Let’s change the world and protect the climate

Lies by Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Telling lies to the young is wrong

Proving to them that lies are true is wrong.

Telling them that God’s in his heaven

and all’s well with the world is wrong.

The young people know what you mean. The young are people.

Tell them the difficulties can’t be counted,

and let them see not only what will be

but see with clarity these present times.

Say obstacles exist they must encounter

sorrow happens, hardship happens.

The hell with it. Who never knew?

the price of happiness will not be happy.

Forgive no error you recognize,

it will repeat itself, increase,

and afterward our pupils

will not forgive in us what we forgave.

Copyright © 2008 by Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Felicity Dowling writes: To be Ecosocialists and internationalists in 2021 and beyond, in the parties of the European Left, we have to understand the world, to organise to protect and preserve both the physical world, protect and improve that share of wealth that goes to workers (and working-class communities), and to protect our liberties.

In Left Unity UK we use the title Ecosocialist to acknowledge the crucial importance of the challenge presented by the climate and ecological crises facing the planet, and to reassert the role that our class, the working class, and crucially, the organised working class, has to play in this monumental challenge. Only the working class has the power to fundamentally change society. The struggle for the climate and our ecological system must be part and parcel of our challenges to poverty, challenges to the failure to provide adequate food, education, housing, life enhancing employment, time for the family, decent conditions for our elders and safety for women. We will not accept increased poverty as a price for saving the climate. Change we acknowledge as necessary, but not increased poverty. Our response to the climate catastrophe is part of our challenge to authoritarianism.

The environmental harms of capitalism do not simply result from greed and lack of effective environmental regulation, or indifference on the part of capital, though these undoubtedly exacerbate them. Environmental degradation and destruction through carbon emissions, pollution, the disruption and destruction of ecosystems, and loss of biodiversity are not incidental to the running of a globalised capitalist economy, but go to the nature and functioning of the capitalist system itself. Asking capitalism to reinvent itself as a more environmentally friendly, less polluting, more resource ‘frugal’ system is to ask individual capitalists/corporations to make themselves less profitable, less ‘efficient’, to effectively put a gun to their collective corporate head, and of the whole system.

The Keynesianism of the second half of the 20th century failed and has been reversed. Keynesianism had no answer to the inbuilt structural defects of capitalism, its self-destructive and nature destructive tendencies, and was never intended to do so. The ‘green washed’ forms of Keynesianism proposed from the more liberal wing of capital, liberal greens, left reformist trends in environmentalism, and those sections of the labour movement influenced by them would recreate this, failing almost completely to identify the underlying problems even in the face of the blindingly obvious.

It is no longer the case that the bourgeoisie, their politicians and corporations are denying that the world is heating up, this is now largely just the province of the fossil fuel lobby. Whole sections of the bourgeoisie, from finance, to manufacturing, to construction have recognised that

  1. there are substantial economic impacts to be felt from climate change if measures aren’t taken to address it,
  2. there is substantial money to be made from renewable energy technologies, ‘green’ infrastructure, the transition from oil powered to various forms of electric transport, low carbon construction and retrofitting existing buildings for energy efficiency and so on.

Capital is embracing the idea of the Green New Deal as a potential next straw to cling to, to stave of the crisis that is looming. However, so long as there is profit to be made from fossil fuels etc., then the market compels the capitalist to make that profit, when it perceives there is a profit to be made from a Green New Deal, they’ll take that too.

According to the Guardian newspaper in the UK, an unpublished UN report in 2010 estimated $2.2 Trillion of environmental damage is done annually by the 3,000 or so largest corporations. More than the national economies of all but the 7 richest nations on earth – 6-7% of combined turnover and equivalent to 33% of their annual combined profits.

The global market for waste is worth a staggering $410 billion, much of it illegal – up to 90% of electronic waste is illegally traded or dumped each year. The top 10 emitting countries emit 45 per cent of global GHG emissions; the bottom 50 per cent emit only 13 per cent. This cannot be changed surreptitiously but by bold campaigns that challenge the rights of capital.

War and weapons production provide significant climate and environmental damage. Ridding ourselves of nuclear weapons and the huge armaments industry would significantly improve our climate and our environment

The Brown University Costs of War study states:

The US Department of Defense is the world’s single largest consumer of oil – and as a result, one of the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters.

Destruction of military base garbage in burn pits and other military operations have exposed soldiers and civilians to dangerous levels of pollutants.

Deforestation in Afghanistan as a result of illegal logging, particularly by warlords, has destroyed wildlife habitat.

In Iraq, increases in cancer, birth defects, and other conditions have been associated with war-related environmental damage and toxins.”

Our struggles for peace, against weapons of mass destruction, and to protect the climate link in multiple ways. Failure in either field would be grim indeed.

In the 21st century, class struggle and environmental struggle have become inseparable, and we lose sight of that at our peril.

A better world is possible. There is money and resources aplenty to provide all the essentials of life for all the peoples of the world. As socialists we take up the slogan developed in struggle in Latin America. We demand a better world and proclaim that a better world is possible. We are denied these necessities, denied access to these resources by the private, and now oligarchic, ownership of the means of production. Globally Oxfam’s report said that the world’s richest 22 men have more wealth than all the women of Africa. The wage share from production has fallen especially in the less dominant and more exploited economies.

