Sunday, January 30, 2011

BP Oil: Murderer of Workers! Killer of the Planet!

On April 20, 210, a fire aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig led to an explosion.  This explosion lead to one of the the largest ecological disasters in American history, realizing more oil into the ocean then the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.  What is often left is that the explosion the unleashed the horror onto Louisiana's coast also caused the death for 11 workers.  There names where:

Jason Anderson
Aaron Dale Burkeen
Donald Clark
Stephen Curtis
Roy Wyatt Kemp
Karl Kleppinger
Gordon Jones (M-I SWACO)
Blair Manuel (M-I SWACO)
Dewey Revette
Shane Roshto
Adam Weise

(Their bodies have never been found, but all are presumed dead. You can leave condolences for the workers' families by clicking here.)

The most recent issue of Earth First! Journal, there is a very good article about how oil companies play off fears of unemployment to turn workers against environmentalists.   The following is a quote: 

When black plumes of oil began gushing forth from the silent bottom deep in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, everyone in South Louisiana reverted to the crisis mode we have all lived in for periods of time since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Our first question became "What can we do to help save our wetlands?" Thousands of willing Louisianians signed up to volunteer in the protection and cleanup efforts, and people began planning to carpool down the road to the coast to help out.

Like a mine explosion, an outbreak of smallpox, or a chestnut blight, BP's oil spill looked like just another disaster, a tragic mistake made by benevolent capitalists. But like those past tragedies, this oil spill is a predictable consequence of an industrial civilization where risks are not calculated by those who will face the consequences should something go wrong. There was no doubt that a deepwater oil spill could rob people of their landbase and their ability to feed themselves, but that consequence was considered an acceptable risk by those who do not live in South Louisiana: Those affected by a spill could just move to the city and work for money to buy their food if something did happen, right?. As is always the case, the people weighing these risks were not those who would be denied the ability to feed themselves; they were lawyers, CEOs and businessmen in corporate offices—where shrimp cocktail plates and grilled fish greet their conference room meetings exactly at 12:30 p.m., every day.

Are the benefits worth the risks? Ask the fishermen and shrimpers and bayou people who live off of the bounty of South Louisiana: is oil drilling worth the risk of destroying the ability of Louisianans to eat seafood and live on the coast? They were never consulted. These decisions were made in business offices, and after the proper campaign contributions, they were dutifully echoed in the halls of Congress. They can still be heard to this day in those halls, far from the shattered ecosystems of South Louisiana. They call for an end to the moratorium on new drilling, and use the fear of poverty by those who want jobs to amplify their charade. Even though their fishermen neighbors have been devastated by the spill, politicians scare oil workers that have no other employment options into echoing their big oil agenda. In spite of miles of toxic, oiled marshes, 5,000 dead pelicans and other birds, more than 500 dead sea turtles, and ten times the oil of the Exxon Valdez spill contaminating our homeland, the oil-funded fear-mongers in DC can only bring themselves to ask for more of the same and threaten us with poverty if we don’t give in.  
 To read the rest of the article, click here.

We are in a place where we need to develop an environmental movement that bridges the gap between workers economic concerns, and the rights of the earth.  We cannot let big oil threaten us with poverty if we don't give into it's ecocide.    The environment is not an "outside concern" of middle-class hippies.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Myth of Venezuelan 'eco-socialism'

This text, which appeared in El Libertario # 58, March-April 2010, critically examines what has been meaning the government of Hugo Chavez from an environmental point of view, highlighting the clear separation between the rhetoric speeches that are emitted from power and the specific facts being promoted and implemented.

 Also in Anarcho-Syndicalist Review #54. 


Venezuela: the myth of "Eco-socialism of the XXI Century"

[The author is Professor and Researcher at the Simon Bolivar University in Caracas. This contribution is the revised excerpt from a longer article appeared in Spanish in the Journal of Economics and Social Sciences (FACES-UCV) entitled "XXI Century Eco-socialism and Bolivarian Development Model: the myths of environmental sustainability and participatory democracy in Venezuela ", 2009, vol. 15, No. 1, pp.187-223 (Available on, where quoted references are marked with appropriate details. Not included here for space reasons.]

Venezuela is a country of mining and extractive industry economy, whose model development has been based on the exploitation of oil and other non renewable natural resources that causes strong impacts on the environment. More than a decade, some researchers (Garcia Guadilla et al, 1997) strongly questioned the sustainability of development models in the nineties under the presidencies of C. A. Perez and R. Caldera. In the decade 1999-2009 the government has blamed the "savage capitalism and neoliberal policies” and consequently, property and private exploitation of resources for the environmental problems, despite that current exploitation of these resources and the design of economic policies that support the so-called Bolivarian Development Model reproduce these practices labelled as "neoliberal or savage capitalism", causing negative environmental impacts same strong or higher than in the past.

In the decade 1999-2009, the conflicts and protests for environmental post materialistic and materialistic demands, have had as main actors environmental organizations, indigenous communities, public sectors and even human rights organizations; basing its struggle on the 1999 Constitution, approved by a Constituent Process, that did incorporate participatory democracy and environmental rights, both socio-cultural and indigenous, among others (García Guadilla, 2001). Many of these rights have been violated, and participatory democracy has not resulted in an environmental democracy when resolving such conflicts, which in fact have been multiplied since Hugo Chavez became President of the Republic.

