Editor’s note: The US military is the largest emitter of greenhouse gas pollution in the world. It is through the allocation of over half the federal government budget that this is made possible. So when companies say that the destruction of the environment must be done to save the planet, this fact is never mentioned. We are in fact in an existential situation and yet ending the war machine is never on the table. The evil empire will do what it has always done, which is to extract the wealth of the land to the determinant of those that live there. And this will not end until it collapses. If we are to have anything left before this happens we must fight to save it.
By Katie Fite/Counterpunch
Critical Minerals Propaganda
In early summer, Vale BLM (Bureau of Land Management) held a Resource Advisory Council meeting in McDermitt, ground zero for the critical minerals rush on public lands. Lithium driller Jindalee HiTech got to talk about the company’s horrifying new exploration drilling proposal for 267 more drill holes, wastewater sumps, and 30 miles of new “temporary” roads. The project would tear rip apart irreplaceable Sage-grouse Focal habitat, as a prelude to open pit strip mining for lower grade lithium. The BLM geologist showed a video, How Critical Minerals are Vital to the Climate Fight, that had appeared on ABC news.
One narrator, Reed Blakemore, was from the Atlantic Council think tank known for never seeing a War or US-backed coup it wouldn’t propagandize and cheerlead for. The other narrator works for an organization called SAFE. Their mission appears to be strident propaganda shaping policies, perceptions and practices and support for wresting control of critical minerals and energy, no matter how unsafe it makes the world or how much environmental damage is caused. The two harangue viewers about the need to get “shovels in the ground”. It includes a clip of Biden bragging about the Defense Production Act.
SAFE’s Website boasts about working with retired 4 star generals. A scroll through their Twitter account shows them pushing for streamlining environmental analysis–like the type of NEPA and tribal consultation short-cuts which contributed to the Thacker Pass (Peehee mu’huh) controversy that rages on. SAFE screeches about mineral laundering by China, adores high voltage transmission lines, and my favorite: “SAFE believes the Biden admin must take an aggressive approach that raises strong walls around foreign entities of concern while lowering drawbridges for our allies, like South Korea”. And hurl pots of burning oil down on the enemies of Fortress America from the castle keep?
This energy transition and critical minerals crusade on public lands is very much about retaining a corporate iron grip on energy, and increasingly seems to be about feeding the Military Industrial Complex. Watching the video, it belatedly dawned on me that critical minerals and green energy Neocons are driving much of the agenda. It’s certainly neocolonialist, but with the added twist of the Neocon global control freaks, and no dissent is allowed. We’ll grab what we want, anywhere, no matter if we break it all apart, no restraints tolerated, and we and our friends will make a fortune. The McDermitt caldera encapsulates the clash between supposed clean energy and the dirty reality for public land, water, communities, biodiversity, and a sane path to sustainability and energy change.
The EV “revolution” is being carried out with the same mindset, hubris, lies, greed, propaganda and war mongering that plunged us ever deeper into the fossil fuels mess and Forever Wars. The public is being propagandized by the Atlantic Council, SAFE, and others to blindly accept the sacrifice of any place, anywhere – under claims of saving us from climate change (as we continue to guzzle energy without limits). It’s also about domination and empire. Just like with oil, they won’t be content with a “domestic supply”, and instead seek to control all of it. Leadership of big green groups often appears captured by these critical minerals and energy Neocons – witness those dead serious Sierra Club outreach e-mails with a tangle of high voltage transmission lines portraying NEPA short-cuts as a good thing.
War Contractor Bechtel Selected to Build the Thacker Pass Mine, Mine Costs Double
Environews provides a whirlwind summary of some 2023 Thacker Pass events. Lithium Americas contracted with Bechtel Mining and Metals for engineering, procurement and execution of the mine. Bechtel is an industrial contractor and war profiteer who reaped massive government contracts during our Forever Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They’ve already signed a reconstruction agreement with Ukraine, a tad prematurely. They go way back, having built Hoover Dam and infrastructure for the Manhattan atomic bomb project at Hanford and elsewhere. Hanford plutonium was used in the nuclear bomb the US dropped on the people of Nagasaki Japan. To this day, Bechtel is involved in Forever Clean Up at nuclear facilities, including the most toxic place in America, and helping work on new nukes, keeping the gravy train going. The International Committee for Investigative Journalists summarized:
“Bechtel has been heavily involved in both commercial and military nuclear activities. These have included some of the most notable nuclear mishaps in U.S. history, from California’s San Onofre reactor installed backwards, to the botched clean up of Three Mile Island … Bechtel is finding ways to profit from the radioactive mess its projects have created.”
Regarding Bechtel’s endless Hanford work and profiteering Joshua Frank describes “they have a really bad track record and are well known for reaping the spoils of U.S. military ventures all over the globe. In October they had a test facility up and running that was going to do a run of vitrification for low-level radioactive waste. They basically had a ribbon cutting for this big machine and it ran for a week, then overheated, and they had to shut it down”.
Tribes consider this land to be a Traditional Cultural Property. Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and Summit Lake Tribe submitted a Traditional Cultural Property Eligibility Statement, (Peehee mu’huh: A Living Monument to Numu History and Culture District. September 12, 1865 Thacker Pass Massacre Site) to the BLM. It seeks official Interior Department recognition. Now it’s reported that BLM is sitting on the document, and never transmitted it to the National Park Service who oversees National Historic Register sites. Meanwhile, site integrity is being obliterated. Time after time – in local, national and international media – elders and tribal members have said that lithium mining desecration and destruction at Thacker Pass is like digging up Arlington Cemetery.
A recent deluge of news articles, many appeared planted, hyped a geological study that largely rehashes long known geological information. This helps fuel speculation and increase political pressure on agencies to rubberstamp projects. Following weeks of media gushing about the overblown study, the Nevada Current exposes what’s going on:
“The study was funded by Lithium Americas, and includes research from Lithium Americas employee and shareholder, Thomas Benson”. He was the lead author, but most media stories skipped right over that inconvenient fact.
“John Hadder, the director of the Great Basin Resource Watch … said while the study may be helpful in pitching mining in the area, his organization has heard claims of “largest lithium deposit” from places around the world.
“I am concerned that this report will be used to advance more lithium mining in the region, and pressure the frontline peoples to accept mine plans,” said Hadder. “Regardless of how much lithium may be extractable, the sloppy permitting process that led to the Thacker Pass mine must not be duplicated. Indigenous ancestral lands that have cultural values must be protected, and Indigenous communities should have the right to say no”.
