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Suds and Socialism Forum: Workers and the Environment

On Green Socialism and Working Class Politics

By Staff - Pittsburgh Green Left, February 8, 2021

Green Socialism is inspired partly by traditional worker-oriented socialist views, but attempts to transcend class struggle by organizing popular struggle for true democracy, ecology, and freedom.

As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, ecological and social crisis exist simultaneously in multiple forms within the US and across the world. Global neoliberal capitalism has captured the world’s economic and political structures, and we feel the growing pressures of poverty and climate change under the threat of a pervasive police state.

These deteriorating conditions imply that historical socialist revolutionary movements have largely failed to produce the widespread change they described in their visions. There’s an increasing feeling, particularly by the youth, that the “old ways” are insufficient to confront 21st century capitalism and win — particularly with the climate change clock running out — and that a new form of social movement and politics is necessary to directly confront capitalism and broader ecological and social issues.

I believe the new model for the 21st century must be Green Politics, or what I will call “Green Socialism” here to distinguish from other tendencies that lay claim to the more broad term “eco-socialism”. Green Politics is today largely associated with the Green Party, however anyone can practice Green Politics in or outside of the Green Party.

A simplistic description of Green Politics might be to list the 4 pillars — grassroots democracy, peace, social justice, and ecological wisdom — and the 10 Key Values of the movement, but to create a deeper discussion of what Green Politics and Green Socialism really means, a good place to start might be to address some complaints and criticisms of the Green Party and Green Socialism that you have no doubt already heard, particularly from other socialists.

Left Voice for example ran an opinion piece by author Ezra Brain making “a socialist case against” the Green Party and Howie Hawkins, the party’s 2020 presidential candidate, which echoes a number of common leftist complaints against Green Politics. 

However these complaints often ring hollow, either as grave misunderstandings of the Green platform that betray a lack of deeper research and knowledge about the subject — ironically often appropriating bourgeois neoliberal talking points against Green Politics — or as legitimate complaints that have a feel of “stones thrown from glass houses” as those same complaints often apply to other socialist and leftist organizations in the US and simply illustrate the challenge of organizing against global neoliberal capitalism in the 21st century.

A Great Victory Has Been Won over Fossil Capital

By Ulf Jarnefjord - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, October 28, 2020

On Monday, September 28, 2020, Sweden’s largest oil refinery, Preem, decided to withdraw its application for an expansion of its refinery in Lysekil on the Swedish west coast.

After massive protests from the climate and environmental movement for several years, Preem announced that they had withdrawn their application to expand the oil refinery in Lysekil. This is a great benefit for the climate, for democracy, for the environmental movement, and for everyone’s future. The message is that activism pays off.

It would have been completely irresponsible to further expand fossil fuels when we are in a climate emergency, and time is running out quickly for the small carbon budget that remains. We have just 7 years to limit emissions in line with the 1.5-degree target.

In the days before the announcement, Greenpeace had blocked the port of Lysekil with its ship Rainbow Warrior, to prevent an oil tanker from entering the port and unloading its cargo. Climate activists from Greenpeace also climbed and chained themselves to the cranes at the crude oil terminal.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg has Tweeted that Preem’s decision to suspend the expansion of the oil refinery in Lysekil is a “huge victory for the climate and the environmental movement,” since otherwise it would have been impossible to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The youth organization Fridays For Future emphasizes that it is not time to pay tribute to the oil giant: “This decision is not because Preem has suddenly acquired a moral compass. Preem is still an oil company and we should not allow them to use this decision as a way to paint themselves green and appear responsible. We will ensure that this becomes a turning point for the fossil fuel industry in Sweden and serves as an example when Preem starts planning new environmental crimes.”

If we are to succeed in reducing emissions and meet our commitments in accordance with the Paris Agreement as quickly as necessary, there is also no choice between “better” and “worse” fossil fuels. We must invest all our resources in completely dismantling the entire fossil fuel economy, quickly. It is not possible to consider heavy oil as a useful residual product when we know that the oil must remain in the ground.

The Pipeline Divide

By Gerard Di Trolio - Rank and File, May 23, 2019

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s volte-face on liquified natural gas (LNG) projects in British Columbia is a welcome development. The policy reversal seems to stem from the recent victory of the Green Party in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith by-election on May 6 which saw the NDP lose a seat they previously held. Whatever the precise reason, the Federal NDP now has responded to the policy weakness they had with which that the Greens were able to outflank them from the left.

However, the protests at the Unist’ot’en Camp by members of the Wet’suwet’en Nation against the Coastal GasLink Pipeline should not be overlooked when it comes to bringing wider attention to the problems of LNG projects.

Singh’s new opposition to LNG is not without controversy from some of the NDP’s ostensible allies. B.C. unions whose members will work on the LNG pipeline are now going public with their displeasure with this policy change.