_Memorial of grievances_

Some of the most significant socio-environmental conflicts of this decade in Venezuela have to do with the negative impacts of oil exploitation and mining, and the potential impacts associated with energy mega-projects, proposed both nationally and internationally, to supposedly reduce the U.S. dependence and achieving the integration of Latin America and the Caribbean by the now called Bolivarian Alliance for Our Americas People (ALBA).

The Bolivarian Development Model has been defined discursively by Government spokesmen including President Chavez as "sustainable, endogenous, equitable and participatory" (Fergusson undated; Francia 2007, Perez, undated; Velasco, 2005.2007; Ministery of Science and Technology, undated). The electoral tender made in 1998 by the then presidential candidate Hugo Chavez to support the struggles that environmentalists and indigenous were doing at the time around their conflicts, along with his environmental sustainability speech and criticism of the "neo-liberalism and wild capitalism ", created an expectation among the social movements that if he became president would set a vision more consonant with environmental sustainable development.

However, these expectations were frustrated because according to the announcement made in 2005 by President Chavez, it is contemplated to double the oil production for 2012 through the exploitation of 500,000 km2 of marine platform and over 500,000 km2 in mainland, plus the construction of new refineries and a gas complex in the Gulf of Paria. Other activities included in those development plans are mining extractions in the Imataca Forest Reserve, the substantial increase in coal mining in the Sierra de Perija and increased hydropower production for export to Brazil through electric power lines. The economic crisis along with the government inefficiency have delayed or halted those plans, but if they ever settle, it will affect almost the entire territory, including areas that are now environmentally protected by the laws and Constitution such as Canaima National Park where the Gran Sabana is placed, Imataca Forest Reserve and the basins of the country main rivers. These plans reflect continuity with the policies of previous governments, branded by President Chavez as "neoliberals, capitalists and predators of the environment."

As for the Caribbean and South America, Venezuela is one of the twelve member countries of the Initiative for the Integration of South American Regional Infrastructure (IIRSA), which provides 507 projects with high environmental and socio-cultural impacts spread over ten areas of development, involving construction of major works infrastructure (communication and transport, roads, dams, gas pipelines and waterways) to the length and breadth of South America (AMIGRANSA, 2005). The mega-plan Great Southern Gas Pipeline, one of the most important plans to achieve energy integration between Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina, among other countries and base of the ALBA project, requires cross 8000 kilometres, so it would affect extremely fragile and bio diverse areas which, according with some researchers, are the latest environmental reserves that exist in Latin America. As in the previous case, these mega-plans are paralyzed or delayed due to the economic crisis, but if they’re activated, the impacts on the environment could be compared with the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), ideological mother of the ALBA.

_Resistance beyond rhetoric discourses_

The development model based in the exploitation of hydrocarbons that the Venezuelan government has proposed on a national level, for countries part of the ALBA and the South American and Caribbean region that participates in the IIRSA, has been strongly questioned by the environmental, indigenous and human rights movements due to the large scale environmental and socio-cultural impacts that will generate. In various discussions on the subject made in the World Social Forum carried out in Caracas in January 2006, indigenous social movements and environmentalists of Venezuela and the world expressed strong criticism against the negative effects of oil exploitation, being the largest mobilization of the Forum the march against exploitation and expansion of coal developments in the Sierra de Perija in support of life, environment, cultural identity and, in general, rights sanctioned in the Bolivarian Constitution of 1999 (, 2006). Currently, there are frequent protests against negative effects of oil and gas in Ecuador and Venezuela, and questioning via national and international digital environmental networks such as,, soberaní and; because these spaces are privileged and globalized electronic networks of resistance against the negative impacts of oil and gas exploitation in tropical countries.

In Venezuela as in the whole globalized world, the logic behind social movements is to face "neoliberal policy" whether the government has a "anti-neoliberal discourse", which means that the Bolivarian Development Model, like the other governments that are called left, can generate resistance and mobilization on the part of those movements which demand not only materialistic values but also respect for human rights, own culture, gender equity and a healthy environment. Therefore this can not be understood solely with the logic of neoliberalism or anti- neoliberalism, because both can go against the promotion of these values.

In the case of Venezuela, such resistance movements and proposals can come both from within and outside Chavez circles because of the big ideological heterogeneity of the groups supporting the president; and given the lack of a shared and clear ideological project within the Chavez movement, environmental policies strategies can be woven that do not necessarily have a reference in the anti-neoliberalism or neoliberalism. This could be the case of Venezuelans environmental and indigenous social movements that, while by definition are anti-neoliberal and many of its members support the president Chavez, transcend this dichotomy questioning the model of “civilization” and demand a transformation on the political, cultural, gender, social and environmental rationality.

So far, the great ideological heterogeneity and class differences between environmentalists, has hampered the formulation of collective proposals and has contributed to the estrangement between different social movements that in the past were articulated around strategic alliances of environmentalists. All this seems to affect the expanded environmental movement, the indigenous and human rights organizations, that has lost their power as a result. (García Guadilla & Lagorio, 2006): the missing of an objective reading on the socio-environmental crisis and the lack of a joint strategy about alternative collective proposals related with their identity and constitutionally support, have contributed to this weakening. While ideological alliances become unrealistic given the large heterogeneity and polarization, the protests against a predator model that cause big impacts on the environment and the proposals to "build the new meanings, languages and symbols "of the new model of civilization could be channelled through mobilizations, virtual or real, and new forms of resistance in communities.

