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Poison, Poison Everywhere

And what working people can do about it

By Bonnie Weinstein

Fightback!:
A Collection of Socialist Essays

by Sylvia Weinstein


Three recent and particularly egregious, environmental catastrophes are having devastating effects on hundreds-of-millions of people here in the U.S. and across the globe—all the result of capitalism’s profit-driven economic system.

Such catastrophes seem out of our control but they are not. In fact, we, the working class, are the world’s only hope to end them—ultimately, by ending capitalism and establishing a socialist world. Working class control of a democratic, socialist society—of production for human need and not private profit—is, in fact, essential to our survival.

A first step toward that goal is for labor to take a stand and spearhead a massive defense against corporate assaults on our health and safety on the job, in our communities and in our environment.

Three toxic examples

Masses of people are suffering lead contamination and PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals) in drinking water, and hazardous GMOs (genetically modified organisms) that not only impact the food we eat, but spread to other plants in the surrounding environment.

According to an article by Laura Orlando that appeared in In These Times, on March 25, 2016, titled, “Why Your Water Could be Worse than Flint’s,”

“In most of the country, once-clean drinking water sources are now profoundly polluted—by treated and untreated sewage, by chemical-intensive agriculture, by waste from confined animal feeding operations and by industrial discharges…”

In an article by Sharon Lerner that appeared in The Intercept, on March 3, 2016 titled, “A Chemical Shell Game, How DuPont Concealed the Dangers of the New Teflon Toxin,”

“The Cape Fear winds its way for over 200 miles through North Carolina before flowing into the Atlantic… from a boat dock outside Fayetteville, south, to the little town of Tar Heel.

“About halfway between the two points, on the western bank of the river, sits a large plant built by DuPont…Fayetteville Works, as the sprawling site is called, [it] previously manufactured C8, a chemical that DuPont used for more than 50 years to make Teflon and other products. After a massive class-action lawsuit revealed evidence of C8’s links to cancer and other diseases, DuPont agreed in a deal with the EPA to phase out its use of the chemical….

“Indeed, C8, which has recently been detected in upstate New York, in Vermont, and in Michigan’s Flint River, among other places, is expected to remain on the earth long after humans are extinct.

And, according to the same article,

“C8 had spread into the water around many of the facilities that made and used it, including plants in West Virginia, Minnesota, New Jersey, Alabama, Germany, and Japan.

And further,

“According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, 99.7 percent of Americans already had C8 in their blood.”

And in a Truthout article by J.P. Sottile dated April 6, 2026 titled, “Monsanto’s Willing Executioners,”

“Monsanto’s scientists are not engineering seeds that generate extra seeds so farmers can expand planting during the next season or even eat during times of famine…. Instead, the company developed a ‘Terminator gene’ that rendered offspring seeds infertile...”

And as a result,

“…scientists at the International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds found ‘467 unique cases of herbicide resistant weeds globally’ and that weeds evolved resistance to ‘160 different herbicides’ in ‘86 crops in 66 countries.’.... Using poison causes the farmers using the poison to have to buy ever-more toxic poison to deal with the resistance caused by the use of poison.”

Further,

“…Monsanto spent decades…producing PCBs, DDT and even Agent Orange. But it pivoted away from its chemical business—which it oddly calls ‘former Monsanto’—in the mid-1970s.

“Luckily for the new Monsanto, Congress recently inserted a paragraph into a pending revamp of the Toxic Substances Control Act. It shields the new Monsanto from ‘hundreds-of-millions’ of dollars in lingering liability from the PCBs made by the former Monsanto.”

What can we do to stop this?

We workers, who are the most impacted by these hazards both on the job and in our communities, are told the only thing we can do about it is to appeal to our legislators and politicians to pass various bills, etc., to “pressure” industry to resolve these issues.

And the capitalist-owned-and-controlled mass media reinforces the myth that only through legislation and working with industry can anything be done to stop this ongoing environmental cataclysm caused by capitalisms’ quest for ever higher rates of profit.

The problem is, the same lethal corporate giants that are poisoning us, and the planet, fund these capitalist legislators’ electoral campaigns.

Even when they do pass some regulation to fix a problem, the costs are invariably passed onto the taxpayers—the working class—those of us without offshore tax havens.

Workers must organize in self-defense

This can be fixed. But it can’t be left up to the will or whim of the capitalists. Their drive for profit simply will not allow it.

And we workers certainly can’t foot the bill either.

But we can fix the problem!

Workers have to look at these environmental disasters as assaults on our health and safety and organize a massive defense against them.

This is not a corporate matter; it’s a human-rights matter.

We have a right and an obligation to defend our environment and make it safe, both on the job and in our communities.

This means we must take action.

If the bosses of industry and their politicians will not reach into their pockets to fix these life-threatening problems, then we must reach into their pockets for them by organizing on our own behalf to resolve these issues and force the capitalists to foot the bill.

In each case, workers in these industries—and in all the other industries affected by environmental health and safety hazards—are in a unique position to lead this defense.

How we can defend ourselves and the planet

  • Since workers are intimately involved in production, we are the experts—we have the ability to pinpoint the problems.
  • To be most effective, workers must meet and organize independently of the bosses; thoroughly and democratically examine the problem; determine the tools, supplies, equipment and necessary workforce to fix the problem; and insist that all the costs come out of corporate profits—not workers’ pockets.
  • Workers must join forces in search of the source of all environmental hazards in our communities and organize to fix the problems at the expense of the industry-owners responsible—this includes the safety and effectiveness of our infrastructure—schools, roads, bridges, etc.
  • Workers who expose toxic or other dangers in the workplace or in the environment must be exempt from intimidation, threats of job loss, or punitive action by the bosses and/or the government.
  • All workers must get full pay at the expense of the bosses while they are fixing the hazards and cleaning up the environmental catastrophes caused by capitalism.

The responsibility for the health and safety of our environment both on the job and in the community are in our hands. We have every right to see to it that the danger stops and the cleanup gets done. In fact, this is our obligation—to our families, our communities, ourselves, and the planet.

The capitalists have every profit-driven incentive to lie, cheat, cut corners, endanger the lives of others and plunder the environment—and do it at the expense of all life on Earth.

It is we, the working class, who have the power to make production safe, to repair our infrastructure, and preserve the environment. A clean and healthy environment is in our interests and must come at the expense of capitalist profit.

Capitalism must go! Workers must rule!