By LUCAS ALAN DIETSCHE
Superior, Wis., is ground zero for the fight against fossil-fuel capitalists. Enbridge continuously presses forward with the line that its oil pipeline replacements and expansions will bring jobs, economic prosperity, and the safe transportation of fossil fuels. Husky Energy, even after the disastrous explosion at its refinery in 2018, is rebuilding the facility with a future that will include deadly hydrogen fluoride. Adding insult to more insults, the refinery uses Canadian tar sand oil as well as fracked shale oil, both of which contribute heavily to climate change.
Capitalist politicians of both the Democratic and Republican parties have their own fossil-fuel agenda. That includes creating criminal laws to defend that agenda.
Recent developments in Wisconsin have shown that reactionary politics can stem from the Democratic Party as much as the Republican. The Democratic Party simply does not care about the interests of unions, environmental justice activists, people of color, and Indigenous peoples. Those radicals who are working to re-make the Democratic Party into a progressive force will always have to confront the fact that the party is locked in to serving the interests of the big corporate party donors.
Democratic Governor Tony Evers recently signed into law the “Worker Safety and Energy Security Act” (AB 426). The new measure expands a 2015 law to make trespassing on or damaging any energy or water company property a felony punishable by up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine. In short, the law is anti-protest, anti-civil-rights, and anti-fightback against environmental pollution.
The bill was presented by united action by both major capitalist parties under the pretense of protecting workers from water protectors and climate justice activists. Evers and his supporters wish to use the bill to divide trade-union oil and construction workers from radical climate justice activists. Nevertheless, the law goes hand in hand with the union-busting law signed in 2011 by Republican Scott Walker.
Protection of workers is what socialists will continue to strive for, but not at the expense of the fundamental right to protest. This legislation is pointed at the heart of the Indigenous people’s right to defend their historic lands against environmental devastation.
AB426 was inspired by the corporate-dominated American Legislative Exchange Council (infamously known as ALEC), with the help of the American Petroleum Institute and capitalists in the oil and gas industry. The bill was introduced by two Democratic state senators from Milwaukee (Chris Larson and Jason Fields), using the rationale of worker safety and landowner protection.
Representative Jason Fields, a co-sponsor of the legislation, said that his parents were activists for civil rights in the 1960s. He stressed that protesters must advocate non-violence, like Martin Luther King Jr. did. However, some who oppose the bill have pointed out that King would have been arrested under the new law.
The law is racist since it protects predominantly rural white landowners in Wisconsin but does not take an account of the Bad River and other Indigenous tribes fighting to protect their landowner rights against trespassing violations from the Enbridge Line 5.
No “progressive” Democrats spoke against the bill before it was signed by Governor Evers. The Wisconsin ACLU has published a statement stating that it criminalizes the fundamental right to protest and freedom of speech. Bad River leaders have stressed that Enbridge has assaulted their land.
Workers, Indigenous people, and climate justice activists must not let capitalists divide their shared interests. Everyone needs clean air, water, and land to survive. We must not let the capitalist parties of whatever stripe speak for marginalized communities who protest the blind pursuit of profits.