Workers and catastrophic climate change

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Jonb
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Jul 5 2008 19:32
Workers and catastrophic climate change

I am extremely concerned about organising against catastrophic climate change, and it is really getting me down. It is an extremely important issue - already 160,000 people die every year as a result of climate change, it will get worse, and it is the working class who will suffer the most.

So i decided to post here to see what people think, and exchange ideas.

I am involved in the Camp For Climate Action that is taking place in Kent this summer, however i think that they are managing to alienate themselves from the only people who can force the hand of the capitalists and the state into making the radical changes that are necessary.

Participants in the Climate Camp have created an antagonistic relationship between themselves and many workers by undertaking direct action against a railway that transports only coal, an open cast mine site, trying to shut down Drax (2006) and saying they will shut down Kingsnorth (next month), with the slogan "leave it in the ground".

Coal-workers are understandably threatened by this point of view, as they stand to lose out if government policy moves away from coal (then probably toward nuclear). Coal workers, and the TUC, advocate 'clean' coal (scrubbers etc), and Carbon Capture and Storage, as a solution, as does the government (although the govt want nuclear too).

However, from what I read, CCS is a technology that cannot be implemented on a commercial scale yet, and will not be ready for implementation until 2020 at the earliest (probably much later, and according to alister darling it may never work). The 7 coal-fired power stations that are due to be built, and are opposed by the Climate Camp, will be ready by 2014. These power stations will be a disaster, we will be drastically increasing our emissions with the hope of a technology that cannot be implemented yet, and may never be.

The solutions greens advocate, and I believe are necessary, are a combination of combined heat and power, wind, wave, solar. The CHP will be a large part - they would be smaller district sized plants, or ones that supply heat and power a specific factory or hospital. These could run on biomass or biogas, but would have to use very little if any fossil fuels, otherwise the CO2 emissions would make them worthless.

So the problem is that workers in the carbon-intensive industries are opposed to the solutions that are necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change, and they are powerful workers, just look at the recent grangemouth strike. We probably wont be able to convince them, so perhaps we should start a dialogue with workers in industries that wont worry about going green - like rail and bus transport.

But we will still be in conflict with loads of workers, who want to preserve their status/skills/job in carbon-intensive industries.

So as i said earlier, i would like to discuss this with you lot, so i can get some ideas on how to move forward! smile

omar
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Joined: 23-10-06
Jul 7 2008 02:26

workers have to learn to make sacrifices for the common good. like the NSW BLF did

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Joseph Kay
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Jul 7 2008 08:12
omar wrote:
workers have to learn to make sacrifices for the common good

fuck that, workers need to force concessions from the bosses for our common good, otherwise 'the common' good can only mean us bearing the cost of capital's ecocidal tendencies.

i mean in terms of say coal workers, yeah i agree that coal is an industry we need less of, but if we just say 'leave it in the ground!' we're engaging on the level of public policy (arguing over deployments of capital) and not class struggle (asserting our needs, both to a liveable environment and material security). so any approach should include demands that the bosses say, provide re-training and jobs in renewables and/or compensation for workers who lose out from the shift away from fossil fuels.

this is an important topic though, i'll try and write more later, at work atm.

Jonb
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Jul 7 2008 10:58

I agree with Joseph K, the bosses need to make the sacrifices, not the workers. But im sure the bosses, like always, will try to force the workers to make the sacrifices, and try to convince them that it is necessary.

I would appreciate discussion on this topic, to think of some general ideas - also more specifically i want to get ideas for a leaflet to distribute to workers at Kingsnorth. I dont think any climate camp people are doing this yet.... which is quite worrying.

posi
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Joined: 24-09-05
Jul 7 2008 11:57

Hi Jonb, are you in touch with Workers Climate Action? I think some of them are involved in the climate camp process.

website appears to be unfinished... http://workersclimateaction.co.uk/

- but drop me a PM if you want a contact email or phone number.

