One Does Not Hate When One Can Despise: On Donald Trump and How We Got Here

     by Derrick Jensen

When I find myself in times of trouble, I’m less interested in Mother Mary’s wisdom than I am in Joe Hill’s: Don’t mourn; organize.

There’s a sense in which Trump’s election is a surprise, similar to how we somehow seem to be continually surprised when easily predictable negative consequences of this way of life come to pass. So we’re surprised when bathing the world in insecticides somehow causes crashes in insect populations, when covering the world in endocrine disrupters somehow leads to the disruption of endocrine systems, when damming and dewatering rivers somehow kills the rivers, when murdering oceans somehow murders oceans, when colonialism somehow destroys the lives of the colonized, when capitalism somehow destroys communities and the natural word, when rape culture somehow leads to rape, and so on. And we’re surprised when a racist, woman-hating culture elects a racist man who hates women.

But there are also many senses in which the rise of Trump or someone very like him was entirely predictable.

An empire in decay leads to a desperate push to the fore of values manifested by Trump: woman-hatred, racism, the scapegoating of those who impede empire, and a willingness to do whatever it takes to maintain that empire, to “make America [Greece, Rome, Britain, China] great again.”

When those who have been able to exploit others with impunity find their way of life (and more to the point, the exploitation and entitlement upon which their way of life is based) crumbling, what do they do?

We’ve seen this before. Why did lynchings of African-Americans go up soon after the Civil War and the end of chattel slavery? Why did the KKK rise again in the 1910s and 1920s? What is the relationship between Germany’s economic collapse in the 1920s and the rise of Nazi fascism?

Nietzsche provides one answer: “One does not hate when one can despise.”

So long as one’s exploitation of others proceeds relatively smoothly, one can merely despise those one exploits (despise, from the root de-specere, meaning to look down upon). So long as I have unfettered access to the lives and labor of, say, African-Americans, everything is, from my perspective, A-Okay. But impinge in any way on my ability to exploit, and watch the lynchings begin. The same is true for my access to other so-called resources as well, whether these “resources” are “timber resources,” “fisheries resources,” cheap plastic crap from China, or sexual and reproductive access to women. So long as the rhetoric of superiority works to maintain the entitlement, hatred and direct physical force remain underground. But when that rhetoric begins to fail, force and hatred waits in the wings, ready to explode.

Oh, but we wouldn’t do that, would we? Well, what if someone told you that no matter how much you paid to purchase title to some piece of land, the land itself does not belong to you. No longer may you do whatever you wish with it. You may not cut the trees on it. You may not build on it. You may not run a bulldozer over it to put in a driveway. Would you get pissed? How if these outsiders took away your computer because the process of manufacturing the hard drive killed women in Thailand. They took your clothes because they were made in sweatshops, your meat because it was factory-farmed, your cheap vegetables because the agricorporations that provided them drove family farmers out of business, and your coffee because its production destroyed rain forests, decimated migratory songbird populations, and drove African, Asian, and South and Central American subsistence farmers off their land. They took your car because of global warming, and your wedding ring because mining exploits workers and destroys landscapes and communities. Imagine if you began losing all of these parts of your life that you have seen as fundamental. I’d imagine you’d be pretty pissed. Maybe you’d start to hate the assholes doing this to you, and maybe if enough other people who were pissed off had already formed an organization to fight these people who were trying to destroy your life—I could easily see you asking, “What do these people have against me anyway?”—maybe you’d even put on white robes and funny hats, and maybe you’d even get a little rough with a few of them, if that was what it took to stop them from destroying your way of life. Or maybe you would vote for anyone who promised to make your life great again, even if you didn’t really believe the promises.

The American Empire is failing. Real wages have been declining for decades, for the entire lifetime of most people living today in the U.S. Indeed if real wages peaked in 1973, the last of those who entered the workforce in a time of universally increasing expectations are retiring.  Sure, some sectors of the economy have done well, but what of those left behind? What of those whose livelihoods have been destroyed by a globalized economy, by the shifting of jobs to China, Vietnam, Bangladesh?

What happens to people in a time of declining expectations? What is the relationship between these declining expectations and the rise of fascism?

Two decades ago now a long-time activist said to me that Walmart and its cheap plastic crap was the only thing standing between the United States and a fascist revolution.

But cheap plastic crap can only put off fascism for so long.

There’s a difference between the ends of previous empires and the end of the current empire. That difference is global ecological collapse. Empires are always based not only on the exploitation of the poor but on the existence of new frontiers. Any expanding economy–and all empires are by definition expanding economies—need to continue expanding or collapse. America grew because there was always another ridge to cross with another forest to cut on the far side, always another river to dam, another school of fish to find and net. And the forests are gone. The rivers are gone. The fish are gone. The pyramid scheme upon which both civilization and more recently capitalism are based has reached its endgame.

And rather than honestly and effectively addressing the predicament into which not only we ourselves but the world has been pushed, it’s far easier to lie to ourselves and to each other. For some—and Democrats generally choose this lie—the lie can be that despite all evidence, capitalism need not be destructive of the poor and of the natural world, that the “invisible hand of Adam Smith” can, as Bill Clinton put it, “have a green thumb.” We just have to do capitalism nicely. And another lie—this one more favored by Republicans and manifested by Trump—is that the sources of our misery do not inhere in capitalism but rather come from Mexicans “stealing our jobs” and not remembering their proper place, from women no longer remembering their proper place, from African Americans no longer remembering their proper place. Their proper place of course being in service to us. And of course those damn environmentalists—“Enviro-Meddlers,” as some call them—are to blame for denying us access to that last one percent of old growth forest, that last one percent of fish. This lie blames anyone and anything other than the end of empire.

