"Climate Justice" and the Left: The Necessity of a Mass Movement
Against The Current vol. 141
Date Written: 2009-07-01
Publisher: Against The Current
Year Published: 2009
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX13533
The climate crisis -- a crisis not of civilization, as some commentators would have it, but of capitalist production -- requires a political response that is long overdue, and is finally stirring. Now that the movement against global warming is brewing, socialists must get involved.
Socialists can contribute to the movement’s development by organizing demonstrations and pushing activists toward a mass action orientation, and by articulating a coherent counterprogram to capitalist climate policy. We can also use our connections with labor and other movements to help the climate movement break out of its class and racial isolation and build the alliances that it desperately needs. And ultimately, environmentalism needs the left because only through revolution can its goals be accomplished.
An effective climate movement will be able to put forth an alternative to the vastly inadequate capitalist energy proposals currently being debated. The movement should articulate a vision for a large-scale, nationwide transition to solar and wind power and a major reduction in overall energy consumption, managed democratically and in the public interest.
Such a program would by necessity have radical, if not revolutionary, content; it would include such demands as heavy taxes on industrial carbon emissions, development of publicly controlled alternative energy sources, sustainable development of depressed and deindustrialized areas, massive investment in public transit, reopening shuttered factories to manufacture the equipment of the energy transition (such as trains and wind turbines), and a reduction in the workweek with no loss of pay (which would represent an overall reduction of production, and therefore of energy consumption).
In every case these demands must be formulated in such a way as to build allegiances with other movements, particularly labor and movements of the oppressed. The forces currently mobilizing against global warming lack sufficiently deep ties with labor and social movements. It is crucial that such ties be built; otherwise, not only will the movement fail to break out of its narrow activist sector, but it will be actively opposed by workers in unionized, high-emission industries (e.g. steel, auto, coal mining) and poor people who cannot afford higher energy costs, whose immediate material interests will push them into the arms of the most extreme global warming deniers.