Leaders of Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 1611 and International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Canada, the unions that will be working on the project believe Singh is putting putting the jobs of their members at risk and that the Coastal GasLink Pipeline that will run from Dawson Creek to Kitimat has the “social licence” to go ahead.

But this is not the way for labour. The better approach is a  just transition, which seeks to build a green and sustainable economy where workers in carbon-intensive industries are not left behind, and which restructures the economy to also meet other social justice goals. If unions don’t step up and articulate a program for a green transition that is also a just transition then workers and everyone else who aren’t among the elite are going to be battered by climate change and by whatever responses that capital comes up with – like ignoring worker interests – once they realize they can’t ignore a warming planet any more.

A Just Transition Towards a Sustainable World (of Work)

By María Marta Travieso, Maria Prieto, Moustapha Kamal Gueye - Green European Journal, June 29, 2018

Climate and the future of work are two of the biggest challenges facing the world today and one cannot be tackled without the other. International institutions, in cooperation with governments, unions and employers, are pushing for a just transition that can shift the economy away from destructive forms of production while maintaining quality of life for all.

As we see the lives of many millions of people severely affected by extreme weather events, it is now accepted by most countries that human activity is causing the planet’s climate to change and that, therefore, it is in humanity’s interest to change its behaviour. A clear body of evidence demonstrates that human-induced climate change is well underway and that there are serious consequences of failure to limit the global temperature rise to at most 2° Celsius over pre-industrial levels. The ensuing environmental damage could prove irreversible and pose a threat to humanity itself.

If climate change is a consequence of human activity, then that activity is, for the most part, work or work-related. It is therefore no coincidence that climate change tends to be benchmarked against pre-industrial levels. And if work is the predominant cause of climate change, then inevitably it must be central to strategies to prevent, mitigate, and adapt to it.

An acknowledgement of shared responsibility was demonstrated through the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 agenda for sustainable development with its associated 17 goals. In the declaration supporting the 2030 agenda, world leaders committed to “take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path.”

Greens join the IWW

By staff - Green Party Videos, July 19, 2017

Staff members of the Green Party of the United States announce the formation of a union (they get the IWW's name wrong; it's in fact "Industrial"--not "International" Workers of the World, but it's the thought that counts).

Why we must fight for a safe climate

By Zebedee Parkes - Green Left Weekly, February 17, 2017

My generation has never experienced a below average temperature. The last time the global temperature was below average was in February 1985.

The recent heatwaves across Australia ushered in a new record-breaking summer: every year for the past decade has been hotter than the last.

Meanwhile our political leaders — privileged white men in suits — brought coal into parliament and made jokes while they and their corporate mates continue to burn our collective future.

We are already getting a taste of what our future holds if we do not take urgent action.

Extreme bushfires have burnt down entire towns across Australia in the past couple of years. Pacific islands are already becoming uninhabitable due to rising sea levels. Climate change-induced droughts in Syria destroyed its agriculture and helped create the conditions that led to the civil war. Floods in Pakistan in 2011 affected 5.4 million people, destroying crops and leaving millions displaced, forced to live in makeshift shelters without access to safe drinking water. The Himalayan glaciers are already melting, potentially leaving 2 billion people across Asia without sufficient drinking water.

The consequences of climate change will only get worse if we do not make serious changes rapidly. Already the Artic Sea ice is melting, which could mean sea level rises of 3–5 metres, making many coastal cities uninhabitable.

This ecological crisis is the result of human activity. Because of a constant drive for profits, corporations are felling the Amazon rainforest at an alarming rate to create cattle pastures for beef production. The Amazon forest is one of the most crucial in the world in terms of soaking up carbon dioxide.

When we desperately need to reduce emissions, corporations, often backed and funded by governments, continue to build major fossil fuel projects, such as the Adani coalmine, poison our water and destroy farmland with gas fracking projects and pursue unsustainable projects that are destroying crucial ecosystems, such as the Beeliar Wetlands and the Great Barrier Reef.

No matter how urgent the need for action on climate change, corporations and their governments refuse to change. 

Solar power is now cheaper in some parts of the world than fossil fuels. In Australia, scientific studies show we have the capacity to have 100% renewables in 10 years. Yet the government continues to give billions a year in subsidies to fossil fuel corporations — money that could be going to renewable energy.

Since the international climate talks in Paris in December 2015, when the world cried out for serious climate action, Australia’s big four banks have poured $5.6 billion into fossil fuels. Governments and the fossil fuel industry are not going to change their destructive practices unless we force them to.

To do this and give ourselves a chance of a future we need to change our economic system. Right now eight men own more wealth — and all the privileges and power that go with it — than the poorest 50% of the Earth’s population.

For serious climate action to be a reality we need a society where the majority of people — workers, farmers, students, the poor, First Nations people and refugees, the victims of climate change — are making decisions in the interests of our collective future.  

