The Black Snake – Still in the Pipeline

The "black snake" refers to the end-times tale of the Lakota that when the black snake crosses the land it will mean the final end of their world. It is a powerful metaphor that expresses a truth that from the perspective of the potential for repeated environmental disasters the economic activity of capitalism certainly spells disaster. For a reservation like Standing Rock, where there is 85% unemployment, access to small game and fish takes on greater significance. On a corner of land in the Dakotas, a political movement has taken root and threatened to grow. The broad support for the occupation has Obama administration had to seek a delay, handing off to the incoming Trump administration the task of crushing all opposition to the pipelines.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is planned to run from the Bakken shale fields in North Dakota, to a terminal in Patoka, Ill., and then onto trains to be shipped to oil refineries and sold overseas. Like the Keystone XL pipeline running from the Alberta shale fields the capitalists have done their best to push the shale sludge. Capitalism must plunder the planet’s resources and raw commodities. Everyone that gets in the way must be pushed aside. The Army Corps of Engineers has temporarily put a halt to the pipeline project going through the Standing Rock Reservation but the project isn’t halted. Tribal Chairman of Standing Rock, Dave Archambault II, has called on the protesters to go home.

“While this phase of the struggle relied largely on the protectors at camp, this next stage will be focused on the legal battles, and keeping the current decision in place.”

Thanks for the assistance please go. Leave the future to be decided in capitalist courts, by capitalist politicians and lawyers. While citing concern for the safety of those at the encampment the tribal official is in reality attempting to wrap up the struggle with a nice little bow. However, this is not what has happened. The camp remains, as the pipeline construction will resume as soon as Trump has his coronation ceremony. The purpose was to divide people and throw a temporary delay to the inevitable confrontation.

When the Veterans for Peace groups formed into a human chain around the camp the tide had turned. The encampment was founded on the private land of Standing Rock Elder Ladonna Brave Bull Allard and the only legal way to kick them off was to pull out the health and safety excuse that has been used to break up strikes and protests for over a hundred years. The bosses, who never cared about anyone’s health when putting the pipelines in, are now concerned about public health and safety at the camp. Public health and safety obviously were no concern to authorities in the Lac Mégantic train derailment in July 2013[1], or in the shale oil spill in Kalamazoo, MI or in a host of other oil transport related leaks and spills. Over 3,000 pipeline related emissions in the five-year period from 2010 to 2015. Public hostility exists all along the pipeline route, and for good reason.

A look at the maps of oil and natural gas pipelines in the US shows not simply a black snake but a spider-web that covers the whole continent. The corporate heads of the AFL-CIO defended the shale oil jobs and said that a compromise of jobs over water quality had to be struck. In the first years of the “Great Recession” the Bakken shale was promoted as the sole bright star of employment and explosive job growth. The price of oil was higher and shale oil was far more profitable. Forecasts of the size of the shale deposits were said to cover the entire US. A shale deposit in California was so hyped that the actual amount of extractable shale oil was a bust, with only a fraction of the oil promised actually being present in the ground.

What fuels the opposition to the pipeline isn't simply a potential for oil spills and pollution. With shale fields and pipelines stretching from Alberta to Port Arthur. A spill in 2013 in North Dakota was said to have leaked over 20,000 barrels of oil into a wheat field while more recently another oil pipeline in North Dakota has had to be shut down due to another leak. These communities affected by the potential pipeline have very real examples around them of what the industry does.

American capitalism wants to sell shale oil to Europe in competition with “allies” like Saudi Arabia, and enemies like the Russian Federation. Despite the fall in oil prices they have all attempted to respond by selling greater volumes of oil. The current OPEC production cut agreement represents an opportunity to accelerate the exploitation of the shale oil intended for export. The moment the price ticks up the impetus will be to produce and sell. The operative goal being to exploit the workers, exploit the land and cut out rivals by starting imperialist proxy wars. A nationalist and reformist perspective is extremely limiting in this respect, while the more generalized class response is broader and a good deal more dangerous to the bourgeoisie. The Archambault's of the world are connected to the ruling Democrats. They are well practiced at getting people to go home and behave. They excel at exploiting religious obscurantist, nationalist and cultural verbiage.

The issue of access to clean water is a class issue. No capitalists will ever have to drink the water they poison. A movement only becomes a threat to the bourgeoisie when it threatens to break beyond the boundaries imposed upon it. Whether it is the water of Flint, or Standing Rock access to clean water becomes ever more difficult under capitalism which must plunder resources and exploit labor. The elementary idea that air, land and water are not commodities to be bought and sold is a hard thing for the capitalists to ever completely stamp out.



Friday, December 16, 2016