Jonb
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Jul 7 2008 12:36

Iv been trying to contact them using the website and email address, but no luck. ill pm you....

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Joseph Kay
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Jul 8 2008 12:34

i've been thinking some more about this, it's an interesting one. to return to the question of sacrfices, even if we found ourselves in a global republic of workers councils tomorrow, it's quite possible we'd have to put up with some cuts to our material consumption and what have you as old technologies were rapidly phased out and new ones take time to come on line.

but as long as we're in a class society, we should be trying to make capital bear the costs as much as we're able. this is important, as say the state actually started to impose some stringent emissions rules, they'd obviously try and shift the cost onto us through redundancies/taxes/cuts to the social wage etc, which could then turn workers against the action on climate change itself. we need to be clear that our living standards are non-negotiable, which requires the ability to exercise class power etc which is currently more hope than capacity.

which leads onto something else. i've got a bit out of touch with the arguments/technologies/data and am planning to read up. most of the books seem, surprise surprise, to come from a thoroughly bourgeois and usually idealist perspective, saying it's just a matter of governments changing policies etc, with a conspicuous blind spot as to the material reasons they haven't (i.e. averting ecological catastrophe conflicts with the imperetives of capital accumulation, at least within the decision-making horizon of bourgeois politics). those who recognise the state/capital needs to be forced into change omit class analysis, so we get populist kinda stuff like monbiot appears to be, with all the pitfalls noted above wrt the cost being borne by the working class. so any good recommendations to read? i mean i'm going to try and read monbiot et al just so i can point out what's wrong with it to his supporters, but is there anything from a more class perspective?

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Tacks
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Jul 8 2008 14:24
Joseph K. wrote:
so any approach should include demands that the bosses say, provide re-training and jobs in renewables and/or compensation for workers who lose out from the shift away from fossil fuels.

this demand is called (i think) 'Just Trainsition' or 'fair transition' and it is part of the TUC's policy on climate change and it is also part of the climate camp's policy. A demand for Fair Transition will go on the climatecamp.org.uk site this week.

[i too was a bit worreid about this whole thing fo a number of reasons so i called some ppl i know involved in the camp and i'm much happier now; these issue are part of the anlaysis, broad church as it is]

stuffit
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Jul 8 2008 18:30

this is a very interesting area. There's a lot of debate on the crossovers between class/ecology going on it seems. Some of the demands could focus on both the class aspect and the ecological aspect by demanding renationalisation / worker control of this dangerous substance as it's far too dangerous to be left in profit driven private hands.
Then the coal could be phased out over time but in the meantime ALL the profits go to a superfund for workers and an emergency crash fund for renewables and/or clean coal (tho not too sure whether clean coal exists) I'm working up a text on this in the style of 'The Hydrocarbon commons' . Anyway this joint proposal could involve solidarity of climate activists blockading for public ownership not an outright ban on use, and it could be recipricated by unions implimenting a worker and ecological crash plan. sounds a bit utopian, but it least it starts to talk about concrete measures about use rather than not-use.

It seems like the NUMs main beef is

-not being consulted till very late in the day
-they think clean coal has a future
-they have very bad memories of demands to be shut down
-they think a blanket ban on coal just provides ideal opportunity for nuclear power

But they are obviously open as they are on the program of workshops.

On the subject of good reading material you could try 'ecology against capitalism' or anything else by john bellamy foster: http://www.monthlyreview.org/ecologyvcap.htm

and variant magazine no 28 'The Oil Issue': http://www.variant.randomstate.org/issue28.html

i've been working on lots of arty farty stuff to do with this here:
http://www.stuffit.org/carbon/ecologyclass.html

stuffit
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Jul 8 2008 19:01

oh and this from drax 2006 has some commonalities with now:
http://greenmansoccasional.blogspot.com/2006_08_01_archive.html

