BY MAGGIE TROWE
NEW YORK — Three hundred thousand people from across the U.S., Canada and other countries around the world joined the People’s Climate March here Sept. 21.
Participants drawn to the sizable social protest rallied against the increasing devastation of land and labor rooted in the natural workings of the capitalist system, the profit-driven course of bosses worldwide, lashed by competition, to produce more and faster, regardless of the impact on workers and nature.
The march comes at a time of increased resistance and union organizing by workers frustrated with low wages, speedup and deteriorating safety on the job. The march reinforces this working-class resistance, as the labor fightback reinforces social protest.
The march comes on the heels of a rebellion of Burlington Northern rail workers who voted down the bosses’ move to reduce train crews to one person, increasing the likelihood of derailments and toxic spills like the one in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, last year.
It takes place on the heels of large protests against police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York.
It comes as an Ebola virus epidemic ravages the most underdeveloped countries in Africa, where large sections of the working class lack electricity and sanitation. At the same time, millions are being drawn into the working class — in China, India, Africa and throughout the semicolonial world — and are reaching for allies as they fight for modern conditions and confront the destructive functioning of capitalist production.
Unlike in many previous environmental actions, sizable union contingents joined the march.
“The nurses’ union stands for patients’ safety and adequate staffing. We want to save lives,” said Lilia Marquez, 55, a nurse at Bellevue Hospital marching with the New York State Nurses Association. Their banner read, “Caring for our patients and our planet.”
Other labor organizations participating included United Food and Commercial Workers; Communications Workers of America; Service Employees International Union locals 32BJ and 1199, representing building maintenance and health care workers; and the Canadian Labour Congress.
Climate marches took place in Oakland, California; Los Angeles; Seattle; Miami; Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska; and other cities in the U.S. and worldwide.
What road forward?
Proposals on what to do ranged widely. Some saw the problem as a social question and advanced a working-class course toward defending wages, fighting for workers control of conditions on the job, and championing the struggles of workers against exploitation and environmental destruction. Others expressed unscientific, catastrophist, anti-labor perspectives, condemning industrialization and blaming workers in industries like nuclear power, rail transport of crude oil and coal mining for the way the bosses’ productive process disregards safety and fouls things up.
An international delegation organized by the Global Coalition on Migration marched in New York. “Those displaced by climate catastrophes are disproportionately farmers/rural populations, the working class, indigenous peoples, and communities of color,” a statement by the group said.
Many demonstrators came from high schools and college campuses. Mac Lubold, 17, came with 50 students from Concord High School in Concord, New Hampshire. “A friend of ours heard about the march and organized a bus,” he told the Militant.
A contingent from Far Rockaway, Queens, and other neighborhoods ravaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, marched, as did contingents from Louisiana and Mississippi, states hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, where effects of the storm are still being felt.
The destruction caused by those storms was a social disaster, arising from the U.S. rulers’ rents system, condemning those able to pay the least to the most vulnerable areas, their refusal to evacuate residents and their paltry aid to victims of the disasters.
Some marchers blamed methods of energy extraction and transport, such as fracking and pipelines, or technology itself, for damage to the environment.
Some of their signs read, “Keep the Oil in the Soil” and “Don’t Frack with U.S.” Some called for a return to an imagined idyllic primitive past.
Many participants were drawn to the idea that capitalism’s despoliation of land and labor is a social and class question, and the road forward lies along the revolutionary line of march of the working class. Participants in the marches in New York, San Francisco, and Lincoln, Nebraska, bought 116 subscriptions to the Militant, and 48 copies of New International no. 13 and 14, featuring the articles “Our Politics Start with the World” and “The Stewardship of Nature Also Falls to the Working Class: In Defense of Land and Labor.”
Defense of land, labor falls to working class