All of which brings us to the Democrats’ responsibility for Trump’s election. There has not been a time in my adult life—I’m 55—when Democrats have maintained more than the barest pretense of representing people over corporations. Through this time Democrats have functionally played good cop to the Republicans’ bad cop, as Democrats have betrayed constituency after constituency to serve the corporations that we all know really run the show. For generations now Democrats have known and taken for granted that those of us who care more for the earth or for justice or sanity than we do increased corporate control will not jump ship and support the often open fascists on “the other side of the aisle,” so these Democrats have calmly sidled further and further to the right.

Bad cop George Bush the First threatened to gut the Endangered Species Act. Once he had us good and scared, in came good cop Bill Clinton, who did far more harm to the natural world than Bush ever did by talking a good game while gutting the agencies tasked with overseeing the Act. Clinton, like any good cop in this farcical play, claimed to “feel our pain” as he rammed NAFTA down our throats.

What were we going to do? Vote for Bob Dole? Not bloody likely.

Obama made a big deal of delaying the Keystone XL as he pushed to build other pipeline after other pipeline, and as he opened up ever more areas to drilling. He pretended to “wage a war on coal” while expanding coal extraction for export.

What were we going to do? Vote for Mitt Romney?

For too long the primary and often sole argument Democrats have used in election after election is, “Vote for me. At least I’m not a Republican.” And as terrifying as I find Trump, Giuliani, Gingrich, Ryan, et al, this Democratic argument is not sustainable. Fool me five, six, seven, eight times, and maybe at long last I won’t get fooled again.

What we must finally realize is that the good cop act is, too, simply an act, and that neither the good cops nor the bad cops have ever had our interests at heart.

The primary function of Democrats and Republicans alike is to take care of business. The primary function is not to take care of communities. The primary function is not to take care of the planet. The primary function is to serve the interests of the owning class, by which I mean the owners of capital, the owners of society, the owners of the politicians.

We have seen over the last couple of generations a consistent ratcheting of American politics to the right, until by now our political choices have been reduced to on the one hand a moderately conservative Republican calling herself a Democrat, and on the other a strutting fascist calling himself a Republican. If we define “left” as being at minimum against capitalism, there is no functional left in this country.

For all of these reasons the election of Trump is no surprise.

But there’s another reason, too. The US is profoundly and functionally racist and woman-hating, nature hating, poor hating, and based on exploiting humans and nonhumans the world over. So why should it surprise us when someone who manifests these values is elected? He is not the first. Andrew Jackson anyone?

If that activist was right so many years ago, that cheap plastic crap from Walmart was the only thing standing between us and fascist revolution (and of course this cheap plastic crap merely pushed this social and natural destructiveness elsewhere) then he had to know also that cheap plastic crap is not a long term bulwark against fascism. It can only keep those chickens at bay for so long before they come home to roost.

The good cop/bad cop game is a classic tool used by abusers. You can do what I say, or I can beat you. You can sell me your cotton for 50 cents on the dollar, or I can hang you on a tree next to the last black man who refused my offer. Germans offered Jews the choices of different colored ID cards, and many Jews spent a lot of energy trying to figure out which color was better. But the whole point was to keep them busy while convincing them they held some responsibility for their own victimization.

I’ve long been guided by the words of Meir Berliner, who died fighting the SS at Treblinka, “When the oppressors give me two choices, I always take the third.”

By choosing the third I don’t mean simply choosing a third party candidate and perceiving yourself as pure and above the fray, as capitalism still continues to kill the planet.

I mean recognizing the truths about this whole exploitative, unsustainable, racist, woman-hating system. Recognizing that the function of politicians in a capitalist system is to act very much like human beings as they enact what is good for capital, as they facilitate, rationalize, put in place, and enforce a socio-pathological system. Recognizing that capital—including the functionaries of capitalism called “politicians”—will not act in opposition to capital because it is the right thing to do. These functionaries will not act in opposition to capital because we ask nicely. They will not act in opposition to capital because capitalism impoverishes the poor worldwide. They will not act in opposition to capital because capitalism is killing the planet. They will not act in opposition to capital. Period.

The power they wield, and the way they wield it, is not a mistake. It is what capitalism does.

Which brings us to Joe Hill. Don’t simply complain about Trump. Don’t simply throw up your hands in despair. Don’t fall into the magical thinking that the good cops would, if just unhindered by those bad cops, do the right thing or act in your best interests. Don’t fall into the magical thinking that capitalists will act other than they do. And certainly don’t take for granted that somehow magically we and the world will get out of this predicament, that somehow magically an anti-capitalist movement will spontaneously generate, or an anti-racist movement, a pro-woman movement, a movement to stop this culture from killing the planet. These movements emerge only through organized struggle. And someone has to do the organizing. Someone has to do the struggling. And it has to be you, and it has to be me.

A doctor friend of mine always says that the first step toward cure is proper diagnosis. Diagnose the problems, and then you become the cure.

You make it right.

So what I want you to do in response to the election of Donald Trump is to get off your butt and start working for the sort of world you want. Don’t mourn the election of Trump, organize to resist his reign, and organize to destroy the stranglehold that the Capitalist Party has over political processes, the stranglehold that capitalists and racists and woman-haters have over the planet and over all of our lives.

