Sunday 9 December 2007

Campaign Against Climate Change Demo

As the rain lashed down from a steely London sky, I wasn't alone yesterday in thinking the latest demonstration against global warming could have done with some climate change of its own. No more than 10,000 assembled at Millbank to put more pressure on Bush and Brown to match their hot air with real action against greenhouse emissions. Called by the Campaign Against Climate Change, the demonstration was mostly young and appeared quite new to politics. The rest were composed of NGOs, sundry environmentalists, religious groups, mainstream parties, eco-anarchists, and the revolutionary left. I came down with brothers F and N of Stoke Socialist Party to sell more of our fine T-shirts and make general propaganda pointing out system change is the only sustainable political answer to the problem of climate change.

The weather clearly depressed turn out, therefore numbers were only slightly up on last year. Unfortunately, the labour movement were far from prominent. Given the LRC's turn to reaching out to movements beyond the Labour party, their banner (and that of any constituency Labour party for that matter) was conspicuously absent. There were a couple of trade union banners but that was all. This is a real shame, because if we are to connect with a new generation of radical young people we have to make sure our movement is there and seen to be offering socialist alternatives to the guilty (green) liberalism on offer from the bulk of the NGOs and religious groups.

I was surprised to see a low turn out from the revolutionary left. The SWP only had 50-60 activists out, which is low considering the numbers it can usually mobilise for London marches. Did the rain put off the comrades, or has the split in Respect damaged them that severely? Speaking of which, it was difficult to tell the two Respects apart. You had to be an inveterate sectarian to be able to tell the difference. The SP only had about 30 comrades working the march and the rest of the revolutionary left had no more than a few dozen between them, and the bulk of that was taken up by Workers' Power's neatly arranged and eye-catching contingent. The CPGB-ML graced us with their presence, though somewhat disappointingly they had left their huge Stalin portrait at home. Also, the Green party deserves some credit for being organised enough to get hundreds of smart-looking placards printed up. However, the irony was not lost on SP comrades to see so many of them unceremoniously dumped about Grosvenor Square at the end of the march.

One thing our intrepid squad of socialist Stokies were not prepared for was the very low political level of the people we encountered. And I'm not talking about the young, raw activists for whom this was one of the first demos they'd been on. All Stoke SP activists are used to doing street stalls and talking to "normal" workers, so we did expect to encounter some more clued up politics, especially on a demo of this character. I spoke to a young SWP'er who tried to recruit me to their version of Respect. When I told her I was a member of the SP, she said I ought to still join anyway because "the Socialist Party doesn't stand in elections". News to me! She seemed genuinely surprised to learn we had five councillors. Okay, it has been oft-noted that SWP'ers generally don't know about the rest of the left, so I'll let that one pass. But what I won't is the disgraceful behaviour of a particularly obnoxious LibDem. We got into an argument about capitalism and the environment, and when I patiently explained to her the liberty she claimed to stand for could not be attained in a class system founded upon the exploitation of labour power, she went mental and started effing and blinding in my face, while her three young children looked on bemused. I must have hit a sore spot, but I gave as good as I got. Toward the end of the march I ended up having a word with a couple of self-defined ecologists. They must have been smoking something as they would not accept that the world's poorest would be hit hardest by climate change, instead they thought we would be affected equally. I would suggest these gentlemen go visit Bangladesh to find out how many millionaires have been displaced by the recent floods. Afterwards, brother F told me he'd been chatting to a bloke who was convinced these demos (mobilisations against climate change occurred in 50 other cities around the world) would immediately force Bush and Brown into taking action against those recklessly emitting carbon. I think someone got up today a very disappointed man. Again, to reiterate, these were not "new people", but activists who appeared to have been around the block a bit.

It wasn't all grim. I got to have a quick chat with a behooded and dripping Derek Wall about his surreal experiences of addressing two Respect conferences, the mooting of a joint blog exploring potential activist uses of academic social movement theory, and the possibility of luring him up Keele way for a meeting. Also it was good to catch up with Wales SP paper-selling legend, DR, (who tried selling a paper to billionaire fat cat, Sir Philip Green who, bizarrely, was also on the march), and other SP comrades who are too numerous to mention.

Ulitmately, the rain put paid to Stoke SP's plans for a dynamic paper/t-shirt-selling intervention, but overall the demo can be considered a cautious success from the standpoint of the organisers, and gives us a good starting point for fusing together environmentalist and socialist politics. A valuable opportunity for this will be on 9th February at the Campaign against Climate Change-sponsored Trade Union Conference at the ULU, Malet street, London.


Frank Partisan said...

I think it sounds overall like a good event.

It's hard to move people from what is in essence a lifestyle movement, to socialist consciousness.

You can't complain about the turnout. The organizers did well.

Leftwing Criminologist said...

I'll hopefully put the report up on my blog in the next week of the event we helped run in bangor (because of difficulties in getting to london). but despite the crap weather there it went fairly well too.