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Judi Bari

Earth First! and the IWW, Part 3 - Tree Spikes and Wedges

By x344543 - Industrial Worker, July 2013

When Greg King and Darryl Cherney cofounded Southern Humboldt County Earth First! in 1986, the principle target of their actions was the now Maxxam controlled Pacific Lumber Company. Sensing that the 800-plus Pacific Lumber workers--of which almost 350 had made it known in a full page ad that they opposed the Maxxam takeover--and the environmentalists shared a common adversary, King and Cherney tailored their campaign to the workers as well as the forest itself. Their earliest demonstrations conveyed the message that this particular Earth First! group at least, was concerned for the future of the loggers and millworkers as much as they were for the redwoods and the flora and fauna that depended on it.

A good number of the workers welcomed this show of solidarity, and a handful of them, including shipping clerk John Maurer, millworker Kelly Bettiga, mechanic Lester Reynolds, and company blacksmith (whose job primarily consisted of forging specialized logging equipment needed for the cutting of the unique redwoods), Pete Kayes--who would eventually join the IWW, engaged in regular, amicable dialog with the environmentalists.

At first, Maxxam largely ignored the protests and dissidents but as Earth First!'s efforts gained momentum and support, and as more workers began to grumble about their mandatory overtime and question the now rapacious timber harvesting efforts, the bosses began to take the growing grassroots resistance more seriously. An unprecedented spate of successful legal challenges by a local environmental watchdog group called EPIC under a hitherto inconsistently enforced California forestry practices act was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Using the PR Firm Hill & Knowlton and stoking the ego of the more conservative "scissorbill" employees, Maxxam fomented the creation of a "timber worker" front group known as Taxpayers for the Environment and its Management (TEAM). The organization initiated an intense propaganda campaign accusing the environmentalists of being "unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs" whose sole aim was to destroy the economic well being of the humble residents of Humboldt (and Mendocino) county(s). TEAM claimed to be composed entirely of timber workers, but it was ACTUALLY largely made up of low level managers, gyppo operators, and assorted ranchers, many of whom belonged to other, similar front groups, such as one called WECARE, that had previously exaggerated the differences between workers and environmentalists.

The IWW And Earth First! - Part 2: The Crucible

By X344543 - Industrial Worker, June 2013

The IWW connection to Earth First! was, believe it or not, woven in the woof. In fact, as far as the two organizations’ struggles with the timber bosses go, both could be said to have been forged from the same crucible: the Humboldt County town of Eureka in northwestern California, the de facto capital of the Redwood Empire.

Long before the IWW joined in Earth First!’s (ultimately successful) struggles to save Headwaters Forest in Humboldt County, the roots of that struggle began with the workers’ struggles against the timber bosses.

In the formative years of the timber industry in the United States and Canada—the last third of the 19th century—working conditions were abysmal. Then, as now, timber was one of the top five most dangerous industrial jobs in the world. Timber workers were subjected to long hours, dangerous working conditions, unsanitary labor camps, company towns (where the employer was literally the government) and no job security. The bosses, meanwhile, were making a killing on the backs of both the workers and the environment. Vast amounts of standing timber were held by what would soon evolve into modern timber corporations, and not too few of them had acquired their holdings through graft and very questionable homesteading laws.

This was no exception in the Redwood Empire. In Eureka, the California Redwood Company (CRC), whose owners were European capitalists, was one of the worst examples. Workers at the CRC, many of whom were populists—including a butcher by the name of Charles Keller, who was a member of the International Workingmen’s Association (IWA)—formed the very first union of timber workers in North America to affiliate with the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Together, they exposed the CRC’s graft, in spite of vigilante mobs organized by the CRC and the other companies as well as yellow jour nalism and slander by the local press. The union didn’t secure recognition, but they did improve working conditions slightly, and the CRC was forced to shut down.

The story of the IWW’s LumberWorkers Industrial Union and its successful fight for the eight-hour day is well documented elsewhere, but what is not well known is that, while the IWW never gained much of a foothold in the Redwood Empire (its successes were concentrated mostly in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana), its influence was felt there nonetheless.

The IWW And Earth First!: Part 1 - Establishing Roots

By X344543 - Industrial Worker, May 2013. Dedicated to Franklin Rosemont, Carlos Cortez, and Utah Phillips.