_For a consistent Eco-Socialism_

The anti-neoliberal speech of the Bolivarian Development Model can be a first step towards the implementation of a more fair model; nonetheless the rationality implicit in the plans and policies planned within the XXI century Eco-socialism in Venezuela attempt against it, since the productivist, instrumental and developmental logic has not change. In addition, the conception of revolutionary transformation implicit in that model is not different from the '60s and, in any case, its guidelines come from above. Can we speak of justice, social equity and solidarity when the development model does not take into account the environmental dimension or intergenerational equity?, when it sacrifice the welfare and the right to cultural identity of its Indigenous communities for economic development, or a Latin American integration that transcends the expectations of welfare into the national actors involved?, when the model do not recognize the negative impacts that the designed mega-projects have (call these gas pipelines, oil pipelines, or large infrastructure projects) and whose economic costs, socio-cultural and environmental impacts are "invisible" for the sake of a new vision of Latin American integration?; can we speak of a revolutionary model that does not stimulate more equitable practices and relationships with the environment, their communities and future generations?

The construction of the XXI Century Eco-socialism in Venezuela passes, first, to overcome the deep gap between the rhetoric discourse and the reality of the development model; secondly, it requires that the desirable model of civilization is built collectively and not to be imposed from above as in the present and, finally, that his source of inspiration is the transition to a post-petroleum society, such as the one envisioned by Salvador De La Plaza, an eminent Venezuelan historian and politician, who warned about the harmful effects of oil and the need to control them to achieve national sovereignty. He implicitly noted that the oil industry to be sustainable requires that the environment benefits and costs arising from the exploitation of hydrocarbons needs to be listed in the "accounting" not only economically but also cultural and socio-environmental.

This view is not very different from Kovel & Lowry (2002) who in their Eco-socialist Manifesto indicate that a society with a high degree of harmony with nature should lead to "the extinction of dependence of the fossil fuels”, which they considered attached to industrial capitalism. Get rid of this dependence "can provide material base for the liberation of the oppressed countries by oil imperialism "and reduce global warming and other problems arising from the ecological crisis.

Maria Pilar Garcia Guadilla -

[Translation: Julio Pacheco]

El Libertario - -
Related Link:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Global Peasant Movement Left Seeing REDD

From Common Cause (Onterio)

Global Peasant Movement Left Seeing REDD

by Chris Bisson

At the close of 2010, delegations from 184 governments assembled in Cancun, Mexico for the 16th gathering of the “Conference of Parties” (COP) under the banner of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This gathering of the global political class under the guise of climate change mitigation produced an agreement much heralded by bureaucrats, CEOs and journalists alike.

Though this agreement set a maximum cap of 2 degrees Celsius average global rise in temperature, it involves no binding agreements and relies almost entirely on market mechanisms to accomplish this. Most nefarious of all, the primary mechanism opted for is the “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation” (REDD) programme – which is basically a system whereby rich industrialized countries bribe poor developing countries into cutting back on deforestation.

There are currently no specific details on where this money will come from, though theoretically it is supposed to be generated through a mixture of carbon markets and government funding. This combination, unoriginal to the continuous neoliberal colonization of the Global South, is sure to exacerbate levels of repression and dispossession of the world’s poorest, because there is no doubt where the money will be going; it is common knowledge that aid and foreign investment almost invariably ends up in the hands of multinational corporations and resource extractors. REDD’s only difference is that it doesn’t even try to hide this fact.

Another glaring problem with the program is the unequal capacity for ecological destruction that industrial countries will hold. For instance, in Canada, the government will be able to continue subsidizing the Athabasca Tar Sands, and multinational oil corporations will be able to further expand their operations, provided they increase their financial commitment to the REDD programme. Additionally, this agreement carries with it the risk of further complacency amongst the general public; Canadians may begin to approve of heavier greenhouse gas emissions, not understanding the fallacy of the supposed off-set, nor grasping the myriad other ecological implications of further development - such as the increased cancer rates being found downstream in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta.

A final issue relates to how the terms set out in the programme define the mitigation of deforestation strictly as “conservation”. This form of “environmental” policy will result in the wholesale eviction and dispossession of Indigenous Peoples from regions they have lived in since time immemorial. In addition, those dependent on agroforestry for their livelihoods will have their lands confiscated in order to fit the agreement’s narrow criteria of conservation. Land will also face unjust redistribution, as it is converted into acceptably defined commodified “carbon sinks”, such as golf courses and eucalyptus plantations. These so-called carbon sinks will contain minimal biodiversity and result in what some have termed “green deserts”.

As a result of REDD’s prominence at the COP16 discussions, peasant farmers and allies worldwide rallied at the gates of the talks under the banner of La Via Campesina. Donned with green scarfs, they are a global coalition of 148 international peasant farmer organizations, including the National Farmer’s Union of Canada. La Via Campesina has been advocating for food sovereignty, ecological sustainability and peasant justice since 1999. La Via Campesina has organized against REDD specifically, because they argue it will be ineffective in mitigating climate change, threaten indigenous sovereignty, reward logging and development corporations, and lead to further privatization of the world’s forests.

