Saturday, February 11, 2017

How Capital Gets Its Way- A Local Perspective

Happy to publish this guest piece from a hard-fighting comrade (who wishes to remain anonymous). He has been trying to influence policy at the City level, to extract a few pro-labor concessions from some big developers by using the regulatory power of the liberal city council. But as usually happens in these types of negotiations, the forces of Investment and Economic Growth have the upper hand. And just as my friend warns, until those who labour realize their own collective power, they always will. Welcome to Capitalist Democracy in action:

I cannot gaze into the hearts of our civic representatives to see if they are truly sympathetic toward those who are being stripped of their dignity by a system that does so well at shielding those who are responsible for toil and destruction. A system designed to push to the forefront and saddle with guilt the leaders who we believe desire to do-well. However I have sat across the table from representatives of the true culprits, for a time in my life I was one of their enforcers, and I've heard them express the zeitgeist of our time that fear and the imperatives of the system demand our community's obedience, that in essence we don't matter.

In public the representatives of the true culprits sit amiably in the corner. But in private they consult with their masters fabricating their yield of promises in order to extract more treasure from our tiny and precious corner of the world and extract more toil from the bodies of our neighbors, our kindred. This tiny corner of the world like so many others can hardly bear to grant more. Yet we contort ourselves into knots trying to justify more ways in which to accommodate and to squeeze out just a few more drops for export into the pockets of those in the gilded towers. Or we pay dearly to retain those drops.

For many of us within the construct of our insulated, comfortable, ostensibly democratically-liberal lives, the moment has not yet arisen where we'll be forced to choose a side. But the transit of the two paths we are staring down is becoming very clear. The path we currently tread is one of individual identity lashed to fleeting tribal security which will lead to collective and earthly annihilation. The other is a path of solidarity and health based on moderation, sharing, restoration and respect for the earth. We don't have much time, some say the time has passed, to make the choice to step into the latter path. We cannot have it both ways.

"Which side are you on boys, which side are you on?" - Florence Reece singing to Harlan County, Kentucky.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Still Standing?

It is official; Trump told the Army he doesn't need no stinking EIS to get a pipeline finished and so the frozen drilling rigs are being fired up as I write. The tribal chairman has decided he doesn't want a giant clash and is asking protestors/Protectors to focus instead on a big March gathering in D.C. (after the pipeline is complete). He thinks we can affect the elected leadership and our representatives in government. Whatever. Native climate activists seem to be calling for folks to show up at Standing Rock but what is the plan exactly? The heroic types will shun "symbolic action" and insist on stopping the actual drilling with lock-downs and such. Others will want to "bear witness" and pray and "support". This is the School of the Americas playbook for direct action that has not closed the school after thirty years of annual actions.

The Big Enviro groups want to "hold the Army Corps. accountable" by having members send letters and more money; always more money. The Sierra Club says they "will continue to let you know how you can fight back." Awesome. Meanwhile the construction unions are celebrating Trump's actions to create good drilling jobs and MAGA. In a NYTimes op-ed,Naomi Klein asks: "In times of insecurity, why shouldn't unions worry more about jobs than about the environment?" She is trying to be understanding but borders on condescending. For one thing, climate change isn't like litter. it threatens the life of their children and the moral imperative is to protect our own (and then others).Big Greens and mainstream unions have tried to sell a version of kind, non-greedy, non-"predatory" democratic capitalism (the version Steve Bannon believes in as well) and now they they have constituents who believe all the free market, Blue-Green alliance bullshit. Now what do you tell them?

what do you tell the Water Protectors about their sovereignty? Do you trust them enough (and the union folk and the Sierra Club members) to explain the real crisis in all its dimensions? Recall that all these folks were ok with the pipeline when it was going through Bismark. And where is Black Lives Matter, where is Idle No More, where are all those students upset over debt, all those Occupy people upset over "money in politics"? Are they all busy writing letters trying to stop Betsy DeVoss and Jeff Sessions? How is that working out so far? Who is still standing?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Reist What?

We all remember reading, why, not that long ago, about the "great victories" that were the Keystone and DAPL actions. Blockadia rising, Indians praying, celebrities helicoptering in for solidarity. It was spectacular! Well, perhaps "Victory" was a tad premature. Apparently our Democracy decided we want those jobs and that oil funded prosperity and fuck a bunch of Indians and loser environmentalist extremists. Making America Great Again is going to take a bunch of fossil fuels, cause you know, the economy and jobs and oh yeah, safety, cause pipes are safer than trucks and trains.

Now, there are plenty of folks who are dying to bundle up and get their Standing Rock groove back but this time they had best think long and hard about what it is they are actually fighting for and who they are up against. Because there is no benevolent Obama to beg for understanding and "consultation". They better figure out that "energy independence" (tribal chairman Archambault) is not a vision for justice or emancipation, they better learn that drum circles and five bucks will get you a latte. And that the government is just a mega-corporation that gives two shits about water or life, they will bottle that water and sell it back to you for a profit.

This time around it can't be about treaties or rights or sacred ground. This time we need to make it about raw capitalism. This time we deal with the "ism", no matter the discomfort.

Gallons of virtual ink have been spilled post- Women's March attempting to translate outrage into "progressive change". Like the Bernie campaign energy would get funneled into Our Revolution and then Indivisible and Justice Democracy and several other off-shoots hoping to coalesce into The Movement. I contend the pipeline fights have the most symbolic import and should become the focal points but the radical critique combined with a new strategy for confrontation/resistance is crucial.

It is too easy to slide into what John Bellamy foster calls "the ecological modernization of capitalism" or what we know as Green Capitalism. Reform-minded, accommodating centrists who have learned nothing from the latest series of crises must be confronted with the abysmal record of their failure. Loud and proud we must shout them down and insist, following Naomi Klein, that "revolutionary levels of transformation to the market system are now our best hope of avoiding climate chaos." We must always bring it back to the question of scale.