The near-on hundred participants took part in workshops on migration and climate change, the economic crisis, peak oil and the climate crisis, Marx and ecology, the ‘Million Green Jobs’ campaign, the Campaign for Free Public Transport, methods of struggle, direct action and mass action and on students and youth. The ‘old left’ was there, with comrades from at least seven different organisations who are starting, at least, to link anti-capitalist action with environmental questions. And the new radical movements that are organised around ecological concerns, and bringing a politics that goes well beyond the old left, were there in some force as well. Climate Camp, Plane Stupid and No Borders, to mention just three, make us rethink forms of organisation and methods of struggle.
There are a number of issues the day threw up, and let’s begin to name them here, so we don’t just treat the meeting as a clash of political traditions and breathe a sigh of relief that we won’t have to bother with each other again. Green Left and Socialist Resistance, the two groups that set up the day school, have been grappling with these issues together for some time now and we believe that there is an urgent need for us to work together and learn from each other if capitalism and climate change are to be tackled effectively.
The problem we face now goes further than the destructive, futile and self-sabotaging sectarianism that has plagued the left for so many years. The crisis of capitalism has always impacted on the left organisations, and that has led some groups to turn inwards refusing to speak to comrades from other traditions or engaging in raids to recruit members from campaigns under the guise of deceitful ‘unity’ offensives. It has also led many activists to steer clear of any organised politics, for they conclude that this is the road to authoritarianism, boredom and failure; and then this flight from organisation can lead to a fake transparency and the domination of cliques that rule through what is known in the anarchist feminist tradition as ‘the tyranny of structurelessness’. Meanwhile, while there is a reassertion of traditional power structures inside the movement, the state is organising itself very efficiently to ensure that we each tendency is set against the rest.
Marxists have a particular analysis of the role of the state as an apparatus dedicated to enabling the accumulation of surplus value for capitalism and the imperative for growth that is now destroying the planet is combined with a ruthless defence of class rule and the crushing of those forces that seek to collectivise the means of production. We saw very clearly on the day school that this particular analysis is part of a system of concepts, a language that is alien to many new radical ecological movements. We heard, for example, of ‘just transition’ and non-violent tactics that are part of a debate that is bit-by-bit working through what the role of the state is and how we find ways of comprehending the ‘intersection’ of class oppression with gender, sexuality, race and nation. The task now is not to determine which strategy is right but to work out how, in practice, we can find a way for each strategy to intersect with the others.
So, what can be done?
The connection between climate and capitalism, between the destruction of nature and the destruction of our creative abilities by this poisonous economic system, is now also forging a new politics in the Marxist tradition. The promise of ‘overabundance’ under socialism and the role of feminism in strategies that are able to grasp the nature of the capitalist state while prefiguring something better in the way we organise now were themes in some our discussions on Saturday. Taking that debate forward, there is a discussion of the politics of Socialist Resistance and why we are now an ‘ecosocialist’ organisation as part of the Fourth International on Wednesday 3rd February at Friends Meeting House in Manchester at 8.00 with an introduction by Roy Wilkes.
The urgency of this struggle, the prospect of reaching and passing a tipping point in carbon emissions in the next few years means that we really must fight on different fronts, and that will even include standing in elections, if only to get a platform for a different kind of politics and for shifting to different political agendas. This is why it was so important for us to include Kay Phillips, the Respect Party parliamentary candidate for Blackley and Broughton in the day. In fact in some places there is even a chance that anti-capitalist candidates could be elected to Manchester City Council, which is why the candidacy of the Greens – a party that includes the Green Left in Manchester – is now something we want to mobilise for.
The day school was possible partly because our two organisations have been working together in the context of a broader alliance of left and progressive forces the Manchester-based network ‘Convention of the Left’. The Convention meets on the third Monday of the month at Friends Meeting House. Its last Monday meeting was on fascism, and the next one, on 15 February at 7.00 will be discussing a new pamphlet produced by the SWP on ‘Marxism and Ecology’. A Convention day conference ‘Making it public’ on fighting public service cuts and promoting public ownership will be on Saturday 27th February, details are on the website: http://www.conventionoftheleft.org We might see you there, or at one of the other events we have mentioned in these notes. We hope we do, and that the day will turn out to be an energising force for all of us.