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by Lloyd Hart
Monday, Dec. 30, 2002 at 2:49 PM
This is why it is good to get some union activist experience. You'll soon discover that people are mainly interested in how to improve their lives and the lives of their families first and foremost.
A Left Wing New Years Resolution: Localization vs. Globalization
By LLoyd Hart
The social and environmental revolution needs a marketing strategy that I don't see coming across in clear and decisive and universal terms in any of the literature I've read on left so far. The largest generation in the history of the world is coming of age and will be leaving the homes of their parents over the next several years. These youngsters are entering an economy that cannot provide them with the kinds of jobs that provided the union level pay and benefits that my generation still had available to us in the '60s and '70s. After 25 years of nonstop Neo liberal economic policies throughout the world and here in the U.S., of moving high paying and union jobs into low-wage, slave labor, zero regulation economic zones in economically de-evolving countries, there are no longer family building salaries available to young couples and young families. Minimum-Wage service industry and discount retail jobs are all the vast majority of these young people about to leave home have to look forward to. The kind of rhetoric that is coming out of a great deal of the leftist movement does not even begin to deal with realities of what young and disenfranchised people are facing on the ground floor today. Not just working class salaries have been affected. The middle-class salaries as well have been kept from expanding and have headed in the other direction. And benefits have been evaporating and quite literally disappearing with the discovery of the real value of the multinational corporations in the stock market. If there is a desire to approach a broader audience to put up an alternative to the planet destroying, zero regulation, child labor, slave market that the multinationals and their Neo liberal politicians are building then one must speak to the very circumstances of people's lives as they are being experienced right now.
This is why it is good to get some union activist experience. You'll soon discover that people are mainly interested in how to improve their lives and the lives of their families first and foremost. All other issues are secondary. One of the reasons that the environmental movement has primarily failed over the years is for the very reason that it is secondary and in many cases not even on the radar screen in the people's minds that are struggling just to make ends meet. Of course many people like myself have developed a language that links the communities economic welfare to their environmental welfare by first showing workers that they are the first to fall victim to a environmental pollution as the overwhelming amount of pollution gets its start in the workplace showing workers they are on the front line of the battle to clean up the environment, which then becomes a workplace safety issue at the bargaining table. This strategy has worked over and over again and succeeded in putting environmental issues in the front seat with economic issues.
Young couples having children today are experiencing all kinds of abnormalities in births and infertility is at a record rate let alone the over all skyrocketing cancer rates. At the top of this is the total saturation of toxic pollutants and lack of affordable health care in a low-wage economy as well as absolutely no housing for the world's largest generation coming-of-age to move into as they leave their parents' homes. Then pile on top of that, that 50% of the aging baby boom generation have no retirement plans or 401ks and will be relying strictly on Medicare and Social Security for their retirement. And to pile even more on top of that, those that thought they had a retirement plan saw it evaporated in the five trillion dollar disappearing act in the stock market as a result of Alan Greenspan popping the tech market bubble and corporations hiding their losses from the shareholders and the lining their pockets by stealing what money was left from the pockets of the corpse they left behind. With the results in showing the worst Christmas sales and 30 years and Christmas sales representing 40% to in some cases 60% of retailers' annual sales it is quite clear the Neo liberals have succeeded in breaking down the economic safety net to a Dickens Era shambles. And the Republican controlled Congress and White House having no intention of expanding unemployment benefits. The slashing of regulations led by an energy industry that is marking up the cost of energy in a down economy getting a free hand to pollute while boldface lying to you about how clean coal is the future and somehow miraculously our air is getting cleaner in a cynical attempt at greenwashing the public on cable TV into thinking that everything is A-OK. This all adds up to a very explosive situation over the next 10 years.
So if the Left wish to make the kind of impact that the unions have been able to make over the last hundred and 50 years for the standard of living that is now being rolled back to the beginning of the Union push in America, then it is my suggestion that we begin using language and commitment that the disenfranchised and the struggling youth can relate to.
