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Book Review

How To Be A Nonviolent Second-Wave Feminist

During the 1970s and 1980s, many feminists pushed the armed forces to allow women to serve in combat. Many also organized to demand that police forces diversify and bring more women and people of color into their ranks. But this segment of the women’s movement did not represent everyone. A  smaller but hugely vocal constituency opposed violence, militarism, police expansion and colonialism, and argued that an equal opportunity to maim or kill would do nothing to create the equitable societies they sought to build. Unfortunately, their efforts often get short shrift in historical accounts of the era. The anthology, Feminism, Violence and Nonviolence zeroes in on the influence of pacifist thought on Second Wave feminism.

‘Power Lines—Building A Labor-Climate Justice Movement’

A familiar scene played out in the city council chambers of Richmond, California on May 22, 2024. For the last 20 years, since members of the anti-Chevron Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) first got elected to the council, any measure before that body affecting the city’s largest employer and business tax payer has been hotly debated. Local environmental justice organizations, like Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) mobilize their working-class members to attend and sign up to speak during the time allotted for “public comment.” To rebut the resulting complaints about pollution and arguments for stronger health and safety protection, the $290-billion company that operates Richmond’s massive 122-year-old refinery deploys its own defenders.

How Reformers Doubled Vermont AFL-CIO Membership

Transforming an existing union into a more democratic and member-run organization has often proven to be a daunting—though possible—task. The pressing need to revitalize organized labor in the U.S., however, depends on such movements. Beginning in 2017, a slate of reform-minded union activists won leadership offices in the Vermont state federation of labor, reinvigorating that organization. Within just a few years, the federation’s membership doubled. Insurgent Labor: The Vermont AFL-CIO, 2017-2023 is two-term president David Van Deusen’s participant-retelling of the emergence of the UNITED reform group.

Putting Members First: Ron Carey’s Lessons For Labor Movement Reform

Books about union presidents are usually penned by professional writers -- either academic historians, labor journalists, or paid flacks. Past accounts of the life and work of labor organization chiefs like John L. Lewis, Walter Reuther, Jimmy Hoffa, or Cesar Chavez have run the gamut from hagiographic to constructively critical. Few have had a biographer whose view of their leadership role is rooted in first-hand experience as a blue-collar worker in the same industry and union. Ken Reiman’s personal connection to the subject matter of Ron Carey and the Teamsters (Monthly Review Press, 2024) resulted from his own career as a UPS driver and activist in the local union that Carey led before becoming president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in the 1990s.

What Is Anti-Racism? And Why It Means Anti-Capitalism

In 2020, a white Minneapolis police officer arrested George Floyd, threw him to the ground, and pressed a knee into his neck, murdering him by asphyxiation. In response, “Black Lives Matter” protests erupted across the US, and it briefly appeared as if a racial reckoning might be taking place. However, its meaning was soon appropriated by Amazon, Walmart, and other prominent corporations declaring that Black lives mattered and dedicating funds to diversity training and other efforts that amounted to no more than what Black Agenda Report has long criticized as putting “Black faces in high places.”

Fighting Wall Street’s War On Workers

One of the occupational hazards of being a labor activist is over-exposure to “corporate bullshit”—on the job, in the community, and in politics. When workers try to win collective bargaining rights, employers conduct propaganda campaigns to spread every imaginable falsehood about the union. Once forced into negotiations, management shows up at the bargaining table with a new line of BS about not being able to afford union wage demands or agree to a grievance procedure. And in the legislative-political arena, corporate interests have long used disinformation to thwart labor campaigns.

Disappointing ´Rush To Judgment´ On China’s Role In The Congo

China’s role has been to bring new, large-scale investment on a new basis: combined financing for industrial mining and public infrastructure – roads, railroads, dams, health and education facilities. The result was “After decades of almost non-existent industrial production, the country became and remains the world’s leading producer of cobalt and, by 2023, became the world’s third largest producer of copper.” The new deal “puts an end to the monopoly of certain Western countries and their large companies whose history shows that this exclusivity has not brought development to the country.” The arrangement has dramatically reduced the role of artisanal mining.

