Blue and Green for a True Renewable Energy Scene
To an extent, everything that touches on human existence evolves from and revolves around political economy, making matters of political-economic import arguably of central concern not only to any hope of obtaining renewable energy policies that work, but also to having any opportunity to achieve a good life. Paradoxically, folks tend to avoid thinking about things in this way as if a plague would immediately attend any attempt to grapple with political economy.
Practically speaking, any attempt to deal with an energy situation--involving as it must both commodified technology and either electricity or other ways of transforming fuel into power--is at its heart a political economic issue. Even more so, of course, sustainable business pursuits must deal with these matters.
For JustMeans purposes, especially today when the story investigates ways that working people can join together, for example in unions, to effect social transformation, readers will want to consider how one can put any such eventuality into perspective. For instance, a question that can help folks to get at what makes up political economy is to address such a fundamental inquiry as why a commentator might call some people 'working people.'
After all, since before his days at the gaming tables at Courier House, Bill Gates has labored at something. Definitely, he must have put in some long hours to have banked several thousand dollar bills for each of the ten million singles that he inherited from his grandfather. He's almost certainly worked more hours, as a case in point, than most humble correspondents such as the scribe behind the words of this little interlude.
Yet a distinction exists between Bill and most other citizens. He did in fact start with a capacity, a capitalization, an ante to a certain sort of poker game, that very few folks can access early in their lives, if ever they manifest such means. Thus, speaking about political economy involves speaking about the constituents of social class, a subject that on occasion has shown up in these pagesas divisive and thorny for most Americans.
In turn, if observers bother to ponder what constitutes a 'class' in a society, they will, unless they simply thump their chests and say, "I'm middle class, by God, and that's all there is to it!" nod that what puts one group, or set, or kind, or class of person in a different category from another is some set of relationships that differentiate one group from the other. And truthfully, we might imagine all sorts of relations that should hold precedence in divvying people up.
Many bigots begin with the classification 'Anglo,' for example; others imagine that gender is most crucial; still others take some other signifcation, or set of attributes, and posit that these are what set people apart. Obviously, as well, one may start with a scientific fact such as the accurate statement that all people are cousins and conclude that nothing real actually separates one type, or class, of person from another. Others argue that community, or culture, is a much more reasonable way to 'classify' folks.
To all such speculation, I would ask people to take careful notice that food, housing, water, and other basic elements of human life have--at the least for thousands, and likely for tens of thousands, of years--not happened in anything like a 'state of nature.' From this recognition, that at some juncture in time and space in the past, human beings began not all to make a general mad scramble, whether individually or in certain sorts of family or kin collectives, for the necessities of survival, we have to deduce that a transition took place from nature to society, because now--wherever one turns his gaze, people 'scramble' in distinct ways to 'make ends meet.'
This is not to say that society is unnatural. Such a view would be at best madness, in my estimation. But some sort of evolution, over time, had to have taken place from the days and places in which identifiable ancestors lived and died in more or less common circumstances to the way that exists today, when some 'classes' of people seem to stand in different relation to the basic constituents of keeping body and soul together.
Friederich Engels wrote a classic text about this: The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State. But for a certain 'evasiveness,' about which I will be writing more soon, every citizen of an advanced country like the USA would study this text, inasmuch as it lays a foundation for understanding how social categories, and therefore society, operate, both over time, or historically, and in the present tense, as it were.
Put most simply, Engels does this by showing how knowledge about human ancestors, from a few thousand years ago to ten thousand years ago, lets a student of humanity view that social systems came to pass in which distinct sets of families ended up with differential types of access to life's key elements--cattle and water and homes and so on--and to the ongoing creation of those elements in a definite useful form. Furthermore, the manifestation of such social patterns transpired all over the world in similar ways, marking the beginning of class societies, in which the children of different families tended to have divergent expectations about their relationships to each other and to the goods necessary for survival.
In this vein, one way of conceiving of 'class' is that it originates in differential links to the getting and keeping of the key elements that permit us to continue--food , shelter, clothing, and so on, right up to i-Phones and Satellites and repeating-cannons firing depleted Uranium shells. This is a hypothesis that I ask readers to test now, according to their own experience.
Can one acknowledge that people whose mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and neighbors, and who themselves, tend to, for example, work for wages to start their lives--this is one set of relationships to the 'getting of necessities,' after all--often, or even primarily both continue working for wages and have a certain way of looking at things? 'Maybe, maybe not,' might be an answer. Another sort of answer might be, 'well, they definitely are most likely to keep being wage-earners, but they'll have all sorts of different ideas about life.'
