SHANTZ, Jeff. "Syndicalism, Ecology and Feminism: Judi Bari’s Vision"

unionismSHANTZ, Jeffrey A.

According to the late Wobbly organizer and Earth Firster, Judi Bari, a truly biocentric perspective must really challenge the system of industrial capitalism which is founded upon the ‘ownership’ of the earth. Industrial capitalism cannot be reformed since it is founded upon the destruction of nature. The profit drive of capitalism insists that more be taken out than is put back (be it labour or land). Bari extended the Marxist discussion of surplus value to include the elements of nature. She argued that a portion of the profit derived from any capitalist product results from the unilateral (under)valuing, by capital, of resources extracted from nature.
Because of her analysis of the rootedness of ecological destruction in capitalist relations Bari turned her attentions to the everyday activities of working people. Workers would be a potentially crucial ally of environmentalists, she realized, but such an alliance could only come about if environmentalists were willing to educate themselves about workplace concerns. Bari held no naïve notions of workers as privileged historical agents. She simply stressed her belief that for ecology to confront capitalist relations effectively and in a non-authoritarian manner requires the active participation of workers. Likewise, if workers were to assist environmentalists it was reasonable to accept some mutual aid in return from ecology activists.
In her view the power which manifests itself as resource extraction in the countryside manifests itself as racism and exploitation in the city. An effective radical ecology movement (one which could begin to be considered revolutionary) must organize among poor and working people. Only through workers’ control of production and distribution can the machinery of ecological destruction be shut down.
Ecological crises become possible only within the context of social relations which engender a weakening of people’s capacities to fight an organized defence of the planet’s ecological communities. Bari understood that the restriction of participation in decision-making processes within ordered hierarchies, prerequisite to accumulation, has been a crucial impediment to ecological organizing. [1] This convinced her that radical ecology must now include demands for workers’ control and a decentralization of industries in ways which are harmonious with nature. It also meant rejecting ecological moralizing and developing some sensitivity to workers’ anxieties and concerns.