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Solidarity in the Woods: Redwood Summer and Alliances Among Radical Ecology and Timber Workers

By Jeff Shantz - Environments, December 1, 2002


The character of global capitalist expansion has convinced activists and theorists alike of the strategic importance of alliances to counter the hegemony of capital. Counter-movements against the superimposition of the capitalist market must now attend to the difficult task of developing strength among disparate minorities of the population. When taken together, these minorities form a majority that is increasingly excluded by the new global hegemony, yet developing the connections that will allow these diverse groups to work together presents significant challenges. Rob Walker (1994: 699) speaks of the crucial need for researchers to develop some insights regarding what he calls a "politics of connections." Walker is drawn to suggest as follows:

Exactly what a politics of connection would look like is not clear. Whatever the rhetorical and tactical appeal of a women's movement, or an environmental movement, in the singular, it is an appeal that cannot disguise the differences and even intolerances among such movements (Walker (1994: 699).

Perhaps nowhere has the volatility of social movement relations erupted more explosively in recent years than in those interactions between labor movements and radical ecology activists. Rather than reflecting positions of uninterest regarding one another, certain forms of confrontation -- such as the ramming of fishing vessels or driving logging trucks through demonstrations on timber roads -- represent serious acts of hostility. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the situation was so conflictual that Laurie Adkin (1992a: 145), identifying the uncompromisingly aggressive stance taken by members of both sides, claimed that "fixed stereotypes of both subject positions have developed, with environmentalists depicting workers as lumpen mercenaries, and workers depicting environmentalists as econuts." At that time many prominent environmentalists argued that a fundamental opposition between workers and environmentalists existed (see Bahro, 1984; Bookchin, 1980; 1987: Foreman, 1991; Watson, 1994).

Interestingly, it was precisely at the intersection of those battles between ecology and labour that one of the more intriguing of recent attempts to articulate social movement solidarity emerged. It was there, in the redwood forests of Northern California, that we were introduced to Earth First! activist Judi Bari and her efforts to build alliances with workers in order to save old-growth forest "and replace the corporate timber companies with environmentally responsible worker-owned cooperatives" (Chase, 1991: 23).

Until her death in 1997, Bari sought to learn from the organizing and practices of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W. or "Wobblies") to see if a radical ecology movement might be built along anarcho-syndicalist lines. The IWW is a direct action union that organizes workers not to bargain with employers but to win control of production. Recognizing that trade union structures divide workers along different contract lines -- even within the same workplace -- the IWW organizes all workers in the same workplace or industry into the same union rather than into locals or bargaining units." This enables them to oppose the employer with the greatest possible unity. In Wobbly strikes, all workers in a workplace go on strike, regardless of their job description. This prevents situations where workers in other locals or bargaining units are expected to cross picket lines. Historically the IWW were at their greatest strength in the early decades of the 20th Century, until they were crushed in the state repressi on of the "red scares" during the First World War.

Bari worked at bringing this radical working-class perspective to the radical ecology perspective of Earth First! -- a radical ecology group that emerged in the US Southwest in the mid-1980s. Earth First! is inspired by a philosophy of "deep ecology,' initiated by Arne Naess and developed by the nature writer Edward Abbey, which holds that elements of nature have intrinsic worth regardless of their usefulness to humans. Earth First! prefers direct action to stop ecologically questionable practices rather than hoping for legislative reforms which often come too late or do too little to protect nature. Bari's efforts culminated in IWW/Earth First! Local 1, a radical ecology union that signed up timber workers as members.

Looking at the efforts of Judi Bari and the IWW/Earth First! alliance provides an opportunity to improve our understanding of contemporary social movement convergence, in particular, to consider Walker's "politics of connection." After briefly describing the context that has fostered division among timber workers and environmentalists, I discuss some of the efforts of Local I to build alliances in Northern California. After introducing these practices, and especially the case of "Redwood Summer," I attempt to make sense of them through discussion of the discourses and perspectives that guided the efforts of Local 1. In particular, I consider both the deconstructive and constructive aspects of their politics. The alliance allowed a unique expression of opposition against those who owned and controlled the timber corporations and illustrates the emergent greening of syndicalist vision and practices.