What about those who start out more or less surrounded by ownership, whose main or only experience of wages is as 'practice' for taking up the reins of power? Do they tend, in the main, both to stay at that elevated level and to evince certain sorts of ways of contemplating existence? Once again, the answer might be, 'Well, mostly yes to the first question, but not so much to the second.'
And, voila! If folks have followed along, I have inaugurated them to a social class approach to the modern world. In contemporary surroundings, with only a very few absolute exceptions, almost everyone either begins existence surrounded by people who get and keep jobs to eat, or they bask in a more supportive milieu, one in which their cohorts and family and neighbors tend to own things and live off a combination of their jobs and one sort or another of 'investment,' or capital, or other material investiture, like a big farm or a father who runs a country.
And, while all such discussion bristles with conflict, arguably, as the saying goes, the owning class, or the rich, have tended to get richer, all the while, and more so today than ever, the poor stay poor. More and more, in addition, the vaunted middle that supposedly distinguishes the United States from most other places, has seemed to be fading away, providing all manner of fodder for politicians of all stripes to promise a return to the middle-class ways that supposedly have set America apart.
I'd have to be the first to admit that this is a huge topic; moreover, many people get the heebie-jeebies even thinking about it. Their voices rise in timber, their body posture suggests a certain defensiveness, their eyes dart hither and yon.
Furthermore, this tiny little introduction today does not begin to do justice to this area of understanding, an aspect of being able to think straight that the likes of this humble correspondent would place at the highest level. For one thing, historical elements are largely missing, although I am hopeful that observers can see that I allude to such historical developments.
Despite its limitations, nevertheless, this paltry bit of a precis can, if readers suspend disbelief and discomfiture long enough to think about the world, let us move forward with today's plausibly interesting and important story in a way that will yield greater appreciation for the nuances of a phenomenon called the Blue-Green Alliance. This stems from the fact that this coalition results from its promulgators recognition that keeping such matters of class as I've touched on here in mind is a key to the kinds of social progress that they are seeking to make through their organizing efforts.
This notion--of organizing for social progress--implies another point for readers to hold in awareness. In the case of all the multiplicity of mayhem and chaos that characterize human existence now, one may advance the argument, with a fair chance of defending it, that almost every problem--the fight over nuclear versus renewable energy, the battle over Afghanistan, the idiocy of the War on Drugs, the nastiness so common now over immigrants, and on and on and on and on, forever--has some core component of class conflict that is key to understanding the particular issue, and, more important, to deciding how to 'get political' in relation to the issue.
One commentator states this very simply, in the monograph, Class and Class Conflict in the Age of Globalization.
|"This book highlight(s) the centrality of class and class conflict in the age of contemporary global capitalism. ...(T)he past century has formed and transformed capitalism on a global scale. ...restructuring...the international division of labor...by the export of capital and the transfer of production to cheap labor areas... .A major consequence of this process is the increased polarization of wealth and income between capital and labor at the national and global levels and the growth in the number of poor and marginalized segments of the population throughout the world."|
Today's article, along with all of the work I do basically, seeks to actuate an awareness along these lines, on the one hand, and then set that awareness in motion toward a goal of social justice. As Engels' partner, Karl Marx, was wont to say in effect, 'understanding the world is all well and good; it's part of being human. But the point is to change it; we exist to improve the human prospect, not merely to see it.'
The two expressions of social progress that disport through today's narrative, trade unions and environmental groups, for the most part represent at least somewhat diverse social origins. For the better part of several decades, a substantial tension as often as not divided labor activists from environmental activists.
In some ways the high point of that discomfiture occurred in the late '70's and early 80's, though it existed prior to that and will probably continue to show up as long as 'divide and conquer' remains the most popular strategy of big business in keeping gadflies at bay. A particularly potent, but annoying, expression of this apparent opposition between environmentalists and working class leaders occurred in the article "Environmentalism and the Leisure Class," by William Tucker.
Though the thesis of this essay has many flaws, as evidence of a snarling attitude between 'green groups' and labor groups, it is indisputable. I expound on the importance of understanding this division in my article on the Environmental Justice Resource Center, proffering both a background for the development of environmental justice thinking, and how this has served as an important bridge to allow joint efforts and unified political orientation for unions such as the United Steelworkers and United Auto Workers, on the one hand, and groups such as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Counsel, on the other hand.