The publicity also bumped up Lithium Americas stock that had sagged a bit. And it seems there was another purpose, too. Lithium Americas is angling for a $1 billion DOE (Department of Energy) loan handout, the largest amount ever. The same outlets that hyped the geological paper are all agog, casting this as “an historic 1 billion”. Reuters now reports “Lithium Americas had raised its budget for the first phase of the Thacker Pass project to $2.27 billion, from $1.06 billion, reflecting changes to its production plans”. The loan is claimed to be 50 to 75% of the mine cost. Is this price explosion due to estimates of production linked to the hyped study, or is there a huge mine cost over-run right out of the starting gate? Lithium Americas did choose a contractor with long experience profiting off the US’s trillion-dollar foreign misadventures and nuclear mess. If the lithium mine gets this obscene DOE handout, will dollars evaporate, like four Hanford whistleblowers exposed:
“It is stunning that, for a decade, Bechtel and AECOM chose to line their corporate pockets by diverting important taxpayer funds from this critically essential effort,” Assistant US Attorney Joseph Harrington said in a news release …The case started after four whistleblowers came forward in 2016, telling federal prosecutors about alleged time-card fraud in which the companies billed the U. S. Department of Energy for work that was never completed. The companies hired hundreds of electricians, millwrights, pipefitters … to build the plant … and then over-charged for the workers even when those workers had no duties to perform …”.
The Department of Justice Press release on the Hanford deception is here. The time-card fraud involved DOE funds. Now DOE appears on the verge of lavishing a billion-dollar loan on Lithium Americas who uses this same contractor.
GM Thacker Pass Lithium in Ultium Batteries, GM and War Machines
GM is now implicated as a major player in Caldera lithium mania. In January 2023, GM announced it would invest $650 million in Lithium Americas and use Thacker Pass lithium for its Ultium batteries:
“Lithium carbonate from Thacker Pass will be used in GM’s proprietary Ultium battery cells. … GM is launching a broad portfolio of trucks, SUVs, luxury vehicles and light commercial vehicles using the Ultium Platform, including the GMC HUMMER EV Pickup and SUV, GMC Sierra EV, Cadillac LYRIQ, Cadillac CELESTIQ, Chevrolet Silverado EV, Chevrolet Blazer EV, Chevrolet Equinox EV, BrightDrop Zevo 400 and BrightDrop Zevo 600”.
But these aren’t the only GM vehicles using Ultium batteries. Clean Technica headlined, “The US military is buying Ultium Battery Packs from GM Defense”. Get ready for the Green Wars, folks, including the Green Wars for Green Minerals. Are wild and sacred places of the McDermitt Caldera going to be destroyed not only for bloated GM pick-ups, street Hummers and virtue signaling about the climate crisis, but also for War machines too — gutting the West for critical minerals so we can waste untold amounts of energy and minerals on more Forever Wars?
GM Defense proclaims it’s driving the future of military mobility, with a five-passenger All-Electric Military Concept Vehicle, and working on energy storage for the tactical warfighter. Ultium batteries are also used in armored diplomatic vehicles that look like a sure hit with narco kingpins. Other monstrosities like this tactical truck, don’t yet appear to have EV batteries, but GM does promise they’re fuel efficient. How long until US troops de-stabilizing South American countries to gain control of their lithium, or maneuvering to grab foreign oil, are cruising around in EVs? At the end of a Reno KTVN Channel 2 video full of land destruction images and lithium company spin, the reporter says “lithium is a hot commodity”. The lithium company’s spokesman replies “it’s essential for national security”. Note that lithium is also used in designs of some nuclear reactors and in the nuclear weapons industry.
GM Greenwashing, Thacker Pass Lithium, Social Injustice
A Mighty Earth report, GM Wants ‘Everybody In’ on Greenwashing, tells how GM’s human rights policy conflicts with its investment in Thacker Pass, how they’re building hulks while smaller cars sold may largely be from China, a continuing dirty supply chain, a poor score in indigenous rights protection, and how often GM makes commitments but doesn’t follow through. In the report, the People of Red Mountain Atsa Koodakuh wyh Nuwu explain that “the entire landscape of the McDermitt caldera is sacred to Nevada, California and Oregon tribal nations”
The brutal 1865 US cavalry massacre of a Paiute camp at Thacker Pass was part of the memory-holed Snake War of Extermination. The massacre was not revealed by BLM in the mine EIS. During litigation, Tribes presented resounding evidence – US surveyor records, contemporaneous newspaper stories, and survivor Ox Sam’s own account from Big Bill Haywood’s Autobiography. The Biden-Haaland BLM brushed it all aside, to the anger and dismay of Tribes and many other people. The stalled Traditional Cultural Property document contains the records. Perhaps doling out a $1 billion loan for the destruction of an officially recognized massacre site might be a bridge too far, even for Jennifer Granholm’s DOE.
In spring 2023, the Ox Sam women’s protest camp was set up at Thacker Pass by a gaping water pipeline trench the company had ripped past sacred Sentinel Rock. The camp was raided after a protest action. Now Ox Sam descendants and white activists associated with the camp are being sued in a vile SLAPP suit: After getting hammered with lawsuits aimed at halting development of a lithium mine at Northern Nevada’s Thacker Pass, a Canadian-based mining company has turned the tables and is suing the mine’s protesters … the protesters and an attorney representing them counter that the lawsuit is similar to a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP), aimed at intimidating and silencing their free speech”.
How’s that for upholding ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) principles, and the other social responsibility jargon Lithium Americas and the mob of Caldera miners use to lull investors?
Aurora Schemes of Yellowcake and Green Uranium
Aurora Energy Metals is trying to resurrect a uranium project long thought dead. Promotion videos show Greg Cochran, an Australian “uranium veteran” leading the Aurora charge. Before alighting in the Caldera, Cochran had been with Australian uranium miner Deep Yellow. Here’s Friends of the Earth Melbourne on Deep Yellow, “The Mulga Rock uranium project east of Kalgoorlie is now under the leadership of a team with a track record of over-promising, under-performing and literally blowing up cultural sites”. And this from the Conservation Council of WA (West Australia),“We’ve gone from the inexperienced and cash-poor Vimy Resources to Deep Yellow who are led by a team with a track record that highlights why uranium mining does not have a social license”.
Aurora drilled a few exploration holes in fall 2022 extended a bit of drilling into a winter exclusion period. Now they seek to expand drilling under a NEPA-less, no public comment Notice, which is how the Jindalee sagebrush killing drilling to date has been done.
Aurora’s mining scheme, where some lower grade lithium overlays uranium deposits, is explained in a Proactive Investors video. Cochran envisions the mine of the future with a conveyor belt or pipeline jetting lithium or uranium slurry or crushed rock from Oregon across the state line down onto private land in Nevada, where a processing plant and waste heaps would be located. The video interviewer asks: “Tell me more about this property you bought in Nevada”. Cochran replies:
“Yeah, we kept that under wraps for quite a while because we wanted to make sure that nobody else kind of gazumped us. … We had this strategy of identifying suitable locations within Nevada for the processing plant … because… we know that they understand mining a lot better than Oregon … Nothing is a free pass, but it would allow us, we believe, to permit quicker. Private land to boot is even more attractive. … We discovered that one of the landowners was looking to sell. So, right place, right time. I’m already … envisioning … the mine of the future. Where you develop this mine. You’ve got a crusher, you run a very fancy overland conveyor – or pipeline for that matter – across to Nevada which as the crow flies it’s only 8 or 9 k’s – so there’s no tracking, no footprint … negligible CO2 emissions …’.
