The Socialist 25 September 2019 |
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4m on climate strikes as workers join students
Up to four million took part in 'Earth strike' protests across the planet on 20 September.
The movement reached every continent - even a group of researchers stationed in Antarctica took part.
Thousands of cities across 150 countries held protests, in some cases numbering hundreds of thousands.
Central London: 100,000 - a swirling mass of students and workers
London climate strike 20 September 2019, photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge)
Wave after wave after wave of people, mostly young, swept backwards and forwards along Millbank (near Parliament) and Victoria Tower Gardens, around Parliament Square, up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, and back - not really a march, more of a swirling mass! From primary school children to university students and young workers, parents and pensioners.
Unite the Union members, including Bromley library strikers, joined the rally. At lunch time PCS union members joined in, some coming from picket lines at the 'BEIS' department and Foreign Office strikes, some from the big galleries and museums on the Southbank.
The organisers of the 'Earth strike' stage on Millbank say 100,000 took part - though protesters marched and stood and sat down and marched again all over the place, so numbers would be impossible to judge!
All around London, workers and young people took part in sizable local protests and lunchtime rallies - in Waltham Forest, Hackney, Southwark, Lambeth, Camden and many more. Socialist Party members had helped organise some and spoke at some.
Transport union RMT staged a protest at its HQ. PCS members at Canary Wharf did the same, and many more workplace-based protests took place.
Among the throng there were many young people who wanted to know what kind of 'system change' is necessary, and who were thinking about socialist ideas. There was enthusiasm for our proposals to nationalise the energy companies, but also to go further.
It is unfortunate that some of the self-appointed leaders of environmental campaigns wrongly declare this issue is 'non-political', which dampens real debate and discussion about what needs to be done. That's not the view of big numbers of those who participate though, who realise that ideas about what to do are essential!
We sold over 120 copies of the Socialist. Hundreds of people signed up to Socialist Students, and over 40 applied to find out about joining the Socialist Party.
Isai Priya and Paula Mitchell, London Socialist Party
Germany: 1.4m - decade best
Sol in Germany (Click to enlarge)
Around 1.4 million joined the climate demonstrations in Germany - 250,000 in Berlin alone - in what may be Germany's biggest protest in over a decade. Members of Sol (Sozialistische Organisation Solidarität - the Socialist Party's sister party in Germany) sold up to 300 copies of their newspaper, Solidarität, on the day.
France: dynamic mobilisation
Gauche Revolutionnaire in France (Click to enlarge)
Gauche Révolutionnaire (Revolutionary Left, the Socialist Party's sister party in France), reports: "The mobilisation was dynamic, if smaller than in spring. In Rouen, Paris, Valence... For many, fighting for the environment is as much an emergency as fighting Macron!"
Scotland: thousands - socialism popular
Socialist Party Scotland was overwhelmed at our stalls in Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow as thousands struck and marched for the planet. Our petitions, papers and leaflets calling for 'socialist change, not climate change' and to nationalise the polluters were massively popular. Socialism was especially attractive.
Socialist Party Scotland
Belfast: 4,000 - biggest yet
Up to 4,000 attended the biggest climate strike that Northern Ireland has ever seen in a sunny Belfast city centre. Students staged an impactful visual display of resistance with a mass 'die-in' at the Corn Market, followed by a peaceful march through the High Street.
A rally at Belfast City Hall included school student speakers from all across both Ireland and Britain. The atmosphere was one of defiance but also positivity and hope.
Jack Finn Kennedy, Swansea Socialist Party
Bristol: thousands - school students look to French Revolution
Bristol saw its biggest climate demonstration yet with thousands of students and workers marching. One group of school students likened the changes needed today to the changes in the French Revolution.
Kyle Walker, Bristol North Socialist Party
Socialist Party member Katrine Williams, president of Cardiff Trade Union Council chairs the Cardiff rally (Click to enlarge)
Over 5,000 students and workers in Leeds
Over 5,000 students and workers rallied together in the global day of action against climate change. This was the largest so far in Leeds. Part of reason is the orientation of some of the leadership towards the trade union and labour movement.