Judi Bari was both an Earth First!er and a Wobbly from 1988 to 1993 and during that time there was a close alliance between the two organizations. Although some assume she brought the two together, the truth is more complex. When Judi Bari joined Earth First! and the IWW in the summer of 1988, Earth First!ers and Wobblies were already discussing the idea of forging an alliance. There are many reasons for this, but the overarching explanation is that Earth First! and the IWW are really different manifestations of thesame revolutionary impulse.

The IWW, founded in Chicago in 1905 by radical working class anti-capitalists from veterans of various movements and struggles, united around the idea of forming One Big Union of the working class. They offered a revolutionary alternative to the classcollaborationist American Federation of Labor (AFL). The IWW pledged to organize all workers—regardless of ethnicity, gender or skill level—by industry rather than craft. Instead of the conservative AFL motto, “a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,” the IWW sought to abolish wage slavery altogether. No longer would workers collectively enable their own oppression by crossing each other’s (craft based) picket lines, they said. The IWW would organize the working class together. This was summarized by the slogan, “An injury to one is an injury to all!”

The IWW set out to achieve this creatively, becoming known as much for its “right brain” artistic contributions to working-class culture as well as its “left brain” organizing activities.

Green Syndicalism – An Alternative Red-Green Vision

By Jeff Shantz - The New Significance, July 4th, 2011

Most approaches to Red and Green (labour and environmentalist) alliances have taken Marxian perspectives, to the exclusion of anarchism and libertarian socialism. Recent developments, however, have given voice to a “syndical ecology” or what some within the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) call “green syndicalism”. Green syndicalism highlights certain points of similarity between anarcho-syndicalism (revolutionary unionism) and radical ecology. These include, but are by no means limited to, decentralisation, regionalism, direct action, autonomy, pluralism and federation. The article discusses the theoretical and practical implications of syndicalism made green.

Recently, interesting convergences of radical union movements with ecology have been reported in Europe and North America. These developments have given voice to a radical ‘syndical ecology’, or what some within the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) call “green syndicalism” [Kauffman and Ditz,. 1992]. The emergent greening of syndicalist discourses is perhaps most significant in the theoretical questions raised regarding anarcho-syndicalism and ecology, indeed questions about the possibilities for a radical convergence of social movements. While most attempts to form labour and environmentalist alliances have pursued Marxian approaches, Adkin [1992a: 148] suggests that more compelling solutions might be expected from anarchists and libertarian socialists. Still others [Pepper, 1993; Heider, 1994; Purchase, 1994: 1997a; Shantz and Adam, 1999] suggest that greens should pay more attention to anarcho-syndicalist ideas.

In the early 1990s Roussopoulos [1991] noted the emergence of a green syndicalist discourse in France within the Confédération Nationale du Travail (CNT). Expressions of a green syndicalism were also observed in Spain [Marshall, 1993]. There the Confederación General de Trabajadores (CGT) adopted social ecology as part of its struggle for ‘a future in which neither the person nor the planet is exploited’ [Marshall, 1993: 468].

Between 31 March and 1 April 2001, the CGT sponsored an international meeting of more than one dozen syndicalist and libertarian organisations including the CNT and the Swedish Workers Centralorganization (SAC). Among the various outcomes of the meeting were the formation of a Libertarian International Solidarity (LIS) network, commitments of financial and political support to develop a recycling cooperative and the adoption of a libertarian manifesto, ‘What Type of Anarchism for the 21st Century’, in which ecology takes a very crucial place [Hargis, 2001]. The real contribution of these decisions may not be known until the next congress scheduled for 2003 in France.

Among the more interesting of recent attempts to articulate solidarity across the ecology and workers’ movements were those involving Earth First! activist Judi Bari and her efforts to build alliances with workers in order to save old-growth forest in Northern California. Bari sought to learn from the organising and practices of the IWW to see if a radical ecology movement might be built along anarcho-syndicalist lines. In so doing she tried to bring a radical working-class perspective to the agitational practices of Earth First! as a way to overcome the conflicts between environmentalists and timber workers which kept them from fighting the corporate logging firms which were killing both forests and jobs. The organisation which she helped form, IWW/Earth First Local 1, eventually built a measure of solidarity between radical environmentalists and loggers which resulted in the protection of the Headwaters old-growth forest which had been slated for clearcutting [Shantz, 1999].

