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Global Climate Strike S24: Capitalism Is Destroying the Planet — Let’s Destroy Capitalism!

A statement by the youth, students, and workers of the anti-capitalist, socialist, and revolutionary groups associated with the Trotskyist Fraction – Fourth International (FT-CI) on climate change and the fight for our futures.

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We — the youth, students, and workers of the anti-capitalist, socialist, and revolutionary groups associated with the Trotskyist Fraction – Fourth International (FT-CI) in Argentina, Brazil, the United States, Chile, Mexico, France, the Spanish State, Germany, Italy, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, Costa Rica, and Uruguay — joined last year’s Global Climate Strike on September 24. In seven different languages, we proclaimed the same message: “Capitalism is destroying the planet; let’s destroy capitalism!”

This September 24, we will once again take to the streets for another Global Climate Strike. There are many reasons to mobilize: the worsening climate crisis, the escalating floods, droughts, and forest fires that have devastated many, the accelerating extraction of wealth from Latin America and Africa by imperialist powers. The bleak outlook presented in the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel of Experts on Climate Change (IPCC) gives our task an even greater urgency.

On September 24, we will take to the streets to demand that governments take urgent measures to halt global warming and accelerate the transition away from extractivist energy production. However, in the face of a worsening climate crisis, we know it is necessary to develop a program based on class independence with a strategy for ending the root cause of the ecological and social catastrophes we face: the capitalist system itself.

Warming caused by the capitalist system of production poses a direct threat to the lives of hundreds of millions of people in the coming decades. Rather than succumbing to climate despair and demoralization, however, we must channel our fury into the fight to overthrow the capitalist system. It is not too late to avoid catastrophic levels of warming, but we cannot afford any illusions that the parties of capital will make the necessary changes to accomplish this. Only the working class and its allies have the power to build a new system which operates in the interest of all of humanity.

No Time To Waste

The conclusions of the IPCC Report are clear: the consequences of global warming are becoming more frequent and more dangerous, and its reversal is becoming ever more difficult. The window is narrowing to avoid irreversible changes. Such changes are occuring “in every region and across the whole climate system.” Many of the recently observed changes are “unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, and some of the changes already set in motion—such as continued sea level rise—are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years.”1

While the scientific evidence of global warming is one key to the IPCC report, an important conclusion is the abundant evidence of its direct link to capitalist production. There are no lingering doubts about the culpability of capitalist production on the climate system, which has warmed dramatically since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, releasing the greenhouse gasses which are responsible for a global imbalance and leading us to climate catastrophe.

The report repeatedly stresses that unless carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions — and those of other greenhouse gases — are reduced to a net zero level by 2050, the goal of the Paris Agreement will be unattainable. This agreement, negotiated at the 21st Conference on Climate Change (COP 21) in 2015, seeks to limit the increase in the average global temperature below 2° C, ideally limiting it to 1.5° C, thresholds that are considered to have serious consequences for the continuation of life on the planet. So far, however, signatories to COP 21 are failing miserably to meet the targets this goal requires. According to more pessimistic estimates, the planet is expected to exceed the 1.5° C limit in just over a decade, and may reach 3° C warming by the end of the century.

The catastrophic consequences of this acceleration can already be seen all around us: mega-droughts in Argentina and Brazil, uncontrolled fires in Turkey, Greece, Tunisia, and the United States, torrential rains and floods in China, Germany, the Northeast and Appalachian region of the U.S., and many other places around the globe. These events are increasing in frequency as well as severity, as seen in the devastating flooding in Mexico’s Hidalgo state just a few weeks ago.

We are witnessing a completely unprecedented situation for humanity with intensified hurricanes, tropical storms and cyclones, the warming and acidification of rivers and oceans, extreme heat waves, heavy rainfall and devastating floods. These tragedies and damages are avoidable, and each one represents a failure of governments to adequately protect their people. The construction, planning, and adaptation efforts needed to meet these dangers must be under the control of workers and the people, not the capitalists and the governments that protect them.

