Massive demonstrations of high school students against the degradation of the climate: capitalism is a threat to humanity!

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Teivos
Massive demonstrations of high school students against the degradation of the climate: capitalism is a threat to humanity!
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Hi comrades! I have read the text of the ICC (https://en.internationalism.org/content/16637/massive-demonstrations-hig...), watched a few videos and read some information on the internet on this issue. There is a real indignation within the working class and other isolated layers of society for the lack of perspective that capitalism gives on the most fundamental foundations of society: its relation with the rest of nature. Each generation that is born has a more terrible perspective on its living conditions while nature is being sacked by the capital accumulation competition process, threatening the planet with reaching irreversible limits. The protest has started clearly avoiding the traps of “we are too much people on the earth”, “we consume too much individually”, and has focused correctly on a systemic failure although with not much clarity about what is exactly wrong with the system or which system are we talking about. It has been massive, it extended in space and in time -which are both important for the spontaneity and solidarity of the working class to take place- and opened the way of open discussion.

However, according to what I could see, it seems that there is quite a lack of clear working class composition, and as a consequence a lack of working class perspective. It is not (yet?) as in May 68 when in solidarity after student protests the working class could give an organizational and future perspective to the movement.  

The danger of the state penetrating in the direction of the movement, and its resultant institutionalization is clear from the beginning. In some countries where it is “extending” I have doubts if it is a genuine extension or a trap.

The feminist mobilization has perhaps contributed to dilute the “change the system” perspective into an intersectional struggle which deviates the indignation into “changing within the system using the system”. 8M day was on Friday. But at the beginning the climate protests were on Thursdays. Now it has become Fridays4Future. I don´t really know if this is relevant but it is at least something strange.

The bourgeoisie is trying to make it a dead movement which just gets mobilized in front of parliaments and making photos with hashtags. It is trying to use certain figures as leaders to be followed in a democratic perspective -not only public institutional figures-, and it is trying to make it a “child and childish strike” that “gives adults a lesson”.

A global strike has been called for the 15th of March, the same date as the Indignados 2011 movement started in Spain. I think that it is necessary to understand if it still has certain working class potential perspective of “we can´t solve the problem with the system that created it” or, on the other hand, it has become a mobilization completely jailed on a democratic perspective. It is important to evaluate this for our organized intervention.

I hope that this intervention contributes to the discussion.

Fraternal regards!

Comunero
I don't know if there is any

I don't know if there is any element at all here to make us think this isn't just another NGO/Leftist movement to profit from a real concern. A strike (and even more, a student strike) means nothing by itself, as was once again proved last Friday.

Teivos
Article mistaken

Sorry, I made a mistake. The ICC text I was referring to is in spanish and french language. I thougt that the one I said was the same version in english (I couldn't find it)

Spanish: https://es.internationalism.org/content/4402/el-capitalismo-amenaza-el-p...

French: https://fr.internationalism.org/content/9869/combat-futur-lhumanite-mani...

Teivos

Comunero
I still don't see any element

I still don't see any element there that suggests it's anything different from another ecologist citizen movement. They don't carry national flags, but that means nothing in itself.

It's not only that it isn't "as strong as Indignados" (which was quite more harshly criticised than this by the ICC, rightly IMO) because there are no assemblies, it's that the whole movement is articulated around the idea of "citizen action". That's quite more than a limitation!

So, besides a global protest (as, say, feminist protests), what are the positive elements here? Quoting the ICC:

" (...) So what better basis could there be for diluting the proletariat, making it forget its own class inter­ests, drowning it in an amorphous mass where there is no longer any distinction of interest between workers, shopkeepers ... or the ruling class itself? The constant ideological barrage about the environment thus complements all the campaigns about democracy and ‘people power’ unleashed after the fall of the eastern bloc.
 

Look at how they twist the ecological issues to suit their needs. These problems are so terri­fying, so urgent, they say, surely they’re more important than your egoistic fight for higher wages or against job losses? Indeed, aren’t most of these problems due to the fact that ‘we’ in the advanced countries ‘are consuming too much’? Shouldn’t we be prepared to eat less meat, use less energy, even accept this or that factory closure ‘for the good of the planet’? What better alibi for the sacrifices demanded by the crisis of the capitalist economy.

(...)

But it would be an error to think that the ecological issue per se can be a focus for the mobilisation of the proletariat on its own class terrain today. Although certain limited aspects of the problem (eg health and safety at work) can be integrated into authentic class demands, the issue as such doesn’t allow the proletariat to affirm itself as a distinct social force. Indeed, as we have seen, it provides an ideal pretext for the bourgeoisie’s inter-classist campaigns, and the workers will have to resist actively the various attempts of the bourgeoisie, particularly its Green and leftist elements, to use the issue as a means of dragging them off their own class ground. It remains the case that it is above all by struggling against the effects of the eco­nomic crisis - against wage cuts, unemployment, growing impoverishment at all levels - that the workers will be able to constitute themselves into a force capable of confronting the entire bourgeois order."