Green Unionists: for Jobs and the Environment

Green Unionism in Theory and Practice

By Dan Jakopovich - Synthesis/Regeneration 43 (Spring 2007)

A new current in the global anti-capitalist movement has begun to develop in the last few decades. Rather than unfolding into a cohesive, self-assured and well received movement, it has largely existed on theoretical and practical margins, thwarted by dogmatic party-political, “affinity group” and NGO dominance, yet periodically reappearing as the “star of the day” wherever favorable socio-economic conditions or visionary initiatives gave it the broad attention and determination it needed to flourish.

The biggest hope for the greening of the labor movement lies in the revival of this decentralized, grassroots unionism. The parochialism, corruptibility and ingrained authoritarianism of the union officialdom have been shown time and time again, and only a bottom-up, rank-and-file approach to union work can seriously aid environmental protection and wider social change.

A basic tenet of green unionism is that labor struggles and ecological struggles are not necessarily separate, but have a potential to be mutually reinforcing. The basis for a working relationship between differing strands is the unity-in-diversity approach to organizing a mutually respectful and supportive alliance.

Especially since the late 60s and early 70s, partly as a response to working-class deradicalization and often an integration of traditional “workers’ organizations” — statist, bureaucratic political parties and business unions — there has been a massive practical and theoretical retreat from questions of class and especially class struggle, particularly in the “new social movements” which have gained in popularity after the second world war.

With the onset of neoliberal globalization, there has been a reversal to previously held positions, decomposition of people’s political “representation” (especially in social-democratic parties), a deterioration of workers’ rights and living conditions. A six-hour working day even seemed more plausible at the beginning of the 20th century (and indeed, some called for its implementation) than it does today.

Parallel to the de facto progressive deterioration of working conditions, depoliticization of the workplace has also continued, along with a general activist culture largely still hostile to labor issues (although this has partly been changing recently, especially due to the “new organizing model” exemplified by the Justice for Janitors campaign).

A dynamic understanding of people as workers and workers as activists is missing. For several decades now, there has occurred a shift of the concept of oppression from production relations (as the material basis for exploitation) to consumption, especially among many mainstream Greens who would have us confined to our roles as consumers, where we are inherently relatively powerless and almost always disorganized. This approach, as commonly understood and implemented, produces an individualistic and moralistic substitute for sustained political activity.

It is important to recognize the central importance of class and the revolutionary implications of class struggle at the point of production. People are in their materially most powerful role as producers of goods and services, capable of withholding labor, and also democratically taking over the means of production and distribution.

It is the material conditions of life which restrict and deform peoples’ humanity; therefore the struggle against those conditions also has to be concrete:

The constitution of new identities as expressive human beings in transcendence of alienated class identities implies a successful struggle over the very structures of domination, regimentation, hierarchy and discipline which exist concretely within the workplace. One cannot assume that the job site will simply wither away with the flowering of a new identity. [1]

Murray Bookchin discards the syndicalist strategy as narrow economism [2], and while it is true that the syndicalist movement has in fact often been guilty of “cultural workerism,” productivism and the idealization of the working class and its role in society, especially in the past, this has been widely challenged in and by the movement itself, and is only a secondary tendency now.

Not believing in the future of the workplace as an arena of political and social change, Bookchin calls instead for a sole focus on the “community” (as though communities exist without workplaces or classes). When talking about his libertarian municipalism, Bookchin conveniently forgets it is precisely the syndicalists who have the strongest and most successful tradition of community organizing among all explicitly libertarian currents and wider. [3]

However, democratic unionism from below is not inconsistent with the conversion to a bioregional structure consisting of self-governing, socialized units of producers and consumers, and in a system of production for need, not profit, rank-and-file unions might be able to provide the necessary councilist infrastructure necessary for decentralized decision-making and distribution, at least in the transitional period.

