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From Cheerleader to Earth First!: Judi Bari

By Bruce Anderson – Anderson Valley Advertiser, November 11, 1989

On a sweltering day last summer, a diminutive, energetic woman stood talking to a pair of reporters on the Ukiah Courthouse steps. The woman leaned at the reporters, leading with her chin—as they’d say in boxing—as she talked. The woman was Judi Bari, associated primarily with Earth First!, but in reality an American radical in the uniquely American tradition. When she’d left off her talk with the reporters and had disappeared into this area’s class warfare headquarters, the Courthouse, one reporter looked at the other to say. “You know, that woman can talk! She doesn’t even come up for air. Not a breath.”

Well, Judi is a serious person living in an area and in a time when real feeling is considered bad form or just kind of crazy, so Bari finds herself fighting on many fronts against many kinds of opposition, but this lady can fight so effectively, it’s hard to associate her with cheerleaderism. “I really didn’t grow up with any political feelings,” she says, describing a sedate, if mildly fearful, upbringing by a pair of genteel liberals intimidated by the McCarthy-ite fifties. “My parents taught me Wobbly songs as nursery rhymes but told me not to say where I’d learned them,” Bari remembers with a disbelieving snort. “One of the best things about them was my parents lectured me and my sister against racial and ethnic hatreds. Later, when I was in college and came home wearing a Chairman Mao badge they said to me, ‘We’ve got to have a talk with you.’ I mean, this was kill your parents time, remember. So they went on to warn me against tying the sixties student movement to a foreign power. I came away with a whole new respect for my parents. They knew much more than I thought they did. And they were right, of course. We need an American radical left, not one looking overseas for a model.”

For years before that breakthrough discussion with her parents, Judi Bari was distinctly not a political person. “I was head cheerleader at my high school, for god’s sake! Can you believe that?” Frankly, no, but boundless renewable energy of the Bari dynamo variety can carry one to the heights of some peculiar organizations.

Bari began life in a working-class area of a town near Baltimore. Her neighbors all worked in the area’s steel mills. Bari’s mother later radically enhanced the family fortunes when she went back to college, emerging with the first PhD awarded to a woman in mathematics by Johns Hopkins University. Bari pere is a diamond setter, “which is, where I get my perfectly steady hands from,” his second daughter, Judi, says. Daughter number one is a science writer for the New York Times while daughter three is described by sister Judi as “a perpetual student.” Apparently the third Bari remains in school past the age of goal-oriented scholars.

“I had no political consciousness when I left high school. My big thing was to get dates with football players. I thought I had to act dumb and be cute and sweet because I didn’t know there were other social options available to me. It never really fit my personality.” Bari recalls her first political stirrings during her last year in high school when a star athlete asked her out. He happened to be black. Bari was visited by a delegation of white athletes who informed her none of them would ever again grace her with their stimulating company if she dated the black kid. “I didn’t go out with him.” she says with what is clearly a painfully nagging memory of capitulation to intimidation. She doesn’t say so, but it may be one of the only times Bari has ever given in.

From the la la land of high school, Mendocino County’s premier radical went to the University of Maryland in pursuit, not of higher learning and the elusive keys to life but in quest of football players, the odd status symbols of millions of misdirected young American women. “We called Maryland U, 13th grade” Bari recalls. “It was the place Spiro Agnew was referring to in his famous ‘effete intellectual snobs swept into college on the wave of the ‘new socialism’ speech.” Bari doesn’t recall much intellectual activity of any kind, but as a 1967 freshman she was in the right place at the right time. “It was one of those crank em-out schools. Agnew had just been elected as a liberal alternative—if you can believe that—to another right-wing crank named Mahoney who’d run on a straight racist platform of keeping blacks confined to their neighborhoods.” Bari was soon disillusioned with football players. “They were gross: just a bunch of big, dumb assholes who treated women very badly and who thought treating women badly was funny.” In a world in flux, there remains one constant—the personal behavior of the college athlete.

