Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Pipeline debates need to start with the world

From February 2015.

Pipeline debate ignores energy 
needs of world’s toilers 
 
BY MAGGIE TROWE

In the name of protecting the environment, opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline — which would increase the capacity to deliver tar sand oil from Alberta, Canada, and fracked oil from North Dakota to refineries and ports in Texas — turn their back on the interests of workers worldwide, especially the burning need for electrification in Asia, Africa and elsewhere.

The fight for an expanding alliance of workers and farmers from Europe and the U.S. to China, India and Nigeria is only possible if our conditions are converging, if the toilers have the ability to get beyond the all-consuming battle just to survive. Electrification is critical to advance their struggles against the ravages of imperialism and to take on their national rulers along the road to power.

At the same time, workers need to build strong unions that fight to defend land and labor from devastation by the oil barons, rail bosses and other capitalists, who produce for profit at the expense of workers’ life and limb and the environment.

A debate has been raging in Canada and the U.S. since 2008, when TransCanada Corp. proposed construction of the 1,179-mile pipeline extension from Alberta to Kansas, over what position workers should take. The framework of the debate, however, is nationalist and class-collaborationist on both sides of the border. Most arguments, pro and con, start with what “we” in the U.S. or Canada need, not with the interests of the workers and farmers of the world.

There are already 57,000 miles of pipelines in the U.S. that transport crude oil to refineries and shipping ports. TransCanada sends up to 700,000 barrels per day from Alberta to Texas through the original Keystone pipeline, completed in 2010, and a new segment that just opened in January.

The only reason for the hold-up on the Keystone extension is that it crosses the border between Canada and the U.S., thus requiring a permit from the U.S. president before construction can proceed.

A bill approving the pipeline passed the House of Representatives and a version passed the Senate Jan. 29. A reconciled bill should be on President Barack Obama’s desk within days. A White House spokesman said Obama will veto it.

World’s toilers need electricity
Most environmental groups — including the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Bold Nebraska and Nebraskans for Peace — say the pipeline’s potential to contaminate the surrounding land, rivers and the underground Ogallala aquifer, the source of water for much of the Midwest, is so daunting that it can’t be allowed to be built.

They warn of catastrophic global warming from increased use of fossil fuels introducing more carbon into the atmosphere, and decry the extraction of tar sand oil, calling it “the dirtiest oil on earth.” They counterpose developing so-called green, renewable energy such as wind and solar power. But these methods of energy production are totally inadequate to supply energy for North America, let alone the world. And under capitalism they are toxic and energy-consuming in their production and disposal.

Today, in a world dominated by imperialist oppression and exploitation, more than 1.3 billion people have no access to electricity and 2.6 billion have to cook by burning wood or similar fuels, producing smoke that causes millions of deaths each year.

Access to electricity opens up the development of industry and modern agriculture and the growth of the working class. It is essential for sanitation, modern health care and refrigeration, which extend life expectancy.

Electrification is a prerequisite for the development of a working-class movement — the ability to read, think and share experiences with others and to study the history of workers’ struggles and the lessons of revolutionary battles, from the 1917 Russian Revolution to the 1959 victory of the Cuban toilers against the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship.

The Nation, whose masthead says it has been “instigating progress since 1865,” joins virtually all bourgeois liberal and left currents here in opposing the pipeline. Its editors also oppose power-poor countries having access to petroleum. An article titled “What’s Wrong with the Electrify Africa Act” last May, published jointly by the Nationand Foreign Policy in Focus, condemned U.S. policy on energy development in sub-Saharan Africa because it “leaves the door wide open to fossil fuels.” In other words, let them live in the dark.

In a New York Times op-ed Feb. 2, Martin O’Malley, former Democratic governor of Maryland, says generation of energy by fossil fuels must be limited today to encourage “supporting the development of new energy technologies and fighting climate change.”

The Communist Party, Workers World and the Party for Socialism and Liberation all oppose the construction of the pipeline.

Some Nebraska farmers also oppose the Keystone XL, but pipeline opponents exaggerate farmers’ resistance. TransCanada has obtained easements — voluntary permission, with financial compensation, to use land — from 88 percent of Nebraskan landowners on the pipeline’s route. In Montana and South Dakota the company has obtained 100 percent of the easements it needs.

Nationalist claims in U.S., Canada
Many U.S. union leaderships are proponents of the pipeline extension, including officials of the Laborer’s International Union of North America. They argue it will be “good for America,” creating up to 20,000 jobs and reducing “our” dependence on Mideast oil.

