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Reviewing Ecology Contested: Environmental Politics Between Left and Right

By Steven R. D. Henderson - Institute for Social Ecology, March 2023

Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience was published when the American ecology movement debated social critique on one hand, or Malthusianism and anti-humanism on the other. Its authors Janet Biehl and Peter Staudenmaier pointed to historic far-Right environmentalism as a warning.

The subject again gained attention in 2019 when a white supremacist gunned down 51 people at two New Zealand mosques. While he murdered friends and families in their places of worship, the attack was posted online for the world to see. “In his shoddy manifesto, the accused shooter in Christchurch identified as an ‘eco-fascist,’” reports Jason Wilson for the Guardian. A few months later another shooter in El Paso, Texas killed 23 people at a Walmart and cited the Christchurch perpetrator as inspiration.

“There have been significant links between environmentalism and Right-wing politics for more than a century,” Staudenmaier writes in his new book Ecology Contested: Environmental Politics Between Left and Right. “Knowingly or not, the perpetrators of the Christchurch and El Paso massacres continued that tradition. While they were unusual in putting their beliefs into violent action, many of the same basic ideas run through the contemporary far Right scene as well as substantial parts of the political mainstream.”

Staudenmaier’s concern is confronting these ideas. His new book hands readers the theoretical basis for a critical and historically-informed engagement with them. Earlier versions of some essays in the volume were published previously. “Disney Ecology” was first put out as a pamphlet, while “Ambiguities of Animal Rights” originally appeared in the journal Communalism. The Politics of Nature from Left to Right” was written for the second issue of Harbinger. The remaining texts are new.

There’s a big pot of climate bill money waiting to be seized: activists can’t miss the opportunity

By Jeff Ordower and Daniel Hunter - Waging Nonviolence, February 22, 2023

The Inflation Reduction Act wasn't written for climate justice, but there’s a ton of money for organizers and movement players to access.

Yes, the Inflation Reduction Act is the most consequential piece of climate legislation in the U.S. Yes, it’s also the only federal legislation. Yes, it’s imperfect. Yes, parts of it are downright vile. Yes, the negotiations exacerbated tensions between insider green organizations and those on the frontlines. 

But let’s be real, nothing more is going to pass at the federal level in the foreseeable future. So now that the IRA is the law of the land, how do organizers and movement players work with it? 

As long-time organizers and climate justice activists, we see organizing opportunities in the roughly $390 billion in climate funding available. As an analysis from Just Solutions points out, the bill was not written for climate justice. But there’s a ton of money that suddenly we can access for poor and disenfranchised communities — and it would be a wasted opportunity to leave that money on the table.

With all its limitations, the IRA can further our campaigns if we use the opportunity.

Overcoming Capitalism: Strategy for the Working Class in the 21st Century: Reviewed

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Union Caucus, February 8, 2023

While the IWW is not an explicitely anarcho-syndicalist organization, much of its praxis fits comfortably within the anarcho-syndicalist tradition. It's not the only revolutionary organization or union that does, either, and it's evident that anarcho-syndicalism as a living, breathing revolutionary practice is alive and well in the first couple of decades of the 21st Century. It's therefore somewhat puzzling that nobody has bothered to write a book that provides an updated overview of anarcho-syndicalism for a modern audience in well over seven or eight decades.

While there have been no shortage of books that have updated the history of anarcho-syndicalism, including the much covered (but contentiously debated) Spanish Revolution of 1936, as well as numerous revolutionary union organizing efforts throughout the last century; and there have been many books detailing the history, workplace and industrial organizing campaigns, methods, and praxis of syndicalist and/or syndicalist-adjacent unions, such as (but not limited to) the IWW, the IWA-AIT, and many others, there hasn't been an English Language book laying out the basic ideas of anarcho-syndicalism since Sam Dolgoff's and Rudolph Rocker's works of the mid-20th Century.

Fortunately, Overcoming Capitalism: Strategy for the Working Class in the 21st Century, by Tom Wetzel, AK Press, 2022 finally attempts to fill that void.

How To Combat The Cumbria Coalmine and Other Retrograde Energy Projects

Learning From Rosa Parks on Transit Equity Day

By staff - People's Transit Alliance, February 6, 2023

This past Saturday, Feb. 4th, 2023, was Transit Equity Day, “a collaborative effort of several organizations and unions to promote public transit as a civil right and a strategy to combat climate change…” organized by Labor 4 Sustainability.

For Transit Equity Day 2023, the People’s Transit Alliance held a canvass of transit riders in Downtown Berkeley to discuss what improvements could be made to the bus system, the planned service redesign, and the importance of transit workers and riders building power together.

Labor 4 Sustainability chose Feb. 4th, Rosa Parks’ birthday, in order to honor her legacy as a civil rights icon, and her courageous action taken on a segregated bus on December 1, 1955. Those of us raised in the United States know the story of Rosa Parks, and her refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger.

What is less well known is her long history as an organizer for the NAACP, her radical politics, and her lifelong commitment to fighting white supremacy in the United States. 