The effects of climate change weigh most heavily on young people, workers, and women; on the unemployed and the unhoused; and on rural and indigenous populations. Meanwhile, a handful of executives — billionaires whose wealth is built on our labor— can easily relocate to avoid the worst effects of a changing climate. They and their system are responsible for the disruption of the Earth’s natural cycles, but they do not suffer the consequences of the destruction they’ve created.

It’s Not “Human Activity” — It’s Capitalism

The fear of collapse must not prevent us from imagining new futures. The responsibility for global warming and the destruction of ecosystems has a concrete historical form: the capitalist system. Marx saw a fundamental incompatibility between sustainable production and capitalism. Through commodity production, he explained, capitalism creates a metabolic rift, altering the necessary conditions for a lasting interchange between human beings and nature. While he described this phenomenon in relation to the depletion of soil nutrients by capitalist agriculture, today we are witnessing the same metabolic breakdown in various earth systems, affecting our soil, water, air, and the global biome.

The irrationality of this mode of production renders it incapable of maintaining a harmonious relationship with the earth’s ecosystem. Because it is based on the exploitation of labor, on the commodification, dispossession, and destruction of nature, on the unlimited growth of production and consumption, and on the objective of  profit instead of human needs, it is incompatible with sustainable practices.

Multinational companies such as Chevron, Shell, Total, Repsol, ExxonMobil, British Petroleum, ENI (these being just a few of the largest and most notorious) are the ones profiting from the extraction of fossil fuels, while governments promote them and guarantee the continuity of their businesses. Capitalism generates a series of self-destructive processes that have brutal effects on people and species, in many cases still unknown. The logic of capitalist production incentivizes a strategy which completely decimates one region after another, in search for new sources of profit.

As millions of people around the world suffer from hunger, the zoonotic pandemic has made clear how profit-driven industrial agriculture destroys ecosystems and creates conditions for the flourishing of new diseases. The practice of clearing huge swaths of land for monoculture, and the development of factory farms with over-crowded and abused animals who are loaded with antibiotics, are ideal breeding grounds for pathogens such as the coronavirus, influenza A, and many others. Capitalism objectifies animals as mere machinery to be exploited.

There are those who would lay the problem at the collective feet of “human beings,” instead of placing the blame on this irrational and anarchic system of production. Others say that there is no going back, that we have already charted an irreversible course towards collapse. Such rhetoric impedes our ability to imagine and build other futures. Against this, we must imagine and insist on the possibility of a socialized system, democratically organized by workers, where all voices are heard, where science is put at the service of planning a rational and harmonious system of production and distribution, and where no one suffers the indignities of lack of access to food or shelter.

Climate Summits: Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

Just as the latest IPCC report showed how the Paris Agreement has been completely impotent in curbing CO2 emissions, COP 26, which will be held in Glasgow this November, will be yet another act of the same farce.

The reality of these summits is that they are dominated by the large corporations which are the world’s main polluters, and by the governments friendly to them. The 2019 Madrid Climate Conference (COP 25) was sponsored by two of Spain’s largest polluters, the energy oligarchs Endesa and Iberdrola. Leaked documents show that the large North American oil and energy companies helped draft the text of agreements for every climate summit held between 1989 and 2002. Shell, one of the planet’s top 10 polluters, assisted in drafting the Paris Agreements.

Imperialist corporations like these are the very ones responsible for the extraction and burning of fossil fuels and extractivist mining projects that decimate and pollute the semi-colonial countries of Latin America and Africa. In these efforts they are aided by multi-million dollar lobbies, the big banks, and the capitalist governments. They rely on an extensive network of private security forces and paramilitary groups who displace indigenous communities and carry out attacks on and murders of land defenders and environmental activists. 

