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EcoUnionist News #18

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, January 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.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Story:

Railroad Workers, Safety, and the Environment:

Black Lives Matter:

Other News of Interest:

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

When History Knocks

By Sam Gindin - Jacobin, December 30, 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.

Naomi Klein is a longtime movement and media icon, a gifted synthesizer and popularizer who, over the past two decades, has been a leading chronicler of anti-corporate, anti-globalization, and anti-capitalist social movements (a series of “anti”s that undeniably needs some unpacking).

Who else on the Left gets a sympathetic interview on the evening news of Canada’s publicly owned television broadcaster before the release of her latest book? And who else, as a preview of that book, is immediately given a chance to explain to a national audience why, from the perspective of the environment, capitalism is “the main enemy?”

Klein’s writings and talks have provided “the movement” with needed context and coherence, and served as a conduit and catalyst for discussions, contributing to its recruitment and growth. Her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, is the climax of her highly influential trilogy and also registers how much her perspective has changed over the last fifteen years.

This shift centers on both her assessment of the movement — more than ever before, Klein expresses frustrations with the movement she is part of and still sees as fundamental to social change — and her deeper appreciation of capitalism “as the main enemy.” On this latter point, her earlier criticisms of particular aspects of capitalism have now expanded into suggesting — or at least coming very close to suggesting — that capitalism has become the central barrier to human survival and progress.

Klein’s trilogy began with No Logo, which came out in 1999 and exposed the manipulative and exploitative underbelly of consumer culture. Fortuitously published amid the Battle of Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization and later branded the “bible of the anti-globalization movement,” No Logo built on the moral crusade across university campuses against the corporate use of sweatshop labor for that culture. But it mistakenly separated supposedly “good” and “bad” corporations, obscuring the larger social system in which these companies lived and acted.

Klein’s second major book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism also arrived at a propitious moment: in 2007, just before the financial implosion and the most dramatic economic crisis since the Great Depression. This time Klein chronicled how corporations and capitalist states pounce on the opportunities provided by man-made or natural crises to “ram through policies that enrich a small elite.” In this case, though, the focus on crises underplayed what capitalism does between crises.

Again displaying a penchant for well-timed releases, Klein’s This Changes Everything reached bookstores two days before October’s massive Climate March in New York City. Here it is no longer capitalism’s bad apples that are the focus, nor capitalism’s ability to use crises against us, but the organizing principles of the system itself — and the environmental consequences that follow. “[O]ur economic system and our planetary system are now at war,” Klein writes, “and it’s not the laws of nature that can be changed.”

In characteristically accessible language, Klein summarizes the alarming scientific consensus on climate change. But the significance of This Changes Everything doesn’t lie in Klein’s detailed and passionate description of the urgency of the environmental crisis. Rather, its importance lies in Klein’s determination to demonstrate that changing our relationship to nature is inseparable from changing our relationship to each other — by “transforming our economic system” (I’ll return later to ambiguities in how this is interpreted).

The immediate threat to the earth “changes everything” in the sense that just adding “the environment” to our list of concerns is not good enough.

The sheer scale of the problem necessitates a politics that can take on capitalism. We must do away with any notions, Klein asserts, that the environmental crisis can be contained and eventually rolled back through policy tinkering (though addressing symptoms is necessary); technical fixes (though sensible technological advances should be vigorously pursued); or market-based solutions (no qualification necessary — it’s silly to expect the market to solve problems it was instrumental in creating). Something far more comprehensive is required.

EcoUnionist News #15

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, December 30, 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.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Other News of Interest:

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

EcoUnionist News #10

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, December 17, 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.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Story:

Urgent Action:

  • Philippines sugar organizer murdered - Act Now!

Dispatches from Lima COP20:

Other News of Interest:

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

My Social Credo

By Arthur J. Miller - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, December 12, 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.

1. ALL THINGS ARE CONNECTED: There are many needed struggles, but they are all connected because in one way or another, we all struggle against the same oppressors and the same abusive system. In the natural world all life is connected.