As peoples worldwide continue to be dispossessed of their rights to land and their very means of production through such programmes as REDD, there can be little doubt that this movement will continue to organize in opposition to capitalism and the state. La Via Campesina is currently mobilizing for a worldwide movement for climate justice based on the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth adopted at the World Peoples’ Conference in April, 2010 in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Throughout this process, they will seek to prove that sustainability can only be achieved through liberation from hierarchical structures of control - not through the creation of new “green” market schemes.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

People for Sustainable Forests, Jobs, and Communities

People for Sustainable Forests, Jobs, and Communities

On May 24, 1990, Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney were on their way to an organizing meeting for Redwood Summer when a bomb exploded under the driver's seat of Bari's car in Oakland, California. Almost imme­diately the Oakland Police and FBI named Bari and Cherney as the prime suspects. After several weeks, they were forced to drop the charges against Bari and Cherney, but the bomber remains unknown and at large to this day. Much has been written about the bombing and subsequent investigations into who and why. Needless to say it threatened the work of Earth First! - IWW Local #1.
This Press Release was issued just days after a bomb exploded in Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney's car. The remarkable thing about this release is the number of Earth First! activists, loggers, and gyppo log employers that signed it. That demonstrates that Local #1 had already built bridges among the labor and environmental movements that were too strong to be broken, even in the face of catastrophic events.

TRUST: We agree when possible and disagree when necessary, but we will always respect each other's "given word". Without trust nothing is possible. We accept the philosophy that all people are innocent until proven guilty.
NON-VIOLENCE: We stress non-violence and condemn any person involved or associated with violent activity, including destruction of property.
    (a) When Redwood Summer conducts a one-day shutdown of logging operations, the operator will be notified prior to the demonstration. (b) When Redwood Summer finds it necessary to protect critical habitat areas, old-growth forests or violations of Timber Harvest Plans, a dialogue with the operator will be opened with the operator to communicate the intent. (c) When Redwood Summer plans to demonstrate at public sites, CDF, mills, offices, etc., the demonstration may extend more than 1 day but will not block timber workers from their jobs, except at the export docks.
SUSTAINED YIELD: We are committed to sustaining the forests and will strive To improve the environment in every possible way.
RULE OF REASON: We agree that our goal is to sustain the forests of our county and to work to integrate the economic, ecologic (sic), and social needs of our local communities and all families.
This was signed by the following individuals who unanimously voted for the above statement on May 29, 1990 in Willits.
Art Harwood -- Harwood Products.
Jim Little -- Harwood Products.
Blake Bennett
Robert Pardini
Jerry Philbrick -- Philbrick, inc.
Wayne Hiatt -- Hiatt Logging, inc.
Anna Marie Stenberg -- IWW Local #1, Ft. Bragg Earth First!
Rick Cloninger -- Laytonville Earth First!
John Welch -- Cahto Wilderness Coalition
Pam Davis -- Somoma County Earth First!
Tom O'Neil -- North Coast Nonviolence Collective
Steven Day -- Eel River Habitat Conservation Planning
Naomi Wagner -- Sherwood Forest Protection Association
Judith Bailey -- Bailey's
Bill Bailey -- Bailey's
James Smith -- S-W Logging
Gary Ball -- Mendocino Environmental Center
Betty Ball -- Mendocino Environmental Center
Bill Evans -- Laytonville Earth First!
Steve Zuieback
Rich Padula -- R & J Lumber

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Briarpatch: Teamsters and turtles, ten years on

Letter from the Editor: Teamsters and turtles, ten years on

By Dave Oswald Mitchell
Briarpatch Magazine
November/December 2009
“During the Seattle WTO protests in 1999, the phrase ‘Turtles & Teamsters, Together At Last’ jumped from protest sign to guiding philosophy. It symbolically described hundreds of thousands of Sierra Club activists (who dressed as sea turtles) and union members who marched to demand that human and environmental concerns be included in discussions of global free trade regimes. ‘Turtles & Teamsters’ also put a name to the increasingly common alliances between environmentalists and labor unions, which were no longer willing to accept that protecting the environment and jobs were mutually exclusive conditions.”
Jay McKinnon,

Turtles and teamsters, together at last. Ten years after the anti-globalization movement shut down the World Trade Organization negotiations, that slogan, and the vision it embodied of trade unionists and environmentalists joining forces to halt neoliberal globalization in its tracks, continues to inspire activists in both camps. In the midst of the current global recession and a steadily worsening environmental situation, there are hopeful signs that, rather than retreating to their respective corners, trade unionists and environmentalists, particularly in the United States, are working more closely than ever to advance their common struggles.
The Blue Green Alliance, for example, was formed in 2006 by the United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club, and now speaks for 8 million Americans when it lobbies for “good jobs, a clean environment and a green economy.” Environmental groups have thrown their support behind the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to unionize, while unions are actively organizing in support of the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill, considered the most important piece of U.S. environmental legislation in years.

These signs of cross-movement solidarity are badly needed on both sides. Ten years after sea turtles and teamsters danced in the streets of Seattle, workers of all nations continue to be pitted against one another in a race-to-the-bottom scramble for jobs, and evidence continues to accumulate that humans are rapidly damaging the planet’s very ability to support life. As Robin Tennant-Wood argues in this issue, addressing the economic and environmental crises requires that we put our economies at the service of our communities and the environment, rather than the other way around.

Global problems require global solutions. If trade unionists and environmentalists in the Global North can make common cause with those, particularly those in the Global South, who bear the brunt of capitalism’s excesses, including slum dwellers, migrant workers, climate refugees, indigenous peoples, farmers and others, then we may witness in the coming years the formation of a global revolutionary subject capable of seizing the means of production and putting them to work for the planet, rather than against it.