The measures called for by these summits and the “green” agendas of participating governments are only implemented as long as they do not affect business or the interests of large corporations, world trade, and capitalist production. So-called renewable energies, intensive in capital and technology, are developed by large multinationals, not primarily as fixes to the changing climate, but as new sources of wealth accumulation. The flimsy “green” discourse espoused by polluting corporations and imperialist countries places special emphasis on the need for tax incentives to guarantee the profitability of renewables. It continues to treat energy as a commodity by reducing the problem to a simple matter of greenhouse gas emissions, which deliberately hides the many other consequences of continued extractivist production. A particularly relevant contemporary example is how simplistic discourse about greenhouse gas reduction papers over the social and environmental impact of mining which is necessary to obtain the materials needed for renewable infrastructure. Those imperialist countries and multinationals which have managed to reduce their emissions domestically have done so by relocating their production and pollution to semi-colonial countries, with the complicity of local capitalists and their governments, reinforcing ties of dependency and further burdening the working classes of these countries.

To understand just how ineffective climate summits have historically been, imagine the entire amount of C02 that has been emitted since the beginning of the Industrial era (roughly 1750). Fully half of this amount has been released in just the past quarter century, since the passage of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. The past seven years alone account for 10%. The largest increase in CO2 emissions in the history of capitalism was recorded after the Paris Summit of 2015.

The climate crisis has become an increasingly relevant topic at international summits and forums, including CELAC, the G7, and the Earth Summits convened by Joe Biden. From beginning to end, these meetings are led by the great imperialist powers, so it should be no surprise that they never result in serious actions to combat the climate crisis, but rather in deepening imperialist dependence by opening new markets, and developing business-friendly clean energy strategies.

Reactionary Denialism and Green Capitalism

The powers that be have proposed different strategies within the framework of capitalism to confront global warming. On the one hand, there is the denialism of the extreme right, which is embodied in figures like Bolsonaro, Abascal, Morrison, or Donald Trump. They are not only aligned with the interests of fossil fuel companies and agribusiness, but also capitalists who are already preparing to make a profit off the transition business. Elon Musk, for example, has no qualms in supporting imperialist interference in Bolivia to guarantee lithium, even if it means destroying entire ecosystems and populations. This position, financed by the big corporations of the oil, energy, and automotive industries, is still spreading, especially in Latin America in sectors of the youth and self-styled “libertarians.”

On the other hand, all the variants of green capitalism and its political representatives, from the governments and parties of the world imperialist establishment, to the social liberal and green parties, demonstrate at every step that they only use the green discourse to protect business interests and cover up reactionary policies.

Despite his campaign promises and flirtation with Green New Deal politics, imperialist Joe Biden has acted as a fierce defender of the interests of the big fossil fuel profiteering corporations. He has granted over 2000 new permits for oil and gas exploration on public and tribal lands in the first six months of the year (and plans to grant 6000 permits by the end of the year), while at the same time pressuring the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to increase its oil production. At the same time, the U.S. military and its infernal war machine deployed around the globe consumes more fossil fuels and emits more polluting gases than 140 countries. For its part, China is the world’s largest producer of CO2, making up 30% of total emissions. Not only does it plan to start reducing its emissions by as late as 2026, but it continues to build coal-fired power plants while actively spreading its destruction and environmental risks abroad with its extractivist initiatives in Latin America and other regions through the export of mega pig farms, hydroelectric mega-projects, etc.

The same happens with the green discourse of Alberto Fernández’s government in Argentina, which in the name of false “development,” promotes the exploitation of hydrocarbons even offshore, allocating millions in state subsidies to fracking in Vaca Muerta (considered by the UN itself as a “carbon bomb”), as part of a whole extractivist matrix that includes mega-mining, agribusiness, and industrial pig production. It is also embodied in the PSOE and Podemos government in Spain, which boasts of its commitment to the environment but is distributing billions of euros of European Union funds among the most polluting companies in the country. In Latin America, governments that call themselves “anti-neoliberal” combine that rhetoric with a defense of both hydrocarbon producing state companies and mega-projects funded by private imperialist investment. They maintain a progressive rhetoric while advancing ecocidal plans and dispossession.

