Sei sulla pagina 1di 8
OCCASIONAL PAPER NO. 1 FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2012 The Battle With Bunge: The Class War

OCCASIONAL PAPER NO. 1

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2012

The Battle With Bunge:

The Class War from Longview to the Mississippi River to the Globe

By Kali Akuno, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement Leith Kahl and Brian Wiles, Malcolm X Solidarity Committee

The Port of Longview, Cowlitz County,Washington State, is a small, depressed, rural, and overwhelmingly white logging town on the banks of the Columbia River. It is not necessarily the place one might have predicted that a struggle would develop which could be a critical turning point for organized labor and the multinational working class in the United States as a whole.

multinational working class in the United States as a whole. On July 14th, 200 longshoremen sat
multinational working class in the United States as a whole. On July 14th, 200 longshoremen sat

On July 14th, 200 longshoremen sat down on a railroad track into Longview to block a train full of corn bound for a newly constructed grain export terminal built on the riverbank by a consortium of capital called EGT. The purpose of this sit-down action was to demand that EGT adhere to the coast wide system of labor agreements between Pacific coast grain transport operators and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) that have been in effect since the late 1930s to obtain the human labor for this export terminal. In a deliberate effort to contravene, and ultimately destroy, the bargaining position of the ILWU and the coast wide agreements, EGT co-opted the conservative leadership of the Operating Engineers Local 701 and hired its members to work this port facility

under substandard working conditions.

On September 7th through 8th, the ILWU’s International President was assaulted by a cop while leading another protest to block the same EGT grain train’s second attempt to reach the export facility. The longshoremen of the Pacific Northwest responded by shutting down all ports between Portland and Bellingham for 24 hours, and by mobilizing hundreds to Longview that night, where the train’s contents were dumped all over the railroad tracks.

These actions demonstrate the determination and militancy of the ILWU, and the escalation of the struggle to a regional level well beyond the boundaries of one small timber town. ILWU Local 21, which consists of the longshoreman of that small timber town, has also shown outstanding fortitude and resolve over the many months of struggle, defying the injunctions of the capitalist courts, sustaining over 200 arrests and physical assaults by law enforcement, and standing up against the local county sheriff who has decided to behave as if he was a captain of EGT’s private army of mercenaries.

In late January, after pressure mounted on EGT from the ILWU and its allies, particularly the Occupy Movement, following militant actions on December 12, 2011, to shut down ports all along the Pacific Coast, and the pending threat of a major mobilization to stop the next grain shipment to Longview,Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire was able to mediate a tentative agreement with EGT and the ILWU. The details of this contract agreement are actively being worked out with ILWU Local 21 and the International. So

ILWU. The details of this contract agreement are actively being worked out with ILWU Local 21
ILWU. The details of this contract agreement are actively being worked out with ILWU Local 21
ILWU. The details of this contract agreement are actively being worked out with ILWU Local 21

now it appears that EGT will comply with the coast wide system of labor agreements established with the ILWU. But only time and struggle will tell.

This agreement, in and of itself, is not however going to stop a behemoth like EGT. EGT is an arm of one the largest conglomerates of capital in the world: Bunge Limited, a transnational agribusiness monopoly. Headquartered in the United States, it was originally founded by Dutch and Belgian slave traders. 1

originally founded by Dutch and Belgian slave traders. 1 It is now one of four companies

It is now one of four companies that literally control more than two- thirds of the world’s grain production and distribution. Bunge is a global powerhouse on a mission.That mission is to divide and weaken the working class on a global scale. EGT/Bunge’s attack on the ILWU is not just an attempt to break this strategic union, it is a deliberate effort to eliminate the historic gains of organized labor in the United States and to firmly discipline and control the multinational working class contained within it.

The full magnitude of the EGT/Bunge attack on the multinational working class only comes into full focus when we examine the following map, taken

1 For background on Bunge’s origins see http://www.bungenorthamerica.com/about-bunge/company-his- tory.shtml. For more information with the link to the trans-Atlantic slave trade see http://old.antislavery. org/breakingthesilence/slave_routes/slave_routes_netherlands.shtml and http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/

review/545.

from Bunge Limited’s website, 2 of Bunge’s established operations in North America:

2 of Bunge’s established operations in North America: As this map clearly illustrates, Bunge has concentrated

As this map clearly illustrates, Bunge has concentrated its operations along what is essentially the fourth coast of the United States: the mighty Mississippi river and its tributaries. From this placement it is clear that their North American strategy has been to control the transport of grain from the Midwest and Great Plains regions to the rest of the country and the world.

In order to control production and distribution on this level, Bunge has to control the labor of the region. It is no historic accident that most of the strategic states in which the giant transnational Bunge corporation maintains operations are so-called “Right to Work” 3 states.

2 This map can be found at http://www.bungenorthamerica.com/locations/usa/.

3 It is critical to note that the United States use of this term differs radically than its international application and definition employed by the United Nations and the International Labor Organization (ILO). In the U.S.“right-to-work” means that unions cannot bargain or establish collective contracts with their employers to protect their interests.The vast majority of the states that have “right-to- work” laws in the United States are concentrated in the South, where monopoly capital has been able to co-opt and collaborate with white workers to defeat union organizing drives in order to maintain the system of white supremacy and its fragmented spoils. In the UN system, which includes the ILO, right-to-work means that all human beings must have access to dignified work or income to sustain themselves. In the UN system this right is explicitly linked with the right to organize and to bargain collectively. For more information on the international understanding visit http://www2.ohchr.org/english/ law/cescr.htm.

