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Germany: War, gas price protests and solidarity with Ukraine: An ecosocialist perspective

By Federico Fuentes and Christian Zeller - Green Left, October 19, 2022

Across Europe, protests have been growing over rising gas prices, with Germany no exception. Politicians have sought to blame Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine — or, alternatively, sanctions imposed by Europe — for the situation.

But is this the case? How should ecosocialists approach the interrelated issues of climate, war, gas prices and international solidarity?

Green Left’s Federico Fuentes discussed these issues with Christian Zeller, a professor of economic geography and editorial board member of the German-language journal, emancipation — Journal for Ecosocialist Strategy. Zeller is also the author of Climate Revolution: Why we need an ecosocialist alternative (available in German).

“Total, BP or Shell will not voluntarily give up their profits. We have to become stronger than them...”

By Andreas Malm - International Viewpoint, September 12, 2022

Andreas Malm is a Swedish ecosocialist activist and author of several books on fossil capital, global warming and the need to change the course of events initiated by the burning of fossil fuels over the last two centuries of capitalist development. The Jeunes Anticapitalistes (the youth branch of the Gauche Anticapitaliste, the Belgian section of the Fourth International) met him at the 37th Revolutionary Youth Camp organized in solidarity with the Fourth International in France this summer, where he was invited as a speaker.

As left-wing activists in the climate movement, we sometimes feel stuck by what can be seen as a lack of strategic perspectives within the movement. How can we radicalize the climate movement and why does the movement need a strategic debate in your opinion?

I share the feeling, but of course it depends on the local circumstances – this Belgian “Code Red” action, this sort of Ende Gelände or any similar kind of thing, sounds promising to me, but you obviously know much more about it than I do. In any case, the efforts to radicalize the climate movement and let it grow can look different in different circumstances.

One way is to try to organize this kind of big mass actions of the Ende Gelände type, and I think that’s perhaps the most useful thing we can do. But of course, there are also sometimes opportunities for working within movements like Fridays for Future or Extinction Rebellion for that matter and try to pull them in a progressive direction as well as to make them avoid making tactical mistakes and having an apolitical discourse. In some places, I think that this strategy can be successful. Of course, one can also consider forming new more radical climate groups that might initially be pretty small, but that can be more radical in terms of tactics and analysis, and sort of pull others along, or have a “radical flank” effect. So, I don’t have one model for how to do this – it really depends on the state of the movement in the community where you live and obviously the movement has ups and downs (it went quite a lot down recently after the outbreak of the pandemic, but hopefully we’ll see it move back up).

Finally, it’s obviously extremely important to have our own political organizations that kind of act as vessels for continuity and for accumulating experiences, sharing them and exchanging ideas. Our own organizations can also be used as platforms for taking initiatives within movements or together with movements.

TSSA calls for public transport fares to be slashed; let’s all do the same!

By Paul Atkin - Greener Jobs Alliance, August 4, 2022

TSSA calls for public transport fares to be slashed – let’s all do the same!

In a sharply worded blog on the TSSA web site, General Secretary Manuel Cortes notes that we have to deal with

two crises running in parallel – the climate … heating up at an unprecedented rate leading to increased extreme weather disasters and …an ever-deepening Tory cost of living crisis, inflation and costs are up, but wages are stagnant

and calls for a sharp cut in public transport fares to reduce costs, fossil fuel use and pollution. 

Wars, Inflation, and Strikes: A Summer of Discontent in Europe?

By Josefina L. Martínez - Left Voice, July 12, 2022

Strikes over wage increases or working conditions are occurring in response to high inflation, aggravated by the aftermath of the war in Ukraine. These labor actions show a change in the mood of the European working class.

Are we heading toward a summer of discontent in Europe? Can we foresee a hot autumn on the Continent? It would be hasty to make such statements, but new strike activity is beginning to unfold among sectors of several countries’ working class. Inflation reached 8.8 percent as a European average in May (with higher rates in countries like the UK and Spain). After years of inflation below 1.5 percent, this is a significant change that is causing a fall in the population’s purchasing power, especially among the working class. Many analysts are already talking about the possibility of stagflation: a combination of recession and inflation.

