Workers' Voice mailing list
May 23, 2019
RE: Demonstrate Friday in Seattle for climate action
The Seattle Communist Study Group is calling on people to take part in the climate action demonstration this Friday and has reissued vol. 3, #2 of Seattle Workers’ Voice, which was originally distributed at the April 15 protest. It shows that action is vital but that the measures that have been taken since the 1990s by supposedly “environmentally aware” governments have failed miserably. The market measures, such as cap and trade or the carbon tax, championed by establishment environmentalists have led to a major debacle. These measures were a substitute for the major changes in industry and agriculture that are needed. The path forward is to build a working class trend within the environmental movement, a trend which stands for environmental planning and regulation rather than relying on the good will of the corporation. The updated version of the leaflet can be read at http://www.communistvoice.org/SWV-190520.pdf.
Extinction Rebellion March & Die In
Friday, May 24 at 1:00 PM
Westlake Center 400 Pine Street
A discussion about the original Seattle Workers’ Voice vol. 3, #2 took place on Proyect’s Marxism list. I had posted the leaflet on the Marxism List. In response, Patrick Bond, an activist whose writings on South Africa and the environment have been favorably covered a number of times in the D/SWV, praised part of the leaflet. He pointed particularly to a passage which denounced market measures and supported planning and directly regulating industry, agriculture and transportation. And this passage also criticized Al Gore and the leaders of the mainstream environmental groups. However, he then went on to say
“But in the rest of the piece, you’ve missed an entire genre of activism and radical critique, known as ‘climate justice.’ Was this intentional?
“The framing around ‘climate action’ is most often understood within the likes of Al Gore, WWF [World Wildlife Fund] and other ecological-modernizers; that’s a why a global CJ [Climate Justice] network emerged in 2007.
“The idea of ‘class struggle’ in climate change is excellent, but could be seen as downplaying the indigenous, feminist and ecological considerations that have become so important on the left in the last dozen years.
“Today, seeing the radicalizing youth, Extinction Rebellion and Ende Galaende [a civil disobedience movement in Germany calling for the phaseout of fossil fuel] moving so firmly is excellent, and your outreach to them with this sort of analysis is appreciated - since the distinction between market-oriented strategies and eco-socialism is vital to stress.
“But since groups like Climate Justice Alliance, Indigenous Environmental Network, DAPL warriors, Attac and so many others are in motion, and their roots go back so far in this struggle, the evacuation of the anti-capitalist CJ tradition doesn’t seem logical.
“Cheers, Patrick” (April 14, 2019, “Re: [Marxism] SWV on Earth Day 2019”)
I replied to this as follows:
“Thanks for your comment on the SWV leaflet, Patrick. It’s important to have consultation on what’s going on in the movement. As to Seattle Workers’ Voice and DWV, we support the struggle for climate justice as an important part of the overall environmental struggle. Both in Seattle and Detroit, we have raised the issue of environmental racism repeatedly. This can be seen by looking for ‘environmental racism’ in the search engine on the Communist Voice Organization website. And for example, the Detroit/Seattle Workers Voice mailing list has been covering the struggle against the expansion of the toxic waste facility deceptively called ‘US Ecology’ in Detroit, which is a fight against environmental racism as well as against poisoning in general.
“That said, I would be happy to know more about the current state of the climate justice movement. We see what it’s doing in the Detroit and Seattle areas, but I would be eager to hear your description of its activities elsewhere and of its overall direction. The SWV article didn’t describe the militant section of the environmental movement; a short article can only deal with so much. Instead it focused on showing not just the necessity, but the possibility, of extending the relationship of the environmental movement to the working masses. Elsewhere we have talked about the militant section of the movement, and what its present limitations are. The climate justice movement contains many militant groups, is involved in many struggles, has more criticism of market measures than most other sections of the movement, but it’s not the whole militant movement, and it has limitations in its standpoint.
“With respect to Earth Day activities in Seattle this year, the climate justice groups didn’t seem that interested. Some years ago, various climate justice groups in Seattle were much more visible in the general environmental movement. But since then some political groups that had been excited about climate justice, seem to have abandoned it, while Got Green Seattle [which is part of the Climate Justice Alliance] focuses simply on community organizing on various fronts. Got Green, for example, is having its annual Green-A-Thon close to Earth Day, but this event is solely to ask people to promote or contribute to community organizing. Got Green also is taking part in a protest in the Washington state capital of Olympia against Governor Inslee’s cap and trade proposal, but that action is barely mentioned on its website. Thus, with regard to Earth Day, the events organized by Extinction Rebellion stood out.
