Hundreds of thousands of people, led by school students, took part in protests across Britain on Friday calling for action to tackle climate change and the system that causes it.
It was by far the biggest ever climate protest in Britain and a massive step forward. It has offered a different vision of politics and democracy that is so different from waiting for the next election or the rotten manoeuvres in parliament.
Organisers said that around 100,000 people took part in a rally and march in central London, with around 20,000 in Edinburgh, 15,000 in Glasgow and 10,000 in Brighton and Leeds.
There were also 6,000 in Bristol and 5,000 in Manchester. In towns and cities across Britain there were big rallies that combined exuberance at being out on the streets and bitter anger at the lack of action over climate change.
In several places there were road blocks and occupations. People know the urgency of the situation and want action now.
It was part of a global day of action that has seen strikes and protests in nearly every part of the world.
In London mostly young people marched down Whitehall and around Embankment chanting, “Boris Johnson—fuck off back to Eton!” And, “Where the fuck is the government?”
The mood was energetic, angry and upbeat. Protester Jasmine was on a climate demonstration for the first time.
“I came because I feel really passionately about the environment,” she told Socialist Worker.
“Plus I’ve got a little one, and it’s quite frightening thinking about what kind of world she will inherit.
“This isn’t only about climate change though - it goes much deeper. I feel there’s a lack of love in the world.”
There was much more workers’ action than during any previous climate strike. There were some walkouts at, for example, Soas University of London and a big turnout of workers at Camden council. Some Manchester transport workers took action and in many places there were lunchtime protests and other activities.
That sounds modest, but it is very significant that workers—collectively and as organised workers—have begun seriously to discuss taking part in the strikes.
Many workers report how the agitation over the climate is breathing new life into their union, and making a fightback more likely on other fronts.
This must rapidly be built on, both in workplaces and in the climate movement.
Pressure from below forced the unions to highlight the day. But the trade union leaders were very late to offer any sort of support. And many spent most of their time publicising what was not allowed under the anti-union laws rather than encouraging resistance.
Union members must now demand much more.
Capitalism is failing humanity. Its drive for profit ignores the needs of billions of people.
On the day of the strike the Financial Times newspaper ran an article headlined, “Where will humans live if Earth becomes uninhabitable?”
It reported that Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, had plans for “huge spinning cylinders” in orbit around the world.
There has to be a bigger climate movement, and it has to be targeted at capitalism.
There will not be a solution to climate change in a world dominated by the priorities of billionaires and competing national states.
On 7 October Extinction Rebellion will take to the streets of London in another wave of determined protests, with a trade union day set for 12 October. And the next school strike is 18 October.
Building on today’s momentum is vital.