Category Archive : Student strikes

Open Letter To Unions: UKSCN Stands in Solidarity

Like all ecosocialists, RedGreen Labour supporters have been inspired by the growth of environmentalism amongst school students and the combative and witty protests that have been taking place up and down Britain – and internationally – over the last six months. Many of us will be marching in solidarity next Friday, June 21.

But the labour movement has now been thrown a welcome challenge by young people now – calling for more involvement for the Earth Stike action on September 29. We are thrilled that the Baker’s Union has already supported this call – lets see what the rest of us can do.

UKSCN understands the power of protest. We understand the power of global collective action, and the necessity for economic and civil disruption. We understand the necessity for real, immediate, radical systemic change.

But as it stands, our generation has no future. We, the next generation of workers, will face not only an increasingly insecure job market, zero hour contracts and falling living standards, but also the destructive impacts of the climate crisis. Climate breakdown will bring food shortages, a lack of resources, and will displace millions, and we know that this system will pass on these burdens to working people. This catastrophe will increase inequality on an extreme scale.

The great tradition of unions and workers striking is one UKSCN have already begun to follow. The youth have shown a radical consciousness and international solidarity, striking to make our voices heard, striking to remind those in power that we are worthy of a future, a world, a planet on which we can not only survive, but can live, and breathe, and work.

That future is being held back from all of us – youth strikers and workers alike. Those at the frontline of the UK’s political dramas have taken their farce ever further, entrenching themselves so deeply in their fantasy world that they are blind to the fact that the stage itself is crumbling. The longer they pretend that our future is a vague concept, rather than a very real and tangible deadline, then the longer they fail us and sell us out, day after day after day, as we count down those 11 years we’ve been given, before a chain of events is set off that will totally and inevitably destroy the industries that working communities rely on.

We, the youth strikers, thank you, workers and unions for the workers across history who went on strike, and struggled for the rights we have today. Now is the time to see through the lies that they feed us to keep us – workers and young people, the most powerful forces, the real creators of change in our society – apart.

Our struggle is your struggle. Your fight is our fight too. The rights of one are the rights of the many, and that equity – social and environmental – is what we will continue to fight for, until we get justice.
The same bosses who cut wages are polluting the air. The same bosses who tried to stop workers fighting for their rights are heating up the planet. The same bosses you fought in the past are the ones we will defeat together. You forced politicians to take action and so will we.

This is not only a show of our and a plea for your solidarity, but also a warning. We must totally decarbonise our economy and create a new, unionised, well paid workforce in green industries, or face the devastating impact on working communities that the climate crisis will bring.

So join us. Let us unite our struggles and work together. We ask you to pledge that you will:
1. Invite us to your branch meetings to speak.

2. Pass motions to end support for high carbon sectors, industries that send our generation’s future up in flames.

3. Join us in calling for Green New Deal, making sure that the inevitable change is worker-led, and that not one job is lost but millions are created. Stand with us as we call for a just, worker-led transition from a self-destructive capitalist system into one that prioritises social equity and climate justice.

Let us demonstrate together, recognising that the struggles for climate and worker justice are one and the same. Take industrial action and we youth strikers will stand there with you in solidarity. And where unions mobilise, let us look to coordinate with the youth strikes, to strike together for our collective cause.

We know that the proponents of fossil fuel capitalism, those bosses who simultaneously exploit working people and the planet, will respond to one thing only – profit. Youth strikers have shown the power of collective action, now is the time to challenge those in power through a general strike. Because the struggle for climate justice is a workers’ struggle, the workers of today and the workers of the future must mobilise now to challenge the system that threatens us all.

Our call for a general strike will be heard by politicians because that is a testament to the power of workers. That power is our government’s greatest fear. So be a part of that general strike. On the 27th of September, we will reclaim the streets together. Not just for our economy, or for our politicians. We will fight for our jobs, for our families, for our traditions. Together, we will fight for the future.

In solidarity,

UK Student Climate Network.

The climate is changing – why aren’t we

I’m in my mid-sixties and have been politically active since my late teens, writes Terry Conway. This week I have had one of the most positive political experiences of my life, supporting young people organizing against climate change. Their energy, their political sophistication and their sense of humour is infectious.

It started a week ago when I looked up youthstrike4climate on facebook. I messaged the address to see if there were any flyers for the protest today. I got a reply within a couple of hours and discovered the person answering lived near me and could provide me with leaflets.

I’m involved in Islington Labour Environment Forum and organized with other activists from there and our recently set up Islington Young Labour to leaflet outside our local university. We went in the early morning so also caught a load of young people on their way to school. The response we received was hugely positive and posters we stuck up were largely there 4 days later.

The day before the strike I came out of my flat and discovered a poster tied to a nearby lamp post telling me there was a gathering of local children and parents supporting the action in a park 5 minutes away. I went there on the way to Parliament Square and tapped into a network of people with children at my local primary school and playgroup. There were around 40 of us in that small area. Inspiring.
Together with a local Labour councillor who had also come to the park I made my way to Parliament Square. We changed tubes at Victoria – and it was already clear we were in for a treat. There was a group of maybe 8 young men, probably aged around 16, on the platform with hand-made posters from a school in Notting Hill. They reckoned about 1000 pupils from their school had taken action.

Leaving the tube, it was as if the demonstration was all around us and when we emerged the scene was remarkable. The traffic had been stopped in several directions and dozens of youth had taken over an open-topped tourist bus and were chanting and waving signs from the top as the throng around them cheered and sang in response.

/caption]Almost everyone had their own home-made sign. Some were hastily put together, others had been more carefully crafted. Slogans focused not only directly on climate itself but on other issues – particularly the biodiversity crisis. The wit and imagination behind them was as palpable as the energy of the activists. There were some newspaper sellers and their placards but they were massively outnumbered.

