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The Servant Problem: Josie Foreman of Feminist Fightback asks those who see themselves as on the left to reconsider employing a cleaner.

By Josie Foreman - Red Pepper Blog, June 9, 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.

Something strange is taking place in my world. My friends are employing servants. These are not rich people by any means, but lower-middle class teachers, NGO types, trade union organisers and cultural workers. They are liberals and lefties. Often they are people living in a rented room in shared houses, since living alone in London nowadays is beyond most people’s means. But they can afford to employ cleaners.

I have to admit that I have a strong reaction to this – a mixture of self-righteous moralism and class rage which is not necessarily very politically useful and certainly rather unattractive. Yet I have two kinds of vested interest in this issue: firstly my mum worked as a cleaner, my dad still does, and I used to in my early twenties; secondly, I now write about and research the history of domestic servants, focusing on the nineteenth century when 1 in 3 women cleaned other people’s houses for a living. So I’m writing this article to try to dissect the overwhelming feelings that rise up in me when I hear about my friends employing cleaners – to trace the historical roots of this revulsion and to find out whether it can illuminate the political issues or whether I should just dismiss it as a self-indulgent persecution complex.

What I am sure of, however, is that this is not a trivial question. I do not think that wanting to scrutinise why people employ cleaners is an act of middle-class self-loathing akin to worrying that your friends spend too much money on their organic veg boxes. Because the global market in migrant domestic labour touches on an even wider problem – the problem of reproductive labour. As our sisters in the Wages for Housework and Women’s Liberation Movement pointed out, reproductive labour (cooking, cleaning, caring) ‘reproduces’ labour power and therefore capital by ensuring that people are well-fed, clean and emotionally stable enough to work each day for a wage. Many commentators have suggested that the present historical moment is one of a crisis in care, whereby much of the reproductive labour previously provided by the state (free school meals, old people’s home, childcare centres) are being cut and pushed back into the private sphere of the home.

What all this amounts to, therefore, is that we should not assume that people employ cleaners because they are lazy. The burden of reproductive labour placed on the individual household with all adults in full-time waged work is now immense. This is coupled with the fact that anyone lucky enough to be employed right now is expected to work excessively long hours and to bring work home with them. Many of my friends quite understandably claim that they don’t want to spend their one day off a week doing more work cleaning their house. For people who have children, the problem is intensified – domestic labour is boring and exhausting and takes up far too much of our precious free time.

So does this mean that employing a cleaner is a sensible solution to the crisis in reproduction? Someone gets a job and someone else gets a break? This is the justification given by many of my cleaned-for friends. Yet I believe the dilemmas and emotions awakened by the employment of cleaners extend far beyond this simple calculation, and have powerful material and historical implications for our ability to build solidarity with other human beings and create a different kind of world.

Five Reasons Why “IF MODERN ANARCHISTS FOUGHT IN SPAIN” Isn't Funny or Clever

From the Blogger Self Certified - June 24, 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.

A lot of my friends on social media have been sharing, and apparantly chuckling at a webcomic called “If Modern Anarchists fought in Spain” (IMAFS), which lampoons the modern anarchist movement by contrasting it with the “serious anarchists” of yore. Far from being an amusing satirical comment on the state of anarchism today, it’s neither funny, nor clever and it sides with power over the oppressed.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking, those anarchists need to lighten up; it’s just a playful dig; It’s just like ‘Great Moments in Leftism’ (GMIL); and hey, it’s kind of true, right? But here lies the problem with the strip, it doesn’t actually tick any of those boxes.

What’s Become of the German Greens?

By Joachim Jachnow - New Left Review #81, May-June 2013

On 24 March 1999 the first bombs fell on Belgrade’s power plants and water supply, knocking out the city’s electricity and destroying vital infrastructure, factories, railways, bridges. [1] The German Luftwaffe was back in the Balkans, 58 years almost to the day after the last bombardment of the Yugoslav capital in 1941, its strikes uncannily repeating General Löhr’s infamous strategy of destroying the administrative and logistical centres of an already open city—now described, in the nato jargon of the day, as targets of ‘dual purpose’. Germany’s military resurgence could hardly have been more thunderously announced. Its Air Force flew almost five hundred raids in Operation Allied Force, against what remained of Yugoslavia, already sapped by economic decay, Western intervention and ethnic nationalism—often externally promoted, with Austro-German diplomacy to the fore. nato bombardment not only left dead civilians, burnt hospitals and ruined schools in its wake, but also served to escalate the tragedy it was allegedly intended to prevent, pouring petrol on the fire, intensifying civil-war crimes and provoking the mass flight of civilians. The Green Party leader Joschka Fischer had been right when he declared in 1994 that the engagement of German forces in countries ‘where Hitler’s troops had stormed during the Second World War’ would only fan the flames of conflict. [2]