He says the Aurora project would be ticking all the boxes in terms of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) approval – right after detailing a plan to evade Oregon regulations on uranium pollution by moving the hot rocks across the state line. Apparently, radioactive material infiltrating air, groundwater, plants, wildlife, and contaminating the community, doesn’t count when you’re ticking ESG boxes. The same plan is repeated in a Mining Network video here, with Cochran talking about Nevada land enabling Aurora to “permit a quarry in Oregon”, which he describes as fairly straightforward, while siting the processing plant and waste heaps in Nevada. In a Thacker Pass state permitting meeting, Nevada Department of Environmental Quality staff admitted they couldn’t recall not permitting a mine.
Aurora’s Nevada land is around 4 miles west of town, right by the state line south of where the Disaster Peak county road starts. In an Australian publication, Aurora, described as a “shining light”, says that because there’s some hydropower at the site “we have the potential to deliver green uranium”, in a “uranium friendly mining jurisdiction”. Welcome to Nevada – the Uranium Waste Heap State. No Rocks Too Hot to Handle. You can already envision more billboards sprouting up on Highway 95.
A past effort to wrest uranium from Caldera earth fizzled when Fukushima grayed up the miner’s blue sky on uranium. Back then, Oregon mining activist Larry Tuttle warned in Read the Dirt about yellowcake production, water use, the toxic waste stream, tailings ponds and Oregon’s very own Lucky Lass superfund site experience near Lakeview:
“Sulfuric acid in the tailings also dissolves and leaches heavy metals – mercury, molybdenum, arsenic, lead, manganese, and cadmium – as well as uranium. (The Aurora site has already been extensively mined for mercury, which pose additional health perils; sulfuric acid easily bonds with and transports mercury to waterways.) Residual uranium elements in the tailings decay and release radon; heavy metals also continue to interact within tailings and other wastes.
For communities as diverse as Moab, Utah, and Jeffrey City, Wyoming (often called yellowcake towns), the effects of uranium mining on public services and resources; ground and surface water; and, air quality are serious and dramatic”.
The Moab Times just reported on resistance to uranium mining and processing at the La Sal Complex near Moab and the Pinyon Plain mine near the Grand Canyon, in “Ute Mountain Utes march against White Mesa as Energy Fuels prepares to reopen uranium mines”:
“Some White Mesa residents have long been concerned that the mill, which lies four miles north of the community, is contaminating nearby groundwater, air and wildlife with radon that allegedly blows and seeps off the mill’s tailings impoundments”.
While uranium miners attempt to tamp down dangers, Ute tribal members monitoring past mining effects have measured whopping levels of uranium in spring water, there’s a sulfur odor in the air with re-processing taking place, and animals are disappearing from the mesa. For the record, uranium was recently shifted from the critical minerals list, and is now a fuel mineral with friends in Congress. Caldera uranium is found in uraninite and coffinite ore. No, someone didn’t have a morbid sense of humor, it’s said to be named after a geologist.
Trying to track the serial land destroyers and speculators who’ve descended on the Caldera is quite confusing. It’s unclear who now controls FMS claims. On-line sources show conflicting information. An Aurora prospectus said they control Oregon FMS “CALD” claims. A company named Chariot now appears involved with Oregon and Nevada FMS claims – all located in terrible places for wildlife. Lithium Americas holds a north-south block of claims in extremely sensitive wildlife habitat up in the Montana Mountains. They repeatedly told the public during the Thacker Pass EIS process that the project was sited to avoid those Sage-grouse conflicts, and that they wouldn’t mine up there because wildlife values were so high.
Puzzlingly, a 2016 SEC Report map shows Lithium Americas then controlling much of the current Jindalee claims block in “Miller” [Malheur] county. Why would they let go of Oregon claims while gearing up for Thacker? FMS Nevada claims lie in critical sagebrush by the east face of the Montanas. LiVE, another company, also has some Nevada claims. This month, there were mining press articles and a video about Jindalee drilling again this November. I contacted Vale BLM, and BLM says No. If you’re out in the Caldera, keep your eyes on what’s going on.
Jim Jeffress, a retired NDOW biologist (so he can speak his mind) describes how ideal for Sage-grouse Caldera lands are. He says what happens in the Montana Mountains with key sage grouse habitat “will define the resolve of the state of Nevada and BLM in the recovery of Sage-grouse in Nevada”. He extols the high bird abundance, the ideal habitat configuration, calls the Montanas exceptionally important, the gold standard for Sage-grouse, and a critical bridge between populations, writing:
“My primary concern is focused on ANY mine site or extraction areas on top of the Montana Mountains in the area commonly referred to as Lone Willow, now or in the future. That concern extends into Jordan Meadows in the east that serves as wintering grounds for the Montana Mountains sage-grouse population and those in southern Oregon”.
The Caldera is a unique inter-connected ecosystem, spanning Nevada and Oregon, with irreplaceable habitat for Sage-grouse and other wildlife. It must be protected from a mad, rapacious minerals rush.
Photo Bhie-Cie Zahn-Nahtzu in prayer at Peehee Mu’huh from Protect Thacker Pass website
Environmental Advocates and Groups To Protest Latest Proposed Algonquin Pipeline Expansion Near Shuttered Indian Point Nuclear Plant
On Tuesday, activists will rally outside the shuttered Indian Point nuclear plant in Buchanan in protest of the latest proposed Algonquin Pipeline Expansion in the area. The protest will occur blocks from where, in 2016, three activists were arrested for blocking the last Algonquin Pipeline expansion of an added 42-inch high-pressure pipeline. In addition, two older 32-inch and 23-inch pipelines run underneath the plant. Decommissioning at Indian Point houses over 2,000 tons of irradiated fuel rods in addition to other radioactive waste.
Protestors will call on Governor Hochul to stop pipeline owner Enbridge’s latest “Project Maple” proposal. Project Maple was noticed by Enbridge HERE.
WHAT: Rally calling on Governor Hochul to stop Enbridge’s “Project Maple” fracked gas pipeline expansion
WHEN: Tuesday, November 14 at 4:30pm ET
WHERE: Outside the shuttered Indian Point nuclear plant on the corner of Bleakley Ave & Broadway in Buchanan, NY
WHO: Activists representing Food & Water Watch, United for Clean Energy, Safe Energy Rights Group, and more
SIGN-UP HERE: https://www.mobilize.us/fww/event/592008/
“Project Maple” would significantly expand the amount of gas transmitted through the Algonquin Pipeline which runs from the Hudson Valley through Connecticut to Massachusetts. Enbridge anticipates its proposal to come on line as soon as November 2029.
The proposal to expand fracked gas in the region comes despite New York’s Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act which mandates greenhouse gas emissions reductions of at least 85 percent by 2050 and the state’s nation leading ban on fossil fuels in new buildings, which will go into effect in 2026.
Editor’s Note: As a continent with abundant “resources”, Africa has been a target of colonial powers, who have plundered her land for centuries. This is not merely ecocide, but a violation of indigenous and human rights as well. Colonizers have destroyed Africa and continue to do so under newer guises, all in the name of, they say, advancing the lives of African people. People whose advanced cultures were destroyed along with their land. While DGR believes in community control over decisions related to energy, we not believe that renewable energy is the key to the ecological problems we are facing.
This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute. This article is an edited version of a speech the author delivered at Health of Mother Earth Foundation’s 10th Anniversary Conference with the theme ‘Advancing Environmental Justice in Africa’ held in June 2023 in Abuja, Nigeria.