Speaking in opposition to Keystone XL Nov. 14, Obama said the pipeline is about “providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else.”

On the other side of the border, Canadian nationalism and anti-U.S. positions are common in the labor officialdom. In a pamphlet titled “Stop Sending Canadian Jobs Down the Pipeline!” the Alberta Federation of Labor calls for building oil refineries in Alberta instead of sending crude through the Keystone to Houston refineries or through the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to be shipped from British Columbia to Chinese refineries.

With or without pipelines, tar sand oil is being extracted in Alberta, and much of it is being sent to the United States, primarily by rail.

In a discussion on the pipeline, safety and the energy needs of workers around the world in a coffee shop in Calgary, Alberta, Feb. 1, Gokhan Kavakli, a flooring installer, told the Militant he agreed workers need to start with the world. “We have to think about how to develop the resources and who controls them,” he said. “How many billions in aid and charity have been spent on Africa in the last 30 years? It’s the system. Africans could have built a new Africa by now with the money.”

“I know unions make a difference. Look at the rail workers in British Columbia,” Atakan Beyi, a heating and refrigeration worker and unionist, said in the same discussion. (See article on page 5.) “It’s the big companies that are the problem on health and safety and the environment. They don’t care about us.”

The only road to ensure safe conditions in the production and transportation of energy is building strong unions capable of wresting control over working conditions out of the hands of the bosses; insisting on the protection of those who live in communities near the extraction, processing and transport of all fuels; and preventing the profit-driven capitalists from contaminating the land, air and water.

The successful fight by rail unionists against attempts by BNSF Railway to institute one-person “crews” points the way forward. Their victory shows the potential for labor to take the moral high ground and defeat measures that endanger workers, communities and the environment.

Pipeline transport safer than rail
Even under capitalism, which puts profits over protection of both human life and nature, pipeline transport of crude is safer than rail. According to the Association of American Railroads, the rate of hazardous-material spills is 2.7 times higher by rail transport than pipeline.

Fracking and other new technologies have opened the door for energy bosses to boost oil production past the capacities of existing pipelines. The rail bosses have jumped in, making trains longer, postponing shipments of farmers’ grain to prioritize crude oil trains and pushing to cut the crew to one person.

“On my run from Lincoln, Nebraska, to Ottumwa, Iowa, and back, I meet six or more oil trains each leg of the trip,” railroad engineer Jack Krueger, a member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, told the Militant.

Oil train spills are increasing, the worst being the 2013 derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people. More oil was spilled in 2013 than in the previous 37 years.

Rail bosses fiercely resisted government regulations pressing them to replace their large stocks of rupture-prone tank cars with new reinforced models. Rail workers’ unions have pushed for rapid replacement, but the boss-friendly Department of Transportation has given the companies a free pass until 2017.

Working class and safety
With pipeline transport as with rail, technology exists to operate more safely. Robots called “smart pigs” can detect corrosion. Control valves can be installed that automatically shut off the flow if a drop in pressure indicates a leak. The extent to which safety measures are used, however, is decided by the strength of the union movement and pressure from the working class more broadly.

The question for working people around energy extraction and production is not whether one or another method — from nuclear fission of uranium to fracking shale oil to mining tar sands to building solar panels or wind generators — has downsides and hazards. They all do. The question is how much control over the process can the working-class movement wrest from the imperialist ruling families and other capitalist exploiters on the road to taking power away from them and building a society based on human solidarity and the defense of land and labor in every corner of the globe.

The struggle to provide the energy toilers need worldwide to advance culture and fighting capacity is key to strengthening working-class internationalism and solidarity....

http://www.themilitant.com/2015/7905/790503.html

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Unresolved national struggles: sources of instability for the rulers of both Russia and Turkey

Struggles of Turkic peoples bedevil Moscow, Ankara

 

BY EMMA JOHNSON

As tensions between Moscow and Kiev ratchet up around Crimea, and while Moscow and Ankara move to improve relations despite backing opposite sides in the civil war raging in Syria, the large numbers of Turkic peoples in Russia and adjacent former Soviet republics pose potential sources of instability for the rulers of both Russia and Turkey.

