The movement of school climate strikes has spread from Stockholm to all corners of the world, marking a crossroads between peaceful complicity in our own demise, and further action to save the climate for good.
This April, UK-based activism group Extinction Rebellion (XR) blocked roads and landmarks in dozens of cities as part of their campaign of civil disobedience. These actions have attracted attention and support from young people frustrated at inaction on climate change and wishing to see bold, militant action taken.
However, advocating for the deliberate arrest of climate activists is not what is needed. Such an approach of individual martyrdom will prove ineffectual when what is needed is the mass mobilisation of young people and workers. It can put people off from engaging in the movement and reduce the struggle to the actions of a few, rather than the role of the many.
The new environmental movement has taken a great step forward however, by introducing the idea of strike action as a key tactic. XR’s tactics give a glimpse of what would be possible if the working class used its power, through strikes and mass demonstrations, to demand action on climate change.
The global economy is underpinned by the use of fossil fuels and non-renewable energy to power our homes, for transport and production. While an important UN report has found we have just over 10 years to make fundamental changes to avoid catastrophe, oil giant BP intends to spend $52 billion on new oil exploration in that period, with just 3% of their budget dedicated to renewables. The skills of workers in the energy sector could be turned to rapid development of renewable energy but, under capitalism, they are used to create profit for the billionaire bosses above all else.
Only by taking energy, transport, production and other key sectors of the economy into democratic public ownership, so that they can be planned on a socialist basis to meet the needs of people and planet – as opposed to a clique of capitalists interested in their own profits – can we transform our economy and find a way out of the climate crisis. Key to achieve this is building a mass movement which links young people to the organised working-class and its ability to bring capitalism to its knees through its industrial power.
By Naoise Brownlee