There’s something not right here
Stand together or divide and conquer?
I’ve been seeing this sign pop up across town over the past couple of weeks, and I feel there’s something inherently wrong with the whole thing.
Let’s start with the heading and title of the one day conference.
System Change Not Climate Change
Climate Change (AKA Climate Emergency, also Global Warming) is the biggest existential threat humanity has ever faced, worse than world wars, and at least as bad as nuclear weapons.
So to actively devalue the term, turning it into an argument for “social change” seems at best poor marketing, and worst, the kind of appropriation used to silence and diminish other voices whilst pushing your own agenda.
And yes, the conference is to discuss climate and social change, but it’s also about “ending the depravity of the profit-driven capitalist system”.
Here’s a quote from the Red Flag site, which gives an overview of the conference:
The scale and depth of the environmental crisis is extraordinary.
We need to understand the nature of the capitalist system that’s driving the crisis, and have a vision of the movement we need to overcome it — a radical and holistic movement that fights for free movement of all people, for union rights, and identifies governments and powerful corporations as our shared enemy.
It’s interesting that this radical and holistic movement doesn’t include climate, emissions, petrochemicals or anything else related to catastrophic global warming.
It does go into the fundamental mission of both organizations: free movement, union rights and the enemy of business and governments.
An anticapitalist conference
So here’s where my skepticism really starts jumping up and down for attention. Socialist Alternative’s entire mission is anti-capitalist:
We stand for the overthrow of capitalism and the construction of a world socialist system.
And Red flag notes:
Red Flag is Australia’s leading socialist publication.
So what’s the conference really all about?
This one-day conference will cover the history and theory of environmental activism and its intersection with the class struggle and socialist politics, as well as practical challenges and questions facing our movement today.
These organizations are hiding behind environmental activism, co-opting “Climate Change” for their own ends. The conference could have been staged with no reference to Climate Change, and achieved the same goals, because as they’ve said, it’s about discussing “the class struggle and socialsit politics”. It’s about socialism, not climate.
What about Greta?
And then including Greta Thunberg and her “Skolstrejk For Klimatet” (School Strike for Climate) muddies the waters even more. I can’t speak for Greta, and I don’t know if Socialist Alternative and Red Flag asked her permission to use the image for their conference. But without knowing that, it looks like at least tacit approval, and that she supports these organizations and their goals.
So what’s on the schedule?
The sessions look like this
…The ruling class are parasites. They leach off of workers and off the environment… People like Gina Rinehart, Rupert Murdoch and Jeff Bezos are our enemies.
Calling someone an “enemy” automatically depersonalises them. And it’s the same language Donald Trump uses to describe the U.S. Media.
…We need a radical reassesment of the politics of the climate movement to deal with this crisis. There are only two options: the free movement of all people, or brutal, militarised borders and concerntration camps…
I’d suggest this is conflating ideas; climate change has specific causes and effects. Population movement is a result of the problems of petrochemical overuse. It’s a secondary effect. Do you think there’d be so much trouble around Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s poor showing at the Pacific Islands forum if Climate Change was about people movement across borders?
…What exactly is the Green New Deal? Is it, as some argue, our best hope for averting climate catastrophe — a goal to which the efforts of environmentalists and socialists should be subordinated? Or is it, as others have said, a political diversion from the work of building a mass movement for change?…
The Green New Deal is all about changing from the current economy to a new green economy. It’s not hard to find this information.
…The profound and inextricable integration of fossil fuels into the world economy remains a defining feature of modern-day capitalism.
I’d suggest it’s a feature of every country on the planet, not just capitalism. The Chinese (communist) economy runs on coal.
…With the world on the precipice of climate disaster, both the Liberal and Labor parties continue to fervently support the coal industry in Australia, including the environmentally disastrous Adani coal mine…This talk will look at coal in Australia — its history and its present — and its profitability for the Australian ruling class, to explain why it is that our rulers continue to cling to coal in spite of its catastrophic impact on the environment.
As above, a lot of people support coal. And may I suggest that something that’s the default energy source is going to be pretty hard to shift from political consciousness, not just because it employs approximately 38,000 people across Australia.