Labour and Ecology: Missed Connections

The late 1980s and early 1990s -- marked by a shift away from welfare state programs to neo-liberal austerity measures -- were a difficult time for social movements throughout North America. For no movement was this more true than for the labour movement. Organized labour was suffering a serious decomposition as a force for change due to a variety of factors. These included shrinking or stagnant membership rates (see Lowe 2000), (1) direction by bureaucrats with little appetite for politics beyond the polls, isolation from social movements and forgetfulness of its own activist histories. Unable to disrupt neo-liberal legislative enactments, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which represented direct assaults upon its own social positions, the labour movement seemed an unlikely candidate as a focus for any convergence of alternative rebellions (see Carr, 1996, Clarke, forthcoming).

Where attempts to build bridges were initiated, priority was given typically to building coalitions between mainstream environmental groups and unions. In the United States these efforts included the projects of Environmentalists for Full Employment and those of the Progressive Alliance (see Adkin 1992a; 1992b). In Canada the most notable efforts involved the Labour and Environment Conference (Schrecker, 1975), the Canadian Auto Workers (Adkin and Alpaugh, 1988) and the Windsor and District Labour Council (Adkin 1998).

Much of the distress of such projects has usually related to the economistic priorities of traditional unionism. "In relation to environmental conflicts, they have tended to accept the logic of owners that profit is the only basis for economic growth and, hence, employment" (Adkin and Alpaugh, 1988: 54). Corporatist unions still adopt a resource management vision of human relations with nature while favouring current legislative approaches to environmental protection. In accepting the domination of nature as the primary basis for "jobs" and through the continued equation of politics with the state, unions have resisted the more radical demands of ecology activists, like those in Earth First!, to forge "dark green" alliances that question the existing logic of production and consumption and the defining of nature within it.

The privileging of "legitimate" means through union-centred activism and statist reforms, while possibly helpful in forming relations with unionized workers, has stood diametrically opposed to the inclinations of activists raised on direct actions and decentred organizations. Conceptions of autonomy, participation, and cultural transformation which occupy the political ground of alternative movements have been only reluctantly engaged within strategies pursued within mainstream coalitions.

This disparity encouraged the widening of an already large gap between labour and newly emerging radical ecology activists. During the 1980s, Earth First! co-founder Dave Foreman harshly criticized what he saw as a romanticization of workers by Leftist ecologists. "It does not follow from the huge guilt of the capitalists that all workers are blameless for the destruction of the natural world" (Foreman quoted in Bookchin and Foreman, 1991: 51). Foreman posited, ironically, a latter-day lack of "class consciousness" on behalf of workers as a major barrier to forming any relations of solidarity between ecological and workers' struggles. In his view "too many workers buy into the worldview of their masters that the Earth is a smorgasbord of resources for the taking" (Bookchin and Foreman, 1991: 51).

A lingering result of these tensions has been that relations between radical ecology and labour remain marked by separateness and festering tensions. It was precisely in an attempt to overcome these divisions that Judi Bari began her work: "Into this battleground, our local Earth First! group has tried to bring some class consciousness of the variety prescribed by the Industrial Workers of the World" (Bari, 1994: 14). Given the crucial but difficult processes involved in forming alliances against the global capitalist order, it is important to gain some insight into the unique IWW/Earth First! alliance -- which was forged despite enormous odds.

Why the Wobblies?

One possibility for confronting the global capitalist order as evidenced in timber corporations became apparent to Bari through her experiences as a labour organizer. As Scarce (1990: 82) relates, Bari envisioned "a radical timber worker's [sic] union working with Earth Firsters!, of all people, to preserve both jobs and forest ecosystems." Forest workers themselves, were they to organize against the destructive "cut-and run" practices of the multinational forest giants, might be able to develop a sustainable harvesting operation. One of her earliest acts as a member of Earth First! was to conduct -- together with long-time Wobbly musician and activist Dakota Sid Clifford [*] -- a seminar on the history of the IWW (Scarce, 1990: 82). Bari recognized potentially instructive similarities between the spirit and style of anarcho-syndicalism and the praxis of radical ecology. Concluding a 1989 letter to the Wobblies' paper, Industrial Worker, Bari argued that "if the IWW would like to be more than a historical society, it seems that the time is right to organize again in timber" (Bari 1994: 18). The resulting synthesis was IWW-Earth First! Local 1.