The People’s Transit Alliance wishes to share this neglected side of Rosa Parks’ story. As we organize in her name, we must disrupt the whitewashed version of her life that is taught in schools, and used by politicians and corporations to maintain the very systems of oppression that she spent her life fighting against.

Reimagining Energy For Our Communities

By Crystal Huang, Jessica Tovar, Nora Elmarzouky, Ruth Santiago, and Al Weinrub - The Energy Democracy Project, February 2023

The energy systems in place today, in which energy development, control, ownership, and decision-making resides within Wall Street and corporate electric utilities, negatively impact the health and safety of communities, and fail to provide the energy needed to live, especially in the face of climate disaster.

A product of deep collaboration between grassroots organizations, the REFOCUS zine is a graphic tool meant to be shared with community, teams, and anyone interested in understanding the path towards energy justice.

Download the zine to learn how Energy Democracy work is connected from Alaska to Puerto Rico, and build a movement for energy democracy with your community! 

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Commentary: The Green New Deal in the States, Part 2

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, February 2023

As the Green New Deal program has met headwinds in Washington, many states have plowed ahead with efforts to correct injustices and create good jobs as part of programs to fight climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “The Green New Deal in the States –Part 1” reviewed the climate, jobs, and justice programs in Hawaii and Illinois. This commentary examines the extensive Green New Deal-style programs that California has instituted this year and draws conclusions from the experience of many states.

As the Green New Deal program has met headwinds in Washington, many states have plowed ahead with efforts to correct injustices and create good jobs as part of programs to fight climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “The Green New Deal in the States –Part 1” reviewed the climate, jobs, and justice programs in Hawaii and Illinois. This commentary examines the extensive Green New Deal-style programs that California has instituted this year and draws conclusions from the experience of many states.

California: The Summer of Climate Catastrophe – and of Climate Protection

California is the world’s fifth largest economy. Climate change has led to unprecedented heat, drought, wildfires, and other extreme weather conditions that have devasted many parts of the state. Partially as a result, 80% of Californians consider climate change “a serious concern” and 60 percent want to see state-led climate action.

In 1988, just as scientists were confirming the threat of climate change, California mandated an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions. In 2002 it passed vehicle emission standards far exceeding those set by the federal government. In 2006 it passed AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, which required that greenhouse gas emissions be reduced back to 1990 levels by 2020 and established a cap-and-trade program. Subsequent legislation required emissions be cut to 40% below 1990 levels and mandated 60% of all electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and 100% by 2045.[1]

New Foundations for the House of Labor?

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, February 2023

Workers’ problems are not limited to their relationships with their immediate employers. How can they gain the power to affect the hidden decisionmakers who affect them both at work and in the rest of their lives? Two new books shed light on that question..

Books discussed:

  •  Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor by Kim Kelly, Simon and Schuster, 2022.
  •  The Future We Need: Organizing For a Better Democracy in the Twenty-First Century by Erica Smiley and Sarita Gupta, Cornell University Press, 2022.

Kim Kelly’s Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor describes the heroic battles of workers to gain their rights and create a better life for all working people. It illuminates those who have often been left out of historical accounts, like “poor and working-class women, Black people, Latino people, Indigenous people, Asian and Pacific Islander people, immigrants of all backgrounds, religious minorities, queer and trans people, disabled people, the sex workers and undocumented people whose work is criminalized, and people who are incarcerated.” Many of them have been excluded not only from the history books, but from the self-declared “House of Labor” itself. This is labor history for the era of diversity.

Fight Like Hell not only recounts worker action in the past, it describes how these struggles are continuing today. Contemporary accounts range from the effort to win a union election at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama to recent struggles for equal rights for Black, LGBTQIA, and sex workers. Like workers in the past, such workers today have to put their jobs, their well-being, and sometimes even their lives on the line to win the most elementary rights on the job.

Howie Hawkins (Ukraine Solidarity Network US): ‘The anti-imperialist position is to support the national liberation struggle of the Ukrainian people’

By Howie Hawkins and Federico Fuentes - Links, January 28, 2023

Howie Hawkins is a retired Teamsters union warehouse worker, the US Green Party 2020 presidential candidate and an ecosocialist. Together with a range of other leftists, socialists, unionists and academics, he recently helped set up the Ukraine Solidarity Network (US). Hawkins spoke to Federico Fuentes about the initiative and the challenges of building solidarity with Ukraine while opposing US imperialism.

Could you tell us a bit about how and why the Ukraine Solidarity Network came about, and what the fundamental aim of the network is? What practical solidarity does the network plan to carry out?

The Ukraine Solidarity Network was initiated at a meeting at the Socialism 2022 conference in Chicago in early September. We convened following a talk on “Ukraine, Self-Determination, and Imperialist War” by Yuliya Yurchenko of Sotsialnyi Rukh (Social Movement), a democratic socialist organisation in Ukraine. Though initiated by socialists, we agreed to build a broader network of people to support the Ukrainian people’s national liberation struggle. Our fundamental aim is to build moral, political and material support in labour and social movements for the people of Ukraine in their resistance to Russia’s invasion and their struggle for independence, democracy and social justice. We want to nurture links between progressive labor and social organizations in Ukraine and the United States.

