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capitalism, colonialism, and fascism

Trade Deals that Threaten Democracy

By staff - International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations, June 2014

At its 2002 World Congress, the IUF adopted a wide-ranging resolution on trade and investment committing our organization to vigorously oppose the expanded WTO “Doha Round” agenda and to combat the growing number of bilateral trade and investment agreements as instruments for entrenching and expanding corporate power at the expense of democratic rights and the rights of workers and their trade unions.

The resolution highlighted the function of the expanding web of regional and bilateral agreements in building on the WTO rules to construct, layer upon layer, “investment regimes which enforce the right of corporations to pursue maximum profit while removing and undermining restrictions which seek to regulate corporate activities in the interest of public health, worker and consumer health and safety, public services and the environment.”

The Resolution recalled the IUF’s historical and statutory commitment to promote and defend a broad spectrum of basic rights: the right to adequate, nutritious and safe food; the right to food security and food sovereignty; the right to a safe working and living environment; and the right to livelihood protection. Congress further called on the IUF and its affiliates to “actively support and campaign for governments at every level (local, national, regional) to review all existing trade and investment rules and treaties using these fundamental rights as a benchmark and to reject all trade and investment agreements which conflict with those rights.”

Organized opposition killed the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), an attempt to establish far- reaching powers for transnational investors only partially realized in the WTO’s TRIMS agreement. Popular resistance also halted the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, an attempt to extend the reach of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to all of Central and South America and the Caribbean. Since 2002, growing popular resistance has blocked the advance of the WTO Doha Round. This has arrested the insertion of more far-reaching investment rules into the WTO, but has also frozen into place a global food system whose destructive features were dramatically highlighted in the 2008 and subsequent food crises which are essentially permanent. And while attention has largely focused on these ambitious mega-treaties, an intricate web of bilateral and regional investment agreements, some of them deliberately and misleadingly packaged as free trade agreements, have conferred on transnational capital new powers to directly challenge the democratic right of governments to regulate and to legislate in the public interest.

The latest proposed treaty instruments to embody these investor ambitions are the EU-US trade deal now known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the twelve-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

Both these treaties are being negotiated under conditions of the strictest secrecy. Corporations draft and share the negotiating texts, but citizens are denied access in the name of national security. On the basis of the leaked texts we know that they would build on existing trade and investment rules by incorporating the most toxic elements of the already-existing thousands of treaties and granting expanded powers to transnational capital to challenge public interest policies and practices, eliminating or putting at risk rights for which workers and unions have struggled over many decades.

This publication builds on the past work of the IUF and the efforts of many activists in explaining the nature of these threats and why the labour movement must commit to defeating these treaties as an urgent political priority. We would also hope to stimulate discussion on how we might move beyond these defensive struggles to begin putting in place a system of global rules to effectively enforce respect for human rights over the private claims of investors.

Read the report (PDF).

They Poisoned the River for a “Clean Coal” Lie

By Trish Kahle - Socialist Worker, January 13, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

IMAGINE YOURSELF in the rugged countryside of the Appalachian Mountains, where you and your neighbors have lived with a history of poverty and lack of economic development–and you learn that the water piped into your home has been poisoned and can’t be used, even after it is boiled, until further notice.

Imagine trying to run a hospital when the city’s water is unusable–even for hand washing. Imagine having to ration drinking water to school-age children in the fourth most water-rich country on earth.

All of these nightmares and more came true in West Virginia on January 9 after residents reported that their tap water tasted like licorice. The contaminant turned out to be 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, or MCMH–a chemical used to produce misleadingly named “clean coal” through a froth flotation process that “scrubs” the coal prior to burning it in power plants.

The chemical spilled into the Elk River from a 48,000-gallon tank owned by Freedom Industries. The full extent of the leak remained unclear over the weekend. West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin claimed the spill didn’t exceed 5,000 gallons, but Freedom Industries President Gary Southern could only say for certain that less than 35,000 gallons leaked out.

Tom Aluise of the West Virginia Environmental Protection Association noted that MCMH cannot be removed from the water–and residents will simply have to wait for thousands of miles of pipelines to be flushed before water safety can be reassessed. “This material pretty much floats on the water, and it’s floating downstream, and eventually it will dissipate, but you can’t actually get in there and remove it,” Aluise said.

That begs the question of why a hazardous chemical that is impossible to clean up if spilled was being stored near a river only one mile upstream from a treatment plant providing water to West Virginia’s capital of Charleston and nine counties that span the surrounding area.

