Capitalism is the major obstacle to effective climate action. The students leading the global climate strike are an inspiration for the depth of their commitment and understanding of both the science and the politics of climate change, and they will shake up the world.
Workers’ Liberty proposes a broad strategic way for the climate action and labour movements to cross the gulf from capitalist waste of life, labour and nature to democratically planned, public ownership of production for need and maximum freedom, i.e. socialism.
Change the politics to socialism
The climate strike is justifiably demanding government action, at both national and international levels. We need also to tackle emissions directly, collectively, to build our own power to take direct action to change production, work, and the way that human needs are met. Currently capital, and its logic of profitability, holds human needs and the ecosystem hostage. The owners of the large corporations decide where to invest, what to produce, according to the logic of capitalism, which is constant growth in private wealth. Human labour is exploited, and ecosystems are plundered for this purpose.
Almost two-thirds of Australian exports are minerals and fuels. Cutting emissions will mean a complete reorganisation of imports and exports, the availability of goods and services, of work and society. We as producers and consumers, need to set the terms of work, production and consumption democratically, but instead they are imposed by a capitalist minority. We need democratic, cooperative organisation of society, to replace exploitative, competitive relations. To change social relations, those of us who will, do or did work for a living, must come together to take power away from employers, capital, and the institutions that shore up capital.
Our challenge is to cross that gulf between the system we need, of democratic control of production for the purpose of meeting needs on condition of sustainable use of nature, and on the other hand capitalism with power over livelihoods, states that work to ensure conditions for profitability, and a dominant collective belief that there is no alternative. The student energised movement for climate action is the foundation for a bridge over the gap between capitalism and ecosocialism, it provides the building blocks for effective direct action as a basis for an alternative power to capital, and its hold on the state.
A climate action manifesto
We need a manifesto of demands on all levels of government to promote, debate and act for in workplaces, local communities, and grassroots organisations.
Demands on government and political parties focus and build the will of the movement. We support the current core demands of the climate strike, 100% renewables by 2030, no new fossil fuel extraction, no Adani.
Public ownership of energy
Some sections of the movement add that renewable energy generation should be publicly owned. Public ownership of the entire electricity industry is vital. The National Energy Market serves to keep fossil-fueled electricity dominant. Even the few well-intentioned small private operators must make decisions based on profitability, which can be at the expense of the environment, or workers’ needs.
We also propose that waste operators should be publicly owned, so that the whole of energy provision and recycling can be planned for emissions reduction and environmental safety, without being constrained by profitability.
Expand public transport and make it free. More rail, not roads for private cars and trucks. No new airports, no airport expansion, renationalise the airports.
The major banks should be nationalised, and their priority should be support for emissions reduction, rather than profiting from lending to environmental vandals.
These are the immediate, even if ambitious demands, that the movement needs to get behind, to take power away from capital and climate deniers in time to avert impending tipping points.
A just transition vs jobs blackmail
Some employment is much more deeply implicated in carbon emissions, than others, particularly some of the more unionised and higher paid manual jobs, such as coal mining. The CFMMEU mining divisions, especially in Queensland, are hostile to climate action. Employment in the renewable electricity sector is barely unionised, and badly paid, according to the ETU.
The alternative employment to carbon-emitting industries, needs to be secure, local, and with union rights and good pay and conditions, developed in consultation with affected communities. This needs union mobilisation for government funding to retrain and employ people in work that protects and repairs the environment, instead of emitting carbon.
The wider global climate strike movement needs to keep pressure on union leaders to agree to and demand a rapid just transition, to help organise workers who already agree with us, and to seek links into coal communities, such as those being built by Hunter Lock the Gate.
In times of crisis, many respond by narrowing their horizons. There is a nationalist narrowing going on in the world today. From Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, to Trump’s America, Modi’s India and across Europe, there are right-wing forces calling for walls to go up, blaming foreigners and foreign governments for people’s problems. If these forces are allowed to win, we face a dark future.
Foreign workers are not the cause of social problems: to say so lets the real culprits, the super-rich (of all nationalities) off the hook.
Anti-migrant sentiment is extremely dangerous. As climate change continues, extreme weather events will force millions of people from their homes. If these climate refugees are met with the kind of callous violence we see in Australia, the Mediterranean or on the US-Mexico border today, horrible atrocities and even wars will result. We say: free movement for all. Migrants don’t drive down wages; bosses do. Organise across borders to level up pay and conditions. The international labour movement must demand co-operation, aid and assistance between nations in the fight against climate change: not competition and passing the blame.
Educate, organise, agitate – with Workers’ Liberty
Climate activists who are convinced that we need to take on the big challenge of leading the overthrow of capitalism, and its replacement by socialism, need to organise within the climate action movement, around both immediate demands, and the goal of public democratic control of production. We need to continue and deepen the orientation of climate activism to the labour movement. Whilst climate activists have much to teach socialists, there is also a wealth of historical experience of both labour movements and socialists, which climate activists can learn from.
Workers’ Liberty is the current of socialist ideas that are true to revolutionary socialism, democracy and liberty.
Join the fight for socialism.
Contact Workers’ Liberty today.