This AWTWNS news packet for the week of 14 December contains two articles. They may be reproduced or used in any way, in whole or in part, as long as they are credited.
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– A diversity of climate protest views and activities counter CoP21 in Paris
– “Stop the whole system wrecking the planet: this means revolution!”
A diversity of climate protest views and activities counter CoP21 in Paris
14 December 2015. A World to Win News Service. As the clock struck noon on 12 December, at a “red line” protest representing the temperature line that our warming planet must not cross, thousands of climate demonstrators assembled dressed in red or sporting red umbrellas. In the avenue stretching behind the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, they unfurled giant banners and long red ribbons of fabric, some laden with red tulips in a tribute to the victims of climate change, marching up and down in an area police had sealed off.
Afterwards on the way to the Eiffel Tower, some 2,000 people occupied a bridge over the Seine River in a well-prepared civil disobedience action, surrounding themselves with giant inflatable blocks. On the Champ de Mars behind the Tower, many thousands formed a human chain in the afternoon, followed by a rally. Numerous lively banners in English and French denounced the climate crisis, as people from many other European countries streamed in to join, along with a small “army” of Danish polar bears. Organisers say that more than 20,000 people joined in climate protests on 12 December.
While 24 environmental activists continued to be held under “preventive” house arrest, the French ruling class ended up authorising the human chain and what were billed as “climate of peace” activities. However, aside from a few-second glimpse, most French mainstream media systematically blocked reporting of the 12 December protests. Instead, stealing the hour and the moment, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, presiding over the UN climate summit in Paris, announced at noon that a new CoP21 document had been finalised. French and world media focused entirely on this self-congratulatory fest, revelling in the achievement of a certain uneasy consensus among countries’ rulers to make promises about reducing carbon emissions. English media emphasized the ambiguity of whether all nations are bound by the agreement, while the French President Hollande crowed that it was “historical, universal and binding”. This agreement must be carefully analysed, but numerous climate experts and activists have already begun to debunk it as anything but a plan to cut down on the use of fossil fuels – only one dimension of the planet-wide disaster underway.
Despite the difficulties created by the state of emergency and ban on demonstrations declared after the 13 November massacre in Paris, an enthusiastic international team of supporters of Bob Avakian’s new synthesis travelled to Paris to distribute nearly 8,000 leaflets and debate the solution to the climate problem with the thousands of climate activists gathering there between 29 November and 12 December.
Information is still coming in to AWTW News Service reporters who also went to Paris during CoP21. Many activists were highly mobilised to oppose the official UN climate summit process, while others conveyed messages designed to pressure leaders to act responsibly – emphasizing especially the diverse and dangerous effects of the climate crisis and its impact on people around the world. The official CoP21 organisers had created a “civil society” space to allow a select number of religious, academic, NGO and business groups to express their views near the summit site, itself of course off limits to the public. Exhibits and conferences presented green technologies, water and desertification problems, the dangers of fracking, agro-ecological innovations, forest and ecosystem recovery initiatives, the effect of climate warming on women farmers, climate-induced migrants, land degradation, urban agriculture and a host of other issues. Some workshop attendees-turned demonstrators managed to sneak in a few unexpected actions inside this space, including an unauthorised redline stretching outside the summit doors on the final day, and a die-in by Black Lives Matter sympathisers who wore surgical masks and chanted “We can’t breathe, racial justice now!”, a welcome and rowdy eruption in the otherwise overly proper atmosphere in this “green zone”, where attendees could charge their cell phones by pedalling on stationary bikes.
At the same time, far from the summit site, a coalition of 130 NGOs, together with various groups involved in some level of climate activism, took part in a week of meetings, film projections, plays, concerts and a series of happenings by sculpture artists in various locations in Paris and a weekend Village of Alternatives and a People’s Climate summit held in a nearby suburb. The AntiCop food collective fed people for over two weeks in makeshift vegetarian food lines in the streets. An artists’ collective turned over its abandoned factory space to climate activists to produce brightly coloured signs and banners. Clowns were reportedly hauled in for questioning by police for street actions inciting people to laugh. Debate in various languages went on everywhere.
A prominent figure in these activities was the Canadian writer Naomi Klein, who one evening also shared a podium with British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. People listened attentively to these speakers who urged them to continue the struggle to stop polluting corporations, maintain pressure on political leaders, replace oil and gas jobs with care industry and “climate jobs”, and to expand local solutions and community control over energy choices, as has been implemented in some regions in Germany. They argued that building a humanist movement combining trade union activism with food sovereignty, human and labour rights as well as environmental justice causes can work together with the goal of greening and humanising the current system. This message appealed to and reinforced colossal illusions that the earth can be protected if people remain vigilant and push for gradual change, called “energy democracy”, which in fact was what Klein meant by “changing everything”.