But Fischer was now Foreign Minister and Vice-Chancellor of Germany’s first Red–Green Federal government. His predictions forgotten, Fischer and the Green Party leadership saw it as Germany’s moral obligation, if not to storm across Yugoslavia once more, then to drop bombs on its territory from a safe height—and, naturally, for humanitarian ends. The Green rank and file were more reluctant: no Western European party had been so clearly identified with the demands of the peace movement for nuclear disarmament and the abolition of nato. The German Greens had deep historical roots in the opposition to West German militarization and in solidarity movements with anti-imperialist struggles. But after long internal battles, the party had become an established player within the German parliamentary system. That entering the Federal government involved endorsing both nato and the ‘market economy’ was tacitly understood. Green mep Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a long-term associate of Fischer, had been preparing the ground for military intervention since the start of the Yugoslav wars of secession and was now calling for ground troops—a land invasion. Nevertheless, the 1998 Green election manifesto stated that the German Greens would oppose both ‘military peace enforcement and combat missions’; it looked forward to the roll-back, not the expansion, of nato.

END: CIV—Against Jensen and for a Real Ecological and Working Class Revolution

By, DB - September 1, 2011

The following article was submitted to First of May for publication. The author, DB, is a friend, comrade, and fellow organizer in the IWW. It is a critique of the Derrick Jensen inspired film, End:CIV.

Derrick Jensen represents the current peak synthesis of primitivist and insurrectionist thought. And while both trends are declining within anarchism thanks to the global upswing of mass struggle against austerity, like in Egypt, Wisconsin, Spain, and so on, such trends are still able to get a good event together in Minneapolis, like the hundred or so people who attended the showing of END: CIV, a movie inspired by Jensen’s writing, and like it, a dead end for any relevant conversation on the present moment.

There are deep, insolvable failures in Jensen’s work with regard to revolution, collapse, and militancy, but let us begin with the strengths of Jensen’s approach so we can demolish his politics without losing what value they contain.

Strengths of Jensen’s thought

First, they correctly tie the atrocities committed to the earth to the atrocities committed to human beings and note the connection between capitalism, colonialism, and the destruction of the earth.

Second, they notice the major human crisis and transition in which we find ourselves in, a capitalist transition as US power declines, a transition from the energy staple of the whole economy—oil—and the real possibility of significant climate change.

Third, they point out the inadequacy of current responses, green capitalism, change through consumption, and so on, and the craziness of projects like ethanol, the tar sands, fracking, and so on.

Fourth, and finally, they emphasize that a militant, and indeed, revolutionary response is crucial to making necessary changes, and that nonprofit, corporate, and nonviolent approaches are not sufficient.

Can Trade Unions Become Environmental Innovators?

By Nora Räthzel, David Uzzell, and Dave Elliott - Soundings, December 2010

Learning from the Lucas Aerospace Workers

The attempt by workers at Lucas Aerospace in the 1970s to develop a plan to convert production in their company from weapons to socially useful goods has recently been invoked in debates on creating low-carbon societies.[1] As Hilary Wainwright and Andy Bowman have argued, a renewed Green New Deal that involved a similar level of painstaking attention to grass-roots participation ‘would be a worthy successor indeed’.[2] We agree with this view, and we would like to make the additional argument that the Lucas example is particularly helpful for international trade union debates on climate change.