By Nnimmo Bassey/Earth | Food | Life
The struggle for environmental justice in Africa is complex and broad. It is the continuation of the fight for the liberation of the continent and for socio-ecological transformation. It is a fact that the environment is our life: The soil, rivers, and air are not inanimate or lifeless entities. We are rooted and anchored in our environment. Our roots are sunk into our environment and that is where our nourishment comes from. We do not see the Earth and her bountiful gifts as items that must be exploited, transformed, consumed, or wasted. The understanding of the Earth as a living entity and not a dead thing warns that rapacious exploitation that disrupts her regenerative powers are acts of cruelty or ecocide.
We bear in mind that colonialism was erected on the right to subjugate, erase, or diminish the right to life and the right to the unfettered cultural expression of the colonized. In particular, the colonized were dehumanized and transformed into zombies working for the benefit of the colonial powers. Ecological pillage was permitted as long as it benefited the colonizers. This ethos has persisted and manifests in diverse forms. Grand theft by the colonial forces was seen as entrepreneurship. Genocide was overlooked as mere conquest. Slavery was seen as commerce. Extractivism was to be pursued relentlessly as any element left unexploited was considered a waste. What could be wasted with no compunction was life. So most things had to die. The civilizers were purveyors of death. Death of individuals. Death of ecosystems.
Thus, today, people still ask: What would we do with the crude oil or fossil gas in our soil if we do not exploit them? In other words, how could we end poverty if we do not destroy our environment and grab all it could be forced to yield? We tolerate deforestation, and unregulated industrial fishing, and run a biosafety regulation system that promotes the introduction of needless genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and by doing so, endanger our biodiversity and compromise our environment and food systems.
Plunder is presented as inescapable and desired under the cloak of foreign investment. Political leaders in despoiled regions offer ease of doing business, tax holidays, sundry lax rules, and other neocolonial governance policies.
The reign of exploitation and consumption without responsibility has driven Africa and indeed the world to the brink. The current civilization of death seeks ready investment in destruction through warfare and extractivism rather than in building resilience and adapting to the environmental changes that result from corporate and imperial misadventures.
We are in a reign in which condescension is the hallmark of multilateralism. The collective action needed to tackle global warming has been reduced to puny “nationally determined contributions” that add up to nothing. Rather than recognizing and paying a clear climate debt, we expend energy negotiating a loss and damage regime to be packaged as a humanitarian gesture. Pray, who negotiates what is offered as charity?
Today, Africa is facing multiple ecological challenges. All of these have resulted from the actions of entities that have seen the continent as a sacrificial zone. While the world has come to the conclusion that there must be an urgent shift from dependence on fossil fuels, we are seeing massive investments for the extraction of petroleum resources on the continent. And we must say that this investment comes with related infrastructure for the export of these resources out of the continent in a crass colonial pattern. A mere 1 percent of the labor force in the extractive sector in Africa are Africans. A mere 5 percent of investment in the sector is in Africa. More than 85 percent of the continent’s fossil gas infrastructure is for export purposes.
The shift to renewable energy brings the same old challenges to Africa. Extraction of critical minerals for renewable energy is done without prior consultation with and consent of our people. The continent’s environment is being degraded just as it has been with the extraction of oil, gas, gold, diamond, nickel, cobalt, and other solid minerals. The array of solar panels and wind turbines could well become markers of crime scenes if precautionary measures are not taken now.
Are we against renewable energy? No. They provide the best pathway toward ending the energy deficit on the continent. However, this should be pursued through discrete, autonomous, and socialized ownership schemes.
While the world knows that we must rebuild our biodiversity, what we see is the push towards more deforestation in Africa and for monoculture agriculture, all of which are against our best interest and that of the world. A sore issue, land grabbing has not disappeared with the coming innovations.
As Chinua Achebe writes in his classic 1958 book Things Fall Apart about Eneke the bird, “Since men have learned to shoot without missing, he has learned to fly without perching.” For us, until the despoilers of our environment halt their destructive acts, we will intensify our resistance and never give in to their designs. We believe this conference will not only break the yoke of colonialism but will also puncture the hold of coloniality. Our book, Politics of Turbulent Waters, is one of the tools toward these ends.
Every African nation should:
- Commit to issuing an annual State of Environment Report to lay out the situation of things in their territories.
- End destructive extraction no matter the appeal of capital.
- Demand climate debt for centuries of ecological exploitation and harm.
- Require remediation, restoration of all degraded territories, and pay reparations to direct victims or their heirs.
- Support and promote food sovereignty including by adopting agroecology.
- Adopt and promote African cultural tools and philosophies for the holistic tackling of ecological challenges and for the healing and well-being of our people and communities.
- Promote and provide renewable energy in a democratized manner.
- Recognize our right to water, treat it as a public good, and halt and reverse its privatization.
- Recognize the rights of Mother Earth and codify Ecocide as a crime akin to genocide, war crimes, and other unusual crimes.
- Ensure that all Africans enjoy the right to live in a safe and satisfactory environment suitable for their progress as enshrined in the African Charter on Peoples and Human Rights.
Nnimmo Bassey is the director of the ecological think tank, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), and a member steering committee of Oilwatch International.
Photo by redcharlie | @redcharlie1 on Unsplash
This story first appeared in The Third Pole.
By Saw John Bright.
This week, governments from around the world will convene online for the first part of the UN Biodiversity Summit COP15 (the second part will take place partially in-person in Kunming in spring), which will agree on the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Framed as a ‘stepping stone’ to the 2050 Vision of ‘Living in harmony with nature’ as part of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), ratified by 196 countries, this framework is intended to deal with runaway biodiversity loss over the next decade.
Increased attention is being paid to how Indigenous peoples have for centuries realised this aspiration of harmony. Indigenous peoples manage or have rights to 22% of the world’s land, yet this land supports 80% of the world’s biodiversity, even as they struggle to regain ancestral lands that were taken from them in many places. What is less recognised is how Indigenous understanding and perception of reality upholds this harmony.
The CBD meeting three years ago promised greater inclusion of Indigenous peoples and traditional knowledge, and there is much discussion of these issues ahead of COP15. The CBD developed the Akwé: Kon Guidelines in 2004 and further deepened involvement with the launch of a Traditional Knowledge Information Portal. Despite this progress, when mainstreaming of biodiversity into the energy sector was discussed by CBD parties in 2017, the negative impacts of hydropower dams were discussed in biodiversity and ecosystem terms, paying mere lip service to Indigenous rights.
A narrowly technical understanding of hydropower – passed off as “scientific” – underestimates how culture supports economies, conservation and utility for Indigenous peoples living in river basins. When external experts interpret Indigenous knowledge without the context of Indigenous perception of reality (ontology), they fail to grasp its importance. What is needed is an incorporation of Indigenous understanding of reality when discussing biodiversity in Indigenous territories, in order to manage ecosystems better.
