National Sections of the L5I:

Seize the day! Cochabamba conference is an historic opportunity for our movement

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Statement of the League for the Fifth International on the day that the Cochabamba conference on climate change has opened

• No more Copenhagens – build a mass movement to force the great powers to cut their emissions

• Workers, peasants and indigenous peoples – let’s link the fight against the crisis to the battle to save our environment

• Capitalism is to blame – we need socialist planning not market anarchy with its spiralling pollution and inequality

The “world conference of the peoples on climate change and the rights of mother earth” is about to take place in Cochabamba in Bolivia. It will be the largest and most representative global summit against climate change ever held. From 22 to 24 April, thousands of activists of social movements, representatives of environmental organisations, peasants’ and indigenous peoples’ organisations, trade unions and left wing political parties will participate.

It was called for by Bolivia’s first indigenous president Evo Morales in December 2009 as a response to the complete failure of the Copenhagen summit last year – a fiasco caused by the unwillingness of the major imperialist states and emerging regional powers to agree on any meaningful measures to limit global warming. Their failure reflects the simple fact that they were not willing to pursue any measures that would hinder their capitalist economies: profit always comes first for these powers. That also explains their failure to give adequate compensation to countries directly facing extreme weather events – to address a developing climate disaster which the “developed and developing” countries’ pollution caused in the first place.

Evo Morales, Hugo Chavez and other leaders from the Global South correctly denounced the Copenhagen fiasco and exposed the role of the imperialist powers in forcing already impoverished countries to carry the burden of combating environmental destruction and the human misery it is bringing.

Moreover, Morales rightly pointed out in his own speech in Copenhagen what are the real roots of global warming, climate change and the threat of destruction of whole regions and even entire countries like some islands in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.

"That's why we want to reiterate this point, that the causes lie in capitalism. If we do not identify the causes, we will certainly never be able to solve this problem that affects all of us and not just one continent alone, not just one nation alone, not just one region alone. Therefore, it is our duty, to determine the causes of climate change and I have the responsibility to say to my people and to the people of the world that the reasons can be found. (...) in capitalism. Everyone complains about climate change, but no one protests against capitalism, the worst enemy of Humanity.” (Speech of Evo Morales, Copenhagen 17,12,2009)

Evo Morales is right that capitalism is the root cause of the threatening environmental catastrophe and that the criminals of Copenhagen – the leaders of the great capitalist powers responsible for pollution of the air and the seas – will never themselves undertake measures which can halt or even seriously slow down this process.

That is why overthrowing them and replacing capitalism is the only way to save humanity’s natural environment. To counteract the destructive processes underway, to replace a “development” that leads to disaster for billions with one based on eliminating poverty, disease, one that creates equality, it is necessary to plan production to do just these things.

The chaotic, blind, competitive race for profit must be ended. This requires a revolution –a socialist revolution. And this can only be made by the working class in every country, in an alliance with the small farmers, the indigenous communities, the oppressed nations of the world, women, migrants, and youth. A real revolution means taking the power out of the hands of the exploiters and putting in into the hands of the working masses: no piecemeal series of reforms will do.

Nevertheless, we are right to demand that the rulers of the world take measures NOW to cut carbon emissions on the scale that scientists say is necessary to halt or reverse climate change and to stop killing the oceans We need to win the working population of the major polluter states – the USA - the European Union –China, to rise up against their rulers and tell them that if they will not solve this problem then they must make way for those who will save humanity- the working people of the world.

Morales not only denounced and exposed the imperialist leaders, their advisors and “experts”. He also called for an alternative summit from below, which should bring together all those, who really want to do something to avoid an environmental disaster.

We warmly welcome this step. The gathering in Cochabamba could and should become a real starting point for a common, international movement to fight against an impending climate catastrophe.

Cochabamba is an historic opportunity. We urge the thousands of activists there to agree a fighting call to action in the closing assembly. This should include the building of a mass movement of all those opposed to the Copenhagen farce, to organise mass demonstrations in the cities of every major power that sabotaged a climate agreement – from Beijing, to Melbourne, London and New York.

It should link the fight of workers, peasants and indigenous peoples against the world recession to the battle to save our environment, by fighting for millions of new green jobs created through programmes of public works, funded by taxing the rich, corporations and financiers.

Discussion is good but a call to action is even better!

However, the way the summit is organised, and the proposed political direction and final declaration, put in question whether the great potential of the summit will be realised.

There are two possibilities. Cochabamba could take the movement forward to create a real fighting movement with common demands and aims and internationally co-ordinated actions or it could replicate the problems of the social forum movement over the last decade, and be little more than a talking shop.