Call it the planetariat: the proletarian revolutionary class of the 21st century, defined by its suffering at the hands of global capitalism and its demands for the basic necessities of life: food, water, shelter, health, work with dignity and a life in harmony with others and with the environment. It could be the planet’s last best hope. Whether it’s expressing itself in the efforts of American trade unionists to pass a climate change bill, in environmentalists lobbying for green-collar jobs, in First Nations blockades of mining and timber operations, in the food riots that rocked the cities of the Global South last year, in the self-organizing efforts of slum dwellers uncounted by any government or in farmers’ efforts to wrest control of the food system from transnational corporations, this nascent revolutionary subject, the planetariat, has already begun to plant the seeds of a new world in the cracked thoroughfares of the old.

Let us learn to recognize these seedlings when we see them, and nurture them towards maturity.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Green Unionism - Arthur J. Miller

Arthur J. Miller is a long time member of the IWW and is a noted writer of multiple of topics including environmentalism, indigenous struggles and labour rights.  He has recently wrote a book on his experiences in the Maritime industry called "Yardbird Blues" (which can be found here).   One of the chapters in Yardbird Blues deals directly with environmentalism and how to begin to make earth safe ships. 

Green Unionism
  Like it or not, we humans are dependent upon the environment for our survival. Fact is capitalism has been the most harmful human activity to the environment in history. We don't even know all the harmful effects of capitalist industry of the past 100 years or more. That fact can be seen in the reality of all that was buried, like industrial waste, and the long term process of that waste reaching the groundwater or the rivers and oceans. As capitalist industry developed the proliferated the use of known and unknown threats to the environment at an ever increasing rate. The amount of harmful substances created by industry has swelled significantly. Whereas in the past it took 50 years to produce the same amount of harmful substances that later it took 10 years to produce, today we produce that same amount of harmful substances in less than a year. And this tend will only increase.

  Tens of thousands of new chemicals are produced every year and most of the testing of harmful effects is done by the same companies that profit from its production. Given all that we do know and realizing, all we don't know about the harm capitalist industry has on the environment, and given the fact that capitalism's overwhelming priority is profit at any experience, we should clearly understand that capitalism cannot be reformed to become truly green.

  Much of the environmental movement, both liberal and radical reformists, is so overwhelmed by the problem that it cannot do much about it. It is having less of an effect than sticking its finger in a hole in a dike trying to hold back the water. It takes them so long to make any gains and in that time capitalist industry has increased the dangers many times over.

  Given that capitalism and its multinational corporations have made such gains in its goal of global conquest of everything that can be exploited for profit and its global corporate facism to protect its conquest, makes the idea of reform even less possible.

  This reality is hard to comprehend. So some resort to creating fantasies such as small acts by eco-warriors or so-called primitivism. Small acts will never add up to enough to solve any problem. Primitivism, even if 3/4s of the population was removed, what was left would strip the natural world of everything that it could in order to survive and there would be wars to fight over what natural resources were left. So this fantasy would be even worse than capitalism in it impact on the environment. They point to early tribalism, but what they fail to understand is even early tribalism took hundreds of years to develop and cannot be created over night.

  All of the above looks rather grim. But there is a real solution to the environmental problem. Industrial change at the point of where the problems are create, at the point of production. And who is at the point of production doing the producing? Not the capitalists, but we workers.

  Workers have a direct interest in making environmental changes in industry, not just because we depend upon the environment to survive, but also because more often than not, we are the first victims of hazardous production and more likely than not it is our communities that are first polluted.
  We Wobblies have sought to organized at the point of production to gain greater control over our production with the goal of gaining complete control over our labor and thus end the exploitation of our class by capitalism. With greater control over our production should also come greater responsibility for the effects of our production on other working people, on our communities and on our plant Mother Earth.

  Much of the so-called environmental movement has been blinded by class bigotry that they have not realized that the solution to to the harms created by capitalist industry can only be changed by changing capitalist industry itself at the point of production. They are too sold-out to class privilege to be real environmentalists, for if they were not they would get into industry and organize!

  I believe than good unionism should take on the environmental problems, often this is called health and safety, with the same amount of struggle as any other union issues. We workers understand our industries and we know how to change our production. We do need good information from research workers on the problems and on safe industrial methods and we can use our union power to create industrial change including using direct action and green strikes if need be.

  Based upon the IWW idea of organizing industry for day-to-day struggles, and that should include environmental struggles, as a means of organizing the power of production to the point that the organized power of the working class is greater than the organized power of the capitalist class and then withhold our production from the capitalists and take control over our labor, we can create a new society based upon those that do the labor control their labor and take responsibility for the effects of their labor and use production for the well-being of all, including Mother Earth.

  The point of production is not the only place we working people need to organize. We need to organize in our working class communities. We need to educate, and organize through direct action to confront environmental problems and create alternatives to the madness of capitalist consumerism. We need to rebuild our communities based upon our real needs and not the profits of the capitalists. The organized struggles at the point of production and within our communities should stand hand in hand in solidarity with each other.

  The real solutions to the environmental problems does not exist within fantasys, it does not exist within small acts of destruction. It does not exist within any political system and reforming it. The real solutions can be found in true green unionism.

  The first step is to do a Toxic Index of our workplaces. While it is true that we don't know all the harmful effects industry has, we can begin to identify those possible dangers based upon information we can gain through MSDSs and other research. A Toxic Index would list known toxic hazards, how they are used in our workplaces, how we can improve the use of these hazards, and possible safe alternatives. No matter what it seems like, every workplace can improve its environmental safe way of doing things. For example, many places are very good at recycling, but parts of the recycling industry do use toxic processes and thus it would be better to reuse rather than recycle.

