The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) will be hosting an international seminar on “Climate Change and Class Struggle”, this coming Sunday 4 December 2011, Jabulile Ndlovu House, Corner Che Guevara and Umbilo Road, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal province.
The seminar will be addressed by the General Secretary of World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) Comrade(s) George Mavrikos (Greece), Third World Network Dale Wen (Germany), Global Labour Institute Sean Sweeney, Lara Skinner, Jill Kubitt (USA), Latin American and Caribbean Institute for Energy Studies Fidel Hernandez (Venezuela), Unitary Federation of Venezuelan Petrol Workers Will Rangel (Venezuela), and Environmental Rights Action/Oil Watch International and Oil watch Africa Nnimmo Bassey (Nigeria).
Climate change is occurring within the context of the economic, financial and political crisis of capitalism.
The solutions to the climate and energy crisis will be intimately connected to the ways out of this crisis.
Its long term resolution may be more or less emancipatory or more or less authoritarian.
We are in a long term systemic structural crisis of the capitalist system. Current efforts to restore growth are rapidly becoming increasingly authoritarian, and are being met with far-reaching, and even revolutionary, upsurges throughout much of the planet.
The solutions to the crisis of capitalism do not lie in finding the appropriate regulation, but in the extent to which movements are able to wage a worldwide process of class struggle from below, that seeks profound changes in worldwide relations of production and the reproduction of human life.
Similarly, climate change is intimately related to questions of production. What is produced, why, where, how and by whom? Who reaps the benefits and who pays the costs?
Consequently, the solutions to climate change will not be found by only seeking appropriate regulation, but by struggling for profound changes in the relations of production that exist in the world-division of labour, and also the relations of how people’s lives are reproduced.
However, as long as the key means of production and subsistence, as well as the decisions concerning production, remain in monopoly private hands, and production remains for the sake of profit in the (world) market, it is not even possible to take any collective and democratic decisions about the future of production.
This makes it almost impossible to have a meaningful discussion about, and take meaningful interventions around, climate change.
As such, there is an urgent need to put struggles for collective, democratic, and decommodified control of production at the centre of struggles around climate change.
In the past collective control of production was a key element of all strategies for radical social, political and economic transformation.
This included: communism, socialism, anarchism and national liberation strategies.
However, after years of market-reforms, this strategy is mostly absent from contemporary movements.
At best movements seek to regulate the private sector, tax it and or occasionally have some form of mixed economy.
This is especially true of many mainline trade unions and NGOs, who are deeply wedded to a model of change that is based in social dialogue and partnership, rather than class struggle.
This is true throughout much of the world, but especially in northern countries, where workers and communities have gained substantial material gains through engaging in dialogue with capital.
Few trade unions have a clear position on collective democratic ownership of key means of production.
Many land based struggles, either peasant or indigenous, or urban movements (many of which are led by women and made up of urban unemployed or “informal” workers), also have clear and strong positions regarding the struggle for common ownership.
There is a lot to be learnt from these perspectives, and they need to be strengthened, and find ways to learn from each other and support each other.
These vital discussions about class are frequently absent from large sections of the “climate justice movement”.
Frequently the movement is not rooted in workers struggles, and often results in integration into the dynamics of the United Nations (UN) system (even if this is not the stated intention).
This also includes the Just Transition approach, favoured by many trade unions.
As such, there is an urgent need to situate the question of climate change in a class struggle perspective.
This is necessary in order to collectively become strong enough to face the period ahead as the worldwide climate crisis and crisis of capitalism intensify.
This is a long- term process. It will not be solved in a 1-day seminar. The NUMSA seminar merely seeks to contribute to such a discussion.
The details of the Seminar are as follows:
DATE: Sunday 04 December 2011
TIME: 9H00am –until- 18H00pm
VENUE: Jabulile Ndlovu House, Cnr Che Guevara and Umbilo Road, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal
Members of the media are hereby invited to attend and report.
Cedric Gina, NUMSA President – +27 83 633 5381
Karl Cloete, NUMSA Deputy General Secretary – +27 83 389 077
Numsa Press Release