Well-known environmental scholar Jason Hickel is not a Marxist, but his politics seem to be moving ever leftwards, and most recently he tweeted a quote attributed to the famed green activist Chico Mendes which correctly stated that “Environmentalism without class struggle is just gardening.”
Written in the aftermath of the farce that was COP26, Hickel penned an important article that points the way forward for people who are concerned that our political leaders have no real intentions of addressing the climate emergency facing our civilization. As he notes “capitalism” is “structurally incapable” of resolving this emergency, which is why we need to act, and act collectively to address this problem!
“First,” he says, “we have to nationalize the fossil fuel industry and the energy companies, bringing them under public control”. Then, to make sure that the working class benefits from such actions “we need to protect people by establishing a firm social foundation—a social guarantee. We need to guarantee universal public healthcare, housing, education, transport, water, and energy and internet, so that everyone has access to the resources they need to live well.” By looking after the real living concerns of ordinary people, the environmental movement can ensure we can fight a united battle against the capitalist class.
Next Hickel adds that we need “to tax the rich out of existence”; which in the view of revolutionaries (like myself) is to say it will be necessary to abolish capitalism and fight for a socialist alternative. “Our economy would be organized around human needs and resilience rather than around endless capital accumulation.” In the meantime, on route to creating this new humane society, he adds that we need to provide a “climate job guarantee” so that workers don’t suffer from the environmental actions that are needed to “eliminate the oligarchic power that pollutes our politics.” Here a good example of such a focus is provided in the Campaign Against Climate Action’s excellent book Climate Jobs: Building a Workforce for the Climate Emergency (2021).
Internationalism is another key action prioritized by Hickel, part of which he says:
“…should include a policy of debt cancellation, so poorer countries are no longer forced to devote their limited resources to servicing the demands of big banks and can instead focus on meeting people’s needs. And renewable technologies should be transferred for free to countries that cannot easily afford them, with patent waivers if needed, to facilitate the fastest possible energy transition globally.”
Although Hickel puts undue emphasis on campaigning for what he refers to as a “Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty,” he definitely understands where the real power in society lies. He states that asking the “ruling-class” to act will get us no-where; instead he is clear that the change we need “will require an extraordinary struggle against those who benefit so prodigiously from the status quo”.
“It requires forging alliances between the environmentalist movement and the labor movement, and across national borders, sufficient to pull off coordinated strike action. This decade is the linchpin of history. We cannot afford to just sit back and wait to see what happens. We have to capture political power where we can, or otherwise force incumbents to change course.”
However, capturing power will not occur by magic, and if the working-class are to succeed in this critical task they will need to get organised… very organised, and part of this process will entail forming new political parties of ordinary people (globally) who can start the process of democratically coordinating the class struggle. Marxists of course take the climate emergency seriously and will be more than happy to play a central role in building such militant working-class organisations that will take the fight to the ruling-class. Afterall, the future of our planet is at stake.