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Does fighting climate change require postponing the fight for system change?

By John Molyneaux, Climate and Capitalism, August 25, 2020

Time is always an important factor in politics and history but never has it mattered as much as on the issue of climate change.

The IPCC Report’s warning in October 2018 that the world has twelve years to avoid climate disaster was undoubtedly a major factor in galvanizing a global wave of climate change activism, especially in the form of Greta Thunberg and mass school strikes and the Extinction Rebellion movement. At the same it is clear that this warning could be, and was, “heard” or interpreted in different ways by different people. In this article I want consider some of those interpretations and their implications, particularly in relation to the question of whether there is time to bring about system change or whether, because time is so short, it is necessary to focus on and settle for changes that can be implemented within the framework of capitalism.

Before coming to that, however, I want to suggest that many an opportunist politician will have heard the twelve year warning quite differently from Greta and her followers. To them twelve years would be a very long time indeed: three US Presidential terms, two full length parliamentary terms in Britain and many other countries; in other words more than enough time to fulfill your ambitions, secure your place in the history books or, at least, secure your pension and several directorships, before anything serious would have to be done at all. The only practical implication of the twelve year warning would be the need to set up various commissions, draw up some action plans, attend a few conferences and generally engage in a certain amount of greenwashing. Should you be the CEO of a major oil, gas or car company exactly the same would apply.

At the opposite end of the spectrum there were large numbers of people, especially young people, who “heard” the warning as meaning that there is literally, only twelve years to prevent global extinction.

These are not equivalent misreadings: the first is utterly cynical and immensely damaging to humans and nature alike; the second is naive but well-intentioned. But they are both misreadings of what the report said and of what climate change is. Climate change is not an event that may or may not happen in 2030 and which might be averted by emergency action at the last minute, but a process which is already underway. Every week, month or year of delay in reducing carbon emissions exacerbates the problem and makes it harder to tackle. By the same token, there is no absolute deadline after which it will be too late to do anything and we might as well give up the ghost.

Against Green Reactionaries: Writings on eco-fascists and exterminationists

By various - Green Antifascist - Spring 2020

A compilation of writings against ecofascist infiltration of revolutionary ecology and green anarchist milieus, includes:

  • Confronting the Rise of Eco-Fascism Means Grappling with Complex Systems - by Emmi Bevensee and Alexander Reid Ross
  • There’s nothing anarchist about Eco-Fascism - by Scott Campbell
  • On No Platform and ITS - by William Gillis
  • ITS, or the rhetoric of decay - a Joint statement of insurrectional groups in Mexican territory

Web editor's note: we highly recommend the first three sections of this document. As for the last chapter, we vehemently disagree with their anti-organizational and anti-structural dogma as well as their sectarian denunciations of "the left", but welcome their distancing from ITS and similarly minded eco-fascists. In any case, the document is a package deal. Plus, note our standard disclaimer:

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.

Download (PDF).

We Need a Green New Deal to Defeat Fascism and Reverse Inequality

By Robert Pollin interviewed by Jonas Elvander - Truthout, July 10, 2019

In the debate about what strategy to adopt to combat climate change, the Green New Deal has quickly become the new buzzword on the left. Is it an insufficient social-democratic response to the present crisis, or is it, in fact, the only realistic project we have to save the planet? Robert Pollin, distinguished professor of economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, is a leading proponent of a green future and he shared his vision of the Green New Deal in the interview below, which appeared originally in Swedish in the left paper Flamman.

Jonas Elvander: You are one of the most well-known scientific spokespersons for a so-called “Green New Deal.” Can you explain what that means?

Robert Pollin: In my view, the core features of the Green New Deal are quite simple. They consist of a worldwide program to invest between 2-3 percent of global GDP every year to dramatically raise energy efficiency standards and equally dramatically expand lean renewable energy supplies.

Here is why this is the core of the Green New Deal. Last October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a new report emphasizing the imperative of limiting the rise in the global mean temperature as of 2100 by 1.50C [1.5 degrees Celsius] only, as opposed to 2.00C. The IPCC now concludes that limiting the global mean temperature increase to 1.50C will require global net CO2 [carbon dioxide] emissions to fall by about 45 percent as of 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050. These new figures from the IPCC provide a clear and urgent framework for considering alternative approaches for fighting climate change.

To make real progress on climate stabilization, the single most critical project at hand is straightforward: to cut the consumption of oil, coal and natural gas dramatically and without delay, and to eliminate the use of fossil fuels altogether by 2050. The reason this is the single most critical issue at hand is because producing and consuming energy from fossil fuels is responsible for generating about 70 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from burning coal, oil and natural gas alone produce about 66 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, while another 2 percent is caused mainly by methane leakages during extraction.

