ALLIED GROUNDS · BG 2023 Project · Text Series, Conference, and More · Current: Invitation to Public Talks · Call for Papers Still Open
With annual projects such as “Water Knowledge” (2009), “More World” (2019), and “After Extractivism” (2022), the BG began to explore various questions of political ecology, linking issues of environmental pollution, resource commodification, and climate collapse to the toxically intertwined and mutually fueling economic and ecological crises caused by imperialism and capitalism.
Approaching this inquiry from a new, fresh angle, “Allied Grounds” – the BG 2023 project – intends to revisit and further explore so-called “sacrifice zones” and “transition countries,” zoom in on struggles for labor and environmental justice, and, ultimately, probe the organizational practices and potentialities of these very struggles.
Central to the exploratory nature of the Allied Grounds project is a series of texts. Reflecting the politics and possibilities of internationalism, commons, and (re-)organization, all of the inquiries are linked by a common concern: to research and construct connections between environmental and labor struggles.
The overarching question of the project is: Since the means of production have become the means of climate production, how can we – all kinds of exploited workers around the world – seize these very means and address both the eco-social and decolonial question of the climate crisis?
Engaging researchers, activists, and cultural workers in a variety of forms and encounters, we will be co-producing knowledge resources in different media formats.
Call for papers In 2023 we will publish around 50 texts. See the first “Allied Grounds”-articles below. If you would like to contribute to the text series, mail us at info(at)berlinergazette(.)de
Conference The BG conference “Allied Grounds” will take place on Oct. 5, 6, and 7, 2023 at the House of Democracy and Human Rights. Info on the workshops is already available. See below.
Multimedia website We will be compiling all of our findings and adding audio, video, and more to this site by the end of 2023, as we did for “After Extractivism.”
II. PUBLIC TALKS
Agents of System Change · Oct. 5
The moral force of the environmental movements in the Global North seems undeniable: they are right about the destruction of the planet and its disastrous consequences for the majority of the world’s population. But are these movements actually capable of becoming agents of fundamental change, namely the transition from capitalism to feminist eco-socialism? This opening public talk of the “Allied Grounds” conference on Thursday, October 5, at 7 p.m. will invite us to 1) re-evaluate the struggling global proletariat, especially informal and subsistence workers turned ‘fugitive laborers,’ as agents of systemic change and 2) discuss the allied grounds necessary for that change.
Speakers: Jennifer Kamau, Florin Poenaru. Moderation: Claudia Núñez.
Resisting Green Jobs · Oct. 6
‘Green jobs’ are a project of the ruling classes to create new opportunities for excessive profiteering. Challenging this means, not least, taking a look at workers’ organizations as different as mainstream unions and the offspring of anarcho-syndicalism: Are they succumbing to the promises of green capital, or are they fighting for truly sustainable workplaces? The second “Allied Grounds” public talk on Friday, October 6, at 7 p.m. will discuss recent cases of working-class environmentalism in South and Eastern Europe and explore 1) how climate activists are endeavoring to build allied grounds with workers and 2) how researchers can contribute in this context.
Workers of all kinds are taking over their workplaces and organizing them according to horizontal, sustainable principles: without bosses, without the compulsion to make a profit, without the separation between production and reproduction. At the same time, capital’s value chains are changing and expanding in ways that make it more difficult to identify and build connections between revolting workers. The third and final “Allied Grounds” public talk on Saturday, October 7, at 7 p.m. will ask what a politics of translation might look like that allows struggles and solidarities to be articulated and brought into conversation across different spaces, scales, and subjectivities.
Speakers: Dario Azzelini, Lorenzo Feltrin, Brett Neilson. Moderation: Anna Saave.
All sessions will take place at 7 p.m. in the Haus der Demokratie und Menschenrechte, Greifswalder Straße 4, 10405 Berlin. Admission is free.
The workshops on October 5, 6, and 7 are the heart of the BG conference “Allied Grounds.” They bring together researchers, activists, and cultural workers from more than 25 countries and enable new ways of spending quality time with each other.
Taking five different thematic approaches to the key questions of the “Allied Grounds” project (see columns on the right and below), the workshops will feature guests invited by the conference organizers and additional participants who registered through an open call. For more info on the schedule click here.
The Balkans are virtually absent in the dominant political discourse of Europe: out of sight, out of mind. At the same time, central economic and geopolitical interests of the EU are concentrated in this region, not least in the course of creating “green future markets.” Here, the logic of (green) capitalism and imperialism has a specific dimension – for example, due to the post-“communist” formation of this region – and at the same time a dimension that is representative of the periphery of the world system: Capitalism creates and thrives on divisions among workers; these divisions are key to the development of the capitalist system of production and to maintaining the profitability of capitalism itself; to ensure profitability, only a minority of the working class can be protected against the adverse effects of market forces in general and the creation of new markets in particular. Understanding this is key to tackling the divisions that are being created today between workers in the “old” carbon industries and the “new” post-carbon industries. How can these divisions be politicized and turned into a basis for shared working class struggles and alliances with environmental movements that challenge green imperialism?
