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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.

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.”

Refusing the Fascist Future: An Interview with Shane Burley

By Anti-Fascist News - It's Going Down, December 17, 2017

So where did the Alt Right come from?

The Alt Right really comes from a few converging political movements, both inside and outside the U.S.  The real beginnings of this goes back to France in the 1960s when a number of far-right intellectuals laid the groundwork to “rebrand” fascist ideas using the language of the left.  The European New Right, led by figures like Alain de Benoist and Guillume Faye, used the language of the New Left, appropriated the arguments of post-colonialist and national liberation movements, and attempted to engage in a type of “cultural struggle” as proposed by Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci.  Their ideas really were to pick up where the German Conservative Revolutionary movement and Radical Traditionalist thinkers like Julius Evola left off and argue for a going after the culture with nationalist values.  If they change the way that Europeans think about the world, and think about themselves, maybe this can allow a radical shift in politics down the line.

They argued that they were “anti-colonialist” and that white European nations had been “colonized” by forced of “globalist” capitalism and modernity.  Their argument was then for “Ethnopluralism,” a sort of “nationalism for all peoples,” that could then fight the destructive elements of modern multiculturalism, internationalism, and capitalism.  This approach avoided racial slurs, violent white nationalist politics, and the baggage of fascist political parties, and really laid a heavy intellectual groundwork for a new generation of fascists who wanted to appear as academics rather than Klansman.

The next is really paleoconservatism, a sort of far-right American conservatism that defined itself in opposition to the hawkish foreign policy of the neoconservatives that were coming into power inside the GOP in the 1980s.  They saw themselves as a part of the “Old Right,” which was likely a fantasy rather than a reality, which was isolationist, traditional, and America First.  The paleocons were aggressively conservative on social issues, especially in reaction to queer rights and the AIDs crisis of the 1980s, and were reactionary on racial issues.  Pat Buchanan was the best known of these figures, though he was moderate by their standards.

Growing Connections Between the Far-Right and J20 Prosecution

By the collective - It's Going Down, December 13, 2017

Almost 200 people face upwards of 60 years in prison for taking part in a demonstration against Trump’s inauguration and collectively are all being charged with breaking the same 5 windows of banks and corporate stores. The mass of people arrested on January 20th were swept up in a police kettle which lasted for hours, and ended in the police sexually assaulting and raping arrestees as a sadistic form of group punishment.

Central to the State’s narrative, is that everyone that took part in the anti-capitalist and anti-fascist march that led to the breaking of only a handful of windows was in fact part of a criminal conspiracy. In lieu of evidence, the State argues that the wearing of masks, black clothing, and even chanting similar chants or smiling while witnessing property destruction all constitute evidence in this regard. If the State succeeds, most of the defendants face literally a life sentence, and the State will be given a dangerous new precedent for future repression.

The State of Jefferson: a resource struggle centuries in the making

By Willie Stein - Legal Ruralism, March 3, 2017

Nestled among rich forests and steep mountains, the State of Jefferson is a quasi-mythic political dream for many of its residents in Northern California and Southern Oregon. In 1941, residents of the Siskyou mountains, disgruntled at the State of California's persistent neglect of critical road and other infrastructure and its exploitation of the resources of the area, made a theatrical show of 'seceding' from the state. They set up roadblocks to demand documentation of those entering and exiting, and hoisted a flag bearing a distinct "XX" legend to signify their double crossing by the governments of Sacramento and Salem. Today, that XX flag can be seen across vast swaths of Northern California and Southern Oregon to signify a contempt for the remote governments that residents perceive to control resources that rightfully belong to them. Residents are vigorously anti-regulation, and see themselves as the victims of the repression of the state. Jeffersonians rightly perceive that they wield little political clout in California, paying in more than they get back. Are the Jeffersonians the only victims in California's North Country?

