Environmental Justice for Whom? Class, New Social Movements, and the Environment: A Case Study of Greenpeace Canada, 1971-2000

John-Henry Harter
2004 Labour (Halifax)  
ON 30 NOVEMBER 1999, in Seattle, Washington, an explosion of outrage against globalization materialized in protest against the World Trade Organization and its millennial round of talks. 1 While remarkable in its own right, the "Battle in Seattle" was significant for the enormous presence of the organized working class. The working class mobilized in force, with over 50,000 trade unionists coming to the city to protest the wro. Alongside these unionists were new social movement activists from,
more » ... nt activists from, among others, the student, environmental, and feminist movements. A popular theme written on one of the thousands of placards was "Teamsters and Turtles together at last," signifying the coming together of workers and environmentalists geographically, if not entirely ideologically. While the majority of the labour march did not converge directly on the WTO site, thousands of workers did and it was the size and scope of the labour presence that helped bring so much attention to the protest. The protest in Seattle demonstrated the power of a convergence of class, environmental, and other new social movement politics, while hinting at the inherent difficulties of such a union. Why had Teamsters and Turtles been apart in the 1 For a thorough account of Seattle from a variety of perspectives, see Monthly Review, 52 (ing the split between labour and environmentalists. Therefore, instead of reprising the labour bureaucracy debates, the focus is on new social movements and how they relate to the working class in actual campaigns. What, historically, has the relationship been between new social movements and organized labour? How have the structure, composition, and actions of new social movements contributed to the relations between workers and new social movements? In order to address these questions, this article explores the history of Greenpeace Canada from 1971 to 2000 and its relationship to the working class. I chose Greenpeace for two main reasons: it has become a brand name for environmentalism; and it was formed at the beginning of the era of new social movements. This article will examine Greenpeace's structure, personnel, and the class origins of its leadership to better understand its actions. I will also look at two of its most famous actions: its opposition to the seal hunt, and its actions against forestry in British Columbia. I also examine a lesser-known Greenpeace campaign against its own workers in Toronto. While a case study of one organization in one social movement cannot test the claims of all new social movements or new social movement literature, I hope to provoke questions about new social movements and theories that often make assertions about the nature of social movements without historical reference or case studies. 7 This article provides a different lens through which to look at new social movement actions and helps reinsert class into the discourse around social movements through case study of specific environmental campaigns. It suggests that the new social movement literature must pay attention to class analysis. This runs contrary to much of the literature. Alberto Melucci, for example, one of die first new social movement theorists, explicitly rejects class as a tool of analysis. "I have gradually abandoned the concept of class relationships," he states. "In systems like contemporary ones, where classes as real social groups are withering away, more appropriate concepts are required." 8 Laurie Adkin, a Canadian sociologist, claims that the key to understanding new social movements is grasping that the "class identity and 7 William K. Carroll notes, "There has been a dearth of available texts that probe the meaning of movements in a distinctly Canadian context." See William K. Carroll, " Introduction," Organizing Dissent: Contemporary Social Movements in Theory and Practice (Victoria 1992), 3. Laurie Adkin also remarks on the lack of actual case studies. She states that "A reader of'orthodox Marxist' versus 'post Marxist' interpretations of trade unions to radical social change, of the historical meaning of the new social movements, cannot but be struck by the general absence of analyses of actually existing social movements. New Social Movements and unions have been much theorized about, but little studied from 'ground level'." See Adkin, The Politics of Sustainable Development: Citizens, Unions and the Corporations (Montreal 1998), xiii. 8 Alberto Melucci, "A Strange Kind ofNewness: What's 'New' in New Social Movements?" in Enrique Larana et al, eds., New Social Movements: From Ideology to Identity (Philadelphia 1994), 103. 16 This list of members of the original crew is complied from Brown and May, The Greenpeace Story, 11; and Hunter, Warriors, 16-17. See also Vancouver Sun, "Greenpeace sailors ready to face the test," 15 September 1971,43. All of these men fit within the professional managerial class as semi-autonomous employees, with the exception perhaps of the grad student, who was a professional manager in training, so to speak, and the doctor, who depending upon his practice could have been in the supervisor/manager role of the professional managerial class. Greenpeace Annual Review 1994. On new social movements and the middle class see, Russell Dalton and Manfred Kuechler, eds., Challenging the Political Order (New York 1990); Jûrgen Habermas, 77K> Theory of Communicative Action, Volume II, Lifeward and System: A Critique of'FunctionalistReason (Boston 1987). Some theorists have even argued that new social movements have displaced the working class as the agent of positive social change in society.
doi:10.2307/25149506 fatcat:qn2w5hp6jrfs7nlgsu3jixhrlu