The Tatars, Crimea’s inhabitants for centuries, are an oppressed nationality making up 12-13 percent of the peninsula’s population. They were brutalized by czardom before the 1917 Russian Revolution. In the early 1920s, under the Bolsheviks’ Crimeanization policy led by V.I. Lenin, Tatar culture flourished.

After the death of Lenin, the counterrevolutionary bureaucracy that consolidated control headed by Joseph Stalin reversed this course. They subjected the Tatars to mass deportation during the Second World War.

While Tatars are discounted and ignored by the major capitalist governments in Washington and Europe and persecuted by Moscow, they are part of some 200 million people in the world speaking a Turkic language and practicing Islam. The Crimean Tatars have close ties with Turkey.

In Turkey, approximately 150,000 people are Crimean Tatars, and an estimated 5 million are of Crimean Tatar descent, the result of waves of refugees fleeing czarist and later Stalinist rule.

Following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, which was opposed by the Tatars, they have been subjected to repression. Their national assembly, the Mejlis, has been banned and many historic leaders barred from entering Crimea.

Following the Second World Congress of the Crimean Tatars, held in Ankara in August 2015, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Tatar leaders Mustafa Dzhemilev and Refat Chubarov. He pledged never to recognize Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.

Another branch of the Tatar people make up the majority of the population of Tatarstan, which has been at the forefront of the movement for autonomy for republics within the Russian Federation, leading to friction with Moscow, and posing questions over the conditions of Muslim people there.

During the last two decades Ankara has built close economic, educational and cultural ties with Tatarstan. Turkish businesses today account for an important portion of jobs and direct foreign investment there, estimated at $1.5 billion and expected to increase.

When Ankara shot down a Russian plane over the Syrian border in November 2015, Moscow severed ties and instituted economic sanctions against Turkey. The Tatarstan government declined to issue any statement of political solidarity with the Russian government and opposed cutting ties with Ankara. 
 

http://themilitant.com/2016/8032/803256.html

Saturday, August 6, 2016

My new Twitter site

Check out MarxistUpdate (@MarxistUpdate): https://twitter.com/MarxistUpdate?s=09

AGAINST 'petty-bourgeois groups with a catastrophist “leave it in the ground” approach to fossil fuels.'

Some troll-bait for the radicals and leftists: a communist perspective on fossil fuels that starts with internationalism:

On coal, jobs: start with working class

 

BY MAGGIE TROWE

In a letter below, Jerry Gardner asks about the Socialist Workers Party’s position on coal production, providing an opportunity to compare the approach of the three major parties — the capitalist Democrats and Republicans and the working-class Socialist Workers Party — on jobs, energy and the stewardship of nature.

The SWP starts with the interests of the world working class — including the need of workers and farmers in Asia, Africa and elsewhere for reliable access to electricity — and joins struggles for unions, safe working conditions and jobs, and against practices that harm the land, water and air.

“If we translate everything commonly thought of as an environmental issue into how to advance the protection of the working class, and how the working class can extend that protection to all, then we can hardly ever go wrong,” SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes said in a 1993 talk published in Capitalism’s World Disorder.

With the worldwide contraction of capitalist production and trade, layoffs in coal, oil and manufacturing are rising. The coal bosses use the downturn to attack the union, tear up pensions, speed up production and lower safety standards, leading to an increase of respiratory disease and unsafe conditions.

In recent door-to-door campaigning in Utah, Socialist Workers Party members had discussions with workers critical of the Obama administration’s policy to limit coal production with no regard for the thousands who lose their jobs, a policy supported by petty-bourgeois groups with a catastrophist “leave it in the ground” approach to fossil fuels.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton angered many when she said, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” while vaguely promising “economic opportunity” from “renewable energy.”

Republican nominee Donald Trump demagogically pledged, “Our steelworkers and our miners are going back to work again,” proposing free rein to mine bosses and lifting “restrictions on the production of American energy.”

In sharp contrast to the capitalist candidates, Socialist Workers Party presidential candidate Alyson Kennedy — a former coal miner — puts forward a working-class road to defend land and labor. Kennedy explains that coal causes premature deaths every year and produces enormous carbon emissions. While it will remain a major power source for some time, it’s not the solution to humanity’s long-term energy needs.

“Under the capitalist system that puts profits before human needs,” Kennedy said in a May 11 statement, “the inherent dangers in mining, the environmental consequences from uncontrolled burning of coal, and the energy needs of millions worldwide will never be solved. Under capitalism any transition to cleaner energy production means throwing thousands of miners out of work. The working class in power would ensure that every miner is guaranteed a socially useful job and rewarding place in the process of organizing such a transition.”