For more of Derrick Jensen’s analysis of racism, hatred, and the violence of civilization, see his book The Culture of Make Believe

Lawsuit Targets Trump’s Slashing of Protections at Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante

     by Center for Biological Diversity

WASHINGTON —Hours after President Donald Trump issued a proclamation taking an axe to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, conservation organizations today filed a lawsuit attacking the order as an abuse of the president’s power. Earthjustice is representing eight organizations in a suit charging that the president violated the 1906 Antiquities Act by stripping monument protections from this national treasure: The Wilderness Society, the Grand Canyon Trust, the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Natural Resources Defense Council are co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit and represented by in-house counsel.

“President Trump has perpetrated a terrible violation of America’s public lands and heritage by going after this dinosaur treasure trove,” said Heidi McIntosh, managing attorney in Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountains office. “While past presidents have used the Antiquities Act to protect unique lands and cultural sites in America, Trump is instead mangling the law, opening this national monument to coal mining instead of protecting its scientific, historic, and wild heritage. We will not let this stand. We will use the power of the law to stop Trump’s illegal actions.”

The Grand Staircase-Escalante contains dinosaur fossils found nowhere else in the world. Since its designation, 21 new dinosaur species have been unearthed by scientists in the monument, leading some to call these lands a “Dinosaur Shangri-la,” and a “geologic wonderland.” Grand Staircase holds one of the richest collections of fossils from the Late Cretaceous Period, which gives scientists and the public alike an unparalleled window into the dinosaurs that lived in these lands 10 million years ago. In mid-October, scientists airlifted one of the most complete tyrannosaur skeletons ever found out of Grand Staircase. These fossils are largely found in the Kaiparowits Plateau, where the coal industry has long coveted access for coal mining that would wreak havoc on this dinosaur treasure trove that belongs to the American people.

“I’m a resident of Kanab, and there are a lot of local businesses that are completely dependent on tourism related to Grand Staircase-Escalante,” said Laura Welp of Western Watersheds Project, and a former BLM botanist at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. “The entire ‘staircase’ of spectacular geological layers, with its world-class fossil resources, deserves to be protected intact from the threat of coal mining and other types of commercial exploitation.”

President Trump’s executive order to revoke and replace Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument came on the heels of a review conducted by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Over 2.7 million Americans voiced their support for national monuments across the country, and public participation in the comment period was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping these public lands and waters protected just as they are.

“President Trump is attempting an unauthorized remodel of the Grand Staircase, knocking out not only geologic steps but cornerstones of the evolution of species, human history, and our cultural heritage as well,” said Tim Peterson, Utah Wildlands program director with the Grand Canyon Trust. “We’ve spent 20 years working to preserve Grand Staircase, and now we’re asking the courts to help us reconstruct what was torn down today.”

“The Trump administration’s effort to sell out our public lands is deeply unpopular and goes against American values,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “We will work to ensure our lands and waters remain open to the public and protected for future generations to explore and enjoy.”

“For more than two decades, through Democratic and Republican Administrations alike, we have worked with the BLM, paleontologists, local landowners, ranchers and business owners to ensure the monument’s resources are protected,” said Nada Culver, senior counsel for The Wilderness Society. “This unlawful, short-sighted action by President Trump is an affront to that collaborative work happening and to the benefits the monument provides to research, the local economy, and all Americans.”

“Despite the call for public comments, Trump never cared that we, the public, wanted him to keep his hands off our monuments,” said Chris Krupp, public earth guardian at WildEarth Guardians. “He’s not concerned with those of us that camp, hike, fish and hunt. He’d rather give another handout to oil, gas and coal companies.”

President Bill Clinton protected the lands of Grand Staircase as a national monument on Sept. 18, 1996 using the Antiquities Act, a century-old law that has been used by 16 presidents since Theodore Roosevelt to protect some of our nation’s most cherished landscapes and cultural heritage. Congress enacted the law in 1906, granting presidents the authority to create national monuments on federal lands to protect significant natural, cultural, historic or scientific features. The Antiquities Act does not, however, grant presidents the authority to diminish or rescind the monument designations of their predecessors.

“Grand Staircase is a cradle of biodiversity and losing even an acre would be a crime,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Scientists have identified nearly four dozen new species of butterflies here. We must protect this monument’s wildlife, stunning landscapes and cultural treasures for future generations. Trump and the fossil-fuel industry have picked the wrong battle.”

“If the Trump administration thinks Grand Staircase-Escalante can be sold out without a fight, they’re in for a huge surprise,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. “We’ll be seeing them in court.”

“The Trump administration has ignored overwhelming support for the monument. It’s a punch in the face to local businesses who support it, and all of us who treasure it,” said Shelley Silbert, executive director of Great Old Broads for Wilderness. “Our organization got its start in the Escalante Canyons nearly three decades ago and we’ve worked tirelessly for proper management of the national monument since its designation. We will fight this illegal action to take any portion of this monument away from the American people.”

“Americans from across the nation should be outraged by President Trump’s unlawful attempt to eviscerate the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, one of our country’s wildest and most scientifically significant federal public landscapes,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Utah’s largest conservation organization. “No one will look back on this decision in 15, 25 or 50 years and say Trump did the right thing by protecting less of this magnificent place. And by promoting this illegal act, Utah’s parochial congressional delegation and local politicians have firmly come down on the wrong side of history.”