Green syndicalists insist that overcoming ecological devastation depends on shared responsibilities towards developing convivial ways of living in which relations of affinity, both within our own species and with other species, are nurtured (See Bari, 2001). They envision, for example, an association of workers committed to the dismantling of the factory system, its work discipline, hierarchies and regimentation — all of the things which Bookchin identifies (Kaufmann and Ditz, 1992; Purchase, 1994; 1997b). This involves both an actual destruction of some factories and their conversion towards “soft” forms of small, local production. [4]

Building the new society in the shell of the old entails changing who controls production, what is produced and how it is produced. This can be achieved only through democratizing the workplaces and empowering the communities. “The questions of ownership and control of the earth are nothing if not questions of class.” [5]

Radical Ecology and Class Struggle: A Re-Consideration

By Jeff Shantz (Toronto-NEFAC) - ca December 2002 [PDF File Available]

Introduction

In recent years a variety of social movement and environmental commentators have devoted a great deal of energy to efforts which argue the demise of class struggle as a viable force for social change (See Eckersley, 1990; Bowles and Gintis, 1987; Bookchin, 1993; 1997). These writers argue that analyses of class struggle are unable to account for the plurality of expressions which hierarchy, domination and oppression take in advanced capitalist or what they prefer to call "postindustrial" societies (See Bookchin, 1980; 1986). They charge that class analyses render a one-dimensional portrayal of social relations. The result of this has been a broad practical and theoretical turn away from questions of class and especially class struggle.

In my view, both orthodox Marxist constructions of class struggle and the arguments raised against that conceptualization have been constrained by conceptually narrow visions of class struggle. Commentators have either taken class to mean an undifferentiated monolith (Bookchin, 1986; 1987) which acts, or more often fails to act, as the instrumental agent in history or else as a fiction generated to obscure hopelessly divided and antagonistic relations within the working class (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985; Bourdieu, 1987). What is generally missing from these otherwise disparate accounts is a dynamic understanding of people as workers and workers as activists.

Indeed one might argue that much of the difficulty arises from arguments over the sociologically constructed working class (e.g. the Marxist "totality" which treats workers in a deterministic manner) rather than the working class in its variety of daily negotiated manifestations. While it is worthwhile to criticize the economistic construction of the working class as constituted by orthodox Marxism, the outcome of such critiques should not be a rejection of the central importance of class and the revolutionary implications of class struggle.

Syndicalism, Ecology and Feminism: Judi Bari’s Vision

By Jeff Shantz - January 12, 2001 [PDF File Available]

According to the late Wobbly organizer and Earth Firster, Judi Bari, a truly biocentric perspective must really challenge the system of industrial capitalism which is founded upon the ‘ownership’ of the earth. Industrial capitalism cannot be reformed since it is founded upon the destruction of nature. The profit drive of capitalism insists that more be taken out than is put back (be it labour or land). Bari extended the Marxist discussion of surplus value to include the elements of nature. She argued that a portion of the profit derived from any capitalist product results from the unilateral (under)valuing, by capital, of resources extracted from nature.

Because of her analysis of the rootedness of ecological destruction in capitalist relations Bari turned her attentions to the everyday activities of working people. Workers would be a potentially crucial ally of environmentalists, she realized, but such an alliance could only come about if environmentalists were willing to educate themselves about workplace concerns. Bari held no naïve notions of workers as privileged historical agents. She simply stressed her belief that for ecology to confront capitalist relations effectively and in a non-authoritarian manner requires the active participation of workers. Likewise, if workers were to assist environmentalists it was reasonable to accept some mutual aid in return from ecology activists.

In her view the power which manifests itself as resource extraction in the countryside manifests itself as racism and exploitation in the city. An effective radical ecology movement (one which could begin to be considered revolutionary) must organize among poor and working people. Only through workers’ control of production and distribution can the machinery of ecological destruction be shut down.

Ecological crises become possible only within the context of social relations which engender a weakening of people’s capacities to fight an organized defence of the planet’s ecological communities. Bari understood that the restriction of participation in decision-making processes within ordered hierarchies, prerequisite to accumulation, has been a crucial impediment to ecological organizing.[1] This convinced her that radical ecology must now include demands for workers’ control and a decentralization of industries in ways which are harmonious with nature. It also meant rejecting ecological moralizing and developing some sensitivity to workers’ anxieties and concerns.