…Those of us who are trying to change the world have always had to confront the lack of democracy in our society. Why is it so hard to get the most basic reforms enacted through the proper channels? Why are our parliamentary ‘representatives’ so indifferent to our demands, and so sensitive to the needs of corporations and the rich? Why do the police target workers, minorities and protesters rather than thieving bosses and banks, and climate criminals such as Adani?
Okay, several things going on here, but the only thing actually relevant to Climate Change is the last sentence, and then even then because it’s talking about the Adami coal mine.
And FYI, the police forces are there to enforce laws made by parliament, and have to prove laws have been broken in less obvious cases such as “thieving bosses and banks” and “climate criminals”. What’s more, Socialist Alternative states that “…A successful revolution will involve workers taking control of their workplaces, dismantling existing state institutions (parliaments, courts, the armed forces and police) and replacing them with an entirely new state based on genuinely democratic control by the working class…”
Bottom line, nothing to do with climate change. Moving on.
…This talk will argue that women’s oppression hasn’t always existed, and that it has a historical and material basis that can be overcome.
I’m happy to support any improvement in equality for women and everyone else. But I fail to see what it’s got to do with Climate Change. But I’m happy to learn more.
…Harry went on to be the director of the Western Region Environment Centre, and will be speaking on environmental issues…Naomi and the rest of her family have been involved in community campaigns in this coal community in transition…
YAY! Finally something relevant to climate change. Well done everyone! Took a while to get there but you made it in the end.
…This talk will explore how food production is both a cause and casualty of climate change, how it evolved into the destructive industry it is today, and what change is needed to create a sustainable food system.
Okay, looking better, keep going everyone. Relevance wins.
Land grabs and resource wars: a history of Western imperialism
No, the other way. Come on guys. Head back to Climate please. Anyone listening? Anyone?
“Act now, or we will!” You see this on placards at school students’ protests around the world. How do we carry out this threat? We build a mass movement that can fulfil the demand for “system change to stop climate change”.
System Change is the term and objective of Socialist Alternative. Climate Change is the goal of environmental protestors. While they’re not uniquely dissimilar, the problem we have is petrochemical use. Perhaps this should be the focus?
Why is Australia so racist?
Come again? What the hell has this to do with Climate Change?
Oh, sorry! Maybe it’s all the hot air that comes out of Canberra’s politicians? No? So what’s the relevance to the overarching issue of Climate Change?
…Many environmentalists call for an end to economic ‘growth’, or even ‘degrowth’ as a means to save the environment. Some associate the question of growth with living standards, arguing that the mass of the population should accept sacrifices to their quality of life for the environment. If socialists oppose attacks on working class conditions, does this mean we should be for growth? How does bourgeois ideology shape these debates, and would there be growth in a socialist society?
So this appears to be a debate between economic growth and sacrifices to living standards through a socialist ideology. So here’s another example of co-opting climate change for a semi-related debate about socialist ideals.
Workers’ participation, workers’ control, workers’ power: building class power against capitalism
Again, we’re right back in Socialist rather than Climate change territory.
Rebellion to revolution: popular democracy explained
… and the relevance to Climate Change is?
Again, workers rights are great and I’m all for it. I’d love to hear why it’s relevant to the science and problem of global climate change?
And we’re back! Finally some relevance. And according to the review above, it’s a socialist view of climate change, so we’re ticking both boxes. Excellent.
A range of reforms have been proposed for averting ecological catastrophe while remaining within capitalism…This talk argues that none of these proposals are adequate to save the planet. The root of the problem is competition between the rival ruling classes of the world.
I think you’ll find that the root of the problem is petrochemical dependence, not competition between ruling classes which is an issue Socialist Alternative has a problem with. But don’t believe me. Believe the 99% of qualified climate scientists who have spent time researching Climate Change.
Why you should join Socialist Alternative
Uh, yeah, I’ll pass.
More of the same
In the interests of full disclosure, I’ll add that I’ve been to the odd protest march and have observed Socialist organizations pushing their own agendas regardless of the subject matter. I’ve always found this distasteful, and feel they should stand with causes rather than pushing their own bandwagon.
The bottom line for me is I feel it’s hard enough convincing the Powers That Be to work to fix climate. How will we solve the problem if we don’t stand together?