2. LIFE IN BALANCE: Life out of balance with all is the greatest threat we face to our survival. Life out of balance, a violent world of pursuit of greed and power for some at the expense of the many is leaving our world a wasteland of human folly and suffering. Life in balance with all around us is our only means of survival.

3. HUMAN RIGHTS FOR ALL: The right to exist, the right to food, shelter and medical care, the right to dwell upon the land, the right of free speech, free assembly and the right to organizing for better conditions, the right to live without oppression, should be the rights of all of humankind.

4. DIVERSITY AWARENESSS AND RESPECT: Humankind is a great diversity of cultures. When we treat that diversity with acknowledgment and respect, that diversity becomes our strength and not our weakness.

5. INCLUSION: The oppressed and exploited are a great mass of people. But they are not all the same. Seeking to include all people and their concerns makes real social change possible. Seeking to exclude people makes real social change impossible. For in that you only change things for the better of some at the expense of the many.

6. SELF-DETERMINATION: The oppressed organizing against our oppressions and struggling to control our own fate.

7. SPEAKING FOR OURSELVES: The oppressed and exploited people need to be able to speak for ourselves by means of writing, speaking, art, music and so on, because we are the only ones that are truly able to understand what we are going through. And that understanding is necessary in order to free ourselves from the way things were not meant to be.

8. GENERATIONS IN BALANCE: Creating balance between the old and the new. What came before lays the foundation, the new adds to it and passes it on to the future generations.

9. THE 7TH GENERATION: Instant gratification of greed is a suicidal direction. In all things, look to the 7th Generation to come as to what we do now will effect the future, many Indigenous cultures teach us this.

10. WORKING FOLKS: We live in a class society where those that do the useful work are of a lower class while those that oppress and exploit us exist as a higher privileged class. There is great dignity in the labor of working people, for we do all that is needed for our needs and wants. No society can exist without us. There is no dignity or usefulness in the class that oppresses and exploits us, they do nothing useful, they are unneeded and they stand in the way of the well-being of all.

11. FOR A CLASSLESS SOCIETY: The idle rich on top living off the labor of the classes below them, and thus creating endless class conflict. Organize for a classless society for the peace and well-being of all humanity.

12. REPLACING EUROCENTICISM WITH MULTI-ETHNIC INTERNATIONALISM: Eurocenticism seeks conquest of the world by the domination of a few imperialists, and to impose their cultural/political/economic system on all, which they view as superior to all else. Eurocentic supremacy needs to be replaced with multi-ethnic internationalism. True multi-ethnic internationalism is open to all the knowledge and cultures of the people of the world.

13. ENDING THE GENOCIDE: The Western lands are built upon genocidal policies against the Original People. It is important to understand this so that we can put an end to those policies that started with Columbus and continue to this day. FREE LEONARD PELTIER!

Climate Justice in Collision with Revenue-Neutral Carbon Policies?

By Patrick Mazza - Cascadia Planet, November 25, 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.

Plotting options for carbon policy in Washington state, Governor Jay Inslee’s Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce just issued its recommendations.  The report sets up a political collision between advocates for neutral carbon pricing systems and climate justice proponents.

The CERT sagely concluded that carbon reduction goals are not going be met by market-based solutions alone.It is not enough to put a price on carbon, or set a legal cap.It will take a “harmonized, comprehensive policy approach. ”By increasing the price of fossil fuel energy, market mechanisms provide an “economic infrastructure” that sends “a common price signal across all emissions sources and emissions reductions opportunities.” This signal must be accompanied by “a well harmonized set of complementary policies” and “targeted use” of carbon revenues.

“Particular attention needs to be given to the transportation sector as the largest source of carbon emissions in the state,” CERT noted. Complementary policies are needed to promote transit and transit-oriented development, and alternative fuels such as electricity.

This emphasis on transportation alternatives is spot on.  It is partly aimed at reducing the impact of increased fuel costs on economically stressed populations.  That’s smart because it is exactly among those populations where fossil fuel interests will seek to drive a political wedge into the unified progressive coalition needed to pass carbon policy. 