This is in addition to the political instability of several governments and a widespread dissatisfaction with the traditional parties. The latter was expressed in France in the last elections, with high abstention and the growth of Marine Le Pen’s far-right party and of the center-left coalition grouped around Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Emmanuel Macron lost his absolute majority in the National Assembly and now faces a five-year period of great political uncertainty. Another government in crisis is that of the UK, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson is stepping down.

In this context, recent weeks have seen strikes taking place in key sectors, including transport, steel, ports, and public services, as well as in more precarious sectors. Although there are differences among these countries, the strikes are opening a breach in the climate of “national unity” that governments tried to impose a few months ago, when the war in Ukraine began. In this article we review some of these labor conflicts in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and other countries.

Good Jobs and a Just Transition into Hydrogen

By staff - IndustriALL Global Union, May 12, 2022

On 5 May, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), LO Norway and IndustriALL held a first workshop on hydrogen technology as part of the Just Transition and the Energy Sector initiative. The initiative provides a platform for unions around the world to exchange information on energy transition technologies and the jobs, skills, markets, investments, and emissions related to them.

There is no single industry that could replace the oil and gas industry, in terms of jobs and in terms of income. We must consider multiple different technologies when thinking about where jobs are going to transition to,”

said Kenneth Sandmo, Head of business and Industry Policy in the Norwegian Trade Union Confederation (LO Norway).

Putting it into perspective, Sandmo explained that Norway’s oil and gas industry employs more than 200,000 workers directly and indirectly. As the hydrogen sector is projected to create approximately 35,000 jobs in Norway, hydrogen technology shouldn’t be the only focus for trade unions.

Hydrogen technology is key for the long-term decarbonisation of energy intensive industries and sectors such as heavy transport. To get a better view of where jobs are and where they could be, the workshop looked at the value chains of oil and gas and hydrogen. Breaking both value chains down to production, processing, distribution, and end use (upstream, midstream, downstream) provided a clearer view of where the jobs are, and where there is a future for workers to transition in the hydrogen value chain.

Germany going fossil-free – and Protecting Fossil Fuel Workers

By Staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, May 2022

Germany, which imports around two-thirds of its gas from Russia and other former Soviet Union states and which aims for net-zero carbon emissions by 2045, is planning to require nearly 100% renewable electricity by 2035. Robert Habeck, German’s economic affairs and climate minister, said Germany needs to triple its rate of emissions reductions.

In response to the Russian attack on Ukraine, Germany has denied a license to the recently constructed Nord Stream 2 pipeline that was to be a major conduit for gas from Russia to Germany. It is also scheduled to close its three nuclear plants by the end of this year.

Germany adopted a plan two years ago to close all coal-fired power plants by 2038. It includes compensation for coal regions, coal companies, and their workers. The total government investment to diversify the regions’ economies and create new jobs over the coming two decades as coal is phased out is $47.3 billion.

For the new German policy: Germany’s New Government Had Big Plans on Climate, Then Russia Invaded Ukraine. What Happens Now? – Inside Climate News

For more on Germany’s just transition program for coal regions and workers: What should coal communities do when power plants shut down? Ask Germany. – Vox

An alternative energy strategy to stimulate rapid transition

By Andrew Simms and Freddie Daley - Rapid Transit Alliance, March 21, 2022

All around the world, governments’ energy policies are at a crossroads. In order to insulate themselves from dependence on Russian oil and gas, tackle rising living costs and enact sanctions against Vladimir Putin, governments are collectively clamouring to diversify their energy supplies.

This will be easy for some nations, but more challenging for others. In the UK, Russian gas made up less than 4% of the total British gas supply in 2021, while in Germany just over 30% of primary energy input, across coal, oil and gas, comes from Russia. The varying degrees of dependence present both challenges and opportunities for the low carbon transition. 

The UK government is expected imminently to publish its Energy Strategy that will set out how it intends to reduce the nation’s reliance on energy imports and speed up the transition to net zero. It will be a test case for an economy still heavily hooked on fossil fuel use but with huge untapped renewable energy potential and an economic ‘levelling-up’ agenda for its regions that could benefit greatly from investment in low carbon transition.

Fossil Fuel Workers Will Play A Vital Role In The Global Energy Transition

By Haley Zaremba - Oil Price, February 9, 2022

  • The global energy transition may have hit a snag in 2021, but it’s clear that it is a force that will not be stopped
  • A loss of respect, opportunity, and income in coal country has led to severe political fissures and a growing feeling of underappreciation for coal miners. 
  • While phasing out fossil fuels is crucial, so too is supporting and acknowledging the contributions, needs, and priorities of the many workers and communities who stand to lose everything in the energy transition.