The way the agenda and framework of the gathering have been put together suggests it may go in the latter direction. There are some 17 different “axes” to be discussed. There need be no doubt that the workshops and seminars will generate useful and even inspiring discussions of the many aspects of the environmental crisis. Activists – particularly from Latin America and Asia, where most will come from – will exchange ideas and experience. They will learn from each other’s actions and be able to co-ordinate better in the future.

But, unfortunately, like the social forums, there is no democratic and transparent mechanism by which these thousands of activists can decide the political outcome of the meeting. Nothing demonstrates this more clearly than the draft of the final declaration. This document, called the ‘General Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth’ has been written by the Jesuit liberation theologists Leonardo Boff and Miguel D-Escoto in the name of Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega.

The document does not propose any course of common action against those responsible for exploiting the soil and the labourers working it. Instead, it presents itself as a further UN-charter “completing” the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.

It does not provide a course of action against the landowners, agri-business and the large industrial polluters, i.e. those who own “mother earth” and who destroy the sustainability of the land and viable living conditions on earth. Rather, it evaporates the real burning question of what actions we can take worldwide against the polluters into a haze of poetic and quasi religious phrases like the invocation :

”Gratefully acknowledging that Mother Earth gives us life, nourishes and teaches us and provides us with all that we need to live well; recognizing that Mother Earth is an indivisible community of diverse and interdependent beings with whom we share a common destiny and to whom we must relate in ways that benefit Mother Earth; acknowledging that by attempting to dominate and exploit Mother Earth and other beings, humans have caused severe destruction, degradation and disruption of the life-sustaining communities, processes and balances of Mother Earth which now threatens the wellbeing and existence of many beings; conscious that this destruction is also harmful to our inner wellbeing and is offensive to the many faiths, wisdom traditions and indigenous cultures for whom Mother Earth is sacred; …”

An important practical question of the struggle of many indigenous peoples to survive, is preventing the destruction of the rainforests in Latin America, Central Africa and South East Asia. Logging, mining and oil multinationals as well as ranchers and agribusinesses are using thugs and death squads to kill or drive out the original population so that they can plunder the natural resources. The movements of indigenous peoples have contributed a huge amount to raising these issues and deserve the fullest support of all struggling against climate catastrophe.

We hope there will be opportunities in the conference to amend this document; to give it the character of a plan of action – with clear, concrete demands on world leaders and a set of mass, co-ordinated actions for the movement to undertake in the period ahead.

Why is the summit organised in this way?

Firstly, it is not simply a summit of “social movements”, of the workers’, peasants’ and indigenous peoples’ organisations; it is also a summit of governments.

It will be attended by governmental officials – prime ministers, ministers, secretaries – and UN-representatives who were critical of the Copenhagen fiasco. Good! Activists should demand that every one of them join in a denunciation of the Copenhagen Summit and name the countries that are refusing to take action. They should support all the countries that are threatened with aid and trade cuts by the US, the EU, China etc, and expose this shameful bullying. But no great hopes should be placed in the capitalist governments, even of the countries exploited by imperialism.

Certainly, many of these – like, for example, the Brazilian or Nicaraguan governments – do not have exactly blameless records of taking decisive measures to safeguard the environment at home or of “supporting their people”, as Evo Morales phrases it.

Even the most left wing governments, like the Bolivarian trio of Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, have all conducted a policy of reforms, oscillating between the interests of the mass of their supporters from the peasantry, the urban poor and the working class on the one hand and defending private capitalist property on the other. Indeed, none of these governments and their iconic leaders has taken any decisive measures to uproot capitalist ownership or power – over the factories, banks and estates of the big landowners.

It is true that, under pressure, they have taken greater state control over the oil, gas and natural wealth of their countries and introduced measures of redistribution, of healthcare, of increasing literacy and education. But these are already threatened by the historic period of capitalist crisis which erupted in 2008. The working masses, the indigenous peoples, stand at a crossroads. To protect their gains and make more decisive ones they must go forward to expropriate the bankers, the industrialists, and the ranchers. They must break the economic, political and military power of the oligarchies and their imperialist backers in order to prevent them from staging a comeback, a counterrevolution.

It is clear that these politicians – in particular the most overtly pro-imperialist ones, but also the left populist regimes – do not want to be put under control of such a summit.

They are quite happy with a final declaration that is full of religious and spiritual phrases that do not bind them to any concrete actions in the countries they govern. They do not want to be bound to act against those who own “mother earth”, i.e. the land, the raw materials and natural resources, the factories and so on.

