Orignal article : https://www.ecosocialist.net/2022/09/15/september-23-strike-end-fossil/
Young activists are preparing for the September 23 strikes under the banner of End Fossil. Their demands go to the heart of the climate change catastrophe.
During the past two years, the leaders of the youth climate movement have had to reassess their campaigning strategies. In 2019, under the banners of Fridays for Future and School Strike for Climate, there were hugely successful demonstrations and marches across the globe. At the height of the campaign in September 2019, an estimated 4 to 6 million young people, many of them school pupils, joined the strikes. The main message was that scientific evidence showed that the world is heading for disaster.
The movement has been forced into a rethink of their messaging and tactics due to:
- Declining participation in protests, especially during the Covid pandemic;
- A new focus by many of the leaders on the social justice aspects of climate change;
- The futility of high profile meetings with world leaders.
Four months after the huge protests of 2019 the pandemic struck, putting an end to all marches and meetings. The young leaders experimented with digital campaigns, and then “socially distanced” protests in late 2020. Further protests took place during 2021, usually constrained by Covid restrictions.
The turnout at the 2021 protests was significantly lower than when the campaign was at its height in 2019. In September 2021, just before world leaders gathered in Glasgow for COP26, the number of protesters was in the hundreds of thousands rather than the millions of two years previously. https://tinyurl.com/mryyddkk
The Covid pandemic had other notable effects on the climate campaign. The communication between Fridays for Future leaders of different countries highlighted issues around social justice and the huge wealth differences between the “global north” and the “global south”. Leaders demanded that wealthy countries, which have caused most of the global warming, should pay for the impacts suffered by poor countries.
Meetings with world leaders had been one of the most visible aspects of the movement. But these leaders, while cynically praising the young activists, failed to take any decisive action on climate change. In September 2021, Greta Thunberg made a speech in Milan that was angrily critical of the “so called” world leaders. She said “They invite cherry-picked young people to meetings like this to pretend that they are listening to us.” https://tinyurl.com/3uemd86w
“Rift in the green movement”
The widening of the campaign from technical aspects of climate change to broader social issues was not welcomed by all the movement’s leaders. An article in Politico, quoting unnamed “senior green campaigners”, said that the social justice focus had “created a deep and painful rift in the green movement” https://tinyurl.com/3mfxsy6f
In reality, tensions had existed from the beginning. Some leaders of the German wing of FFF, for example, saw it as a “politically neutral,‘bipartisan movement’”, https://tinyurl.com/bdd7ebvd. And with such a fast growing global movement, there were bound to be differences between high profile leaders and local activists.
September 23 strike
Fridays for Future is planning a new global strike for 23rd September. The demands are focused on social and political issues. The climate struggle is described as a class struggle, with one slogan being “people not profit”. The causes of climate change and the resistance to a rapid decrease in greenhouse gas emissions are listed as:
- corporations and governments from the Global North dominated by privileged white males;
- the “richest capitalist 1%”;
- colonialism, capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy and exploitation;
- an obsession with “development” and “economic growth”.
The solution is “decolonization through climate reparations”, with the struggle being led by the most marginalized. https://tinyurl.com/y7b9anmj
The main emphasis of the campaign is therefore a demand that the wealthy global north pay reparations to the global south.
The analysis of the problem contains many good points. The demands are an improvement on the earlier very general calls on leaders to listen to the science and act on climate change. Socialists will wholeheartedly agree with the idea of a class struggle against corporations and governments from the wealthy countries.
But the general points do not get to the heart of the problem, and are not specific enough to put real pressure on political leaders.
Fridays for Future groups from various countries have some very good, more specific demands, such as financial packages for green energy. The Italian Fridays for Future group have an excellent agenda, with various specific points, including a job guarantee fund. https://tinyurl.com/5duznp8n
End Fossil – Occupy
A group organizing under the banner of “End Fossil” has the most focused message – end fossil fuels worldwide. They invite groups to organize their own occupations, but with appropriate national and local demands related to the fossil fuel industry and wider social issues. https://endfossil.com/
By targeting fossil fuels, they are both getting to the core of the cause of climate change, and challenging the politics and economics which provides continuing support for fossil fuel industries. The message is coherent, with platform that all can agree on.
Whatever the success of the forthcoming protests, it is evident that the youth led climate movement is maturing and inevitably being drawn into the politics that keeps world leaders in power and protects fossil fuel industries.
The Fridays for Future Italy demand for a job guarantee fund is a great initial step towards a “red-green alliance”. Social justice in the climate movement is vital, not only across national boundaries, but within each country. Fossil fuel workers cannot be regarded as unfortunate casualties of a green transition. The fight to end fossil fuels must be linked to the fight for workers’ rights and an end to exploitation.
The EndFossil website urges young people to emulate previous student rebellions. They refer to is the revolutionary movement in France of May 1968 as one of these rebellions. https://endfossil.com/press/ What is important about May 1968, and what made the movement so powerful, was that it drew in the French working class. Manual workers demonstrated alongside students, shaking the foundations of the French ruling class.
Power in today’s world resides in the wealthy north (and China). A real challenge these governments will only succeed with the support of the majority of the people in these countries. This means developing a coherent platform that people will believe in, and policies that will not harm the livelihoods of the majority of the population of each country.
While jobs and money will be an important part of such policies, the rapid ending of fossil fuels is an excellent initial platform.