The Lucas workers were way ahead of their time in recognising the need for sustainable development - even if such a concept did not exist at that time. But their project also demanded a radical revision of the ways in which society determined its priorities. In today’s terms, their argument was for a ‘Just Transition’. In other words, in adapting production for different needs, it was important to make sure that any new strategies would take workers’ interests into account. And it is this notion that is important in trade union debates today.[3]

Trade unions are not commonly regarded as being on the frontline of the climate change battle. Many people (including not a few trade unionists) see unions as being on the side of climate sceptics, or as being a constituency for whom other concerns are more important. But many national and international unions are currently seeking to develop policies through which their industries can help to mitigate the causes and effects of climate change; and unions do have a long history of struggling for environmental issues - even if this history is not given so much attention today. For example, in the early years of industrialisation trade unionists fought against air and river pollution in their communities. Furthermore, it should not be forgotten that safe workplaces - an issue where the history of trade union involvement is more familiar - are also an environmental issue. One reason why the trade union record is often overlooked is that environmental issues have often been raised by environmental movements, which have paid little attention to social and work issues. Equally, trade unionists often reject environmental arguments, for example claiming that it is more important to preserve and create jobs than to ‘save a few trees’ - as was the kind of dismissive remark sometimes made in the course of our interviews. However, things are changing dramatically and fast.

Revolutionary Ecology, Biocentrism, and Deep Ecology

By Judi Bari - 1995 | [PDF File Available]

I was a social justice activist for many years before I ever heard of Earth First!. So it came as a surprise to me, when I joined Earth First! in the 1980s, to find that the radical environmental movement paid little attention to the social causes of ecological destruction. Similarly, the urban-based social justice movement seems to have a hard time admitting the importance of biological issues, often dismissing all but "environmental racism" as trivial. Yet in order to effectively respond to the crises of today, I believe we must merge these two issues.

Starting from the very reasonable, but unfortunately revolutionary concept that social practices which threaten the continuation of life on Earth must be changed, we need a theory of revolutionary ecology that will encompass social and biological issues, class struggle, and a recognition of the role of global corporate capitalism in the oppression of peoples and the destruction of nature.

I believe we already have such a theory. It's called deep ecology, and it is the core belief of the radical environmental movement. The problem is that, in the early stages of this debate, deep ecology was falsely associated with such right wing notions as sealing the borders, applauding AIDS as a population control mechanism, and encouraging Ethiopians to starve. This sent the social ecologists justifiably scurrying to disassociate. And I believe it has muddied the waters of our movement's attempt to define itself behind a common philosophy.

So in this article, I will try to explain, from my perspective as an unabashed leftist, why I think deep ecology is a revolutionary world view. I am not trying to proclaim that my ideas are Absolute Truth, or even that they represent a finished thought process in my own mind. These are just some ideas I have on the subject, and I hope that by airing them, it will spark more debate and advance the discussion.

Earth First! The Underbelly Exposed

By Chris Shillock - Libertarian Labor Review (Anarcho Syndicalist Review) #6, Winter 1989

Several years ago the activist community was fired by news of a group of militant ecologists who called themselves Earth First!. Anarchists particularly felt a kinship. Earth First!’s uncompromising defense of the environment and their rejection of government stewardship of the wilderness echoed our own experience of the futility of working within the system. Their use of direct action was taken from our own history. Their full-blooded all-out enthusiasm for nature promised a robust, holistic radicalism.

Lately, as people learned more about the group, some truly disturbing facets of Earth First!’s ideology have come to light. By now it is clear that not only is Earth First! hostile to any meaningful social analysis, but it is freighted with so much nationalist and racist baggage as to make them obnoxious to any worker.

Earth First!’s philosophy, also known as Deep Ecology, is set out in a book of that name by Bill Devall and George Sessions (Peregrine Smith, Salt Lake City, 1985). It borrows from Zen Buddhism, Native American religions and from Heidegger, but is based on an immediate intuition of the “wilderness experience.” They urge us to go into the woods, to just feel. The result will be that feeling of the oneness of all creation which we have probably all known when we find ourselves alone under the stars.

Deep Ecologists go on to reason that “The well-being and flourishing of human and nonhuman Life on Earth have value in themselves…These values are independent of the usefulness of the non-human world for human purposes.” Deep Ecologists condemn other social and scientific views as “anthropocentric” in contrast to their “biocentric” outlook. This epithet is hurled throughout the pages of their journal, Earth First!, to clinch a point or to dismiss opponents.

