By Abel Harvie-Clark
In the context of the pandemic and economic collapse, a socialist response must have a focus on climate justice. As urgently as we need a vaccine for Covid-19, we need a serious reorganisation of production to rapidly decarbonise society, and we need an organised left to fight bottom up for this socialist Green New Deal. I’m standing in the Momentum NCG elections because a refounded Momentum organising around democracy, class struggle and internationalism could play a key role in coordinating climate justice and building a worker-led just transition. These are some ideas for what that could look like.
Take the climate strikes into the workplace. The climate strike movement, led by the UK Student Climate Network in the UK, has mobilised fantastic levels of organisation and energy to significantly raise awareness of both the climate crisis,and the absolute failure of governments to tackle it. Not only have students orchestrated mass street mobilisations, we have built in communities to bring political education and outreach to a generation with little other political organisation. It is a movement I am proud to have been a part of.
The labour movement now has a responsibility to be proactively organising beyond following school strikers. School-student strikes are great, but don’t have the same power of workplace-based strikes to disrupt and reorganise production directly.
Socialist Green New Deal campaigning through the labour movement must build on the Green Industrial Revolution events, but sharpen up the demands and make members feel confident on the issue – as actors, not passive consumers of lines from the Shadow Cabinet. Key to this is being vocal on the demand to repeal all anti-union legislation, as well as supporting workers in finding ways around the anti-union laws. Not only is it an important democratic right to be able to take strike action over issues such as climate change, and in solidarity with struggles across the country and worldwide, this right is key to defending workers from dangerous working conditions that will occur due to climate breakdown. Further, freeing the trade union movement from all anti trade union legislation is a key step in building a strong movement that can assert workers’ control across the economy.
Momentum and local Labour parties should find ways to build workplace-based climate change committees (and not just stick another item on the Trades Council agenda) and find ways to resource them ourselves. Model motions for workplace stoppages and lunchtime walk outs can easily be circulated, but other forms of pro-active organising and engagement of workers need to be promoted too. We need action both to raise the profile of climate breakdown, and also to engage every workplace in building their own transition.
Build links beyond borders. The climate crisis is a reflection of transnational capitalism: it cannot be tackled within national borders. We should be in contact and sharing lessons with workers in parallel industries, activists fighting similar struggles, and extensions of international supply chains around the world. Our common goal is democratic public ownership of industry, and we will be far stronger in this if we work hand in hand across borders. Victories in one country can be held as examples elsewhere; injustices in one country should receive solidarity action. Advocating border controls and “patriotism” cuts against supporting working-class control of industries that span across the globe, whether that is oil and gas companies or clothing manufacturers.
Aspects of climate breakdown are already irreversible, and mitigating the impacts equitably must be done with an international approach. Climate change forces people to leave their homes, exaggerates the material differences between rich and poor, and sparks, and is in turn fueled by, wars. Large movements of climate refugees around the world are now certain: they are happening now and will only get bigger in the future. How will we respond? Our response must be based on international solidarity, not “legitimate concerns about immigration”. I encourage comrades to pay attention to the excellent work of Labour Campaign for Free Movement; the policy passed at conference must be defended and advocated through our campaigning.
Build solidarity with workers in climate-critical industries. At the Drax Selby power station, 200+ job losses have been announced as coal is no longer profitable to burn. This is the sharp end of climate breakdown, where exploitation of workers and planet occur side by side. To fight back, we need to start the conversation with fossil-industry workers with solidarity. We need targeted campaigns encouraging class struggle against fossil fuel capitalism, making the positive case for a decarbonised society under workers control. Through political education and mobilisation for workplace struggles, the left should be encouraging 21st century Lucas-plan style organising for a just transition. Rank and file union members in affected industries should be empowered to lead retraining for socially useful, sustainable work.
Not only can these campaigns make active steps to decarbonise the economy, but they can make a material difference to workers otherwise left on the frontline of the climate crisis, and thus win more people to our cause. There will be many more examples like Drax Selby in the coming years, Momentum should be ready to engage the rank and file for a worker-led just transition.
Make political demands. Beyond movement building and workplace struggles, we must keep in sight the big political demands needed to rearrange our society for a socialist Green New Deal. We should hold the Labour leadership to account over the Green New Deal policy passed at 2019 conference, and make further demands such as those passed by FBU conference. In particular we should remain vocal on the following:
- Democratic public ownership of banks and finance. Currently private finance funnels enormous capital into climate-destructive industries. Regulation is ineffective; we need public ownership to rediscover finance as a public service to support massive investment in reorganising the economy.
- Nationalise the big 6 energy companies. Again, a private model is utterly incapable of the massive reorganisation required. Beyond public companies competing with private ones, we should push for a unified system and democratic central planning
- Free, improved public transport. Changes in everyday life can be supported on a collective basis. Free public transport would provide a key public service, connect isolated communities and improve air quality in cities.
- Champion free movement. Build unions, not borders. A socialist Green New Deal must be global in its outlook, recognising that we have more in common with the working class in other countries than with polluters here.
- Support the 4 day week. We must make the positive case that reorganising society away from profit and in the interest of working classes means a better quality of life, more time off from work, and better rights at work.
These are some ideas for ways that we can build in the years to come. There is already good work going on, and I encourage comrades to engage and work with campaigns such as Labour for a Green New Deal, Labour Campaign for Free Movement, UK Student Climate Network, Green New Deal UK, and to advocate for democracy, class struggle and internationalism. More ideas, feedback and critique of these ones are encouraged, get in touch!