Bunge has been and remains an avid promoter of “right-to-work” legislation for decades. “Right-to-work” legislation is historically enabled by the division of the multinational working class, which is divided by the peculiar US system of white supremacy developed by the European settlers of North America and their descendants to ensure their continued domination of the continent and its peoples.

their continued domination of the continent and its peoples. Organized labor’s failure to defeat white supremacy

Organized labor’s failure to defeat white supremacy within its ranks provides monopoly capital enterprises like Bunge with the ability to press its advantages and initiate campaigns like the one aimed at destroying the ILWU.

The Battle against Bunge is a critical battle for the multinational working class of the United States—one that must to be won if any of the historic gains of organized labor are to be retained. To win this decisive battle, the working class, organized and unorganized, is going to have to go on the offensive and take the Battle to Bunge.

The Malcolm X Solidarity Committee (MXSC) believes that an offensive campaign must be mounted against Bunge that includes a range of tactics— including non-violent civil disobedience, mass industrial action, and most importantly, strengthening the organization of the workers in the port and transportation industries along the Mississippi River. In effect, we need an “Operation Black Belt” 4 to organize and win where “Operation Dixie” 5 failed.

Operation Black Belt is a conceptual organizing campaign that addresses the necessity of organizing the multinational working class in the South, particularly concentrating on organizing Black workers in the region who form the core of the oppressed Black or New Afrikan nation that has been superexploited for centuries and to whom reparations are due to rectify the crimes against humanity and colonial oppression it continues to suffer.

4 The Black Belt historically refers to those regions in the South that possessed the highest quality soils and the highest concentrations of enslaved Afrikans (and to a lesser extent, Indigenous Peoples) to produce cash crops like cotton, rice, tobacco, indigo, etc.

5 For more information on Operation Dixie read Settlers: the Mythology of the White Proletariat, by J. Sakai.

Operation Dixie was a heroic but failed effort of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO)

Operation Dixie was a heroic but failed effort of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) to organize the multinational working class in the South from 1946–1953. It failed due to the CIO’s capitulation to white supremacy and the suppression and expulsion of the radical left wing forces within that labor federation during this period—including the ILWU in 1950.

With militant leadership, democratic coordination, unrelenting determination, and principled partnerships with oppressed peoples (Indigenous Nations, Blacks, Chicanos, immigrants, etc.) and the unorganized sectors of the multinational working class, the EGT/Bunge assault can be defeated, and an “Operation Black Belt” organizing campaign can enable a radical reorganization of the Mississippi River and the Black Belt South.

of the Mississippi River and the Black Belt South. We encourage everyone to stand in solidarity

We encourage everyone to stand in solidarity with ILWU Local 21 and support solidarity formations like the Committee to Defend the ILWU and the Million Worker March in taking action to stop EGT/Bunge. We also encourage everyone to spread the research information that we have compiled to educate the multinational working class about who and

what it is up against in this struggle.

We would also like to encourage everyone to support the call for launching and organizing a massive “Operation Black Belt” campaign. Defeating the initiative of EGT/Bunge in Longview is not going to be enough to stop their onslaught against workers. In order to effectively push back the assaults of EGT/Bunge and other capitalist behemoths like them, we are going to have to effectively organize the historic rear base of capitalist domination in the US, the South.

hg

A Profile of EGT/Bunge Limited

Compiled by the Malcolm X Solidarity Committee

We hope the links below will help combat the reactionary initiatives of EGT/Bunge and provide some overall accurate context to this specific fight between labor and capital. The following links are the preliminary results of the online research conducted by the Malcolm X Solidarity Committee. However, this is clearly just the tip the iceberg. More research is needed.

According to its own website, Bunge begins in Amsterdam in 1818:

http://www.bungenorthamerica.com/about-bunge/company-history.shtml

We have yet to uncover any specific info on the Bunge family prior to 1818. But, here are two links which thoroughly demonstrate that Dutch grain handling operations founded at that time were definitely founded by capital accumulated directly through slave trade (which, incidentally, is true of the capital that started nearly if not absolutely all the major shipping lines on the globe today):

http://old.antislavery.org/breakingthesilence/slave_routes/slave_routes_

netherlands.shtml

http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/545

Bunge's next big move to expand itself is by setting up operations in Argentina in 1884:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bunge_y_Born

Here's what was done to native people in Argentina specifically to clear the way for Bunge and its ilk:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conquest_of_the_Desert

Bunge's map of its current operations in the northern half of Turtle Island, i.e. the United States and Canada (notice the extreme concentration of its capital in the Mississippi River Valley):

http://www.bungenorthamerica.com/locations/index.shtml

Rainforest Action Network accuses Bunge of using modern slavery in Brazil:

http://ran.org/content/rainforest-action-network-protests-bunge-shareholder-

meeting

Article by the Washington State Labor Council which hypocritically only criticizes the “foreign” nature of Bunge's Korean and Japanese partners in the EGT venture (http://www.panocean.com/ and http://www.itochu.co.jp/ en/ respectively), while remaining silent on the apparently senior role of Bunge itself. The attempt to paint the fight against Bunge as an “American“ struggle against “foreign”, non-American capital is a dangerous tactic that will only preserve job or craft consciousness and stifle class consciousness:

http://www.thestand.org/2011/09/heres-why-longshore-workers-are-so-angry/

hg

To join us in this initiative, please contact us at:

operationblackbelt@gmail.com

hg

If you would like more information about the Malcolm X Solidarity Committee, please contact us at:

malcolmxsolidaritycommittee@gmail.com

please contact us at: malcolmxsolidaritycommittee@gmail.com For further information, or to link up with us for future
please contact us at: malcolmxsolidaritycommittee@gmail.com For further information, or to link up with us for future

For further information, or to link up with us for future actions and joint organizing, please visit our websites:

MXGM.org

NavigatingTheStorm.

blogspot.com