Saving Ourselves: From Climate Shocks To Climate Action

Professor Dana R. Fisher answers this critical question in her new book, Saving Ourselves: Climate Shocks to Climate Action. Building upon years of research on activism, democracy, and climate politics, Fisher explores the state of the climate movement today to understand how radical direct action is evolving as the climate crisis worsens. In an interview with DeSmog’s Michaela Herrmann, Fisher outlines why she thinks “severe, durable climate shocks” will be required to shake the world out of the fossil fuel status quo once and for all. She draws upon years of data gathered from climate protests as early as COP6 in 2000 and lessons from the world’s response to COVID-19 to understand how civil society has responded to 30 years of ineffectual international climate negotiations.

The ‘Human Rights Industry’ And Nicaragua

Why do United Nations human rights bodies focus on some countries, but not others? Why do organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International appear to ignore important evidence presented to them? And why do the media repeat stories of human rights abuses without questioning their veracity? These issues and more are examined in one of 2023’s most remarkable books: The Human Rights Industry by Alfred de Zayas. It is remarkable for two reasons. One is that it brings together the insights of de Zayas and other experts into the ways in which “human rights” have been distorted to serve the interests of Western governments, principally those of the United States.

How Can Workers Organize Against Capital Today?

Labor Power and Strategy, the new book edited by Peter Olney and Glenn Perušek, officially aims to provide “rational, radical, experience-based perspectives that help target and run smart, strategic, effective campaigns in the working class.” But by the end of it, it is difficult to avoid the sneaking suspicion that Olney and Perušek have a different goal: to make clear just how far organized labor is from having a strategic conversation about its present impasse. The book is organized around an interview with economist and historian John Womack about the twin needs for an analysis of the weak points (or “choke points”) in contemporary industrial technologies and for the labor movement to exploit that analysis to cause disruption and gain leverage.

Cobalt Red, How The Blood Of The Congo Powers Our Lives

“Unspeakable riches have brought the people of the Congo little other than unspeakable pain.” So writes Siddharth Kara in Cobalt Red, How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives . It’s one of the many poetic phrases that make this book easy on the ear but hard on the heart and mind. There’s pleasure in turning the pages of such finely crafted prose, pain in knowing that, if you have half a heart, you’ll never be able to see your smartphone, laptop, tablet, solar power system, or electric car quite the same way again, that you’ll see blood all over the supply chain that put them in your hand, on your roof, or in your driveway.

Answering The Call

First, what is strategy, and why does anyone need it? Aren’t social movements all about taking action to create change? Deepak Bhargava and Stephanie Luce, who teach at CUNY’s School of Labor and Urban Studies, tackle this question head-on. “How do oppressed people, facing far stronger opponents, sometimes win?” The key to an underdog’s success, they argue, is strategy. While long-term planning comes naturally to the wealthy and powerful, strategy is even more important for the dispossessed to achieve their goals. Yet if the stories of the less powerful are rarely told, their strategies are even harder to trace.

Book Review: Soldiers As Workers In A Toxic Workplace

For decades, the armed services and contractors on bases abroad used massive burn pits for waste disposal, rather than safer methods. They burned everything from tires to computer equipment to medical waste and more, often using jet fuel, a known carcinogen, as an accelerant. These dangerous fumes would probably never have been allowed in stateside civilian workplaces. In the U.S., a company may risk penalties for illegal emissions or dangerous working conditions. If a civilian worker is lucky, their job may even have a union contract and a way to fight an unsafe workplace. Even without a union contract, if a job is lousy or overtly unsafe, a person can often walk away.

Imagining South Korea Without America

Is the ROK-US alliance unconditionally good? A new book raises radical questions about the ROK-US alliance on the 70th anniversary of the two countries’ mutual defense treaty, which was signed on Oct. 1, 1953. The book is “The Naked ROK-US Alliance,” written by Daegu University professor Kim Sung-hae, who completed a master’s in international affairs at the University of Georgia and a doctorate in journalism at the University of Pennsylvania. As the book’s subtitle suggests, this book lists the “reasons for resolving to break up with America” while urging us to imagine what South Korea would be like without the US or their alliance.

The Anthropocene? No, We’re Actually Entering The Ecocene!

We moderns are so self-important that we’ve even named a geological epoch after ourselves, the Anthropocene. Sure, human civilization has massively transformed and destabilized the planet’s ecosystems. But Anthropocene is ultimately a misleading moniker because it implies that we humans are the driving force on Earth. How self-regarding! As a parade of wildfires, floods, droughts, and extreme heat are showing, it’s Gaia who is calling the shots. She’s making her own fierce, non-negotiable demands on us. She’s bursting the frames of order that humans have long used to shape civilization, capitalism, the state, and culture.
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