UK school students set to join global walk-outs against climate change

By Chris Clough

On Friday 15 February, students and young people across the UK will take action for climate justice. They will walk out of their classes and hold protests in indignation at the inaction around the looming climate crisis. They will be joining hundreds of thousands around the world who have already taken action in Belgium, France, Sweden, Germany, Australia and elsewhere.

The movement has largely been inspired by the actions and radicalism of the 16 year old climate activist Greta Thunberg who began refusing to go to school to raise awareness about climate change. At the UN climate talks in Katowice last December she declared, no doubt to the horror of the assembled politicians and business leaders, “if solutions within the system are so impossible to find then maybe we should change the system itself. We have not come here to beg world leaders to care. You have ignored us in the past and you will ignore us in the future. You have run out of excuses and we are running out of time. We have come here to tell you change is coming. The real power belongs to the people.”

This short speech neatly sums up the crisis facing humanity. The facts of human responsibility for climate change has been accepted by the scientific community and the vast majority of world leaders since the 1990s and yet practically every year more CO2 is pumped into the atmosphere than the year before. Time and time again giant climate conferences are lauded by politicians and the media as a step forward. But in reality they always set non binding agreements that do not go far enough and then, to add insult to injury, they do not even stick to these weak “promises”. Katowice proved that now even these empty promises are too much for the imperialist powers as they become increasingly hostile to each other.

This is no accident; the last 30 years proves that the world’s great powers are incapable of resolving the crisis, whether they accept the reality that climate change will be disastrous and potentially fatal for future civilisation or not. In capitalist society, the politicians and the state they control exist to defend the interests of rival national capitalist classes in the competition for markets and profits. In the US alone the fossil fuel industry spends $400,000 a day ‘lobbying’ (read: bribing) congress. Media empires like Rupert Murdoch’s loyally cast doubts on the reality of climate change and demonise those who try to stop it in order to further their interests and control. Put simply, dirty fuel is the most profitable industry in the world and they will not relinquish it by any means except force.

This is why it is vital that young people around the world are leading the way. They are the future staring down the barrel of a gun. That is why this Friday’s school strike should be the first of many.

But the action cannot stop here. Organisations should be set up in each school to spread and coordinate further action including blockades and occupations of the guilty companies and politicians. Strategically, we need to link the fight for climate justice with demands for better transport, housing and jobs. They are not mutually exclusive but naturally compliment each other; we need to show that in the process of making changes to how we live alongside the environment we can build improvements in the lives of working people and create the world we want to see.

Only the labour movement is capable of mobilising forces to carry out such a task. Local Labour groups and socialists need to support the climate strikes and organisations that are building them such as Extinction Rebellion so that we can unite the organised power of the labour movement with the dedicated activists in the fight for climate justice.

The ruling class is driving us off a cliff edge. Last year the UN declared there was only 12 years to avert catastrophic climate change. This week, the release of reports detailing the catastrophic decline in insect populations which indicates the looming catastrophic collapse of agriculture. Politicians, businesses, and the “international community” have failed to take adequate measures because they are committed to defending the system that is the cause of the problem.

There is a simple question. If CO2 is warming the planet to a point which threatens a new mass extinction; if agribusiness is destroying the basis of life itself – why don’t we take over the farms, take over the plastics and oil industries, and replace production for profit, with a rational plan to produce for human need? 

Only by alerting people to the impending crisis, linking the movements and by providing the solutions can we create the tools necessary for the task ahead; democratic bodies of working people that are capable of seizing power and running society. Only the working class, has an interest in, and the ability, to radically reorganise the economic and political system: putting people and planet before private profit. This alternative is socialism. It is clear that the rich and powerful would rather drive civilisation into barbarism that relinquish their power and privilege. That means revolution. 

Time is running out, but as the school students around the world show, it is not too late to take action!