The Root Force Strategy
(Want to view this article as a PDF? Check out the Root Force Primer.)
Where We Stand
The Earth is dying. No — the Earth is being killed. We are losing cultural and biological diversity at rates unheard of in the history of our species, and despite all our efforts, these rates are only accelerating.
From global warming to genocide, the crises that confront us are not accidental — as if politicians and business leaders were somehow independently deciding to murder union organizers, pollute the seas or strip the land. Rather, these atrocities flow from a global economic system that requires them to maintain its functioning.
The Earth is being murdered by a global system that tortures and murders every human or nonhuman that it cannot dominate. This system kills hundreds of thousands of civilians a year in wars for oil and water. It tortures millions of nonhuman animals a year in laboratories and factory farms. It destroys indigenous communities, dispossesses small farmers, enslaves workers in fields and factories, and poisons every living thing with chemicals and radiation.
War has been declared, and we are all losing. These are not opinions. These are well-known, well-documented truths. The question is, what are we going to do about it?
From Defensive to Offensive
Up to this point, resistance within the Empire’s core (especially the US) has been overwhelmingly defensive in nature, focused on stopping a particular timber sale or development, the expansion of a particular corporation, or the exploitation of a particular community. While this approach has delivered important victories, it has also left a significant gap in our efforts.
No struggle — whether war or fistfight, physical or social — can be won by someone who is always on the defensive. Consider: Even if we save all of the world’s remaining wilderness, the chemical industry will still ultimately poison everything that lives. Communities around the world can throw back corporate invasion after corporate invasion, but another one will always be just around the corner. If we ever intend to do more than win a few scattered victories while our world dies around us, we must take the offensive against the system that has created the need for all our struggles.
Whatever we call this system — “neoliberalism,” “capitalism,” “the state” or even “civilization” — it must be destroyed. As residents of the First World, we have an important advantage in this task: the same privilege that shields us from the brunt of the system’s violence also provides us with access to its inner workings. That’s the purpose of the Root Force campaign — to seek out and exploit strategic weak points in the system, thus hastening its collapse.
Make no mistake — this is not about reform. This is not about making the system kinder and gentler; it’s about burying it forever.
Exploiting the System’s Weak Points
If you want to bring the system down, the first thing to do is identify a significant weakness, such as: the US economy is entirely dependent upon imports. First World economies are founded on colonialism; without a constant influx of cheap labor and raw materials from around the world, the lights would go out, the factories would shut down and the system would collapse. Cheap labor, of course, means forcing people into poverty and keeping them there; cheap materials means turning living ecosystems into dams, mines and two-by-fours. Historically and in the modern day, the US’s favored source of pillage and slaves has always been Latin America. Constrict the flow from the south, and the entire system will feel the pinch.
We can do this. The political and business leaders of the continent recognize this weakness — that’s why a major focus of every American government is expanding the infrastructure of “trade” to accelerate the extraction and transport of resources to the wealthy north (e.g., projects like the Plan Puebla Panamá in Mesoamerica or the Corridors of the Future in the US). On one level, this means more megadams, electrical and communication grids, ports and superhighways. On another level, it means punching these projects into relatively untouched ecologies and dislocating the sustainable, Earth-based cultures that live there — forcing the people into wage slavery and enabling the logging, mining and all-out destruction of some of the most biodiverse spots on the globe.
The unstated reason for the push behind these projects is that as resources continue to run out around the globe, the US will need to import an ever-increasing volume of raw materials just to sustain its consumer lifestyle. As forests in the US Northwest and Southeast shrink, for example, imports from Asia and Latin America must increase concurrently.
Prevent this from happening, and we are not just defending this hemisphere’s most important reservoirs of cultural and ecological diversity; we are undermining the foundations of the whole system. That’s the purpose of the Root Force campaign.
Demolishing Colonialism at its Foundations
The system is a vast, interconnected machine and is therefore highly vulnerable. Pressure applied at one strategic point is felt everywhere. The success of the anti-vivisection movement in recent years highlights this fact: Strategic pressure applied to a handful of animal research companies has led to severe financial losses for the seemingly unrelated pharmaceutical, insurance and construction industries.
By attacking the weak points inherent in global capitalism, our movement can become a serious powerhouse. For this reason, Root Force encourages diverse tactics to force the cancellation of infrastructure expansion projects in the Americas. We need a variety of local groups to step up and take action, finding creative ways to get these projects stopped. As we shut down project after project, the entire system will feel the pinch.
It’s long past time for people in the First World to rise up and say “NO” to the genocide and ecocide that are waged to sustain this way of life. Peasants are massacred and indigenous lifeways are eradicated in Latin America to provide cars, toilet paper and soybeans for North Americans. Dozens of species a day are driven extinct, and the politicians, business leaders and media personalities claim that it’s being done for us.
But we don’t want this world. We want a world where all beings — human and nonhuman — have lives of freedom and dignity, where we live in harmony with the Earth and not in state of constant war. “We want a world where many worlds fit,” where people are free to not be consumers, workers or Europeans. And isn’t it long past time for privileged North Americans to stand up and defend the right of indigenous people to remain indigenous?
There is something powerful in that message. There is power in saying that we, the supposed beneficiaries of this system, will no longer tolerate it. There is power in not just “dropping out,” but striking back. And that is something that, ultimately, the system cannot endure.
On April 17, 2006, Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatista National Liberation Army said, “What we are preparing is an uprising… but one that will not end simply with putting in another [government] that is oppressing us. Rather, it will not end until we have destroyed the system that keeps us in misery; the system that wants to dispossess us of our land; the system that expels us from our country to seek work on another side; the system that wants to destroy nature; and the system that wants to kill us as we are—as Indian people, as farmers.”
On the other side of an imaginary line, we are also preparing an uprising. Or maybe it’s the same uprising, because after all it’s the same system. And we, too, will not rest until the forces of colonialism have been destroyed. Until no one can commit genocide at work, then go home and pretend that everything is OK. Until we have destroyed the system that is destroying not just Latin America, but ourselves and everything we love.
That’s what Root Force means. We’re the forces of nature, of history, and we’re demolishing colonialism at its foundations. All around the country, all around the world, we’ll turn the forces of destruction back, until this whole sick system has no option left but to crumble and leave us free.
**For a version of this article targeted at a more progressive (as opposed to radical) audience, see our Sustainability fact sheet.