“Environmental racism is also a major issue in Detroit and Southeast Michigan. The poisoning of Flint is well-known, but there are many issues in Detroit as well. But while there are many groups concerned with climate justice and environmental racism, they are connected to different political or activist trends, and don’t form a unified climate justice movement. The different groups are involved in different spheres of community organizing, and different struggles. We have carried material about some of these struggles in the D/SWV list.
“But to help strengthen these struggles, there is the need to develop a conscious alternative to establishment environmentalism. Naomi Klein talked about the treacherous role of ‘Big Green’ in her book ‘This Changes Everything‘, albeit a bit ambiguously; this was a very important part of the book, although I don’t know if she still uses this phrase. The denunciation of ‘false solutions’ by various climate justice groups is also important, but the issue eventually arises of what lies behind them, and this is connected to who will fight against them. I don’t think that denigrating the phrase ‘climate action’ is very helpful or understandable; there is always going to be a fight within the environmental movement between different standpoints.
“This difference occurs even within the struggle for climate justice, while the clash with establishment environmentalism will become even sharper in the future. The militant movement, if it is to grow and become a consistent opposition to establishment environmentalism, is going to have to take this into account. It needs to discuss this with activists.
“But look what happens at present. In 2017, the Climate Justice Alliance and the Indigenous Environmental Network put out a valuable 32-page pamphlet, 'Carbon pricing: A Critical Perspective for Community Resistance/Building Solidarity Against the Threat of Linking Carbon Markets' (October, 2017). It vigorously and vehemently denounced market measures, including the carbon tax. At one time, the climate justice movement was critical of various market measures, but didn’t necessarily regard the carbon tax as one of them, but this pamphlet is emphatically against the carbon tax. This pamphlet deserves to be much better known, but doesn’t seem to be mentioned even on the CJA website, nor that of Got Green Seattle, which is part of the CJA.
“Well, I’m still looking through CJA material, so maybe I missed something. (The IEN website differs from the others in carrying the pamphlet and a number of other materials against market measures.) But it seems like the pamphlet isn’t even mentioned when CJA is critical of market measures in various Green New Deal proposals.
“The climate justice movement (as a separate movement and not just as everyone and every group who supports climate justice and fights environmental racism) seems to have a narrow political focus. It engages in militant struggle, but as far as the part of it that we are familiar with in our work, it doesn’t take up what’s necessary to build a conscious and consistent mass alternative to establishment environmentalism. It doesn’t tend to discuss widely the political basis of its own movement. It doesn’t seem to show any more interest than establishment environmentalism in major mass actions related to environmentalism, but not directly part of the environmental movement, such as the Yellow Vests in France and notable actions in other countries. And it’s view of what’s needed focuses on ‘community-led economies’, while it is long past the time when such solutions suffice.
“The militant environmental movement needs to make a class distinction with the establishment environmentalists. You write that the idea of class struggle ‘could be seen as downplaying the indigenous, feminist and ecological considerations’. No doubt there are those who do see class struggle in that light, but the appeal to build a working-class environmental movement cuts against such conceptions, and even suggests by analogy that the working-class should be active on other fronts as well. We have held to this broad conception of the class struggle since the beginning of our trend in the late 1960s, and, for example, we have raised at workplaces everything from the struggle against racism to the pro-choice issue at the workplace, not just the economic struggle. And without the concept of the class struggle, what’s left of ecosocialism or anti-capitalism? Or of the idea of building an alternative to corporate environmentalism and Big Green? Perhaps, Patrick, you have a different conception from the SWV leaflet of how the class issue should be raised, and I would be interested in what’s on your mind with respect to this, but it has to be raised, one way or another.
“It’s true that an appeal to build the working class environmental movement, as in the recent SWV, is different from just appealing for reinforcing the climate justice movement. The SWV leaflet tried to express briefly issues that are important for building an effective environmental movement. In doing so, it sought to take into account the needs of the militant section of the environmental movement,including climate justice activists.
“Looking forward to more discussion.
“In solidarity, Joseph Green” (April 18,2019, “Re: [Marxism] SWV on
Earth Day 2019 and trends in environmental movement”) <>
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Posted on June 3, 2019