At the same time, people do still need and want to consume energy to light, heat and cool buildings; to power cars, buses, trains and airplanes; and to operate computers and industrial machinery, among other uses. It is pointless to pretend this isn’t so — that is, to insist that everyone embraces permanent austerity. As such, to make progress toward climate stabilization requires a viable alternative to the existing fossil-fuel dominant infrastructure for meeting the world’s energy needs. Energy consumption and economic activity more generally therefore need to be absolutely decoupled from the consumption of fossil fuels. That is, the consumption of fossil fuels will need to fall steadily and dramatically in absolute terms, hitting net zero consumption by 2050, even while people will still be able to consume energy resources to meet their various demands.

Energy efficiency entails using less energy to achieve the same, or even higher, levels of energy services from the adoption of improved technologies and practices. Examples include insulating buildings much more effectively to stabilize indoor temperatures; driving more fuel-efficient cars or, better yet, relying increasingly on well-functioning public transportation systems; and reducing the amount of energy that is wasted both through generating and transmitting electricity and through operating industrial machinery. Expanding energy efficiency investments support rising living standards because raising energy efficiency standards, by definition, saves money for energy consumers. Raising energy efficiency levels will generate “rebound effects” — i.e. energy consumption increases resulting from lower energy costs. But such rebound effects are likely to be modest within the current context of a global project focused on reducing CO2 emissions and stabilizing the climate.

As for renewable energy, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimated in 2018 that, in all regions of the world, average costs of generating electricity … are now roughly at parity with fossil fuels. This is without even factoring in the environmental costs of burning oil, coal and natural gas. Solar energy costs remain somewhat higher on average. But, according to IRENA, as a global average, solar photovoltaic costs have fallen by over 70 percent between 2010 and 2017. Average solar photovoltaic costs are likely to also fall to parity with fossil fuels as an electricity source within five years.

Through investing about 3 percent of global GDP per year in energy efficiency and clean renewable energy sources, it becomes realistic to drive down global CO2 emissions by roughly 50 percent relative to today within 10 years while also supporting rising living standards and expanding job opportunities. CO2 emissions could be eliminated altogether in 30 years through continuing this clean energy investment project at even a somewhat more modest rate of about 2 percent of global GDP per year. It is critical to recognize that, within this framework, a more rapid economic growth rate will also accelerate the rate at which clean energy supplants fossil fuels, since higher levels of GDP will correspondingly mean a large total amount of investment funds are channeled into clean energy projects.

Manifesto for a new popular internationalism in Europe

By various - ReCommonsEurope, May 26, 2019

In the last ten years, popular anger has expressed itself without interruption against discriminatory and anti-democratic policies in favour of the rich and big companies - policies implemented by national governments and often coordinated by the European Union (EU). It has taken the form of initiatives by trade unions, but also by new movements such as ‘15M’ in Spain (also called in other countries the movement of the ‘Indignados’), the occupation of the squares in Greece and the huge demonstrations in Portugal in 2011, the movements against the “Loi Travail” (Labour law) in France and against the Water Tax in Ireland in 2016, the great demonstrations for autonomy and against political repression in Catalonia in 2017. Feminist struggles gave rise to the historic demonstrations in Poland (« Czarny Protest » against the anti-abortion law in 2017), Italy (« Non Una di Meno » movement since 2016), Spain (feminist general strike of 5 million people on the 8th March 2018), as well as a victory over the political influence of the Catholic Church in Ireland with the legalisation of abortion by referendum in May 2018, and are at last succeeding in imposing their centrality in all social struggles.

The year 2018 also saw the emergence of new social movements against the dominant economic and political order, with the movement against the « slavery law » (neoliberal reform of labour laws) in Hungary, the demonstration and development of the « Indivisible » antiracist movement in Germany, the Yellow Vests movement in France and French-speaking Belgium against unjust fiscal policies and the lack of democracy in political institutions. Nor should we forget the climate demonstrations, driven mainly by young people who have gone on strike in many countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, France and Great Britain. All these social movements, and others, have challenged the austerity measures and authoritarianism of the policies being implemented in Europe, by posing directly or indirectly the question of a radical alternative social project to capitalism, productivism, ecological devastation, racism and patriarchy. This Manifesto sees itself as an integral part these movements and shares their objectives: the struggle against all forms of domination, for universal rights, for equality and for a democracy to be invented – a democracy which would not stop at the gates of companies and the threshold of working-class areas, and which would necessarily be radically opposed to the logic of a capitalist system (whether the latter claims to be ‘protectionist’, and so against ‘foreigners’, or ‘liberal’) which is destroying social rights and the environment.