* editor's note, actually it was IWW member Gary Cox, who was an oil-field worker, not a musician--though Dakota Sid Clifford was there, but not yet an IWW member himself

Within the political worldview of IWW-Earth First! Local 1, the assertion of connectedness with historically rooted radical movements had much significance. Attempts were made within Local 1 to situate labour as part of an ecological cultural community through the inclusion of radical labour movements. "We find ecological consciousness in both the history of the IWW and the philosophy and practice of earlier anarchists" (Kaufmann and Ditz, 1992: 41). This helps to explain why the IWW became a focal point for ecological alliances with labour.

The activists of Local 1 found that contemporary workers in timber had little, if any, knowledge of historic IWW struggles, even in their own regions and industries. This is troubling given that we are speaking of the Western extractive industries where some of the most pitched battles were waged. The manner in which social groups have their histories "stolen" from them is an important factor affecting the character of movement formation.

Local 1's efforts are important in reminding ecology activists and workers alike of the radical working-class traditions which are not solely those of compromise. Significantly, this cultural excavation project of Local 1 made use of illustrations specific to the local cultural and political context in which they were engaged -- as opposed to external "models." "Historically, it was the IWW who broke the stranglehold of the timber barons on the loggers and millworkers in the nineteen teens" (Bari, 1994: 18). It is just this stranglehold which needs to be broken again, this time for nature as well as for workers. "Now the companies are back in total control, only this time they're taking down not only the workers but the Earth as well. This, to me, is what the IWW-Earth First! link is really about" (Bari, 1994: 18). Bari successfully forged connections between the historic and ongoing suffering of timber workers and ecological destruction as currently evident, notably in the clearcutting of the redwoods. The history of workers' struggles becomes part of the culture of ecology in a cleverly constituted genealogy.

The Timber Wars

The Northern Calfornia Redwood forests provided an unlikely context for any alliance between radical ecology and labour. The home of the west coast giants was a place of pitched struggle in which environmentalists of all stripes employed such diverse tactics as tree-sitting, blockades, lawsuits and lobbying to stop destruction of the ancient forests by multinational timber companies, which were noted for such infamous tactics as falling trees into demonstrations. These environmental battles became some of the most heated in North America, eventually earning the title "timber wars" (see discussion in Scarce 1990; Pickett, 1993; Purchase, 1994).

Armed with an organizing style borrowed from the IWW's heyday in the timber camps of the 1910s, Bari set out as an Earth First! field organizer with one remarkable difference. Local 1 immediately began signing-up timber workers while publicly denouncing the timber corporations for their mistreatment of forests and forest workers alike. Over the course of two years, beginning in 1989, a measure of solidarity with timber workers slowly developed.

Challenges developed quickly. In April of 1990 one of the major timber companies Louisiana-Pacific (L-P) announced 195 layoffs in Ukiah and Covelo and the closing of the Covelo Mill, at a time when the company registered record quarterly profits. L-P blamed environmentalists for interrupting the supply of timber, but shortly thereafter the company began shipping partially-cut logs from California to its newly-opened plant in Mexico. The machinery used at the Mexico plant had been transferred from the same mill in Potter Valley, California which L-P had closed the previous year.

IWW-Earth First Local 1 responded with its first public demonstration of labour and ecology solidarity. Appearing at a County Board of Superintendents meeting EF!, IWW and L-P employees demanded that the County "use its power of eminent domain to seize all of L-P's corporate timberlands and operate them in the public interest" (Bari, 1994: 136). One County supervisor even met publicly with coalition members to discuss how the plan might be enacted.

Despite such small successes and despite relations with workers that were strengthened in a manner previously unimagined, the unyielding rate of logging and the continued hegemony of the transnational timber corporations caused continued challenges. The small group of activists concluded that they could not protect the forests if their actions did not resonate beyond the isolated locale's tiny, rural population. Sklair (1995) stresses the importance of expanding local struggles against global capitalism, a necessity which became unavoidable within Local 1. Their solution was to organize a "Redwood Summer." Taking their inspiration from the tactics of the Civil Rights Movement, in which "freedom riders" from the North came to help register African-American voters against Southern white opposition, Bari and her allies put forth an international appeal for "Freedom Riders for the Forest to come to Northern California and engage in non-violent mass actions to stop the slaughter of the redwoods" (Bari, 1994: 222). The message of non-violence, which marked a break with EF!'s prior stance, was cause for much controversy within radical circles. However, it was nurtured through workshops and creative strategy sessions that encouraged novel approaches to activist community building. In the minds of the organizers, Redwood Summer would bring unprecedented international scrutiny to bear upon the timber corporations, in conjunction with a local show of resistance unlike any the companies had ever faced.