Why Environmentalists Must Support Workers’ Struggles

By Stephanie McMillan - December 18, 2013

This is to specifically address class struggle as it relates to the ecological crisis. It will not address all the other (many!) reasons that working class struggle must be waged and supported.

First, we must recognize the fact that global capitalism is driving ecocide.

The problem reaches much farther back than capitalism itself. The combination of an early gendered division of labor with the adoption of agriculture and corresponding formation of permanent settlements set the stage for class divisions and the private accumulation of surplus wealth. Maintaining this arrangement required the development of states with armies, social oppression and repression to weaken internal opposition, and ideologies to make it all seem normal and pre-ordained. And as land was degraded and resources used up faster than they naturally replenished themselves, expansion became imperative, leading to conquest and forced unequal trade.

These intertwined and matured over time into an ever-more complex tangle, culminating in late-stage capitalism: the all-encompassing, all-devouring, spectacular horror that is our current global social living arrangement. The environmental crisis, specifically climate change, is the most urgent problem we collectively face. It is a simple fact that if our planet no longer supports life, then all human pursuits, including social justice, will also come to a screaming halt.

But attempts to solve the environmental crisis head-on, without addressing the underlying structural causes, will ultimately fail. Approaching it directly (for example by blocking a pipeline to prevent tar sands oil from reaching a refinery) can not overturn the socio-economic system that makes resource extraction a non-negotiable necessity. Capital is relentless, and will flow around any obstacle—or smash through it. Throughout history, it has demonstrated the willingness and capacity to wipe out anyone—including entire populations—who attempt to resist.

Historically only one class has been able to challenge capital and offer an alternative to it: the working class. This is not because of any sort of moral superiority, nor is it a matter of suffering the most. In fact, there are many others who are deprived of any means of survival altogether, which is an even worse situation than being exploited as a worker.

The reason that the working class has this capacity is that it is strategically placed. Workers have the most direct relationship with capital: they produce it. Even capitalists themselves merely manage and accumulate it, which they accomplish through the exploitation of workers in the production of commodities. Commodities embody surplus value in the form of unpaid labor, combined with natural materials (which capitalists simply claim ownership of through legal or other violent means). This surplus value, when it’s realized as profit and re-invested, becomes new capital.

Capitalism runs on exploitation, by paying the aggregate of workers less than the total value of their products (the rest becomes profit). So in order to sell all the surplus commodities that can’t be profitably consumed within a social formation, capitalism is structurally required to “expand or die.” The problem with this economic model on a finite planet is obvious.

South Africa’s Untold Tragedy of Neoliberal Apartheid

By Jérôme Roos - Notes toward an International Libertarian Eco-Socialism, November 12, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Author's Introduction: In light of the recent death of Nelson Mandela, the “father” of post-Apartheid South Africa, I am reposting this excellent reflection by Jérôme E. Roos on a recent trip to the country.  The essay was originally published in Reflections on a Revolution (ROAR) on 12 November 2013.

Twenty years after apartheid, the old freedom fighters of the ANC have come to reproduce the same structures of oppression against which they once arose.

We were driving down the N3 highway on our way back home from the Eastern port city of Durban, passing by the endless lines of improvised shacks that constitute the Katlehong township just outside Johannesburg, when we saw the flashing blue lights of a police car in the distance. As we approached, a horrific scene revealed itself. A local slumdweller, probably somewhere in his thirties, lay dead on the side of the road, his body awkwardly twisted into an impossible position, his eyes still wide open. Some two hundred meters ahead, a car had pulled over on the curb, its driver casually leaning on the vehicle while talking to a policeman. No one had even bothered to cover up the body. This man just lay there like a dead animal — another road kill in endless wave of needlessly extinguished lives.

Every year, more than 14.000 people are killed on the road in South Africa, an average of 38 per day — nearly half of whom are pedestrians. Of the other half, many die as overloaded buses, micro-vans or so-called bakkies crash during the daily commute from the townships to the city to work as waiters, clerks or house maids. Just today, a bus full of commuters slammed into a truck on a narrow and potholed road to Pretoria, killing 29. But in the aggregate, tragedies like these are only numbers in a cold statistical series. The front pages of the country’s newspapers remain splattered with horror stories and graphic photos of brutal killings, as fifty people are murdered daily. Another 770 people die from AIDS every day. A total of 5.7 million, or 18% of South Africans, is HIV/AID infected, the highest infection rate in the world. Needless to say, one of the bloody red lines that runs through the broken social fabric of this heartbreakingly beautiful country is that human life is accorded shockingly little value.