There were many resistance actions during the two-week period by people who directed their anger, energy and understanding of the urgency towards the state and its various representatives, rather than focusing on these narrower conceptions of tinkering with a system many think is out of control. The message “Only revolution can save the planet” that floated alongside some of these activities attracted many dozens of discussions with activists, not to mention the hundreds of people who wanted to photograph the large banner with the globe breaking the chains. In addition to the revolutionaries, many groups also highlighted the current migrant/refugee crisis and France’s ultra hypocritical role, the war in Syria and many other crimes of the system and its rulers who were debating the fate of the planet in the north of Paris.
Peddlers of Klein-type reformist thinking aside, the word “system” was constantly used and chanted, but revolutionaries talking with people found that this very rarely meant the capitalist-imperialist system as a whole that is responsible for the current crisis. People understood and sharply targeted various aspects of capitalism, but were not often clear on its functioning, beyond the notion that it puts profit before people. Others advocated a different energy system, a more democratic system or more attentive leaders leading the system. In the course of intervening in public meetings and debates, holding a lively and busy literature stand at a Village of Alternatives, participating in several different mobilisations during the two weeks of protest, as well as organising their own events, these views challenged the team of new synthesis supporters to explain why revolution and a different communist future really are necessary – not only to deal with the environment, but to solve the entire range of social problems facing humanity.
Many activists asked what kind of revolution was meant, how we would make one, couldn’t it be peaceful like many of the climate organisers were arguing, why if China used to be revolutionary did it become a big capitalist polluter, and won’t the growing climate awareness and movement be sufficient to influence decisions to implement green energy sources. A number of “defence zone” youth (active in trying to block the construction of a dam in south-western France and defending their encampment from the police, who killed a young man just over a year ago) were very interested in talking about revolutionary change. At the same time they argued that immediate action is more useful, a commonly heard view that tends to separate such resistance from building a movement for revolution. In taking up the challenge of planting a revolutionary pole in the midst of this diverse, creative and energetic movement, the team gained new insight into the political terrain influencing it as well as the constantly renewed (and renewable) illusions holding back those who could develop from this environment battle into revolutionary activists.
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“Stop the whole system wrecking the planet: this means revolution!”
14 December 2015. A World to Win News Service. In Paris, Brussels, Berlin and London, revolutionaries distributed the following text in French, English, German, Farsi and Turkish during the two weeks of climate protests against the CoP21 in Europe. Signed Planet Resistance, it is dated 16 November 2015.
The massive flow of migrants and refugees struggling to reach Europe to survive, two outmoded political systems and ideologies clashing all over the world and most recently in the terrible events in Paris, Beirut, Ankara, Kunduz Hospital, Sinai… the urgent state of the planet endangering the global ecosystem: these dramatic scenes are the theatre of a whole rotten system that has to go.
Even if the CoP21 leaders pledge to reduce carbon emissions, this meeting of ministers and experts is not going to shake the empire(s) they represent and apologise for: the “intended contributions” show that as do the heated debates over which parts of an agreement could be legally binding.
Why should we have any faith that those governing the capitalist world order, hogging most of the globe’s resources and “leading” in destroying the environment will “lead” in taking major steps that go against their basic interests? Against their compulsion to fiercely beat out their competitors in accumulating wealth and strengthening their domination and control over countries that goes with it, regardless of the consequences? How can we leave the health of the planet, the beauty of nature and the future of human society in the hands of the world’s biggest murderers of people – let alone of the physical environment itself?
After a CoP21 agreement is argued and signed they will resume the frenzied race among them to find new fossil fuels and to further exploit all resources – and people: that is capitalism’s lifeblood. If one of them starts using biofuels the other will undercut his production costs with cheaper fossil fuels. Countries like France spend billion$ to set up nuclear plants (but not to make them “safe” from Fukushimas or Chernobyls), and how long before they have to spend million$ more to dismantle them when they are no longer profitable (enough)? Obama did cancel part of one of a dozen pipelines after prolonged protest and just before the CoP21, but he has not stopped coal production and, as the president of the number one planetary carbon emitter of all times, has moved ahead on pursuing new oil and gas, preferably “national”, sources, in line with “our national interests”.
Rich countries promising to cut greenhouse gases will continue to “off-load” much of their emissions to poorer countries producing many of the wealthier countries’ goods. This is not just about will or good intentions: it is the logic of capitalism, it must expand or die – for essentially everything it produces. The main arteries of the world economy depend on fossil fuels – transport, steel production, oil, agribusiness – the list is long. Add the geo-strategic rivalry of the monster energy consumers in the imperialist armed forces and the scale of powerful forces working against confronting the environmental crisis is all too clear. This system works as an interconnected whole, preventing rational and sustainable planning, and we can’t just clean up its dirty toenails.
