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Socialist Project • E-Bulletin No. 1041
September 30, 2014

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Climate Convergence Moves Us Forward,
But Challenges Us to Create a Strategy

Dan La Botz

The Global Climate Convergence with its more than one hundred workshops, its large plenary sessions, and its miles-long mass march of more than 300,000 people, the largest climate protest in American history, represents a turning point for the environmental movement. The gigantic and passionate parade of indigenous people, ethnic groups of all sorts from everywhere in the country, students by the tens of thousands, neighborhood organizations by the dozens, several major national labour unions, and every conceivable sort of ecological cause tramping through New York City carrying huge banners and giant puppets, striding and dancing to the tunes of 29 marching bands, put the issue of the environment and climate change on the national agenda as never before. The national climate movement has arrived – now what will it do?

The People's Climate March, September 21, 2014, in New York City.

The Convergence march was as broad politically as it was long. In the march were U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York State legislators and several New York City council members, their presence signifying that climate change had gone main stream.

At the same time, bringing up the rear were those of us in the anti-capitalist contingent of a few thousand socialists, anarchists, and others who know capitalism is the cause of the problem and believe in a democratic socialist society, even if we don't know or agree about what to put in its place. And who can blame us, for it's not clear how we get from here to the new democratic, egalitarian, socially just and environmentally sound society that we know we need. Most folks were marching in the middle somewhere, not trusting the corporations, dubious about government, wanting to get rid of fossil fuels but without a clear political vision of where we're going. That is perhaps the biggest thing missing from the movement right now, a unifying strategy for the majority if not a strategy for all.

Universalist Idealism

A remarkable humanitarian and internationalist spirit pervaded the march. I saw the flags of many nations carried by individuals or small groups from as far away as Australia. There were immigrants to America from all over the world who retain their connection with the pre-capitalist traditions of their homeland, like those carrying the banner reading “Pachamama,” the earth mother worshipped in Peru since ancient times. There were signs reading “One Planet,” “One Future,” and “We Are All in this Together.” People marched to save their local park, river, or lake, but they also marched to “Save the Planet,” as many signs said, and to save us all.

Such universalist idealism was moving even if it tended to obscure for the moment the fact that though “we are all in this together” even those marching are not all on the same side. The profound division of capitalist society into those who have capital and those who have only their labour, between those who rule and those who are ruled over remains even in the era of climate change. Ban Ki-moon, President Barack Obama, Al Gore, the U.S. Congress, other governments around the world, and the corporate executives may fear climate change, but they do not want the world of climate justice for all that we want. The reality is that what will be done to save all of us will have to be done by most of us against those few of us whose commitment to their money, their power, and their capitalist economic system stands in our way. So what strategy do we put forward?

Strategy Going Forward?

How do we move those who are anti-corporate to becoming anti-capitalist? And how do we move the anti-capitalists to become socialists? In America with its dominant conservative ideology and political system, with its culture of acquisitive individualism, and its historic antipathy toward socialism going back to the red scares of the 1920s and the 1950s this has always been the problem, figuring out how to get people to move from a posture advocating liberal reform to a position calling for radical transformation of the system. The only way is to educate ourselves collectively as a movement through actions at all levels that confront the power and over time reveal, through discussion, debate, and struggle the superiority of democracy and make obvious the right of the majority of people to control their own fate not only politically, but economically and in terms of climate.

The strategic elements of movements around the world that in the past won limited reforms and in some other countries won significant social change for some extended period of time have been three:

  • First, a conscious mass movement, inspired by its vision of greater justice, that mobilizes to confront the powers-that-be: the corporations, the military, the political parties, and the government, a movement which is not afraid to use its economic and social power to profoundly disrupt the system through demonstrations, strikes, and civil disobedience.

  • Second, the construction out of that movement of an independent political force, outside of the existing capitalist parties, a political power that fights in the electoral and legislative arena to change the laws so that they represent not the wealthy and the corporations, but the people.

  • Third, a revolutionary theory, strategy, and organization that arising out of the social and political movement is prepared with the support of the majority to take power and reorganize society along new lines based on the needs of all, not the needs of the few. In American history, we should note, we have seldom gotten beyond the first stage, and around the world today, the struggle at all levels is uneven.

We have no choice but to try. We have everything to lose, above all our planet earth, and we have a world to win. •

Dan La Botz is an editor of New Politics, where this article was first published, and a member of Solidarity in New York City.


#4 Anonymous 2014-10-06 18:20 EST
Elimination of the power of the capitalist ruling class by means of real democracy
Bullet comment October 6, 2014

Capitalism has an Achilles heel: it is democracy. Though it alleges that it is democratic and promotes its own brand of (non-representative) democracy throughout the world, it is in fact a totalitarian institution, depending on the money of the much less than 1% to control the 99.999%. If we can create democracy closer to real democracy, preferably much closer, we can eliminate the power of the capitalist ruling class, which controls the media, the governments, and the educational system.

Small-group pyramidal participatory democracy, which needs no money for elections, would do it. Each group would elect a delegate to represent it at the next level. In words of C. B. Macpherson:
"The delegates would have to be sufficiently instructed by, and accountable to, those who elected them, to make the decisions at the council level reasonably democratic. So it would go on up to the top level, which would be a national council for matters of national concern, and local and regional councils for matters of less than national concern.. . . What is needed, at every stage, to make the system democratic, is that the decision-makers and issue-formulators elected from below be held responsible to those below by being subject to re-election or even recall." (108-109, see below).

Further details may be obtained from Macpherson's book, The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy, Oxford University Press, 1977, 108-115.

Were the system of democracy proposed by Macpherson in place, capitalism could not survive.


#3 Brad Hornick 2014-10-04 19:41 EST
Fact checking before publishing
Both the Bullet and New Politics should get their facts right before publishing articles. Dan La Botz suggests that the "Global Climate Convergence" (GCC) organized the 300,000 people attending the New York March. It also suggest that the GCC organized the 120 workshop "Teach In" in New York the day before the March. Wrong on both counts.

The People's Climate March was organized by a large umbrella of organizations, with and Avaaz at the leadership. GCC was one of two important groups that organized the Teach In. The second is System Change Not Climate Change ( The latter of the two is the only explicitly "anti-capitalist" and ecosocialist network.

These details should be important for any understanding on the dynamics between key groups organizing such a significant historical events. Getting the specific configuration of organizations and social forces at play here, should be of utmost importance to social theorists attemtping to understand the significance of the week's events. Hoping that both publications now make a disclaimer clear about this false information.

#2 Anonymous 2014-09-30 12:33 EST

I suggest we spend equally as much energy on changing governments everywhere that have been absorbed in neoliberalism, the policies that have destroyed everything worth having all over the world.

Until we have moved the politic to somewhere at least near centre we are not going to save the planet because the right wing is fighting to destroy as hard as the left is to save and they have all the money and power.

#1 jc 2014-09-30 07:31 EST
Climate March
With 60 BILLION food animals on the planet, this should be our first step in the Climate March!

"As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future: deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease." Worldwatch Institute, "Is Meat Sustainable?"

"If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains... the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads." Environmental Defense Fund

"A 1% reduction in world-wide meat intake has the same benefit as a three trillion-dollar investment in solar energy." ~ Chris Mentzel, CEO of Clean Energy

There is one single industry destroying the planet more than any other. But no one wants to talk about it...

Step by Step Guide: How to Transition to a Vegan Diet

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