November 16th, 9:30 - 6pm at Trades Hall, Carlton


The scale and depth of the environmental crisis is extraordinary.

We need to understand the nature of the capitalist system that’s driving the crisis, and have a vision of the movement we need to overcome it – a radical and holistic movement that fights for free movement of all people, for union rights, and identifies governments and powerful corporations as our shared enemy.

This one-day conference will cover the history and theory of environmental activism and its intersection with the class struggle and socialist politics, as well as practical challenges and questions facing our movement today.

This is a conference for radicals and revolutionaries, for everyone who thinks it’s right to rebel – that what we need now is to disrupt the ‘business as usual’ of capitalism at every turn. A conference for those who feel inspired by the resurgence of environmental activism and agree that we need to blockade, occupy, protest, and organise, until we start to see the change we need!


Program

9am

Registration

9:30am - 11am

Socialism 101

We're not all in it together: capitalists, corporations and climate destruction

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The ruling class are parasites. They leach off of workers and off the environment. In their ruthless pursuit of profit they’ve taken us to the brink of environmental collapse, all while they line their pockets and we pay.

People like Gina Rinehart, Rupert Murdoch and Jeff Bezos are our enemies. We’re not in this fight with them!

Readings

Capitalism is a waste by Allen Myers

Why the rich are to blame for climate crisis by James Plested

Why Karl Marx was right about capitalism by Liz Walsh

How does capitalism work? by Josh Less

Climate change and class conflict by Chris Harman

Justice

Open Borders Now! Against lifeboat ethics and eco-authoritarianism

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The climate crisis is a crisis of human society - almost 19 million people were displaced due to natural disasters in 2017 alone with tens of millions more predicted in the coming years. We need a radical reassesment of the politics of the climate movement to deal with this crisis. There are only two options: the free movement of all people, or brutal, militarised borders and concerntration camps. Socialists are principally for open borders and fight for this in the climate movement.

Readings

A left case against borders: a response to, among others, Angela Nagle by Joshua Mostafa

The Left Case against Open Borders by Angela Nagle

The Wagenknecht Question by Volker Schmitz

Lifeboat Ethics: the Case Against Helping the Poor by Garrett Hardin

Left Debates

Reform v revolution: The green new deal and beyond

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What exactly is the Green New Deal? Is it, as some argue, our best hope for averting climate catastrophe - a goal to which the efforts of environmentalists and socialists should be subordinated? Or is it, as others have said, a political diversion from the work of building a mass movement for change? Or does the truth lie somewhere between, or even beyond these divergent views?

Navigating this will require an understanding of the dynamic interaction between social movements and the political sphere, as well as the limits of the capitalist state as a potential vehicle for driving radical change.

Readings

The Green New Deal: Realistic Proposal or Fantasy by Peter Hudies

A Green New Deal Can't Save Us. A Planned Economy Can. by Robert Belano

Five Principles of a Socialist Climate Politics by Matthew Huber

Labour, climate justice and global solidarity by Chris Saltmarsh

Book club

Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming by Andreas Malm

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The profound and inextricable integration of fossil fuels into the world economy remains a defining feature of modern-day capitalism. Coal power provides electricity to factories, petroleum is burnt to fuel vehicles that transport both workers and commodities and natural gas provides heating for offices and homes across the planet.

Andreas Malm’s Fossil Capital attempts to understand the centrality of the ‘fossil economy’. Malm unravels the history of how capitalism became wedded to fossil fuels and why, today, it cannot give up its addiction. Fossil Capital is an invaluable resource to climate activists who not only wish to understand the system which inexorably drives towards ecological crisis but also how to overcome it.

Readings

Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming by Andreas Malm

Destructive Industries

The political economy of coal in Australia

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With the world on the precipice of climate disaster, both the Liberal and Labor parties continue to fervently support the coal industry in Australia, including the environmentally disastrous Adani coal mine. This talk will look at coal in Australia - its history and its present - and its profitability for the Australian ruling class, to explain why it is that our rulers continue to cling to coal in spite of its catastrophic impact on the environment. It also explains why it is that the coal industry is unlikely to be abolished or curtailed by either the Liberal or the Labor Party - and why we have to rely on our own actions, our protests, civil disobedience and strikes, to stop the destructive march of coal.

Readings

Rage against the dying of the light by James Plested

What Adani tells us about capitalism by Jack Crawford

Why is capitalism addicted to fossil fuels? by Amy Leather

Mine-Field: The Dark Side of Australia's Resources Rush by Paul Cleary

11:30am - 1pm

Socialism 101

Parliament, police, and the sham of capitalist democracy

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Those of us who are trying to change the world have always had to confront the lack of democracy in our society. Why is it so hard to get the most basic reforms enacted through the proper channels? Why are our parliamentary 'representatives' so indifferent to our demands, and so sensitive to the needs of corporations and the rich? Why do the police target workers, minorities and protesters rather than thieving bosses and banks, and climate criminals such as Adani?

This talk will explore these issues, argue that we live in a dictatorship of big business, and put forward a radically democratic - socialist - alternative to the status quo.

Readings

The police are not on our side by Sarah Garnham

Why democracy and capitalism don't mix by Daniel Taylor

The limits of capitalist democracy by Sandra Bloodworth

Justice

The social roots of sexism

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Despite women achieving legal equality in Australia, sexism persists as a defining feature of our system, explained as a natural part of human society. This talk will argue that women's oppression hasn't always existed, and that it has a historical and material basis that can be overcome.

