Profits of Doom

Green Syndicalism and Tar Sands Worker Deaths


A central position of green syndicalism is that the destruction of nature and the destruction of workers’ lives and communities are inextricably linked and proceed together. Both are probability outcomes of exploitation and the pursuit of profit, as capital seeks to increase extractive value while keeping costs of extraction as low as it possibly can. The connection between the violence and death inflicted on nature and on workers’ bodies is given a rough measure by the fact that those jobs most directly involved in the destruction of nature are also typically the deadliest for workers (logging and mining, for example). Continue reading

Editorial: An Economy Built On Cruelty

from ASR 86

CEO compensation at the 350 largest publicly traded U.S. companies rose by an inflation-adjusted 1,460% between 1978 and 2021, according to the Economic Policy Institute, with CEOs now raking in nearly 400 times as much as the typical worker.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has repeatedly spoken of his desire to get wages down to control inflation; he’s not talking about the skyrocketing pay of corporate executives or Wall Street bankers. Instead, he’s bemoaning the fact that during the pandemic many workers won modest pay hikes that helped blunt the edges of rampaging inflation. In response, the government is pursuing policies designed to drive up unemployment so that workers will have less power and be forced to accept lower wages. This, they claim, will reduce inflation because workers will have less to spend and the bosses will spend less on wages. Continue reading

ASR 87 (Summer 2023)

asr 87 coverWOBBLES: Union Revival?, Robot Scabs, Amazon workers resist…
Anarcho-Syndicalism & Climate Change by CNT-F activist
SYNDICALIST NEWS: European Alternative Unions Meet, Spanish Syndicalist Unity, Ukrainian Workers, Wobbly Monument, French Pension Fight, Russian War Resisters… compiled by Mike Hargis
ARTICLES: Repression in Canada by Jeff Shantz
Supreme Court Attacks Right to Strike
The London Congress of 1881 by Iain McKay
That Creed Called Socialism with Chinese Characteristics by Marc Young
REVIEWS: Not So Bad Mexicans by Jeff Stein
Strategies for Building Workers’ Power by Jon Bekken
Fighting Fascist Spain by Martin Comack
A Life in Struggle (Octavio Alberola) by Jon Bekken
Praxis Lacking: On The Communist Manifesto by Iain McKay
A Mr. Block Compilation by Jon Bekken
The War on the Wobblies by Jon Bekken
Workers’ Inquiry & Class Struggle by Robert Ovetz
LETTERS: American Autocracy, Ukraine…

ASR 86 (Spring 2023)

Editorial: An Economy Built On Cruelty
Wobbles: Falling Wages, Climate Catastrophe
Syndicalist News: FoodPanda, Alternative Unions, AIT Centenary compiled by Mike Hargis
Articles: Profits of Doom: Green Syndicalism and Tar Sands Worker Deaths by Jeff Shantz
Labor Resurgence in Maine by Lisa Feldman
Is the Labor Movement Blowing It? by Alexis Buss
Shorter Hours, Everywhere But Here?
Workers’ Resistance to the Russia-Ukraine War by John Kalwaic
(R)Evolution in the 21st Century: Reflections on Syndicalist Strategy by Rasmus Hästbacka
The General Strike: Past, Present & Future by Jon Bekken
Curious Saviors of the Spanish Revolution: Myths of the POUM by Jeff Stein
Reviews: Wild Socialism by Martin Comack
American Autocracy by Jeff Stein
A Passion For Work? by Jon Bekken
Redwashing Stalinism by Shelby Shapiro
Anarchist Women in Mexico by Jon Bekken
Letters: Ukraine, Rebellion in Iran

It starts on your job: Syndicalist proposals

How can organizers change their workplaces and, in the long run, build labor unions to change society as a whole? Rasmus Hästbacka of the Swedish SAC delivers some food for thought and action.