Leeds University University and College Union successfully negotiated an additional 30 minutes in order for staff and students to attend the march.
Many workers came on their lunch breaks or took the day of annual leave. Both on an individual level but also by campaigning from the local reps, including the Unison teaching hospital branch.
Many of the strikers knew the role that trade unions can play, especially workers in the key industries like transport and energy. They see the Lucas Aerospace plan and the current Harland and Wolff occupation as an inspiration on what can be achieved.
There was also a lot of support for the Leeds Trade Union Council conference on 19 October on the theme of 'How can trade unions meet the challenge of climate emergency?'
Socialist Students placards were snapped up by students, with over £70 raised for fighting fund and 17 copies of the Socialist were sold. Both workers and students from local universities and colleges left their details to join Socialist Students and the Socialist Party.
Tanis Belsham-Wray, Leeds Socialist Party
Waltham Forest: 200 - more learning on strike than in class
The action in Waltham Forest, east London was a great success. We gathered at the town hall with a couple of hundred people, including parents with kids, workers, and some students with homemade placards.
A whole class with teachers from a local school were well applauded. Looked like there was more learning going on in this experience than many a lesson in school!
The news in early summer that students were calling trade unions to join in was music to our ears. In July, Waltham Forest Trade Union Council organised a debate with Extinction Rebellion and a trade union speaker.
We produced 5,000 leaflets calling on workers and students to organise an event in their own workplace, college or school, and we sent a letter to union branch secretaries appealing to get their members involved.
On the day we gave out a leaflet urging all to join a union - potentially the most powerful organisations to bring about change. Everyone was very open.
Linda Taaffe, Waltham Forest Socialist Party
Southampton: hundreds - unions pressure uni on sustainability
Around 150 people attended a rally at the University of Southampton organised by the University and College Union (UCU) branch. It was great to see both staff and students out alongside campus union representatives and the National Shop Stewards Network.
The rally was called in solidarity with striking school students, but also to launch a cross-union environment campaign at the university. There was a good mood among those in attendance, and a desire to see real commitment to bold steps in university management's new sustainability plan.
This is just the start. There are plans already afoot for future days of action and staff-student planning meetings to develop and take forward our demands.
Bea Gardner, Southampton UCU
Several hundred people took part in Southampton. There were many young people there and it was good to see so many of them speak. From the 16-year-old full of anger about the climate crisis, to the five-year-old who wanted to save the animals.
Jane Ward Southampton Socialist Party
Swansea: 500 - trade union council heads march
Around five hundred young people and trade unionists came together under the hot Swansea sun. Socialist Students provided a link between the event organisers and Swansea unions.
There were speakers from Socialist Students and the Socialist Party, as well as unions such as the PCS, Unite, BFAWU, and Unison. Alongside Swansea Trade Union Council, whose banner was at the head of the march, Socialist Students also provided the majority of stewards at the event to keep demonstrators safe.
The event culminated in a march from the centre of town to the council chambers. The vast majority of young people recognised the need for a far more rigorous approach than that offered by the mainstream apolitical spokespeople.
Charlie Wells, Swansea Socialist Students and Unite Community
Hackney: hundreds - unions mobilise support
Hundreds massed outside Hackney town hall in east London. There were school students, sixth form and college students, and this time they were joined by workers from across Hackney.
Several trade unions called for their members to support the protest, including the Hackney Council branch of Unison. Marvin Hay, joint branch secretary of Hackney Unison, spoke about the overwhelming role of big business in polluting the planet.
A speaker from Homerton Hospital Unison brought solidarity and stressed the importance of unions in the movement against climate change.
Socialist Party leaflets calling for Socialist change not climate change went down really well. Seven people asked for more information about joining the Socialist Party.
Chris Newby, Hackney Socialist Party
Sheffield: 3,000 - biggest since pension strike
Sheffield (Click to enlarge)
It was the biggest protest in Sheffield since the 2011 public sector pensions strike rally, over 3,000. Solidarity with striking school students came from university workers, council staff, civil servants in the PCS union and many more.