As organizing for Redwood Summer enjoyed cumulative success, expanding the project's scale and potential, incidents and levels of repression against the activists increased. Growing anxiety within the timber industry over the prospects of mass resistance was reflected in an escalation of violence against front-line activists who were punched, shot at, and run from the road by logging trucks. Bari herself became the target for numerous death threats on behalf of corporate timber interests.

Clearly the extension of coalition practices across that carefully managed gulf separating timber workers and environmentalists was beginning to raise new possibilities for a realignment of forces in the woods. Such a shifting of sociopolitical terrain, if left unchecked, could have threatened an erosion of timber corporation hegemony. "Bari, especially, was too dangerous, her wood worker-environmentalist union talk a chilling proposition for companies which operated effective monopolies over their workers' lives, secluded as they are from other sources of information and employment" (Scarce, 1990: 85).

While driving through Oakland on the way to perform at a concert promoting Redwood Summer a pipe-bomb placed under the driver's seat of Judi Bari's car exploded, nearly killing her. She suffered severe injuries including a shattered pelvis. Her organizing partner Darryl Cherney, riding in the passenger seat, was also injured. Within hours of the bombing, Oakland police along with the FBI arrested Bari and Cherney, claiming that the victims themselves had built and were transporting the bomb for use in a terrorist act (see Scarce, 1990; Bari, 1994; Purchase, 1994).

Police agencies provided the press with ongoing supplies of incriminating "evidence" and rumour which were utilized against the growing activist coalition to cultivate a fiction of environmentalist violence (see Scarce, 1990; Bari 1994; Purchase, 1994). This fictitious "equality of violence" allowed those responsible for violent acts, i.e. timber corporation supporters, the luxury of casting their activities as merely defensive and hence justifiable.

So while the real Earth First! in northern California was renouncing tree spiking, building coalitions with workers and peace activists, and responding to timber industry violence by calling for mass nonviolence, the public was being taught to associate us with bombs and terrorism (Bari, 1994: 300).

The searching of vehicles, raiding of homes, and harassing of activists involved in Redwood Summer uncovered nothing to incriminate anyone associated with radical ecology.

Activists in groups ranging from Earth First! to Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, sensing corporate and state complicity in the ongoing and increasingly extreme manifestations of violence, united to halt FBI and police harassment of the victims, and environmentalists generally, and to initiate a serious investigation of the bombing. Greenpeace hired a private investigator to identify those responsible. The FBI's tactics were eventually called into question by the House Judiciary subcommittee on civil and constitutional rights. Cherney and Bari subsequently filed a lawsuit against the FBI and the Oakland police. Finally, in 2002, Bari's estate and Cherney won their case claiming misconduct against the FBI and Oakland police and were awarded a ruling of $4.4 million in damages (IWW, 2002).

The cynical efforts of the police, FBI, the timber companies and the press, while inflicting some damage upon the movement, did not defeat Redwood Summer. Despite the campaigns of disinformation and destabilization, organizers were not frightened away from their work in the forests. In effect, the bombing, unlike anything previous, served as a rallying point for environmentalists across the globe.

In June the first action of Redwood Summer saw over 700 people participate in a protest and rally at the L-P export dock in Samoa, California. Forty-four demonstrators were arrested while blocking log and chip trucks (n.a., 1993; Bari, 1994). Other early actions included a Sacramento EF! protest at that city's export dock, a tree sit in Murrulet Grove, and street performance by Urban Earth Women, for which they were arrested, at the Maxxam offices in Marin. Maxxam is the Marin headquarters of Pacific Lumber Company or Palco, another logging firm. At one of several more demonstrations against Maxxam, activists from Latin America staged an action to emphasize the connectedness of ecological destruction in Northern California and in Central America. They were arrested for their efforts.