Many worthy and creative local projects implementing green alternatives are sprouting up that may not want to depend on capitalist markets. Unfortunately they won’t significantly affect these main dynamics of capitalist growth, crisis and the ruthless ways it exacerbates the harsh inequalities among countries and peoples. It is also true that the CoP21 captains will accept to put in place some measures. There will always be disagreements among rival imperialists. The trouble is, even if as individuals they wanted to do what is necessary to reverse the climate crisis, they cannot, because the system they are locked into cannot operate in any other way. And if we are not willing to “get” this cold truth and to challenge capitalism’s rulers leading the earth towards catastrophe, we end up helping provide the political “fuel” to keep it going, unpleasant as that is.
Don’t we have to stop the whole system that is speeding up climate change? Real system change means revolution!
Dare to think radically! What is really unrealistic anyway?
We have to both imagine and fight for genuine and complete system change. We need to build a powerful resistance movement against the source of the problem and take responsibility for organising society in a radically different way.
Confronting today’s environmental crisis can only occur on a world scale, with a global perspective, and it can only happen under a different social system. Revolution by the oppressed and proletarian people proceeds from the interests of humanity as a whole and the planet as a whole. It replaces the people- and planet-ravaging logic of profit and private ownership blocking solutions to all social ills plaguing the people of the world and holding them back from transforming it. Not by wishing will the current rulers see reason, but by seizing power to enable a socialist state to lead this complex process towards communism. This type of socialist revolution, whatever form it may first take in different types of countries – imperialist or those dominated by imperialism – can with political power address environmental issues and reorganise the economy in a sustainable, rational, and socially just way. It can establish new global norms and begin to repair and reverse the devastation of the earth.
A socialist state can produce and distribute food based on social need, long-term land use planning, protecting ecosystems and developing biodiversity. Industrial production so wasteful and damaging to the environment today will be restructured, planned and regulated, together with re-envisioned modes of transport, human habitat and burgeoning cities. Renewable forms of energy and green technologies will be further developed and implemented on a mass scale: only a state aiming to transform all of society and the world can unlock the human potential to accomplish this. Consumer culture can be transformed. Truly innovative scientific knowledge can be fully put to use together with the conscious activity of people ourselves to solve the vast array of social problems facing humanity.
The 20th century socialist revolutions in the Soviet Union and revolutionary China made unparalleled breakthroughs but also suffered from shortcomings conceptually and practically. The new synthesis of communism developed by Bob Avakian summarises both these advances and problems with an eye to the future we need to build. With this perspective and in this global framework that “the whole world comes first”, socialist revolution will also lead people to overcome the huge differences between oppressed and oppressor countries. This other world is possible; in fact seen from this angle, the possibilities for transforming the world are almost unlimited. And the needs are way past urgent.
Unrealistic? What is realistic about continuing on the current path careening towards destruction of the planet and subordinating most of the world’s people to the dictates of a bloody and merciless system that will never “dismantle” or “green” itself, some of whose statesmen may pass resolutions but never enforce them? How realistic is it not to act on the reality that a Cop71 (or whatever they call it by then) will be necessary in 50 years time after the Polynesian islands and Bangladesh are underwater, many more species and life forms have disappeared, and millions more people are left on the sidelines in a much worse scenario than today: those who are not decimated will be trying to survive and to migrate to countries that have built a ring of walls and barbed wire fences to exclude them at gunpoint. Is this the “realistic” world we want?
We cannot be satisfied with the illusion that partial steps by industrialists or lifestyle alternatives are sufficient, that “degrowth” is a real option: in short, that confronting the capitalist-imperialist system is not necessary. The guardians of the current social order will constantly come up with new promises – packaged in a variety of shapes, colours and liberal democratic messages for as long as they are allowed to rule.
Society has to be revolutionized. We need a movement for revolution that acts to put an end to every injustice and every crime this system commits, including climate change. The movement against the destruction of the planet must become part of this revolutionary solution. A movement that both resists capitalism and works towards breaking with its cold-hearted calculations that will continue to prevent any serious clean energy and green technologies from ever being implemented on the scale needed. We shouldn’t tolerate, in any way, the strengthening the great lopsidedness of this world and the suffering that capitalism brings down daily on the people. We need to become a force for revolution for a new world that approaches this climate crisis and every social problem completely differently in the interests of humanity as a whole. Look for our Planet Resistance banner and t-shirts: Only revolution can save the planet! We have a world to win!
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