An example of this working-class approach can be seen in how, when the sugar industry in Cuba had to be restructured, the revolutionary government there held thousands of meetings with sugar workers and guaranteed their wages through training and the transition to other jobs. Workers and their organizations helped shape each step of the process.

“The working class must end forever the rule of the bosses,” Kennedy said. “Taking political power into our own hands, coal miners and other workers can organize to ensure no worker has to die on the job. We can take control of the stewardship of labor and the environment, and organize access to energy and electricity, equalizing workers’ conditions worldwide.”

Kennedy urges workers to join her in Washington, D.C., Sept. 8 at the United Mine Workers rally against bosses’ moves to end health care and pension benefits for thousands of retired miners and their families. 


http://themilitant.com/2016/8030/803036.html

Sunday, July 31, 2016

A black socialist in Trump Country By AUGUST H. NIMTZ 

If the pundits are to be believed, a recent expedition I undertook was either foolhardy or mission impossible. But it proved to be a uniquely instructive correction to what passes for wisdom in politics today.

I campaigned with members of the Socialist Workers Party for two days on the Minnesota Iron Range. Given my politics, the SWP’s history in the state, the economic reality of the Range and this unprecedented election cycle, there may be nothing particularly surprising or significant about that. That I’m visibly African-American, however, adds something to the picture...



http://m.startribune.com/a-black-socialist-in-trump-country/388716201/

Saturday, July 30, 2016

"It can’t be tweaked or reformed. It must be replaced."

(editorial)

Capitalism can’t be reformed

 
We are living through an irreversible crisis of the capitalist system — a slow-burning depression that is building toward an even greater catastrophe. This drives never-ending imperialist interventions and wars in the Middle East and elsewhere as the old order continues to unravel with no end in sight.

The capitalists have no solution. That’s why the two main bourgeois parties are in crisis, the Democrats even more than the Republicans.

The Obama administration denies there is a problem. The economy is doing great, the president says. This is echoed by Hillary Clinton, who vows to continue the great “progress” of the last eight years. Many workers ask, “What progress?”

Donald Trump wins a hearing because he talks about the crisis: high unemployment, low wages, women without access to childcare. But his answers are anti-working-class demagogy: promising to “make America great again” and “safe again,” and to create jobs by putting “America First” and negotiating better trade deals. Scapegoating immigrants and blaming all Muslims for terrorism — in fact the largest number of victims of Islamist terrorists are Muslims — serve to divide working people. Blaming trade pacts for the economic crisis obfuscates the real enemy: capitalism.

The Bernie Sanders campaign — and the Occupy movement that hopes to gain control of the Democratic Party — is no better. Their mantras — campaign finance reform, more liberal Supreme Court judges, tax the rich — also take workers’ eyes off the real problem. There is no better, more humane capitalism. It can’t be tweaked or reformed. It must be replaced.

Working people, the producers of all wealth, can see our potential power reflected in the fear the rulers have of us, and how hard they try to convince us to accept our lot in life. “The Revenge of Unrealistic Expectations” is the title of a July 24 opinion piece by Robert Samuelson in the Washington Post, attacking all those who pine for a “romanticized world” of higher wages and low unemployment. But workers and farmers will not accept the rulers’ vision of the world.

All the bourgeois candidates, from Trump to Clinton and Sanders, assert that it is your vote Nov. 8 that matters. Their message is have faith in the elections.

Socialist Workers Party presidential candidate Alyson Kennedy is spot on when she says that whoever wins the election, the bosses will keep trying to boost their falling profit rates on our backs, the worldwide capitalist economic crisis will continue, the imperialist order will keep unraveling.

The only road out of this crisis is for working people to act to end the rulers’ class dictatorship, like workers and farmers did in Cuba in 1959.

The party joins every battle that increases the self-confidence of working people, our discipline in struggle, our class consciousness and understanding of our own worth. This includes union fights to improve wages and conditions, protests against police brutality and for a women’s right to abortion, and actions like the Sept. 8 United Mine Workers union march on Washington, D.C., to that demand health care benefits and pensions for retired miners be maintained.

“Workers need a revolutionary party to educate and organize the working class to fight for political power,” Kennedy says. “That’s what the Socialist Workers Party is.” 

http://themilitant.com/2016/8029/802920.html