Feb 202017

  by Bill Onasch

Where to Start?

That’s always been a challenge for the Week In Review since the launch of this more or less weekly missive on a regular basis 13 years ago. But Trump’s simultaneous Full Frontal assaults on workers, women, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, LGBT folks, and the media is unprecedented in living memory.

It is ambitious to the point of hubris. At least superficially, its methods often resemble odious authoritarian regimes in other lands that ultimately led to massive death, destruction and misery during the 1930-40s.

But the USA today is not a defeated, humiliated Germany and there is no imminent danger of worker revolution that led the ruling class in Italy and Spain as well as Germany to reluctantly embrace a fascist solution. The Trump blitzkrieg is a preemptive offensive to divide, exhaust, demoralize, and neutralize opposition to his America First agenda to transform class and social relations top to bottom. It is viewed as a risky gambit by top echelons of the ruling class who would be content to get some tax breaks, and fewer regulations with out reviving hostile mass movements.

I could have picked the proud protests against the travel ban correctly viewed as an attack on Islam; the outpouring of support for Planned Parenthood and the projected Women’s Strike; the hastily assembled demonstrations against the crackdown on immigrant workers; or the fight against new draconian anti-union legislation in Iowa, for this week’s lead. These and more are worthy of attention and support and both will be forthcoming in future WIRs.

But this week I will return to an overarching crisis that needs to remain front and center.

‘Of Biblical Proportions’

The term comes from the numerous cataclysmic events recorded in what Christians call the Old Testament–like the fire and brimstone destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah; the great flood that floated Noah’s Ark; the series of escalating plagues against Egypt to secure release of enslaved Jews. According to scripture, these were acts of divine retribution against disobedience, implemented by a deity who reserved the sole right of vengeance.

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If you follow the climate news stories posted on our companion Labor Advocate blog you know there are events of such scale occurring in our time with alarming frequency. Just since our last WIR:

* 200,000 in northern California fled their homes because of a credible threat that a dirt spill way at North America’s highest dam might fail, releasing a tsunami. After some frantic emergency patchwork, those temporary refugees were allowed to return home–but warned to stay prepared for another possible evacuation as more monsoon like rains were expected.

* Not so widely publicized, a chunk of the Antarctic ice shelf the size of Manhattan Island broke away from that melting deep freeze continent and even bigger separations are imminent.

* Perhaps disoriented by this Antarctic impact on the South Pacific, hundreds of whales beached themselves in New Zealand.

* While marine mammals always attract sympathetic attention, a dire situation in East Africa is largely ignored. Climate & Capitalism describes the impact of severe drought–“Failed harvests, disease, deteriorating water and pasture conditions, and animal deaths mean 12 million need food aid now, and the situation is fast deteriorating.”

But these calamities are not divine wrath like those in Abrahamic lore. They are natural reactions by a planet extremely stressed by human activity. Mere mortals are threatening the viability of the biosphere that has nurtured our species long evolution to what we call civilization.

Scientists explain climate change, caused by unnatural global warming, is mainly the result of unintended consequences from burning fossil fuels. They can predict the impact and pace of its likely future course. And most importantly, they offer counter-measures that, if taken soon enough, can stop it short of collapse of our biosphere.

Science Also Under Attack

Science is also in the cross-hairs of the lethal America First. While all major party politicians are suspected of deceit, the Liar-in-Chief in the White House is downright pathological–with a particular trash-talking obsession with climate science.

Trump’s nominee for Science Adviser has characterized climate science as “a glassy eyed cult.” EPA employees, including scientists, took the extraordinary, though unsuccessful step of urging Senators to reject Trump’s choice for Agency Administrator. His already confirmed Secretary of State, whose duties include compliance with commitments in the Paris climate deal, and approval of pipelines crossing U.S. borders, was until a few weeks ago CEO of America’s biggest fossil fuel company. And Army Corps of Engineers ecologists were ordered, from the very top of the chain of command, to stand down from their unfinished Environmental Impact Report that had been holding up construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline along side and under the Missouri River in the Standing Rock Reservation.

It is ironic that the top prelate in the church that once burned Bruno on the stake, and forced Galileo to recant, when their science clashed with church dogma today is an outspoken defender of climate scientists and an advocate for climate action. I don’t agree with much of Pope Francis’s teachings but I sincerely welcome the spiritual leader of hundreds of millions to our righteous cause.

A recent demonstration by hundreds of scientists in conjunction with a conference of the association that publishes Science magazine, is also gratifying.

But neither prayer nor pleas from scientists are sufficient to reverse the destructive course of Global Capitalism and the governments that serve them. That’s the mission of the working class majority—if we choose to accept it in time. And that time is growing short.

The Best Defense…

A maxim first attributed to George Washington is usually spot on—the best defense is a good offense. That’s the spirit of the message in a widely reprinted article by Jeremy Brecher, a well known labor historian and co-founder of the Labor Network for Sustainability—How Labor and Climate United Can Trump Trump.

It’s a good start toward moving from the popular but hazy call for “resistance” to coordinated counter-attacks on all fronts. Still, in my opinion, the climate crisis demands an even greater sense of urgency—and a more comprehensive program to win. In the past, Brecher and others have called for declaring a climate emergency requiring government intervention on the same scale as the economic mobilization during World War II. A planned restructuring is essential.

The global Trade Unions for Energy Democracy advances a demand of socialization of all energy under worker management. That’s the only sure way of converting to the goal of 100 percent clean renewable options to fossil and nuclear.

That’s good—but still insufficient. In my view, to implement the full scope of what’s needed for a just and sustainable society would require at least socialization of finance and transportation as well.

I’m willing to stand with the Pope, Naomi Klein, Bernie Sanders, and Bill McKibben in actions demanding meaningful measures against climate change. But I will also work for not just inclusion of the workers’ movement in broad demonstrations but for the working class to lead the fight for class and climate justice.

That’s all for this week.

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