/caption]

The slogans on the banners and on people’s lips were fascinating. What do we want? Change. When do we want it now was probably the dominant chant – and had many reflections on cardboard. Later I saw a 17 year-old interviewed for the Manchester Evening News telling the journalist that extreme storms were being caused by the climate crisis. Another young man spoke about Trump’s climate denial, that the movement was international and that there would be a world day of action on March 15. Well informed, confident and politically coherent.

Most people were in the road – some sitting down, others milling around. The police were hardly to be seen at that point – just a few blocking us getting nearer to the entrance to Parliament. People climbed onto lamp posts and some onto the tops of buses -with a confidence I wouldn’t have had at their age. Every so often the police moved a group off one bit of road to let a couple of cars through but a new blockade surged behind them blocking the other side of a road.

Some of the police spoke down to the young people who they were trying to persuade to move – telling them they were stupid to climb up for example. When I responded saying it was much more stupid to ignore the threat of climate change I got a big cheer from those around me.
Later I managed to meet up with a couple of people from Islington Young Labour. I heard that people had earlier blocked the bridge and that a couple of people had apparently been arrested. I reckon if most of those present had been older the tally would have been a lot higher.

Eventually I decided to leave and made my way to the tube. But my political discussions weren’t finished. There was a group of half a dozen young women with placards getting on alongside me. They told me they were from a school in West London and that half their sixth form were out. They were being the change we need to see.

And of course it didn’t end even when I got home because I have been reading dozens of messages from across Britain – and some from other parts of the world, about what has been happening elsewhere. They include information from people who stayed in central London longer than I did telling that the police became more aggressive later and did use horses to clear the roads. I am pretty sure this will further strengthen the determination of those involved to be back on the streets very soon.

And as for the Tories condemning pupils being away from school because it creates more work for teachers this will just multiply the number of workers supporting the students – including those planning to demonstrate the same outside the Department of Education next week.

And we all need to work out how to spread the word even further for the next strike on March 15.

Climate, class, and revolting children

Radical action on climate change should be the many versus the few, not the young versus the old, writes Chris Saltmarsh.

The global wave of student strikes for climate action has come to the UK. We should unequivocally support these young people to have their voices heard, especially as the clock ticks in the 12-year countdown to implement measures to avoid runaway climate breakdown.

Holly Gillibrand, 13, has already instigated protests in Scotland and there are plans for a nationwide day of action on 15 February 2019. These actions come as tens of thousands of students have held similar strikes in countries across the world.

Students from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Japan, Switzerland, the UK and the United States have taken part, having been inspired by sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg’s protests outside the Swedish Parliament.

Strong words

Thunberg’s protests coincided with the World Economic Forum 2019 in Davos, where elites gather to discuss how to keep markets ‘free’. Days before, 35,000 teenagers marched in Brussels, while students in Basel and Berlin planned sit-ins.

The narrative of the student-led protests has straddled two compelling lines. Naturally, they convey a strong sense of intergenerational injustice. The protests also lay blame for climate injustice primarily at the feet of the rich and powerful.

At the demo after thousands of Australian students brought Melbourne traffic to a standstill, 11-year-old Lucie Atkin-Bolton told crowds, “When kids make a mess, adults tell us to clean it up and that’s fair. But when our leaders make a mess, they’re leaving it to us to clean up.”

Greta Thunberg challenged UN leaders telling them, “you say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.” These are strong words that leaders need to hear. They decisively expose the hypocrisy between their moral intuitions and the consequences of their political choices.

From Davos, Thunberg told the BBC: “My message was that most emissions are caused by a few people, the very rich people, who are here in Davos.” She goes on to assign them “huge responsibility” for safeguarding future living conditions.

Holly Gillibrand of the Scotland protests recently said: “I am striking because we are running out of time. Thousands of children around the world should not be having to miss classes because of our leaders’ inability to treat the climate crisis as a crisis.”

Holly’s right. It’s indicative of the scale of climate breakdown’s injustices that children are forced to become activists. It shows how severely they’ve been let down by our current decision makers and those that have come before.

Intergenerational activism

These messages show how successfully the analysis of climate change as injustice has become entrenched. It is most starkly understood by disenfranchised children that we are already enduring the impacts of climate breakdown distributed disproportionately along the lines of race and class, experienced by those who contributed least to the crisis.

When climate justice narratives focus on intergenerational injustice, we distract from some of the contemporary realities of the crisis.

When winters get colder and fuel remains expensive, its older people who die. Landgrabs driven by capital’s desire for more coal mines or the displacement of people by flooding, drought and food insecurity are all harms afflicting people disproportionately in the global South today.

As well as her more radical messaging, Thunberg says, “We need to hold the older generations accountable for the mess they have created, and expect us to live with. It is not fair that we have to pay for what they have caused.”

But “older generations” have not acted – or have failed to act – as a homogenous bloc. It is a generation of the wealthy and powerful that have inflicted climate harms on the poor and colonised of their own generation as well as the next.

The younger generation too is not homogenously righteous. Those of it who inherit capital and end up running our society are equally likely to continue the bad work of those who precede them.

We should embrace the energy brought by students taking radical action and use it to catalyse taking our wider organising to the next level. We also mustn’t lose sight of the primary antagonism in the climate crisis.

The rich are waging a class war on the poor and climate change is the symptom. It is not the older versus the young. Intergenerational solidarity is the way forward.

This Author
Chris Saltmarsh is co-director of Climate Change Campaigns at student activist network People & Planet. He tweets at @chris_saltmarsh.

Republished from The Ecologist