A world to win - and everything to lose

Cropclimate revolution

​The climate emergency has seen campaigners synthesise the contradiction between reform and replacement of the system

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1st November 2019 by Graham Martin 2 Comments

It’s all too easy to get lost in the present and attach historical significance to events which, in hindsight, are ephemeral.

For example, who remembers the fuel protests of the early naughties? I remember working on a big tabloid during the 2005 events, watching pages getting cleared for coverage and writing screeds and screeds about them.

They seemed really significant at the time – but in reality they have followed the Cod War, the mould-shattering (ahem) emergence of Change UK, that Stone Roses comeback single and the 2001 general election (honestly, the dullest ever) onto the list of events which people know have happened but can’t remember much about.

However, it does seem that right now we are in the grip of A Moment.

And I don’t mean Brexit, which will sadly also be seen to have been era-defining. I’m talking about the growing movement round about the environment, which has seen its (thus far) fullest expression in the school strikes and the Extinction Rebellion protests.

This movement had its bearings magnetised by THE event of our age – the still-unfolding crisis of world capitalism following the cataclysm of 2008

We have been here before, of course, with environmental movements. I’m boring enough to remember the brief Green Party surge in the 1989 European elections, the movement against CFCs, Swampy and tiresome acid jazz quarter-wits Galliano writing a song about the Twyford Down road protests. In fact, I’m even boring enough to remember acid jazz, but we digress.

But this present movement feels different in that it is truly an avenging spirit of its times – a movement with its bearings magnetised by THE event of our age – the still-unfolding crisis of world capitalism following the cataclysm of 2008.

On the left, there used to be talk about reform or revolution: basically, how much do you push for reforms to the system, and when is the point when you talk about overthrowing it. If you push for too many reforms, do you end up propping up the system, do you end up in fact sowing dangerous illusions in it, the idea – widespread still – that the system can be made more humane, somehow, well, nicer.

The Extinction Rebellion movement, and to an extent the school strikers, have, in a short period of time – framed by the economic realities of the age and the existential threat of ecocide – wrestled with this and have begun to synthesise it, fleshing out Lenin’s gag about there being decades when nothing happens then weeks where decades happen.

It’s encapsulated by the simple, and excellent, slogan: system change, not climate change.

Despite the heterogeneous nature of the movement, despite its current weaknesses in terms of its social base, it is asking the correct questions and finding we need both reform of the system AND fundamental change – a ratchet must be set towards sane economics and progressive politics which cannot be undone – and these can happen at the same moment, indeed they must, given the scale of what we’re up against.

It is here, I’d argue, the third sector has a chance to make a real impact – we must engage with this new movement, and events like next year’s climate summit in Glasgow will provide splendid opportunities for that.

But we must be about more than greenwashing – or reform. We must synthesise our own ideas about what sort of society we’d like to see, and how we get there, and these must be fed into the discussions to come (and they will) about how we change society for the better.

I’ve said it before and will again – the third sector needs an ideology.

There are big battles ahead – do we have the guts to engage?

Graham Martin is editor of Third Force News.

1st November 2019 by lok Yue

Lets get on with looking after our beneficiaries, which is what were supposed to do. ER is generally well intentioned but highly hypocritical. They want the government to 'tell the truth' but are themselves guilty of lies (6 billion will die but no evidence is adduced) and the want an unelected forum to be able to overrule democratically elected government. Oh and Sturgeon has announced a climate emergency but this is not even defined. And of course, luvvies fly in from the US first class to deliver vegan snacks from pink boats)

6th November 2019 by John

For a sector that has been fighting bad publicity for a number of years, is the risk of becoming involved in a decisive and disruptive campaign worth the risk