Read the report (PDF).

The Ableist Logic of Primitivism: A Critique of “Ecoextremist” Thought

By Conor Arpwel - Protean Magazine, December 30, 2018

In his recent article for New York MagazineChildren of Ted, John H. Richardson ruminates on the recent rise of a fringe political movement centered on the writings of Ted Kaczynski, the ecoterrorist widely known as “the Unabomber.” On its face, Richardson’s article amounts to an eccentric human-interest story for a mainstream publication. Yet, in typical liberal fashion, Richardson approaches his subject with a dangerous combination of cynicism and naiveté. He frivolously mischaracterizes much of modern anarchist thought by describing the article’s main subject, John Jacobi, as an (idiosyncratic and largely mythical) type of leftist radical who is “sure that morality is just a social construct that keeps us docile in our shearing pens.” Richardson goes on to assert that “Kaczynski was Karl Marx in modern flesh, yearning for his Lenin”—a highly misleading and facile assertion. Due in part to this semi-implicit disregard for the potential for fundamental social change, Richardson does little to present alternatives to Kaczynski’s fascistic “solution” to our climate catastrophe that has already begun.

KACZYNSKI ADVOCATES A PRELAPSARIAN “RETURN TO NATURE” IN ORDER TO ALIGN OUR SOCIAL REALITIES TO GENETICALLY PRESCRIBED HUMAN BEHAVIOR. HOWEVER, IT IS CRUCIAL TO UNDERSTAND THAT THIS PERSPECTIVE IS FAR MORE INSIDIOUS THAN SOME ROMANTIC YEARNING FOR THOREAU’S WALDEN POND.

Although Richardson prefers to refer to this type of thought as “ecoextremism,” Kaczynski and his groupies are better understood as advocates for a callous strain of primitivism. This ideology is grounded in a belief that technological development must be stopped—even reversed. From Kaczynski’s perspective, industrialization and technological progress are responsible for societal instability and immense psychological suffering. To remedy this, Kaczynski advocates a prelapsarian “return to nature” in order to align our social realities to genetically prescribed human behavior. However, it is crucial to understand that this perspective is far more insidious than some romantic yearning for Thoreau’s Walden Pond. Kaczynski takes an artificially “constrained,” as Thomas Sowell describes it, view of humanity—namely, that we are defined by a “bedrock of selfishness,” over which altruism and cooperation manifest on occasion but remain mere exceptions to the cynical rule. This reflects the polemics of other reactionaries, such as white supremacist “race science” sophists and “intellectual dark web” charlatans like Jordan Peterson. Such ideologies all serve the same end: to foreclose the possibility of any systemic change to the status quo and dismiss any societal structure not predicated on hierarchy and subordination.

Social Self-Defense: Protecting People and Planet against Trump and Trumpism

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, January 14, 2017

Introduction: These are times to try our souls

Donald Trump and a powerful collection of anti-social forces have taken control of the U.S. government. They seek permanent domination in service of their individual and class wealth and power. Trump’s presidency threatens immigrants, African Americans, Muslims, workers, women, children, the elderly, the disabled, LGBTQ people, and many others. Indeed, it threatens all that holds us together as a society. We the people – society — need to defend ourselves against this threat and bring it to an end. We need what resisters to repressive regimes elsewhere have called “Social Self-Defense.”

The term “Social Self-Defense” is borrowed from the struggle against the authoritarian regime in Poland forty years ago.  In the midst of harsh repression, Polish activists formed a loose network to provide financial, legal, medical, and other help to people who had been persecuted by the police or unjustly dismissed from their work. Calling themselves the Committee for Social Self-Defense (KOR), they aimed to “fight political, religious and ideological persecution”; to “oppose breaches of the law”; to “provide help for the persecuted”; to “safeguard civil liberties”; and to defend “human and civil rights.” KOR organized free trade unions to defend the rights of workers and citizens. Its members, who insisted on operating openly in public, were soon blacklisted, beaten, and imprisoned. They nonetheless persisted, and nurtured many of the networks, strategies, and ideas that came to fruition in Solidarity – and ultimately in the dissolution of repressive regimes in Poland and many other countries.[1]

From the day Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, thousands of people began to resist his agenda. Demonstrations against Trump broke out in American cities; police chiefs, mayors, and governors declared they would not implement his attack on immigrants; thousands of people signed up to accompany threatened immigrants, religious minorities, and women; technical workers pledged they would not build data bases to facilitate discrimination and deportation. Discussion of how to resist the Trump regime broke out at dining room tables, emails among friends, social media, and community gatherings.