In providing a basic orientation to the Blue Green Alliance(BGA), today's article blatantly takes for granted that any notion of fostering renewable energy, or all hope of accomplishing sustainable business, would benefit from the creation of the sort of coalition that the BGA represents. Though many avenues exist ineluctably to prove this assertion, we might merely reflect on three things to allow the presumption to pass: political experience; political muscle; and troops.
The thirteen groups that comprise BGA, as readers will soon see, represent, in aggregate some plus or minus ten million active United States citizens. In aggregate, these folks have the status of hardy political veterans. They know how to mount campaigns, fight campaigns, and win campaigns. Thus, if these collectives and individuals propose to lend a hand to bringing about better business and superior energy technologies, this offer is a godsend, pure and simple.
In a follow-up article, I will maintain, even more pointedly, that only through this sort of organizational initiative, and, most critically, only through the proper sort of organizational understanding on the part of the allied participants, do sustainable patterns and 'green energy' techniques stand a snowball's chance of success vis a vis the well-oiled plutocratic juggernaut of atomic energy. Today's purposes are more or less purely introductory and descriptive, in this tempestuous and difficult arena.
As just noted, thirteen separate organizations have come together to form BGA. Each represents a substantial membership and many decades of struggling to improve something about life. Here folks will find a precis of each member of the alliance.
United Steelworkers (USW)
"The USW is 1.2 million working and retired members throughout the United States and Canada, working together to improve our jobs; to build a better future for our families; and to promote fairness, justice and equality both on the job and in our societies," the website states. I can attest that USW has taken the strongest possible stand for workers rights around the globe(INTERLINK, Coal); moreover, USW also 'walks the walk' in relation to renewables.
"The Sierra Club is America's oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, whose members work together to protect communities and the planet," sums up the site. I can attest that Sierra Club, in Georgia, is one of the only environmental groups that consistently goes into communities with a willingness to listen and a open attitude about dialog; 1.3 million Sierrans have also long sought to unravel the environmental justice knot so as to activate a truly grassroots geyser of action for sustainability.
Natural Resources Defense Council/NRDC Action Fund
"NRDC is the nation's most effective environmental action organization," notes the web, continuing that "NRDC uses law, science and the support of 1.2 million members and online activists to protect the planet's wildlife and wild places and to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all living things." While I have not had occasion to work alongside NRDC, they have won plenty of courtroom battles and come down on the human and community side of issues of environmental and energy importance.
Communications Workers of America (CWA)
"The Communications Workers of America - the union for the Information Age - represents 700,000 workers in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Itâs one of Americaâs fastest growing unions." I have only long ago and far away had personal contact with CWA, but their record as a progressive political force on the national scene is certainly solid.
National Wildlife Federation
NWF is one of the oldest environmental groups; here in Georgia, they are not particularly of the 'activist' bent; nationally, they have worked with or otherwise supported nuclear power generating facilities that have promoted themselves as 'green' and 'alternative' energy sources; with over four million members, NWF is the largest of all environmental groups.
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
"With 2 million members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is the fastest-growing union in the Americas," the website notes. SEIU has been a stalwart in Georgia in supporting living wage, peace, and generally progressive politics; nationally, they have struggled recently, while continuing to fight the good fight on the organizing front.
Union of Concerned Scientists
Not only does this key constituency of pro-science folks recognize the opportunity costs and other drawbacks of nuclear, but they also consistently back peaceful foreign relations and generally progressive stance across the board, as well as providing research assistance repeatedly to the likes of this humble correspondent.
Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA)
"The half-million members of LIUNA build America," states the BGA site. "They work predominantly in the construction industry, building mass transit, highways, power plants, wind farms, schoolhouses and other basics that working people rely on every day." These are the workers who, along with twenty million others who don't have the privilege or opportunity of union membership, or who don't recognize their class position and oppose unions, constitute the core of the wage-earning class in the United States over the past several decades, as manufacturing workers have declined in number. While the service trades, reflected by SEIU's larger membership, do amount to a larger sector of the labor force, these folks are key troops in any political campaign where grassroots muscle makes a difference.
Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA)
According to the material at BGA's web address, "The Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO (UWUA) is one of the most successful and progressive unions in all of the labor movement." Moreover, it works in the 'belly of the beast,' seeking to insure worker rights and safety inside the present electrical power production structure, including nuclear. "We have over 50,000 members working in the electric, gas, water, and nuclear industries across the United States."