If every economic activity has an ecological footprint, then it is obvious that we, as people who in one way or another work in a capitalist economy, have a significant share in climate production, albeit a largely unintentional and unconscious one. The ongoing restructuring of labor in the name of a green transition reproduces and even reinforces this destructive dimension of capitalism. Thus, reorganizing work as conscious and sustainable climate production based on internationalist alliances implies the following challenge: At the subjective level, issues of health (physical and mental) must be addressed in order to provide a basis for the growth of our political consciousness and agency as climate workers. At the collective level, the international division of labor needs to be addressed, as well as the enforced opposition between productive and reproductive work and the abandonment of large parts of the world’s population by systems of legal, economic, political, and health care protection. How can we rethink the sustainability of work as co-dependent on our health? And how can we co-constitute an eco-international that bridges the North-South and West-East divides in the name of a truly just and common future?
Guests: Carola von der Dick, Özgün Eylül İşcen, Rositsa Kratunkova, Angelina Kussy, Davide Gallo Lassere, Eliana Otta, Nicolay Spesivtsev, Alexandra Stefanescu, Anna Zett. Moderation: Max Haiven.
Jobs vs. Nature?
The future of productive and reproductive labor is directly intertwined with the ecological future of the planet and the immediate environment of workers. In the capitalist system, wage labor and ecology are played off against each other, for example, in the form of so-called environmental blackmail, which promises jobs in ecologically polluting industries. Or, more recently, the other way around: by creating supposedly “green jobs” to legitimize mass layoffs. In this context, the dilemma of jobs versus the environment only makes sense if we do not question the basic assumptions of capitalism. The problem therefore needs to be reframed: It is not “environmental protection that endangers jobs,” but the ecologically destructive or at best ecologically modernized business as usual (also read: fossil or green capitalism), whose class-specific consequences also affect many laborers’ living and working conditions. How do we want to work now and in the future? What do we want to produce and under what conditions? How can we redefine work in a gender-just way? How can we redistribute work in an internationalist context and overcome the deep inequalities of the international division of labor?
The forces of colonialism, capitalism, and imperialism cause, or even create, disasters in the Global South (floods, droughts, etc.), displacing millions of people, putting them out of work, and making them support economies around the world, such as the centers of capital in the Global North. Here, the most vulnerable become the least protected and the most exploited. Worse, the threat of “replacement by cheaper labor” is used to blackmail workers who have more rights or protections: “If you comply, we’ll keep them at bay and secure your job and ecosystem.” Such eco-fascism is advancing alongside green capitalism as the other major capital-conformist approach to contain labor and climate struggles, sabotage alliances among workers, and prevent environmental justice. Thus, the concerns of the migrant proletariat are closer to the heart of the social order and the source of the conditions that determine the fate of “primary human needs” and “universal goods” than many of the (predominantly white) environmental movements that have placed these needs and goods on their protest agendas. What does an eco-internationalism based on the struggles of migrant workers look like?
Guests: Jennifer Kamau, Julia Molin, Marta Peirano, Florin Poenaru, Kübra Tokuç, Niloufar Vadiati, Manuela Zechner, Dzina Zhuk. Moderation: Katrin Kämpf, Claudia Núñez.
Throughout history, workers have taken control of industries and replaced capitalists as the organizers of the social division of labor, as in the Soviets of St. Petersburg in 1917, among the anarchists of Barcelona in 1936, in the cordones industriales of Chile in 1972, and most recently in the factory occupations of Argentina, Greece, and Italy in the early 21st century. These struggles raise different issues than those that seek only security (typically through the state), or those that seek higher wages and more control within a factory. Such struggles represent the prospect of workers shaping the social division of labor toward universal ends. This seems particularly relevant at a time when the dream of simply raising living standards through increased productivity – the promise of states of the right and left in the twentieth century – is running aground on ecological reality. Can workers play a role in directly shaping what is produced, how it is produced, and not just who gets what? Can this lead to a resurgence of working-class environmentalism, as the recent case of the former GKN factory in Italy suggests? And how can internationalist, cross-class alliances be built around it?
Guests: Alistair Alexander, Dario Azzelini, Antje Dietrich, Lorenzo Feltrin, Francesca Gabbriellini, Nelli Kambouri, Gorana Mlinarevic, Jaron Rowan. Moderation: Sotiris Sideris.
