Stop climate change
Around 10,000 people turned up for the December 3 demonstration in central London to 'stop climate change'. The march was, for once, dominated not by the left, but by the Green Party. There were, however, large numbers of young people new to politics and many of them are open to different ideas, including those of working class socialism. Certainly, CPGB comrades found there was a more receptive attitude than, say, at most anti-war demonstrations, and this was reflected in the fact that we all but sold out of Weekly Workers Yet many of the operative demands of the environmental movement have a "top-down" approach - the demand for governments to implement the Kyoto accords, etc. I can see why the campaign against climate change decided to make that its focus. I think that tactically that was probably the right decision because, unless you're Tony Blair, everyone agrees we need international agreements of one sort or another. So it's a very broad demand that everyone can sign up to. From my point of view, I don't think it is radical enough and clearly an international treaty between governments is not the end of the matter. First, because we know these things are inadequate. The targets set by Kyoto are way to small to make any appreciable difference to the problem at all. Second, because it puts the movement into a rather patronising, almost imperialist position. I hate to agree with Margaret Beckett, but she describes some international agreements as 'imperialistic' and I sort of know she what she means. A way that a lot of people in the movement are thinking about this is quite patronising. There is the assumption that we, here in the 'white west', are educated and capable of taking mature decisions about the planet. Our job is then to pressurise Blair to sign up to some set of international targets and then simply call on other governments around the world to do the same - as if there are no grassroots movements in these countries as well. What we really need to be doing is building a global movement so that everyone, in every country, is in a position to pressurise their governments to make substantial cuts in emissions and so on. That is the genuinely democratic approach. But there is a more fundamental Marxist critique that needs to be thought about, surely. That is of how we relate to nature and its laws as a conscious species. Yes, there is. I have to admit that at the moment I am thinking about this in terms of achieving a particular political end - the sort of tunnel vision one gets when you are involved in particular campaigns and activism, I suppose. So, yes, there is definitely a place for taking a step back and thinking in more profound theoretical terms about the problem. I have been a little busy recently, however, so that has not been done in my case! It is necessary, though. Whatever our criticism of the Green Party and that brand of politics, it does offer big answers to the big questions. By comparison, the vision of something like Respect seems a little pinched. The Green Party does appear to offer something in the way of universal answers, but I'm not sure that's absolutely true when you look more closely. There is a big difference between what the Green Party says and what it actually does. One of the best examples of the problems with the Greens was when Jenny Jones was asked by members of my local Green Party branch what her proudest achievement was of her first year as a GLA member. Her answer - without a shred of irony I could detect - was that it was getting more bike parking spaces outside City Hall. Not really a 'big answer' there, then. So there is a definite disparity between what the Greens may say they are about and what they actually do in the real world. I think what is different about Respect is that it won't allow itself to be confined by simply what is 'doable'. What happens to the Green Party when it is elected is that it sets its sights very low, because that's what appears to them achievable. I think that Respect councillors - and George Galloway - have not allowed themselves to be constrained in that way. We must set our sights high if we are to achieve real results for people. But, as you say, genuine democracy comes from below, which means people must be empowered. We are critical of the Respect-Socialist Workers Party approach on this. The argument over leadership minutes at the recent council is an example ... Well, there are minutes produced of course. The only reason some national council meetings are not minuted is that sometimes they are overlooked or people are too busy. Having said that, this obviously was a point of controversy and criticism at the conference. I can see the point of view of the people who put motions on this and related questions to that meeting. I agree that we have not been as fastidious as we should have been. So more cock-up than conspiracy? That's what I think, yes.