American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
"The mission of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO," announces the BGA text, "is to improve the lives of our members and their families, to give voice to their legitimate professional, economic and social aspirations, to strengthen the institutions in which we work, to improve the quality of the services we provide, to bring together all members to assist and support one another and to promote democracy, human rights and freedom in our union, in our nation and throughout the world." Long regarded as the more activist and more militantly 'pro-labor' teachers' union, AFT represents nearly a million teachers, plus, as is the case with all of the unions here, also involving many retired members.
Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU)
"The Amalgamated Transit Union is the largest labor organization representing transit workers in the United States and Canada," according to the website. 160,000 strong, this group of progressive, pro-peace trade-unionists--mainly operating through their state organizations and locals--represent a key sector of the economy and provide leverage in many other ways in any political or policy campaign.
Sheet Metal Workersâ International Association
in Georgia, the Sheet Metal Workers worked with the Living Wage Campaign and generally support the most progressive agenda, which is difficult for any membership organization to do in this state; their 150,000 members are the core 'natural constituency' of renewable energy, inasmuch as their craft skills and work experiences are completely congruent with solar and wind development.
United Auto Workers
"The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) is one of the largest and most diverse unions in North America, with members in virtually every sector of the economy," according to the website. As an earlier article points out, UAW played a leading role in the inception of the environmental justice movement; its half million members and many retirees for about ten years included this humble correspondent, as a member of the UAW affiliated National Writers Union. Generally progressive and pro-peace, few other unions have the record of militancy and solidarity that characterize the auto workers.
This impressive amalgamation of progressive organizational potential is in motion too, as the following section illustrates. BGA is not a window-dressing sort of project. The membership and the leadership are literally in motion across the U.S.
One of many sources that point to the underpinnings of this new model of effort on the part of U.S. unions, that have historically tended to avoid such involvement, expressed the underlying motivation incisively. "If mature trade union movements are to undergo revitalization, it has been frequently argued, then they must recreate themselves as social movements. They must broaden their goals to encompass social progress beyond the immediate employment relationship and rediscover their capacity to mobilize workers in campaigns for workplace and wider social justice. In Waterman's words, unions should` add to the lay trinity (liberty, equality, fraternity) the values of diversity, peace and ecological care."
If nothing else, the BGA is following this thinking. A subsequent look at the group's work will examine matters of strategy and development; however, even this brief description will show the sorts of potential that JustMeans readers might notice as inherently supportive of both renewable energy potentiation and sustainable business practice.
THE BLUE GREEN ALLIANCE'S TRANSFORMATIVE POTENTIAL AND THORNY PRACTICAL POLITICS
My interview with Margrete Rangnes, BGA's Deputy Director, evinced from Washington a campaign HQ of a 148 years ago, when a stalwart young Ms. wouldn't have played nearly so visible a role and when the city of Washington itself seemed about to come under siege. The hounds of hell always threatening Lincoln, as far as I understand them, remind me of what afflicts Barack-the-Magnificent. But the still new G.O.P. was at least a new political beast, unlike present day Democrats.
My questions were much softer in tone than this. "First of all, can you break down the structure of the BGA, in terms of origins, how things get done, models being followed?"
"It all started with the Sierra Club and United Steelworkers; we'd done a lot of work together, over the years, over issues of trade and globalization," with some more local campaigns around clean water and air. "We asked ourselves, do we want to do more than one date at a time? Was a formalization of the relationship possible?"
"You wanted to try a marriage instead of a series of one night stands," I quipped.
She laughed. "Anyway, the first few years, it was just the two of us, reaching out to our own members, and to grassroots people" wherever they were working. Now, however, as we've seen that has grown into a significant chunk of America's working class and its progressive environmentalists, with nine unions and four organizations.
"It's really a broad spectrum, from industrial unions to newer organizations like (the Service Employees International Union); from large membership organizations like (the National Wildlife Federation) to more expert-based groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists," that just came on board recently.
The way it all works, she explained, is that "specific issues like global warming, clean energy, fair trade, workers' rights, these are things we all buy-in on, with the strategic link connecting them all that solving the economic crisis is easiest if we work on these issues together; I mean, they're inherently interconnected anyway. Overall? Addressing the climate situation by inviting in clean energy can address all the other challenges."