Bari soon began to meet company of a more interesting and hopeful kind, “As soon as I got away from home, I quickly figured out I didn’t have to go to class. I was soon into sex, drugs, and rock and roll.” Which in those wild days included, in its more alert manifestations, side trips into radical politics. “My first demo was a trip with hundreds of other students to the college president’s house one night to demand his underwear. The politicos in the mob tried to get everybody to chant ‘Elkins [the college prexy] must go,’ but they were drowned out by calls for Mrs. Elkins to give up her drawers.” But students there and everywhere were getting restless and more serious, as many of them had to consider the distinct possibility they could be shipped off as foot soldiers in the expanding imperial adventure in Vietnam.

Bari was soon one of the more politically active students at U Maryland, recalling with obvious delight her own transformation from flower child naïf to street fighter. “When Nixon invaded Cambodia in ‘70 we had flat out political riots. We took over Route 1 for anti-war protests.” Route One is the main road into War Maker Central, or Washington, DC. “I have an old picture that was in the newspapers of me giving water and flowers to the cops. I cringe now when I look at it, because I got as tired of hippies as I did of jocks. I was getting more and more of a feminist consciousness because I always seemed to be with men who had no interest in women beyond sex. One day I was on acid with this guy and I remember thinking, ‘God, what am I doing? This guy is totally disgusting.’ My friends and I all seemed to be having similar feelings. I stopped going out with men for a year, both as a reaction to football players and the dumb hippie exploitation of women through so-called, free love.” Love is never free as the cowboy songs tell us, a fact of life many women seemed to learn from their hippie experience.

Timber Wars: Footloose Wobs Urgently Needed

By Judi Bari, Industrial Worker, October 1989; Reprinted in Timber Wars, © 1994 Common Courage Press.

"You fucking commie hippies, I'll kill you all!" A shotgun blast goes off and the Earth First!ers scatter. What started as a peaceful logging road blockade had turned violent when a logger sped his truck through our picket line and swerved it towards the demonstrators. The loggers also grabbed and smashed an Earth First!er's camera and, for no apparent reason, punched a 50-year old protester in the face, breaking her nose.

The environmental battle in the Pacific Northwest has reached such a level of intensity that the press now refers to it as the Timber Wars. At stake is the survival of one of the nation's last great forest ecosystems. Our adversaries are giant corporations--Louisiana Pacific, Georgia Pacific, and MAXXAM in northern California, where I live, joined by Boise Cascade and Weyerhauser in Oregon and Washington.

These companies are dropping trees at a furious pace, clogging our roads no less than 18 hours a day, with a virtual swarm of logging trucks. Even old timers are shocked at the pace and scope of today's strip-logging, ranging from 1000-year old redwoods, one tree trunk filling an entire logging truck, to six-inch diameter baby trees that are chipped up for the pulp-mills and particleboard plants.

One-hundred-forty years ago the county I live in was primeval redwood forest. At the current rate of logging, there will be no marketable trees left here in 22 years. Louisiana Pacific chairman Harry Merlo put it this way in a recent newspaper interview: "It always annoys me to leave anything lying on the ground. We don't log to a 10-inch top, we don't log to an 8-inch top or a 6-inch top. We log to infinity. It's out there, it's ours, and we want it all. Now."

So the battle lines are drawn. On one side are the environmentalists, ranging from the big-money groups like Wilderness Society and Sierra Club to the radical Earth First!ers and local mountain people fighting the front line battles in the woods. Tactics being used include tree-sitting, logging road blockading, and bulldozer dismantling, as well as the more traditional lawsuits and lobbying.

On the other side are the big corporations and the local kulaks who do their bidding. Tactics used by them have included falling trees into demonstrators, suing protesters for punitive damages (and winning), buying politicians, and even attempting to ban the teaching at a local elementary school of a Dr. Suess book, The Lorax, which the timber companies say portrays logging in a bad light.

Greening of the IWW: What Happens When We Win?

By Jess Grant - Industrial Worker (August 1989)

The time has come for the IWW to tackle head-on the question of post-industrial production, better known as “What do we do now that we won the General Strike?” We can no longer duck the issue by saying that workers’ committees will decide all that when the time comes. We must firmly put to rest the misconception that Wobblies are factory fetishists by taking a clear stand against the kinds of work that harm our planet or alienate us from our labor. Let us envision a world where the earth and our labor are honored equally.