(IR, 63)

I fully agree with the view expressed above, and don't see how it doesn't apply now to this movement. Being "spontaneous" (in case it really is so) doesn't change its nature.

Comunero
Text replaced?

It seems that the link you (Teivos) posted is now dead, and the article has been substituted by a fairly different one, which doesn't express such optimistic views over the nature of the movement.

I think the new one is far better, but IMO swapping suddenly one text for the other, no reflection or explanation given, is a mistake. If the first one has been published, surely the comrades did think it was good, and even more if it has been given out as a leaflet in Belgium. In the past, the ICC has rightly criticised other organizations for doing this.

So, I ask the comrades, why has the other text been removed like that? If it expressed wrong views, why not explain the readers of both the original article and the leaflet what was wrong with it, and what took the organization to initially think it wasn't? I think that once a text is published, if the authors (in this case the ICC) change their views they should explain the reasoning behind that change. Silently swapping one text for other is worse than publishing a wrong analysis.

Teivos
About the two articles and further discussion

It is difficult to say whether in its beginnings there was a rejection of being enlisted behind trade unions and parliaments. It is difficult to know if the first impulse had some, timid, proletarian characteristics and was quickly re-directed to bourgeoisie politics; or, on the contrary, from the beginning the perspective was faithful in democracy.

According to the first published article the protest began by rejecting ideas of isolated individuals being guilty of contributing to climate change, as if it was a domestic problem. On the contrary, the movement approach seemed to be against a system whose nature was, however, still not clearly identified. It was also against nationalist (mostly regionalist) divisions. And apparently, it extended. However, the feminist strike was also apparently “international”. Postmodernist ideology is ever-more international pretending that it can join interests of isolated individuals all around the world. So, in this case it will join everyone concerned about the climate, in other cases every woman on earth, in others… every black homosexual.

The second article gives the impression that this approach was never there and that the slogan "fight the system", "the climate cannot be fixed with the system that destroys it" was from the beginning simply a vision oriented to change some kind of policy (juridical system?) and a negotiation with the European parliament and so on.

The second article perhaps represents a better understanding of the situation according to the ICC, and the reason for removing the previous one without explanation may be in order not to give contradictory ideas (given perhaps as a result of an error), at the precise moment when it is necessary to intervene with a clear pamphlet. However, I agree with Comunero that the ICC should clarify this mistake. Even more if the previous pamphlet was distributed.

I have also a criticism of the new article. The identification made between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat with, respectively, "a minority that is getting richer and richer" and "a majority that is getting poorer and poorer". I think that it might lead to mistake it with the bourgeois sociological concept of social class and make a small concession to the bourgeois democratic reasoning of abstract majorities and minorities. This was very dangerous and could be seen in the Indignados-Occupy slogan "we are the 99%". While it is true that the working class is an increasingly widespread class in society, it is not this majority character that gives it authority or characterizes it. The working class was not exactly the majority in 1917, at least in Russia. It is the class that behind its social perspective can agglutinate the rest of society, since it tends to the dissolution of classes. This is, by the way, a clear statement of the text.

Fraternal regards!

Teivos

jk1921
"The young people who

"The young people who participate in the movement must understand that they are not 'future citizens' but, in their vast majority, future precarious, future unemployed, future exploited, who will have to unite in their struggle against capitalist exploitation the fight against war, environmental catastrophe, moral barbarism, etc. that this system of exploitation permeates all its pores."

Come now comrades, why so pessimistic? You could get yourself elected at the age of 29 to the United States Congress where you could propose a sweeping "Green New Deal," issue ominous tweets about the world ending in 12 years, tell people they might want to reconsider having children and demand that the entire built environment be retrofitted in a decade. Seriously, no discussion here of the Green New Deal? It is quite the opposite of the series of localist half measures that the article describes as the hallmark of modern envrionmentalism. What is the Green New Deal then? A serious program for fixing the environmental crisis that alas simply can't be realized within capitalism or is it a dopey, catastrophist form of virtue signalling culture war politics that gets us nowhere--not even as an incipient set of demands that can't be yet realized?

