top
International
International
Indybay
Indybay
Indybay
Regions
Indybay Regions North Coast Central Valley North Bay East Bay South Bay San Francisco Peninsula Santa Cruz IMC - Independent Media Center for the Monterey Bay Area North Coast Central Valley North Bay East Bay South Bay San Francisco Peninsula Santa Cruz IMC - Independent Media Center for the Monterey Bay Area California United States International Americas Haiti Iraq Palestine Afghanistan
Topics
Newswire
Calendar
Features
From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature
Ecosocialist strategy: industrial restructuring as a joint project of the climate movement
by Christian Zeller
The findings of international climate research and the IPCC are clear. World society is heading for tipping points that will abruptly change the earth and climate system. As a result, several billion people will lose their previous livelihoods in a few decades.
Ecosocialist strategy: industrial restructuring as a joint project of the climate movement and trade unions
by Christian Zeller
[This article published on Dec 30, 2021 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.isw-muenchen.de/2021/12/oekosozialistische-strategie-industrieller-umbau-als-gemeinsames-projekt-von-klimabewegung-und-gewerkschaften/]

The findings of international climate research and the IPCC are clear. World society is heading for tipping points that will abruptly change the earth and climate system. As a result, several billion people will lose their previous livelihoods in a few decades. The governments gathered at the COP26 conference and their pacesetters from the big corporations are not willing to get out of the fossil fuel economy. They use the COP conferences to negotiate their spheres of influence. With its program, the liberal-green-social democratic federal government is also putting itself at the service of the competitiveness of the export industry. The challenges for the climate movement and its allies are huge. How can the social balance of power be changed so much that industrial conversion and dismantling can be realized? I argue that the climate movement, together with committed wage earners and trade unions, must develop and enforce a radical program for the conversion of the fossil fuel industries, the automotive and aerospace companies, and the financial sector.

Fractures in the Earth system and in society
The recently published IPCC draft of the physical changes in the Earth system documents the fractures in the Earth system in a dry and sharp manner. [1] Despite repeated warnings from science and the growing pressure from the climate movement, the fossil fuel sector continues to grow. Supported by most governments and funded by banks, insurance companies, pension and investment funds, most coal, oil and gas companies are expanding. This is documented by the latest reports by the UN Environment Program, OPEC and the International Energy Agency. [2] Governments and corporations are steering the world on a heating path that will increase the global average temperature by at least 3°C by the end of this century compared to pre-industrial times.

World society is heading for ruptures in the Earth system. Large parts of the earth and numerous megacities will probably no longer be habitable in a few decades. If current climate policy continues, the temperature niche within which human society has been able to develop will change more in the next 50 years than at any time in the last 6000 years. Depending on population growth and global warming, one to three billion people will no longer live under climatic conditions such as those that have existed in the last 6,000 years. One third of the world's population is expected to be exposed to an average annual temperature of more than 29°C, which is currently only found on 0.8% of the Earth's land surface and is mainly concentrated in the Sahara. The potentially most affected regions are among the poorest in the world. Immeasurably more serious than in the ongoing corona pandemic, this process will amount to the extinction of a part of the world's poor population.

The Topicality of an Eco-Socialist Revolution
The goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial times requires a historically unique conversion and dismantling of large parts of the entire productive apparatus of our societies. This is only possible if we break with the capitalist compulsion to accumulate more and more capital and maximize profit. We must also express this break in everyday demands, but in an understandable way. Before I put some strategic considerations up for discussion, I briefly explain what I mean by ecosocialist upheaval of society.

We need a society that produces less and differently, transports less, takes more care of people and nature, shares all the wealth and decides together. [3] "A change in life forms requires a radical transformation of forms of production and working methods. In this sense, an ecological transformation of production, transport, technological development and the entire everyday life, including reproduction, must be fought for in order to initiate a sustainable social metabolism with nature". [4] This means that in a process of self-empowerment, the exploited and oppressed successfully oppose and end the economic and political power of the bourgeois class. Eco-socialists want to overcome the capitalist mode of production.

Fractures in the Earth system and in society
The recently published IPCC draft of the physical changes in the Earth system documents the fractures in the Earth system in a dry and sharp manner. [1] Despite repeated warnings from science and the growing pressure from the climate movement, the fossil fuel sector continues to grow. Supported by most governments and funded by banks, insurance companies, pension and investment funds, most coal, oil and gas companies are expanding. This is documented by the latest reports by the UN Environment Program, OPEC and the International Energy Agency. [2] Governments and corporations are steering the world on a heating path that will increase the global average temperature by at least 3°C by the end of this century compared to pre-industrial times.