Economist Michael Roberts writes “imperialism is alive and well and inequality between the imperialist economies and the rest is just as wide as it was 100 years go. Value produced in the dominated countries gets appropriated and transferred to the imperialist economies in ever-increasing amounts.”

Whilst most of this article is about the UK and Europe, we are constantly aware of struggles in other continents, which interconnect on a daily level. We take both inspiration and warning from international struggles and tasks faced by socialists and those in struggle globally.

The oligarchs think they can escape the Earth’s crisis by holing up in New Zealand or by going into space. But our class must solve the problem for everyone, for us there is no benefit in rescuing just a few rich individuals.

COP26

The UK has hosted the COP26 conference in Glasgow in November 2021, with the mendacious Boris Johnson presiding over it. Clearly this will not solve the Climate Catastrophe, nor the environmental challenges facing humans and other species. It will though focus attention again on the scale of the task in defending our climate.

Huge opportunities

Trade unionists, socialists, climate and environmental activists, women’s rights campaigners, campaigners for Disabled People’s rights, anti-racists, anti-fascists, LGBT rights campaigners and those new into struggle, are all finding these to be tough times

But the defeats and setbacks cannot disguise the huge social movements that are developing. These social changes will not all be positive, but one thing is for sure these are times of change, upheaval and opportunity, as well as being times of great danger.

We live in a time of huge protest. There will be an audience for our ideas. We live in a time of resistance probably in greater numbers than 1848, or 1917-18, more than1968. Demonstrations such as those we saw in Belarus were not only large but persistent, repeated time and again. The huge strikes in India were probably the largest in world history. The youth have mobilised in huge numbers for the Climate campaign.

Organising for our planet, for the climate, for the environment

We must develop our day-to-day struggles against poverty, poor conditions at work, oppression and war, and join this with the demands to avert the climate catastrophe. All these struggles are integral to our work. Whilst we will look for allies with all who campaign for climate justice we cannot avoid the responsibility held by our organisations, and our politics. Capitalism might tweak things here or there and we will hail each mini victory as steps along the way, but only the organised might of the workers movement can challenge the bourgeois system and change the world. It is back to Marx, back to Engels, back to class, if we are serious about Climate Change.

Marx wrote more than 170 years ago that

“…..Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.”

This is very relevant today.

He also wrote

the capitalist mode of production collects the population together in great centres and causes the urban population to achieve an ever-growing preponderance…. [It] disturbs the metabolic interaction between man and the earth, i.e., it prevents the return to the soil of its constituent elements consumed by man in the form of food and clothing; hence it hinders the operation of the eternal natural condition for the lasting fertility of the soil. Thus it destroys at the same time the physical health of the urban worker, and the intellectual life of the rural worker.”

Engels wrote

Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature — but that we, with flesh, blood, and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other beings of being able to know and correctly apply its laws.” The Role of Work in Transforming Ape into Man.

And again

To carry out this control requires something more than mere knowledge.” Science is not enough, “It requires a complete revolution in our hitherto existing mode of production, and with it of our whole contemporary social order.” (Quoted on The Next Recession website)

Humanity needs to profoundly change the ways of industrial production, of the production of food, of how our communities care for their people, to change how we manage our finite supply of fresh water and how we use our oceans, our forests, how we manage the resources we extract from beneath the surface of the planet, manage our energy and our fuel. Without all of this we face catastrophe. But capitalism will always prioritise profit. That is its essence. The bourgeoisie might accept elements of the Green New Deal if they can make a profit, but they will always subvert it to make profit.

Another generation into the struggles

We cannot accept defeat for another generation of youth in revolt by pretending that capitalism can solve these issues. It cannot. But proclaiming this is far from enough. We must agitate educate and organise and it is in the latter where we have great responsibility.

Our organisations need to grow to match this task. Our times are complex and very difficult, but they are also the times of the greatest opportunities and challenges in more than a century. We no longer live in the era of “The End of History.” The current forms of government are not, after all, the final form of democracy. Few people now believe that nonsense. The upheavals political, economic, financial, environmental and climate, have wiped this away.

We live in a time of upheaval. We have experienced defeats but capitalism is profoundly unstable and is likely to provoke persistent protest movements. Roger Silverman wrote (personal correspondence)

Let’s look just at the world in 2020.

I won’t speak much about the magnificent revolution in Belarus… Five months of mass demonstrations, facing brutality, torture and assassination.. Similarly, the Black Lives Matter in the USA– and on the protests in Zimbabwe; or the year-long gilets jaunes uprising and the wave of strikes in France. These have been joined by movements in every continent: in Thailand, Indonesia, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, Nigeria, Guinea and above all in India. Just a few examples…

INDIA: September 2016, January 2019, December 2020… Three times now in less than five years India has been brought to a standstill by general strikes of 200 million workers, reaching 250 million. On 8th December 2020, the trade unions jointly called a Bharat Bandh – that translates as an all-India shut-down – i.e. a general strike and national blockade of roads and rail transport. They were joined by an uprising of peasants, up to 300 million, who marched on Delhi and occupation of Delhi.

