A working-class alternative to ‘green wash’

Submitted by AWL on 13 January, 2008 - 6:20 Author: Unite activist

On Sunday 13 January, activists from the labour and anti-climate change movements will meet in Nottingham to develop the Workers’ Climate Action network. This network aims to fill a void among those fighting climate change; to create unity of purpose and tactics between these often-divergent forces, with a purposefully working-class focus.

Looking at the numerous political campaigns that my union runs, there is no mention of the environment or progressive policies that seek to slow or halt runaway climate change. Not content with simply turning a blind eye, UNITE and GMB belong to a pro-aviation lobby group called ‘Flying Matters’ — in partnership with BAA, EasyJet, BA and the CBI.

Of course, they are attempting to look after the jobs of their members, but what is important is how they do that. Rank and file members should offer an alternative that is genuinely in the interests of the working class and does not rely on their employers’ initiatives. The ruling class will not be the main victims of climate chaos, though it will be their policies that have caused it.

To take one example, the criticism made of aviation as a source of emissions has never taken into account those who work in the industry. Actions neither seek to provide workers with alternative work nor tackle the reasons of long hours/low pay, poor public transport and short holidays that ties people into using this industry. Choice is the luxury of the rich; green activists must recognise this before promoting consumer-orientated solutions to structural problems. It is not a surprise then that one Unite branch officer reported low morale due to constant to public criticism of the role of aviation.

The official energy and industry policy of the main unions – most importantly Unite – must be smashed and replaced by radical and worker-centred solutions to climate change that understand these problems and can fight inside their industries with solidarity from those outside aviation, power stations and heavy industry.

One clear answer is to take action. Working people should fight for jobs and the long-term sustainability of humanity — we cannot leave it to profit-mongers, a subservient state or elitist greens. The causes and consequences of climate change do not exist outside of the divisions of class therefore the solutions cannot either.

Workers’ Climate Action is an initiative begun by activists in Sheffield, which seeks to build a national network that will intervene in labour and green movements to put forward ideas and action that match radical demands with practical solutions. Among other tactics, we will seek to mobilise workers in environmentally damaging industries to campaign for alternatives, help to steer climate change activists into dialogue with workers, and to make their action united against those causing this problem and towards solutions that seek new systems to another crisis born of limitless capitalist expansion.

We welcome all activists who want to be a part of a democratic and radical alternative to elitism and greed. For more information about the campaign and organising of the Workers’ Climate Action network email maxdbass@yahoo.co.uk

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