It is impossible to know whether the Trump regime will rapidly self-destruct; successfully impose a reign of terror that dominates the U.S. for years or decades to come; or deadlock indefinitely with anti-Trump forces. We do know that the future of the planet and its people depends on resisting and overcoming Trump’s agenda. The struggle against Trump and Trumpism is nothing less than the defense of society – Social Self-Defense.

Petro-masculinity: Fossil Fuels and Authoritarian Desire

By Cara Daggett - SagePub, June 20, 2018

Global warming poses a problem for fossil fuel systems and those who profit from them; leaving fossil fuels in the ground likely means leaving trillions of dollars of profit in the ground. Vast networks of privilege that are sustained by fossil economies are likewise threatened. As Jairus Grove reflects, ‘environmental justice will require unequal roles: significantly constraining, even repressing, the powers of the Eurocene’. Similarly, the ‘Planet Politics Manifesto’ reminds us that ‘the planet is telling us that there are limits to human freedom; there are freedoms and political choices we can no longer have’.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the amount of money and privilege at stake, the tragic ethos demanded by global environmental justice is being resisted. Those regions that have emitted the most carbon dioxide are positioning themselves to profit from a warming earth by advancing a militarised and corporatised version of climate security. The result, as Christian Parenti foresees it, is the likelihood of a ‘politics of the armed lifeboat’, given that, already,

the North is responding with a new authoritarianism. The Pentagon and its European allies are actively planning a militarized adaptation, which emphasizes the long-term, open-ended containment of failed or failing states – counter-insurgency forever. This sort of ‘climate fascism’ – a politics based on exclusion, segregation and repression – is horrific and bound to fail.

‘Climate fascism’, with its camps, barbed wire and police omnipresence, is a likely outcome of climate (in)security.

A nascent fossil fascism is already evident in the wake of the 2016 election of Donald Trump as President of the United States and the conservative capture of the US Congress. In a short time, the Trump Administration and the Republican Party have shored up fossil
fuel systems by denying climate change and dismantling a host of environmental policies including: withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, installing a climate denier (Scott Pruitt) to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, taking steps to kill the Clean
Power Plan, weakening the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, lifting a moratorium on new coal leases on federal land, ending a study on the health effects of mountaintop coal removal, and moving to open nearly all US coastal waters to offshore drilling for oil.

Climate denial obviously serves fossil-fuelled capitalist interests. However, coal and oil do more than ensure profit and fuel consumption-heavy lifestyles. If people cling so tenaciously to fossil fuels, even to the point of embarking upon authoritarianism, it is
because fossil fuels also secure cultural meaning and political subjectivities. Since the new imperialism of the 19th century, fossil fuels have become the metaphorical, material, and sociotechnical basis of Western petrocultures that extend across the planet.

In other words, fossil fuels matter to new authoritarian movements in the West because of profits and consumer lifestyles, but also because privileged subjectivities are oil-soaked and coal-dusted. It is no coincidence that white, conservative American men – regardless of class – appear to be among the most vociferous climate deniers, as well as leading fossil fuel proponents in the West.

Read the text (Link).

Civil Rights and the All Mighty Economy

By Nick Mullins - The Thoughtful Coal Miner, January 16, 2018

When I attended Clintwood High School throughout the mid-90s, there was an amazing lack of ethnic diversity.  Our school was 99.8% white. The one student of color who attended CHS had been adopted and raised by a white family. It goes without saying that we had a very limited understanding of diversity. What little we did know came in the form of 80’s and 90’s whitewashed television programming pulled in with our 10-foot diameter c-band satellite dishes perched up on the hillside.

According to some, I should be racist. I was from the South, I was raised in a predominantly white area, and my hometown had even been renamed after Henry Clinton Wood, a Major in the Confederate army. So why ain’t I? Why do I stand in solidarity with people of color against injustice and the institutionalized racism of our nation?

It’s because our parents and the United Mine Workers taught us differently.

The few people of color in our county lived in the small town of Clinchco, Virginia, an old coal camp built by Clinchfield Coal Company. Like the rest of us, they were coal mining families. Their grandparents and great-grandparents had moved from the deep south searching for a better life. Though still wrought with oppression thanks to company-owned towns and the mine guard system, many people saw coal mining to be more preferable than sharecropping in the Jim Crow south.  While racism was still unavoidable in certain places throughout Appalachia, the United Mine Workers gave everyone rights as laborers and justice when facing the greed and oppression meant to subjugate us all to the will of the wealthy elite.

What racism did occur was often brought on by the coal companies themselves and the local elites who sought to divide the workforce and prevent unionization. They segregated the housing, churches, and bathhouses, doing what they could to socially and racially stratify us.