She notes that this really makes sense to groups like the Laborer's International Union and the Sheet Metal Workers whose members have been so decimated by the construction downturn. In terms of the timing of the expansion, "The second wave came on board in 08, and since then it's been in dribbles. It's been an incremental process," she emphasized, "because we wanted to make sure it was real and anchored on real principles," by which I understood her to mean a real scientific understanding of what was at the root of environmental and economic problems, and what might address those root causes.
"Can you think of any particularly powerful anecdotes that you would want to see, read about, or learn about in a story?" I asked her.
"I'm always interested in how we effect change, how we are relevant. As a progressive movement in today's climate, how we're gonna get to victory can be difficult to envision, so it's important to think through" the steps that need to happen." She paused to see if I followed; I hope that I did.
She gave some examples. From her position in the Sierra club, she coordinated the Employee Free Choice Act campaign, a labor issue that, because of union support for safety and anti-pollutions standards, and because of provisions against exporting toxic processes had environmental implications right down to its core. "On the flip side, USW led a massive grassroots membership campaign to pass climate legislation."
"It was all about building up support for equity and fair labor standards with good jobs and everything, with the flip side being the union's talking about clean energy solutions being a necessary way to go."
I asked if this had led to the production of real cases of new knowledge about how to operate politically, and she agreed, "Oh, absolutely."
"Are all of the membership organizations pretty much of equal standing, or are some of the initiators sort of like 'first among equals'?"
She explained that no hierarchy of organizations was possible under the bylaws. The board allows equal representation. "It's a very active process," she went on, giving me the example of the green chemistry work, where the academic experts might pitch in something, and then OSHA reps from the unions would have good stuff to offer, and then the climate lobbyists, could contribute their part. "We always bring in as many viewpoints as possible from as many member organizations as possible, depending on the particular issue we're dealing with."
"I notice specific bills in the 'take action' section and then a general positive orientation to real 'clean energy' as a policy; is there a 'model bill' about that, or some other nation's approach, that you'd recommend to readers to look at?"
"Well, we supported the Waxman-Markey Bill framework of cap-and-trade for a climate bill." She waited for an "Oh, please!" that never came. "We thought it could be 'good,' even though it's hard to get a perfect bill." I accede to the demands of 'practical politics.'
But she drives home the point that "principled community work is non-negotiable." BGA seeks to find a balance between working legislatively and from the grassroots simultaneously, at the same time helping to seed good business options that bring local jobs that support a refurbishing of the country's manufacturing base. The 8,000 parts in wind turbines and massive opportunities in home retrofits are just a couple of examples. "We're also working with (the Communications Workers) to expand rural access to high speed internet.
When I express my ignorance of this area, having thought the U.S. still to be 'ahead of the curve now, she corrects this misimpression. "We're 15th in the world now, really lagging behind." She concludes by acknowledging that community development "is just very difficult." Working sector by sector, industry by industry, is the only way. "There's no quick fix." And that's where having some principles comes into play.
I ask, in relation to BGA's "The Job's Not Done," seventeen state tour, "You didn't come South; why not?"
"Given the original part played by the steelworkers, a focus on the Midwest was natural," and I'd assume that such would also hold for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. I mention the 'Right-to-Work,' anti-union climate in Dixie, and she agrees that a lot needs doing in the land of Jimbo.
She views the work around California Proposition 23, which is trying to turn back the State's strict environmental and safety standards as an extension of the organization beyond its core area. Washington and Oregon and Maine all also have statewide action of some sort going on too.
I note that the organization's Green Files has some interesting 'grassrootsy' cases to share. But I do have one query that might qualify as 'semi-tough.'
I point out, "Eric Justian worked pretty diligently in Muskegon County and Western Michigan to support a wind farm development there that has a lot of State and regional potential; he felt that unions did not support the grassroots efforts. Do you have any insights into that, or could you direct me to a good union contact in Michigan when I go there to follow up this story?"
The timber of her voice was a little sad here. "We're wholeheartedly interested in wind. We just weren't sure about the community base there," which I promised her was overwhelmingly positive. "So many jobs are possible in the wind sector; we'd love it, maintenance, specialized trucks for Teamsters." And a resuscitation of the manufacturing base that Michigan has been waiting twenty years or more for, I point out.
I don't press on this. I'll send the story to Eric, and to Steve Warner at Scandia, and see if anybody has any way to move the process forward. Michigan doesn't need this opportunity to wait another day.