Localized Economies, Localized Jobs:
We need Localization not Globalization. In other words we need to promote and finacially support social and environmental economic structures that are of a direct benefit to local populations and the environment that they live in. Promoting the same message that we would in talking about bio-regional development but using a less lofty language as a means to get our message across to broader populations looking to improve their lives but still carrying out the education that improving their lives also means raising their children in a clean environment. Just as micro loans through nonprofits in India have bolstered small localized businesses that thrive locally off of each other, so to can the neighborhoods and rural communities of America benefit. Unions and environmental groups could take the power that they have accumulated and direct it into a national campaign to support Micro economies through micro loans that would have environmental and healthcare benchmarks to insure clean-air and clean water and access to preventative healthcare. As a result of linking communities economic health to its environmental health we could aid in cleaning up the air and water in communities suffering the consequences of pollution. If a micro loan is made to set up a textile shop on a small-scale to make clothes for local sales and paying a higher wages and benefits than Wal-Mart therefore allowing the employees of the small textiles firm to buy the clothes they make, I think folks in minimum wage communities throughout the U.S. would jump at the chance to be a part of controlling their own destinies.
Localization Energy Policy:
Add to this Localization campaign a grass-roots energy policy where micro loans are made to set today's wind and solar electricity generating systems to earn money from the established electrical grid or to separate a community's homes and businesses from the grid entirely. Localized methane generating capacity could be created from human, animal and farm waste and used as fuel in a natural gas converted internal combustion engines radically reducing carbon dioxide emissions and doing away with the whole carbon monoxide destruction of beneficial local air and water.
Localization Healthcare Policy:
Much the same way the Carpenters' Union in New England has become its own health insurer therefore truly initiating a single payer health care system removing the profit factor allowing better and broader coverage of union members and their families, recipients of the micro loan system to join a similarly funded and processed single payer health care system.
Localization Political Lobby:
And of course all of these micro businesses would be members of the Union and Environmental groups infrastructure and would be able to benefit from all the research that this sector of civil society has developed over the years. The big national unions and environmental groups would have a vested interest in the success of these localized economies and the local economies would be able to rely on the big national unions and environmental groups for political cover against what would be an ongoing reaction from the Neo-liberals.
Localization and the Bottom Line:
But the bottom line of this entire campaign I am proposing we on the left take up, is to improve the lives of all humans and in environments that they live. To shorten work weeks and to increase paid vacation weeks. To clean up the environment and to raise healthier children. The most secure community is the one that is not threatened by an impoverished neighboring community making our goal all inclusive, a rising tide that truly raises all boats. Now, I know that this is what we've all have been working towards from all our unions and our environmental groups but what I propose is a coming together of the Sierra Club and the AFL CIO, Greenpeace and the Teamsters, the International Action Center, the Anti Capitalist Convergence and the Black Block and pool our resources and begin the process of repairing the damage caused to our families and our communities by globalization and the dumbing down of the standard of living this planet originally provided us with. The Unions and Environmental groups and civil society in general have all developed the skills and talent to make Localization work and I have faith in all of you as you all have helped to shape who I am today. Without all of you on the left who raised me up from a dysfunctional childhood to the reasonably functional person I am now, I would not be able to volunteer and donate money to your groups let alone blather my ideals on the internet. So I know, all you have the talent and skills to close ranks and win the debate by teaching by example, by teaching Localization.
Localization Global Affect:
Our campaign if showing success could just as well be instituted in the so-called developing world as we have seen the Schumacher Institute of Wales succeed in their small way to localize the economies in Africa with methane plants and bicycle powered lathes and shop tools helping to create rural small business and irrigated agriculture.
Just as the Neo Liberals have closed ranks, taking hold of the levers of power in our society so too must we close ranks and create and defend alternatives to the out of control piracy that globalization truly represents. We cannot wait until things are so bad that a convulsion from the street wipes out the rich and causes further damage to this teetering planet. We must begin today to consolidate our power without alienating each other and becoming enthralled in internal battles for national leadership of the movement. In Localization, power must stay in the local economy and community relying on a local and national debate conducted from the local for the spread and refinement of ideas adhering to the basic principles of the Constitution. There are those who obviously have the talent to debate at the national level and then there are those who would rather remain within the local debate. So please let us be honest with our selves and know that we are truly working toward more or less the same goals, the end of feudalism and the beginning of a truly democratic civil society where no one is ever worked into the grave again.
Happy New Year
I hope you see the light at the end of the tunnel that I see.
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