These strikes gripped every part of India from the industrial metropoli of Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata, reaching from Kashmir to Kerala, from Gujarat to Assam, and stretching even to offshore islands and remote tribal areas. It encompassed workers in the public sector, engineering factories, chemicals plants, textiles, transport, office workers, manufacturing, mining, education, banking, insurance, communications, agriculture, construction, tea plantations, defence, civil servants, youth, students, teachers, truck drivers, taxi drivers, traders, bank employees, railway workers, electricians, postmen, tea plantation workers and fishermen, truck drivers, taxi drivers, kiosk traders, street vendors, auto-rickshaw drivers, beedi rollers, domestic, casual and home-based workers, slum dwellers, unemployed precarious workers, former soldiers, the poorest, the destitute and the lowest castes.

Women were at the forefront of this movement. A colossal tsunami of struggle encompassing maybe one in twenty of the global population.

NIGERIA: October 2020. “it involves thousands and thousands and thousands of young Nigerians”, standing up in wave after wave of protest against police bullets, most between 18 and 24 years old. Youth besieged airport. Raised £200,000 for aid. “What have I benefited from this country since I was born?” asked Victoria Pang, a 22-year-old graduate, who was at one of the protests in the capital, Abuja – and one of the many women who have been at the forefront of the demonstrations. Another: “This is an anti-establishment struggle. You are either for us or against us, no middle ground.” One banner printed “leaders of tomorrow”: “tomorrow” crossed out and replaced with “today”. 60-70 + killed.

SUDAN: December 2020: On 19 December, thousands of Sudanese protesters took to the streets to mark the second anniversary of the overthrow of Omar al-Bashir and demand faster reforms. They shut down major roads linking to the government and military headquarters. Thousands of protesters in the capital Khartoum, and also in Khartoum’s twin city Omdurman and across other cities. Protesters marched towards the presidential palace and were met with security forces who fired tear gas and sound grenades.

CHILE: 36 people were killed in the demonstrations ending in February 2020, and thousands injured and arrested. On October 25, 2020, Chileans voted 78.28 per cent in favour of a new constitution – a historic victory finally purging the evil of the 1973 coup and the dictatorship of Pinochet.

HONG KONG: Following demonstrations of up to a million in April 2019, Hong Kong was annexed and swallowed up by the Chinese regime, thus importing the bacillus of revolution.

THAILAND: September 2020: demonstrations of up to 100,000 youth against the surviving feudal monarchy and the military dictatorship.

LEBANON: After the deaths of more than 170 people and 6,000 injured in the huge chemical explosion which destroyed the city’s port on August 4th: “The explosion…is considered by most as a massacre by the government against its own people.” Hundreds of thousands who took to the streets last October. The mass demonstrations against corruption and planned tax hikes were dubbed “the October Revolution.” Prime Minister-designate forced to resign after a month. One young woman: “We’re really fighting for everything. We’re fighting for our human rights… People don’t really have anything to lose anymore. They’re not afraid anymore so they will do whatever it takes,” she said.

BLACK LIVES MATTER: Protests over the murder of George Floyd led to protest marches in 85 countries – including workers at a base in Antarctica!

Should I continue…?

BULGARIA: thousands in months of demonstrations. KYRGYZSTAN: overthrow of president. PERU: Interim president forced to resign after five days in office…”

I would add the #schoolstrike and the huge women’s movement demonstrations to this list, especially the struggles of the women in Poland.

So we have plenty of people prepared to take action. How do we make a difference in these struggles? Our recent history is that of defeat but our movements spring to life again like the strongest of weeds.

Austerity

Working class communities have paid a terrible price in the era of Austerity in the global north and the era of Restructuring in the global South, paid in lives, in health, in livelihoods, in poverty, in wages, in rights of work, in climate and environmental degradation. Attacks on women, in so many aspects of our lives, have intensified, racism has grown, homophobia and transphobia been weaponised not just at street level but in policy from Governments. Attacks on democracy and democratic rights have increased and governments become more authoritarian.

In the UK alone academic research has attributed 130,00 deaths to Austerity. There are studies indicating similar damage in Spain and Greece. Austerity was indeed a major defeat for our class and our movements.

The idea of TINA, promoted by Thatcher, that “There is no alternative” has hindered and dampened our movements but despite this and the disconnect between our class and the socialist and trade union movement, resistance is not dead.

Again, and again, people have come out to protest. These protests ebb, but rise again.

We must pioneer ways to organise and not be too shaken by short term defeats. This is a complex and difficult set of struggles, and the likelihood is that these struggles will come at pace. There is urgency in our tasks.

Communication and discussions

Social media has been weaponised against us. We have no way of knowing what lies have been told to our workmates, neighbours or families, as we saw all too crudely in the UK in the last election and in the Brexit campaigns, where the Conservative website was re designed to appear to be a fact checking website, and a website appearing to be a forum for Jeremy Corbyn was run by Conservatives and their allies. The interventions from Dominic Cummins, and Cambridge Analytica, Facebook et al in the Brexit debate showed the new power of the social media manipulators. It has been reported by Facebook Whistleblowers that their algorithms favour extremist content.

Yet we have gained huge advantages from this technology. Now we can set up a zoom meeting to speak directly to striking Indian farmers, to refugee activists in camps in Bangladesh, to comrades in Brazil campaigning against Bolsonaro’s murderous Covid polices, to women in Poland protesting the most basic of rights, to comrades in Belarus during their election and its aftermath. We can link workers across Trans-National Corporations, we can organise worldwide women’s events.

