As record-breaking Hurricane Dorian tears across the Bahamas, destroying tens of thousands of homes and slotting into the longest recorded streak of category 5 Atlantic hurricanes — and as flames continue to devour chunks of the Amazon rainforest — workers, students and environmental activists worldwide are gearing up for a “climate strike” on Friday 20 September.
Alongside the school student action, UCU, BFAWU, IWGB and other unions are offering vocal support for actions on 20 Sep, although little concrete is yet to materialise from the unions centrally. TUC congress, 8-11 September, looks set to pass UCU’s motion calling for a 30-minute work stoppage.
These are good starts, and activists should continue to argue for activity from their unions and the movement as a whole. But the bulk of the initiative this month will come from local workplaces, schools and campuses.
As a start, talk to colleagues and distribute leaflets, pass motions in your union branch, call workplace meetings.
Talk about scheduling live disputes around other issues on 20 September, pressuring employers to shut work or allow walk-outs without docking pay. There are smaller but significant actions you may be able to pull off: 30 minute work-stoppages; lunchtime rallies, demonstrations or photoshoots.
Youth climate strikers, and their monthly walk-outs, have helped to raise the profile and urgency of climate change. This movement includes strong left-wing currents, and school students have called on workers to join them on this coming walk-out.
Capitalism, with the unquenchable thirst for ever-greater profit by corporations and their bosses, is the social force driving environmental devastation and the fossil economy.
As workers, we perform the labour which creates capital and profit, and recreates society. Through organising at work, unionising at the point of production, through the disruptive power of strikes, we are able to wield colossal leverage.
We can use this to shift capitalism, to force environmental concessions and changes. Ultimately, this power could allow us to remake society to be democratically, rationally and cooperatively organised in the interest of humanity and the environmental globally, rather than an irrational pursuit of wealth by competing elements of a small ruling class.
To get there from here, we need to organise now in our workplaces for both better conditions and around environmental issues, building the strength and spreading the ideas necessary for further actions. We need to fight for a socialist environmentalism programme of demands, in the workplace and Labour Party.
This month’s climate strike provides a starting point for such working-class climate organisation.
The confidence and co-ordination of the UK’s trade union movement, further shackled by anti-union legislation, means there will likely be few actual explicitly climate-orientated strikes. The situation will be likely similar elsewhere.
But students and union activists can get co-ordinated and support organising in large — or environmentally strategic — workplaces nearby. UK Student Climate Network, the main organisation associated with the climate strikes in the UK, is calling for “community climate assemblies”, organising meetings on a city-wide basis to plan for 20 September. If there is one planned nearby, go along, if there isn’t yet, organise it!
Through these meetings, help to build and link-up actions, and argue for more radical politics. We need a socialist vision of a Green New Deal, but crucially, people need to organise at work, as workers.
A lot of individuals drawn in this climate activism have little, no, or no good experiences of workplace organising. Faced with this, many are tempted to go for easier-seeming routes of just trying to make big city-wide demonstrations, calling in sick to work if necessary, but not organising at work alongside colleagues. Frequently, too, environmentalists do not recognise the centrality of workers’ organising. It is down to socialist environmentalists make the case for organising at work, and bring confidence and ideas for doing so.
After 20 September, we need to building for bigger, stronger, more disruptive monthly actions monthly, and campaigns over workplace environmental issues.