The answer to that might start by examining their choice of name- presumably chosen as a nod to the small government, state's rights' oriented Thomas Jefferson. Having lived and travelled in the State of Jefferson, I can't help but think of another resonance, one not intended by the secessionists: That of Thomas Jefferson as one of the initial architects of Indian Removal. The State of Jefferson is laid over a complex patchwork of pre-existing tribal nations that occupied the land. Although the Jeffersonians often claim to be "native Californians", indigenous tribes such as the Yurok, Hupa, Karuk, Wintu, and many others long predate the arrival of Europeans. I can't help but see the State of Jefferson as a continuation of a long history of erasure of indigenous political formations by those of white colonists.

The Image Seen 'Round the World

By Judy Hodgson - North Coast Journal, December 1997; with contemporary IWW EUC Commentary by the Ramblin' Dude

[Trigger Warning! - the embedded video depicts scenes of young women being tortured by police]

We present this retrospective article and video to illustrate a point:

You know what's really HILARIOUS about these self-shot videos of neo nazi assholes reacting to being pepper sprayed as though they had received grievous trauma wounds in battle?

Twenty years ago, a group of protesters, most of them small, young women, peacefully occupied (Republican Congressman, Frank Riggs's) office (in Eureka, California). Police were called, and eventually they swabbed law enforcement grade pepper spray directly in to the eyes of the peaceful protesters. The protesters held on. Many of them were swabbed multiple times. They held on. Even while their eyes were being pried open and swabbed, they didn't flail, kick, or bite. They held on. Several did not release until they had been picked up and carried outside.

These supposed "manly men" who are out to save America were bested by a group of hippie girls twenty years ago.

Sending Fascists Packing is An Act of Community Self-Defense

By Dragonfly Climate Collective and Connecticut membership of the Industrial Workers of the World - July 18, 2017

On July 8th 2017, suburbanite white supremacists chose the New Haven Green as a point of convergence in order to not only make a show of force, but to use it as a springboard for greater coordination, recruitment and organizing. They chose their site explicitly because it has for decades been a point of anti-racist struggle and popular power, where working class families and organizations from every race, nationality and every rung on the social ladder come to gather for cultural enrichment, political action, or simply as their only option. The Proud Boys, Identity Evropa, the American Guard and assorted racists and misogynists find New Haven’s communities threatening to their genocidal worldview, and on July 8th they were proven right. We release this statement in solidarity with all anti-fascists, and condemn in the strongest terms anyone who seeks to have any of us attacked or imprisoned by the police. We call on all labor, environmental and community organizations to do the same, and to mobilize in solidarity with those arrested on the Green. Several arrestees will be at New Haven Superior Court on Wednesday July 19th at 10:00am, including prominent anti-brutality activist Barbara Fair, who was a victim of racist targeting by the New Haven Police.  

For months beforehand the amateurish efforts of the local alt-right were monitored by militant anti-fascist organizers. Contrary to some recycled talking points, the work of more moderate activists were simply not “hijacked.” It is unlikely that there would have been any response at all if not for the diligence of people like the New Haven Anti-Fascists group, who are committed to preventing a repeat of the rise of groups like the White Wolves here in quiet, liberal Connecticut. Some have been fooled by the fascists’ propaganda and believe these people are simply a conservative debate club that can be moved with compelling arguments. We believe that our most powerful weapon is not violence, but for us to be better, more effective organizers than those who would drag our society back into the dark ages. And because of that belief, anti-fascists pursued a strategy of community mobilization, unifying the broadest possible number of people to defend the Green.  