Readings

Marxism and Women's Liberation by Louise O'Shea

Myths of Male Dominance by Eleanor Burke Leacock

Working class history

Working class environmentalism in action

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Environmental issues, according to the stereotype, are the concern of the middle class. In fact, as our two panellists will discuss, working class people are not just the most affected by environmental threats - they have a substantial history of organising in response,

In the late 1960s, Harry van Moorst led mass civil disobedience campaigns against conscription and the Vietnam War. Thirty years later, he led the successful campaign against corporations dumping their toxic waste in disadvantaged Werribee. Mass rallies and the threat of union bans led to the toxic dump being scrapped. Harry went on to be the director of the Western Region Environment Centre, and will be speaking on environmental issues and campaigns in Melbourne’s working class western suburbs.

Naomi Farmer grew up in the Latrobe Valley. Her father worked in the giant Hazelwood open cut coal mine near Morwell – the scene of the catastrophic mine fire in 2014. Naomi and the rest of her family have been involved in community campaigns in this coal community in transition, at the time of the fire and afterwards.

Readings

Rocking the Foundations (film)

Leave it in the ground: stopping the Jabiluka mine by Fleur Taylor

Australian Conservation Foundation

Friends of the Earth Australia

The case against nuclear power by Chris Williams

The Australian Movement against Uranium Mining: Its Rationale and Evolution by Marty Branagan

Leave it in the ground: The anti-uranium movement in Australia 1975-1982 by Sigrid McCausland

Fight for Country: the story of the Jabiluka blockade by Pip Starr (video)

Marxist concepts

Land grabs and resource wars: a history of Western imperialism

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Readings

Imperialism and Global Political Economy by Alex Callinicos

Destructive Industries

From paddock to plate: capitalism and food production

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The food industry is wreaking havoc on the planet while failing to feed millions around the world. This talk will explore how food production is both a cause and casualty of climate change, how it evolved into the destructive industry it is today, and what change is needed to create a sustainable food system.

Readings

The Food System and Environmental Impacts

Huge reduction in meat-eating ‘essential’ to avoid climate breakdown

Can Ecological Agriculture Feed Nine Billion People? by Jules Pretty

Marxism and the natural world by Michael Kandelaars

1pm - 2pm

Lunch

2pm - 3pm

People and planet before profit: class struggle and climate justice

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3:15pm - 4:45pm

Socialism 101

Why you should join Socialist Alternative

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Working class history

Leave it in the ground: the Australian anti-uranium movement

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“Act now, or we will!” You see this on placards at school students’ protests around the world. How do we carry out this threat? We build a mass movement that can fulfil the demand for “system change to stop climate change”.

Readings

Leave it in the ground: stopping the Jabiluka mine by Fleur Taylor

Justice

Why is Australia so racist?

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Despite many an Australian politician or media pundit’s claim that Australia is the world’s most successful multicultural nation, Australia has never been able to whitewash its racist history. From the genocide and dispossession of indigenous people to the White Australia Policy; from concentration camps to anti-terror laws; from imperialist wars abroad to attacks on Muslims and migrants on the domestic front, racism is encoded in the Australian nation’s DNA. This session will examine the Australia’s racist history and what we can do to fight it today.

Readings

Australia: What's to celebrate? by Omar Hassan

Who is to blame for racism in Australia? by Tess Lee Ack

The hidden history of Islamophobia by Vashti Kenway

Left debates

Are rising living standards compatible with sustainability? The politics of the growth debate

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Many environmentalists call for an end to economic 'growth', or even 'degrowth' as a means to save the environment. Some associate the question of growth with living standards, arguing that the mass of the population should accept sacrifices to their quality of life for the environment. If socialists oppose attacks on working class conditions, does this mean we should be for growth? How does bourgeois ideology shape these debates, and would there be growth in a socialist society?

Readings

Origins and delusions of green growth by Gareth Dale

Marxist concepts

Workers' participation, workers' control, workers' power: building class power against capitalism

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5pm - 6:30pm

Socialism 101

Rebellion to revolution: popular democracy explained

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Working class history

Strike, occupy, rally! Building a mass movement

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“Act now, or we will!” You see this on placards at school students’ protests around the world. How do we carry out this threat? We build a mass movement that can fulfil the demand for “system change to stop climate change”.

Readings

Organising for the future by Daniel Taylor

A new moment for climate activism by Sarah Garnham

This isn't extinction, it's extermination: the people killing nature know what they're doing by Jeff Sparrow

Marxist concepts

How do ideas change?

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Book club

Facing the Anthropocene: The crisis of the Earth System by Ian Angus

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Left debates

Can capitalism transition to a sustainable future?

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A range of reforms have been proposed for averting ecological catastrophe while remaining within capitalism. At the most market-friendly and neoliberal end there are proposals for carbon taxes and state-imposed prices on pollution or destruction of parts of the environment to make it more costly for corporations. Some see growth rather than capitalism as the problem and advocate zero-growth economies. More ambitious proposals suggest tough environmental regulations and banning certain destructive technologies. State intervention using tax revenue to do things that profit-seeking corporations won’t: investment in renewable energy infrastructure, green jobs, rewilding programs to grow forests, even nationalizing the banks to redirect the flow of investments.

This talk argues that none of these proposals are adequate to save the planet. The root of the problem is competition between the rival ruling classes of the world. What would it take to overthrow them and establish an international system of cooperation? What are the respective roles of the environmental movement and the organised working class? What are the tasks for the day after revolution?

Readings

Beyond growth or beyond capitalism? by Richard Smith

Green capitalism: the god that failed by Richard Smith

Origins and delusions of green growth by Gareth Dale

6:30pm

Wrap-up dinner and drinks at nearby venue (TBA)


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