  The next step could be a Waste Index. A great contributor in the over use of nature resources is needless waste. The best example of that is in over packaging. In the construction industry a lot of older construction material is discarded that could still be reused. Even the practice of demolition of older homes or buildings just to put up new ones to sell is a process we could add to a Waste Index. Look at what your workplaces dumps in the trash and if that could be recycled or reused? And then include alternatives to creating so much waste.

  Last create an Environmental Responsibility Index. What are the environmental impacts of your workplace and what you produce on the environmental and the surrounding community? What can be done to make your workplace and what it produces earth safe? What are better alternatives?

  Once you have your have all this information then you know where to begin your green union struggle. Different shopfloor union organizations have different committees like grievance committee, health and safety committee and so on. Each shopfloor organization should also have an environmental committee. Industrial training is also important. There is the training of job skills, health and safety and union training. There should also be environmental training.

Good community outreach is also important. Communities are often put into danger by the industries around them. Thus it makes very good sense to outreach to communities to gain their support of your green union struggles on the job. Also, it is important to hear the concerns of communities as to the impact that industry has on them. You could even organize a union/community solidarity council to be able to work together on common issues.  

  Some of the changes you can make by direct action on the job. Back in the old days of the IWW, some workers won the 8 hour day by just quit working after 8 hours. This tactic can be used in green unionism by just doing your jobs, where you can, by doing earth safe work. You and your Fellow Workers can refuse to pollute the environment. At contract negotiation time you can include environmental issues in your contracts. And if the situation calls for it you can even have a green strike if needed.    

  Green unionism will only work if we have real worker solidarity. When workers through green unionism act we need to stand with them in the same way we do with any other issue. This needs to be our commitment and not fall for the tricks of so-called reformists of the system. Like so often happens their so-called reform only takes away from us and gives more power to the state that functions for the bosses. Our working class environment struggle is to important to have such political tricks played on us. Thus our struggle needs to be base upon true Principles of Labor Solidarity. An example of what those principles could look like are below.
Principles of Labor Solidarity:
  • Every worker on every job throughout the world has a right to organize with their fellow workers in their common interests.
  • Every worker throughout the world has a right to a living wage, safe and healthy working conditions, and health care coverage.
  • Every worker throughout the world has a right to labor free of harassment and discrimination based upon race, sex, nationality, religion, or any other form of bigotry.
  • Every worker throughout the world has the right to refuse to participate in or support wars where working people of one country are used to fight and kill working people of another country.
  • Every worker throughout the world has the right and responsibility to protect the environment of our world.
  • Every worker throughout the world has the right to withhold their labor as means to advance the above principles.
  • No worker throughout the world should ever be a scab.
  • No worker should ever cross the picket line of striking workers.
  • No worker should ever supply a shop on strike with goods or services.
  • No worker should ever handle scab goods.
  • No worker should ever consume scab goods.
  • No worker should ever do the work that striking workers would have done if they were not on strike.
  • Whenever workers are faced with government repression because of their right to organize and strike then all workers have the right to withhold their labor from the companies and industries profiting from that repression and a universal boycott should be in place on all goods going to and from that country, and on the companies profiting from the repression in that country.
  • Every strike or job action is a class action and should be supported by direct solidarity unless that action violates the Principles of Labor Solidarity.
  Labor Solidarity needs to become a part of international working class culture and practiced on a daily basis.

  Capitalism by its very nature cannot control itself. Even when the capitalists understand the impact they have on people and the earth, their driven lust for profit drives them on no matter what the cost is. Capitalism cannot be reformed. It has been the historic interest of working people to end the exploitation by the capitalists and gain control over our labor. Worker self-management comes with a responsibility to end exploitation and to produce for needs rather than profit. It is also an important part of worker self-management for workers to take responsibility for what they produce, how it is produced and what it is used for. And part of that responsibility of production needs to include the impact our production has on the environment. Thus the new union movement that is needed must include Green Unionism as a fundamental part of it. 

Arthur J. Miller

Saturday, January 15, 2011

People's Agreement from the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth

While not a green syndicalist text, we repost this piece as an important part of a developing eco-socialist critique coming out of the global South.   Posting does not imply agreement or endorsement of the Bolivian government, it's ideology or it's president Evo Morales. 

What is important to take from this piece is: 
  1. Laying the blame for climate change directly at the feet of the capitalist system of production, distribution and greed. 
  2. The inter-connectivity of environmental degradation and the destruction of indigenous people's communities
  3. The Centrality of capitalist agribusiness/food production and distribution in the process of distruction of the Planet
  4. Total rejection of "green capitalist" and band-aid technological fixes that continue the systems of oppression and degradation.
World People’s Conference on Climate Change
and the Rights of Mother Earth
April 22nd, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Today, our Mother Earth is wounded and the future of humanity is in danger.

If global warming increases by more than 2 degrees Celsius, a situation that the “Copenhagen Accord” could lead to, there is a 50% probability that the damages caused to our Mother Earth will be completely irreversible. Between 20% and 30% of species would be in danger of disappearing. Large extensions of forest would be affected, droughts and floods would affect different regions of the planet, deserts would expand, and the melting of the polar ice caps and the glaciers in the Andes and Himalayas would worsen. Many island states would disappear, and Africa would suffer an increase in temperature of more than 3 degrees Celsius. Likewise, the production of food would diminish in the world, causing catastrophic impact on the survival of inhabitants from vast regions in the planet, and the number of people in the world suffering from hunger would increase dramatically, a figure that already exceeds 1.02 billion people. The corporations and governments of the so-called “developed” countries, in complicity with a segment of the scientific community, have led us to discuss climate change as a problem limited to the rise in temperature without questioning the cause, which is the capitalist system.