Moreover, the content of this article seems to clash to some degree with sentiments expressed in other threads towards the Yellow Vests. If demands to fix the environment through austerity are on the same bourgeois terrain as demands to fight austerity that coincidentally harm the envrionment, what point is there in making some kind of distinction (moral, strategic, tactical or otherwise) between the legitimacy of these sets of competing demands? They both end up in the same place, don't they? Yet it seems some comrades were ready to write-off Yellow Vest demands over gas price hikes as "petty-bourgeois" and reactionary, while the climate demonstrations were seen as some kind of incipient social movement with a real chance for deepening. Has this changed?

 

KT
Two Cents Worth

I agree there needs to be a discussion on the 'Green New Deal' concept (now ten years old) which is currently being adopted by sections of the Democratic Party, is the subject of demonstrations in the US (eg Sunrise Movement) and has its own economic 'program', Modern Monetary Policy (MMP), which would make the last 10 years of Quantitative Easing and rising state debt look positively puny in comparison were it ever enacted. 

Meanwhile: I'm not sure which ICC article on the student climate protests has been 'disappeared': on the English language website (this one) both the February and March articles exist. Was there another one or are comrades referring to articles in French or Spanish?

Neither do I see much contradiction between the two: the second (the March article which is actually a leaflet and which will soon be moved to the top of the English website) asks more questions of those protesting, it's true, but seems to me in continuity with the first.

Regarding the differences of approach by the ICC towards the Yellow Vest movement (largely restricted to France) and the international protest of the young on climate change, I believe these are justified. There are many differences between the origins, social composition and political demands of the two phenomena to which revolutionaries should be sensitive. I do not discuss in the same manner with a provincial, middle-aged French taxi driver, confirmed in his (often right-wing) political beliefs, waving the national flag (yes, I think flags can be important signifiers) who wants a reduction in fuel duty as I do to youngsters, politically unformed and naive, no doubt, but who raise valid concerns about the planetary perspectives arising out of the destructive nature of capitalism. Are all these international protests just dupes of the US Democratic Party, or is this Party (amongst others) attempting to recuperate a real concern existing? I know where my money is (or would be if I had any spare).

 

jk1921
Well, if the proponents of

Well, if the proponents of the Green New Deal are to believed, we have only 12 years left to get this all sorted out. That doesn't bode well in a social situation in which the ICC has said the tasks facing revolutionaties are now those of a "fraction." To be fair, the proponents of left envrionmental catastrophism don't exactly claim that the world will end in 12 years, but that we very well may reach a "tipping point," beyond which no enlightened stratgey will be able to save us from dramatic civilizational altering effects (If I have this right). Anyone who questions this maxim is supposedly "denying science." But is it time to consider that the politics of the bourgeois left are now out in front of the actual reality? Some climate scientists seem to now be urging a tapping of the brakes on such dramatic conclusions. Is there now a kind of left envrionmentalist demagoguery afoot?

On KT's last point, I am becomming less and less convinced that there are any meaningful distinctions to be made between these different kind of social phenomena. Either they are both prefigurative of something or neither are. But both seem particularly amenable to become moments in the late capitalist culture wars and its not clear to me which side if any is more capable of deepening into something else. More and more it all looks like forms of a will to power attempting to accomplish political goals within the current order of things.

But the point about the Green Deal goes beyond the immediate politics of it. It is also that it offers a sense of concrete hope that meaningful change is possible within the system. Its personification in the person of AOC, shows that even a bartender can govern and change the world, within bourgeois democracy (all you need are about 16,000 votes in a primary, the backing of a Silicon Valley billionaire and the fawning obsequiousness of left social media). The system is beatable within the system. Anything is possible according to the wonders of MMT (disclaimer: some adjustments for inflation may later be deemed necessary). It is a curious combination of dystopian catastrophism and inspirational (aspirational) poliitcs (with a good dose of celebrity culture thrown in). But it is also a moment in the culture wars. Socialism is winning! (Jacobin magazine keeps telling us), even if Trump is still in the White House and Bernie Sanders approval ratings are heading south by southwest.

KT
Continuing a conversation

“On KT's last point, I am becoming less and less convinced that there are any meaningful distinctions to be made between these different kind of social phenomena. Either they are both prefigurative of something or neither are. But both seem particularly amenable to become moments in the late capitalist culture wars and its not clear to me which side if any is more capable of deepening into something else.” (JK - 9)

Well neither is likely to be prefugurative. Neither is any more capable – in and of itself – of deepening into something positive in a proletarian sense, unless ones bag is burning downs news kiosks, indulging in anti-Semitic rants, or trashing luxury shops on the champs elysees, or alternatively, as JK suggests, providing good career paths for middle class students.