The Salween through Indigenous eyes
The Salween River is one of the few major rivers in Asia who still flows freely and uninterrupted by large-scale dams. Roughly 2,400 kilometres long, the Salween flows from the Tibetan Plateau through Yunnan into Myanmar, briefly touching Thailand. The river supports some of the most biodiverse areas in the world and is home to diverse Indigenous groups including the Akha, Blang, Derung, Hmong, Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Kokang, Lahu, Lisu, Mon, Nu, Palaung (T’arng), Pa’O, Shan, Tibetan, Yao, and Wa.
As custodians of the Salween River, community members maintain a spiritual relationship with the Salween, as our ancestors have done since they descended from the Tibetan Plateau many centuries ago. For us, the Salween is home to countless important spirits who are intermediaries between our human societies and the environment around us. She supports the sacred animal and plant species who populate our cosmos and carries the memories of our ancestors whose lives were intertwined with the river. Our relationship with the spirits is maintained and the memories of our ancestors kept alive by our continuous interaction with the Salween River. She is the backbone of our traditional knowledge and practices.
This is a wider understanding of the river than a mere provider of ‘ecosystem services’ that sustains our ‘livelihoods’. In our Indigenous understanding and perception of reality, developed over generations of living in the Salween basin, we don’t make a distinction between plants, animals, humans and more-than-humans such as spirits and ancestral spirits. This interconnectedness remains strong because the Salween is a free-flowing river.
These connections are reflected in Indigenous land, water and natural resource management across the Salween basin. As has been noted with reference to the Htee K’Sah guardian spirits of the water in S’gaw Karen ontology in the journal Pacific Conservation Biology,
“Karen environmental governance consists of social relations and ceremonial obligations with more-than-humans… It is through relations with the K‘Sah that Karen villagers relate to the water and land itself, and humans’ rights to use the land are contingent on maintaining these ritual obligations.”
Indigenous knowledge systems lead to better conservation
Our customary water governance traditions include stewardship practices, hunting and fishing restrictions, and ceremonial protocols that have fostered harmony with nature and safeguarded biodiversity. Our river is inhabited and protected by guardian spirits. In sanctuary areas, prayer ceremonies are performed to protect the fish and harm those who fish there. Our traditional watershed management systems designate ecologically sensitive areas such as ridges, watersheds and old growth forests, where the cutting back of forest is prohibited.
The benefits of traditional knowledge and practices for biodiversity thus come from the cultivation of a harmonious relationship between humans and more-than-humans, which is why sacred areas – an old tree or an entire mountain or river – must be protected. The ongoing relevance of such traditional knowledge and practices can be seen in the Salween Peace Park, an Indigenous initiative in Karen state that was awarded the 2020 UNDP Equator Prize. Around 75% of the forests, mountains and rivers that constitute the 1.4-million-acre area is managed according to traditional ‘kaw’ customary knowledge that combines spirituality, culture and conservation. This combination characterises Indigenous knowledge and is at the heart of Indigenous identity even when people have adopted ‘formal’ religions.
Indigenous knowledge and practices that are beneficial for biodiversity cannot be separated from Indigenous understanding and perception of reality. The inseparability of Indigenous ontology, Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous practices is hard to recognise for people living outside these ontologies. It is not possible to capture or preserve our Indigenous knowledge in a museum or a book. What meditation and prayer in a house of worship is for other religions, for us is the interaction with the Salween River. Our knowledge regenerates from our interaction with our environment, especially at the countless natural sacred sites and auspicious confluence points where the Salween meets its tributaries. We see her as a living entity.
Uninterrupted interconnectedness is key for the Salween
There are plans for seven Chinese-built dams along the Salween River, which has been a source of friction between Myanmar and China, as well as the current and previous governments and Indigenous groups. If the Salween River is dammed, it will strike at the heart of our cultures and beliefs. The severance of the river itself and the cascade of consequences will be the death knell for our traditional knowledge and practices for three reasons.
Firstly, the Salween responds to seasonal snowmelt and monsoon rains. Altering these variations in her flow affects the river’s ecology, severing people’s interdependency with the river by causing a decline in local river-linked livelihoods such as fisheries and agriculture. If these are disrupted, young people will have no choice but to take up professions disconnected from the river or move away. Less interaction and cohabitation with the river over time weakens Indigenous knowledge systems.
In the Karen context, Lu Htee Hta is one of the most important ceremonies performed as part of our relationship with the water, a ‘founders’ ritual’ which maintains a social contract with the more-than-human owners of the water and land. If the next generation is not able to conduct these rituals, the social contract will be broken. Without the continuous interactions between animals, humans and non-humans in the Salween basin, Indigenous knowledge will cease, and with it practices that have sustained the rich biodiversity we see today.
Secondly, dam-induced changes to the river’s rhythms, levels and nutrition will reduce the numbers and ranges of many sacred aquatic species that are strictly protected in the traditional management systems of the Salween, including the fish Nya Moo, Nya Ter Taw, and Nya Pla (Neolissochilus sp.). For instance, a reddish species of Nya P’tay is regarded as the king of all fish and killing them, we believe, will result in the extinction of fish species and water scarcity and drought. The Salween is home to a diversity of turtles greater than any other river in the world, and we regard a number of them as sacred.
Mainstream dams will also affect river-based sites considered sacred, such as the Thawthi Kho watershed area, threatening the effective protected status of waterbodies rich in biodiversity such as spring-fed pools, mud beds, waterfalls, rapids and islands. If these sacred natural sites run dry or flood in unusual ways, people will believe that the spirits may become angry and cause accidents and illness in nearby communities, or leave the river altogether, stripping these sites of protection.
Third, if our Salween is fragmented by dams, this will disrupt the flow, interconnection and relationship between all beings that depended on it. This upsets the balance in the river, which in turn upsets the balance between the river, humans and more-than-humans. It is the wholeness of the river – connecting beginning to end; past to present; humans to more-than-humans – that makes her the backbone of our belief systems. This gives her a sacred meaning as an indivisible living entity that supports our Indigenous cosmos.
Recognition and action for Indigenous ontologies
We draw hope from recent developments that have seen the central importance of free-flowing rivers in Indigenous ontologies being increasingly recognised, including by parties to the CBD. In 2017, New Zealand acknowledged the sacred status of the Whanganui River in Maori ontology by giving the river legal personhood. Through this act, New Zealand recognised the Whanganui as “an indivisible and living whole, comprising the Whanganui River from the mountains to the sea, incorporating its tributaries and all its physical and metaphysical elements”. New Zealand acknowledged “the enduring concept of Te Awa Tupua – the inseparability of the people and the River” thereby echoing the ancient Maori proverb: “The Great River flows from the mountains to the sea. I am the River and the River is me.”
According to the New Zealand attorney general in charge of the process, their most difficult challenge was getting the country’s European-descendant majority “to see the world through Maori eyes”. While rivers have since been recognised as living entities in CBD member countries such as Ecuador, Bangladesh and Canada, many other CBD members are still severing the flow of rivers sacred to Indigenous Peoples. In our own country, Myanmar, the military junta recently announced a fresh push to dam the Salween River.
Participants at the COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity should move beyond previous calls for ‘participation by’ and ‘consultation with’ Indigenous Peoples to recognise ontological diversity in order to safeguard biodiversity in Indigenous territories. To play an effective role in addressing the biodiversity crisis, we have to be able to sustain our own ‘Ecological Civilisation’.