So far, okay, aside from a few quibbles in logic. Earth First! has the potential to be a noble and passionate worldview. Instead their concept of “biocentric egalitarianism” turns the corner into a Malthusian blind alley shadowed with dark visions of a vengeful Earth lashing back at the species that uses her. Malthusianism has always been a pseudoscience serving the need of right wing ideology. In the Nineteenth Century, Social Darwinists used Malthus’ simplistic predictions of a dwindling food supply to justify doing nothing to alleviate the misery of the poor. Variations of this philosophy have been used in the Twentieth Century to buttress everything from eugenics to Third World starvation.

Earth First! vs. the Rumor Mongers

By Lobo x99 (Franklin Rosemont) - The Industrial Worker, September 1988

The May (1988) issue of the Industrial Worker featuring Radical Environmentalism and especially the most radical environmentalists of all, the Earth First! movement, has provoked more enthusiastic discussion and action-and more controversy-than any issue of the paper in many a long year. Even before it went to press, word got around the Union regarding its content, and bulk orders started poring in from branches, delegates, and individual members to such an extent that we had to print 10,000 copies-not bad for a paper which, six months earlier, had a monthly press-run of only 3,000.

Fellow Worker Bruce, "Utah" Phillips, one of the greatest living Wobbly bards, recently called Earth First! "the IWW of the environmental movement." Since everyone knows that (the) IWW historically, signifies the most radical , most active, most creative, most daring, most effective, as well as sassiest, gutsyist, funniest, toughest and all-around best-in-its-class, this is a good description of Earth First!'s position in the environmental spectrum. Emphasizing that the roots of today's global ecological crisis lie in the inherently ecocidal patriarchal-industrial-capitalist system (and recognizing that USSR-style "state socialism" is just more of the same crap under another name), EF!ers have also perceived that you can't change this system by playing according to its repressive rules, and that militant direct action, Wobbly-style, is the most effective instrument of radical social transformation.

In the May Industrial Worker Wobblies and Earth First!ers-including several who are Wobblies and Earth First!ers-explored some of their many philosophical and practical points in common. Our specific aim was to promote a greater understanding of Earth First! among IWW members and sympathizers, and to introduce Earth First!ers to the IWW heritage and program. Our broader hope was to effect a greater degree of common action and mutual aid between the two movements in their struggle to subvert the dominant paradigm" and to protect the Earth from its profit-hungry corporate destroyers.

Once the May issue hit the stands our wildest hopes regarding its impact were quickly exceeded. It became clear at once that young rebel workers are far more interested in radical environmentalism than even we had realized. Moreover, from all over the continent reports have been coming in showing that Wobblies and Earth First!ers are eager not only to learn from each other but also to take action together effect our common goals. And last but not least, more new memberships, new subscriptions, new bulk orders, renewals of lapsed subs and contributions to the Industrial Worker sustaining fund have come into IWW headquarters since May than in any comparable period in anyone's memory.

Yes, fellow workers, the IWW is growing today as it has not grown in years, and there is no getting around the fact that one of the reasons it is growing is because of our fortuitous encounter-now increasingly taking on the character of an active, ongoing combat alliance-with the international Earth First! movement.

Workers and Wilderness

By Franklin Rosemont - Industrial Worker, May 1988

There is no other guiding light than that which is to be found in nature.

--Lautremont

Bourgeois ideology inherited from its Judeo-Christian forerunners a deep hatred of wilderness and, by extension, hatred and fear of all wild beings and things. Everyone knows that capitalism entered the world dripping with blood and gore, and that its few hundred years of domination have been the bloodiest and goriest in all human history. Its champions, however have always liked to present themselves as an eminently civilizing force, bringing Law'n'Order and Industry not only to societies variously described as savage, primitive, backward and underdeveloped, but also to remote regions previously held to be uninhabitable by humankind.

For those who are addicted to it, civilization is regarded as a universally good thing, a blessed condition of peace, prosperity and social harmony (it is generally conceded, however, that the reality falls somewhat short of this ideal). Above all, capitalist civilization has viewed itself as the deadly enemy of wilderness, which is portrayed as an essentially evil condition of absolute violence: the total war of all against each and each against all. As it happens, the exact opposite is closer to the truth, but civilization is founded on lies and more lies, and especially Big Lies.

