Mar 302014

onaschoutsmall  by Bill Onasch

On All Continents and Across the Oceans
Tomorrow the second of three installments of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment of damage to our biosphere will be officially released at a gathering in Japan. Advance copies were “leaked” to the Guardian and other news outlets. It is undoubtedly the most extensively and intensely peer reviewed scientific document ever. It was also perused by officials from 115 government bodies. It is not good news.

The Guardian quotes the report,

“In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans….Both warm water coral reef and Arctic ecosystems are already experiencing irreversible regime shifts.”

A New York Times article says,

“As the world’s top scientists meet in Yokohama, Japan, this week, at the top of the agenda is the prediction that global sea levels could rise as much as three feet by 2100. Higher seas and warmer weather will cause profound changes. Climate scientists have concluded that widespread burning of fossil fuels is releasing heat-trapping gases that are warming the planet. While this will produce a host of effects, the most worrisome may be the melting of much of the earth’s ice, which is likely to raise sea levels and flood coastal regions. Such a rise will be uneven because of gravitational effects and human intervention, so predicting its outcome in any one place is difficult. But island nations like the Maldives, Kiribati and Fiji may lose much of their land area, and millions of Bangladeshis will be displaced.”

Another island not mentioned is home to the greatest concentration of billionaires on the planet, including a major bankroller of global warming denial–Manhattan. SuperStorm Sandy exposed its vulnerability–along with Long Island and Staten Island as well. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg–a billionaire himself and a patron of the Sierra Club–left a legacy of an ambitious and expensive geoengineering plan to keep the Big Apple above water.

I’m not qualified to judge the likely effectiveness of such a plan. But clearly Bangladesh doesn’t have  the resources for a feasibility study, much less gigantic attempts to hold back the rising sea. The USA is in a dead heat with Australia as the leading per capita producer of greenhouse gasses. Bangladesh is responsible for 0.3 percent of the world’s climate changing emissions.

I look at this challenge as similar to dealing with combat casualties. The wounded of all sides should get the best medical treatment available for their trauma and any needed rehabilitation. But if you really want to end the bloodshed you have to stop the war. 

It may be unintended consequence, but in the hands of the rulers of global capital greenhouse gas emissions have become an instrument of war that ultimately threaten all living things. There are no engineering solutions to bring more than fleeting reprieve to those who can afford them. There are no market solutions because environmental destruction is more profitable than proven alternatives for environmental salvation. There will be no stopping climate change without system change. Irreversible regime shift in ecosystems is bad. Regime shift in the system of who rules society is imperative to the future of humanity.

While the blame for this crisis is squarely on the bosses, bankers, and brass hats the responsibility for resolving it falls to the working class. No other social force has both the power and class interest to take on the climate destroyers and restructure a transition to a sustainable society. We don’t have much time left to get our act together. We need to fight while there is still something left to win.

I’m encouraged that, unlike the last gathering, the Labor Notes Conference this coming week has scheduled a major workshop on Labor and Climate Change. I look forward to the presentations and discussion.

Looking Back on the Labor Party
That is the title of an interview of Mark Dudzic by Derek Seidman, posted on the New Politics site. Currently the National Coordinator of the Labor Campaign for Single Payer, Mark was the last National Organizer of the Labor Party. It’s a bit long, as the interviewer sometimes posed the same basic question more than once, but it’s a very informative piece.

Mark basically updated the balance sheet he co-authored a couple of years ago with LP Secretary-Treasurer  Katherine Isaac, Labor Party Time? Not Yet. In a response at the time, I called it well rounded. It presented an honest, comprehensive history of the development from a probe called Labor Party Advocates (LPA) through a 1996 Labor Party Founding Convention of 1400 enthusiastic participants, the sometimes promising issue campaigns, and finally an ultimate demise due to lack of material support from unions. Mark and Katherine renewed their conviction that a labor party was needed but postulated that success depended on a revitalized union movement prepared to do political battle. There can be no genuine labor party without this labor support.

That basic assessment remains spot on. There have been some inspiring labor developments on local levels since that original article, and national efforts such as the fast food and retail workers. But Mark correctly notes in the latest interview that no national union is prepared to seriously commit to building a labor party–not even one that recently elected a former Labor Party National Council member as its national president.

Having said that, I believe it is still important to keep the labor party idea alive, listening and talking among dissatisfied workers and union officials, preparing to be part of an inevitable revival in American labor struggles. There is no doubt that the working class majority holds the boss political Establishment in contempt. If there’s no class alternative their rejection of mainstream may simply dissipate in to demoralization. That’s why some of us still think a revival of Labor Party Advocates is in order.

I am surprised the interviewer did not ask Mark about the remarkable electoral victory of socialist Kshama Sawant in Seattle and the strong showing of her comrade Ty Moore in Minneapolis. It’s possible the interview was actually conducted before the elections.

Socialists played an important role in the founding of the British Labor Party and Canadian NDP. Even during the heyday of the American Socialist Party during the first two decades of the Twentieth Century, when socialists won seats in Congress, state legislatures, and controlled municipal governments in a number of cities, Eugene V Debs agitated for the formation of a broader labor party.

The election of one socialist to a city council seat does not negate Mark’s sober estimate of the short term national prospects for a labor party. But it is certainly more than just a curious quirk. Sawant, who had credentials as an activist in Occupy and solidarity struggles, linked her campaign to a big union battle at Boeing and an emerging local mass movement for a fifteen dollar minimum wage–a good, successful example for how a broader labor party could and should contest for political power.

Kshama Sawant will be part of a panel on working class politics at the Labor Notes Conference.

Radio That Talks Back to the Boss
That’s the motto of the Heartland Labor Forum on community radio KKFI-FM, 90.1 in Kansas City. Produced and presented by worker volunteers, mentored by Judy Ancel of Worker Education & Labor Studies at UMKC, they’ve been doing just that for twenty-five years now. They won national awards from their peers in the International Labor Communications Association of the AFL-CIO in 2009 and again in 2013. This Thursday they are celebrating their Silver Anniversary on the air at their regular 6PM slot. If you are out of radio range you can listen to live streaming on the KKFI site and to archived shows here. I’m sorry I won’t be around to join in on the festivities in person Thursday–Amtrak willing, I’ll already be in Chicago for the Labor Notes Conference. Better early than late, I wish the HLF a happy 25 and many more to come.

Question the Table
If you are among the record number of participants expected at the April 4-6 Labor Notes Conference I hope you will find time to visit the literature table. You will be offered a free four-page tract for the good of your solidarity soul and an opportunity to buy one or all  three varieties of buttons on sale for a dollar a piece. (I actually lose ten cents on each button but hope to make it up on the volume.)

I thank those readers who donated funds to make the conference table possible with a special danke to generous donors in Seattle and Los Angeles whose names are withheld per our privacy policy.

After posting our news update on our companion Labor Advocate blog tomorrow (Monday) I’ll be taking a break in routine until after the Conference. The news updates will resume Tuesday, April 8, and the next WIR will soon follow.

That’s all for this week.
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Bill Onasch is a paid up NWU member

Bill Onasch is a paid up NWU member

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