Assuming that people are naturally inventive and enjoy contributing to their communities, and that people displaced from harmful industries will want to be retrained rather than put out to pasture, then we must find an answer to those who ask, “What will I do if my factory is shut down?” If millions of jobs are lost as the result of decommissioning harmful and unnecessary industries, then conversion to an ecological, self-managed economy will demand an imaginative program of apprenticeship and education.

Labor unions are simply the social manifestation of an instinctive solidarity found among working class people, and the IWW is no exception. Unions were born out of conflict and designed as instruments of class struggle, and from this clash they draw their meaning. But in the absence of struggle, when the boss class has been evicted and the workers are busy redesigning society, unionism becomes irrelevant. As “work” is replaced with “play”, the shell of unionism will wither away and leave in its place an intricate network of freely associating cooperatives. 

That venerable Wobbly institution called Father Hagerty’s Wheel of Fortune, in which the various branches of industry are laid out in diagrammatic detail like a pizza with too many extras, was never meant to describe post-revolutionary society.  It’s a handy guide for understanding how industry (as we know it under capitalism) is organized, and thus how to coordinate our own struggle, but it’s a lousy model for the future. Let’s try to imagine what the wheel would look like if we could depose the boss class and put our lives back in balance with nature.

Every person has a calling, some talent or passion for a particular activity that best expreses that individual. People seem happiest when they have the freedom to pursue that calling. A primary goal of self-managed production, then, is to create this freedom of action. Most callings fit into one of several basic archetypes. It’s these Jungian archetypes, weighted with the power of myth, which will form the basis of our new Wheel of De-Industry.

Northwest Wobs Call for Support to Keep L-P Mill Open

By Darryl Cherney - Industrial Worker, March 1989.

"Activists have always touted that sustained yield equals sustained jobs. Therefore, by keeping the mills open forever, we would logically have to ensure forests forever to keep them going."

IWW and EF! member Darryl Cherney and other Northwest Wobs and radical ecodefenders have joined forces to take on the anti-labor, anti-environmentalist Louisiana Pacific lumber corporation and to prevent the corporation's planned closure of a Potter Valley mill in April. Cherney has made an important 12-point proposal to Gladys Simmons, a Public Affairs Officer of the Louisiana Pacific Corporation Cherney, who is a prominent environmental activist and songwriter, says that he is tired of the mainstream press trashing environmentalists as being anti-labor and of mill owners who blame environmentalists for mill layoffs and shut downs. He points to one industry spokesman at a gathering of the Eureka Chamber of Commerce in mid-December who was quoted as saying that environmentalists are making life difficult for the timber companies as they spend time and money fighting lawsuits instead of spending time and money in the forest cutting down trees.

With the second highest nationwide timber cut being reported (12.6 billion board feet) and Mendocino County reporting nearly triple the timber revenues from last year's cut on National Forest land, Cherney finds it "repulsive that industry is blaming environmentalists for shortages that over logging is creating." Cherney comments: "While MAXXAM/Pacific Lumber bemoans four lawsuits filed against them as anti-labor, they have in fact increased their workforce by 33% and nearly tripled their cut over 1985 levels. Another case is L-P's closing of the Potter Valley mill which doubled its shift only five years ago."

Cherney asks: "When will northcoast citizens learn that artificially increased production leads to massive busts shortly thereafter? With production and profits at an all time high, industry's criticism of environmentalists can only mean one thing: the bust is well on its way."

Cherney likens the industry's complaints about environmentalists to "a baby crying about a booboo on its little finger. L-P has million dollar publicity budgets, dozens of attorneys on retainer, high paid lobbyists in Sacramento and Washington, Representative Bosco and Assemblyman Hauser in their pockets, a stranglehold on the workforce, and ownership of millions of acres of timberland. Should a lawsuit tie up 1/10th of one percent of their timber base, you can hear them howl for miles."

"I'm asking environmentalists to fight to keep L-P's Potter Valley mill open." said Cherney. His proposal which has already challenged the industry's traditional public relations defense, has also challenged environmental circles, and has been greeted with enthusiasm from members of the Sierra Club, the Northcoast Greens, the Mendocino Environmental Center, the Wilderness Coalition, Save the North fork and the International Woodworkers of America.