The Myth of the Non-Existent Aboriginal Working Class in Canada

By El Machetero - Unsettling America, April 9, 2013

“Native people focusing on settler colonialism sometimes don’t see how it intersects with capitalism and white supremacy. Consequently, things get articulated as sovereignty projects that really are not that great. Your sovereignty comes to be defined as economic development by any means necessary – let’s exploit the resources, let’s build a class structure within Native communities – and that ends up destroying the land as much as multinational corporations are doing. That goes against the principle of having a radical relationship with the land. And it’s self-defeating ultimately, because multinational corporations are not going to let you do what you want to do with the land because they want the resources. It ends up hurting your communities. So I think it’s critical to see where Native struggles and class struggles intersect.”

-Andrea Smith (1)

The role which Aboriginal workers have played in the building of Canada is one which is seldom acknowledged or recognized. During the rare instances when this long-minimized role and largely untold history is engaged, it brings to the light a complex dialectic concerning some of the immense contradictions inherent to any colonial situation. In these contexts, it can be reasonably argued to be in direct contravention to the survival of any subjugated peoples in question to actively contribute to the building of an empire-society which effectively requires their wholesale displacement and “removal” in order to establish and expand itself in the cancerous manner which such systems typically tend to do.

At the same time, there is no way that this paradoxical reality can diminish or remove the basic fact that such societies have also been historically most dependent on those who they oppress with the most vigor and the least remorse, nor does it even begin to resolve the simple economic fact that even those with the least to be gained from contributing to such an ongoing colonial project still have to find the means to survive within it, greatly magnifying the basic dilemma faced by all peoples living on the receiving end of predatory capitalism, where we have come to be dependent on the very things which destroy us all in order to stay alive.

Notes on the miners strike, 1984-1985

By Steven - LibCom, January 11, 2007

The miners strike of 1984-85 will always be remembered in British working class history as the most significant turning point in the power relationship between the working class organisations of the trade unions, and the state representing the interests of the privileged minority in the late twentieth century. The losses endured by the working class and their organisations as a whole with the defeat of the miners are still to this day attempting to be rebuilt, as are the shattered communities of the ex-pit towns. Understanding the struggle and the lessons that can be drawn from it during the months of 1984-85 are of utmost importance if these organisations are to be rebuilt, as well as the working class movements as a whole.

In 1974 the then Conservative government had been replaced with a Labour one, brought down by the miners strike of the same year. The Labour government realised that the working class, particularly the miners, had political power to exercise, and that if exercised correctly could force change in even the leadership of the country. Obviously wanting to avoid this in future, Labour set up think tank groups to decide the best course of action to stop this happening again, bringing an end to their term of power. The think tanks set up pinpointed the idea of national pay bargaining (a centralised structure where issues on pay and conditions could be discussed by miners across the country, which had ended area disputes over wages and other such inequalities) as a main factor in the power that the miners wielded. Their power was in their unified strength behind the organisation and the unifying nature of this structure was recognised as the reason for the successful strikes of 1969, 1972 and 1974. Labour introduced 'Area Incentive Schemes' alongside the structure of national pay bargaining and against national ballots in an attempt to split the miners. This meant now that wages and conditions would be decided locally, and the area was given the higher degree of importance than the national. The scheme was most well received in Nottinghamshire and the Midlands (against national ballot decisions), where as we will see, sought to consolidate its own interests ahead of that of the majority of miners on strike during 1984-85. However, Labour lost the next general election, and the Conservatives again came to power in 1979 with Margaret Thatcher at the helm and the Area Incentive Schemes carried on as the Labour government had initiated them.

The events of 1984 were a culmination of many years of struggle by the miners to raise wages and conditions, and in the years immediately previously to the great strike to prevent earlier attempts of pit closures, the most obvious attempt being in 1981 by the still new Thatcher government. The threat of strike action had however, caused the Thatcher government to abandon this and led to the Yorkshire miners to pass a resolution declaring that if a pit was to be closed for any reason other than exhaustion or geological difficulties, then a strike would take place to defend it.

