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Developing Working Class Environmentalism

category international | environment | opinion / analysis author Tuesday August 16, 2005 20:32author by Arthur J Millar - NAF Report this post to the editors

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 system.

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 capitalists.

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 class communities.

From Unfinished Business No 1 Feb 2005

author by ecojoepublication date Wed Aug 17, 2005 06:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

We are conditioned to look only a few years into the future (Many cultures one is taught to be insane trying to plan two decades in advance), but because of the long list of enviromental issues (even the mainstream press highlight a faction a these, scary times indeed) we have no choice anymore but to take longterm action for solutions about these issues. If mankind is going to engineer his/her survival its going to be RADICAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and hopefully not in a fascist way.

Enviromentalists don't drive cars

author by Oliver - Capital Terminuspublication date Wed Aug 17, 2005 08:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

...and that's why we need working-class environmentalism.....

author by Kim Keyser - Anarkismopublication date Wed Aug 17, 2005 08:12author address Oslo, Norwayauthor phone Report this post to the editors

..and I bet they don´t use computers either. Or frigde, mobile phone, artificial clothing, tv, cooker, and so on, and so on.

Sorry, for beeing so crass. It´s just that the environmental disaster is a corollary of the systemic disaster. And thus it has to be dealt with on a systemic level, not a personal level.

It´s like, "Ok, I hate the undemocratic way workplaces is organized!", so what do I do: I go on a one man strike or just quit my job altogether. You think that changes a lot? -NO! (because the way the workplaces are organized is also a systemic characteristic.) The only thing I´ll achieve is to get rid of my wage.

It´s the same thing with the environment. We can´t just turn away from the fundamental driving forces of the capitalist system, and choose to opt out of it to clear our conscience. All one achieves with that is a more burdensome life, while the same systemic driving forces keep a steady course towards ecocide. Then I guess we could walk on the pavement -cough from the thick exhaust, while seeing the cars rush past- and we can think "At least, I am acting in an ecologically sensible way". (What a relief, huh!).

Neither is even a mere possibility of most people of the earth, who have to work -and also consume in environmental unfriendly ways- just to sustain. To be strictly honest: this is only a shortsighted and non-viable way for middle/upper-class people, to buy some false conscience.

If ecocide is to be stopped, we need to go to the roots of all (well, most anyway) the problems our society faces: the undemocratic workplace.

It´s both here we´re exploited, bored to death and continually produce environmental disasters, and it´s here the exploitation and environmental disasters can end.

Now, the oligarchy of big shareholders and the leaders who run their business for them, profits when we work more for less. If we would democratically decide over our (well, theirs) workplaces we would of course profit from working less, for more.

And while capitalists -the extreme(ist) minority- gains competitive advantages of cost cutting (by for instance choosing not to clean the gasses their factories produce), we workers -the extreme majority- would gain co-operative advantages (by for instance choosing to clean the gasses the factories produce).

My conclusion is that attempts of personal escape from this insane system is futile. While collective resistance, manifested in a movement for ultrademocratic workplaces is the only viable solution.

author by KATpublication date Wed Aug 31, 2005 15:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I find this topic important. There is indeed a greater cause for alarm on environmental matters, while this may not sound convincingly enough for majority of 1st world countries, our situation here in the far eastern side of Asia seems to head into tragedy. Our resources heavily exploited and over used by Corporations and even those who claim to be lesser-evil types of all sorts, who makes use of the raw materials to become products? This is in no way to put blame to the workers, but looking in a different way we could understand how these all works? the working people obediently acts to oil the machinery of production. If the next day we have one last piece of tree left out there and everything was used up for the consumption, convenience, salary etc of those who refuse to act to destroy the machines of slavery thats doomsday which would tell everyone all to regret the past is no use. We could no longer complain and grieve in our situation here, we want our lives back, the tribal/indigenous communities pushes further and further away from their own lands only to be caught in the crossfires between right and left wing army in the country side - the attack of wild animals against rural communities is the result of mankind's domestication. Our lack of literacy and being less develop nations makes us vulnerable to these kinds of oppression but we are still hopeful that people across the world could come together and help people of color living far and away to help save what we come to know as our home (the trees/mountains....)

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