After President Clinton designated Grand Staircase, an intricate land swap between the state and federal government was completed. Congress passed legislation modifying the monument’s boundaries in 1998 and then approved a land swap in which the state of Utah received 145,000 acres of mineral-rich federal lands and $50 million from the federal treasury. That $50 million has since gone to support Utah’s public schools, and the swap would be incredibly difficult to unravel. The Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration established the Land Exchange Distribution Account to dole out the proceeds from these state-federal trades. At least 27 Utah counties have since received a total of $441 million.

Grand Staircase-Escalante has proven a tourism and economic boon for Southern Utah since its designation. Between 2001 and 2015, the population in the two counties bordering Grand Staircase grew by 13 percent, jobs increased 24 percent and real personal income grew 32 percent. Travel and tourism boomed in the region, offering 1,630 jobs around Grand Staircase. In the big picture, recreation from adventure-seekers, hikers, amateur geologists and families simply getting outdoors now funnels more than $12 billion into Utah’s economy.

Trump’s Populist Deceit

Trump’s Populist Deceit

     by  / Local Futures

While misogyny, racism, and ethnic taunts were conspicuous signposts on Donald Trump’s path to the White House, much of that road was paved with “populist”, “anti-establishment” and “anti-globalization” rhetoric. Trump’s inaugural address featured numerous populist lines (e.g. “What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people”), attacks on the status quo (“The establishment protected itself, not the citizens of our country”), and barbs aimed at globalization (“One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind.”)

Are these themes accurate predictors of how Mr. Trump and his administration will govern for the next four years?

Hardly. Long before the election, it was widely pointed out that the populist platitudes issuing from the silver-spooned mouth of a billionaire plutocrat represented little more than elite hucksterism. [1] Of course, post-election, the band of fellow billionaire corporate rascals and knaves Trump assembled for his cabinet and close advisors should have put an end to this fatuous ‘anti-establishment’, ‘populist’ charade once and for all. As one observer noted, “Trump’s cabinet has begun to resemble a kind of cross between the Fortune 500 rich list, a financier’s reunion party and a military junta.” [2]

What about Trump as an ‘anti-globalization’ crusader? Apart from the inconvenient fact that his own loot was built upon global outsourcing and the exploitation of cheap labor abroad for which ‘globalization’ is shorthand, the fact is that a “former Chamber [of Commerce] lobbyist who has publicly defended NAFTA and outsourcing more generally was appointed to Trump’s transition team dealing with trade policy.” [3] Did anyone really buy the notion that the swaddled child of corporate globalization had morphed into a working-class hero battling the ravages of that same globalization?

Some of Trump’s voters were undoubtedly among those who have been economically marginalized by globalization and wealth inequality – the common folk on whose behalf populism historically emerged. No doubt some allowed Trump’s populist, anti-globalization legerdemain to blind them to his scapegoating of fellow displaced working-class victims of globalization – aka immigrants from non-European countries. That these constituted the majority of his voters, however, is questionable. As Jeet Heer argued convincingly back in August,

“Rather than a populist, Trump is the voice of aggrieved privilege—of those who already are doing well but feel threatened by social change from below, whether in the form of Hispanic immigrants or uppity women. … Far from being a defender of the little people against the elites, Trump plays to the anxiety of those who fear that their status is being challenged by people they regard as their social inferiors.” [4]

In other words, Donald Trump is no populist, but an “authoritarian bigot”[5], and his election represents the victory of the rich – and a victory for corporate globalization. He is “not an outlier, but instead the essence of unrestrained capitalism.” [6] (To be clear, this should in no way be read as an implicit endorsement of the neoliberal Democratic Party, whose economic and trade policies are largely pro-corporate as well.)

To see Trump as an anti-globalization crusader is to misunderstand one of the main structural features of globalization itself: the concentration of wealth by fewer and fewer corporations and the consequent widening of the gulf between rich and poor. According to a recent report, [7] here are some relevant trends from 1980 to 2013 – roughly the period of hyper globalization:

  • Corporate net profits increased about 70 percent;
  • Three-quarters of this increase went to the largest corporations (those with over $1 billion in annual sales);
  • Just 10 percent of publicly listed companies account for 80 percent of corporate profits; the top quintile earns 90 percent;
  • Two-thirds of 2013 global profits were captured by corporations from rich, industrialized countries;
  • During this period in these same “rich countries”, labor’s share of national income has plummeted. Needless to say, labor in poorer countries has not fared better – indeed, exploitation of labor’s “cheapness” in the poorer countries is the sine qua non of this spasm of corporate profits.

As Martin Hart-Landsberg explains in his summary of the report, “the rise in corporate profits has been largely underpinned by a globalization process that has shifted industrial production to lower wage third world countries, especially China; undermined wages and working conditions by pitting workers from different communities and countries against each other; and pressured core country governments to dramatically lower corporate taxes, reduce business regulations, privatize public assets and services, and slash public spending on social programs.” [8]

This strategy has not “helped lift hundreds of millions to escape poverty over the past few decades”, as is repeatedly, unquestioningly claimed in the mainstream media. [9] As scholar Jason Hickel has shown, such a claim rests on propagandistic World Bank-sponsored poverty statistics; if poverty were to be measured more accurately, “We would see that about 4.2 billion people live in poverty today. That’s more than four times what the World Bank would have us believe, and more than 60% of humanity. And the number has risen sharply since 1980, with nearly 1 billion people added to the ranks of the poor over the past 35 years.” [10]