Organisation

Our parties educate, agitate and organise. These have been the tasks of socialists and of Marxists for generations, but each generation faces these tasks in different forms. The Left in Europe face economics based on increasing inequality, increasing oppression and climate and environmental crises, with xenophobia, anti-migrant rhetoric (in a system dependent on migration), racism and appalling misogyny.

Workers have nothing to gain, no investment in the morality of capitalism, but must, in order to thrive, change the world, as the climate crisis demands. Workers, working class communities, peasant and poor farmers, women’s organisations must combine, and build organisations based on our class interests, not those of capitalism.

Organising with the youth especially, is going to be a heavy load, though hugely enjoyable if we succeed. Our organised forces are at a low level in trade union and socialist electoral situations. The level of organisation is like a patchwork even within Europe with strengths and weaknesses across the continent. There are real differences in the attitudes of young people across Europe, differences between countries. There is greater support for the ideas of socialism where those ideas can be clearly presented, where earlier movements still have an echo. In the UK it is young people especially who favour the ideas and attitudes of socialism, with strong egalitarian and democratic principles.

Women in Europe, for example, experience and organise both as migrants and in economies receiving migration. These differences add to our potential strength. We have huge opportunities to organise at trade union, community, political and grass roots levels.

The force that can challenge capitalism is the organised working class, in the unions, in the communities and families, amongst the women’s organisations, locally nationally and internationally, across continents and oceans.

Deep social attitudes need a material basis and capitalism which is in multiple crisis cannot provide that material basis. As Matt Hollinshead recently wrote in the Morning Star:

Marx described the working class as able to act as the “universal subject,” which means when we act for ourselves, workers act in the interests of the whole human species. However, the reverse is not true — you can’t substitute a vague “everyone” for the working class: we have a unique position in the economy that gives us the power that others simply can’t match.”

Where do we start?

Right now, the class is far from organised. Socialist organisation starts both in the workplace and the communities. There are aspects of today’s society which give us potential to grow trade unions, grow our Ecosocialist organisations and challenge capitalism, class society, poverty and ecological and climate catastrophes. This is not a magic wand or wishful thinking. No other force on the planet can change the world in the way that the organised working class could do. Time is short but we could and must attempt this challenge for the sake of our own and future generations. In this we need the theories both of Marxism and of the science of climate catastrophe. We need workers organised in unions, here in Europe, organisations of the working-class communities, links with workers, poor farmers and social movements in the global south, the energy and verve of the youth, and the energy and determination shown by women in recent years. But we also need the clear ideology of solidarity, of the rights for all humans and solidarity and organisation to win those rights.

We need the chance to discuss democratically, as citizens, in the way protests in the squares and in Occupy Wall Street provided in the last decade The School Strike also gave young people the chance to grow their ideas. We should prepare for such discussions that are to come and we should demand the chance to have such discussions. In the UK such discussions did not happen during Brexit, and this allowed still more social media manipulation.

The European Left Party is well placed to develop such a movement, it is well placed to meet this challenge because we understand the necessity of organisation, of political discussion, of learning from history, of understanding the scope and challenge of change across decades. We also have resilience and the ability to adapt and change to new situations.

Learning from defeats

As we face this new set of challenges it is worth reflecting on our last great defeat, that of the fight against Restructuring and Austerity. Our Class has paid a bitter price for the defeats of Austerity.

The wave of economic austerity that has swept Europe in the wake of the Great Recession is at risk of doing serious and permanent damage to the continent’s long cherished social model. As economists, including myself, have long predicted, austerity has only crippled Europe’s growth, with improvements in fiscal positions that are always disappointing. Worse, it is contributing to inequality that will make economic weakness longer-lived, and needlessly contributes to the suffering of the jobless and the poor for many years. Oxfam’s report, A Cautionary Tale: The true cost of austerity and inequality in Europe, makes an important contribution to assessing the high and long-lasting costs of these ill-conceived policies. Professor Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate in Economics and former Chief Economist at the World Bank

Some of our parties did well in responding to the wave of popular revolt against the imposition of Austerity, most memorably the early days of Syriza in Greece, Podemos and others in Spain. Indeed, that was the time when Left Unity was formed in the UK, responding to the crisis of Austerity and the total lack of opposition to it from the Labour Party. How can we prepare for the next set of great challenges to endeavour to win the political ear of a roused and organised class?

We are trying to change the world but to do so we must “See with clarity these present times.”

We need organisation at work, including the verve and elan of the new, informal unions, and trying to win back effective organisation in the traditional unions. We need to win the battle of ideas and convince people that the world can and should change, we need to reinvigorate the ideas and practice of solidarity and mutual aid. Our propaganda must improve, and our propaganda must be in deeds as well as words wherever we have some element of power. People need to see concrete improvements from their efforts.

Grim Times UK

The UK is in a sorry mess, and examining some of the problems facing socialist here will, I hope, be useful to other countries. We lack both a Labour Party prepared to oppose Johnson and an organised Left. The potential to build a movement of the left is real but will be difficult. Working together on issues like food poverty, housing, Fire and Rehire, Climate Change, War, Migration, the NHS and against oppressive legislation will begin the process.

