Tom Wetzel, April 29, 2015; Contradictions of syndicalism, by Tim Goulet, May 21, 2015; Syndicalism and taking power, by Brian Kelly, May 26, 2015; and Confusion about political power, by Tom Wetzel, May 28, 2015].

I want to say, before I go any further, that I consider myself a syndicalist, specifically a green syndicalist (the very first IWW member I met was Judi Bari, in 1995, and it was through her that I found my way to the Wobblies). I have been a dues paying IWW members since 1995, and I have a fairly deep knowledge of IWW history, as well as contemporary discussions on matters of strategy and tactics within the IWW.  Two years ago, I cofounded the IWW's Environmental Unionism Caucus with two other IWW members. I am also a member of System Change not Climate Change, and I work fairly closely with a handful of ISO members that also belong to SCnCC. I think there is little to be gained by engaging in sectarian squabbles when our very existence is threatened by the capitalist economic system which all of us, syndicalists and socialists alike agree, must be overthrown and replaced by something different, and I suspect that we'd find much agreement on what that different system would look like and how it would function.

However, I also recognize the need to debate strategy, tactics, theory and praxis if we're to be effective as revolutionaries and devise a winning strategy to successfully combat capitalism. This debate on syndicalism to some extent qualifies, but I've also noticed a good deal of sectarianism from some of the ISO folks in this discussion, not to mention some rather glaring omissions and inaccuracies. The most recent entry, from comrades Joe Richard and Ty Carroll (The Wrong Place at the Right Time), represents for me a particularly egregious example.

Review: Hamza Hamouchene and Mika Minio-Paluello, The Coming Revolution in North Africa: The Struggle for Climate Justice

By Hamza Hamouchene and Mika Minio-Paluello - Jadaliyya, June 10, 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.

Hamza Hamouchene and Mika Minio-Paluello, editors, The Coming Revolution in North Africa: The Struggle for Climate Justice. Platform (London), Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (North Africa), and Environmental Justice North Africa (EJNA), 2015.

Jadaliyya (J): What made you put together this book?

Hamza Hamouchene and Mika Minio-Paluello (HH & MM-P): The idea was both to highlight the violence of climate change in North Africa, and the need for an indigenous response. We wanted to point out that survival relies on structural change, and on facing the challenge of talking about climate justice in Arabic.

Climate change is already a reality in North Africa. People are dying and communities are being forced off their lands, with stronger and more frequent droughts and winter storms, as deserts grow and sea levels rise.

There is a growing literature in Arabic on the threat, but this knowledge production is dominated by neoliberal institutions like the World Bank, the German Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), and European Union agencies. They highlight the dangers of a warmer world and they argue for urgent action. But their analysis of climate change does not include questions of class, justice, power, or colonial history. They re-empower those who have wealth, and their vision of the future is marked by economies subjugated to private profit and further privatization of water, land—even the atmosphere.

There is no reference to the historic responsibility of the industrialized West for causing climate change, of the crimes of oil companies like British Petroleum and Shell, or the climate debt owed to the Global South. Most Arabic-language writing on climate change in the Middle East and North Africa includes no references to oppression—or to resistance.

We wanted to point to the failure and bankruptcy of the global climate talks. These have been hijacked by corporate power and private interests that promote profit-making false solutions like carbon trading, instead of forcing industrialized nations to reduce carbon emissions and leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

Through compiling and editing this book, our goal was to counteract the dominant neoliberal discourse on climate change in Arabic, and point to the need for a revolutionary alternative grounded in justice. 

J: What particular topics, issues, and literatures does the book address?

HH & MM-P: We think this is the first book in Arabic to address climate justice (though we would be really happy if that is not the case!). It includes six essays on climate violence and false solutions in Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, and the wider region.

A further fifteen essays introduce inspiring and liberating perspectives advanced by radical and progressive intellectuals, activists, politicians, organizations, and grassroots groups from the Global South. We selected essays, interviews, and statements in which social movements describe what they are fighting against, how they are organizing, and what they are demanding. The chapters cover a broad geography—from Ecuador to India, South Africa to the Philippines.

