Profit Against People and the Planet

June 3, 2011

[SubDisp Exclusive]

Some Favorite Articles this Week from a Favorite Website

The race for profit is the singular driving force behind capitalism. There is no altruistic motivation that trumps the private thirst for accumulating capital from what should otherwise be the public domain. That domain consists of two fundamental components: natural resources and the human labor that works off of those resources. Today, the corporate drive for profit necessarily runs roughshod over these two forces. It operates with a spectacular disregard for the well-being of both human and natural resources.

A conflict between labor and capital that erupted in the early 1920s in West Virginia between coal miners and bosses marked the largest insurrection in U.S. history after the Civil War. The Battle of Blair Mountain saw thousands of armed miners descending from the mountains and battling the hired thugs of the coal companies in Mingo County. The companies used violence in the form of goons that murdered and terrorized workers, strikers, organizers and their families – all in the name of preventing the workers from organizing a union and to keep the United Mine Workers union out of southern West Virginia. Martial law and the use of violence – as was touched upon in the last SubterraneanDispatcher article – revealed the bloody measures that both bosses and the state resort to in order to protect the wealth of a few.

Much has been done to erase the memory of the Battle of Blair Mountain from the consciousness of workers. But today, the coal industry is preparing to destroy Blair Mountain itself, along with the many other mountains of Appalachia that have been destroyed by mountain-top removal, wiping out ancient and highly diverse ecosystems and poisoning the very water that local communities in that region rely upon. It sounds like a story out of a “Third World” Latin American country where multinational corporations swoop in, exploit cheap labor and resources, and export the wealth out of local communities that remain submerged in abject poverty. But Appalachia is the United States’ very own “Third World” backyard – in its very own territory.

This month, environmental, labor and other activists will be marching on Blair Mountain to demand that it be preserved. This convergence of eco justice and labor rights is significant, and Ben Silverman has written a terrific piece on this mobilization that is well-worth reading: The Battle for Blair Mountain.

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Three other related and unrelated plugs:

With bigots on the right targeting things like Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights in general, the need for a revived women’s rights movement in this country could not be more urgent. Since the women’s rights struggle of the 60s and 70s, the gains achieved by the movement have been steadily rolled back and eroded with attacks on abortion rights and the persistence of other inequities in our society. More recently, a cultural backlash has led to the view that the women’s rights movement somehow went “too far,” or that we live in a post-feminist society where sexism is a thing of the past. But the vile objectification of women’s bodies and efforts to control their bodies have not abated – in fact, they have arguably grown worse.

The recent fightback against outrageous attempts to blame rape victims and victims of other sexual abuse and harassment for their own suffering offers a glimpse into what may be a (badly-needed) resurgence of women’s rights struggle. Elizabeth Schulte has written an important article, Challenging Sexism USA, on this subject published last week. It is a must-read for anyone who is interested in fighting for a society free of sexist bigotry.

When the 30-year reign of a U.S.-backed dictator was ended by a mass popular revolt in Egypt in February, the imagination of the world was captured. People all over the world looked to the heroic struggle of the Egyptian people and were awe-inspired. Despots around the globe, and especially in the Arab world, were horrified, knowing full well that Egypt would inspire their populations to turn decades of anger into action. Revolution was pulled from the depths of history, from dusty books and museums, and planted firmly into the year 2011. The Egyptian Revolution and the Tunisian Revolution before it have touched off a wave of revolts throughout the region, mobilizing millions of people to break the barriers of fear and find power in their own action and self-organization. In Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Jordan and Palestine, their demands for democracy and an end to economic strangulation have been met with a mixture of dubious promises for reform and bloody repression — including torture, murder, and full-scale warfare being waged on whole civilian populations.

But even in Egypt, while the Western media has moved on from the event of revolution, the process of revolution continues. An article by Egyptian activist Mostafa Omar, titled The New Shape of the Struggle in Egypt, examines that process and the ongoing struggle being waged by working and poor people in Egypt.

Finally, this last article I recommend with a degree of hesitation. One of the strongest unions in the U.S. is in the midst of an election that will decide the leadership for a union that wields influence in a number of key industries, including freight, small parcel delivery, warehouse, rail, and airlines, among others. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters holds considerable weight in the labor movement, both in terms of its membership and its iconic legacy. With a history that is at-times radical, at-times tough, at-times mob-influenced, and at-times conservative, the future of the union and its leadership is something that anyone invested in the labor movement or interested in working-class struggle should be paying attention to.

In this article, New Hope for the Teamsters, Sandy Boyer discusses the candidacy of union reformer and self-described “troublemaker” Sandy Pope, who is running against Hoffa Jr. in the upcoming election. This article argues that while a win for Pope may be unlikely, there are a number of reasons why she may in fact have a decent shot at unseating the old guard leadership. Additionally, her leadership, the author argues, would signal a radical shift to the left for the Teamsters, with a focus on more militant action – not to mention a remarkable advance for women in a union whose leadership has been entirely dominated by men throughout its history.

!!! DISCLAIMER (VERY IMPORTANT) !!!

I recommend this article for the background it provides and the significance of the upcoming election that this piece points to. It is not meant as an indicator of my own views on the Teamster election. On this website, and in the interest of safeguarding my own employment, I am in no way expressing an endorsement of the arguments made in this article that are supportive of Pope’s candidacy.

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About SubterraneanDispatcher

Brian Tierney is a longtime socialist activist who works as a communications specialist for a labor union in Washington, DC. After completing his undergraduate studies in International Affairs and Latin America Studies, he has been working in the labor movement and writing reports and analyses on various struggles for social and economic justice. In addition to reporting on protests in the DC area, he also writes about union struggles, immigrant rights, the fight to defend public education, and struggles of the poor and working class in general. His work has been published in The Washington Post, The Nation, The Progressive, Common Dreams, CounterPunch, Socialist Worker and The Neoprogressive. Brian can be reached via email at btier@yahoo.com.

Posted on June 3, 2011, in Corporate Greed, Environmental Justice, Imperialism, Labor Movement, Plutocracy, Revolution, SubDisp Exclusive, Union Rights, Women's Rights, Workers Rights. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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