We don't even scratch the surface of a ton of what BGA is up to on a day-to-day basis, but as I say, I'm going to follow up on this introduction. 'Born a critic,' I have my doubts about the underlying political economic analysis that I infer from the website. I buy the tactical and legislative ideas, so far as they go. Ms. Rangnes is obviously an old pro at all of this, despite her youthful voice.
But missing Muskegon just doesn't add up, if a community focus were truly in place, too much Facebook notwithstanding. How BGA will get from alliance to movement, from coalition to community capacitation just doesn't come through. I'd sure love having the answer be that something obvious is escaping my attention.
Without doubt, the United States of America desperately needs vastly more of what the Blue Green Alliance is selling. The only real issue is whether the political formula that the organization practices, all in good faith, can deliver the product, which is an empowered base of communities capable of taking on capital in what is shaping up to be a decade or more of dog fights.
Coalition does not equal community. Coalescing, and 'practical politics,' sometimes is the only way to proceed. At other times, however, any process that relies on such formulas, without the necessary component of capacitated local citizens, will face insurmountable difficulties. The experiences of TVA, a chronicle which began yesterday(INTERLINK) and which will continue once a week over the next few weeks, aptly demonstrate the way that the bureaucratic partners of the ruling business coalitions will always take over any 'reform' process that does not actually emanate from the people and their organizations directly.
Expanding democracy is the key. But this, by definition, must go far beyond a by-election for institutions already bought and paid for by the business coalitions. The thinking of Benjamin Barber in this regard has repeatedly appeared in these pages, but other contenders for the 'fresh-shoots-of-real-democracy' blossom also are available.
|"Every challenge we face today from climate and crime to technology and markets, and communications and public health is global in character. Yet the institutions of democracy we rely on to address these challenges are still locked up inside sovereign states pursuing the old logic of independence. But in an interdependent world of diseases without borders, we also need citizens without borders â democracy without borders. Which means if we are to survive interdependence and flourish in liberty, we must either globalize democracy or democratize globalization."|
And, even in this context of being willing to have a 'knife fight in the dark,' if necessary, for the most potent manifestations of participatory democracy, nothing will come to pass in a social vacuum. Only by keeping in mind the centrality of strengthened communities is progress possible; tomorrow's examination of the Lakota Sioux can be instructive along these lines. Then, somehow or other--and again, a plug for Peoples Information Networks seems essential, methods for linking these communities to look both outward and upward as well as inward must happen, across all borders and beyond all subsequent approaches to human involvement in collaborative enterprise.
Expanding voice and input is likely the only pathway that can lead both to grassroots participation and community capacitation. But what are the topics about which we sing now? A new cell phone is so cool; a new guest crooned such a rad tune on American Idol; a further devolution of any prospect for real involvement just took up another hour with a new Facebook application. Transition communities, a flowering of the inner nerd, and all manner of new forms that have shown up in these pages could provide vehicles to convey the focused expression of these grassroots voices.
Finally, expanding coalition toward movement is a dividing line between making noise and making progress between talking about possibility and manifesting transformation. Such a movement came into being in 1914; again in the 1930's, explosive flights of coalesced people took place; since then, time and again, smaller outbursts of motion have slaughtered a few million cousins here and a few million cousins there.
Yet the fundamental contradictions of the rules of this game remain. And another 'big play' of tribe against tribe might be the last human upsurge to transpire. Perhaps a new sort of march can come from people banded together. I'm a believer in this capacity for new musical forms.
Will they emerge from the Blue Green Alliance as currently constituted? I would say, 'yes,' if I thought a reliance on the Democratic Party of the United States might 'deliver us from evil,' but I don't believe that. This partisan formation does not seek to empower communities so much as it attempts to divert and delay community potential.
I would say, 'yes,' if I were inclined to accept that imperial war were a form of patriotism, doing battle against 'terror,' but that is beyond absurd, like a blindfolded fellow agreeing to a sword fight with unseen assailants on the promise that this duel will bring glory. Empire eviscerates any emanation of community that might otherwise exist.
I would say, 'yes,' if I bought the notion that America first had any merit, that 'foreigners don't belong here' had a resonant ring of salvation, but such notions seem worse than false. They guarantee that communities that must be a part of the community power movement become enemies. The best result from these strategic positions will be a slow death at home, on the basis of carnage abroad; more likely, as the inherent futility of the fight on these terms becomes clear, a mass collective suicide more like the Bhagavadgita than Armageddon will be the destination point.