The book addresses the burning issue of climate change in North Africa and the Global South through a justice lens rather than a security one. A future framed around “security” subjugates our struggles to a conceptual and imaginative framework that ultimately re-empowers the state’s repressive power. Through the different articles and essays, we argue that the climate crisis is the epitome of capitalist and imperialist exploitation of people and the planet. Climate change is a class war—a war by the rich against the working classes, the small farmers, and the poor who carry the burden on behalf of the privileged.

There are four sections in the book, with twenty-one chapters. The first section, “The Violence of Climate Change,” highlights the scale of the threat posed by climate change. The second section, “System Change Not Climate Change,” points to the economic and power structures driving climate change, and what a different system should look like. The third section, “Beware the False Solutions,” examines how the powerful have attempted to use the climate crisis to profit and entrench inequality by pushing false solutions. The final section, “Organizing for Survival and Climate Justice,” looks at how people are mobilizing for a different future.

Production for Use and the Cooperative Commonwealth: A Necessary Addition to the Sustainability Conversation

By Jim Senter - Resilience, May 28, 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 natural scientist has found that he must examine the lower forms of life as a preliminary to the study of the more complex. It is equally necessary that any real adequate study of the complicated economic institutions of today be grounded thoroughly in the evolutionary process of which they are merely the latest stage. Cooperation is much too complex an economic and social institution to flourish on mere enthusiasm. It must be grounded on patient and fearless study of its past as well as its present manifestations and disinterested discussion of the issues on their merit."1

Edwin G. Nourse
The Cooperative Marketing of Livestock

READ PART 1: Self-Help by the People: A Short History of Cooperatives in Britain, With a Foray into the United States

In the wake of the economic meltdown of 2006-08, tremendous interest has been expressed in workplace cooperation as an alternative way of doing business. The Spanish cooperative network Mondragon has received a great deal of attention, including a working agreement with the United Steel Workers to develop worker owned enterprises in the U. S.. The Mondragon model inspired the Evergreen Cooperative network in Cleveland. Workplace cooperation has great benefits- the empowerment of working people, stabilizing and enriching communities, and breaking the stranglehold corporations have on our economy, society and politics. As beneficial and critical as it is, workplace cooperation only takes us part way to where we need to go.

Workplace cooperation is justified, in part, by the idea that labor creates value, and the belief that the creators of value should be the ones to benefit most from its creation. However, this labor theory of value doesn't tell the whole story. Production without consumption has no value at all. It is landfill. Producers and consumers cooperate in the creation of value and have a common interest in stable, sustainable economic processes. This common interest can be a building block of a cooperative economy.

Reviewing the two-hundred year history of cooperative economic development in Britain and the United States, one thing becomes obvious. While both consumer and workplace cooperatives existed in both countries in the nineteenth century, consumer cooperation dominated in Britain while the cooperative movement in the USA centered in workplace [aka producer] cooperatives. In Britain, lasting institutions were built in the industrial sector based on consumer cooperation; while in the United States, workplace cooperation failed, for the most part, to make lasting additions to the economic landscape. While longevity is not the sole consideration, the causes of this divergence have interesting suggestions to make about the design of sustainable communities. In this paper, I examine the lessons I believe can be learned from this history.

Durruti was a revolutionary unionist (and don’t you forget it!)

By Juan Conatz - Thinkin' Through It, May 19, 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.

Recently, I came across something that mentioned an article I wrote for the Industrial Worker back in April 2012 titled ‘Some objections to Occupy May 1st‘. At the time, I was deeply involved in Occupy Minnesota’s May 1st committee, and wanted to push back on some stuff coming from other radicals and lefties in the labor movement. Looking back, I mostly still agree with what I wrote, although with some regret of possibly contributing to the redefinition of ‘strike’ that has allowed some of the Fight For 15 ‘actions’ to be passed off as ‘strikes’….but that’s a different conversation.

 Anyway, my article’s mentioning was part of a larger ‘Criticism of the Industrial Workers of the World‘ made from someone who seemingly was a part of the Autonomy Alliance, a synthesis anarchist group based in St. Louis (although I’m told it is now dissolved).

