The three social forces to stop climate change

June 20, 2008

This piece on "tasks for ecosocialists in building a global movement against ecological destruction", was posted at on June 10. It will be published as an editorial in a coming edition of British magazine Socialist Resistance.

The protest against the proposed third runway at London's Heathrow Airport on May 31 sent a powerful message to PM Gordon Brown's government: we will not sit idly by and watch while the future of our planet is put at risk.

Current plans to expand our airports are cynically irresponsible and fly in the face of the government's professed concerns about climate change.

Of course, carbon emissions do not respect national boundaries. With atmospheric CO2 concentrations already over 387ppmv, the need for serious global action to radically reduce emissions is more urgent than ever. The Campaign against Climate Change is right to campaign for an effective international treaty.

However, the changes we need to make will not be achieved in UN conference rooms and treaty negotiations alone. They will only be achieved by global mass struggle, by a global mass movement. Building this movement is an urgent task for all ecosocialists, because without it we are destined for a terminal decline into barbarism.

We have already seen the birth of this movement, and its first tentative steps, in the struggles of the indigenous people of the Amazon, in the protests against the refusal of the Bush government to ratify Kyoto, in the demonstrations called around the world to coincide with the UN climate talks and in thousands of other marches, protests, rallies and direct actions.

The Global Climate Campaign was launched by activists in Britain in 2001 in response to Bush's refusal to ratify Kyoto. By 2005, demonstrations were held in 34 countries to coincide with the Montreal climate talks, including a march by 10,000 people in Montreal itself. By the time of the Bali talks in 2007, there were 84 countries taking part. Last year also saw around 2000 climate demonstrations in all 50 US states as part of the "Step it Up" campaign.


The tasks facing ecosocialists are threefold — to immerse ourselves in the emerging climate social movement to actively build every protest; to weld together the diverse and multifaceted strands of this movement into a single powerful force; and to develop, through a wide-ranging process of discussion and debate, the strategies needed to win.

And there are three social forces that will be decisive in all of these tasks: the indigenous peoples of the South; the organised working class of all countries; and the youth.

Youth and students have already shown their militancy in direct actions against airport expansions and coal-fired power stations. Not only do the young have the biggest stake in protecting the future of the planet, they are also unbowed by the defeats of the past and are therefore capable of bringing innovative methods of struggle and new waves of radicalism into the movement.

North America's largest manufacturing union, the United Steelworkers, have joined with the Sierra Club, the largest US environmental organisation, to launch a strategic "blue-green" alliance under the banner of "Good Jobs, A Clean Environment, and A Safer World". This is a clear indication of what is possible and necessary.

British unions are also starting to pick up on this issue. In February, 300 trade unionists met in London for the first ever Campaign against Climate Change Trade Union Conference.

Ecosocialists now need to take the climate debate forward at every level within every union and win millions of union members to taking decisive action. Such action may include participation in mass demonstrations, boycotting biofuels and preparing and fighting for alternative plans of sustainable and socially useful production.

Indigenous peoples

But at the forefront of this struggle are the indigenous people of the Global South — fighting against incursions into rainforests by logging companies and agribusiness, and against biofuels that put corn into cars instead of hungry mouths.

As Bolivian President Evo Morales put it during his speech at the UN General Assembly last September: "The indigenous peoples of Latin America and the world have been called upon by history to convert ourselves into the vanguard of the struggle to defend nature and life."

The indigenous peoples are at the cutting edge of this struggle. Ecosocialists must now follow their lead.

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