Saturday, September 10, 2016

Standing Rock Sioux Win a major Battle in the War Against Capital.

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired
Green party US

A few minutes after a federal judge rejected appeals from the Standing Rock Sioux to halt the construction of an 1170 mile oil pipeline that tribal leaders argue is a threat to their sovereignty, water and sacred burial places, the US government stepped in and temporarily halted the project.

“The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws.  Therefore, construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time.”

This is a huge victory for the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies that have fought an increasingly tense battle to halt construction of the pipeline.  Beyond this, it is a small victory in the struggle against capital and the private sector.  Land, the gift of nature, is in the capitalist mode of production a commodity that can be bought and sold. This is a battle for the land that nurtures us.

Every day we are seeing increased resistance to capitalism’s encroachment in to public life. In this case, a continuation of centuries of warfare that began with a genocidal assault on the way of life of this country’s original inhabitants that included the use of chemical warfare and forced starvation through the elimination of their food supply by slaughtering Buffalo.

The support the Standing Rock Sioux has received has been considerable and was growing daily. The government has not stepped in out of a respect for Native American culture, it has stepped in as a tactical response to the opposition and the fear that this issue could be the one that sparks off a generalized movement against the rotten, decaying system we know as capitalism or the so-called free market. The state, or government as we more commonly refer to it, is an organ of class rule, it represents the interests of the corporations, of capital, in such case like the one we are witnessing it is taking charge, looking out for this interests of the capitalist class as a whole. This is more than a struggle between the Standing Rock Sioux and a pipeline company. It is a struggle between the ruling class and a potential threat to their system.

Every day in the US it is something new, another movement against one form of state violence or another whether it’s home evictions, the Flint movement against the poisoning of the population’s water supply, the Black Lives Matter movement that has arisen as a response to police murders, the struggle against poverty wages, for public education and against the poisoning of our environment to name a few.

The halting of the pipeline is temporary. The government’s statement suggests that perhaps what is needed is “….nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.”  The US government’s statement also proposes “government-to-government consultations” with tribal representatives that can address questions that have arisen out of this clash. One is whether: “Within the existing statutory framework, what should the federal government do to better ensure meaningful tribal input into infrastructure-related reviews and decisions and the protection of tribal lands, resources, and treaty rights.”

The state has been forced to the table. This presents new, and in some ways, more pernicious dangers. I have participated in negotiations between my former union and the boss and while having the right to negotiate is important just like the jury system, it is within a framework set up by the bosses. They have the power and design the rules under which any dispute will be negotiated. I am not a lawyer, but I would guess that this is what “statutory framework” means in this case. And the government is referring to the negotiations as “consultations”.

The fact that they even talked to me as a representative of workers was due to the potential collective power we had to hurt them financially.  I have a union because American workers violated the law and forced upon the ruling class the right to bargain and act collectively, many workers died doing it. The ruling class makes legislation through its political representatives. They make the laws. I was forced on more than one occasion to remind my co-workers of this and condemn the propaganda that what we have won, benefits and rights we have,  are due to smart talking lawyers or individual action.

There are new dangers when the collective struggle on the streets is halted and our representatives meet with the enemy and at times like these we should pay heed to the utterance of our enemies and we should listen to one of the US bourgeois’ most prominent representatives, George Schultz who said: “Negotiations are a euphemism for capitulation if the shadow of power is not cast across the bargaining table.”

Imprint that statement on your mind.

We can get a sense of the fear that the private capital has in the response to the government’s forced intervention in the Standing Rock Struggle: “Should the administration ultimately stop this construction, it would set a horrific precedent,” saysCraig Stevens a spokesperson for a coalition that supports the pipelineconstruction. It would, we should recognize that. It is horrific for the 1%, not for the rest of us. The formation of unions was “horrific” for them. Go read the papers of the day, there would be chaos; the country would collapse. Freedom threatened.

The decision is “deeply troubling and could have a long-lasting chilling effect on private infrastructure development in the United States.”  Stevens says and adds that “No sane American company would dare expend years of effort and billions of dollars weaving through an onerous regulatory process receiving all necessary permits and agreements, only to be faced with additional regulatory impediments and be shut down halfway through completion of its project.”

The decision strikes terror in the hearts of the bankers, hedge fund managers and investors whose reason for their activity is profit. If their activity benefits society at all it is incidental to their activity. They are right to be scared but that’s not a bad thing.  We cannot rely on the private sector to provide the necessities of life or to protect the environment. Society's needs, energy, water, housing (shelter) education, all human requirements, must be determined collectively and the wealth, the capital allocated for such social necessities must be collectively owned and collectively allocated. This is freedom.

The numerous struggles that are popping up almost daily throughout the country are as yet fairly isolated, confined to a particular issue. This is not unlike how trade unions were formed, craft unions, as the members of each craft defended their own particular trade. The situation cries out for a generalized and united movement against capital. I mention some of the issues above but the linking of these various movements in to a powerful working class direct action movement must arise if we are to move forward.  Linking with workers and all victims of capitalism internationally must be part of this process.

There are the indigenous movements of Latin America and Asia that are defending the land in these regions against fossil fuel and mining companies. The workers of Cambodia, Bangladesh and throughout Asia who have fought running battles with hired thugs of multi-national companies, many of them US companies.  The workers of China will at some point enter the world stage with a vengeance. The European workers too are facing capitalist austerity. We are not powerless, we are simply not yet organized sufficiently.

As usual a potentially powerful ally for the Standing Rock Sioux is missing in action and that is the heads of organized labor.  The heads of the major unions and the national federations have access to 12 million workers, a potentially powerful force. These workers like all of us are seeing their standard of living decline. The heads of organized labor were absent in Ferguson, they are nothing but token representatives in any struggle that doesn’t affect wages hours and working conditions and that safeguards their obscene salaries and privileged positions.  They have a structure, some 1000 central labor council and thousands of locals throughout the country. They too are an obstacle that has to be overcome, a dam that has to breached if we are to drive back this offensive of capitalism.

The government’s statement on the halting of the pipeline also makes clear that it respects the right of people to protest but will not tolerate acts of violence. It is somewhat ironic that a state that is one of the most aggressive perpetrators of violence claims to abhor it. The situation in the US at the moment is so volatile, there is such an anger that exists within US society that the state has to retreat and use other tactics; it wants to contain this. The US is a society ready to explode, and the ruling class knows it.  It is bogged down in imperial conquest and regional wars and cannot afford a major explosion at home that puts the entire system at risk.

As an aside, I am a Green Party member and more than a few of my socialist colleagues have made mockery of this move on my part. I am a member of a socialist or left caucus in the Green Party. This writer and others involved with Facts For Working People, argue for the GP to become a works party, and a socialist party. I have a fair share of criticism of my own party. But Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and VP candidate Ajuma Baraka were in North Dakota and were charged for defacing a corporate bulldozer. Where is Sanders? Where is Hillary Clinton, Aleppo Johnson?
I commend my candidates for president and VP of the US for their actions. Young people, join the GP, build it, take it in to the rank and file of the unions, help make it a party of the working class and a democratic eco-socialist party. It already has an eco-socialist plank and this recent struggle is an eco struggle.

There is often talk of genocide when we discuss the history of the Native American and this is a correct term. If chemical warfare and the destruction of a people’s food supply is not genocide I don’t know what is. But five hundred years after their first meeting with European colonialism, at the very birth of capitalism as it arose from the belly of European feudal regimes, native Americans command a force in battle that leads to a victory against the most powerful ruling class in history.

My greatest thanks and respect to the Native people who are fighting to defend the land for all of us.

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