Developing Working Class Environmentalism
opinion / analysis
Tuesday August 16, 2005 20:32 by Arthur J Millar - NAF
Just as workers want better pay, so they should want better environmental conditions. Those first exposed to the hazards of industrial production are workers. The next to be exposed are communities of the oppressed (poor workers, African-Americans, Indigenous peoples). When was the last time you saw the owners of industry living next to a chemical plant?
Developing Working Class Environmentalism
I do not say that all things that eco-groups do are bad. But
anarchists 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 the working class and other oppressed groups. For
this reason and many others, we need to develop our own form of
environmentalism based on their interests.
Much environmentalist activism is based on the eurocentic idea of
superiority. Groups 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 peoples and with 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 anything else.
The basic cause of most environmental problems 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 be based on the understanding that all
things are connected.
Workers who are forced to work for wages and those who are able to
work outside of the wage system come under industrial-capitalist
attack for the same reason: greed. Thus, the workers struggling
against the wage system controlled by capitalist industrialists, and
those struggling to resist these forces, are all a part of the same
struggle. All things are connected.
Often eco-groups will blame both types of workers for things the
industrial rulers are responsible for; and the sacrifices these
groups call for are often sacrifices the workers have to make.
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. Anarchist 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: maximum profit for the owners at the expense
of everything else.
Just as workers want better pay, so they should want better
environmental conditions. Those first exposed to the hazards of
industrial production are workers. The next to be exposed are
communities of the oppressed (poor workers, African-Americans,
Indigenous peoples). When was the last time you saw the owners of
industry living next to a chemical plant?
Anarchist environmentalism would start at the point of production
and from there struggle for earth-safe 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
Given 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 the environment matters and
humans are a part of it. We will base our production on the
well-being of all living beings rather than the profit of a few
This revolutionary struggle will mean that we will be opposed by
the owners and that there will be affects on our day to day life.
Thus, we need to stand together in solidarity, be it over a strike,
the resistance of indigenous people, issues such as racism, or the
hardships that change or economic devastation bring down on working
From Unfinished Business No 1 Feb 2005