Category: Organizing and Strategy

Environmental Justice As Liberation: No Consent, No Pipeline, No Kinder Morgan.

We have the pleasure of hosting a guest post by Sarah Beuhler, who is a writer and campaigner who lives in Unceded Coast Salish Territories.

A confrontation is brewing on Canada’s west coast, and the stakes could not be higher.

Kinder Morgan, a Texas-based energy giant, seeks to build a pipeline from Northern Alberta through British Columbia to the densely populated suburb of Metro Vancouver where it would be loaded onto tankers and sent through the region’s coastal waters. To say that there is opposition to their plans would be an understatement: the pipeline project is opposed by the province of British Columbia, the state of Washington, the city of Vancouver and 21 others, 250,000 petition signers, more than 24,000 who have vowed to do “whatever it takes” to stop it, and 107 of the 140 Nations, Tribes, and Bands along the route. As such, the forces of the fossil fuel industry are bearing down on British Columbia as an eight-year campaign to stop the pipeline comes to a head.

Kinder Morgan’s pipeline and tanker project was marketed to Canadians as a “twinning” of an existing pipeline built in the 1950’s, but it would actually almost triple capacity for barrels of diluted bitumen, or “dilbit.” Bitumen is the tar that comes out of Alberta’s oil patch; to move smoothly through pipelines, it has to be diluted with other chemicals, some of which are highly toxic and highly explosive.

Pipelines are leaky and dangerous enough on their own, but this project came with an additionally heightened risk factor: the Aframax tankers that will carry the volatile material are so huge that they barely fit through two urban bridges they would have to cross under for each trip. It’s such a tight and dangerous squeeze that engineers have formed an advocacy group to oppose the plan.

The risk is obvious: a tanker spill would result in an environmental catastrophe more devastating than the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. That spill was simple crude that floated on top of the water, and yet it still hasn’t been cleaned up properly. A spill involving bitumen sinking to the bottom of the sea? The consequences are almost unthinkable; you can’t just replace destroyed ecosystems.

Like Our Lives Depend On It.

Teenagers in this country are under constant attack.

Whether it is their taste in music, fashion, or, it seems, simply wanting to attend classes without the fear of meeting their sudden death in a hail of bullets, there are always commentators who are willing to wag their fingers in disapproval. The demands placed on kids, when you think about it, are outrageous.

Yet here we are, watching these teenagers lead a movement to end school shootings in our time. It is a cause that they should never have had to fight in the first place, but it is a fight that this group of kids seem determined to finish. It is incredible to watch, and within the context of the other radical actions being taken by teachers in West Virginia and Oklahoma; graduate students in Illinois, Toronto, and the United Kingdom; and a working class that also seems to be finding its voice, we could be witnessing a new era in agitation for social, political, and economic change.

All that said, however, the wheels started coming off a bit today.

West Virginia And The Coming War For Labor’s Survival

We have a guest post today, talking about the illegal strike that’s ongoing in West Virginia. C. formerly tweeted as @thehousered and works as staff for an education union in rural America.

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Labor militancy isn’t a novelty in West Virginia.

It’s almost poetic, then, that West Virginia’s public school employees are on the fourth day of an illegal strike as the Supreme Courtat the behest of the bossescomes for the rights of working people.

The emerging struggle doesn’t fit anyone’s narrative. Liberal elites have eagerly devoured narratives from right-wing shills like J.D. Vance about the reactionary, racist white working-class of rural Appalachia. In the coastal liberal imagination, West Virginians are Exhibit A of the category of so-called “deplorables” that elected Donald Trump.

Nor does it fit the right’s preferred tale, of red states wholeheartedly embracing ‘pro-growth’ capitalist public policy. West Virginians are in a populist uprising in defense of public institutions, and against predatory corporations and corrupt pro-business politics: hardly the characteristics of the Republican Party’s long standing agenda. The populist uprisingsomething that seems to fit cleanly into the Left’s political imaginationis in rural Appalachia instead of the coastal metropolitan enclaves Left “thought leaders” inhabit.

Yet for the second time in 28 years, West Virginia’s public school employees have drawn a line in the sand in defense of public education, and turned​ to militant industrial action to fight for the common good.