We confront the terminal crisis of a civilizing model that is patriarchal and based on the submission and destruction of human beings and nature that accelerated since the industrial revolution.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Green Syndicalism: An Alternative Red–Green Vision

Green Syndicalism:
An Alternative Red–Green Vision

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


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

Pepper argues [1993: 198] that an infusion of anarcho-syndicalism might shake up the contemporary green movement in North America just as syndicalism shook up the labour movement of the 1910s. Martel [1997] argues that confronting ‘jobs versus environment’ blackmail may require nothing less than militant labour-based organisations, arming workers with the necessary weapons to confront the power of capital and to strike over ecological concerns. Still, little has been said about green syndicalism and its specific red–green vision. This article attempts to correct that oversight by offering a discussion of the varied perspectives, the different theoretical and practical strands, which might make up a syndicalist ecology.

The Emergence of Green Syndicalism

In Australia, the ‘green bans’ movement showed a number of features which were suggestive of a syndical ecology although the primary union organisation behind the green bans was not a syndicalist organisation [Burgmann, 2000; Burgmann and Burgmann, 1998]. Beginning in the early 1970s in New South Wales, the Builders Labourers Federation (BLF) worked to stop the destruction of green spaces, historic districts and working-class communities by refusing to work on those projects. The BLF did all of this against its own economic interests, taking advantage of labourers’ newfound economic clout in the midst of a massive development boom which was transforming Sydney and destroying low-income neighbourhoods. Between 1971 and 1975 more than 49 bans halted projects worth more than A$5 billion [Burgmann, 2000]. Forest and island reserves were defended and parks were saved from destruction. In what must have been a blow to the national bourgeoisie, the bans successfully ended plans for a car park adjacent to the Sydney Opera House which would have threatened the root systems of Moreton Bay Fig trees. Perhaps most significantly, the BLF was able to make the connection between destruction of the environment and the destruction of working-class communities. The union opposed the eviction of tenants and refused to take part in gentrification projects. Significantly the union’s actions inspired a groundswell of local opposition to redevelopment [Anderson and Jacobs, 1999].

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Developing working class environmentalism - Arthur J. Miller

Developing working class environmentalism 

I do not say that all things that eco-groups do are bad. But we tend to follow the direction of groups that do not have the same interests as ours. Because of this we get burdened with baggage harmful to our class. For this reason and many others, we need to develop our own form of environmentalism based on working class interests.

Much environmentalism of other eco-groups is based on the eurocentic idea of superiority. They seek to define the natural world as having values which do not exist in it. They see humans as something above or outside of the natural world This is why they come in conflict with indigenous people and other workers.
Humans are not outside of the environment. Rather they are part of it Thus, human conditions should be as much a part of the environmental movement as the conditions of anything else.

The basic cause of most environmental problems (including humans) is the system of industrial greed: capitalism, both private and state. The owners of industry treat workers like they treat the rest of the environment. Our environmentalism should come from the understanding that all things are connected.

Workers who are forced to work for wages and workers who are able to work outside of the wage system come under attack by the industrial rulers for the same reason: industrial greed. Thus, the workers struggling against the wage system controlled by the industrial rulers, and those workers struggling to keep from being controlled by the industrial rulers are all a part of the same struggle. All things are connected.

Often other eco-groups will blame both types of workers for those things for which the industrial rulers are responsible; and the sacrifices these groups call for often are sacrifices from our class.

Many eco-groups are more inclined to look at the effects rather than the real causes of environmental problems. They also tend to focus on pet issues rather than the environment as a whole. They will come out against something they don't like and then present some type of alternative. But often they will not look at the effects that the alternative has on the environment.

A good example of this is solar power. Many of the systems I have seen, which involve moving solar heated water from the panels into the house, use copper tubing. The largest strip mine in the U.S. is a copper mine, which by the way is on land stolen from the Western Shoshone. Real environmentalism must look at the effect everything has on the environment, not just pet issues.

Something that we learn when we take a good look at all industrial production is that ALL of it contributes to the problem. It is not so much industrial production itself, but rather the values of industrial production, being maximum profit for the owners at the expense of everything else.

Just as workers want better pay, they should also want better environmental conditions. Those first exposed to the hazards of industrial production are workers. The next to be exposed are working class communities. When was the last time you saw the owners of industry living next to a chemical plant?

Working class environmentalism would start at the point of production and from there struggle for earth-safe industrial production. It would create a struggle against the owners of industry, uniting on-the-job struggles, working class community struggles and the struggles of those who are resisting being taken over by the greedy industrial system.

Being that we are a revolutionary working class organization, we will use the skills of working people to transform the capitalist industrial system into a system where all of the environment matters, including humans. We will base our production on the well-being of all rather than the profit of a few.

This revolutionary struggle will mean that we will be opposed by the owners and there will be affects upon us due to changes. Thus, we need to stand together in solidarity, be it a strike, be it the resistance of indigenous people, be it against such things as racism, and be it the hardships that change or economic devastation has on working class communities. Thus making an injury to one an injury to all.