Additionally, inequality has reached nauseating heights: the latest analysis by Oxfam shows that “Eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity.” [11] Globalization – an abbreviated way of describing the worldwide evisceration of regulations hampering corporate profits and the institutionalization of those that enhance them – is an engine of extreme inequality and corporate power, within and between countries, full stop. It is not cosmopolitanism, humanism, global solidarity, multicultural understanding and tolerance, or any of the other noble liberal virtues claimed for it by its votaries. In fact, while a ‘borderless’ world was seen as the pinnacle of the globalization project, physical barriers at the world’s borders have actually increased by nearly 50 percent since 2000 [12] – with the US, India and Israel alone building an astounding 5,700 km of barriers. [13]

Widespread hostility towards globalization by the working class in ‘rich countries’ is understandable and justified. The problem is that this animosity is being misdirected against fellow working-class victims of corporate profiteering (“immigrants”, “the Chinese”), and not against the banks and corporations that are the source of working-class misery. This is the strange creature called ‘right-wing anti-globalization’, or, ‘right-wing populism’ – concepts that seem rather contradictory insofar as right-wing politics is about defending and strengthening status quo arrangements of power, privilege and hierarchy. Anti-globalization, on the other hand, is about challenging the gross inequality and injustice of the status quo; and populism – historically at least – is supposed to be about advancing the interests of common people and creating a more egalitarian society. [14]

Nonetheless, it is common in the mainstream media for ‘anti-globalization’ to appear on the ugly right-wing and reactionary side of a simplified binary ledger of political ideologies. It is listed, almost automatically, alongside such distasteful qualities as “inward-looking” and “anti-immigrant”, while the opposite side is ascribed noble qualities like “tolerance” and “solidarity”. This is merely a recycling of the popular (and very much corporate-sponsored) notion of globalization-as-humanizing-global-village. This Thomas Friedman-esque framing works to deflate the would-be critic of corporate globalization by threatening to tar her by association with reactionaries and xenophobes.

To accede to this binary framing would be a grave error, since it further empowers the existing system of corporate exploitation and wealth concentration. However, because there is undeniably an element of the anti-immigrant, xenophobic right that is also – at least rhetorically – anti-globalization, it is absolutely essential for the left to articulate in the clearest terms possible an anti-globalization stance rooted in international solidarity, intercultural openness and exchange, environmental justice, pluralism, fraternity, solidarity, and love, and to continually expose the fact that globalization is intolerant of differences in its relentless dissemination of a global consumer monoculture. In other words, the right should not be allowed to hijack the anti-globalization discourse, and contaminate and confuse it with racist, anti-immigrant sentiment, nor let localization – the best alternative to globalization – become equated with nativism, nationalism, xenophobia etc. It is unfortunate that we have to do this, since peoples’ movements against globalization and for decentralization/re-localization have already clearly drawn this distinction, indeed emerged in large measure in opposition to global injustice. But do it we must, since the corporate media is happily using the rise of the right-wing to discredit the spirited, leftist opposition to globalization that has stalled such corporate power grabs as TPP, CETA, and TTIP.

Should the left make common cause with those on the right when it comes to opposing globalization, irrespective of our profound opposition to the rest of the rightist agenda? Can we hold our noses and engage with this strange bedfellow to slay our ‘common’ foe, globalization? I do not think so. Not only is right-wing anti-globalization based on a deeply flawed and internally incoherent analysis, more importantly the political expediency of the implicit message – “as long as you join us in opposing corporate free trade treaties, your xenophobia, racism et al. can be temporarily ignored and tacitly tolerated” – is noxious and inexcusable.

Fortunately, a number of writers and activists have already been busy on the critical project of framing an inclusive anti-globalization stance. Chris Smaje, agrarian and writer of the Small Farm Future blog in the UK has spelled out a vision of “left agrarian populism” that is genuinely anti-establishment and pro-people (all people), is based on and strengthens local economies, and is fiercely internationalist. [15] Localist and internationalist? Yes. Localization of economic activity is, perhaps counter-intuitively, supportive of greater global collaboration, understanding, compassion and intellectual-cultural exchange, while corporate-controlled economic globalization has hardened, and even produced, cultural/national friction and competition.

Political theorist Chantal Mouffe has similarly acknowledged the right-wing hijacking of legitimate political discontentment against corporate elitism across Europe, the answer to which, she says, must involve “the construction of another people, promoting a progressive populist movement that is receptive to those democratic aspirations and orients them toward a defense of equality and social justice. Conceived in a progressive way, populism, far from being a perversion of democracy, constitutes the most adequate political force to recover it and expand it in today’s Europe.” [16]

Degrowth scholar-activists Francois Schneider and Filka Sekulova have, in line with Smaje’s left-green localism-populism, articulated the important concept of ‘open-localism’ or ‘cosmopolitan localism’.  “Open-localism”, they write, “does not create borders, and cherishes diversity locally. It implies reducing the distance between consumer and producers … being sensitive to what we can see and feel, while being cosmopolitan”. [17] These visions, and many other related ones, provide an important foundation for social justice and environmental activists to build upon in boldly reclaiming the anti-globalization narrative and resistance in these difficult times.

Alex Jensen is Project Coordinator at Local Futures/International Society for Ecology and Culture. He has worked in the US and India, where he co-ordinated Local Futures’ Ladakh Project from 2004-2015. He has also been an associate of the Sambhaavnaa Institute of Public Policy and Politics in Himachal Pradesh, India. He has worked with cultural affirmation and agro-biodiversity projects in campesino communities in a number of countries, and is active in environmental health/anti-toxics work.