However the events surrounding the Yellow Vests require a certain distance (by revolutionaries) from some (not all) of the concerns expressed by the movement, the methods used; a tone of disquiet regarding what is said (by revolutionaries) towards other workers vis-à-vis the nationalist elements that have surfaced so far. We’ve been over this.

Whereas the questioning of the students is both perfectly valid and far more likely (in my opinion) to provide a receptive audience for revolutionary ideas and frameworks than the anger of the Yellow Vests at this moment in time, given the evolution of specific local and global trends, even if capital inevitably attempts a recuperation of the terrain.

And we still want a receptive audience for revolutionary, Marxist views, don’t we - despite or even because of the parlous state of proletarian consciousness within the broad layers of the ‘masses’?

Perhaps aiming to act as a ‘Fraction of a certain kind’ means different things to different folk. With a low level of class consciousness, should the ICC be devoting any energy at all in to trying to reach people within either movement? Two leaflets, discussions, articles, etc. Wouldn’t deepening, holding what we have, preserving for the next generation, be better?

But are the two in contradiction – didn’t ‘the Fractions’ in the 30s and 40s distribute leaflets to soldiers slaughtering each other – a real nadir/negation of class consciousness – even as they were wrestling with theoretical issues such as ‘what is the nature of the ‘Soviet Union’, of  state capitalism, of the ‘historic course’; of fascism/anti-fascism… ?

“But the point about the Green Deal goes beyond the immediate politics of it. It is also that it offers a sense of concrete hope that meaningful change is possible within the system. Its personification in the person of AOC, shows that even a bartender can govern and change the world, within bourgeois democracy (all you need are about 16,000 votes in a primary, the backing of a Silicon Valley billionaire and the fawning obsequiousness of left social media). The system is beatable within the system. Anything is possible according to the wonders of MMT (disclaimer: some adjustments for inflation may later be deemed necessary). It is a curious combination of dystopian catastrophism and inspirational (aspirational) poliitcs (with a good dose of celebrity culture thrown in). But it is also a moment in the culture wars.”

Indeed. But then much bourgeois ideology boils down to asserting that “meaningful change is possible within the system” or presenting bourgeois change as "meaningful/revolutionary system alteration.” I’m not at all arguing that the emergence of AOC and others isn’t important  - in fact I think it somewhat contradicts the idea that there’s no longer a real difference between ‘left and right’ in bourgeois politics and also illustrates certain limits of ‘culture wars’ to dominate the agenda.

But what really interests and concerns me is the MMT/MMP ‘economics’ underlying this Green Deal (and probably the totality of the accumulation cycle). We’re talking a massive expansion of state debt here, in particular by certain key countries – primarily the US and, with its push to see the Yuan adopted as a reserve currency, China.

What’s new? Nothing (apart from the augmented accruing of what’s already gone before). Except as marxists, we say this course has limits, even with all the state capitalist amelioration, all the pushing the crisis onto the peripheries (Venezuela, Zimbabwe, anyone?); all the ‘better’ exploitation of both markets and productive forces (including living and dead labour – ie heightened exploitation, automation, etc).

The last New Deal debt was accounted for in the greatest destruction of culture known to humanity and the deaths of some 60 million. We understand that as a system of social relations, the prologation of capitalism is at the expense of the material, mental, spiritual and physical well-being of the vast majority of the population, and of the planet of which they are a part. That’s something to understand better – and to intervene about…

jk1921
KT wrote:

KT wrote:

However the events surrounding the Yellow Vests require a certain distance (by revolutionaries) from some (not all) of the concerns expressed by the movement, the methods used; a tone of disquiet regarding what is said (by revolutionaries) towards other workers vis-à-vis the nationalist elements that have surfaced so far. We’ve been over this.

I suspect that some of what gets denoucned as "nationalism" today is really more about something else in many of the populist movements we are seeing today, a certain instinct to fight back against perceived injuries that lacks a proper political representation. But, I think it is nevertheless the case that the Yellow Vests raised important issues regarding the conditions of life for the working class today (high fuel prices) that are in some sense contradictory to the content of the climate march movement and it feels like there is a tendency here to want to take sides, to say that the climate concern is more valid as an expression of some proletarian (or is it humanistic?) instinct. In fact, you say as much here:

KT wrote:

Whereas the questioning of the students is both perfectly valid and far more likely (in my opinion) to provide a receptive audience for revolutionary ideas and frameworks than the anger of the Yellow Vests at this moment in time, given the evolution of specific local and global trends, even if capital inevitably attempts a recuperation of the terrain.