Parties to the CBD should consider legislation that recognises legal personhood and rights of rivers considered sacred to Indigenous Peoples and incorporate Rights of Nature into the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Parties should also translate the Akwé: Kon Guidelines into their national laws so that these guidelines become more relevant. Through enabling more research into Indigenous ontologies and their spiritual relationship with rivers, the CBD Secretariat should help to foster a better understanding of who a river is in the ontology of Indigenous Peoples.
Above all, parties to the CBD should, in their effort to mainstream biodiversity in the energy sector, commit to excluding large-scale hydropower as an energy option for rivers such as the Salween which are sacred and culturally significant to Indigenous Peoples.
Banner image: Christophe95 – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0)
This article originally appeared in Building a Revolutionary Movement
By Adam H
This post looks at if it’s possible to have a coherent strategy for the emancipatory transformation of a complex social system, 5 anti-capitalist strategies and revolutionary strategy.
What does ‘emancipatory transformation of a complex social system’ mean? We currently live in a capitalist society or capitalist social system that is not equal, just, democratic or sustainable. Emancipatory means the struggle for political, economic or social rights or equality for disenfranchised groups or sections of society. So this post is focused on thinking about how we think about the route to ending the dominance of capitalism so we live in an alternative society that is equal, just, democratic and sustainable.
Revolutionary and anti-capitalist strategy is a huge topic that will take several posts to explore. This first post aims to start in the broadest way by considering if it’s possible to have a revolutionary and anti-capitalist strategy and reference a useful framework to help understand the different anti-capitalist strategic approaches.
Is it possible to have a coherent strategy for the emancipatory transformation of a complex social system?
In other words, is it possible to create a desirable social transformation (revolution) through deliberate, intentional action? Eric Olin Wright, sociologist and educator who specialised in egalitarian future alternatives to capitalism, explains that there are desirable objectives of social transformation that are not possible, either because they are not viable (won’t work) or because there is no way to get there. Wright describes how Frederick Hayek, the arch-conservative and key advocate of neoliberalism, believed that a social transformation strategy was a fantasy. This is due to the negative unintentional consequences of such a large social engineering project that would overwhelm the intended consequences. Concern for unintentional consequences is valid, and I agree with Wright when he says:
“It remains the case that capitalism is immensely destructive, obstructing the prospects for broad human flourishing. What we need is an understanding of anticapitalist strategies that avoids both the false optimism of wishful thinking and the disabling pessimism that emancipatory social transformation is beyond strategic reach.” 
Eric Olin Wright in “How to Be an Anti-capitalist in the 21st Century” describes five ‘strategic logics’: smashing capitalism, dismantling capitalism, taming capitalism, resisting capitalism, escaping capitalism. This framework is a useful starting point for thinking about anti-capitalist and revolutionary strategy. But it is simplistic and I explain where my thinking differs in the last section of this post.
This is the classic revolutionary strategy of seizing state power by force. I call this the vanguard Marxism.
Wright describes its rationale: The system is unreformable and all attempts to make life bearable will fail. Small reforms improve people’s lives when popular movements are strong but these gains are vulnerable to attack and reversible. It is an illusion that capitalism can become a benign social system so ordinary people can live meaningful happy lives. Capitalism needs to be destroyed and an alternative built. The progress of an emancipatory alternative society may be gradual but it requires a decisive rupture with the existing systems of power to get there.
Critiquing this theory, Wright asks how it’s possible for anti-capitalist forces to build enough power to destroy capitalism and replace it with an alternative. He explains that the power of the ruling classes blocks both reformist gains and revolutionary ruptures. He describes how those in the ‘smashing capitalism tradition’ argue that capitalism is a highly contradictory system that is prone to disruptions and crises, and sometimes these crises make capitalism vulnerable to a serious challenge. There is a further argument that these crises increase over time so in the long term capitalism is unsustainable and ‘destroys its own conditions of existence.’ The role of the revolutionary party is therefore to be ready for this situation and lead a mass movement to seize state power. The revolutionary party then works to ‘rapidly refashion the state itself to make it a suitable weapon of ruptual transformation,’ and also to repress the ruling class opposition and destroy their power structures to allow the new revolutionary state to build an alternative economic system.
Wright describes how this strategy was applied several times in the 20th century with some success, but never created a ‘democratic, egalitarian, emancipatory alternative to capitalism.’ This strategy gave people the hope and motivation to make great sacrifices in the pursuit of achieving such as a society, and material conditions were improved for a lot of people. Examples include Russia, China and Cuba. But, “it is one thing to burn down old institutions and social structures; it is quite another to build emancipatory new institutions from the ashes.”
He describes some of the reasons given for the failures of these revolutions: (1) history-specific unfavourable circumstances; (2) revolutions happened in economically backward societies surrounded by enemies; (3) strategic leadership errors; (4) leaders motivated by power and status rather than the well-being of the masses; (5) failure of these revolutions as being inherent to any attempt to radically rupture a social system – too many moving parts, too much complexity and too many unintended consequences.
This is a key point for me: “attempts at system-rupture will inevitably tend to unravel into such chaos that revolutionary elites, regardless of their motives, will be compelled to resort to pervasive violence and repression to sustain social order. Such violence, in turn, destroys the possibility for a genuinely democratic, participatory process of building a new society.” 
Wright is clear that he does not believe that ‘system-level ruptures’ work as a strategy for social emancipation.
Wright describes this as a transition to democratic socialism through state-directed reforms that gradually introduce socialism from above. He sees this strategy as having ‘revolutionary aspirations,’ because it seeks to replace capitalism with a different economic system: socialism. He explains that in this tradition there is no simple point of rupture when one system replaces the other. Instead, “there would be a gradual dismantling of capitalism and the building up of the alternative through the sustained action of the state.” 
Wright describes how this approach sees a period when capitalist and socialist relations will coexist, such as both private and state-run banks; private and state enterprises in transportation, utilities, health care and some heavy industry; capitalist labour markets and state employment; state-directed planning for investment decisions and private profit-driven investment.
Wright describes the necessary preconditions for this strategy to be possible. “First, a stable electoral democracy, and second, a broad, mass-based socialist party capable of winning elections and staying in power for a sufficiently long time that these new state-run economic structures could be robustly institutionalized. Of course, there would be opposition and resistance, but the belief was that these state-organized socialist economic institutions would demonstrate their value and thus be able to sustain popular support.” 
This strategy had significant support in the 20th century and following World War II, when several governments looked to be implementing this “mixed economy” approach. An example is Sweden. It did not succeed and Wright put this down to the ‘dynamism of capitalism,’ and to the right-wing ideological offensive against socialist ideas in many countries, which, from the 1970s “pushed the expansion of nationalization in mixed economies off the agenda.” He describes the “military overthrow of the democratically elected socialist government in Chile in 1973, along with other setbacks to efforts at democratic socialism, further eroding any belief that democratic elections could offer a reformist path to dismantling capitalism.” By the end of the twentieth century, neoliberalism and privatisation dominated the mainstream political agenda instead of nationalisation, even by large political parties thought to be on the left, such as New Labour in the UK.