Chapter 34 : We’ll Have an Earth Night Action

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

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, 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]

Climate politics at a dead end – How to build a new road

By Patrick Mazza - Cascadia Planet, November 13, 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.

Climate politics is dead-ended. 

It may seem strange to make such a statement in the wake of the much-heralded U.S.-China climate deal announced November 12.  So let me clarify.

President Obama did announce the intent to reduce U.S. carbon emissions 26-28% by 2025, while China said it would peak carbon emissions and generate at least 20% of its energy from non-fossil sources by 2030. 

All well and good, but far from the 6% annual emissions cuts required to hold overall global warming under 2° Celsius, the minimal borderline between climate disruption that is merely severe and that which is utterly catastrophic (though many scientists believe the cutoff is more like 1.5°C). In other words, the U.S.-China agreement represents only a slower road to climate hell.

Okay, but it’s a start, right?

“The agreement with China is a good first step. But we hope it is but a first step because it is not enough to prevent significant climate change,” noted Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Unfortunately, it may be the last step possible in the current political environment.  Republican election victories in the U.S. Senate and states around the country have put legislative progress on global warming into a deep freeze.

Fighting the Trojan Horse of Hipster-Fascism in Portland

By Sascha Reid Ross - Earth First! Newswire, November 14, 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.

“No one surrounds themselves with Runes, totenkopfs and neofolk and REALLY likes the jews. They just pretend they do because they are cowards.”

– James Porrazzo, former leader of the American Front

At first, I didn’t think that I was going to the protest against the controversial neo-folk band Death in June, but the stars seemed to align. Having just finished reading that 3,500 page tome of Jewish scripture, the Babylonian Talmud, I felt like I had some extra time on my hands and needed to celebrate. As it happened, the protest took place the day before the anniversary of Kristallnacht, which was the event that heralded the beginning of the Holocaust through the destruction of Jewish homes, synagogues, and businesses, and the sending of 30,000 Jews to concentration camps. The following day was Armistice Day (Veterans Day), celebrating the end of World War I. It seemed like a good day to fight fascism, and Death in June is famous for their openly fascist approach.

Some who join me in coming from an ecological background might wonder, why would you protest Death in June, a subcultural neo-folk band that doesn’t really make any ecological claims? Why act against a musical act unless their music sucks? Why not protest somebody more mainstream who is using fascist propaganda, like Nicki Minaj? Then again, why fight people who are literally hipster-fascists, instead of fighting hipsters who are perpetrating gentrification and forwarding state capitalism (which seems, with its prison industry complex, to be almost indistinguishable from fascism).

To be honest, I’ve never listened to Death in June, though I generally dislike what I know about the cultish aspects of neo-folk. It’s not that big of a deal, and I don’t intend to give the band more attention than they’re worth (not a lot). What I’m most worried about, in fact, is the mass politics of the ecology movement becoming fascistic, and DIJ’s politics provide one among many models through which the infiltration of fascist ideas becomes possible.

After researching the band, my concerns mounted, and after a discussion with the band’s promoter, I felt further validated. The promoter assured me that the music is supposed to make me uncomfortable. As someone who lost family to the Holocaust and whose grandfather helped liberate a concentration camp, I felt more enraged than uncomfortable with the perspective provided by DIJ and their attachment to “leftist” Nazi ideology. On the other side of my family, my father was shuttled out of Birmingham to the countryside by his mother and aunt at the age of four as the Nazi bombs fell. Uncomfortable is not the appropriate word for two generations of historic trauma, but I didn’t want to over-react (and I still don’t). The promoter apologized, but promptly reiterated her stance about intentionally making descendants of Holocaust victims and their families feel uncomfortable.

I reminded the promoter and the venue that the Alhambra Theater, where the event was planned to take place, is named after the historic scene of the Spanish Reconquista, where the Christians defeated the Muslims in that portentous year, 1492. The Alhambra is a symbol of Crusades, Islamophobia, and the ensuing expulsion of the Jews and Spanish Inquisition, and the music venue would be forever be associated with politically right-wing ideas by inviting a reactionary band to play when no other venue in Oregon would let them play (according to their own promoter). My post and the ensuing comment thread, which the band’s promoter assured me were very reasonable and levelheaded, have since been deleted by the page’s administrator.

