Saturday 1 December saw a national demonstration “Together for Climate Justice”, organised by Campaign against Climate Change. The protest offered solidarity with environmental activists at the upcoming UN climate talks in Poland, and raised the importance of tackling climate change globally and in the UK. A similar march is organised annually, but was smaller this year, with perhaps 500 protesters present.
It is not clear what factors caused this decrease in size, and many were expecting it to be larger than previously, given the renewed discussing of climate change following the recent IPCC report and actions by Extinction Rebellion (XR). There was bad weather, and it did clash with an anti-detention demonstration at Yarl’s Wood, although that demonstration did not have a large turn out either. The recent actions by XR may have inadvertently diverted the focus of many environmental activists rather than contributing to building a larger demonstration. Likewise, the Green Party as historically mobilised significantly for this demonstration, but has declined as an organisation since the Labour Party has taken a turn to the left and grown.
Whatever the reasons, the Labour Party and trade unions should have seriously promoted this demonstration, but failed to. There was little presence of the labour movement there, mostly people from the “environmental movement”: the latter is unfortunately generally disconnected from the former.
The demonstration had no concrete demands and the politics raised in most speeches and placards, while left-wing, were vague. The core message was that climate change is bad, and secondarily “system change not climate change”, with occasional recognition that the current system, the one at fault, is capitalism. There was little serious discussion of how to change that system, ie. how to organise for a revolution, or of concrete issues to organise around to tackle climate change now.
Members and supporters of Workers’ Liberty attended the protest as part of trying to improve the political orientation and strategy of the environmental and labour movements, and trying to bring them together. We made and raised placards about nationalising the big six energy companies and opening borders for climate refugees, sold copies the hot-off-the-press latest collection of articles on climate change and class-struggle, leafleted for our upcoming debate with XR about how to fight climate change, and more.
Such interventions are sorely needed if we are to build a strong, mass, politically sharp, working-class climate movement.