The Utopia of the Green New Deal

The Green New Deal (GND) is defended by the “progressive” wing of the U.S. Democratic Party, including Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and other figures of the European neo-reformist left, such as Pablo Iglesias and Iñigo Errejón in Spain. Even Pedro Sánchez of the PSOE has flirted with similar policies.

While parts of the GND are viewed favorably by the environmental movement — such as job guarantees for workers dismissed in the transition away from fossil fuels, a large public works program, or expanded unionization rights — the big parties of capital put all possible obstacles in the way of the realization of these demands. However, this is not the plan’s most significant limitation: as a program to fight against ecological disaster, the GND maintains that the mega-corporations responsible for the current ecological crisis should be the ones who, by generous state subsidies, develop the infrastructure to get out of the disaster.

Not only is this a pipe dream — corporations have steadfastly refused to move away from fossil fuels even when provided with significant government funding — but it rewards the very companies responsible for the climate and ecological crisis we face. Energy giants, fossil fuel companies, and all the world’s biggest polluters will not be incentivized to switch to green energy as long as there are opportunities to continue to make mega-profits in the oil, gas, and coal sectors.

Whether by defending the implementation of programs such as the GND or by becoming the standard bearers of similar proposals such as the UN’s 2030 Agenda, neo-reformist currents such as Podemos or Más País in Spain, the DSA, or La France Insoumise subordinate themselves to the strategy of green capitalism. In this way, they end up acting as “left” covers for the reactionary idea that a “sustainable capitalism” is possible and that the corporations that have generated the current crisis can now become our saviors.

None of the capitalist governments and parties, not even those that present themselves as “green,” “progressive,” or on the neo-reformist left, are willing to do what it takes to face this dire situation. To do so, they would have to confront the interests of the capitalists. Far from doing this, however, some of them intend to promote pseudo measures against climate change, making the working class and the popular sectors pay the costs. This is the case of the Greens in Germany, who want to increase the CO2 tax, which would primarily target the working class. They are also preparing massive layoffs to create “structural changes” that will boost the production of electric cars — a production process which is not a “green” measure because of the enormous cost of the materials involved. It is the same policy promoted by Macron in France, who implemented the increase in the price of diesel that unleashed the fury of the Yellow Vests, or the closing of the Grandpuits refinery, whose workers — in alliance with the environmental movement — responded with a plan to keep their workplace open by reconverting it to a sustainable refinery. Meanwhile, in Latin America, the imperialist mechanism of the foreign debt serves as extortion for extractivist initiatives; governments, without distinction, recognize the debt and use it as an excuse to “get dollars” to pay for and justify destructive and polluting business initiatives.

Competing Strategies in the Environmental Movement

The youth movement, which has exploded across the world in recent years, has shown a determination to denounce the climate crisis as no one else has done so far. Faced with the dire climate emergency that capitalism has engendered, it is time to use the tactic of the strike — from both the student and labor movements — as a way of making our demands visible.

Within the environmentalist movement we do not all propose the same strategy. While there are sectors that defend the Green New Deal or similar policies managed by the capitalist states as the primary way to combat climate change, others emphasize the need to promote individual changes in consumer habits. For the latter, the political struggle takes place at the local or individual level. Meanwhile, the big corporations and institutions driving climate change have governments, states, and international organizations at their disposal. 

Another influential tendency from within the environmental movement has a strong anti-political component. Proponents of this view criticize, without distinction, any type of political organization, ignoring any class delimitation between the parties or organizations linked to bourgeois interests, and the actions and organizations of the young, exploited, and oppressed majorities. This includes both political groups or NGOs that do not want to denounce parties and governments so as not to lose their support in those sectors; it also includes those who believe that in order to win it is enough to simply resist forever and deny the political struggle. 

Finally, in many sectors there is confidence in the role of capitalist states as agents of care and redistribution, which assumes that the changes necessary to overcome this crisis are entirely possible within the confines of bourgeois democracy, ignoring both the historical experience and the power of the self-organization of the proletariat.