This tradition sees capitalism as a “source of systemic harms in society,” but does not look to replace it. It wants to reduce and remove those harms. This was the main strategic approach of social-democratic reformist parties since World War II.
Wright describes that although this tradition identities the harms of capitalism, its response is to work on “building counteracting institutions capable of significantly neutralizing these harms.” This tradition does understand that to achieve this, there will need to be political struggles to reduce the power and control of the capitalist class, and that the capitalists will claim that these redistributions will undermine capitalism’s dynamism and incentives. These arguments are self-serving justifications for the privilege and power of the capitalists.
Wright describes two types of reforms: (1) those that stabilise capitalism (such as banking regulation to reduce system-disrupting, speculative risk-taking), and (2) anti-capitalist reforms that introduce egalitarian, democratic and solidaristic values and principles into how capitalism operates. He explains that these anti-capitalist reforms will also likely stabilise capitalism, and that is what makes them partially possible, but also result in the system working in a “less purely capitalist way.”
Wright describes three types of state policies which change the way capitalism operates to reduce the harms and increases egalitarian, democratic and solidaristic values and principles. Mostly these policies benefit capitalists but some benefit ordinary people:
- Reduce individual vulnerability to risks through publicly run and funded social insurance or a welfare state.
- The provision of public goods – such as basic and higher education, vocational skills training, public transportation, cultural and recreational facilities, research and development – paid for by re-distributional taxation.
- Use the State to develop a regulatory framework to reduce the most serious negative externalities caused by capitalist investors and companies, including regulation of pollution, product and workplace hazards, predatory market behaviour, and property and stock market volatility.
Wright states that during the “golden age of capitalism” in the 30 years after World War II, these policies were used to tame capitalism. Since the 1980s these gains have been rolled back under neoliberalism, leading to reduction of social insurance benefits, reduction in taxes and therefore social goods, deregulation of capitalist production and markets, and privatisation of many state services.
He describes the forces that have resulted in a reduction of the state’s ability to limit capitalism’s harms: “The globalization of capitalism has made it much easier for capitalist firms to move investment to places in the world with less regulation and cheaper labor. The threat of such movement of capital, along with a variety of technological and demographic changes, has fragmented and weakened the labor movement, making it less capable of resistance and political mobilizations. Combined with globalization, the financialization of capital has led to massive increases in wealth and income inequality, which in turn has increased the political leverage of opponents of the social democratic state. Instead of being tamed, capitalism has been unleashed.” 
Wright raises the question of whether the three decades of the golden age were perhaps a historical anomaly; “a brief period in which favourable structural conditions and robust popular power opened up the possibility for the relative egalitarian, social democratic model.” Before this period capitalism was rapacious, and it has become rapacious again under neoliberalism. He suggests that capitalism is not tamable. I certainly don’t think it is.
Wright concludes the section on taming capitalism with a thoughtful paragraph on how the limits of a state’s ability to raise taxes, regulate capitalism and redistribute wealth are based on people’s belief that globalisation imposes powerful constraints. But, he argues, it’s the willingness of voters to be taxed more that is the main factor, not if the capitalists move their capital to avoid taxation. The willingness of the electorate to be taxed depends on the general level of collective solidarity. He maintains that the “limits of possibility are always in part created by beliefs in those limits.” He explains that neoliberalism is an ideology backed by powerful political and economic forces and it is possible to break through the limits set by neoliberalism if there is collective will to do so. He argues that social democratic politics have become less effective and need rethinking, and that the political obstacles to their success are significant, but that it is still possible for the harm of capitalism to be reduced by state action.
Wright explains that ‘resisting capitalism’ could be a broad term for anti-capitalist struggles. Here, he is using it in a narrower sense to identify struggles to end capitalism from outside the state and parliamentary politics, and also that do not want to gain state power. This strategy is different from the previous three that were all aiming to gain and use state power.
This tradition aims to reduce the harms of capitalism by influencing the behaviour of capitalists and political elites through protest and campaigning: “We may not be able to transform capitalism, but we can defend ourselves from its harms by causing trouble, protesting and raising the cost to elites of their actions.” (p50) He lists some examples: “environmentalists protesting toxic dumps and environmentally destructive developments; consumer movements that organize boycotts of predatory corporations; activist lawyers who defend the rights of immigrants, the poor, and sexual minorities. It is also the basic strategic logic of unions that organize strikes for better pay and working conditions.” 
Wright sees resisting capitalism as the most common response to the harms caused by the capitalist system. It is based on civil society and the solidarities that exist in workplaces and the community. Different identities play a part in this approach including class, ethnicity, religion, race, gender, sexuality. Its most organised forms are social movements and trade unions. Even when unions are weak, workers can resist exploitation by withholding their maximum effort and diligence.
Wright explains that this may not have been developed into a systematic anti-capitalist ideology, but it does have a ‘coherent logic’, which is: Capitalism is too powerful to end. It is unrealistic that collective mass movements will form to dismantle or tame capitalism. The ruling class are too strong to remove and they always co-opt opposition and defend their privileges. Also, social systems are too large and complex to control. The best we can do is insulate ourselves from the worst harms. We may not be able to change the world but can escape the circuits of domination and build a micro-alternative to live better lives.
Wright lists some examples of groups attempting to escape capitalism: migration of poor farmers to the western frontier in the 19th century; utopian self-sufficiency communities in the 19th century; worker cooperatives that are managed collectively based on principles of democracy, solidarity, equality, working to avoid alienation and exploitation of capitalist firms; the hippies of the 1960s; religious communities such as the Amish. He also cites the family unit as a “non-competitive social space of reciprocity and caring in which one can find refuge from the heartless, competitive world of capitalism.”
Wright explains that escaping capitalism involves avoiding political engagement. For some, this is the ‘individualistic lifestyle strategy’, which can be contradictory if this lifestyle is funded by wealth that was gained from capitalist activities.
Intentional communities are a good example of a desire to escape capitalism, as well as being a model for more collective, egalitarian and democratic ways of living. In addition, worker cooperatives are an attempt to escape the oppressive nature of capitalist workplaces, and are a model of how an alternative economy to capitalism could operate so as to challenge the current capitalist economic system.
When I use the word ‘revolution’, I mean it in a broad way for the ending of capitalism and the creation of an alternative society – radical transformational system change. In the summary above of Wright’s description of the different anti-capitalist strategies, he labels ‘smashing capitalism’ and ‘dismantling capitalism’ as revolutionary. And I would agree.
The anti-capitalist strategy that Wright advocates is a combination of dismantling capitalism, taming capitalism, resisting capitalism and escaping capitalism. He calls it ‘eroding capitalism’ and I’ll describe this in more detail in a future post (reference). I agree with him on this and that we need both revolutionary and reformist approaches.
My understanding of Wright’s perspective is that he believed that we could end capitalism without a rupture. I don’t agree with this. I think we will need to fight for reforms to rebuild the power of the left but at some point, there will need to be a rupture, so that we would go from a mixed economy with socialist and capitalist institutions to one with only socialist/anarchist/communist ones and the end of private property. But at this dark point in history that we currently live, this is hard to imagine.
