Organizing For a Red Deal in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

By Miguel Levy

A meeting on the Red Deal took place in Houghton, Michigan, on January 25th with the participation of eighteen people. This was the first of a series of meetings being planned on the subject, in consultation with local activists. These events build upon political education work and ties developed over the course of several years through an Indigenous Peoples’ Day campaign and Palestine solidarity work. A second meeting has been organized for February 22nd to study Part Two of the Red Deal and to discuss concrete forms of participation. Announcements for the meeting were shared widely in the local area and the nearby Keweenaw Bay Indian Community.

In our first meeting, there was lively discussion on settler colonialism, decolonization, and the need for border abolition. The role of U.S. imperialism in Central America and its impact on forcing people to flee their countries of origin was also discussed. Several participants spoke up about the need for revolutionary change to confront the crises that face us and the need for organizing to address them.

We are planning a follow-up meeting to discuss concrete forms of participation in the local area and ways to link up with forces at a national and international level in opposition to the climate crisis and war. These crises must be tackled through mass participation in a way that addresses the root causes and the driving forces behind them.

A few days after our initial Red Deal meeting, on January 29th, there was a Michigan Tech event under the title “Climate Challenges and Solutions 2020,” sponsored by the newly formed “Institute for Policy, Ethics and Culture.” While the speaker made a strong case for the reality and severity of the climate crisis and its catastrophic consequences, the solutions he proposed missed the mark. The audience was presented with a parade of “business leaders” and politicians arguing for smart market-driven “solutions.” Particularly jarring was his plug for the Tesla company, a highly profitable business venture that is making a lot of money through the sale of lithium ion batteries. Completely unmentioned in his talk was the fact that this is the very same company whose stocks shot up after the recent U.S.- and corporate-sponsored coup d’etat against the Indigenous president of Bolivia, Evo Morales. Morales had proposed nationalizing the lithium deposits and mines in Bolivia, the biggest in the world, before he was overthrown. And his government, with wide support from the Indigenous population in that country, had taken real steps for the protection of the environment. Those steps, such as the nationalization of the gas fields, hurt corporate interests.

At the root of the climate crisis and war stands capitalism. During the 2016 uprising at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline, Water Protectors called upon the masses to divest from financial institutions investing in the pipeline as a strategy to reduce harm to people and planet. They realized that it was business and corporate interests that were hurting the environment. Similarly, it is corporate interests, particularly oil, that stand behind the drive for U.S. wars in the Middle East and U.S. attempts to overthrow the government of Venezuela. These root-causes of environmental collapse and war must be addressed. What creates the crisis cannot solve it. We need to build and strengthen the people forces and the mass movements necessary to address these problems. Change must come from below and it needs to be organized.

We will meet again on Saturday, February 22nd at 3:00 pm in Rekhi Hall 101, Michigan Technological University, 1400 Townsend Dr., Houghton, MI 49931.

All are welcome.