But the union wouldn’t stand for racism and segregation.  As my dad once said, “It doesn’t matter what color your skin is when you go into the mine, we all come out the same color, and so do our lungs.” This was the understanding of equality that was passed to me and my brother.

It was this sense of equality that held us all together, keeping our union and our communities close-knit and strong. It was this same understanding that led Martin Luther King, Jr. to the Appalachian coalfields in his work on the Poor People’s campaign. He had long known that the issues of racism have been rooted in classism and that classism has always been rooted in economics.

In the years since the union fell, the belief in equality that once bound our communities together has faded. Each calculated move by the industry has seen to the demise of our solidarity, starving us out during each strike, shutting down union operations, and even corrupting union leadership. In the absence of our once mighty union, the industry has guided us once again towards classism among the poor and middle class, classism that gives way to prejudice and racism.

We are caught between multimillion-dollar misinformation campaigns aimed at our continued exploitation, and the condescension afforded us by a liberal elite who believe us too stupid, too far gone, to help ourselves. What we need now are voices that call out clearly across the divide of populist politics, voices that cannot be easily drowned by the money of industry and philanthropies alike. We need voices that unite us all, from the coal mines to the inner cities, from the fields of migrant workers to the sweatshops of Bangladesh. If we are ever to find true justice in this world, we must stop letting money speak louder than our own voices of reason and equality.

“It is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he should lift himself up by his own bootstraps. It is even worse to tell a man to lift himself up by his own bootstraps when somebody is standing on the boot.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

An Investigation into Red-Brown Alliances: Third Positionism, Russia, Ukraine, Syria, and the Western Left

By the blogger - A Roaming Vagabond, January 15, 2018

This long post started as an investigation about the Left and Syria which I started after I read the Sol Process blog’s publication of three posts concerning shady pro-Assad sources used in leftist circles (which can be read here: part I, part II, part III), and which later expanded into a more extensive investigation. I also thank the acknowledgement of my blog post by Russia Without BS, whose blog was helpful in the initial stages of my research.

Note for safety purposes: this post will contain links to far-right pages for documentation and sourcing purposes, and any link to such a page will be in bold and italic, such as this.

As Opposition Grows Against Pipelines in Virgina, Far-Right Press Plays Up ‘Green Antifa’

By the collective - It's Going Down, December 18, 2017

According to the End of the Line podcast, which chronicles anti-pipeline fights across the US, there is growing opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Mountain Valley Pipelines (MVP) among rural residents in Virginia, where both watersheds and over 300 homes are threatened with pollution and the threat of eviction in the face of proposed construction of the two pipelines.

Last Tuesday, this anger boiled over at a Virginia State Water Control Board meeting, where hundreds of rowdy residents, landholders, and anti-pipeline opponents spoke into the night about the threats to water and land and why the pipelines should be rejected, demanding that the water board cancel potential permits for pipeline construction.

According to RVA MAG:

After a contentious Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) hearing, the Virginia State Water Control Board voted Tuesday afternoon for a conditional approval of the 401 Certification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) permit, tentatively stalling the ACP from moving forward with their pipeline construction planning process.

The vote was considered a positive decision for many landowners and environmental groups who oppose the pipeline, as the vote means ACP does not have an effective certification today.

This approval is contingent on many conditions which must be met within an undetermined 12-month period, set by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The vote is considered a more positive outcome for opposition compared to that of the DEQ hearing last week, which resulted in a full permit approval for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). A lawsuit has already been filed against the MVP decision in federal court by groups like Wild Virginia, Sierra Club, and Southern Environmental Law Center.

“We have never seen this kind of uprising on an environmental issue in this state,” Sligh said. “I’ve been working on these issues for over 35 years and I have never seen this kind of effort. I’ve never seen this kind of unity.”

Local organizers that talked to RVA MAG, stated that local leaders have met repeatedly with representatives from Dominion Energy who is pushing the pipelines, but have ducked local landholders whose homes and water is threatened:

“Ultimately, DEQ works for Terry McAuliffe,” said Mike Tidwell, Chesapeake Climate Action Network founder and director. “Terry McAuliffe has never to this day sat down and met with landowners opposed to this pipeline. He’s met for hours and hours and hours with Dominion. […] It would be great if the governor himself would say, ‘I hear you, Virginians. I hear you, landowners. I hear you, farmers. I hear you, students.’”

“Everyone in rural Virginia wants to protect Virginia and wants to protect their water,” said Cathy Chandler, Roanoke County landowner. “I felt the Board tried to ask good questions, and they got a very circuitous, jumbled response [from DEQ] without time and attention to giving an answer with clarity.”

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