In the UK, the model in the pre and post-Corbyn Labour Party, especially at local level was to tell the electorate that all was well whilst the Labour local councils implemented terrible cuts. This left children’s services, women’s services, care of the elderly and the rights of disabled people, housing provision and homeless services a shadow of their previous levels.

The UK, (where I came from) is a difficult place to work for socialism. I am describing the UK here as an example both of deep social problems and an absence of leadership or opposition, but even here movements still arise on the streets.

The Government is corrupt, the prime minister lies to parliament with impunity, their polices are cruel, including a cut to welfare which will leave millions impoverished whilst the rich have increased their wealth during the pandemic.

The number of billionaires jumped by 24 per cent, in stark contrast with the wider economic turmoil of the pandemic which saw millions enter furlough and the rate of unemployment lift to its highest in almost five years. Wealth among billionaires increased by 21.7 per cent over the year, rising by £106.5 billion to £597.2 billion.

The UK economy is massively disrupted with shortage of skilled labour, with petrol shortages, shortages in supplies to the supermarkets, energy bills set to double. Shortages impact badly on industries and commerce built around “just in time” supply chains. Less frequently commented upon is the UK economy’s dependence on the City of London and the financial sector which is challenged by Brexit.

Mutual Aid where people support each other in working class communities is essential to feed people on low incomes, and many children are dependent on informal ways of getting food. I must mention here the great work of Fans Supporting Food Banks, not just for collecting food but for distributing it in a spirit of solidarity rather than cold charity.

In 2019/20, 5 million people (8%) were in food insecure households. Among those in relative poverty, 19% were in food insecure households, including 26% of children.

Household food insecurity increased during the coronavirus pandemic. The Food Foundation found that 4.7 million adults and 2.3 million children lived in household which experienced food insecurity in the first 6 months of the pandemic, including 12% of all households with children.

Yet still, despite all this, the Conservatives lead in opinion polls. Our first past the post system makes it hard to defeat the Conservatives even with a good Labour leader, which we lack. Scotland’s move towards independence makes defeating the Conservatives still harder. Labour has been reclaimed by the right, pro-austerity factions. Trade union organisation is low, though growing and the election of Sharon Graham to head Unite the Union has given many activists optimism. Unions like United Voices of the World (UVW) have unionised new sectors of the workplace.

The Financial Times, the serious voice of the financial section of the ruling class, says “Trade unions are back after a long time.”

Since 1985, trade union membership has halved on average across OECD countries, while coverage of collective agreements signed at the national, sector or company level has declined by a third”.

The article also said that there is still wide variety between countries in terms of the importance and popularity of unions (4.7 per cent of employees in Estonia are TU members, 93 per cent in Iceland). But the majority of places have experienced a decline. Nowhere is this more evident than among the young. In 1995, one in five 20-25-year-olds in the UK were union members; now it is about one in ten.

In the UK wages for young people are low.

National Minimum Wage & National Living Wage Changes:

£8.91 per hour for workers aged 23 and over. £8.36 an hour for workers aged 21 – 22. £6.56 an hour for workers aged 18 – 20.£4.62 an hour for workers aged 16 – 17.£4.30 an hour for apprentices ( and apprentices can be of any age).

Rents for example in London for one room in a flat with others will cost about £700 per month, completely inaccessible to anyone on anything like the Minimum Wage. Housing is in noticeably short supply, but tower blocks of apartments stand empty as speculators use them in financial games. They are not looking for tenants just for speculative profit. Action in Berlin will inspire housing activists in the UK.

UK economic problems

The UK economy is facing serious problems, some relating to Covid, some to Brexit, some to the chronic underfunding of basic public services, to the de-industrialisation that came from the neoliberal era, and the just in time systems of supply. We cannot for example find enough lorry drivers, so have supply chain issues, and gaps on the supermarket shelves. Gas companies are going bankrupt, and Britain has inadequate storage facilities for natural gas, relying instead on Germany and the Netherlands, but failed to secure and agreement before Brexit.

Fuel prices are rising. Richard Murphy, a left economist writes, “But a majority of households will not be in that situation. They will simply see this as another cost to add to extra national insurance, a loss of universal credit, other price increases, and all offset by limited pay increases at best. For many this is going to be a very tough winter, and the government is going to do nothing about it.”

Ironically, there are problems with the country not having a secure supply of carbon dioxide (used in the food industry and health care). They cannot pick much of the vegetable harvest, for which previously EU workers provided the bulk of the workforce. All this is happening without an opposition.

We have a likely 4% inflation, huge gas price hikes, steel prices doubled, shortages of gas, of lorry drivers, of blood sample vials. Seven-fold increase in container shipping costs. Shortages of labour, shortages of doctors, nurses, midwives. Cuts to welfare, unemployment, no trade deals, higher taxes. It is the long-term effect of just in time production systems, of globalisation, of Brexit, and the exodus of EU workers, of the hostile environment to migrants.

Worse rights for Migrants despite their essential role

We now face migration without the rights and freedoms migrants experienced under EU laws, a situation more like the Singapore model where ‘guest’ workers have no equality with citizens and are ever more exposed to exploitation. The UK government makes great play of its anti-migrant stance. New legislation will further strip away migrant and refugee rights.