Cherney also believes that workers are coming to see the importance of environmental concerns. At a recent Earth First! demonstration, MAXXAM/PL actually imported counter demonstrators from other companies because their own employees, who are currently attempting to buy back the company, would not defend the policies of corporate raider Charles Hurwitz.

Cherney mailed his pitch to L-P spokesperson. Glennys Simmons and has some words of concern about her job: "Glennys will be one of the first to go when L-P closes their Ukiah mill. They already have a PR person, Shep Tucker, in Humboldt County. Besides, PR is one of L-P's lowest priorities. Look how they announced layoffs just before Christmas, after many people had begun their shopping," said Cherney. "L-P's treatment of their employees is reflective of their forest management. They can't tell us whether they can keep their people employed four months from now, and they expect us to trust them with long range forest management."

Tacoma Pier Shut Down!: Sea Diamond, Laden With Kaiser Aluminum Scab Cargo, Idled By MTW-Organized Solidarity Action

By x337969 - November 1998

Tacoma, Washington - At sunrise on Monday, November 7th, Puget Sound Marine Transport Workers and other Wobblies set up a picketline at Pier 7 in the Port of Tacoma in solidarity with locked-out Steelworkers from Kaiser Aluminum.

The Sea Diamond, a cargo ship loaded with bauxite destined for Kaiser's Tacoma and Spokane facilities, was delayed for 24 hours, after members of Earth First! (EF!) occupied a crane and a conveyor belt at Pier 7.

The action was called for by members of the United Steel Workers of America (USWA) who have been on strike for the last three months. The strike was prompted by Kaiser Aluminum's refusal to talk to the union over issues such as downsizing, cuts in medical and retirement benefits. Kaiser began moving trailers to house its scabs onto the polluted factory site before negotiations with the union were even set to begin.

Management at Kaiser--a subsidiary of the infamous Maxxam Corporation, owned by junk bond baron Charles Hurwitz--has conducted a determined effort to break the Steelworkers' union through the use of scab labor and strikebreaking goons from the International Management Assistance Corporation (IMAC).

The first ILWU dockworkers began arriving to work the ship at about 7:00 am. Jeremy Read, Branch Organizer of MTW-IWW San Francisco Bay Ports Local 9, explained to a crane operator the nature of the picket. The crane operator, realizing his right not to endanger the health and safety of anyone on the job site, promptly went home.

Longshore workers honored the picketline without hesitation. Many who had not been dispatched to work the Sea Diamond came down, out of both support and curiosity. Many were surprised that EF! had acted in solidarity with union workers, as many had viewed its past actions as opposed to workers' interests particularly in the lumber industry. Other longshore workers grabbed "bulls" (or forklifts), and moved checker shacks around to the picketline so pickets could get out of the rain.

EF! activists scouted Pier 7, and the first two were arrested after attempting to occupy the crane. Fortunately, others had made it up to the crane's boom, and some were posted in the scaffolding of the conveyor belt to the silos150 feet above ground.

As members of the press arrived, crane climbers rappelled from their position aloft in an attempt to unfurl a gigantic banner which read "HURWITZ CUTS JOBS AS FAST AS HE CUTS TREES". The wind ended up whipping the banner and the climbers about, creating a spectacle eagerly filmed by the TV crews. The climbers were cited for criminal trespass, but were not hurt. Climbers descended the crane in the afternoon, and were not cited or arrested.

The Sea Diamond dropped anchor at about 10:00am, and water craft ranging from an Wobbly sailboat to personal boats drifted around the port, preventing the ship from docking. Foss tugboats, operated by Inlandboatmen's Union of the Pacific members, cruised by to check out the action, as did Coast Guard vessels.

Throughout the action, Steelworkers maintained their legal six-member, informational picketline.

Guilty, Guilty: Earth First! - IWW Greenhouse Demo

By Judi Bari -  Composite of two articles from Industrial Worker, March 1989 and Earth First! Journal, Nov. 1, 1988; A substantially shortened summary also appeared in the Mendocino Commentary, October 6, 1988.