To critics this emphasis on the concerns of workers and the need to overcome capitalist social relations signified a turn towards workerist analysis which, in their view, undermined her ecology. Criticisms of workers and ‘leftist ecology’ have come not only from deep ecologists, as discussed above, but from social ecologists, such as Murray Bookchin and Janet Biehl, who otherwise oppose deep ecology. Social ecology guru Bookchin has been especially hostile to any idea of the workplace as an important site of social and political activity or of workers as significant radical actors. Bookchin repeats recent talk about the disappearance of the working class [2], although he is confused about whether the working class is ‘numerically diminishing’ or just ‘being integrated’. Bookchin sees the ‘counterculture’ (roughly the new social movements like ecology) as a new privileged social actor, and in place of workers turns to a populist ‘the people’ and the ascendancy of community. Underlying Bookchin’s critique of labour organizing, however, is a low opinion of workers which he views contemptuously as ‘mere objects’ without any active presence within communities.[3]

Welcome to Seattle, WTO: Judi Bari debates Karl Marx

By Walt Sheasby libcom.org, November 28, 1999

The following "debate" is actually a composite of quotations by Judi Bari from Revolutionary Ecology and Karl Marx from various sources cut and pasted into what appears to be a dialog. While it's impossible to say whether or not Marx and Bari would have ever debated or dialogued thusly, it is likely the two would have agreed on much, as they seem to do here.  

Moderator: Welcome to our dialogue. Today our guests are the very respected Judi Bari, who lived from Nov. 7, 1949 to March 2, 1997, and Karl Marx, whose lifetime began May 5, 1818 and ended on March 13, 1883. Ms. Bari was an ecological activist in the Earth First! organization and because of that her life was almost ended by a bomb attack. She survived that, but later died at age 48 of breast cancer. Dr. Marx is easily recognized as one of the most important figures in the history of economics and socialism, although many of his ideas remain unknown, particularly in the area of political ecology, as distinguished from political economy.

Our topic for this dialogue today is, in fact, Revolutionary Ecology, and we will allow our guests to explain in their own words how they understand this approach, and where they might agree or disagree. My own role will be only to pose some questions and give each the opportunity to respond.

To begin, Judi Bari, can you tell us about the terms you use in describing your philosophy? There seem to be a number of concepts that are often counterposed, like Deep Ecology versus Eco-socialism, or Naturalism/Humanism versus Biocentrism. Can you clarify your own orientation?

Judi Bari: Deep ecology, or biocentrism, is the belief that nature does not exist to serve humans. Rather, humans are part of nature, one species among many. All species have a right to exist for their own sake, regardless of their usefulness to humans. And biodiversity is a value in itself, essential for the flourishing of both human and non-human life. (1)

Moderator: Dr. Marx, you've also stressed that humans are part of nature and that this totality is constantly being transformed by interaction that you call 'Metabolism.' What do you mean by that?

Karl Marx: The labour process...is the necessary condition for effective exchange of matter between man and Nature; it is the ever-lasting Nature-imposed condition of human existence. (2) The great majority of things regarded as products of nature, e.g. plants and animals, are the result in the form in which they are now utilized by human beings and produced anew, of a previous transformation effected by means of human labour over many generations under human control, during which their form and substance have changed. (3)

But What About Jobs?

By Judi Bari, Fall 1996

When Redwood National Park was created in the 1970's, the loggers and millworkers in this region still had unions to represent them. Those unions negotiated an agreement in which displaced timber workers were paid two thirds of their wages for the next six years, to give them a chance to re-train or re-locate and find a new job.

Since then, the unions have been busted, and the only ones pretending to speak for the workers are MAXXAM management and their captive congressman Frank Riggs (a Republican). For all their talk about jobs, none of their proposals have included one iota of compensation for displaced workers, although all of their proposals have included oodles of compensation for corporate criminal Charles Hurwitz.

Back in 1993, when Dan Hamburg (a Democrat at the time) had just been elected to Congress and environmentalists were drafting the Headwaters Acquisition Bill, I got a chance to look at this problem in detail. I was in charge of the committee assigned to write a worker's clause for the bill.

In order to do this, I convened a group of displaced and currently employed loggers and millworkers from MAXXAM, Simpson, and L-P, who met with a small group of hand-picked Earth First!ers. We asked the timber workers what to do about the loss of jobs that would come from saving Headwaters. Printed below is the proposal we came up with. This proposal should be part of any plan to save Headwaters.

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