What Germany’s Effort to Leave Coal Behind Can Teach the U.S.

By Alec MacGillis - ProPublica, January 31, 2022

In late September, just before the German parliamentary elections, the Alternative für Deutschland held a large campaign rally in Görlitz, a picturesque city of about 56,000 people across the Neisse River from Poland. I was making my way down a narrow street toward the rally when I entered a square that had been dressed up as Berlin circa 1930, complete with wooden carts, street urchins and a large poster of Hitler.

Görlitz, which was barely damaged in the Second World War, often stands in for prewar Europe in movies and TV shows. (“Babylon Berlin,” “Inglourious Basterds” and other productions have filmed scenes there.) It was a startling sight nonetheless, especially since, a few hundred yards away, a crowd was gathering for the AfD, the far-right party whose incendiary rhetoric about foreign migrants invading Germany has raised alarms in a country vigilant about the resurgence of the radical right.

In fact, at the rally, the rhetoric about foreigners from the AfD’s top national candidate, Tino Chrupalla, was relatively mild. Germany’s general success with handling the wave of more than a million refugees and migrants who arrived in the country starting in 2015 has helped undermine the party’s central platform. Chrupalla moved on from migrants to other topics: the threat of coronavirus-vaccination mandates for schoolchildren, the plight of small businesses and the country’s desire to stop burning coal, which provides more than a quarter of its electricity, a greater share even than in the United States.

Coal has particular resonance in the area around Görlitz, one of the country’s two large remaining mining regions. Germany’s coal-exit plan, which was passed in 2020, includes billions of euros in compensation for the coal regions, to help transform their economies, but there are reports that some of the money has been allocated to frivolous-sounding projects far from the towns most dependent on mining. Chrupalla, who is from the area, listed some of these in a mocking tone and told the crowd that the region was being betrayed by the government, just as it had been after German reuni­fication, when millions in the former East Germany lost their jobs, leading many to abandon home for the West. “We are being deceived again, like after 1990,” he said.

Such language was eerily familiar. For years, I had been reporting on American coal country, where the industry’s decadeslong decline has spurred economic hardship and political resentment. In West Virginia, fewer than 15,000 people now work in coal mining, down from more than a 100,000 in the 1950s. The state is the only one that has fewer residents than it did 70 years ago, when the U.S. had a population less than half its current size — a statistic that is unlikely to surprise anyone who has visited half-abandoned towns such as Logan, Oceana and Pine­ville. Accompanying the decline has been a dramatic political shift: A longtime Democratic stronghold, West Virginia was one of only 10 states to vote for Michael Dukakis in 1988; in 2020, it provided Donald Trump with his second-­largest margin of victory, after Wyoming, which also happens to be the country’s largest coal producer, ahead of West Virginia.

A touch of class struggle in Germany’s car industry

By Franziska Heinisch - Progressive International, January 11, 2022

Workers at a Bosch plant in Germany are fighting to keep their jobs with, to their surprise, support from climate activists. Their common demand is that there are no layoffs for climate protection, but instead a transition to ecological production.

ultinational corporations in the automotive industry like Bosch say they need to lay off workers in the transition to less-labour intensive e-mobility. In reality, they want to relocate production to low-wage countries to safeguard profits.

This is a catastrophe,” says Giuseppe Ciccone standing in front of “his” Munich plant during the German trade union IG Metall’s action day on Bosch. Shortly before, he had given a combative speech to about 600 workers. Since then, most of them have gone back to the plant or left. The chairman of the Bosch works council in Munich has been working at the local Bosch plant for almost forty years. He started at the age of 18 and is still there today. The plant and its employees are a central part of his life, “Like a family,” he says. But, as of late, a sense of crisis is prevalent in the family because the future of the plant is at stake.

Last year, Bosch announced plans to close its Munich plant which, until now, has been a production site for combustion engines, manufacturing fuel pumps and valves for diesel and petrol engines that will no longer be used in electric cars. Twenty years ago, about 1,600 people worked there but now there are only about 260 left. Even though it’s actually a rather small site, the struggle of the 260 against the planned closure has come to exemplify the conflict over the car industry and its workers’ future.

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