By Brian Ward
Madison, Wisconsin. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the work to build support for the Red Deal is critical. We need to transform our society at a moment that further exposes the flaws of capitalism and imperialism.
We are currently seeing Indigenous resistance against climate change happening all around the world, including the courageous resistance by the Wet’suwet’en Nation against the Coastal GasLink pipeline and the Canadian government in northern British Columbia. Solidarity actions around Canada brought the economy to a halt. The climate crisis requires this type of bold change that must center Indigenous liberation.
In Madison, Wisconsin on March 11th the grassroots group People’s Green New Deal Madison (PGND) hosted a meeting called, “Green New Deal to the Red Deal: The Fight for Native Liberation.” The purpose of this meeting was to introduce Madisonians to the Red Deal and how Native liberation should be central to the fight for climate justice and how we can transform our world away from profit and toward human need.
PGND is a grassroots group of ecosocialists fighting for the radical promise at the heart of the Green New Deal proposal. They are the radical pull of the Madison climate movement, pushing to build bus routes, not jails, put people before profits, end war, and engage in international solidarity and cooperation to stop climate change.
Co-sponsors of the meeting included Madison-Area Democratic Socialist of America, TAA Executive Board (the graduate student union at UW-Madison) and Safe Skies Clean Water – Wisconsin, who are leading the fight against the placement of F-35 war machines in Madison.
The meeting featured two amazing speakers. Nick Estes (Lower Brule Sioux), co-founder of The Red Nation and author of Our History is The Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance, spoke alongside Tara Tindall (Ho-Chunk), a Madison-based educator. They addressed an audience of 24 people, about 15 of whom were at the event in person and another nine who attended virtually.
The meeting started with Tindall centering everyone with important Ho-Chunk history. Madison has been known as Teejope since time immemorial. This was more than a land acknowledgement; Tindall discussed the history of the removal of the Ho-Chunk from their lands and the decades of ethnic cleansing that happened in Wisconsin. Many Ho-Chunk came back or resisted removal. Madison is just starting to grapple with this settler colonial history.
Following Tindall’s presentation, Estes spoke about the Red Deal, putting it in the context of a brutal American empire that has supported coups around the world, including the most recent one in Bolivia that overthrew Evo Morales, the country’s first Indigenous president. Understanding the brutal American empire is essential to understanding why we need a Red Deal.
After Estes’ presentation about the Red Deal, we engaged in a discussion about the Red Deal and how it could apply in the struggle in Madison and beyond. Discussion points included the role fossil fuel workers have in both perpetuating the fossil fuel industry and how we can bridge the gap with workers. This calls on the need for us to build class consciousness with fossil fuel workers, highlighting how their class position does not share the same interests as the bosses of industry.
One of the local struggles we discussed is how to center Indigenous voices in the struggle against the placement of F-35 jets in Madison, which would make surrounding working-class neighborhoods uninhabitable.
This was just the tip of the iceberg and a jumping off point for further organizing in the city. PGND is organizing the first of a series of study groups on each part of the Red Deal with a focus on organizing in Madison. The first study series on Part One will be Thursday, April 2nd, at 7pm CST via Zoom.
The meeting also helped raise $120 for the Unist’ot’en encampment in Wet’suwet’en Nation to assist their struggle against Coastal GasLink and the Canadian government.
Coming out of this meeting, activists realized the importance of the Red Deal and Indigenous liberation in grassroots efforts to push for a Green New Deal that is aimed toward the beginning of a transformation of our economic and social relations. Capitalism is the crisis and a Green New Deal that doesn’t attempt to grapple with the fossil fuel industry and an economy based on expansion and extraction won’t change anything. Let’s organize for a Red Deal and a People’s Green New Deal that fight for liberation and tackle the systematic issues of capitalism, imperialism and settler colonialism.