Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ecology and Socialism

We're excited to announce that longtime environmental activist Chris Williams will be taking part in an event on Saturday, November 6th entitled ECOLOGY AND SOCIALISM. Williams is professor of physics and chemistry at Pace University and chair of the science department at Packer Collegiate Institute. In addition he is a frequent contributor to the International Socialist Review (ISR) magazine. Ecology and Socialism is his first book, and ISO Pittsburgh is happily hosting him to speak on the issues that it raises.

Williams writes, in the first part of his 2008 piece "Hothouse Earth: Capitalism, climate change, and the fate of humanity":

Solving the problem of global warming requires understanding the relationship between capitalism and the environment, examining the solutions on offer within the framework of the system, and determining whether those solutions are up to the task of preventing a runaway greenhouse effect. The world system of capitalism has been, and will continue to be, largely impotent in the face of climate change, not because there are evil, uneducated, backward individuals in power--though this is arguably true in many cases--but because capitalism's own social relations prevent effective solutions from being realized. The blind, unplanned drive to accumulate that is the hallmark of capitalist production--the profit motive--has created the problem of climate change, not individuals' profligate natures or overpopulation. Therefore, the system of economic production and distribution needs to be transformed or we will be living on a much less hospitable planet.

The intersection of environmental issues and economics is especially relevant to us as Pittsburghers--our region's natural resources and the multifaceted industrial history of the area have exposed generation after generation to the realities of the nature of capitalism. From the early days of glass production, to the steel industry that swept over a huge swath of northern Appalachia and then sharply contracted, to the nascent growth of high-tech and "green industry" that could be reshaping the Rust Belt, Pittsburgh has reflected America's economic and industrial pulse.

Currently, the issue of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") has come to the fore, as numerous energy companies vie for leasing rights to drill into the ground and pump rock deposits with chemicals that release natural gas. The chemicals--kept as trade secrets--are flammable and toxic. In a piece for Socialist Worker entitled "Don't frack with Pittsburgh", ISO Pittsburgh members Russell and Nick outlined the issues surrounding fracking from a region-specific perspective: "Energy corporations are again on the prowl in rural Pennsylvania."

ECOLOGY AND SOCIALISM will be held on Saturday, November 6th at 4:00 p.m. at University of Pittsburgh's Frick Fine Arts Building, room 202.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Socialism In Our Time, a day school event

On Saturday October 23rd, we are hosting a comprehensive event that we call a "day school"--three engaging talks by three active members of the ISO, all under the heading "Socialism In Our Time." The work shop-style event will focus on Marxist ideas and experiences to effect social change. It's to take place from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Frick Fine Arts Building, room 202. But come whenever you can, and stay as long as you're able! We'll have pizza delivered for lunch, and all of our literature to peruse and purchase will be on hand. The following is our schedule for the day:

10:30 a.m. Ashley Smith will speak on "The Revolutionary Ideas of Karl Marx"

1:00 p.m. Sherry Wolf will speak on "Overcoming Divisions in the Working Class"

2:45 p.m. Paul Le Blanc will speak on "Marxist Perspectives on Revolutionary Organization"

And here's a bit about each of our featured speakers:

Ashley Smith is an activist, co-founder of the Burlington, Vermont Anti-War Coalition, secretary of the Vermont chapter of the United Writers Union (UAW 1981), northeast regional organizer for the ISO, editorial boardmember of the International Socialist Review magazine, and contributor to the Socialist Worker newspaper, among other publications. Check out this video of a presentation entitled "Socialism 101" he gave recently at the Burlington, Vermont branch of the ISO.

Sherry Wolf is a member of the ISO, associate editor of the ISR magazine, long-time activist for LGBTI equality, and author of "Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics and Theory of LGBT Liberation," which was named one of The Progressive's favorite books of 2009. She was a leading organizer for the 2009 National Equality March, as well as a founding organizer of the resulting Equality Across America coalition. She keeps a blog here, and you can see a video of her talk "Sex Wars," given at the Socialism conference in 2010, here.

Paul Le Blanc is a professor of history and a life-long revolutionary socialist activist based in Pittsburgh. He serves as the national coordinator of the ISO's anti-war fraction. He is the author of several books, including Lenin and the Revolutionary Party, A Short History of the U.S. Working Class, and Black Liberation and the American Dream, and most recently co-edited Leon Trotsky, Writings from Exile, which comes out in 2011.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, October 8, 2010

We'll be at the Pittsburgh Flea this Sunday

ISO Pittsburgh will be at the Pittsburgh Flea this Sunday, October 10, from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The Flea is a Pittsburgh standby, with vendors from all over the region selling a variety of wares, and this will be our first time there. We will be selling used books donated by branch members. The proceeds of the day's sales will go toward hosting more events with guest speakers this fall.

This will be the first time ISO Pittsburgh sets up at the Flea, and since Sunday's forecast is looking sunny with a high of 75ยบ, you have to come out and take a look!

The Flea takes place at 21st Street and Railroad Street, behind the Society for Contemporary Crafts building. Check out Pittsburgh Flea's website for more information and photos from past events.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"Don't frack with Pittsburgh," say members Nicholas and Russell

Just posted in the Socialist Worker is ISO Pittsburgh members Russell Pryor and Nicholas Rushin's piece "Don't frack with Pittsburgh," a round-up of the controversial issue of hydraulic fracturing, a process in which natural gas is extracted by energy corporations pumping a mixture of sand, water, and a chemical combination into the earth to loosen rock where the deposits exist. The gigantic Marcellus Shale formation lies underneath the ground of New York state, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio, and it has been pushed into the spotlight of a debate over jobs, energy, and the environment.

But the way in which this gas is extracted, "fracking," is problematic--the chemical cocktail that companies use to break up the shale is kept as a secret, and many people out west, where the fracking process has been used extensively in the recent past, have reported illnesses. Some of the chemicals used in the process are even known carcinogens. And in July, two Pennsylvanians lost their lives when an explosion erupted at a gas well.

As residents of Pittsburgh and the surrounding area, our branch finds itself in the middle of a large debate--and a large grassroots movement that is building momentum. We support standing up to companies that keep the truth of their toxins secret and exploit our environment, and on November 3rd, a large coalition has planned just that. Energy executives will be meeting at the David Lawrence Convention Center, and a large action has been organized to protest it. Check for more information.

Stay up to date with our events and conversations at our Facebook page. And check out the article at!