The perspective is mostly familiar. The author disagrees with revolutionary unionism in favor of participating in the AFL-CIO unions. Ironically named after one of the most well-known revolutionary unionists in history, Buenaventura Durruti, the blog offers a confused mixture of politics in its critiques of the IWW, but can be boiled down to being against anarcho-syndicalism or the revolutionary unionism of the IWW.

A truly green economy requires alliances between labour and Indigenous people

By Harsha Walia - Ricochet, June 3, 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.

Dozens of social movement organizers recently gathered in Toronto at a meeting convened by the This Changes Everything team to envision a new economy centered on climate justice. With relentless extractions of labour and land harming all life on earth, cross-sectoral alliances are necessary.

But a number of predictable tensions bubbled up at the gathering, some related to land defence and workers’ rights. How do we shift from a petro-economy to prevent catastrophic climate change while safeguarding workers whose livelihoods depend on the resource economy? Over the past few decades a green economy, which would ensure jobs and equity within a low-carbon economy, has been posited as a solution.

Extending from this and in the context of reconciliation, I want to envision emancipatory possibilities of solidarity between workers’ movements for self-management and Indigenous struggles for self-determination.

RTNA Says: "FLOOD THE SYSTEM!"

By RTNA - Rising Tide Portland, May 23, 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.

Starting this September, Rising Tide North America is calling for mass actions to shut down the economic and political systems threatening our survival.

Already, hundreds of thousands are streaming into the streets to fight back against climate chaos, capitalism and white supremacy.

This wave of resistance couldn’t be more urgent. To stop climate chaos we need a phenomenal escalation in organizing, participation and tactical courage. We need a profound social transformation to uproot the institutions of capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy, and white supremacy, the systems that created the climate crisis. And we need to link arms with allies fighting for migrant justice, dignified work and pay, and an end to the criminalization and brutal policing of black and brown bodies.

We need to #FloodTheSystem.

In the lead up to the United Nations climate talks in Paris, in December, we will escalate local and regional resistance against systems that threaten our collective survival. Together, we will open alternative paths to the failing negotiations of political elites.

This is not another protest. It is a call for a massive economic and political intervention. It is a call to build the relationships needed to sustain our struggles for the long haul. To build popular power along the intersections of race, class, gender and ability. To collectively unleash our power and change everything.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are mobilizing locally.  If you want to get involved, let us know.  And if you already know you are willing to take direct action to address the climate crisis and stop the fossil fuel projects in our region, sign the Rising Tide Regional Pledge of Resistance.

See you at the barricades.

A Houston Wobbly’s Reflection on the USW Strike

By Adelita - Unity and Struggle, May 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.

Unions’ power is in decay and lately have been resorting to more creative methods in order to remain relevant. We’ve seen the Democrats putting their money behind the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) Fight For $15 in Houston at the same time attempting to “turn Texas blue.” But this dependency of unions like SEIU and the United Steel Workers (USW) on the Democratic Party means they are severely limited in what they are willing to do in the realm of tactics. This along with union density being sharply in decline, as well as union power being undermined by Right-to-Work spreading to states like Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, means the unions are not up for waging anything close to a class struggle. Instead unions like the USW maintain their position as representing only certain interests and timidly bargaining around them.

Texas, like other Right-to-Work states, has a working class that is almost entirely disconnected with their own fighting traditions. There is no real culture of workers resistance, union or not, nor is there any historical memory of fighting strikes. However, recently in Houston we have seen a few significant developments unfolding in labor starting with the immigrant rights movement and detention center hunger and labor strikes, the Maximus Coffee strike and lockout at the end of 2013, the ongoing Fight For $15 “movement” and its semi-annual spectacles, and the most recent and equally significant, the USW refinery strikes. These developments are very exciting for Houston not simply because of the lack of historical memory of struggle to draw from, but also due to the high density of industry in Houston which is unlike most of the country.  This makes Houston a critical choke point for US capital and thus pivotal for workers struggle nationally.