The climax of Redwood Summer was a July rally at Fort Bragg in which 2000 protesters marched through the town chanting: "Earth First! Profits Last" (n.a., 1993). In what could have been an explosive situation the marchers were met by 1500 angry supporters of the timber companies. Thinking quickly, activists Darryl Chemey and Pam Davis invited the counter-demonstrators to speak from the Redwood Summer stage. In a moment of symbolic significance for the young movement, "Duane Potter, a logger whom we had never met before, stood up and told the truth -- that he used to log in the summer and fish in the winter, and now there are no logs and no fish" (Bari, 1994: 74-75). The poignancy of Potter's plea, which spoke to a sense of loss shared by many in the logging communities, aided a non-violent resolution of the confrontation.

Redwood Summer's final action, held in August, also managed to avoid almost certain catastrophe through the patience of activists and their commitment to non-violence. The ill-conceived plan called for a two-day concert named Redwoodstock, followed by a march through the town of Fortuna. All of this was supposed to occur in a notoriously hostile area and required a court order just to allow the assembly. The seven hundred protesters who marched through Fortuna were pelted with bottles and eggs by jeering counter-demonstrators. When the angry crowd attacked, pushing aside police officers, the protesters responded by sitting down and singing which defused the situation.

Overall 3000 people contributed to the environmental efforts of Redwood Summer. More than 250 were arrested. Due to considerable media coverage, Redwood Summer successfully brought international attention to the mass destruction of redwood wilderness in California and contributed to the protection of Headwaters Forest, home to 2000-year-old redwoods. Of particular importance for the discussion here, "Redwood Summer" serves as an example of the greening of syndicalist visions and practices and provides some insight into the 'politics of connection.' In what follows, I consider both the deconstructive and constructive nature of such politics as illustrated through the case of Local 1 and "Redwood Summer."

"Clearcut the Bosses": The Deconstructive Politics of Local 1

For green syndicalists there can be no terms for compromise with those who own and control the corporations which are threatening the planet. Such autonomy is necessary as an affirmation of integrity and solidarity. Within the politics of IWWEF! Local 1, this required connecting timber workers and ecology through a context of shared exploitation.

The first step is to stop blaming the loggers and millworkers for the destruction of the planet. The timber companies treat them the same way they treat the forest -- as objects to exploit for maximum profit. We can't form an alliance by saying, 'Hey, worker, come help save the trees.' We have to recognize that their working conditions are not separate from or subordinate to the rape of the forest. They are part and parcel of the same thing (Bari, 1994:m 14).

Sklair (1995) notes the significance of participation by capital's agents within local communities. The activists of Local 1 were confronted with a context in which the companies had long been engaged in efforts to organize loggers against environmentalists. These efforts, some of which are discussed above, contributed greatly to the incendiary conditions prevailing in the forests. At a hearing over the status of the spotted owl "[t]he timber companies closed the mills and logging operations for the day and bused 5,000 workers to the hearing, carrying anti-owl banners and cheering as speakers denounced environmentalists" (Bari, 1994: 13). Timber companies established a jingoistic Yellow Ribbon Coalition to incite workers, their families and local businesses to display yellow ribbons as a show of solidarity with the timber companies against the environmentalist "menace." As Bari (1994: 13) reports, dissent -- or even simply failing to participate -- was dangerous since the threat of violence was ever-present as illustrated above.

Among the evidence of timber industry involvement in violence was a mandatory meeting at L-P's Somoa pulp mill during which management distributed fake press releases and openly encouraged workers to intimidate environmentalists. The purpose behind that meeting was only revealed after Pulp and Paper Workers Union Local 49 filed a grievance. L-P was not alone in agitating to turn workers against their potential environmentalist allies. According to Bari (1994), internal company documents reveal that Maxxam Corporation also distributed, to out-of-town newspapers, press releases which they knew to be false.

Such actions raise crucial challenges which must be confronted by emerging alliances in the global age. As long as movement activists fail to disrupt these efforts, the prospects for convergence must remain limited.

Lacking the resources of big timber and having few alternative jobs to offer workers meant that activists had to rely largely on symbolic acts. Much of this was attempted through confrontation with the local agents of capital and an open, explicit rejection of the prestige and deference typically exhibited towards them.

