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Why solidarity is necessary – but it’s not just about class

By Geoff - Ideas and Action, April 9, 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. 

“An injury to one is an injury to all”. This IWW slogan characterizes the solidarity necessitated by class struggle. It characterizes the idea that it’s necessary for the working class to cooperate and work together towards their individual interests, as these are also class interests. The interests of gaining control over economic, social and work decisions which affect the working class directly is made necessary due to the odious nature of our current global economic conditions.

But this slogan really goes further than just class. It is also an embodiment of the solidarity necessitated by intersecting forms of oppression which divide the working class and hinder their ability to fight back in the global class war. Intersectional, meaning, issues concerned with intersections between forms or systems of oppression, domination or discrimination. These issues also create various social hierarchies which marginalize and disempower people. Examples of these issues include, but are not limited to, racism, sexism, queerphobia and gender essentialism. For instance, sexual harassment in the workplace, workplace discrimination on bounds of race or gender, and gender essentialism when it comes to the dignity of transgender folks who often experience terrible cruelty from others when they need to use public restrooms.

To quote Bakunin, “I am truly free only when all human beings…are equally free…”. This means that a worker in the USA who gains freedom and control over their own work isn’t truly free while other workers in, say, China and Africa continue to be brutally repressed and exploited. But it also means that, so long as social hierarchies characterized by intersectional issues are not addressed and dissolved, that the working class as a whole cannot be free. In other words, there cannot be real liberty, equality and solidarity where some workers are discriminated against or otherwise disempowered by social hierarchies.

So, for instance, there is no real solidarity expressed by people who are only interested in their particular craft’s labor fights (because it has no real class characteristic)…for instance, IBEW workers crossing USW’s picket line during the recent refinery strike. But additionally, there is also no real solidarity expressed by people who are only concerned with freedom, for instance, for white, male, heterosexual, cisgender workers, as these are folks who are not subject to marginalization like other workers are, including people of color, women, queer and transgender folks. Because different workers are subject to various social hierarchies (like patriarchy, racism and queerphobia) and they experience a lack of freedom differently than others of the working class.

As a result, it is critical for those of us who believe fighting for another world characterized by human dignity, liberty and equality, to understand that such a thing is necessitated by solidarity. But also that this solidarity must be characterized by both class struggle as well as the recognition of the need to combat and resolve intersectional issues and dissolve all their associated social hierarchies. Because these issues ultimately disempower and marginalize people, prevent the liberation of the working class and throw a wrench in the spokes of libertarian solidarity.

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.

A “Climate Movement Across the Movements”

By Patrick Bond - CounterPunch, March 31 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.

Looming ahead in eight months’ time is another Conference of Polluters, or COP (technically, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). The last twenty did zilch to save us from climate catastrophe. Judging by early rough drafts of the Paris COP21 agreement recently leaked, another UN fiasco is inevitable.

The ‘Coalition Climat21’ strategy meeting for Paris was held in Tunis on March 23-24, just before the World Social Forum. I had a momentary sense this could be a breakthrough gathering, if indeed fusions were now ripe to move local versions of ‘Blockadia’ – i.e. hundreds of courageous physical resistances to CO2 and methane emissions sources – towards a genuine global political project. The diverse climate activists present seemed ready for progressive ideology, analysis, strategy, tactics and alliances. Between 150 and 400 people jammed a university auditorium over the course of the two days, mixing French, English and Arabic.

It was far more promising than the last time people gathered for a European COP, in 2009 at Copenhagen, when the naivety of ‘Seal the Deal’ rhetoric from mainstream climate organisations proved debilitating. That was a narrative akin to drawing lemmings towards – and over – a cliff: first up the hill of raised expectations placed on UN negotiators, before crashing down into a despondency void lasting several years. Recall that leaders of the US, Brazil, South Africa, India and China did a backroom deal that sabotaged a binding emissions follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol. In ‘Hopenhagen,’ even phrases like ‘System change not climate change’ were co-opted, as green capital educated by NGO allies agreed that a definition of ‘system’ (e.g. from fossil fuels to nuclear) could be sufficiently malleable to meet their rhetorical needs.