How To Succeed In Organizing A High School Walkout While Really Trying

Si quiere leer en español, por favor hacer clic aquí.

So you’re going to high school and have decided that you can’t abide the notion of your classmates getting gunned down by yet another perpetrator of domestic violence. You want to walk out of your classes in protest, be it on 3/14 or 4/20, but you haven’t really done anything like this before. Worse, you live somewhere that has Confederate battle flags flying near the Interstate and there’s not many adults you can trust to help you organize a walkout at your school.

Don’t worry, I am here to help guide you through the process of taking your first direct action.

FIRST PHASE: Preparing The Ground

It is astonishingly rare for any kind of direct action to be truly spontaneous. Most of the major marches or pickets you see on the news were weeks or months in the planning and organizing, and this is no exception. Best case scenario at the time of writing is that you have three weeks to plan if you are walking out on March 14. That’s short notice, but very far from impossible. The longer time horizon of April 20 is going to allow you to potentially do more publicly facing actions, like teach-ins, or arrange for speakers. Either way, the steps you need to follow are the same, how much time you have to do them is the only difference.

First, your strongest shield is numbers. The bigger the walkout, the harder it will be for administrators and teachers to retaliate against you for taking action. If 95% of the school marches out the doors and rallies against the violence that infests our society, it will be impossible for Deputy Assistant Vice Principal McMAGAhat to suspend every single one of you. If it’s just six of y’all, well…you might be able to fight whatever the administration does to you in the courts. Likewise, hostility from your peers is allayed if you’re in the majority. If some wannabe Trump White House flunky that always wears a suit to school is in the far minority and doesn’t want to walk out, they aren’t going to be able to get away with harassing you the next day. They can’t bully all of you if you stick together.

Capitol Disobedience

Capitol buildings are citadels of power.

Their ornateness and their discongruity from the neighborhoods that surround them tends to engender equal parts awe and hatred, and this is by design. They could also be a place, however, where the working class captures the attention of those who have long ignored their voices. A place where we make democracy something tangible, something real. However, there are few moments in our political process that crystallize the limits that are placed on popular participation in our government than the public comment period of legislative hearings.

On Practical Political Education

For a lot of socialist groups, political education has a tendency to linger on abstracts.

This is something of an unfair stereotype, as plenty of socialist formations expand what they teach their members and supporters beyond the usual list of Lenin, Marx, Engels, Mao, and interpretations of the above. Inevitably, though, all socialists have to reckon with the legacy of Marx and the soaring achievements and miserable failures of the Soviet Union and these political education efforts return to reading Capital, or The Little Red Book, or The State and Revolution. Most groups structured along democratic centralist lines in the US have a new member vetting process and an intensive political education program that involves reading some or all of those thinkers.

This is not to say any of these books are unimportant, or the ideas in them lack vitality in the current times, or even that the kind of thorough political education that groups other than DSA engage in are bad. They absolutely are not. They are merely a different political approach that the one DSA uses, the difference being largely created by DSA’s looser and more open organizational structure and the political inexperience of your average new DSA member when compared to the average new member candidate for a democratic centralist group.

A More Progressive South? You can find it in Virginia.

What a night.

In my native Virginia, voters across the Commonwealth sent Republicans packing. Not only was there a second consecutive sweep at the top of the ballot — the first occurrence of this since the 1980s — but the state House of Delegates appears to have been fought to a 50-50 tie, though this might shift into Democratic control of the House as provisional ballots get counted and recounts occur. Even with the present composition, however, it would be the first time Republicans did not have control of Virginia’s lower chamber since the 1999 elections.

It was a landslide unlike anything we have seen in recent memory in the Commonwealth, and, contextually, anywhere else for that matter. There have been other Southern legislatures that have flipped heavily — all to the GOP — but those elections were less of a realignment than a predictable sorting: legacy Democrats who had long voted Republican at the federal level simply made their ballots a straight ticket in a political atmosphere where every election is nationalized. What happened in Virginia was much different, as Democrats won in places — like Virginia Beach and Prince William County — that are not typically seen as swing districts or even remotely friendly to their candidates.

And all this occurred despite a gubernatorial candidate whose campaign seemingly did its level best to give the whole damn thing away.