Houston’s remarkably large industrial sector provides a lot of semi-skilled labor opportunities and has been instrumental in Houston’s ability to float the crisis better than most of the country. This and the extremely low levels of reproduction of the class, especially of black and immigrant people who make up the unskilled, low-wage, and casualized sectors of the economy. This leaves refinery work to be primarily composed of white and US-born Latino workers.

When the USW strike started it was the first strike the refineries and their workers saw in 30 years. Yet the USW was unable to carry out a successful strike nationally or locally. This is due to union decline mentioned above, but also because one-third of the oil industry is unorganized (many of which are contract workers). Also, the relationship between the USW and the Obama administration impacted the overall strategy of the strike. Only 5,000 workers were pulled out, a mere ten percent of all union workers, while local union leaders claimed this was part of their strategy. Overall this affected only about 20% of production which is pretty insignificant and we realized quickly that most workers had little to no information about the strike or negotiations. Locally the USW’s timidness looked like a handful of workers carrying signs at each gate while being unable to block scabs from crossing, or from even standing or parking on company property. The international didn’t even use their massive treasury to support their striking members.  It was clear that the USW was not in a position to be able to wage a political struggle against oil because they are beholden to the ruling party.

On Climate Satyagraha: Interview with Quincy Saul

By Javier S Castro - CounterPunch, April 10, 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 socio-ecological catastrophe that is global capitalism is clear for all to see. We are in dire need of an alternative system which does not ceaselessly destroy nature and oppress and impoverish the vast majority of humankind, including our future generations, whose lives may very well be highly constrained if not outright canceled due to prevailing environmental destructiveness. It is in this sense of contemplating and reflecting on alternatives to capitalist depravity that I was fortunate enough recently to discuss the present moment and some of the possible means of displacing hegemonic power with Quincy Saul of Ecosocialist Horizons (EH). Quincy and the rest of the members of this collective have envisioned a compelling means of overcoming the environmental crisis: that is, through climate Satyagraha.

The latest biological studies show a decline of a full half of animal populations on Earth since 1970, and an ever-burgeoning list of species and classes of vertebrates at immediate risk of extinction: a quarter of all marine species, a quarter of all mammals, and nearly half of all amphibians are on the edge.1 Moreover, two independent studies published in Science and Anthropocene Review in January conclude that the present rate of environmental destruction essentially threatens the fate of complex life on the planet.2 Meanwhile, global carbon emissions continue in relentless expansion, with each new year bringing a new broken record, whether in terms of total greenhouse gas emissions, average global temperatures, or both. Truly, then, this is a critical moment in human history, one which could lead to utter oblivion, as through the perpetuation of business as usual, or alternately amelioration and emancipation, as through social revolution.

Quincy, could you share your assessment of the global climate-justice movements at present, some seven months after the People’s Climate March (PCM)—a development of which you were famously highly critical—and five months after yet another farcical example of the theater of absurd that is the international climate-negotiation process, as seen at the Twentieth Conference of Parties (COP20) in Lima, Peru?

Thank you Javier for compiling those statistics. There’s such an immense range of data out there, and it’s important to hone in on the key information. In terms of the climate-justice movement, the problem I see is that the whole doesn’t add up to the sum of its parts. So you have this amazing, fearless, courageous work that’s happening on local levels, all over the world—too numerous to even start listing. When it comes to resistance struggle, people are resisting mines, pipelines, and destructive development projects from the Altiplano of Peru to central Indian jungles, the Amazon River, indigenous reservations in the U.S., the factory-cities of China, the Niger Delta—uncountable acts of courage that people are taking to defend their ecosystems and their lives, whether climate change is the central issue, or it’s about defense of a single ecosystem. And then on the prefiguration side, there are people on every continent who are working really hard laying the foundations for the next world-system. Seed-saving, agroecologies—people are combining ancestral productive projects with appropriate technologies, building community resilience, and constructing community democracy in the context of war and natural disaster. So this is hopeful and wonderful work that has be encouraged. But somehow it’s not adding up.

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