Jeff Shantz, Green Syndicalism: An Alternative Red/Green Vision
New York, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2012. ISBN: 978-0815633075.
In this thought provoking book's stated aim of revisiting the intersections between the radical ecology movement and the labour movement there is much to recommend: that the radical ecology movement needs to revisit the role of the working class in any future project of social transformation; that much radical ecology has thrown the baby of the working class out with the bathwater of failed socialism; and the notion that the working class, so used to living within their own economic and social limits, might be the social class best placed to lead a collective attempt to live within our planetary limits. Difficult to disagree with the first two; and the third is enticing.
And for Shantz, it is through the practice of syndicalism, as understood in its French and Spanish forms, that radical ecologists can re-envision their notions of the working class and bring this group into play in building a workable project of social and ecological transformation.
To test his central claim, Shantz gives us one major case study here: the work of Earth First! (EF!) activist Judi Bari in the so called 'timber wars' of Northern California in the late 1980s. In opposing the deforestation of the Redwoods, Bari established the Industrial Workers of the World/Earth First Local 1 group that explicitly reached out to (and drew on the activist experience of) the loggers themselves. At the time, this was a radical departure for a prominent member of EF!, a group which up until that point had equated the loggers with the logging companies, and who had seen both as enemies in the fight to preserve the Redwoods. But Bari suggested that both ecologists and workers would be better served working together, and that 'the destinies of the forest and of the forest workers were inextricable linked' (p. 62).
IWW/EF1 soon gained momentum, organising many different actions and swelling in membership. Moreover, its impact on the hegemony of the logging corporations in the forests was undeniable: the alliance that the group suggested was a 'chilling proposition' (p. 68) not only for the logging companies but also for local and national law enforcement agencies.
Indeed, this case study is Shantz's greatest strength. As an examination of both the need for and the potential strength of a collaboration of ecology and labour, it is illuminating. However...