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Tacks
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Jul 10 2008 09:54
stuffit wrote:
this is a very interesting area. There's a lot of debate on the crossovers between class/ecology going on it seems. Some of the demands could focus on both the class aspect and the ecological aspect by demanding renationalisation / worker control of this dangerous substance as it's far too dangerous to be left in profit driven private hands.
Then the coal could be phased out over time but in the meantime ALL the profits go to a superfund for workers and an emergency crash fund for renewables and/or clean coal (tho not too sure whether clean coal exists) I'm working up a text on this in the style of 'The Hydrocarbon commons' . Anyway this joint proposal could involve solidarity of climate activists blockading for public ownership not an outright ban on use, and it could be recipricated by unions implimenting a worker and ecological crash plan.

Direct Action Social Democracy! Its me at 14 again! grin

I actually like this idea btw; hopefully rational demands (whether nationalisation is or not) become more prevalent in the climate camp movement/scene.

stuffit
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Jul 10 2008 10:44

obviously it's a bit cheesy + problematic smile but i think the idea of commons applied to these resources is potentially a useful concept. Starting to talk about how these resources are allocated and used rather than that they are bad per se then it's a step away from renewably powered wage labour/commodity production.

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Tacks
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Jul 10 2008 11:19

it may be problematic, but tbh its the only answer to the problem the climate camp poses: if it is saying it will force the governments hand in shutting down polluting industry, what is is proposing in its place and how is it answering the fact that government/stae control is the poroblem in the first place?

Obviously nationalisation is in some ways further state control, but it can also bring the nationalised industry inot a far more public remit and goes hand in hand with increasing workers control over the state vai the nationalised industries. Which is why they were done away with despite making economic sense in some cases.

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AIW
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Nov 20 2009 14:40
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If (Climate Camp) is saying it will force the governments hand in shutting down polluting industry, what is is proposing in its place and how is it answering the fact that government/stae control is the poroblem in the first place?

One answer would be to propose renewable energy in the place of polluting sources of energy. This would not add up since the power available form responsible sources is less than current uses. What is proposed is a drop in power usage. Many Climate Campers link this to ideas of Anti-Capitalism or Social Revolution; it is argued that high consumption is a consequence of competition as well as the availability of fossil fuels.

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waslax
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Nov 21 2009 06:38
Tacks wrote:
Obviously nationalisation is in some ways further state control, but it can also bring the nationalised industry inot a far more public remit and goes hand in hand with increasing workers control over the state vai the nationalised industries. Which is why they were done away with despite making economic sense in some cases.

Can't believe no one has challenged this yet. Nationalized industry "goes hand in hand with increasing workers control over the state [via] the nationalised industries"? How does this happen? Workers have absolutely zero control over the state when industries are nationalized. That is a bald faced social democratic lie that cannot go unchallenged here. Maybe you think that the workers will gain some control over the state via the trade unions in said industries. Again that is a bald faced social democratic falsehood. Workers (i.e. the rank and file) have little to no real influence over the trade unions that they belong to. Surely you know that.

And no, this is not why nationalization was done away with. Nationalization was done away with because of the deepening of the economic crisis.

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cantdocartwheels
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Nov 21 2009 08:32
waslax wrote:
Tacks wrote:
Obviously nationalisation is in some ways further state control, but it can also bring the nationalised industry inot a far more public remit and goes hand in hand with increasing workers control over the state vai the nationalised industries. Which is why they were done away with despite making economic sense in some cases.

Can't believe no one has challenged this yet. Nationalized industry "goes hand in hand with increasing workers control over the state [via] the nationalised industries"? How does this happen? Workers have absolutely zero control over the state when industries are nationalized. That is a bald faced social democratic lie that cannot go unchallenged here. Maybe you think that the workers will gain some control over the state via the trade unions in said industries. Again that is a bald faced social democratic falsehood. Workers (i.e. the rank and file) have little to no real influence over the trade unions that they belong to. Surely you know that.

And no, this is not why nationalization was done away with. Nationalization was done away with because of the deepening of the economic crisis.

Tacks doesnt post here any more