The only way to attack the causes of impending global environmental catastrophe at their root is to bring the masses into the struggle, with the working class at the forefront. If the relationship of society with the rest of nature is mediated by production, it is by revolutionizing production that this relationship can be rationally regulated. That is why the working class, the only authentically producing class in society, is the only class that is capable of uniting all oppressed communities and activating an “emergency brake” in the face of the disaster to which capitalism is leading us.

The need for the working class to integrate itself into the struggle against climate change with its own demands and its own methods of struggle is vital for the development of the movement. It is necessary to help break the prejudices that exist in broad sectors of the working class with the environmental movement. Above all, it is necessary to confront and denounce the reactionary role played by the majority of the bureaucratized unions. Especially in the heavy  industry and energy sectors, the union bureaucracies act as the best conspirators of the capitalists. Many times they oppose any measure of ecological transition — however superficial it may be — under the argument of “saving jobs,” when what they are actually putting forward is a policy to protect capitalist interests, tying the fate of the working class to the profits of the bosses.

The working class has shown on many occasions its potential to provide a way out of environmental catastrophe, uniting its demands with those of the environmental movement. Just in the last several years there have been incredible examples of such an alliance, such as the strike at the Total refinery in Grandpuits in France; or in the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Ireland, which, when the bosses declared bankruptcy, was taken over by the workers who demanded the nationalization of the industry and the implementation of clean energy; or with the participation of sectors of workers in the struggles against mega-mining in Argentina in conjunction with the environmental movement and the youth who are confronting extractivism. These incipient experiences are a part of a larger trend that needs to be developed by promoting organizations of struggle and self-organization to unite the working class with the youth and environmental movements.

Young people have the inalienable right to rebel against a system that is literally taking away their futures. But for that rebellion to triumph it needs its own organization — one that is independent and led by the working class and the exploited and oppressed youth. Such an organization could defend a program and a strategy of struggle to break with the capitalist system that is destroying the planet and institute their own government. Against those who say that this perspective is utopian, we defend that, on the contrary, it is the most realistic: there is no way to stop ecocide without rationally planning the economy and ending the ecologically destructive dynamics of capitalism.

We need to build revolutionary parties to promote self-organization and defeat all those who oppose this perspective, beginning with the trade union and social movement bureaucracies and the reformist political leaderships that do everything in their power to prevent the youth from rebelling and stop the development of the struggle from below.

We Need a Strategy to “Pull the Emergency Brake”

Climate change is already generating catastrophes and avoidable socio-political effects. Capitalist corporations and their states are not only responsible for this — they are also fully aware of what is going on. For years, they have been working on adapting to climate change via militarization. Its effects are seen as political and national security risks for the ruling classes. A White House document from 2015 argues that “climate change is an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources like food and water.” How do they prepare for it? With bigger armies (military and paramilitary), new fences for border control, more racist speech, greater measures against immigration, more concentration camps for migrants and refugees, more private security forces, and harsher repression in the face of natural disasters. This program is intended to eventually defend islands of prosperity in the midst of oceans of misery and degradation.

It is worth mentioning that the countries that suffer the worst effects of the climate crisis are those that emit the least CO2. At the same time, they are the ones beginning to experience population displacements due to social catastrophes that result from extreme weather events. This is the case in Central America, which according to the UN is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of environmental and climate change.

In this situation, we need to avoid any catastrophist attitude that can only lead to skepticism. Instead, we — workers, young people, women workers, and poor people around the world — need to prepare ourselves. The environmental catastrophe will not only open the possibility of reactionary and even “eco-fascist” solutions — it will also lead to class struggle and rebellions by the exploited in order to survive. 

But we should fight for more than just survival. Capitalism devastates our future not only in the form of environmental destruction — it also destroys our hopes for our lives. We live in a system that condemns the majority of human beings to live in miserable conditions. The youth no longer owes this system anything. It is up to us to ensure that this future conforms to the physical limits of our planet. That future should be in a system that allows all people to develop their abilities. This would make happiness and personal fulfillment possible, decoupling the value of a person from their productivity. This is the only way to confront the major problems facing young people today. These include mental health, which is increasingly undermined by precarious living conditions, academic failure, a lack of free time, and exploitation.