Sheffield Socialist Party
Matt Whale brought solidarity from Hull Trade Union Council and Hull Socialist Party to the youth strike, supported 500 youth and workers!
The 'system change' we need is socialism
Socialist seller on BBC Newsnight (Click to enlarge)
Newsnight's coverage of the climate strikes included a discussion on what the movement's spontaneous slogan of "system change, not climate change" actually means. The camera panned to a Socialist Party member selling the Socialist newspaper (pictured above). We say the system change we need is socialism.
"System change" is widely understood to mean regulation of the existing capitalist-owned polluters. But this has failed for over two decades. "Socialist change" - ending capitalist ownership - is what's necessary.
Profit is the problem
Excerpts from a speech by Dave Reid, secretary of Socialist Party Wales, on the Cardiff youth strike.
Virtually all the politicians now say there's a "climate emergency." They all agree something has to be done. But why is nothing being done?
Why have they not put in place sustainable public transport systems that would allow people to leave their cars at home? Why have they not started transitioning to green energy using the technology available?
There is an 'invisible hand' that stops them from carrying out what the world needs. And that invisible hand is profit.
Because the politicians don't control the resources of this planet. 300 corporations control 80% of the resources of this planet. They are the ones who can decide, and all they're concerned about is profit.
And it's not just because they're evil, although some of them might be. It's because if one of them were to stand up and say 'OK we're not going to make a profit, we're going to go into green energy', they'd be fired. Because the system works that way.
We have to change the system. That means we should take over the resources and bring them into public ownership - we need to nationalise them.
If we take over these corporations we can plan the use of the world's resources democratically, in a sustainable way, so that we can achieve cheap public transport available to all, cheap green energy, and eradicate unnecessary plastics, but in a way that creates decently paid jobs.
That is why we call for socialist change to end climate change.
Unions have the power
Excerpts from a speech by Paul Couchman, secretary of the Surrey branch of public service union Unison (personal capacity), at the Guildford youth strike.
Today marks an important new step in the youth strike for climate movement, and sees the young people linking up with workers in protests and short stoppages across the country. This is so important, because of the potential power that workers have.
Just imagine. Coordinated strike action by workers can bring whole industries, cities, and even countries to a standstill. Trade unions have over six million members and vast resources - which can and should be used to mobilise their members to fight.
The TUC, which brings together all the unions, is supporting today's action with a call for a 30-minute lunchtime protest such as this one. But imagine if they called for a whole day's shutdown. Then the government and the big corporations would have to sit up and take note.
There's one more thing that you can do to get organised. Develop democratic structures to help you work out slogans and demands and maybe look at other issues, such as fair funding for schools, fighting against 'academies' and privatisation, school uniform, equality. Why not set up school students' unions in your schools?
Climate strikers speak out
London climate strike 20 September 2019, photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge)
Protesters in central London spoke to the Socialist on 20 September
I'm just furious about this whole climate change thing and they're just not doing anything about it. So I came down here to, you know, try and help even a little bit.
Yvonne, 16, Spain and Venezuela
Climate change is caused by the top 1% and it affects the greater community, the greater society, it affects all of us. And everyone just needs to wake up and realise that and act on it if they can... I hope change can be accomplished.
Nicole, 20, south London
Yes, maybe people can make little changes for the climate change. But the main responsibility is not on the people, is not on the working class. It has to be brought on the big companies, on the governments, and yes, on the financial system that just wants to make money out of anything, it doesn't matter about the earth, or about the lives of humanity.
Any disruption caused by climate change protesters is nothing compared to the disruption that rising sea levels are going to cause in the next 20 to 50 years.
Joe, south London
West Papua has been occupied, colonised by multinational corporations... They destroy our forests, our forest is where we are living, where we get our food... The private companies are destroying the entire working-class system, and also destroy our forest, which is second biggest after Amazon.
Sam, West Papua