David Landau from Left Unity writes

The reality is that the evidence does not show a close correlation between immigration and lower wages. And if they did this would it not show, not that immigration causes low wages but rather that IMMIGRATION CONTROLS put migrant workers under duress – fear of deportation because of being or becoming ‘illegal’ or being allowed here under conditions which make it extremely difficult to be organised.

Despite this, in fact migrant workers are amongst the most militant. They have been at the centre of new unions which have proven to be more robust in taking on the employers, just like what happened with the creation of Jewish trade unions over 100 years ago.

Anti-migrant movements seek to divide the working class and therefore weaken wages, terms and conditions. And Johnson finds himself embedded in such a movement through his Brexit campaign and activities before that campaign.

Women

Women in the UK are mourning the death of Sarah Everard, kidnapped and murdered by a policeman. Women came out on the streets in their thousand in protest and were themselves attacked by police for their temerity in protesting. Women might hold up half the sky but they help up far more than that during the pandemic, yet women have suffered most economically and socially during the pandemic. The women’s movement ebbs and flows but the movement is steadily growing.

Responses on the street

The ‘Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill’ provoked huge demonstrations. Extinction rebellion and the school Climate strikes saw large numbers on the streets and organising in other ways.

The Government is the most openly corrupt that I remember, and get away with arrogant stupidity. For example, Sajid Javid the Health Secretary, no less, said on television that you could only catch covid from strangers. This governments management of the pandemic has been dreadful, costing many thousands of lives and is probably going to result in Covid being an endemic disease here, especially of the poor. The prime minister lies repeatedly and the mainstream media ignore it.

Overall wages have not regained their pre austerity level, though thanks, in part, to the labour shortage prompted by the structural problems of the British economy including years of refusing to train workers in critical sectors by Brexit, Covid, and the Just in Time economy, there is now some pressure to raise wages on some industries. The Nurses though who worked through the multiple and unfinished waves of the pandemic were offered first a 1% pay rise and then, instead a 3% raise. Their national insurance contributions have been increased, and inflation reduced the value of their incomes, so they suffered an actual decline in the value of the wages. The prospect of at least some Nurses strikes, mirroring those in Germany and Denmark, is very real. Our role as socialists with our feet in the class is to work cooperatively with the different struggles, to educate, agitate and organise wherever we can.

Protests

We know that surges of protest will come and that the youth is crucial to building resistance. Politically the youth are far more radical than their elders. The Labour Party is the traditional party representing the UK working class (though after the radical Corbyn regime the Labour Party is returning to the pro austerity era of the early 21st century). However, Corbyn is far from dead, and despite media hate he is still mobbed when he turns up at events, especially those with young people. He made radical change seem possible and sensible, and most young people voted for him. The seeds Corbyn sowed have yet to germinate.

So, by August 2020 79% of female students would have voted either Labour (69%) or Green (10%). This gives us have a very favourable situation for socialist ideas.

The Guardian reported that at the 2019 election, Labour beat the Tories among voters aged 18 to 24 by an unprecedented 43 percentage points

The free market think tank, The Institute of Economic Affairs, was quoted in the Guardian as saying

Younger people really do quite consistently express hostility to capitalism, and positive views of socialist alternatives,” it found. The common argument that “they will grow out of it,” the survey continued, “is simply not borne out by the data. There are no detectable differences between the economic attitudes of people in their late teens and people in their early 40s”. These attitudes might be “a preview” of “mainstream opinion in Britain tomorrow

The Corbyn project brought hundreds of thousand into the Labour Party and gave us a brief glimpse of the possibility of a Left Social Democratic Government. The number of full members moved from 190,000 in May 2015 to 515,000 in July 2016 – an influx of 325,000 new members.

Since the defeat in the election and the rise of the right within the Labour Party, tens of thousands have left the Labour Party and many tens of thousands more become inactive. Meanwhile there is no effective opposition in parliament on the health, education, housing, welfare, Covid, or other issues.

Threats to Universal Public Service Health Care

At present we face legislation which will strip away the NHS making it much more like the US Medicaid system with a very restricted basic service run with private companies on the boards, and private companies which charge what they like for health care. Already most mental health beds are owned by the company Spire, and access to mental health treatment is very limited indeed.

Health campaigner and Left Unity member Kevin Donovan wrote “Rigged privatisation, ersatz regulation, and a so-called market continue to be the doctrines which guide Tory policy in every sphere. They are exactly the characteristics of the ongoing stealth destruction of the NHS which will be legalised by the Health and Care Bill currently in Westminster. British Gas is a useful brand to hide the shenanigans of Centrica ((remember their 2014 threat of an investment strike to avert a prize freeze and their lobbying for fracking?). Similarly, the NHS logo conceals Centene of St Louis, the single biggest provider of GP services, and United Health of Minneapolis whose octopus activities reach into every policy and practice of our health services. Next year forty local health economies (as they are now called) will be fighting to survive, using their capped budgets to compete for staff, resources and, yes, carbon dioxide. Our forthcoming discontent needs to focus on health and care. That’s as well as our food, warmth and refuse collection.

The government is cutting £1,000 a year from the income of the poorest in society. At the same time, it is Tax cuts and big Bonus for the city of London. UK workers are facing a storm of Fire and Rehire, but union membership is growing albeit slowly. The full impact of Covid will be felt in workers’ lives as Government furlough payments end.