Bosses, especially the corporate CEOs and major shareholders, (2) thus, became constructed not as caring patricians who come bearing gifts of jobs, but as thieves who are robbing us of our current ecological wealth as well as our ecological futures for their own greedy benefit. "The bosses are ecological thugs (Kauffman and Ditz, 1992: 42). Similarly: "Evidence of the bosses' eco-terrorism is in all of our lives every day" (Kauffman and Ditz, 1992: 42).

Here we see environmentalists engaged in acts of disruption through desecration. Within the syndicalist texts bosses are constructed not only as parasites -- the traditional Wobbly mockery -- but as eco-terrorists in an inversion of the common depiction of radical ecology. Thus, when viewing radical ecological discourses of recontextualization, it soon becomes clear that the "good guys" are the ones breaking the law, since the law enables mining, logging, drilling, road building, developing and the accompanying concrete, steel, powerlines, parking lots, and wasteland, all of which replace wilderness and that which is natural and good (Lange, 1990: 485).

The irrational and unrealistic are redefined. After all, what could be more irrational than the destruction of one's home? Recontextualization, thus, serves as a rejection of hegemonic definitions and the prevailing relations of power which only allow for a consideration of certain limited behaviours or outcomes.

IWW discourses and practices also emphasize workers' abilities and encourage the self-determination of workers and the importance of self-directed initiatives against capital. "The IWW believes [sic] that wage-slaves must organize themselves to fight the bosses" (Meyers, 1995: 73). The symbolic unity of all workers and their break from capital is stressed in the single qualification for Wobbly membership. "The only restriction to membership in the IWW is that no boss can be a member" (Meyers, 1995: 73).

The constitution of such autonomy from the local agents of transnational capital has also entailed the use of extreme rhetoric: "We're a fighting, revolutionary union. If you want to kick boss butt with like-minded people, get in touch with us" (Meyers, 1995: 73). Thus the amended Wobbly constitutional preamble, pulling no punches, "calls for class war, abolishing wage system and bosses, and seizing the machinery of production" (Kaufmann and Ditz, 1992: 41).

Through the deployment of immoderate discursive practices IWW-EF! activists attempted to overcome the disruptive efforts of timber corporation spokespeople to construct workers and activists as enemies. Green syndicalism suggests the smashing and rebuilding of the social frontiers of ecology such that resource workers are included as part of the make-up of the ecological "us." Their texts and activities must be understood as disruptive counter-articulations within a context in which activists have little material strength. Armed with little more than their senses of humour, the prankster guerrillas of Earth First! set upon their enemy with a fusillade of mockery. They, thereby reject the entire context within which they can be either marginalized or assimilated; they occupy their own ground. By creating its own ground, green syndicalism draws attention to those spaces where the presence of an anti-ecological 'other' impedes movements of convergence around ecological resistance and consequently provides opport unities for developing connection.

Constructive Politics: Green Syndicalist Visions

The activists of Local 1 contributed to the development of a green syndicalist perspective, which has much to teach environmentalists. That is one of the important legacies of their work. Green syndicalists are revolutionaries who view their efforts as laying the groundwork necessary to replace state and capital with decentralized federations of bioregional communities (Purchase, 1994). In doing so, green syndicalists argue for the construction of "place" around the contours of geographical regions, in opposition to the boundaries of nation-states which show only contempt for ecological boundaries as marked by topography, climate, species distribution or drainage. Affinity with bioregionalist themes is recognized in green syndicalist appeals for a replacement of nation-states with bioregional communities. For green syndicalism such communities might constitute social relations in view of local ecological requirements and to the exclusion of the bureaucratic, hierarchical interference of distant corporatist bo dies. Local community becomes the context of social and ecological identification.

Carr (1996) suggests that a real sense of identity, solidarity or belonging is not possible outside of the local level where shared experience, common interests and proximity intersect. Identity is constituted in social and cultural networks which are local in nature. Similarly, Sklair (1995: 508) identifies transnational corporations, the transnational capitalist class and the "culture-ideology" of consumerism as the three supports of globalization. He insists that, while these are manifest globally and locally, they "can only be effectively challenged locally by those who are prepared to disrupt their anti-social practices." Clearly, we see this local organization of resistance in the practices of Local 1.