The drama of bloody repression disguised as progress is the history of the New World. The puritans, whose devotion to Capital equaled if not exceeded their devotion to Christ (for most of them there was probably very little difference between the two, saw their "errand in the wilderness" as a mandate to civilize a continent that was, in their eyes, uninhabited--or at best, inhabited only by unimportant, dispensable heathen, if not by outright minions of Satan. massacre and genocide were the methods by which these typically Christian capitalists introduced the amenities of civilized life to the original human inhabitants of North and South America.

The non-human inhabitants fared no better over the years. The last passenger pigeon, whose immense flocks numbering billions once darkened the skies for days at a time, died in a zoo in 1914. The bison herds had been decimated long before that. No more does the piercing cry of the ivory-billed woodpecker ring through the boundless forests, for the forests have been so cut to pieces that ivory-bills can no longer live in them. A hundred and fifty years ago the great midwestern prairies were majestic oceans of wild grasses and flowers stretching as far as the eye could see. Where are they now? Gone, one and all: annihilated by the juggernaut of Progress and Profits.

It was a hell of a price to pay for indoor plumbing, plastic slipcovers and a medicine cabinet full of Valium.

Earth First!ers, Meet the IWW: Notes on Wobbly Environmentalism

By x322339 (Franklin Rosemont) - Industrial Worker, May 1988

Organized in Chicago in 1905, the Industrial Workers of the World has been fighting the boss class and the megamachine—the industrial wreckers of the world—for [nearly a century] now and has chalked up quite a record for militant, hard-hitting, straight-from-the-shoulder direct-action style, rank-and-file democratic labor unionism. Ask any seasoned old fighter from any half-decent union he or she’ll tell you that the Wobblies set a standard that has rarely been approached and never beaten.

We don’t like to brag, so we’ll just refer you to a couple of good histories: Fred Thompson’s The IWW: It’s First Seventy Years and Joyce Kornbluh’s beautifully illustrated IWW anthology, Rebel Voices (both available from the IWW). In these books (and dozens of others you can find in … bookstores and libraries), you can read all about the epoch-making organizing drives, strikes and free-speech fights that the IWW has waged over the years, and that have made One Big Union an inspiration for every indigenous radical current that has come along to challenge the existing order. Civil rights, antiwar, anti-nuclear and student activists, the New Left, anarchists, feminists, and now animal-liberationists and radical environmentalists have all acknowledged the influence of the good ol’ rebel band of labor.

Here we’d like to note a few of the things that make the IWW different from other “labor organizations,” especially in regard to environmental and ecological issues.

First, in our view, the “official” so-called labor movement, the AFL-CIO, is not really a labor movement at all, but rather a corrupt statist, CIA-dominated bureaucracy whose specific function is to control labor. Some of these unions are undoubtedly better than others, and a few of them are able now and then to act honestly better than others, and a few of them are able now and then to act honestly and decently. But all of them are afflicted with outdated hierarchical structures and above all an idiotic ideology submissive to the capitalist system of wage slavery.

Consider, for example, a ridiculous bumper-sticker slogan promoted by several AFL-CIO unions: “Pollution: Love it or leave it.” This hideous inanity was supposed to save steel mills and oil-refineries in industrial hell holes like Gary, Indiana. In other words, the AFL-CIO mobilizes workers to defend pollution in order to save jobs that will create more pollution. Would a real labor movement, one responsive to the real interests of working women and men, do a thing like that?

Don’t think that this typical AFL-CIO slogan was some sort of accident. On the contrary, the AFL-CIO’s self-confessed love of pollution is consistent with its whole policy. After all, if you support capitalism—and you have to support the things that automatically go with it: militarism, war, racism, sex-ism, and pollution, in ever-increasing doses.

Instead of the imbecile slogan, “Pollution: Love it or leave it,” the IWW inscribes on its banner the ecological watchword, “Let’s make this planet a good place to live.” And we argue that the best way to accomplish this goal is to organize One Big Union of all workers to abolish the wage-system. The bosses are able to cause such vast environmental devastation because they have organized industry their way for their profit. The IWW says to the workers of all industries: Dump the bosses your backs, dump the ecocidal profit-and-wage system, and organize your jobs for yourselves, for your own good and for the good of the Earth!

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