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22 May 2019

Opinion: socialists must link climate struggle to power of organised workers

Wayne Scott, Socialist Party Scotland

I attended a meeting organised by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). It was billed as a debate between them, Friends of the Earth and Extinction Rebellion (XR).

XR didn't turn up. The guy from Friends of the Earth gave few solutions beyond recycling and carbon taxes.

He was responded to by Amy Leather, a member of the SWP's central committee. She started off with a good introduction on the history of industrialisation in Britain, the development of plastic industries, and so on - all very interesting.

This, however, set the tone for the rest of her speech. The SWP limits itself to anti-capitalist argumentation, and Leather spoke repeatedly of "system change" to prevent climate change, without explaining that has to mean socialist change.

So she spoke of doing away with production methods that are environmentally harmful, ditching fossil fuels and so on. Not once, though, did she raise any demand anywhere close to public ownership of the big polluters.

The word socialism was given a mere passing reference, with no real explanation of what that means or how we achieve it. She said nothing about the potential role trade unions can play here.

I spoke from the floor for the Socialist Party, making some points around climate change being a class issue. I asked the Friends of the Earth guy how he expected me to consume less than I do when I'm on Universal Credit. These points were echoed by SWP members in the room who also rejected individual solutions.

I raised with Leather that I thought it was wrong to simply pose the question of shutting down the fossil fuel industries with no qualification, as this would cut us off from the workers in those industries and so damage working-class unity and power.

Instead we demand the nationalisation of the top companies and big polluters, without compensation to the bosses; a rapid transition away from fossil fuels towards renewables; a guarantee of a job for all in those industries with no loss of pay, retraining people when necessary; and a system of democratic workers' control and management based on a socialist, planned economy.

I also pointed to the potential role the trade unions can play here, saying that if the union leaders built towards coordinated strikes against austerity, it would attract the young people fighting climate change in their thousands.

I finished off by pointing to the role Socialist Party members in the National Education Union played in getting a motion passed defending students who walk out and supporting the establishment of school student unions.

Why give no concrete proposals for how to link the trade unions with the school students in her initial remarks? It's because, unlike the Socialist Party, the SWP doesn't put the working class central to achieving fundamental change.

Genuine Marxists take part vigorously in every social movement and campaign, but always try to link them to the huge economic power that organised workers have to shut down the economy and ultimately run society. That is what is needed to resolve the multiple crises facing society and achieve socialism. That is what the Socialist Party does.




http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/29146