Green syndicalism encourages a deepening of knowledge as a remedy to the anonymous, detached, broadening of knowledge that is endemic to conditions of post-modernity. This does not mean complete isolation or insularity, however. Rather it speaks to local or federated social relations organized in a decentralized, grassroots manner. Likewise any federative associations, if it is assumed they be democratic, would be voluntary.

Bari was well aware of the difficulties environmentalists can face by virtue of being viewed as "outsiders" who are not part of the community. This speaks to a lingering need for local involvement to overcome the "Greenpeace phenomenon" -- which typically involves entering an area and "hijacking" a local campaign without recognizing the complexity of local issues, building alliances or leaving any roots. One aspect of green syndicalist practice involves ecology activists and workers together educating themselves about regional, community-based ways of living (Bari, 1994; Purchase, 1994).

Local 1 activists expected that some re-integration of production with consumption -- at local levels -- would be necessary to allow for a break with consumerism. This would have to be organized in an egalitarian and democratic fashion, such that members of a community contribute to social and material production. This is illustrated in Bari's vision for the transformation of logging from corporate to community-based: "She has come to understand that, if we reduce our consumption of trees,...and if we stop the cutting of old growth, we will create the necessity for retraining workers and even a whole new kind of economy" (McIsaac, 1991: 47). People might consume only that which they've had a hand in producing. People might use free time for creative activities rather than tedious, unnecessary production of luxuries; and individual consumption might be regulated by the capacities of individual production, i.e. personal creativity, not from the hysterics of mass advertising and the fetishization of commodities.


The discussion in this paper allows for some understanding of the struggles that inhibit or encourage the forging of unity and the formation of alternatives, both of which have been regretfully lacking in much work on global social movements. Through analysis of the "politics of connection" a number of issues emerge for sociological consideration.

The alliance around Local 1 was organized in opposition to the agents of transnational capital and their global order of-local ecological and community destruction. Specifically, activists' responses attempted to disrupt local practices of destruction while simultaneously holding multinational corporate offices accountable for driving those practices. They engaged in the disruption of local agencies with which they came into direct contact in their daily lives at the same time as the more distant institutions whose interests these agencies are serving. The hegemony of transnational corporations was disrupted through local campaigns, both economic and political, of interference and counter-information.

The case of Local 1 also reveals the significance of broadened expressions of local struggles and the difficulties faced by such undertakings. While the local is crucial for the formation of resistance, Local 1 activists soon realized that external linkages must be cultivated if movements against global intrusions are to move from the margins. Recognizing the limits of mainstream political channels from which they were, in any event, largely excluded they turned to symbolic politics, mass action and extreme forms of rhetoric. Castells, Yazawa and Kiselyova (1996: 22) suggest that marginal movements or movements for radical alternatives are typically rendered invisible by corporate mass media until they "explode in the form of media events that call public attention, and reveal the existence of profound challenges to everyday normalcy."

Following Castells et al. (1996) we might understand Redwood Summer as l'action exemplaire directed to increasing outside awareness of the destruction of Northern California wilderness and community. Such spectacular forms of activism bring "the attention of the world to the movement's claims, and (are] ultimately intended to wake up the masses, manipulated by propaganda and subdued by repression" (Castells et al., 1996: 50). Here the media savvy of Local 1 -- especially after the bombing -- was a crucial weapon in the battles over images and messages.

Acts of ecological sabotage -- as communicative acts -- serve to maintain public awareness of environmental issues and to encourage discussions and debates. They provide a direct reminder to the agents of capital that their destructive actions are not supported by all community members and that unacceptable acts will not be without consequences. In this case, the renunciation of tree-spiking and the committment to non-violence offer especially significant symbolism. Specifically they represented a movement away from short-term actions which workers found threatening towards longer-term community-based strategies. Above all they sent a clear public message that workers would no longer be considered the enemy of environmentalists.