But let’s be clear about this as well: when they try to occupy space on the Green, we state unequivocally that sending fascists packing is an act of community self-defense. Fascism means gangs of white men attacking anti-racist demonstrators like in Portland, OR or Berkeley, CA. It means open anti-immigrant collusion between police and Nazis like in Maricopa County, AZ. It means the mass murder of liberal youth activists in Norway. It means the White Wolves attacking an LGBTQ meeting at the Stratford Library. Some of these monsters openly admire Hitler, while others re-brand their ideology with xenophobia and “western chauvinism” as they stockpile massive arsenals and tokenize their one gay or Hispanic associate. While they may not call themselves Nazis or fascists (though some do), we understand “white nationalism,” far-right “patriot militias,” “Men’s Rights Activists,” and Islamophobic fundamentalist Christians to meet all the hallmarks that have defined violent paramilitary fascism for decades, and treat it as such (click here for a longer discussion of terminology). These individuals already operate with impunity across most of Connecticut, among rural rich kids playing with “redneck” identity, and suburbanite worshippers of racist police departments. And frankly, they have gone largely unchallenged by Democrat-dominated activist coalitions that refuse to hold their neighbors and coworkers accountable for their bigotry, instead offering nothing but empty moralizing and the bankrupt slogan, “Love Trumps Hate.”  

On July 8th, committed community activists went out of their way to deny the rising alt-right the opportunity to become emboldened, better organized and more capable of terrorizing our communities, when in actuality we all have other political commitments that demand our attention. We welcome the opportunity to engage in debate about how best to undermine fascism and turn its targeted constituencies against it, and wish to see greater collaboration across the region on this and a multitude of other issues in these frightening times.  

¡NO PASARAN!

Transit Riders Unions vs. Climate Change, White Supremacy and Disaster Capitalism

By Desiree Hellegers - CounterPunch, June 19, 2017

Over the past few weeks, Portland, Oregon has been catapulted into the national spotlight as the site of clashes between antiracist and antifascist activists, on the one hand, and white supremacist and militia groups like the Prayer Patriots, Oathkeepers and American Freedom Keepers on the other. The right wing militia groups, along with other assorted Trump supporters, descended on the city in the immediate wake of the May 28th deaths of two out of three men who intervened to stop 35-year old Jeremy Joseph Christian, a self-professed white supremacist, from harassing two young Black women, one of them wearing a hijab. The attacks occurred on the city’s light rail or “Max” line on the eve of Ramadan.

Unremarked, however, in national media coverage of the attacks and their aftermath is the fact that the attack came in the midst of a growing debate in Portland about the militarization of public transportation. The attacks, in fact, came within days of a May 24 vote by the board of Trimet—the tri-county agency that manages Portland’s public transit system—to spend $9.9 million dollars to construct a new transit police facility and jail, and an additional $1.6 million to ramp up policing of public transportation.

The standing room only crowd at the May 24 Trimet Board meeting represented a cross section of Portland progressive community.  At the center of the organizing work was the people-of-color-led statewide Portland-based NGO OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, and its member organization Bus Riders Unite! (BRU).  OPAL and BRU worked to turn out a strong showing for the hearing, which included activists with union, disability rights, fossil fuel/climate justice, immigrant, houseless and renters’ rights activists, and police accountability activists from Black Lives Matter, Don’t Shoot Portland, and Portland Copwatch. Police violence became a particular flashpoint for the hearing, coming as it did on the heels of the police shooting of a 24-year-old Black man named Terrell Johnson. The shooting occurred within two months of a grand jury decision not to pursue charges against the officer who, in February, shot and killed another Black man, 17-year-old Quanice Hayes.

The shooting occurred within two months of a grand jury decision not to pursue charges against the officer who, in February, shot and killed another Black man, 17-year-old Quanice Hayes.

Barely a month earlier, OPAL activists and their allies in Oregon’s Just Transition Alliance also mobilized thousands to turn out for an April 29 march, part of the global People of Color’s Climate March, calling attention to the disproportionate impacts of climate change on frontline communities of color worldwide. On the same day, white supremacists and Trump supporters held a march down 82nd street, in a neighborhood that has increasingly become home to immigrants and people of color, many of whom have been forced out of the city’s urban core by decades of gentrification. As the Reverend Joseph Santos-Lyons, a long time OPAL board member and Executive Director of APANO (the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon) wrote in an op-ed in the Oregonian, “The sight left me with a feeling of deja vu. I was born and raised in Oregon and I had heard these chants before: ‘Go home,’ ‘Get out of our country,’ ‘You do not belong here.’ Only there was a key difference. The white supremacists were more confident, less ashamed. And perhaps for good reason. Their views are amplified nationally.” . Present on the scene at the April 29th march was Jeremy Joseph Christian, who would go on to slash the throats of three men on the city’s light rail, killing 53-year-old Ricky John Best, and 23-year-old Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, of Southeast Portland, and severely injuring 21-year-old Micah Fletcher.