Indigenism, Anarchism, and the State: An Interview with Ward Churchill

Interview by Tom Keefer and Jerome Klassen - Upping the Anti, March 26, 2005

Ward Churchill is one of the most outspoken activists and scholars in North America and a leading commentator on indigenous issues. Churchill’s many books include Marxism and Native Americans; Fantasies of the Master Race; Struggle for the Land; The COINTELPRO Papers; Genocide, Ecocide, and Colonization; Pacifism as Pathology; and A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas.

In his lectures and published works, Churchill explores the themes of genocide in the Americas, racism, historical and legal (re)interpretation of conquest and colonization, environmental destruction of Indian lands, government repression of political movements, literary and cinematic criticism, and indigenist alternatives to the status quo.

Churchill has recently come under attack for views expressed in the article Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens, written in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. An important part of the future of US academic freedom in the coming years will likely be determined by the outcome of the ongoing attempts to strip Ward Churchill of his academic position at Colorado University in Boulder. Two members of Autonomy & Solidarity sat down with Ward Churchill in Toronto in November of 2003 to do this interview.  It was transcribed by Clarissa Lassaline and edited by Tom Keefer, Dave Mitchell, and Valerie Zink.

Upping The Anti: We want to start off by asking you about your thoughts on the anti-globalization movement which, in terms of anti-capitalist struggles, has been one of the most significant developments in the past decade. This movement has also been criticized in the US context, as being largely made up of white middle class kids running around “summit hopping”. What’s your take?

Ward Churchill: I think the anti-globalization movement, for lack of a better term, is a very positive development in the sense that it re-infuses the opposition with a sense of purpose, enthusiasm, and vibrancy. The downside is that it’s a counter analytical movement in that it thinks it’s something new. We used to call it “anti-imperialism,” just straight up. The idea that “globalization” is something new, rather than a continuation of dynamics that are at least 500 years deep, is misleading. That needs to be understood.

The Mutants are Coming

By Steve Hastings - June 29, 1999

The development of the technology of Genetic Modification (G.M.) stretches back decades but most people have started to become aware of its implications during the 90’s.First in the mid 90’s Monsanto introduced rB.S.T. a G.M. growth hormone designed to increase milk yields in the U.S. After some controversy the E.U. decided to ban its import into Europe, a decision which is likely to be overturned by the World Trade Organisation (W.T.O.) soon. Then in 1996 shipments of soyabeans genetically modified to be resistant to Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup started to arrive in this country prompting the first major signs of public disquiet. More recently the sacking of Dr Puzstai from the Rowett Institute for claiming that consuming G.M. potatoes harmed rats provoked quite a food scare frenzy in the capitalist media. Pictures of a green faced Tony Blair with bolts through his neck under the headline "The Prime Monster" probably made all but the hardest of us chuckle but the whole "Frankenstein Foods" paranoia tended to obscure the environmental and social disasters which will follow if the corporations carry out their plans to introduce G.M. on a large scale.

"LET THEM EAT OIL".

G.M. is only the latest stage in the the industrialisation of food production which has been going on throughout the whole post war period under the control of the petro-chemical-pharmaceutical multinationals that have come to dominate the global economy. More powerful than many nation states (in 1995 of the 100 most powerful ‘economies’ in the world 48 were multinational corporations) they, along with the international financial institutions (IMF, World Bank, W.T.O. etc) constitute the economic side of the New World Order with N.A.T.O. taking on the role of political centralisation.

The process of industrialising food production which they have been imposing on us over the last few decades consists of destroying subsistence and organic farming and replacing it with a system based on:

  • Massive inputs of petro-chemicals in the form of fuel for machinery, artificial fertilisers and biocides (herbicides and pesticides).
  • Production for a global market rather than for direct consumption (subsistence) or local markets.
  • More dependence on animal products and the intensification of animal exploitation (factory farming).
  • The concentration of land ownership into fewer hands.
  • Dependence on multinational corporations for seed. Major chemical, pharmaceutical and oil multinationals have taken over more than 120 seed companies since the 60,s. The top 5 seed producers now control 75% of the world market. Hybrid, so-called ‘High Yielding Varieties’, have yields 20-40% lower in the second generation if replanted and are hence economically sterile’.
  • The replacement of mixed cropping systems suitable to local conditions with monocultures.

The results of this process (sometimes known as the ‘Green Revolution’) have been landlessness, poverty & starvation for many in the so-called ‘Third World’ as well as massive degradation of the natural world through chemical pollution and loss of biodiversity.