To achieve this will take a gigantic struggle. But it also presents an opportunity to change the world. As Naomi Klein, author of Capitalism vs the Climate said: “I think climate change can be the catalyst we need … In a world where profit is consistently put before both people and the planet, climate economics has everything to do with ethics and morality.”

If we address climate change, we can begin to construct the kind of world we want to live in.

The Trump presidency: A blessing in disguise for climate activism?

By Álvaro Robles Cartes, Francisco Seijo, and Josetxu Guijarro Urízar - Green European Journal, February 22, 2017

Beyond the tit-for-tat factional politicking that we have come to expect of North American democracy and its complex cryptic political rhetoric, the Trump presidency may ultimately prove to be the most unwillingly transformative administration yet regarding the unfolding global warming drama. For the first time since 1969 an American president has fearlessly decided to skip over mountains of scientific evidence and decades of politically correct platitudes to place the issue at the centre of his presidency’s political agenda; albeit if only in an effort to deny it. Trump may, however, prove to be a blessing in disguise for climate activism; a singular turning point for the largely inconsequential political strategies that activists have conceived to advance their cause so far.

As the classic protest song from the 1960s would have it, “There’s battle lines being drawn and nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong”. Indeed, Trump has managed to draw, in only a few weeks’ time, new lines in the climate change political battle with bold, abstract expressionist strokes that may have an initially shocking aesthetic effect but may prove, ultimately, to be only intelligible as a representation of Trump’s peculiar personality. Propagandistically, no doubt, Trump has been astute in reducing a complex scientific and intellectual debate to 140-character Twitter sound bites suggesting geopolitical conspiracy theories that have undoubtedly resonated with politically sceptical and economically depressed working and middle class Americans. Tellingly, Trump’s campaign spin that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by China with the goal of making American industry non-competitive is vaguely reminiscent of German nationalists’ concerns in the 1970s that the Nixon administration was trying to use the issue to check Germany’s emerging industrial power. In due course, this politically clever tweet could come back to bite Trump since the relaxation of American environmental legislation to regain industrial competitiveness can only result in more climate induced environmental disasters for the American workers whose interests he claims to prioritise. A form of socio-environmental dumping that Trump, ironically, accuses his main commercial rivals of inflicting upon America.

Socialist tendency formed in Australian Green Party

By Paul Gregoire - Sydney Criminal Lawyers, February 16, 2017

Web Admin's Note: the IWW does not endorse or make alliances with political parties, even green or socialist parties, however, we are posting this article for information purposes due to the program of the caucus mentioned in the following article:

Left Renewal is a group of left-leaning rank and file members of the NSW Greens party that caused a stir amongst the broader Australian Greens, when they announced their presence in December last year and declared their anti-capitalist agenda

The arrival of this socialist group has posed a challenge to the mainstream Greens as a whole, as they’ve always stated that there are no factions within the party ranks. The party line has always been that they’re self-governing and their policies are based on a consensus model.

However, Left Renewal tend to differ on these points. They believe the Greens have strayed from their more radical roots. And that today, the party doesn’t formulate all of their policies democratically and some of the party leaders aren’t elected.

Calling themselves a tendency, as the term faction has negative connotations, Left Renewal base their ideology on the four pillars that the Australian Greens were founded upon. These are ecological sustainability, grassroots democracy, social justice, and peace and non-violence.

Why we must oppose austerity and join the Manchester protest: a Green Perspective

By the Green Trade Unionist - A Green Trade Unionist in Bristol, August 14, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

We all know that austerity is a ‘social justice’ disaster. This morally reprehensible policy is forcing ordinary people – particularly the poorest and most vulnerable – to pay for the economic crash caused by the reckless speculating of unaccountable banks in deregulated financial markets. In its most extreme the cuts to disability benefits, the NHS and a vindictive regime of benefit sanctioning have led to thousands of deaths. Austerity kills.

On top of this, the economic justification for inflicting all this misery has been completely discredited with most economists agreeing that by shrinking the economy austerity has harmed growth, prolonged the effects of the recession (even the IMF is issuing proclamations against it) and utterly failed as an apparent strategy to reduce national debt. Austerity is revealed to be not an economic necessity but a repackaged conservative ideology to undermine the welfare state. The financial crash is being used as a smokescreen to implement the same brand of neoliberal policies (cuts to public spending, privatisation and de-regulation) that led to it in the first place.

All this is grounds enough for why austerity is wrong and why we must fight against it, and large protests like the 250,000-strong June 20th Demo in London and the ones in Manchester in October this year (co-organised by the TUC and The People’s Assembly Against Austerity, to coincide with the Tory Party Conference) are crucial in building this struggle against a great social injustice. Nonetheless, within these debates and protest movements we must be sure to argue that austerity is also a huge obstruction to the aims of environmental justice and directly threatens attempts to mitigate climate change.

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