The second, related, point is that the organisers – i.e. the government of Bolivia and its international supporters – represent a narrow and reformist vision of “socialism”. Their alternative to imperialist rule over the world is not the overthrow of a system based on private property and profit and its replacement by a system of global planning for the needs of humanity. It is rather to replace large scale production with small and medium forms of private commodity production, i.e. small farmers, small and medium sized companies and a state that will provide the “common goods” such as infrastructure, water, energy and housing.

This model of a “mixed economy” with both state and market elements will not solve the problems for humanity. Why not? Because it will not get to the root of the problem: capitalism. It will still be confronted with the economic might and sabotage of the ruling class, the capitalists and large landowners and their state apparatus.

At best it would mean the populist and reformist governments, heading a bourgeois state, would carry on their previous policy of oscillation, which would, at the end of the day, satisfy the needs of neither the poor nor the rich.

We – the workers and peasants need to go further.

We need to fight for workers’ inspection and control of industrial production, of agriculture, transport and fisheries, especially over all those processes and practices known to be in the forefront of environmental degradation. Workers should demand, the development of “clean” processes wherever possible and their cessation where not, but with all workers on full pay and under no worse conditions until their redeployment.

We need to replace capitalism with an economic system directed by the people themselves, that is, a system of social ownership and democratically planned production. We need to break up the repressive institutions of capital, the bourgeois state, and replace it by a government and state based on workers’ and peasants’ councils and militias.

What are the next steps?

We appeal to the grassroots activists and their fighting organisations present at the summit to demand that it engages in a real debate about the strategy and future of the movement, and that it agrees and adopts goals and demands, including emergency targets and plans against climate change.

Further, we call on activists in Cochabamba to issue a clear call for a plan of common actions in the months and years ahead. They should set up an international co-ordination for this and also convene another summit within the next year to take the movement forward. For this we propose the following demands:

• Impose a global target of a maximum 1 degree Celsius increase in global temperatures

* We need the rapid end to the production of internal combustion engine road vehicles and a massive expansion of integrated public transport systems

• We need a planned phasing out of all energy production based on the burning of fossil fuels and a massive investment in alternative sources of power generation such as wind, wave and solar power. No new coal fired power stations

• Stop the introduction of a new generation of nuclear power stations in private hands, the uncompensated nationalisation of the entire industry. Workers’ inspection of plants and immediate closure of all found to be unsafe.

• Heavily fine the corporate polluters, jailing their owners, CEOs etc. Protect and reward whistleblowers

• End the carbon trading rip-off by which rich polluting countries bribe poor ones to hold back their development

• Tax the rich and corporate polluters to fund a programme of public works to create millions of environmentally sustainable jobs

• No to regressive “green” taxation - all such taxes must be steeply progressive, making the rich and the corporate polluters pay

• Expropriate the “clean tech” entrepreneurs and venture funds planning to make billions out of climate change

• We need a huge global programme of reforestation, restoration of areas degraded by the effects of climate change, the protection of biodiversity

• Redeployment of all workers in polluting industries on equal pay and conditions into work which allows them to use their skills and experience to save the planet and developing a decent life for all its inhabitants

• Trade unions in the polluting industries: break with your bosses! Stop defending their harmful processes and fight to impose either far reaching clean up measures or, if that is not possible, closure and the redeployment of the workforce

• For campaigns by trade unions and peasant rights’ organisations against polluting practices. Workers to have more rights in the workplace, more health and safety protection and for it to be enforced by trade union representation

• No to the patenting of genetic material: for independent workers’ and scientists’ control and testing before any genetically modified crops are released. Nationalisation of the entire biotechnology industry

• A massive programme of protective measures for all those regions and countries already suffering the effects of climate change, paid for by the big polluters - both states and corporations

• A democratic plan of environmentally sustainable production to develop the world so that all of its people can enjoy a decent living standard. Cancel the entire third world debt.

We can and must start the fight for each and every one of these demands now. But in order to decisively save the planet we need the political power to impose then directly. NGO lobbying was finally discredited in Copenhagen. Only breaking the hold of the corporate polluters on state power will give us the power to make the changes we need in time to prevent catastrophe.

Only the working class, allied to the urban and rural poor, has the strength to do this. For this reason we support the call made in Caracas by Hugo Chavez to convene a meeting of socialist and anticapitalist parties from around the world to debate the founding of a Fifth Socialist International. We believe that such an international must be independent of all governments – including that of Venezuela. We believe it must be a working class International independent of all bourgeois parties. We believe that it has to become a fighting world party socialist revolution.

It is only socialism – with economic and political power exclusively in the hands of the exploited and the oppressed - where production is planned to achieve equality, to overcome the separation between town and countryside, and to meet the essential needs of the whole of humanity - that can create an equilibrium between the well being of our species and the maintenance of its natural environment.