Public education is an immediate priority. We want to counter the narratives of significant parts of the old left and the peace movement in the United States who have decided that if the US is sending arms to Ukraine, they must automatically oppose that support. Given the vicious history of US imperialism, that stance may be understandable. But a one-size-fits-all conclusion is not justified without a critical examination of each conflict. Would these people have opposed US military aid to the anti-fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War because it came from the US imperialist state? Or the military aid the US gave to the Soviet Union in World War II? Or the US arms and special forces the US sent to the Viet Minh resisting the Japanese invasion during that war? In the case of Ukraine, the knee-jerk conclusion of no US aid to the Ukrainian national liberation struggle reveals a US-centric colonial mindset. It sees US imperialism as the cause of what they call “the US proxy war on Russia.” It renders the Ukrainians invisible. Ukrainian perspectives on the causes of the war and why they want arms for self-defence are ignored, including the views of progressive trade union, socialist, anarchist, feminist, LGBT and environmental movements in Ukraine.

The Ukraine Solidarity Network wants to be a voice on the US left that opposes all imperialisms — Russian as well as US — and supports the right of historically colonised and oppressed nations like Ukraine to self-determination and to self-defence against aggression. We are concerned that those on the US left who oppose aid to Ukraine and, in some quarters, openly support a Russian victory, are alienating progressive- and peace-minded people in the US and internationally from the left.

While US military and economic support for Ukraine currently has wide support in the political centre and left, it is fast eroding in the Republican Party. The US right admires Putin’s authoritarian strongman rule and his conservative Christian, ethnonationalist, patriarchal, anti-gay, anti-trans and climate change-denying policies and pronouncements. US aid to Ukraine will be challenged by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives when the next round of funding is considered later this year. By next fall, far-right “peace” candidates, who will campaign on cutting aid to Ukraine and redirecting those military resources to Pacific deployments against China and Mexican border deployments against migrants, are likely to gain traction in the Republican presidential primaries. I hope the Ukraine Solidarity Network will have a significant influence on the Ukraine debate in US politics with a progressive perspective that support’s Ukraine’s self-determination and opposes both Russian and US imperialism.

Liberatory Points of Unity Template (2023 Remix)

By Usufruct Collective - Usufruct Collective, January 14, 2023

The following is a DIY template for a liberatory Points of Unity for social movement groups and popular organizations. The following “Points of Unity Template” is designed to be tweaked and adapted to relevant conditions and variables of groups (including but not limited to the specific kind and functions of a group you are trying to form or assist). It is not a “one size fits all” kind of document, but something designed to critically engage with and reflect upon when starting or participating within a social movement group or popular organization. 

The following “Points of Unity Template” refers to various shared practices of a group– shared practices that relate to process and goal orientation as well as form and content of a group. Such shared practices do NOT require a shared ideology among participants for participants to sufficiently agree with them in the context of group form and functions. Accepting shared qualities of a group that some ideology (or ideologies) would approve of is distinct from a group being an ideologically specific group– a group that espouses a specific ideology and that requires shared ideology among members. Additionally, such “Points of Unity for shared practices” can exist within decision making processes and bylaws of organizations in tandem with or distinct from being present in a document titled as such. Groups can structurally include the following points of unity for shared practices in varying ways. And such points of unity for shared practices, if they are to exist overtime as qualities of a group, must be sufficiently present within (and developed by) a living content and culture made by participants. 

One crucial reason for including the following points of unity is the overall coherence of the multiple points when they are combined; for they round each other out to defend against various detrimental qualities (to the extent they are actuated in form and content of course). And yet, there is significant redundancy between the following points– and there are ways to combine the various points together to make them more succinct and less numerous. And there are ways to simplify points, elaborate points, or change wording for the sake of communication as well as needs and preferences of various groups. More numerically and descriptively skeletal and simple versions of points of unity often make more sense initially until if and when more coherent practical unity has been developed within a given group (or between various groups). For example, a group that is just starting could just have the points of direct democracy and direct action for a direct action group, or direct democracy and mutual aid for a mutual aid group, or all of the above for a group that does all such functions. It is possible for “free association” to be combined with “direct democracy” in one point through a holistic notion of participatory democracy or self-management– which can even be descriptively combined with the essential features of “horizontality”! Such a way of framing those points can be very useful, as it creates a way to take in what would otherwise be multiple points of unity within a single point. Such a simplification can be important, as the points are supposed to potentially unite lots of people. However, such a lumping of qualities together into one can have a downside as well; if such a combining of qualities into one is not done well, then it is possible for the substance of one or more of the multiple points being lumped together to be obscured in the process.

The following points of unity were made with community assembly groups in the mode of struggle against hierarchical power in mind. However, the first six points can be adapted and applied to other kinds of groups such as radical unions, issue-specific movement groups, direct action collectives, and mutual aid collectives, and the like.

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