That precedent notwithstanding, the phrase “A climate movement across the movements” used here seemed to justify an urgent unity of diverse climate activists, along with heightened attempts to draw in those who should be using climate in their own specific sectoral work. The two beautiful words ‘Climate Justice’ are on many lips but I suspect the cause of unity may either erase them from the final phraseology or water them down to nebulousness.

No System but the Ecosystem: Earth First! and Anarchism

By Panagioti Tsolkas - Anarchist Studies, March 31, 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. 

There is a clear case to be made for the connection between ecology and anarchism.1 Many philosophers, academics, and radicals have elaborated this over the past two centuries2. But reviewing the history of this theoretical relationship is not the goal here. The movement surrounding anarchism in the past 200 years has certainly included its fair share of theory, yet what has rooted anarchist ideas so deeply in human society is the prioritization of action. It is this action-based relationship between the ecological movement and anarchism that we explore.

How has anarchism inspired and shaped ecological action in recent history, and how might it continue to? The experience of Earth First! over three-and-a-half decades embodies the most critical aspects of this question.

While Earth First! (EF!) has never considered itself to be explicitly anarchist, it has always had a connection to the antiauthoritarian counterculture and has operated in an anarchistic fashion since its inception3. In doing so, it has arguably maintained one of the most consistent and long-running networks for activists and revolutionaries of an anarchist persuasion with the broader goal of overturning all socially constructed hierarchies.

In Oppose and Propose: Lessons From Movement for a New Society, which covers an under-acknowledged antiauthoritarian history, author Andrew Cornell makes a case about MNS carrying the legacy of nonhierarchical radical activism from the civil rights and anti-war era of the ’60s into the anti-nuke era of the ’80s. Cornell points to MNS essentially carrying the torch just long enough to spark what would become the global justice movement of the late ’90s.

A similar case can be made for Earth First!, particularly within the decade between the formal end of MNS and the 1999 uprising against the World Trade Organization in the streets of Seattle. Except rather than formally calling it quits, as MNS did in ’89, EF! stuck around, stumbling through several waves of internal strife and state repression to continue into its 35th year as a decentralized, horizontally-organized, anticapitalist, antistate force to be reckoned with.4

As many anarchist-oriented projects come and go, it is worthwhile to explore how and why those efforts that persist over decades are able to do so. Even more importantly, in this time of global urgency surrounding an escalation of overlapping ecological crises (extinction, extraction, climate change, etc.), and the recuperation of environmentalism by a “green” industrial economy, the story of Earth First!—for all its imperfections and baggage—has crucial lessons for ecological revolutionaries.

On Sabotage and Pipelines: A Green Syndicalist Commentary

By Jeff Shantz - Infoshop News, January 25, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

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

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

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

It's here, and it's growing: the self-assembling Coalition of the Radical Left

By Alexander Reid Ross - The Ecologist, March 6, 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.

In January, I went to the Oregon coast to get away from the city, clear my mind, and have some fun. While walking down the beach, though, we noticed a horrible sight.

Thousands of dead young birds, called cassin's auklets, littered the sands, strewn amongst the bottles and random plastic like so many discarded dreams.

Scientists are baffled as to the reason for the die-off. National Geographic called it "unprecedented... one of the largest mass die-offs of seabirds ever recorded." Between 50-100,000 birds as of the end of January.

The most direct explanation is simply starvation. The natural food of the birds has gone away this season, and it fits in with a larger trend of mass die-offs on the Northwest coast. It could be that ocean acidification is creating an ecological collapse, a lack of oxygen in the water, perhaps, but the main theory places the blame on the warming oceans.

It is climate change that is causing this death, just as climate change induced drought have led to the wars in Syria and Mali. It is killing our young; the entire planet is in grave peril.

Something must be done. But what?

The political party in power in Greece is called Syriza, an acronym meaning Synaspismós Rizospastikís Aristerás (Συνασπισμός Ριζοσπαστικής Αριστεράς) or 'coalition of the radical left'. Their organization is not what one could possibly call a conventional political party: it is more of a work of rethinking politics and its relationship to the state.