The pandemic in the UK

The government’s appalling handling of the pandemic resulted in one of highest per capita death rates in the world in January 2021. The disease is hardly controlled and numbers still very high. The vaccine was certainly welcome but must not be the only defence. Antibodies are waning and a third round of vaccinations has started. The decision to lift all restrictions has already seen infection figures rise in schools which lack even basic ventilation, where masks have been removed, and where class sizes are still far too high, the highest in Western Europe.

Trade unionists, socialists, and those new into struggle, are finding these to be a tough time but the unrest and resistance is the music of the future if we can seize this opportunity. Socialists see and make links between the many and varied struggles across the globe, struggles for food, for clean water, for access to land. We recognise the struggles for justice and rights for workers, for women’s rights and against misogyny, for the rights of our children and our elders and for whole communities. We see and participate in struggles against racism, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia. We see and take part in the struggles for education, respectful welfare, for housing and healthcare. We see and share in the struggles of those who need to (and those who just want to do so) the right to move across national boundaries. We see and share the struggles against war, and weapons of destruction.

We work fraternally with other campaigners, never insisting on our sole right to a campaign but always keeping our ideas clear. As Marx said

They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement.

Crucially we share the struggle for a climate fit to live in, for ourselves and future generations. It is unlikely we can avoid the impact of fire, flood, desertification and drought in Europe, but we must campaign to stop the still worse impacts coming down the line. The prospects for Europe were described by the World Health Organisation

Climate change is one of the main drivers of the projected trend for extreme weather events to become more intense and frequent. While only 5% Europeans were exposed to weather-related disasters each year during 1981–2010, this number could increase dramatically by the end of this century due to climate change 3

Fire, flood, desertification, heat and drought are just some of our problems.

In Left Unity the discussion and decision to call ourselves Ecosocialist has been an important one. We are a small democratic, feminist, internationalist campaigning party with our feet in the working-class communities. We are used to working as cooperatively as we can in different campaigns and struggles, working with those with whom we agree and with others where we agree to differ. Ecosocialism, however, seems to be greater than a campaign, more a way forward.

The UK has different but not dissimilar problems to the rest of Europe. Our deindustrialisation and reliance on the financial sector are specific to the UK but the problems of neoliberal capitalism are shared. The ruling class has tried neoliberalism, tried Austerity, tried quantitative easing, tried dividing countries in new models of imperialism.

Economist Michael Roberts writes in The Next Recession that economic problems are looming once again because of the over financialization of the markets. Major stock markets are hovering near all-time highs and commodity prices (food and materials) are rocketing. At the other end of the scale, short-term interest rates are near or below zero, and even long-term government and corporate bonds are at record prices (record low yields).

All this is driven by huge injections of money created by central banks to buy bonds and allow corporations and investment institutions to borrow at very low ‘margin’ rates to speculate in stocks, bonds, property and crypto-currencies; and also enable so-called ‘private equity’ firms and hedge funds to raise funds to buy up companies to ‘asset-strip’ and then sell on – merger and acquisition deals are at record levels. A staggering $1.2 trillion in mergers and acquisitions transactions announced and pending or completed so far in 2021 have involved a private equity party.

What other tricks does capitalism have for the next crisis? Whatever they come up with workers will carry an even greater burden until we are better organised industrially, politically and in our ideologies.

On the good side, we have the attitudes of the youth who overwhelmingly voted for Corbyn, the radicalisation of young women, the Black Lives Matter groups and of course the Climate activists.

Problems of today and tomorrow

Our need to address the issues of climate change are not a problem of tomorrow but that of today. Fire and Flood, extreme weather incidents are here and now. We must prepare our communities to respond to such crises. We need responses such as Cuba puts in place where each area has an emergency organising committee who have details of everyone and everything in their area to organise mutual support. Provision is made to protect white goods from each household from hurricane and flood. Local doctors know their area too. People are prepared and organised to respond to crisis.

Oxfam reported that “Cuba’s achievements in risk reduction come from an impressive multi-dimensional process.”

Its foundation is a socio-economic model that reduces vulnerability and invests in social capital through universal access to government services and promotion of social equity. The resulting high levels of literacy, developed infrastructure in rural areas and access to reliable health care and other created capital function as “multiplier effects” for national efforts in disaster mitigation, preparation and response.

At the national level, Cuba’s disaster legislation, public education on disasters, meteorological research, early warning system, effective communication system for emergencies, comprehensive emergency plan, and Civil Defence structure are important resources in avoiding disaster. The Civil Defence structure depends on community mobilization at the grassroots level under the leadership of local authorities, widespread participation of the population in disaster preparedness and response mechanisms, and accumulated social capital.

 

Preparation for future crises

The Covid crisis is unlikely to be the only pandemic this century and we need to prepare for this. The utter corruption of the UK government meant that people died, the majority suffered financial losses and the richest became still more rich whilst the health service suffered real hardship from stupid financial and bureaucratic constraints, designed in true Disaster Capitalism style to lose no opportunity for profit. The work in contrast of scientists in developing the vaccine shows how science untrammelled by profit can produce solutions.

The world is in constant change and challenge to capitalism. There are endemic challenges to the existing order, and though few have yet won but the ideas grow stronger, fed in part by the instant communication across the planet.