With OPAL activists and their allies regrouping from the April 29 marches and mobilizing to turn out activists for the May Trimet board meeting and budget vote, Portland’s Willamette Week newspaper published a front page story headlined “Governor Kate Brown Might Sell Four Agencies to Private Bidders to Keep Oregon Afloat.” Among the state “assets” slated for sale, as a subheading indicated, is “Portland’s light rail system.” A primary impediment to the sale, the article indicated, however, would be “TriMet’s union employees [who], reporter Nigel Jaquis noted, “exert enormous power and would oppose a sale of any TriMet functions.”

Nationwide, state and local governments are facing increasing pressures in the wake of the manufactured debt crisis, to include public transportation among “assets” to be liquidated in corporate fire sales. The Willamette Week story, and the prospect of the Democratic governor selling off state agencies met with a predictably celebratory response in the conservative Weekly Standard, which responded gleefully to the prospect of the governor “burning the [state’s] household furniture to say warm” , and “rechristen[ing] the University of Oregon ‘Nike U.’” The prospect of the privatization of Portland’s light rail system is a barometer of Brown’s willingness to pursue neoliberal austerity measures, and the power that corporations like Nike and Intel exert in a state with one of the lowest corporate income taxes in the country.

The possibility of privatizing light rail ought to send shock waves throughout Portland. The city, after all, is at the forefront of the national battle to divest from fossil fuels and convert to more sustainable forms of energy.  Few cities nationwide are better situated, then, to form a united front to push back against this regressive proposal, given the intersectional organizing already at work in a city that has been profoundly shaken by the resurgence of white supremacy and creeping fascism.

There’s Nothing Anarchist about Eco-Fascism: A Condemnation of ITS

By Scott Campbell - It's Going Down, May 12, 2017

“When horror knocks at your door, it’s difficult to hide from. All that can be done is to breathe, gather strength, and face it….I shared news of the woman found in University City. From the first moment, I was angered and protested the criminalization of the victim. The next morning I woke up to the horror and pain that she was my relative.”

– Statement from the family of Lesvy Rivera to Mexican society

“[W]e take responsibility for the homicide of another human in University City on May 3rd….Much has emerged about that damned thing leaning lifeless on a payphone… ‘that she suffered from alcoholism, that she wasn’t a student, this and that.’ But what does it matter? She’s just another mass, just another damned human who deserved death.”

– 29th Statement of Individualists Tending Toward the Wild (ITS)

Some things shouldn’t have to be said, but as is too often the case in this disaster of a world, that which should be most obvious often gets subsumed to the exigencies of politics, ideologies, money, emotion, or internet clicks. The purpose of this piece is to condemn the recent acts of eco-extremists in Mexico and those who cheer them on from abroad.

This critique does not aspire to alter the behavior of Individualists Tending Toward the Wild (ITS), Individualities Tending Toward the Wild (ITS), Wild Reaction (RS), Indiscriminate Group Tending Toward the Wild (GITS), Eco-extremist Mafia, or whatever they will change their name to tomorrow. Like any other deluded, sociopathic tyrant, these individuals have declared themselves above reproach, critique, reason, or accountability. They have appointed themselves judge, jury, and executioner; the guardians and enforcers of Truth using a romanticized past to justify their actions. As absolutist authoritarians, they have constructed a theoretical framework that, while ever-shifting and inconsistent, somehow always ends with a justification for why they get to hold a knife to the throats of all of humankind. In short, they think and act like the State.

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