Hästbacka has written three articles about syndicalist vision, strategy and movement building which appear on the ASR website. In a fourth article, he relates these themes to making plans for action in individual workplaces. Thus, the articles start off on the macro level of class struggle and move down to the micro level on the job. Read the fourth article on the union site Organizing Work.

With inspiration from the Labor Notes book Secrets of a successful organizer, Hästbacka divides workplace organizing into four phases: (1) Mapping and personal conversations, (2) Making an action plan, (3) Collective action and (4) Evaluation. He also underlines the importance of a formal union structure. Such a structure is necessary for workers to be able to make and implement democratic decisions and bridge the ups and downs of activity and commitment.

A Swedish version of the fourth article is available in the union paper Arbetaren. All articles draw from Hästbacka’s book (free online) Swedish syndicalism – An outline of its ideology and practice.

Dems back bosses, outlaw rail strike

UPDATE: Trying to conceal their vile union-busting, House Democrats approved legislation to force workers to accept an “agreement” they voted to reject, but to cover their tracks also passed a separate bill to allow rail workers paid sick time knowing full well that the Senate would pass the forced-labor bill and scuttle the sick time. Had they actually supported paid sick time for workers, they would have included it in the main bill. Tonight the Senate did exactly that, and Biden’s signature on this vicious anti-worker bill is imminent. If rail workers want to uphold their rights they will have to turn to direct action – either defying the bosses’ government and striking or implementing a strict work-to-rule until the bosses are forced to knuckle under or face the complete collapse of the freight railroad system. (our original post follows)

Stripping Rail Workers of Their Rights

The Biden administration has called on Congress to ram the bosses’ contract terms down the throats of U.S. rail workers who have voted to reject them. Under the Rail Labor Act, the federal government has the right to ban strikes during a cooling-off period, force workers into arbitration [both have already happened] and them impose a new “agreement” on transportation workers if they refuse to knuckle under. South Korea’s president similarly just ordered truck drivers to abandon their strike, but South Korean workers have real unions and so have refused — and other unions have threatened a national general strike if the government proceeds with its threats to jail union officers. Continue reading

Remembering Staughton Lynd

Historian, labor lawyer, and antiwar, civil rights and labor activist Staughton Lynd died Nov. 17, 2022. He was 92.

The child of famous sociologists, Staughton did pioneering work in history before being blacklisted after organizing antiwar protests (including at Spelman College, where he taught), helping organize Freedom Summer in 1964, and being arrested for his role in protests against the Vietnam War. Continue reading

Workers’ Resistance to the Russia-Ukraine War from both sides of the East-West Conflict

ASR 86 is significantly delayed, though it will go in the mail before the year is out. In the meantime, we will bring you some articles slated for the issue…

By John Kalwaic

The government of the Russian Federation attacked Ukraine in February, allegedly in the name of “denazification.” This conflict had been slowly brewing since 2014 when the Euromaidan movement toppled the pro-Russian government and led to a government much more aligned with the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the West in general. The Russian Federation and its president, Vladimir Putin, who functions as a dictator, wants to recreate the old empire that collapsed when the Soviet Union fell in 1991, after which Ukraine became an independent country. Putin and his allies are trying to reestablish Russia’s former status as the Russian Empire from 1721-1917 and the Soviet Union from 1917-1991. Right before the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian government and allied states helped repress an uprising in Kazakhstan. Continue reading

The Unions’ Life After Death: Recipes for a new labor movement

“Solidarity means that we stand up for one another and expect something from each other, even if we don’t like the other very much or even understand each other.”

— Frances Tuuloskorpi

Syndicalism is a movement of labor unions that aims for a vision beyond both capitalism and the nation-states. In two previous essays, Rasmus Hästbacka touched on this vision and strategies to reach it. The following essay concludes with recipes for rebuilding the labor movement.

A vision is pointless without strategies to reach it. Strategies are pointless without a movement that can pursue them. At least in Europe and North America, we need to “bring back the movement in the labor movement,” to quote Labor Notes. Continue reading