It has never been more urgent to “pull the emergency brake” on capitalism. We must face the consequences of the climate crisis that affects the working-class majority of the world. At the same time, we must struggle to destroy its causes.

An Anticapitalist Transitional Program to Avoid Catastrophe

Capitalism is leading us to an absolutely irrational perspective. The need for drastic and urgent measures is evident, in order to take the present and the future into our hands. We need rational planning of the world economy — or as Marx would say, “the introduction of reason in the sphere of economic relations.” This is only possible if economic planning is in the hands of the only class that, due to its objective situation and material interests, is capable of leading the rest of the oppressed to avoid catastrophe: the working class. The working class is heterogenous — it includes different nationalities, indigenous peoples, and the feminist movement against patriarchal oppression. It has the social force to build an alliance of workers, young people, and poor people. This could end the double alienation of work and nature imposed by capitalism, and advance toward a truly democratic and rational planning of the economy.

We, the youth organizations that make up the Trotskyist Fraction – Fourth International, fight for this perspective. Instead of the farce of capitalist climate summits and the promises of “green capitalism,” we need a transitional program that aims for a complete reorganization of production, distribution, and consumption on a rational and ecological basis. Measures would include:

This program, together with other urgent measures necessary to respond to the crisis, is of course impossible to fulfil within the framework of capitalism. To realize these demands, we need a revolutionary strategy that truly confronts those responsible for the climate and ecological disasters.

The youth around the world who will take to the streets on September 24 and rightly demand “climate justice” must take up the class struggle to put an end to the capitalist system and the state which upholds it. We must put all of the strings of the world economy in the hands of the working class. This is the precondition for building a system based on solidarity and which restores the metabolic relationship between human beings and nature. Only in this way can we build a system in which production respects the Earth’s natural cycles without exhausting its resources, and at the same time puts an end to poverty and inequality.

In the 21st century, we’re once again faced with a situation of war, crisis, and revolution. However, it’s not only the barbarism of war that endangers the working class and the poor. It is also the possibility of ecological catastrophe and the destruction of the biosphere. A truly ecological project can only be based on the principles of communism and led by the working class — together with its class allies and organized by the vanguard in a revolutionary struggle — against all the capitalist class.

There’s no time to lose. Join us!

 The youth organizations who have signed this declaration are part of the climate and environmental movement in various countries across three continents. In South and Central America, we take part in the struggles against fracking, open pit mining, factory farming, big agriculture, and the attacks on indigenous people. In Europe, we fight against the attacks on the working class (often carried out with a  “green,” discourse), the extension of airports, and extractivism. In the United States, we support the struggles against the Dakota Access and Line 3 pipelines in the United States, and we support indigenous land and water defenders.

We call on young people around the world to refuse to let their futures be snatched from them  and to fight together with a revolutionary perspective. We have no time to waste. We have the strength necessary to put an end to this system. Capitalism and its representatives in government are destroying the planet. Let’s destroy capitalism! Join us!


Juventud del Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas – Argentina | Faísca Anticapitalista e Revolucionária – Brasil | Left Voice – United States | Agrupación Anticapitalista Vencer– Chile | Agrupación Juvenil Anticapitalista – Mexico | Le Poing Levé – Révolution Permanente – France | Contracorriente – Spanish State | Revolutionäre Internationalistische Organisation (RIO) – Germany | Frazione Internazionalista Rivoluzionaria (FIR) – Italy | Liga de Trabajadores por el Socialismo (LTS) – Venezuela | Liga Obrera Revolucionaria (LORCI) – Bolivia | Corriente Socialista de las y los Trabajadores (CST) – Perú | Organización Socialista Revolucionaria (OSR) – Costa Rica | Corriente de Trabajadores Socialistas (CTS) – Uruguay

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