I don’t support the ‘smashing capitalism’ (vanguard Marxist) strategy for a few reasons. The main one is because although it has shown itself in history to be effective at ending capitalism, there are no examples of it creating egalitarian and democratic societies. In each case, it has involved a militant minority taking power and dominating the majority, and this can only result in repression. I have asked different people that advocate different versions of this strategy (Leninists, Trotskyists, Maoists, Stalinists), how to use this strategy and not end up with things turning repressive and sometimes totalitarian, but I have not got a clear answer. If you do have an answer, I’d love to hear from you.
There is a lot that needs to be unpacked for the ‘dismantling capitalism’ strategy. Wright states it would be a transition to democratic socialism through state-directed reforms that gradually introduce socialism from above and that it would require a broad, mass-based socialist party. Democratic socialism is a broad term which ranges in meaning between political parties led from the top like the Corbyn leadership, and those parties formed from grassroots movements such as Podemos in Spain. I’m not saying that Podemos is the exact model to follow but we can learn from this experiment and municipalist citizen platforms such as Barcelona en Comú. We have seen from the 20th century that big changes happen when the grassroots of labour unions become militant and make radical demands of union leaders and political parties. Social movements campaigning on specific issues have also made gains and reforms have been implemented.
This is an excellent constructive critique of Wrights ideas and then Wright’s response.
Two revolutionary strategies do not easily fit into Wright’s framework. The first is the council communism tradition of left communism. This Marxist strategy is based on the worker councils or soviets that formed in Russia during the 1917 Russian Revolution. It has elements of smashing capitalism, especially regarding the belief that there would need to be a clear rupture to end capitalism, but that this will be done from the bottom or grassroots, where different workplaces and community institutions are self-organised and working together in a federated governance structure. This worker control approach is anti-state and anti-parliamentary politics meaning that this tradition has elements of Wright’s ‘resisting capitalism’ strategy. Although this tradition does not seek state power, it does see ordinary people creating a federated system of self-government that would replace the state, so has elements of smashing capitalism and resisting capitalism.
The second revolutionary strategy that does not fit into Wright’s framework is anarcho-syndicalism, which has similarities to council communism. It aims to end capitalism, wage slavery and private property. A new society would be built without hierarchy, based on direct-democracy, workers’ self-management and an alternative co-operative economic system. This alternative society would replace the state with a federated structure of self-run workplaces and community institutions.
In future posts, I want to analyze how the left organises itself into social and political movements, by ideology and how groups operate in practice. Then look at the strategies these traditions follow. I also plan to summarise the different radical and revolutionary strategies that thinkers and writers on the left have proposed. After this I will start to explore the situation we find ourselves in and relate this to “Good Strategy Bad Strategy” by Richard Rumelt (read a summary here) and his three-part framework for developing a good strategy. There is:
- diagnosis, what is going on here;
- guiding policy – outlines an overall approach for overcoming the obstacles highlighted by the diagnosis;
- coherent action – this needs to be consistent and coordinated, and also requires making painful choices about what can be achieved with limited resources.
- How to Be an Anti-capitalist in the 21st Century, Eric Olin Wright, page 37-8
- How to Be an Anti-capitalist in the 21st Century, page 41
- How to Be an Anti-capitalist in the 21st Century, page 43
- How to Be an Anti-capitalist in the 21st Century, page 48
- How to Be an Anti-capitalist in the 21st Century, page 50
- How to Be an Anti-capitalist in the 21st Century, page 52
This article originally appeared in Common Dreams.
“This is the time to unite together to build the healthy and just future we know is possible for each other and the Earth.”
By JULIA CONLEY
As world leaders gathered in New York for the United Nations General Assembly Thursday and amid preparations for a global climate conference coming up in November, women leading more than 120 international organizations delivered a call to action demanding “a transformation of how we relate to the natural world and to one another”—one that will enable far-reaching action to save the planet.
“As the world prepares for one of the most important climate talks since the Paris Agreement, we know solutions exist to mitigate the worst impacts, and that women are leading the way.” —Osprey Orielle Lake, WECAN International
Led by Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network (WECAN) International, the organizations called on governments and financial institutions to commit to policies that prioritize “social, racial, and economic justice for all” as they work to keep the heating of the planet below 1.5C.
“We must rapidly halt the extraction of oil, gas, and coal and end all deforestation while building a new economy predicated on community-led solutions,” reads the call to action, which was signed by groups including MADRE, CodePink, and Women’s Earth Alliance.
“As we herald in sustainable, democratic, and equitable governance paradigms, we need to prioritize the leadership and well-being of women, gender non-conforming people, Black and Brown communities, and Indigenous peoples who are disproportionately impacted by climate change, but also lead the frontlines of systemic solutions,” the groups said.
The organizations also plan to present their demands at the 2021 U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in November, where leaders from nearly 200 countries will be under pressure to increase their ambitions to reduce emissions and uphold their existing obligations to frontline communities across the globe, particularly in the Global South.
“We are at a choice point for humanity,” said Osprey Orielle Lake, executive director of WECAN International. “Every day, we can see for ourselves forest fires burning all over the world, massive flooding, extreme droughts, people losing their livelihoods and lives—we are in a climate emergency. As the world prepares for one of the most important climate talks since the Paris Agreement, we know solutions exist to mitigate the worst impacts, and that women are leading the way.”
The call to action includes a number of steps recommended for governments as well as financial institutions, including:
- End fossil fuel expansion and rapidly accelerate a just transition to 100% renewable and regenerative energy;
- Promote women’s leadership and gender equity;
- Protect the rights of Indigenous people by upholding all treaties, and follow Indigenous communities’ traditional ecological knowledge;
- Protect forests and biodiversity with a global moratorium on logging and a phase-out of agricultural practices that cause soil erosion and depletion;
- Preserve oceans and freshwater;
- Promote food security and food sovereignty;
- Protect the rights of nature; and
- Halt the financing of all fossil fuel projects.
The call to action comes ahead of a six-day virtual forum organized by WECAN.
At the Global Women’s Assembly for Climate Justice, which begins Saturday, speakers will include scientist and conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall; Casey Camp-Horinek of the Ponca Nation, a WECAN board member and environmental ambassador; Ruth Nyambura of the African Ecofeminist Collective in Kenya; and Sônia Bone Guajajara of the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil.
“As a Matriarch of the Ponca Nation, I am honored to have the responsibility of caring for the generations to come by ensuring the health and welfare of Mother Earth, Father Sky, and Relatives in every form,” said Camp-Horinek. “Life itself hangs in the balance, and we women are coming together to say that we must make the correct choices for our collective future now.”
Events at the six-day forum will include discussions about protecting the planet’s forests, rejecting “greenwashing” by corporations, and supporting feminist frameworks for climate justice.
“We can act now and we must act now, which is why WECAN is hosting the Global Women’s Assembly for Climate Justice to uplift women, gender-diverse and community-led solutions, strategies, policies, and frameworks to address the climate crisis,” said Lake. “It is code red and we are drawing a red line to say no more sacrifice people and no more sacrifice zones. This is the time to unite together to build the healthy and just future we know is possible for each other and the Earth.”