Web Editor's Note: Both the Industrial Worker and Earth First! Journal versions of this article are abridged in different places (evidently they’re both excerpted from a common press release). The following represents a combination of both articles. This is the very first article Judi Bari wrote for the Industrial Worker.

The best thing about our regional Earth First! gath-erings are the demonstrations afterwards. I mean, as long as you’ve got 200 yahooing Earth First!ers together, you might as well do an action. So, in keeping with this venerable tradition, our California Rendezvous September 16–18, 1988, we decided to indict some of the criminals responsible for the greenhouse effect. After all, as Fellow Worker Utah Phillips told us, “The earth isn’t dying; it’s being killed, and the people killing it have names and addresses.”

So we decided to use a traditional Wobbly tactic of an all-day roving picket line with the theme of the Greenhouse Effect. We printed indictment forms (with blanks to fill in the company name) and whipped up a few big banners saying “Guilty Guilty-Greenhouse Effect Violator,” and prepared some indictment forms to lay on the perpetrators.

We had plenty of violators to pick from, but time constraints forced us to limit it to four—Simpson Pulp Mill, MAXXAM / Pacific Lumber Corporation (in Scotia, CA), Eel River Sawmills, and a public hearing on offshore oil.

Simpson was the most dramatic. We gathered in the morning drizzle at Arcata Plaza. By the time our caravan reached Simpson pulp mill, we were 100 strong. Truck drivers were surprised by the sudden appearance of a raggedy mob, just back from three days in the woods, blocking the entrance road to the Simpson plant. We stretched our banners out in the road and, as the Arcata Union described it, “As a truck tried to turn onto Samoa Blvd., the Earth First!ers stood firm in its way and started howling like coyotes.” The first truck stopped and we ran over to tell the driver that the IWW says take a break on us. That was fine with him, and he kicked back to enjoy the show. The driver coming the other direction, though, didn’t take it so easy. No damn hippies were gonna stop him from going to work—he was going to ram our line. “Stop Mr. Block!” chanted the crowd, but the truck kept coming until Earth First!er Corbin Solomon courageously dove under the front wheel of the moving semi. The driver stopped, cursed, then rolled forward. Our line held firm, and people started yelling “Brian Willson!”  as the truck wheels came within feet of Corbin’s body before it finally stopped.

IWW rep Billy Don Robinson jumped up on the truck’s running board to talk some sense into his fellow wage slave. But Mr. Block wasn’t in a talking mood, and took a swing at Bill Don. “No jobs on a dead planet!” chanted the crowd, as the standoff continued for 30 minutes, with trucks backed up down the highway in both directions. Finally the police showed up and ordered us to leave. Since we had more work to do that day, we cheerfully obliged, jumping into our cars loudly announcing “Eel River Sawmills next!” Then we proceeded to Pacific Lumber Corp., skipping Eel River for now and losing our police escort.

Earth First! vs. the Rumor Mongers

By Lobo x99 (Franklin Rosemont) - The Industrial Worker, September 1988

The May (1988) issue of the Industrial Worker featuring Radical Environmentalism and especially the most radical environmentalists of all, the Earth First! movement, has provoked more enthusiastic discussion and action-and more controversy-than any issue of the paper in many a long year. Even before it went to press, word got around the Union regarding its content, and bulk orders started poring in from branches, delegates, and individual members to such an extent that we had to print 10,000 copies-not bad for a paper which, six months earlier, had a monthly press-run of only 3,000.

Fellow Worker Bruce, "Utah" Phillips, one of the greatest living Wobbly bards, recently called Earth First! "the IWW of the environmental movement." Since everyone knows that (the) IWW historically, signifies the most radical , most active, most creative, most daring, most effective, as well as sassiest, gutsyist, funniest, toughest and all-around best-in-its-class, this is a good description of Earth First!'s position in the environmental spectrum. Emphasizing that the roots of today's global ecological crisis lie in the inherently ecocidal patriarchal-industrial-capitalist system (and recognizing that USSR-style "state socialism" is just more of the same crap under another name), EF!ers have also perceived that you can't change this system by playing according to its repressive rules, and that militant direct action, Wobbly-style, is the most effective instrument of radical social transformation.

