How can a class conflict over climate unite and strengthen demands for better working conditions and an end to environmental degradation? Beginning to assess this question is the first step in shaping a truly ecological transition. However, bridging environmental and social struggles also means confronting the contradictions that divide them, Jacopo Bonasera argues in his notes from an assembly hosted by the Transnational Social Strike Platform in Bologna.
From October 27 to 29, about two hundred militants, workers, and trade unionists from twenty different countries gathered in Bologna, Italy, to participate in the tenth meeting organized by the Transnational Social Strike Platform (TSS). They did so to face the question of how to break the barriers that divide us and build a transnational organization capable of fighting against war, exploitation, racism, and patriarchy, and for climate and social justice.
The meeting began with three workshops on social reproduction, migrant struggles, and the climate crisis. It then continued with two plenary assemblies: one focused on the challenges of transnational organizing, and the other, organized by the Permanent Assembly Against the War (PAAW), dealt with the political consequences of the war scenario in which we live. What emerged clearly from the meeting is that improving transnational communication and organization among struggles is not only the most important and difficult challenge of our present, but also the only chance we have to go beyond the local, national, and identity limits that force our initiatives into deadlocks. If we want to build a power to confront the forces and processes that affect our living and working conditions, we must face the riddle of transnational organizing, knowing that the solution can only be found through the coordinated development of tools, slogans, and political discourses that help us recognize differences and make them coalesce into a collective power.
Organizing transnational climate class conflicts
During the meeting, the Climate Class Conflict (CCC) initiative, which was born within the TSS platform in the fall of 2022 with the goal of connecting climate and class struggles at the transnational level, organized the workshop “Our Ecological Transition: Finding Ways to Fight for the Climate as a Class.” The workshop was attended by dozens of activists, workers, and trade unionists from different collectives, including Ums Ganze! and Interventionistische Linke (Germany), Anametrisi (Greece), Plan C (UK), Climate Class Conflict-It (Italy), Inicjatywa Pracownicza (Poland), Allt åt alla (Sweden), Solidaire (France), and Alternator (Romania).
The discussion highlighted the many reasons why the green transition should be seen as an anti-labor agenda and as a lever for aggressive national and international policies to control strategic new resources and better exploit older ones. The participants agreed that there are no simple solutions: the green transition is not homogeneous among states and requires a critique and actions capable of taking into account differences and showing their impact on wages and living conditions. Therefore, the commitment to organize transnational climate class conflicts is what we consider necessary to politicize the green transition; that is, to be able to oppose it by transforming the fragmentation that divides us into a common capacity to face its overall effects.
Struggles to undermine the pillars of this unjust transition are already taking place. This is where we see the possibility of building political links between militants and workers capable of countering the decisions of corporations and governments that are already taking place transnationally. We do not deny that there is a difference between fighting climate change per se and fighting the bosses who want workers to pay all the costs of the green transition. But we recognize that this difference can be politically productive if it is openly addressed. A struggle for power is already taking place within the green transition, and workers’ power is the basis for any just transition.
What does it actually mean to be anti-capitalist?
Therefore, we believe that an anti-capitalist climate movement cannot ask workers to side with the climate cause without facing up to the social and economic costs that the transition imposes on them, but rather must recognize the social power that is growing from within the green transition. That’s the perspective we want to take: how can a class conflict over climate unite and strengthen demands for better working conditions and an end to environmental degradation? How might this help us change the ways we already organize, drawing energy and new possibilities from a transnational understanding of our present conditions? Beginning to assess these questions is the first step in shaping “our ecological transition.”
The climate movement has been making the claim that “climate and social justice go together” for years. How can we frame this claim in the current political moment? How does it relate to our expectations as a class to fight for a better climate? Bridging environmental and social struggles is an important assumption, but it also means confronting the contradictions that divide them. Indeed, when we face the question of how to put this claim into practice, we see that there are still many questions to be answered and many tools to be developed. We still need a political discourse on the ways in which war, militarization, nationalism, patriarchal, and racist violence mix and reinforce each other, and also find a terrain to reproduce themselves in the capitalist green transition.
Confronting the global war regime
This is why we dared to say that it is not enough for us to define ourselves as “anti-capitalist” or “radical” in general, but that we need to take steps to specify how capitalism undermines the living and working conditions of millions of people around the world when it comes to green policies, investments and accumulation, and therefore how we can counter its effects; how capitalist wars, while killing people in Ukraine and Russia, Gaza and Israel and many other places around the world, are also imposing their logic off the battlefields, weakening the possibilities for migrants, workers, women and men to find ways to fight their struggles together.
In fact, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, capitalist warlords have recalibrated state-organized death and destruction to be both more overt (Israel’s “Operation Swords of Iron” in response to Hamas’ “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood”) and more incidental (Azerbaijan’s conquest of Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkey’s ongoing conquest of Kurdish territories). And while critical voices addressing the environmental impact of wars and maintaining military power in general are having a hard time to make themselves heard in times of nationalist war propaganda, war has been used by Western governments to reshape the scope and goals of the green transition. Thus, a transnational climate class conflict is also called for to assess the challenge of how to confront the war and its political consequences in relation to all the social struggles that it otherwise helps to silence and sideline.
Multiplication of struggles and strikes
Expropriation, impoverishment, lower wages, factory relocations, layoffs – all longstanding pillars of neoliberalism – are now part and parcel of how the green transition is materially changing the way people are employed and the conditions under which millions of them are forced to reproduce their lives. All of this while failing to concretely address the climate crisis. What we are seeing is a multiplication of struggles and strikes: in Italy we see workers striking not to be fired in the name of the transition away from fossil fuels, while in Germany and the US activists and workers are uniting against the idea that being green means firing auto workers who are not considered “useful” in the production of electric cars and vehicles.
At the same time, we see how the green transition is being used as a weapon to complete the process of neoliberalization of the market in Eastern European countries like Romania and Poland, and we see governments that deny the reality of climate change and blame migrants for the fires that destroy territories, as is happening in Greece. All these differences tell us of a green transition that is implemented at different speeds and paces in different countries and territories, and that can be both ideologically flaunted as a source of legitimacy and attacked to protect national economic and political interests. Only a transnational political platform can be the organizing tool we need to synchronize these differences, help us move across them, and develop ways to understand them as a whole. At TSS we commit to this transnational organizing process because we want to find answers to the many questions and challenges that haunt our attempts to build alliances as a climate class movement, because we are tired of war, capitalism, racism, and patriarchy hijacking our aspirations not to suffer violence and exploitation in a dying world.
Against this backdrop, the problem we face is to equip ourselves with common readings in order to be able to act in the long term, to accumulate strength and thus also to consolidate the TSS platform of which we are part. This is only possible if the transnational dimension becomes an integral part of all our initiatives. A climate class conflict is what we need to imagine a way out of the green transition and its unbearable logic, relying on the experiences of opposition to it that are already taking place, working to stretch their limits and accumulating strength from them. Therefore, as the Climate Class Conflict initiative, within the political framework of the TSS platform, we will continue to meet, exchange, and organize to confront the scenario in which we live, starting from the assumption that the capitalist green transition is a strategy for more accumulation and destruction, and that we must find ways to fight against it as a class.
Editor’s note: Info on TSS and its Climate Class Conflict initiatives can be found at: https://transnational-strike.info. If you are interested in reaching out to TSS, drop a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. Related issues are being addressed by the BG project “Allied Grounds,” have a look here: https://berlinergazette.de/projects/allied-grounds/