Dario Azzellini · Optimizing or Abolishing Capitalism? Sustainable Work and Just Transition Instead of Work Society and Climate Catastrophe · URL
Sita Balani · Repairing or Policing the Planet? Struggles for Social and Environmental Justice at the Edges of Democracy · URL
Alexander Behr · Planetary Alliance Politics and Solidarity-Based Division of Labor: Notes on Overcoming the Imperial Mode of Living · URL
Slave Cubela · Communism of the Body: Politicizing the Intersection of Labor and Environmental Struggles · URL
Antje Dieterich · Daniel Gutiérrez · The Strategic Hypothesis of Ecological Unionism: Why We Need to Think Social and Environmental Rationalization Together · URL
Lorenzo Feltrin · Emanuele Leonardi · Converging Struggles: Working-Class Composition, Technological Development, and Ecological Politics · URL
Francesca Gabbriellini · Paola Imperatore · An Eco-Revolution of the Working Class? What We Can Learn from the Former GKN Factory in Italy · URL
Rahul Goswami · Against the International of Capital: Why We Must Resist the Financialization of Land and Labor in the Global South · URL
Max Haiven · Climate Workers of the World, Unite!? Searching for Affective Connections, Common Enemies, and Shared Narratives · URL
Marc Herbst · Prefigurative Politics: Fabulating the Intersection Between Labor and Environmental Struggles · URL
Özgün Eylül İşcen · Disaster Capitalism, Class Struggles, and Situated Alliances in Post-Earthquake Turkey · URL
Boris Kagarlitsky · Internationalist Movements? Climate Crisis, Working Class, and the Means of Production · URL
Ela Kagel · Sustainable Climate Production: Absenteeism, Universal Basic Outcome, and Platform Cooperatives · URL
Nelli Kambouri · The Mobile Knowledge Worker Dilemma: Constructing Alternative Ecological and Social Theories of Care – but Unable to Live Them? · URL
Muskaan Jagadish Khemani · Embracing an Ethic of Love: A Radical Path to Revolution in a World of Exploited and Divided Workers · URL
Angelina Kussy · Rethinking Work, Building a Post-Growth Pathway: How to Crack the Dominant System Through Care · URL
Sydney Lang · Merle Davis Matthews · Just Transition Politics in Ontario and the Potential for an Anti-Colonial, Anti-Capitalist Labor Movement · URL
Davide G. Lassere · For an Internationalist Ecologism: Can We, the Multiplicity of the World’s Exploited Workers, Reinvent the Politics of Alliances? · URL
Svjetlana Nedimović · Fires of the Future in the Furnaces of the Past: Building Socio-Environmental Alliances in the European South(East) · URL
Brett Neilson · Electrification and Infrastructural Solidarity: Why Climate Struggle Requires the Reinvention of Internationalism · URL
mirko nikolić · Shutting Down Monocultures of Capital: Reinventing Labor Struggles by Forging the Connections Between Rural and Urban Communities · URL
Jörg Nowak · Velocities and Scales: Why the Post-Carbon Transition Needs Socialist Ecological Planning · URL
Alex Pazaitis · The Value of Exploitation: How to Reclaim Our Lives and Livelihoods in Common · URL
Florin Poenaru · How Can Declinism Be Politicized? The Quest for the Agents of a Fundamental Change · URL
Salma Rizkya · Beyond Health and Safety: The Struggle of the Alienated Body and the Emergence of New Forms of Worker Organization on Palm Oil Plantation · URL
Anna Saave · Are You A Meta-Industrial Worker? Ecofeminist Understandings of Labor Are Our Allied Ground · URL
Shuree Sarantuya · Climate Production on the Move? Nomadic Land and Labor in the Age of Sedentarism · URL
Stoyo Tetevenski · Your Job or Your Climate: How the Just Transition in Bulgaria Was Hijacked by Capitalists · URL
Tatjana Söding · Against the End of History: Why We Should Resist the Remaking of Fossil Capital into Green Capital · URL
John Szabo · Transportation as ‘Climate Production’: Are Electric Vehicles Advancing the Commodification of Labor and Nature? · URL
Harsha Walia · Against Eco-Apartheid: Towards Internationalist and Multi-Racial Worker Struggles · URL
Manuela Zechner · Struggles for Work Beyond the Wage: Keep Kindling Rebellious Spirits and Other Imaginaries of Work · URL
The curators of the “Allied Grounds” project are Magdalena Taube and Krystian Woznicki. Magdalena is editor-in-chief of the internet newspaper Berliner Gazette and professor of Digital Media and Journalism at the Macromedia University of Applied Sciences in Berlin. She is the author of “Disruption des Journalismus” (2018) published by Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam and co-editor of numerous readers, including “Invisible Hand(s)” (2020) published by Multimedijalni institut, Zagreb. Krystian is a critic, photographer, and the co-founder of Berliner Gazette. Exploring the common(s) at the intersection of globalization and digitalization, he has created books that blend writing and photography, most recently “Fugitive Belonging” (2018) and “Undeclared Movements” (2020).
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The BG conference “Allied Grounds” is funded by the German Federal Agency for Civic Education/bpb, Schwingenstein Foundation, and Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. The conference is a cooperation with Haus der Demokratie und Menschenrechte. Outreach partners include Arts of the Working Class, AthensLive, Common Ecologies, Critical Data Lab, Furtherfield, Harun Farocki Institut, Kuda.org, LeftEast, NON, Supermarkt, TNI, and Undisciplined Environments.