In the May Industrial Worker Wobblies and Earth First!ers-including several who are Wobblies and Earth First!ers-explored some of their many philosophical and practical points in common. Our specific aim was to promote a greater understanding of Earth First! among IWW members and sympathizers, and to introduce Earth First!ers to the IWW heritage and program. Our broader hope was to effect a greater degree of common action and mutual aid between the two movements in their struggle to subvert the dominant paradigm" and to protect the Earth from its profit-hungry corporate destroyers.

Once the May issue hit the stands our wildest hopes regarding its impact were quickly exceeded. It became clear at once that young rebel workers are far more interested in radical environmentalism than even we had realized. Moreover, from all over the continent reports have been coming in showing that Wobblies and Earth First!ers are eager not only to learn from each other but also to take action together effect our common goals. And last but not least, more new memberships, new subscriptions, new bulk orders, renewals of lapsed subs and contributions to the Industrial Worker sustaining fund have come into IWW headquarters since May than in any comparable period in anyone's memory.

Yes, fellow workers, the IWW is growing today as it has not grown in years, and there is no getting around the fact that one of the reasons it is growing is because of our fortuitous encounter-now increasingly taking on the character of an active, ongoing combat alliance-with the international Earth First! movement.

Workers and Wilderness

By Franklin Rosemont - Industrial Worker, May 1988

There is no other guiding light than that which is to be found in nature.

--Lautremont

Bourgeois ideology inherited from its Judeo-Christian forerunners a deep hatred of wilderness and, by extension, hatred and fear of all wild beings and things. Everyone knows that capitalism entered the world dripping with blood and gore, and that its few hundred years of domination have been the bloodiest and goriest in all human history. Its champions, however have always liked to present themselves as an eminently civilizing force, bringing Law'n'Order and Industry not only to societies variously described as savage, primitive, backward and underdeveloped, but also to remote regions previously held to be uninhabitable by humankind.

For those who are addicted to it, civilization is regarded as a universally good thing, a blessed condition of peace, prosperity and social harmony (it is generally conceded, however, that the reality falls somewhat short of this ideal). Above all, capitalist civilization has viewed itself as the deadly enemy of wilderness, which is portrayed as an essentially evil condition of absolute violence: the total war of all against each and each against all. As it happens, the exact opposite is closer to the truth, but civilization is founded on lies and more lies, and especially Big Lies.

The drama of bloody repression disguised as progress is the history of the New World. The puritans, whose devotion to Capital equaled if not exceeded their devotion to Christ (for most of them there was probably very little difference between the two, saw their "errand in the wilderness" as a mandate to civilize a continent that was, in their eyes, uninhabited--or at best, inhabited only by unimportant, dispensable heathen, if not by outright minions of Satan. massacre and genocide were the methods by which these typically Christian capitalists introduced the amenities of civilized life to the original human inhabitants of North and South America.

The non-human inhabitants fared no better over the years. The last passenger pigeon, whose immense flocks numbering billions once darkened the skies for days at a time, died in a zoo in 1914. The bison herds had been decimated long before that. No more does the piercing cry of the ivory-billed woodpecker ring through the boundless forests, for the forests have been so cut to pieces that ivory-bills can no longer live in them. A hundred and fifty years ago the great midwestern prairies were majestic oceans of wild grasses and flowers stretching as far as the eye could see. Where are they now? Gone, one and all: annihilated by the juggernaut of Progress and Profits.

It was a hell of a price to pay for indoor plumbing, plastic slipcovers and a medicine cabinet full of Valium.

Earth First!ers, Meet the IWW: Notes on Wobbly Environmentalism

By x322339 (Franklin Rosemont) - Industrial Worker, May 1988

Organized in Chicago in 1905, the Industrial Workers of the World has been fighting the boss class and the megamachine—the industrial wreckers of the world—for [nearly a century] now and has chalked up quite a record for militant, hard-hitting, straight-from-the-shoulder direct-action style, rank-and-file democratic labor unionism. Ask any seasoned old fighter from any half-decent union he or she’ll tell you that the Wobblies set a standard that has rarely been approached and never beaten.

