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 (MXGM)
Leith Kahl and Brian Wiles, Malcolm X Solidarity Committee (MXSC)
Friday, February 10, 2012
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 multi-national working class in the United States as a whole.
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 1930’s 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 sub-standard 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. However, 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.
However, this agreement, in and of itself is not 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 . 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 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 multi-national working class only comes into full focus when you examine the following map of Bunge's established operations in North America (see above which was taken from EGT’s website). 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 where Bunge operates are “right-to-work” states. 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 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. Organized labor's failure to defeat white supremacy in 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” to organize and win where “Operation Dixie” 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. 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.
With militant leadership, democratic coordination, unrelenting determination, and principled partnerships with oppressed peoples (First Nations, Blacks, Chicanos, immigrants, etc.) and the unorganized sectors of the multinational working class the EGT/Bunge assault can be defeated and enable a radical reorganization of the Mississippi River and the Black Belt South via “Operation Black Belt”.
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 an “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 them and other capitalist behemoths like them back, we are going to have to effectively organize the historic rear base of capitalist domination in the US, the South. To join us in this initiative, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
If you would like more information about the Malcolm X Solidarity Committee, please contact us at email@example.com .
A Profile of EGT/Bunge Limited
Compiled by the Malcolm X Solidarity Committee
We hope that the links below will be helpful to you in your efforts to 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:
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):
Bunge's next big move to expand itself is by setting up operations in Argentina in 1884:
Here's what was done to native people in Argentina specifically to clear the way for Bunge and its ilk:
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)
Rainforest Action Network accuses Bunge of using modern slavery in Brazil.
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 non American capital is a dangerous tactic that will preserve craft consciousness and stifle class consciousness.
The following information provides a briefing about the industrial activities of Bunge in the California Bay Area. We strongly encourage others to prepare similar briefings on the ways in which Bunge's capital interacts with the respective cities, towns and counties up and down the Mississippi River Valley.
ON WAYS IN WHICH
THE ALLIANCE OF CAPITAL KNOWN AS EGT
(WITH WHICH ILWU LOCAL 21, LONGVIEW, IS CURRENTLY IN A LABOR DISPUTE)
APPEARS TO INTERACT WITH THE BAY AREA:
Important Facts to begin with:
1. EGT is a joint venture between three entities: Bunge North America (which in turn is part of Bunge Limited), Itochu corporation of Japan (a technology development firm), and STX Pan Ocean of Korea (the shipping line that intends to transport Bunge's grain westward across the Pacific Ocean to Asia). Bunge is by far the largest piece global capital in this operation, and is clearly calling the shots.
2. Bunge Limited (the global operation) is headquartered at the following address:
50 Main St # 635
White Plains, NY 10606-1974
Its website is www.bunge.com . This website includes a list of its global board of directors. All of them are Caucasian, including the CEO of Bunge Asia. Therefore, Jeff Johnson of the Washington State Labor Council is inaccurate in his public statement that EGT is a Japanese corporation (http://www.thestand.org/2011/09/heres-why-longshore-workers-are-so-angry/). It is important to know with which capitalists you are engaged in a struggle, and to demonstrate your awareness of it. Japanese capital is only involved to the extent of providing some research and technology for the new facility. The ships are expected to be supplied by the Korean line STX. But the corporation that Local 21 is struggling with is very clearly headquartered in the United States, and originates from Dutch capital.
3. The headquarters of Bunge's North American operations (Bunge North America) is at the following address:
11720 Borman Drive
St. Louis, MO 63146-4129
Its website is www.bungenorthamerica.com
4. A complete list of all Bunge addresses in North America can be found under the “LOCATIONS” link on this website.
5. There are two (2) locations listed in California, which are the following:
A Bunge Milling location....
“d/b/a Pacific International Rice Mills, LLC
845 Kentucky Avenue
Woodland, CA 95695-2744
and a Bunge Oils location....
“436 South McClure Road
Modesto, CA 95357
6. The Bunge owned rice mill in Woodland (above) has a website: www.pirmirice.com
Based on its location, it would seem likely that this mill might export rice through the Port of Sacramento.
7. The Korean shipping line involved in EGT, STX Pan Ocean, has a website: www.panocean.com
8. This website has a link called “fleet information” which has a complete list of the ships owned by the line. The exact URL is www.panocean.com/app/fi/fi_bk_handysize.asp . Here are the names of all of the ships:
STX ACE 1
STX ACE 2
STX ACE 3
STX ACE 4
STX ACE 5
STX ACE 6
STX ACE 7
STX ACE 8
STX ACE 9
STX ACE 10
STX ACE 11
STX ACE 12
1 LONG CARRIER:
1 HEAVY LIFT CARRIER:
STX ROSE 1
4 CAR SHIPS:
STX CHANGXING ROSE
8 CONTAINER SHIPS (WHICH APPARENTLY CIRCLE WITHIN THE INDIAN OCEAN):
9) The website of the port of San Francisco is www.sfport.com . If you click the link there that says “Maritime”, and then the link that says “Cargo Services”, and then the link that says “Carrier Information”, you will find the following page:
This page brags that STX PAN OCEAN does business in the port of San Francisco, bringing “Breakbulk and Liquid Bulk Services from Asia”.
10) If, under “Cargo Services”, you select the link that says “Cargo Facilities”, you come to this page: www.sfport.com/index.aspx?page=154 .
This page is a map of the cargo terminals of San Francisco, which seems to indicate that a breakbulk or liquid bulk ship docking in San Francisco would berth at either Pier 96, 94, or 80, which are all accessed off of Third Street.