[1] See for example Naureckas, Jim, “Hey NYT – the ‘Relentless Populist’ Relented Long Ago”, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, January 22, 2017; Lynch, Conor, “Don’t be fooled: Trump’s populist economic rhetoric is a fraud”, Salon, July 9, 2016; Paarlberg, Michael, “Donald Trump is a pretend populist – just look at his economic policy”, The Guardian, August 10, 2016.

[2] Warner, J. (2016) “Donald Trump’s cabinet of oil men and generals is just what’s needed to get US out of its rut “, The Telegraph, December 16, 2016.

[3] Hart-Landsberg, M. (2016) ‘Confronting Capitalist Globalization’, Reports from the Economic Front.

[4] Heer, J. (2016) ‘Donald Trump Is Not a Populist. He’s the Voice of Aggrieved Privilege’, New Republic, 24 August.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Cuadros, A. (2016) ‘The Other Buffett Rule; or why better billionaires will never save us’, The Baffler, No. 33.

[7] McKinsey Global Institute (2015). “Playing to Win: the new global competition for corporate profits”, September 2015.

[8] Hart-Landsberg, M. (2016) ‘The Trump Victory’, Reports from the Economic Front, 18 November, 2016.

[9] See for example Pylas, P. and Keaten, J. (2017) ‘Will Trump end globalization? The doubt haunts Davos’ elite‘, Associated Press, January 20, 2017.

[10] Hickel, J. (2015) “Could you live on $1.90 a day? That’s the international poverty line”, The Guardian, November 1, 2015.

[11] Oxfam (2017) ‘Just 8 men own same wealth as half of humanity’, Oxfam International Press Release, 16 January, 2017.

[12] Harper’s Index, ‘Percentage by which the number of international borders with barriers has increased since 2014: 48’, Harper’s Magazine, January 2017.

[13] Jones, R. (2012) Border Walls: Security and the War on Terror in the United States, India and Israel, London: Zed Books.

[14] cf. Heer 2016, op.cit.

[15] Smaje, C. (2016) ‘Why I’m still a populist despite Donald Trump: elements of a left agrarian populism’, Small Farm Future, 17 November.

[16] Mouffe, C. (2016) ‘The populist moment’, Open Democracy, 21 November.

[17] Schneider, F. and Sekulova, F. (2014) ‘Open-localism’, paper presented at the 2014 International Conference on Degrowth, Leipzig, Germany.

The Arizona Tribe That Knows How to Stop a Trump Wall

The Arizona Tribe That Knows How to Stop a Trump Wall

     by Tristan Ahtone / Yes Magazine

President-elect Donald Trump says that he will build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. It will stop undocumented immigrants from entering the country. It will stop drugs from entering the country. It will be 50 feet tall. It will be nearly a thousand miles long. And it will cut the traditional lands of the Tohono O’odham Nation of Arizona in half.

The Tohono O’odham reservation is one of the largest in the nation, and occupies area that includes 76 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. However, the tribe’s traditional lands extend deep into Mexico, and tribal members live on both sides of the border: With tribal identification, they cross regularly to visit family, receive medical services, and participate in ceremonial or religious services.

The prospect of slicing their homelands in two? Not welcome.

“Over my dead body will a wall be built,” says Verlon Jose, vice chairperson of the Tohono O’odham Nation. “If he decides to build a wall, he’s going to need to come talk to us, unless he wants to see another Standing Rock.”

In other words, to build the wall, Mr. Trump will have to fight for every single mile of Tohono O’odham land—legally, and possibly even physically.

And they’re not the only tribal nation that would be impacted by the wall.

Robert Holden, deputy director of the National Congress of American Indians, points to the Ysleta Del Sur in Texas and tribes in California, such as the Kumeyaay, who have relatives in Mexico. “There’s significant tribal sovereignty at stake here,” Holden says.

Currently, a vehicle barrier on Tohono O’odham land separates Mexico from the United States. It’s stopped cars and trucks from crashing across the border but hasn’t significantly curbed illegal activities in the area.

The nation sits inside what the Department of Homeland Security calls the Tucson Sector—262 miles of border stretching from New Mexico almost entirely across Arizona, and one of the busiest areas for illegal border activity in the U.S. In 2015, more than 60,000 pounds of marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin were seized by Tucson Border Patrol. According to officials, that same year, Border Patrol handled more than 2,100 drug cases, and some 680 smuggling cases were prosecuted out of the Tucson Sector.

But despite the statistics, the Tohono O’odham have resisted more intrusive physical barriers within their territory.

“The people of the Tohono O’odham Nation have always been against a wall,” says Jose. In the 1990s, he adds, federal agencies discussed a wall or some other additional security barrier, but the tribe resisted, and the plan was dropped.

In order to deal with criminal activities in the area, the nation has opted to work with the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as Border Patrol. For instance, the Shadow Wolves—a Tohono O’odham tactical patrol unit—have worked with DHS since the early 2000s and are responsible for seizing thousands of pounds of illegal drugs and for hundreds of arrests on the reservation. And tribal law enforcement has worked closely with federal authorities as well as tribal communities to maintain a semblance of safety and order.