We don’t like to brag, so we’ll just refer you to a couple of good histories: Fred Thompson’s The IWW: It’s First Seventy Years and Joyce Kornbluh’s beautifully illustrated IWW anthology, Rebel Voices (both available from the IWW). In these books (and dozens of others you can find in … bookstores and libraries), you can read all about the epoch-making organizing drives, strikes and free-speech fights that the IWW has waged over the years, and that have made One Big Union an inspiration for every indigenous radical current that has come along to challenge the existing order. Civil rights, antiwar, anti-nuclear and student activists, the New Left, anarchists, feminists, and now animal-liberationists and radical environmentalists have all acknowledged the influence of the good ol’ rebel band of labor.

Here we’d like to note a few of the things that make the IWW different from other “labor organizations,” especially in regard to environmental and ecological issues.

First, in our view, the “official” so-called labor movement, the AFL-CIO, is not really a labor movement at all, but rather a corrupt statist, CIA-dominated bureaucracy whose specific function is to control labor. Some of these unions are undoubtedly better than others, and a few of them are able now and then to act honestly better than others, and a few of them are able now and then to act honestly and decently. But all of them are afflicted with outdated hierarchical structures and above all an idiotic ideology submissive to the capitalist system of wage slavery.

Consider, for example, a ridiculous bumper-sticker slogan promoted by several AFL-CIO unions: “Pollution: Love it or leave it.” This hideous inanity was supposed to save steel mills and oil-refineries in industrial hell holes like Gary, Indiana. In other words, the AFL-CIO mobilizes workers to defend pollution in order to save jobs that will create more pollution. Would a real labor movement, one responsive to the real interests of working women and men, do a thing like that?

Don’t think that this typical AFL-CIO slogan was some sort of accident. On the contrary, the AFL-CIO’s self-confessed love of pollution is consistent with its whole policy. After all, if you support capitalism—and you have to support the things that automatically go with it: militarism, war, racism, sex-ism, and pollution, in ever-increasing doses.

Instead of the imbecile slogan, “Pollution: Love it or leave it,” the IWW inscribes on its banner the ecological watchword, “Let’s make this planet a good place to live.” And we argue that the best way to accomplish this goal is to organize One Big Union of all workers to abolish the wage-system. The bosses are able to cause such vast environmental devastation because they have organized industry their way for their profit. The IWW says to the workers of all industries: Dump the bosses your backs, dump the ecocidal profit-and-wage system, and organize your jobs for yourselves, for your own good and for the good of the Earth!

Fellow Workers, Meet Earth First!: An Open Letter to Wobblies Everywhere

By x322339 (Franklin Rosemont) - Industrial Worker, May 1988

Every once in a while a new radical movement arises and illustrates the social firmament so suddenly and so dazzlingly that many people are caught off guard and wonder: “What’s going on here? Who are these new radicals, and what do they want?”

To those who don’t know how to read the signs of the times, such new movements seem to appear unexpectedly and out of nowhere. In every case, however, most of the founders of the new movement prove to have been activists from older, less radical groups who eventually concluded that their former methods weren’t working.

This new movement proceeds to develop new direct-action strategies and tactics—or gives a new twist to old ones—and starts delivering real blows to the power and prestige of the ruling exploiters and their governmental stooges. This in turn inevitably arouses the hostility of the guardians of the status quo—cops, courts, preachers, politicians, and the prostituted press—who raise a hue and cry for the punishment and suppression of the trouble making upstarts.

Such wrathful clamor has a tendency to backfire, however. It focuses attention on the movement under attack, and attracts daring newcomers to its banner. Thus the new movement’s bitterest enemies unwittingly help to build it. “Listen to the fool’s reproach,” William Blake urged us long ago, “it is a kingly title.” Or as the vaudevillians used to say, “Every knock is a boost!”

And so the new movement, with wild songs and high humor, captures the imagination of masses of young rebels, spreads like wildfire, turns up everywhere, gets blamed for everything interesting that happens, and all the while writes page after page in the annals of freedom and justice for all.

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