The discussion of "Redwood Summer" also suggests that consideration be given to complicity of the state in the processes of globalization. The actions of police and Federal authorities serve to remind us that direct domination is still an aspect of governance in the global age. Those who attempt to operate outside of the limited and circumscribed spheres of "legitimate" action or "normal" politics will be subject to repression. (3)

Supposedly distinct subject-positions, such as "worker" or "environmentalist", harden within various labour and ecology discourses as caricatures for the fixing of anatgonisms as separate and exclusive. The activities of Local 1 demonstrated that ecology and labour "identities" are not mutually exclusive. Rather, there is some basis for a translation of positions. Green syndicalism suggests that the transformation of social relations will allow for the construction of new identities. Those who study social movements need to remember that identity does not exist prior to acts of transformation. Rather, transformation is an aspect in the construction of the actors engaged in bringing it about (see Bowles and Gintis, 1986; Walker, 1994).

The affirmation of identity is expressed through the imaginative, novel and playful cultivation of cultural experiences in often unexpected directions, both deconstructive and constructive. Local environmentalists and workers unite in fighting to preserve wilderness and traditional ways of living which are being sacrificed to serve the demands of global capital and consumer culture. Activists make appeals to the integrity of local environments and communities and the necessity of self-determination and control over decisions which affect residents and nature.

Finally, when viewing the activities of Local 1, it is necessary to recognize that the social relations characterizing global capitalism engender a weakening of people's capacities to fight a co-ordinated defence of the planet's ecological -- including human -- communities. Bari (1994) insisted that the restriction of participation in decision-making processes within ordered hierarchies, as obtains under capitalism, has been a crucial impediment to ecological organizing. Similarly, the persistent absence of workers' participation in decision-making, of which Sklair (1995) speaks, allows coercion of workers into the performance of tasks which they might otherwise disdain, or which have consequences of which they are left unaware. It is significant too that the lack of control regarding the conditions of their own sustenance, and related uncertainties about the future, result in workers competing with one another over jobs or even over the slight possibility of jobs. As one timber worker put it: "But without organization, well what good's it going to do me to quit when Joe Blow down the road is going to go ahead and take my job" (Quoted in Bari, 1994: 256). Workers are left more susceptible to threats of capital strike or environmental blackmail (Bullard, 1990).

And it seems to me that people's complicity should be measured more by the amount of control they have over the conditions of their lives than by how dirty they get at work. One compromise made by a white-collar Sierra Club professional can destroy more trees than a logger can cut in a lifetime (Bari, 1994: 105).

Environmentalists have come a long way in recognizing that it is not acceptable simply to criticize the actions of workers, in the manner of some prominent environmentalists of the 1980s and 1990s, without a critical interrogation of how hegemonic articulations of power impel or delimit the subject-positions of people as-workers. With the mutual forging of alliances, "the definition of conflict changes from 'environmentalists versus workers' to 'those who defend the conditions for a possible and desirable life versus those who defend practices and relations that make impossible such a life'" (Adkin, 1992a: 136). The efforts of Local 1 remind us that it is not only when resource workers realize the destructive character of their jobs but also when radical ecologists understand workers' positions within the complex interstices of power comprising capitalist social relations that radical alternatives to the new global hegemony can be formed.

(1.) In Canada, Lowe (2000: 164) reports that "the overall unionization rate has hovered around one-third of all paid employees for the past three decades." In the US, the rate is below 20 percent. Much of this unionization is made up workers in large industrial workplaces, the traditional union strongholds. Gains do not appear to have been made in smaller workplaces, which when taken together account for a major, and growing proportion of the workforce, and predominantly consist of younger workers.

(2.) Local 1 directed most of its educational work at showing how the corporate leaders and shareholders were profiting at the expense of forests and forest workers and their communities alike. While having to deal with local managers on a daily basis, Local 1 understood where real decision-making power resided.

(3.) This point is especially relevant now, in the context of increased government and police powers since September 11, 2001. For a discussion of the situation in the US, see Chang (2002). For a discussion of the situation in Canada, see Galati (2002) and Brown (2002).


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Jeffrey Shantz is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at York University in Toronto. His research interests include environmental sociology and social movements. He is co-host of the Anti-Poverty Report on community radio station CHRY 105.5 FM in Toronto.

"I became interested in Redwood Summer while doing environmental work in Vancouver at the time that planning for Redwood Summer was happening. As an environmentalist from a blue-collar and union background I saw the work of Judi Bari and Local 1 as offering some potentially important examples of how to overcome tensions that were impeding the development of radical ecological movements. As broader anti-capitalist movements have emerged in North America recently they have faced similar tensions and may benefit by looking at the efforts of Local 1.