This doesn’t mean things are peachy down on the Tohono O’odham reservation, though: Tribal members say they are routinely harassed by Border Patrol; cultural and religious items are frequently confiscated; and detentions and deportations of tribal citizens are not uncommon. In 2014, two tribal members were hospitalized after being shot by a Border Patrol agent. The situation has often been compared to a Berlin Wall-like scenario, but the tribe has fought for and maintained the ability to enjoy its traditional homelands—at least more than if a wall were running through the middle of it.

“Let me come into your home and build a wall directly in the middle of your house and tell me what impacts that would have on you?” says Jose. “This land is our grocery store; this land is our medical facility, where we get our medicinal remedies from; this land is our college and university. Our sacred sites are in Mexico; our ceremonies are in what is now Mexico. The border is an imaginary line to us.”

Border Patrol officials declined to comment on the proposed wall or how the agency has worked with the Tohono O’odham in the past.

“Beyond the practical difficulties of building and maintaining such a wall, it really would undermine a lot of cooperative agreements that law enforcement rely on to police that border,” says Melissa Tatum, a law professor at the University of Arizona. “If they’re not cooperating with the Tohono O’odham that help to secure the border, it creates incentives to have more resistance.”

In the short term, when it comes to securing the border, there are no easy answers or solutions. But when it comes to working with tribal nations on the issue, in the eyes of the Tohono O’odham, Trump’s proposed wall represents either gross ignorance or blatant disregard for tribal sovereignty. And if construction begins, it could signal the winding back of clocks on U.S.-tribal relations on the border.

“I can’t even imagine how far it would set us back,” says Tatum. “More than a hundred years.”

Tristan Ahtone wrote this article for YES! Magazine. Tristan is a journalist and member of the Kiowa tribe of Oklahoma. His work has appeared on and in PBS NewsHour, National Native News, Frontline, Wyoming Public Radio, Vice, Fronteras Desk, NPR, and Al Jazeera America. 

This article has been re-published Deep Green Resistance News Service under a Creative Commons License.

Ecosabotage: A Heroic Action Against Ecocide

Ecosabotage: A Heroic Action Against Ecocide

Editor’s Note: The mainstream environmental movement has failed to save the natural world. A baby step in the right direction has been counterbalanced by a giant leap against Earth. DGR has been speaking up for sabotage of key infrastructures for the past decade. Now, more and more individuals and groups are waking up to the asymmetrical nature of our struggles and to the necessity to use any means that we can. The following piece from Truthout argues that ecosabotage of gas and oil pipelines has become a heroic action to save the planet.

By David Klein/Truthout

The environmental movement has offered waves of demonstrations, petition drives, lobbying and other forms of protest. Yet, despite all that, Earth and its inhabitants are losing the war waged against us by capitalism. It follows that a reevaluation of strategy and tactics of the environmental movement is in order, including a closer examination of how nonviolence should be understood and practiced.

Consider first the current trajectory of global greenhouse gas emissions. Concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, the three main greenhouse gases, continue to rise setting new records each year. Earth’s atmosphere now has carbon concentrations not encountered since 15 million years ago, about the time our ancestors became recognizably hominoid.

Alas, more is on the way. According to the International Monetary Fund: “Globally, fossil fuel subsidies were $5.9 trillion in 2020 or about 6.8 percent of GDP and are expected to rise to 7.4 percent of GDP in 2025.” Moreover, global direct subsidies nearly doubled in 2021, and to facilitate fossil fuel transport, more than 24,000 kilometers of new oil pipelines are under development around the world.

While it is true that renewable energy systems are also expanding worldwide at a rapid pace, solar panels, wind turbines and the like neither help nor harm the climate. What matters for the climate are greenhouse gas concentrations, and, as noted above, those are on the rise. By its very nature, capitalism expands in all profitable directions, and fossil fuels continue to be profitable.

In this context, we need to ask ourselves whether the destruction of planet-killing machinery is necessarily an act of violence. The answer should be no, because it prevents violence against nature. But, as a whole, the environmental movement’s dedication to the strict avoidance of property destruction is extreme in comparison to virtually all other social justice movements.

As Andreas Malm ironically writes about the movement in his book, How to Blow Up a Pipeline “admittedly, violence occurred in the struggle against slavery, against male monopoly on the vote, against British and other colonial occupations, against apartheid, against the poll tax, but the struggle against fossil fuels is of a wholly different character and will succeed only on the condition of utter peacefulness.” Has nonviolence, even against the machinery of planetary ecocide, devolved from a tactic to a fetish?

The Example of Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya

Consider the case of Jessica Reznicek and Ruby Montoya. In the summer of 2016, Jessica Reznicek, then a 35-year-old spiritual activist following the tradition of the Catholic Worker and the Plowshares movements, and Ruby Montoya, a 27-year-old former preschool teacher and Catholic Worker, carried out multiple acts of sabotage against pipelines and machinery used in the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock.

During the night Donald Trump was elected president, the two women trespassed onto the construction site of Energy Transfer, the conglomerate of companies behind the pipeline, and burned down five pieces of heavy machinery. Thereafter they learned how to use welding torches to destroy valves on steel pipes, and during the year 2017 managed to sabotage pipelines up and down the state of Iowa. They also successfully continued their arson attacks against the heavy machinery used in the construction of the pipeline. Both took great care to make sure that no people were ever harmed by their actions, and their campaign of sabotage was not precipitous. In a press release just after their arrests in 2017, Reznicek and Montoya wrote:

After having explored and exhausted all avenues of process, including attending public commentary hearings, gathering signatures for valid requests for Environmental Impact Statements, participating in Civil Disobedience, hunger strikes, marches and rallies, boycotts and encampments, we saw the clear deficiencies of our government to hear the people’s demands.