We have worked with other Ecosocialists to produce the statement below. The statement has been agreed by a number of left organisations, and individuals as a basis for our work around COP26 and beyond. We reproduce it here.

Ecosocialism not extinction!

COP 26 unfolds against a backdrop of growing climate chaos and ecological degradation, after an unprecedented summer of heatwaves, wildfires, and flooding events. Climate change is upon us, and we face multiple interlinked and inseparable crises- of climate, environment, extinction, economy and zoonotic diseases. 

As Ecosocialists we say another world is possible, but a massive social and political transformation is needed, requiring the mobilisation of the mass of working people across the globe. Only the end of capitalism’s relentless pursuit of private profit, endless waste, and rapacious drive for growth, can provide the solution not only to climate change, environmental degradation, and mass extinction, but to global poverty, hunger, and hyper exploitation.

The big issues of climate change will be debated in Glasgow but whatever is agreed, capitalism can at best mitigate climate change, not stop it. Genuine climate solutions cannot be based on the very market system that created the problem. Only the organised working class, and the rural oppressed and First Nations of the global south -women and men – have the power to end capitalism, because their labour produces all wealth and they have no great fortune to lose if the system changes, no vested interests in inequality, exploitation, and private profit.

Action now to halt climate change! We demand:

All fossil fuels must stay in the ground – no new gas, coal, or oil!

A rapid move to renewable energy for transport, infrastructure, industry, agriculture, and homes

A massive global programme of public works investing in green jobs, and replacing employment in unsustainable industries.

A globally funded just transition for the global south to develop the necessary sustainable technologies and infrastructure.

A major cut in greenhouse gas emissions of at least 70% by 2030, from a 1990 baseline. This must be comprehensive – including all military, aviation, and shipping emissions – and include mechanisms for transparent accounting, measurement, and popular oversight. 

The end of emissions trading schemes.

An immediate end to the encroachment on and destruction of the territories of indigenous peoples through extractivism, deforestation and appropriation of land.

Sustainability and global justice

The long-term global crisis and the immediate effects of catastrophic events impact more severely on women, children, elders, LGBTQ+ and disabled people and the people of First Nations. An ecosocialist strategy puts social justice and liberation struggles of the oppressed at its core.

Migration is, and will increasingly be, driven by climate change and conflicts and resource wars resulting from it. Accommodating and supporting free movement of people must be a core policy and necessary part of planning for the future.

We call for:

Immediate cancellation of the international debt of the global south.

A rapid shift from massive ‘factory’ farms and large-scale monoculture agribusiness towards eco-friendly farming methods and investment in green agricultural technology to reduce synthetic fertiliser and pesticide use in agriculture and replace these with organic methods and support for small farmers.

A major reduction in meat and dairy production and consumption through education and provision and promotion of high- quality, affordable plant-based alternatives. 

The promotion of agricultural systems based on the right to food and food sovereignty, human rights, and with local control over natural resources, seeds, land, water, forests, knowledge, and technology to end food and nutrition insecurity in the global south.

The end of deforestation in the tropical and boreal forests by reduction of demand for imported food, timber, and biofuels.

An end to ecologically and socially destructive extractivism, especially in the territories of indigenous peoples and First Nations.

Respect for the economic, cultural, political and land rights of indigenous peoples and First Nations.

A massive increase in protected areas for biodiversity conservation.

End fuel poverty through retrofitting energy existing homes and buildings with energy efficient sustainable technologies.

 

We demand a just transition:

Re-skilling of workers in environmentally damaging industries with well-paid alternative jobs in the new economy.

Full and democratic involvement of workers to harness the energy and creativity of the working people to design and implement new sustainable technologies and decommission old unsustainable ones.

Resources for popular education and involvement in implementing and enhancing a just transition, with environmental education embedded at all levels within the curriculum.

Urgent development of sustainable, affordable, and high-quality public transport with a comprehensive integrated plan which meets people’s needs and reduces the requirement for private car use.

A planned ecosocialist economy which eliminates waste, duplication and environmentally harmful practices, reduction in the working week and a corresponding increase in leisure time.

Work practices reorganised with the emphasis on fair flexibility and working closer to home, utilising a free and fast broadband infrastructure.

As ecosocialists we put forward a vision of a just and sustainable world and fight with every ounce of our energy for every change, however small, which makes such a world possible. We will organise and assist wherever worker’s and community organisations internationally, raising demands on governments and challenging corporations.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

We invite parties and individuals who support these ideas to contact us and sign the declaration. We invite those who disagree to discuss with us. That way we both sides learn more and share experiences

The old world is dying and the new world struggles to be born. This is the time of monsters” and this time our monsters are not just oppressive rulers but fire, water, despoilation and shortages

Socialists across the world face the old duties to agitate to educate and to organise. We have a huge history but many of the organisations built by past struggles have been broken, been hamstrung or corrupted. They have to be built anew.

All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.”

 

Felicity Dowling, Principal Speaker Left Unity

with contributions from

  • Jim Hollinshead, Left Unity Environment caucus and UCU activist
  • David Landau on migration
  • Roger Silverman on levels of protest worldwide

To submit an article for the 'Discussion & Debate' section of our website please email it to info@leftunity.org

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