Climate Catastrophe: For Class Demands!
15-01-2020 – As the global warming fueled bushfire catastrophe grinds on, working people are understandably despairing at the critical lack of leadership shown by Australia’s political elites. It may have begun with Liberal Party Prime Minister Scott Morrison (“Scomo”) taking a holiday in Hawaii when they began, but it continued soon after with the Labor Party so-called opposition leader Anthony Albanese pledging his party’s continued backing of coal exports, despite the bushfires claiming human lives, devastating large swathes of the country, and incinerating up to half a billion animal lives within Australia’s iconic wildlife. Regardless of their hot air, workers in Australia (and internationally) can see that in practice, both the Labor and Liberal parties are climate denialists, and are committed to the profitability of the fossil fuel industry at the expense of human habitation on planet Earth.
Thousands attend emergency rallies
Any viable option of political leadership not just on the current bushfires, but an immediate transition to a zero-carbon economy, has fallen to the people themselves. Thousands of people have attended emergency rallies in the major cities around the country, in an attempt to push Canberra’s politicians somewhere near reality. We can take hope from the fact that many are prepared to do this, and especially young people, who of course will bear the terrible future that ecological collapse portends. Yet while the organisation of these actions can only be applauded, the political demands put forward by the organisers fall critically short of what is required and may prevent further progress if they are not superseded.
The main organisers are from Uni Students for Climate Justice (USCJ), with backing from Extinction Rebellion (XR). Australia’s largest left party, Socialist Alternative (SAlt), predominates within USCJ. While from platforms USCJ speakers denounce capitalism and even call for working class struggle to deal with the climate catastrophe, the demands they on which they mobilise people aids and assists capitalist politics – perhaps inadvertently – rather than aiding working class, or socialist, politics. For example, the three main demands are 1. Sack Scomo 2. Fund the Firies (fire fighters) and 3. Make the Climate Criminals Pay. Many rally participants already raised serious doubts about the demand to sack the Prime Minister – even accounting for the fact that he is a particularly strong backer of the coal industry. It was rightly pointed out that if Scomo was sacked, he would simply be replaced with someone equally as bad from the Liberal Party. It is understandable that there are almost no objections to the demand to fully fund all fire-fighting services in urban and rural regions, nor to the demand to make mining billionaires such as Gina Rinehart pay for the country wide reconstruction of homes and rehabilitation of millions of hectares of scorched bushland and damaged infrastructure.
Climate catastrophe linked to other crises
The only problem is that even if the demands to sack Scomo, fund the firies, and make the climate criminals pay, were somehow achieved through political “pressure” it would not touch a hair on the head of the beast which is responsible for the climate catastrophe – the capitalist profit system. Irrespective of the anti-capitalist exclamations from USCJ and SAlt, their demands are in reality a call for minor reforms to the political state which enforces the rule of the billionaires they rhetorically denounce. This is why they are applauded and taken up by smaller capitalist parties such as the Australian Greens, and at times by conservative Union officials. These political layers – seeking to ensure their parliamentary or bureaucratic careers – understand well that liberal reforms won through lobbying the “powers that be” do not weaken, but strengthen, the status quo. Politically and ideologically, reforms won through pleading with the system’s politicians reinforce rather than degrade what is ultimately the rule of the private banks and the stock exchange.
Moreover, the imminent collapse of a habitable climate is but one of the multiple crises bearing down on humanity. The US Empire has just assassinated the Islamic Republic of Iran’s top military general, inching the world closer, once again, to global nuclear war. This follows years of hostile US provocations against Russia and China, and repeated attempts at regime change in many other countries in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America. Basic and elementary civil and bourgeois democratic rights (free speech, free press, the right to organise political parties and Unions) are being shredded – with the prime example being the incarceration and possible murder of Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks. Unemployment is widespread, and poverty and homelessness is getting worse, even as the elite increase their fortunes. There is relentless privatisation of water, electricity, gas and telecommunications combined with never-ending government funding cuts to what were once seen as essential public services – education, health care, aged care, pensions and much more.
It is precisely because the climate crisis is caused by the same source as all other major crises, that it must be fought with the same methods. Begging and pleading with bought politicians to redirect tax-payers money is fruitless and ensures demoralisation as soon as they are ignored. What is required are demands that call workers into action to achieve ends in their direct interests. The working class is the only class which has no material interest in the system of private profit, and thus only its demands can break the political impasse, provide desperately needed political leadership and pave the way for workers’ power. The Workers League, for a start, urges workers to fight for:
- A six-hour day
- Public ownership of all energy, infrastructure, and the banks
- A workers’ government.
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