Democracy is Not a Spectator Sport

Dan Fortson Interviews Dave Chism and Bob Cramer - The Public Outlaw Show on November 27, 1997, KMUD 91.1 FM Southern Humboldt County, 88.3 FM Northern Humboldt County, and 88.9 FM Mendocino County

Dan Fortson: Good evening everyone. This is Dan Fortson, and we're gonna have a talk show here. I've a couple of guests in the studio with me; Dave Chism, former union representative, Dave, welcome.[1]

Dave Chism: Hi, how are you doing?

Dan Fortson: Just fine, and Bob Cramer, member of Taxpayers for Headwaters and outspoken advocate, welcome Bob.

Bob Cramer: Thank you.

Dan Fortson: Why don't we start off with a little bit of introductions. Dave you want to tell us something about yourself?

Dave Chism: Well, I'm a local boy

Dan Fortson: Okay

Dave Chism: --grew up in Trinidad, in that area. I went to work in the timber industry at the paper mill at Simpson. A lot of the members of my family have worked for various companies around here. I think we've worked for pretty much all of them. LP and Simpson primarily. I was pretty active in union politics out there and trying to build some working relationship with the environmental community. So it was kind of an interesting place to be in, especially when the mill went down, there was a lot of animosity about that.

Dan Fortson: And Bob, what have you been up to lately?

Bob Cramer: Well, I'm a native Californian, I've been living up here for five years. I came up here to go to school after I lost my job because of a corporate takeover and because I'm a Vietnam veteran, a disabled veteran. The V.A. offered to send me up to go to school here on vocational rehabilitation. My major was Environmental Science, and I had a little problem with [Calculus] II. So I decided to get into Environmental Ethics, and while I was in environmental ethics I started learning about what was actually going on up here. Of course, because of the lack of news about what was going on, I really didn't have any Idea. But when I found about what was going on in the Headwaters, I joined the protesters last September 15th [1996]. I noticed that all of the people that were at the [MAXXAM property] line who were waiting to cross over [to be arrested] were all about my age, which is 53 right now, by the way, and I was kind of stunned! It looked like members of the community were all around me. And we started talking.

So anyway, after that action a few of us formed Taxpayers for Headwaters. Because we felt that the people who were representing environmentalism in this area were not just Earth First! And EPIC and Trees [Foundation], but also people up in Eureka, Fortuna, and the other areas who were business people and professionals and regular taxpaying citizens, if you will, who are very concerned about overharvesting of our natural resources. Because we can see into the future a little bit. It doesn't take much to extrapolate what happens when you overharvest and not only that, there is a great History of overharvesting and how it has devastated other areas of the country. And we just didn't want to see it happen to this area. So we formed Taxpayers for Headwaters and now were about 800 members strong. And we've been involved in doing a lot of things. We've gone before the [Humboldt] County Board of Supervisors. We've talked to law enforcement, we've been to several hearings, senate hearing, natural resources hearings. We've called for grand jury investigations, we've just really been involved in the situation and basically that's what my background is and why I'm here today.

The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI's Secret Wars Against Domestic Dissent (Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall)

By Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall - South End Press, 1990

The FBI documents collected in this book offer a unique window into the inner workings of the U.S. political police. They expose the secret, systematic, and sometimes savage use of force and fraud, by all levels of government, to sabotage progressive political activity supposedly protected by the U.S. constitution. They reveal ongoing, country-wide CIA-style covert action - infiltration, psychological warfare, legal harassment, and violence - against a very broad range of domestic dissidents. While prodding us to re-evaluate U.S. democracy and to rethink our understanding of recent U.S. history, these documents can help us to protect our movements from future government attack.

This is the final volume of what amounts to a South End Press trilogy on domestic covert action. Ward Churchill's and Jim Vander Wall's Agents of Repression' details the FBI's secret war on the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement. My War at Home shows that such covert operations have become a per-manent feature of U.S. politics. It analyzes the specific methods used against progressive activists and opens a discussion of how to respond.

Now Churchill and Vander Wall have reproduced many of the FBI files on which our books are based. Some of these documents illustrate recent FBI cam-paigns against the American Indian Movement (AIM) and the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES). Others reveal early attacks on Marcus Garvey (1920s) and Alger Hiss (1950s). The bulk are from the counterintel-ligence programs (COINTELPROs) that the FBI mounted to "disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize" the civil rights, black liberation, Puerto Rican independence, anti-war and student movements of the 1960s.

Download (PDF).

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