Building a Red-Green Alliance

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Dave Riley writes:

While it may be urgent that we create a red green alliance to strengthen radical social action to stop climate change, our collective problem is: how are we going to do that?

The Climate Change Social Change Conference held in Sydney Australia during April tried to tackle that challenge.This was a bold attempt to bring together left and green activists in order to locate a shared perspective around which we could begin more consciously organize. While this was an Australian event organised by the newspaper, Green Left Weekly, the conference also heard from the Cuban permaculturalist Roberto Perez; the editor of Monthly Review John Bellamy Foster (author of Marx’s Ecology); and Patrick Bond director of the Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa; editor of Climate Change, Carbon Trading and Civil Society.

Foster and Perez urged the conference’s participants to consider socialism as the only viable solution to the climate emergency. This was a persistent theme discussed throughout the three day event as speakers were drawn from a range of environment movements and organizations (such as the Australian Greens and Friends of the Earth) as well as academic specialists — who preferred solution packages which were not consciously committed to a socialist transformation of society..

Nonetheless, the plenaries and workshops teased out a lot of agreement over what can concretely be done today.

The final Conference statement tried to articulate that shared perspective. It argued that climate sustainability can be built on five basic elements:

  1. properly resourced public agencies to drive the sustainability effort,
  2. an international framework where the First World pays the vast bulk of the price of reversing global warming,
  3. an end to rampant consumerism,
  4. vastly strengthened campaigns for climate sustainability, and
  5. building a powerful political alliance for climate sustainability with social justice.

This statement is also being distributed as a generic sign on statement world wide that can function as a collective organizer for the sort of alliances that need to be built and the sort of discussions we need to have. As the document concluded:

The signatories to this statement come from a wide range of backgrounds—climate activism, scientific climate research, Green, socialist, Indigenous, feminist and many more. We do not agree on all the issues in play in the great, complex debate about how to confront and defeat global warming, but we do agree on the basic approach outlined in this statement. We understand that ongoing involvement in the struggle for climate sustainability will give us the best chance of further developing policy against global warming and resolving present differences.

You can review the conference deliberations by accessing the digital recordings of most of the conference events and ongoing reports are being published in Green Left Weekly.

The absence however of wide participation from among the socialist left, outside the sponsoring organizations such as the Socialist Alliance, suggests that a lot more attention has to be invested by reds to turn green. The challenge thrown up not only by the Cuban example of sustainability — explained by Roberto Perez — and the ecological relevance of Marxism –as argued by John Bellamy Foster — gave many greens much food for thought and many lefts a lot of inspiration.

The local –and perhaps unique — advantage was that Green Left Weekly has been published for 17 years here with a very clear focus on trying to marry left and green politics. Without the respect the paper has earned, it is hard to imagine that this conference could have been pulled off.

As conference featured speaker, Dick Nichols told LeftCast (my podcast program) the challenge now is to find concrete ways to build the red/green alliance that is so urgently needed by going out there and doing it any way we can.

Dave Riley is a member of the Socialist Alliance in Australia. He blogs and podcasts at LeftClick