They formed in 2004 as an anti-establishment party, and surfed into power on the waves of riotous discontent incumbent on austerity programs and police repression. Although they have found turbulent times amidst negotiations with global financial institutions, Syriza has shown the North Atlantic the possibility of taking hegemony from the core economic and political powers of neoliberalism.

EcoUnionist News #40

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, March 5, 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:

USW Refinery Workers Strike News:

Carbon Bubble:

Health and Safety:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

Five reasons the IWW are challenging the culture of the UK Left (and why you should be too!)

By Chris W - New Syndicalist, February 25, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

We can’t put our faith in the ballot box

The recent election of SYRIZA in Greece has invested a lot of hope in the emergence of a popular anti-austerity front across Europe. However the deep resistance that SYRIZA are facing to even the modest social reforms they are proposing from their European partners gives an indication of the intrinsic limits of parliamentary action alone to wider, and particularly deeper, social change. That is not to say that there are no important lessons to be drawn from this situation. Part of SYRIZA’s success story is in the way in which it has effectively capitalised on political ground that has been largely conceded by the parties of the social democratic centre in their widespread commitment to “responsible” economic policies and continuing austerity. This is a situation repeated across many European democracies. The so-called PASOKification of the centre left (in the UK and particularly in Scotland) has left a certain degree of political space “up for the taking”. The recent explosion in Green Party membership in England and Wales fits this story nicely: some might even find themselves feeling optimistic about alternatives to the Political status quo. Nonetheless, we need to be hard-headed in how we deal with these recent trends.

Poverty, hopelessness and powerlessness have drawn many throughout Europe, including a considerable section of both our own and the Greek electorate, to the populist and far-right. Understanding why it was the left that triumphed recently requires more than looking to SYRIZA’s leadership and electoral strategies – we need to look at the way broader Greek anti-capitalist culture operates. For decades a vibrant network of extra-parliamentary parties, social movements and trade union groups have sustained the continuing case for basic social solidarity through the maintenance of left spaces, solidarity networks and other forms of community engagement. This genuinely life-sustaining work has highlighted the pragmatism of socialist ideas above the individualistic solutions offered by the far-right and pro-austerity left. The future of SYRIZA’s relation to these social and extra-parliamentary movements is very unclear at this stage. Similarly, but on a smaller scale, is it possible to understand the surge in SNP popularity following the independence referendum without also appreciating the explosion in grassroots activity that preceded it?

In England and Wales the outlook is even bleaker. Not only is the left generally lacking in the basic forms of outreach and engagement that has empowered our Greek and Scottish friends, but the electoral system is stacked against any chance of even a modest swing in electoral sentiment. Even if the Green Party was to mobilise an army of supporters comparable to that seen in the Scottish referendum the “breakthrough” would be underwhelming, at most a victory of a handful of parliamentary seats.

The splitting of the political centre ground, combined with the massive disenfranchisement brought about by austerity policies, leaves a great deal of potential for any movement offering real and practical non-parliamentary alternatives. As solidarity unionists we believe that grassroots engagement and direct action are not merely the means of realising that latent potential, they are the basis for the worker-run society we’re trying to build. Meaningful and lasting victories can be won through these activities in a number of highly adaptable and scalable forms – from the group of workmates who march on the boss to win back their tip jar to the occupied and collectivised factory employing thousands of workers, we’ve got a working model for building the society we want.

EcoUnionist News #28

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, February 5, 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 Story:

  • Register now for the Future of Railroads: Safety, Workers, Community & the Environment Conferences: Richmond, California (March 14, 2015) and Olympia, Washington (March 22, 2015) - railroadconference.org

USW Refinery Workers Strike News:

Crude by Rail:

Carbon Bubble:

Green Jobs and Just Transition:

Other News of Interest:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

EcoUnionist News #25

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, January 26, 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:

Crude by Rail:

Carbon Bubble:

Green Jobs and Just Transition:

Other News of Interest:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC

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