In my estimation therefore, despite great spirit and great ideas and tremendous potential, the Blue Green Alliance has some goal-setting and analysis still to do. In a month or so, I'm going to offer my take on what such dissection and objectives might include, but I'd love to hear that I misinterpreted everything and that dandy developments are nigh. As such, I'll await the favor of a reply.
When a sector of the analysis of reality is off limits, then democracy and free speech might as well fold up its tent. No matter the cries of 'practical politics,' no matter the insistence that 'reason dictates' that we 'not rock the boat,' no matter the long-standing affiliation with a political party predominantly financed by 'class enemies' of trade union and environmental stewardship, if a dialogic context excludes things like 'social class analysis' and a potential role for social democracy, then, whatever is happening, it is no longer honors the first amendment. It may be pragmatic, but it has nothing to do with letting every perspective have a say.
I had a nice chat with an obviously hard-working BGA combatant. An interviewer can hear the long hours and the late nights and the many, many cups of coffee, even over the phone. Our conversation was cordial and revealed many avenues for further investigation and assessment of how BGA might make a profound and positive impact on the desperate straits in which progressive energy policy finds itself in the U.S.
I have been at this work, of trying to report on social movement as a proponent, as a journalist with a definite point of view, for many decades. More than once, I have tripped and fallen on my face as a result of being a clueless boob about the delicate balance that trade-unions, in particular, have generally sought to maintain in this country.
On the one hand, they are the only bulwark that workers can count on to fend off the worst depredations of capital. OSHA came from the miners health counsels. The civil rights movement was a part of the auto-workers' strategy. Public schools, minimum wage, social security, the list of privileges that have roots in the sweat and blood of trade unions is just about endless. Thus, every time that big business gains a new advantage, one can be certain that one prong of its next strategy prospectus will be some new and sinister move to undercut trade unions.
At the same time, the identification of many unions with empire, of almost all unions against an opening of the borders and a broadening of their international work, is also an accurate appraisal. And, without a doubt, any of BGA's trade unionists who happened to read this article--which I will send along to the organization, as sure as the sun shines--will be better than 50-50 to recoil a bit upon perusing some of what is here.
It's pinkish tinge will appear altogether red to some readers. I certainly don't hide my social democratic proclivities; as I've pointed out to JustMeans readers before, that's a fancy word for socialist. But I'm intellectually open and willing to 'throw down and 'chew the fat' with anyone.
I am willing to be convinced that capitalism is capable of resuscitation, if someone can make a convincing argument to that effect. I can listen to an assessment that imperial mass murder is not an inherent component of U.S. militarism. I can let a proponent of big business--as I did for David Lilienthal yesterday--boost the marvels of untrammeled markets and unfettered profiteering as a sidebar of greater growth.
But neither I nor anyone else who truly wants to promote either 'renewable energy' or whatever potential for 'sustainable business' is real can carry on in an environment in which the long knives or the dagger awaits the mention of Karl Marx or socially democratic assessments of what in the heck needs to happen if we're going to win.
The essence of a victorious class war, or if that's too strong, social dispute, is that the winning side--and this is especially true if that 'side' is a fractious majority with many divisible fissures in it--spends more energy battling its opponent than trying to bury those on its own front lines who are not in sync with the dominant views.
Maybe that's way too simplistic. I've never been any good at 'practical politics.' But I know a winning strategy when I see one; and while the Blue Green Alliance is making some impressive tactical moves, I do not yet notice a strategic orientation that can bring about the fruits that even the organization's tactical ploys are seeking to win, to wit, more wind and sun and less radiation, more human rights and jobs and less war and terror.
A recent strategic analysis from England made this point quite common sensically. Across the developed world unions have experienced membership decline, and in many cases have lost influence in the labour market and political system. As a result, they are under pressure to develop new tactics and access new resources. In certain respects, coalitions are a symptom of weakness and unions will experience pressure to seek coalition partners if that underlying weakness remains."
But what is the source of this weakness? Perhaps the time has finally come for workers in North America to become conscious of themselves as a class. Perhaps a movement for community power, involving democratic dialog and increased capacity at the grassroots, can bring about he revitalization that so many good-hearted and hard-working environmentalists and labor-unionists aspire to obtain.
Or maybe not. Maybe we need more accommodation with the Fortune 500 and the rulers of capital, right down to pretending that a 'nuclear renaissance' is compatible with a blue and green coalition. Or, I'm certainly all ears, maybe somebody has another idea.