This is not to say that I believe in excommunications; I have friends who like the neo-folk scene. Debate has significantly affected my community, but I believe that people in the ecology movement need to abandon sectarianism and allow for a degree of open and positive debate. Who doesn’t have Wiccan friends, neo-pagan associates who enjoy performing at Renaissance Fairs? At the same time, we must be ware of mass political positions that unite these ideas in some misguided “need to preserve European culture (from immigrants).”

Prefiguration or Actualization? Radical Democracy and Counter-Institution in the Occupy Movement

By Daniel Murray - Berkeley Journal of Sociology, November 3, 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.

Comparing Occupy Wall Street and an outgrowth of the movement in the SF Bay Area called Occupy the Farm, participant-researcher Daniel Murray argues that the movement for radical democracy must do more than create spaces for discourse and dissent. It must be a movement of democratic counter-institutions.

The Occupy movement emerged in response to a devastating economic crisis, bringing economic inequality to the center of political discourse. But it also emerged in response to a wave of social movements around the world that toppled dictators, asserted the power of the people and demonstrated their desire to take control of the decisions that affect their lives. In Occupy, as in all of these movements, the economic and the political were linked. Participants did not merely demand an end to foreclosures or new redistributive policies to address economic inequality; they also saw these grievances as symptomatic of a fundamentally undemocratic political system. Though the interests and motivations of participants in the Occupy movement were highly diverse, at the core it can be read as a movement for radical democracy – the underlying goal was to actualize the ideal of self-organizing communities of free and equal persons, expand and deepen democratic participation in all spheres of life, and increase individuals’ and communities’ power over social, economic and political institutions.[1]

But in many ways, Occupy also sought to be a movement of radical democracy. Rather than petitioning politicians to bring about democratizing reforms or building a party that would hopefully instate democracy after the revolution, activists hoped to bring about a radically democratic society through radical democratic practice. They sought to prefigure a democracy-to-come, by actualizing radical democracy in the movement itself. They claimed public spaces as venues in which experiments in radical democracy could be developed, tested, and propagated. They were spaces in which to organize political action and in which all were free to participate in agenda-setting, decision-making, and political education through the process itself.

Based on fourteen months of participant-research in two Occupy sites – Occupy Wall Street and an outgrowth of the movement called Occupy the Farm – this paper evaluates the different forms prefigurative politics has taken within the movement.[2] Many commentators have lauded the movement as an example of prefigurative politics, which they see as the cutting edge of contemporary radical politics.[3] However, an overemphasis on the value of prefiguration can be debilitating, leading to a focus on internal movement dynamics at the expense of building a broader movement, and a focus on symbolic expressions of dissent as opposed to the development of alternatives to actually replace existing political, economic and social institutions. Occupy Wall Street (OWS) suffered this fate, partly due to the perception that the encampment and the decision-making procedures were prefigurative, and the perception that prefigurative politics itself will lead to revolutionary transformations in the political, economic and social structure.

While Occupy Wall Street foundered on the prefigurative obsession with movement process, a group of activists, students and local residents in the San Francisco Bay Area have sought to overcome these challenges. Since 2012, they have worked under the banner of Occupy the Farm (OTF) to create an agricultural commons on a parcel of publicly owned land. Unlike OWS, OTF has worked to establish a counter-institution grounded in material resources and production, that is ultimately meant to increase participants’ autonomy from the state and capitalism. In this way it has been able to link radical democracy and economic justice in a material way, rather than merely symbolically. As it is generally practiced and conceptualized today, prefigurative politics is an inadequate framework for developing radical democratic political strategy. Instead of prefiguration, we should redirect our efforts toward developing and linking democratic counter-institutions that produce and manage common resources. Occupy the Farm illustrates some of the potential and the challenges of such a strategy.

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