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Nancy Roemer

What Do Eco-Socialists Have to Say About the Climate Movement?

By Nancy Romer - New Politics, Winter 2019

To me the role of eco-socialists is to raise transitional demands, demands that bring a broader understanding of the role of capital in creating climate change and the ways that capitalism can be challenged by working people and people most affected by the vast inequality it has created.

Two criteria seem pertinent to me:

1) How do we articulate what it will actually take to save our planet for the humans and other species? That will require a deep transformation that will include locking out at least the fossil fuel and auxiliary corporations and economy, ending wars and militarization of society, taking up a race- and gender-based liberation politics, and creating a thoroughly transforming social-service safety net that expands human development and allows people to look at the whole of society and our planet and make responsible decisions. Without that transformation, certain sectors—by job, by race, by gender, by class, by region—will continue to exert uneven and inadequate pressure on climate-based decisions.

2) How do we create mass movements, often united fronts of a wide range of people and social-political sectors, that can join together to exert power to make real change? How do we articulate demands that can bring the movements together while keeping those demands just a bit beyond the consensus, prodding the movement forward? How do we engage people in a mass-based struggle so that we begin the process of gaining the kind of power needed for the transformation described above?

I have spent much of my political life working in united fronts, organizational expressions of movements, coalitions, and so on, that put forward mass demands that raise consciousness, build power through the movements, and actually create some of the changes we need, not-quite-adequate as they may often be due to movements’ weakness. I have also been a leftist without too much of a “brand” or group of socialists that I have formally joined. Right now I am in Democratic Socialists of America and feel the broad politics of the organization is what keeps it active, muscular, and pushing. They are good comrades to the rest of the climate movement—willing to show up, picket, petition, study, strategize, and to be kind and generous comrades. They are well-respected as a relatively new activist organization in New York. DSA existed for many years before Trump, but after Trump was elected the numbers have exploded—presently up to 50,000 nationally and 5,000 in New York City. Yes, DSA pushes for publically owned and operated, 100 percent renewable, energy now or as soon as possible. Yes, they call for an end to the fossil fuel regime and for a polluters tax. Outside of the “publically owned and operated” part of the demand, these are the demands that our local climate movement has adopted. It is our job as eco-socialists to support the demands of the united front—in this case the Peoples Climate Movement and New York Renews—and push the demands further, specifically toward public power or public ownership of the new renewable energy grid. We need to articulate a fuller politics than can the united front coalitions due to their organizational support and membership, especially in the unions. That “prod” is essential for direction of the coalitions and movement.

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