Arthur J. Miller is a long time I.W.W. member

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cassie The Caulker: An Eco-Syndicalist Icon

From  "For those curious about the imagery, this poster is inspired by Norman Rockwell's "Rosie the Riveter", except it's "Cassie the Caulker" as an eco-syndicalist anarchist. Rockwell's original was itself inspired by the painting of the prophet Isaiah from Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. Rockwell originally cribbed from and Isaiah's prophecy of looking away from The Deluge to Mary and the birth of Jesus. With Cassie, that's a shortened version of Cassandra. Cassandra was the Prophetess of Troy's downfall; and the environmental movement is often regarded as having a "Cassandra Complex" of accurately prophesizing doom which all others ignore. Our Cassie, however, instead of just preaching is taking action into her own hands. She's "armed" with the caulk gun! Thus theory is transformed into action and self-activity. A bit of DO-IT-YOURSELF as part of WE CAN DO IT!"

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

1971: The Kelly's Bush green ban

Kelly's Bush, Australia
A short account of how construction workers saved the Kelly's Bush area of park land in Australia from development by refusing to work, and kick-started a movement of environmentally-minded industrial action.

In 1971 a group of women from the fashionable suburb of Hunter's Hill in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, were trying to save Kelly's Bush, the last remaining open space in that area. Construction firm AV Jennings planned to build luxury houses over the bush land.

They approached the local council, the mayor, the local state member and the Premier, all to no avail. The women then sought the help of the NSW branch of the Builders Labourers' Federation (BLF), a trade union of construction workers.

The union branch believed that the labour movement should involve itself in all struggles of the working class, not just struggles over wages and working conditions. The BLF asked the Hunter's Hill women to call a public meeting at Hunter's Hill and show that there was community support for the request for a union ban on the destruction of Kelly's Bush. Over 600 people attended the meeting, which formally requested a ban. This ban was called a green ban, to distinguish it from a black ban - a union action to protect the economic interests of its own members. In this case the union was going against the immediate economic interests of its members for the sake of a wider community and environmental interest.

AV Jennings declared it would build on Kelly's Bush using non-union scab labour, but building workers on an office project of AV Jennings in North Sydney sent a message to their bosses:
'If you attempt to build on Kelly's Bush, even if there is the loss of one tree, this half-completed building will remain so forever, as a monument to Kelly's Bush.'
This influenced AV Jennings, and alarmed property developers generally.

The first green ban was a complete success - and Kelly's Bush is still there as an open public reserve, complete with a monument to the world's first green ban. The building workers' direct action with the support of resident which defeated the developers was then imitated. A wave of green bans began which lasted four years and stopped billions of dollars of development harmful to local communities and the environment.
Compiled by from information taken from "A perspective on Sydney's Green ban Campaign, 1970-74" by Burgmann, V. Power and Protest 1993, and Wikipedia.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Earth First! - IWW Greenhouse Demo By Judi Bari

This is the earliest known Industrial Worker article by Judi Bari, and although the article was published in March of 1989, the action took place the previous September. This effort predates the formation of Earth First!-IWW Local #1. Here one can see the beginnings of a deeper consciousness among labor and environmental activists—as evidenced by IWW members attempts to dialog with timber workers targeted in the demonstration described here.

Earth First! - IWW Greenhouse Demo

By Judi Bari - Industrial Worker, March 1989.

The best thing about our regional Earth First! gatherings 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 last September decided to go for an all-day roving picket line with the theme of the Greenhouse Effect. We 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, Pacific Lumber Corp., Eel River Sawmills, and a public hearing on offshore oil. Simpson was the most dramatic. 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. 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 Wilson!" 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.

At Pacific Lumber we paraded around their quaint 19th century company town singing "You can't clear-cut your way to Heaven" and Where are we gonna work when the trees are gone?" Eventually we ran into a hastily assembled counterdemonstration of loggers' wives carrying signs that said "Earth First! is the Worst!" The Earth First! women immediately responded by calling a women's action, and, with the men staying back, we approached the women one on one. We talked about how we had kids too, and how Pacific Lumber wasn't interested in their families' futures. This tactic seemed to take them so off guard that they stopped yelling at us, and, with the intervention of the local minister, agreed to set up a conciliation meeting between Earth First! and Pacific Lumber employees in the near future.

So it was on to our next target. We hung "Greenhouse Effect Violator banners on the mile-long Eel River Sawmills log deck without incident, which was a good thing because by then we were already late for the oil hearing. Although this was an official state hearing, it somehow must not have gotten onto the liberals' computer network.

In contrast to earlier oil hearings where 2000 people showed up to protest offshore oil, hardly anybody came to this one. The testimony was stultifying, with the shirt and-tie bureaucrats droning on about mitigating impacts and overriding economic benefits. Finally our turn came, and Earth First!/IWW songwriter Darryl Cherney took to the podium guitar in hand. We unfurled our banners as he began singing "We're All Dead Ducks", with Earth First!ers in the audience quacking on the chorus and dancing in our seats.

We woke up the hearing, but not enough, because a speaker shortly afterward contended that sonic booms underwater (used in seismic testing to locate oil) don't affect marine mammals. So on cue we all yelled "Sonic BOOM!" at the top of our lungs. The startled bureaucrats started to chastise us, but Darryl just gave them an innocent look and said "Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you said sonic booms don't affect mammals!"

By then the day was winding down and so were we. We stood outside in the cold and huddled in a circle and sang for a while. Then, as the sun slowly set on the golden California clear cuts, we went our separate ways, home to our cabins and communes to smoke a joint, drink a beer, and get ready for the next blockade. The Earth First!/IWW 'alliance had pulled off our first joint action, and we were ready for more.