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We have to change the world in order to save it

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How are we going to overthrow the system that produces environmental destruction?
Issue 2779
Exrinction Rebellion protesters. Foreground is placard "System change not climate changee"

We need political organisation that fights to overthrow capitalism (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Cop26 is headed to be another failure. Politicians will present themselves as climate leaders. But afterwards, Boris Johnson will slash tax on domestic flights and offer enormous subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg was right to tell a protest, “Change is not going to come from inside there. That’s not leadership—this is leadership.”

How are we going to overthrow the system that produces environmental destruction?

There’s a danger that because it’s so daunting, activists can restrict their horizons to what seems achievable now—or collapse into fatalist despair.

This isn’t the first time mass extinction stalked the Earth. The First World War that began in 1914 was the most brutal conflict seen in human history until then.

The revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg denounced a system that had produced “fertile plains of death on which profits can grow”.

It was a war generated by the clash of competing capitalist nation states, which fed millions of ordinary people into the death grinder. And it was stopped not by liberal proclamations or peace appeals but by revolution.

When workers and peasants took power in Russia, the war ended in the East. It ended in the West when soldiers and sailors mutinied and tore down the government in Germany.

Those revolutions fused the immediacies of life with the revolt against the war that hung over every aspect of existence.

The revolutionary Bolsheviks’ appeal was for “Bread, Land, Peace”—and control by workers’ councils that offered a richer democracy than anything the system could provide. That’s what we need now. We need movements against war, racism, women’s oppression, LGBT+ oppression and everything that divides us. We need more strikes and protests and stronger trade unions.

But crucially we need political organisation that identifies the source of all exploitation and oppression—capitalism—and fights to overthrow it.

And we have to attack the bases of capitalism—private ownership and control, and nation state competition—that make a genuine solution to climate chaos impossible.

It was good to see climate activists and cleansing workers together on Glasgow picket lines this week. We need more of that.

Whenever people fight back, socialists have to be there with a vision of a different world.

If you’re demonstrating around Cop26, if you’re outraged by the system, then you should join the Socialist Workers Party.

Capitalism today means environmental destruction driven by a system that produces “fertile plains of death on which profits can grow”.

To resist climate change we need a revolution that puts people and the planet first.

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