In what sense is the concept of "validity" being deployed here? Its not clear, but at least you qualify that it is only your opinion. Others may disagree. Some may think that fighting against a direct attack one's daily bottom line is more in keeping with "the defense of the working class' living and working conditions" than worrying about some possibly hyped up threat to the climate that always seems to be just a few years around the corner, but never quite arrives. The fact that the Yellow Vests Movement ended where it did, is not in intself an indictment of the entire endeavor. Of course, the climate march will end where it always does, in the arms of the state. That is if one doesn't think that it started there in the first place.

KT wrote:

Perhaps aiming to act as a ‘Fraction of a certain kind’ means different things to different folk. With a low level of class consciousness, should the ICC be devoting any energy at all in to trying to reach people within either movement? Two leaflets, discussions, articles, etc. Wouldn’t deepening, holding what we have, preserving for the next generation, be better?

But are the two in contradiction – didn’t ‘the Fractions’ in the 30s and 40s distribute leaflets to soldiers slaughtering each other – a real nadir/negation of class consciousness – even as they were wrestling with theoretical issues such as ‘what is the nature of the ‘Soviet Union’, of  state capitalism, of the ‘historic course’; of fascism/anti-fascism… ?

I have no qualms with the idea that the immediate tasks are those of a fraction, just that doesn't bode well if the most serious (although increasingly mainstream) doomsday scenarios about the envrionment are true. Time would not be on our side anymore. How does one then make sense of these claims?

KT wrote:

Indeed. But then much bourgeois ideology boils down to asserting that “meaningful change is possible within the system” or presenting bourgeois change as "meaningful/revolutionary system alteration.” I’m not at all arguing that the emergence of AOC and others isn’t important  - in fact I think it somewhat contradicts the idea that there’s no longer a real difference between ‘left and right’ in bourgeois politics and also illustrates certain limits of ‘culture wars’ to dominate the agenda.

In what sense? Isn't AOC a sterling example of the culture wars in action? Its not that there is no difference between right and left in bourgeois politics anymore, its more complicated than that; however, populism, but also other things that are functions of the period, have certainly complicated the traditional left-right divide: the collapse of the center left, right populism taking up the language of the working class, the (re) emergence of a kind of moralist sensibility about the world's ills that is divorced from class and economic reason, the increasing fusion of identitarianism with social democracy and the emergence of a kind of "ethno-socialism," the rise of a so-called "regressive left," left-wing anti-Semitism, etc.

jk1921
I don't know if this belongs

I don't know if this belongs in this thread or the Yellow Vests, but recently the newly elected Democratic Governor of Michigan (one of the Rust Belt states Trump flipped in 2016) announced a plan to raise the gas tax to fix the state's crumbling roads. Anyone who has driven on them knows that Michigan roads are an utter disaster, but it is also true that Michigan gas prices are already quite high. However, here we have a Democratic pol proposing to repair a public good by taxing gasoline consumption even more, something which can't but have a deleterious effect on the standard of living of an already hurting working class. She probably won't get Yellow Vested, Michigan is not France, but one wonders what these kinds of austerity in the name of public goods measures do for Trump's relection chances in the state? Of course, fixing the roads (which workers also drive on) has the charcter of a more immediate need than some vague threat from envrionmental degradation, but it is also true that there are other ways to fund such public works projects than a direct attack on the working class' standard of living with another consumption tax. One wonders what this is about?

Meanwhile, New York City is proposing introducing "Congestion Pricing," raising tolls on drivers during peak traffic times. Recent polling suggests a majority of New Yorkers are against the plan. This is a city, where it already costs $19 to cross the Verrazano Bridge from Staten Island to Brooklyn and $15 to cross the Hudson River. One wonders how much higher tolls can go and who can afford to pay them on anything other than an occasional basis? New York is probably the least car dependent city in the US, but for anyone who has to drive this is a tremendous burden that is ultimately borne again in higher prices by the working class, as businesses who have to foot such costs pass them on to their customers, etc.

There seems a point here about the irrationality of the current capitalist phase, the building up of mega cities, where congestion itself is a major burden on one's stnadard of living, but the solution of the bourgeois pols is to make you pay for what are ultimately futile attempts to control it, as the system seems to have a certain logic of its own. Of course, you could always go to some crumbling Rust Belt state, where real estate might be cheaper, but the roads are disintegrating, gas prices are high and the same bourgeois pols will tell you are the one who has to pay more in the name of public good.

Alf
article and leaflet removed

We have taken down an article and the initial leaflet on the climate change protests from the French, Dutch and Spanish pages (they were not published in English), because there is a general agreement in the organization that these two original texts were not critical enough of the involvement of the bourgeoisie in the climate change demonstrations. The new international leaflet on our website expresses the position of the organisation on these demonstrations. We aim to provide a more developed analysis of the climate change protests in due course