Instead, the courts and public officials allowed these corporations to steal permissions from landowners and brutalize the land, water, and people. Our conclusion is that the system is broken and it is up to us as individuals to take peaceful action and remedy it, and this we did, out of necessity…

If there are any regrets, it is that we did not act enough.

Please support and stand with us in this journey because we all need this pipeline stopped.

Water is Life, oil is death.

Both women had previously locked themselves to backhoes and had been arrested several times for nonviolent civil disobedience, but with little impact. By way of contrast, the organization Stop Fossil Fuels described Reznicek and Montoya’s eco-sabotage as “1000 times more efficient than the above ground campaigns,” resulting in a two-month delay of the pipeline completion, from their solo actions alone. Their destruction of heavy machinery and steel pipes was impressively effective, but their protection of Earth’s biosphere came at a high cost.

Following one of the most aggressive prosecutions of environmentalists in U.S. history, Reznicek and Montoya each faced a maximum of 110 years in prison. After accepting plea agreements, Reznicek expected to get four years, but Judge Rebecca Ebinger added a terrorism enhancement to her sentence which doubled her time in prison to eight years. Subsequently, Montoya was given a terrorism enhancement by the same judge resulting in a sentence of six years. Each has been ordered to pay $3.2 million in restitution.

The severity of the sentences given to Reznicek and Montoya may be contrasted with sentences meted out to January 6, 2021, attackers of the U.S. Capitol. During the January 6 attack, defendant David Judd launched a lit object into a tunnel full of police and others in order to clear a path so that the mob could stop the transfer of power from Trump to Joe Biden. The judge, Trevor McFadden, sentenced Judd to 32 months, barely over a third of what prosecutors had requested, and declined to add a terrorism enhancement requested by prosecutors.

Another January 6 attacker, Guy Reffitt, was shown in court to have “carried a firearm, was a member of a right wing militia group and threatened a witness afterward.” The Judge, Dabney Freidrich, rejected a terrorism enhancement and sentenced Reffitt to 7.25 years, less time than Reznicek’s sentence.

Based on the decisions of the three federal judges involved in these cases, one may conclude that the U.S. legal system considers defending Earth in the manner of the Plowshares Movement as terrorism, whereas attempting to overthrow the U.S. government via a right-wing coup is not. This conclusion is reinforced by the recent charges of domestic terrorism of 42 forest defenders in Atlanta. Even legendary environmental activist Erin Brockovich has been linked to terrorist threats by Ohio police. The real purpose of lengthy prison terms and the “terrorism” designation is to defend the interests of capital above all else.

Certainly, Reznicek and Montoya are not the only activists who have made major personal sacrifices in the defense of nature. More than 1,700 environmental defenders from around the world have been murdered between 2012 and 2021 for that cause, and more recently, forest defender Manuel Esteban Paez Terán (Tortuguita) was killed by Georgia police. There are also other courageous U.S. activists, including “valve turners” facing prison terms, but they have largely been ignored and neglected by the U.S. environmental movement.

The Future

Using current technology, researchers have unequivocally demonstrated that renewable energy generation, electrified mass transportation, regenerative agriculture, and sustainable building structures are easily within the grasp of humanity. Alternative, eco-socialist systems of human relations that could replace the cancer of capitalism have also been discussed and proposed. Such a future is still possible, but barely so. It is time to put more emphasis on resistance, as opposed merely to protest. Ultimately, saving the planet from the worst effects of the climate crisis will require global working-class leadership and self-emancipation, together with broad support from the middle classes.

At the time of this writing, the environmental movement is losing the struggle to save the biosphere and losing badly. Punishments for civil disobedience are increasing and can be as severe as punishments for property destruction. Republican legislatures in 34 states have introduced 81 anti-protest bills in 2021 alone. These range from criminalizing protests and making blocking traffic on a highway a felony, to granting immunity to drivers who injure or kill protesters.

The kinds of actions carried out by Reznicek, Montoya and others have the potential to capture greater attention, galvanize a broader mobilization, and thus play a critical role in resisting the destruction of the planetary biosphere. As Malm puts it in How to Blow Up a Pipeline:

The immediate purpose of such a campaign against CO2 emitting property, then, would be twofold: establish a disincentive to invest in more of it and demonstrate that it can be put out of business. The first would not require that all new devices be disabled or dismantled, only enough to communicate the risk. Strict selectivity would need to be observed.

Not every environmental activist is willing to risk the long prison terms, or worse, that could result from such actions. Nor should they be expected to. That kind of commitment requires extraordinary courage and self-sacrifice, like that exhibited by Reznicek and Montoya. But the rest of us can at least honor and support those who do take those risks.

These two women, now languishing in prison, deserve more support from U.S. environmentalists than they have received so far (though an online petition is available). Demanding presidential pardons would be a first step. But beyond that, nominations for awards to recognize their sacrifices and contributions would be an important step forward. Nominating Reznicek and Montoya for awards such as the Right Livelihood Award, Nobel Peace Prize, the Congressional Gold Medal, or Presidential Medal of Freedom would go a long way in advancing the movement to save Mother Earth.

If climate justice activists are unable to recognize and offer full-throated support to the most selfless and courageous among us, what chance do we have to reverse the course of destruction of our planet?

Copyright, Reprinted with permission

Photo by SELİM ARDA ERYILMAZ on Unsplash