World society is heading for ruptures in the Earth system. Large parts of the earth and numerous megacities will probably no longer be habitable in a few decades. If current climate policy continues, the temperature niche within which human society has been able to develop will change more in the next 50 years than at any time in the last 6000 years. Depending on population growth and global warming, one to three billion people will no longer live under climatic conditions such as those that have existed in the last 6,000 years. One third of the world's population is expected to be exposed to an average annual temperature of more than 29°C, which is currently only found on 0.8% of the Earth's land surface and is mainly concentrated in the Sahara. The potentially most affected regions are among the poorest in the world. Immeasurably more serious than in the ongoing corona pandemic, this process will amount to the extinction of a part of the world's poor population.

The Topicality of an Eco-Socialist Revolution
The goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial times requires a historically unique conversion and dismantling of large parts of the entire productive apparatus of our societies. This is only possible if we break with the capitalist compulsion to accumulate more and more capital and maximize profit. We must also express this break in everyday demands, but in an understandable way. Before I put some strategic considerations up for discussion, I briefly explain what I mean by ecosocialist upheaval of society.

We need a society that produces less and differently, transports less, takes more care of people and nature, shares all the wealth and decides together. [3] "A change in life forms requires a radical transformation of forms of production and working methods. In this sense, an ecological transformation of production, transport, technological development and the entire everyday life, including reproduction, must be fought for in order to initiate a sustainable social metabolism with nature". [4] This means that in a process of self-empowerment, the exploited and oppressed successfully oppose and end the economic and political power of the bourgeois class. Eco-socialists want to overcome the capitalist mode of production.

Eco-socialist emergency program
An eco-socialist emergency program takes the use values and the organization of social metabolism as a starting point. In doing so, it is essential to consistently follow the scientifically proven findings on global warming. It would be negligent to relativize this perspective because it currently seems to be too impractical politically. It is unreasonable to demand only what is possible in the political, economic, social and ideological context of contemporary capitalist society. That would distort reality and would therefore be completely unrealistic. At the same time, we must acknowledge the balance of power, but not to adapt, but to identify points of attack, to change it substantially.

A reasonable "social metabolism with nature"[5] presupposes that the entire production and reproduction from beginning to end is organized according to ecological criteria. [6] Destructive industries such as the arms industry have been completely dismantled. Motorized transport is responsible for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in Germany. Motorized private transport should therefore be largely shifted to public transport and non-motorized transport. The automotive industry needs to be rebuilt and dismantled and the production lines still needed must be merged into a publicly controlled mobility and railway industry. The transport performance must be significantly reduced with appropriate spatial and urban planning for a city of short distances. Freight traffic increased so much due to the dismantling of value chains that the railways would no longer be able to cope with it. That is why freight traffic must be reduced by planning the production locations. These conversion steps require at the same time the democratic appropriation of spatial and urban planning and the social appropriation of the land. The entire food production must be completely ecologically rebuilt and the agricultural industry disempowered. The meat processing industry has to be massively dismantled. The entire energy conversion and supply must be converted to renewable energy sources and at the same time energy consumption must be massively reduced. This, however, requires the democratic social appropriation of the entire energy system.

Broad sections of the population must be won over to democratically appropriate the fossil fuel companies, including car companies and financial corporations. Only on this basis is it possible to shut down and completely restructure these corporations in a controlled manner and in accordance with social concerns.

But this perspective needs to be sharpened. For most countries in Europe, I see three strategic axes:

First, it is important to focus on the fossil fuel companies in the energy, automotive, aerospace and defense industries. It is necessary to consider how broad-based transnational campaigns for the expropriation of these corporations and their democratic social appropriation can be conducted. Socialization is a prerequisite for the dismantling of the fossil fuel sector so that it does not lead to mass layoffs and impoverishment processes.
Secondly, a comprehensive ecological mobility transition, which includes a far-reaching banishment of motorized private transport from urban conurbations, presupposes that the automotive companies and large supplier companies are socially appropriated, smashed and merged with the railway industry to form a publicly controlled mobility industry controlled by the employees. It is important to consider how this perspective can be sharpened with a socially broadly understood campaign.
The third axis aims at the social appropriation of the financial sector. All conversion measures require extensive investments. The financial sector must be put fully at the service of this restructuring. All socially unnecessary areas of the enormously inflated financial sector must be shut down under public control. A central point of attack is the funded pension schemes. These are to be converted into pay-as-you-go pension funds that enable all people to live a dignified life after their professional activity.
On the first and second axes, I make some reflections and suggestions for an in-depth discussion in the climate movement and in the trade unions.

Industrial conversion for profit or life?
Through demonstrations and blockades, the climate movement has so far been able to bring the need for a radical political change into the consciousness of broad sections of the population. But so far it has not been able to show any concrete successes. A central challenge is to win over the majority of wage earners, including those in the fossil fuel sectors, for a comprehensive socio-ecological restructuring. Unfortunately, most trade unions are far from meeting environmental needs and the worsening economic and social contradictions.

The automotive industry is undergoing a major upheaval, which is accompanied by massive job cuts. Since the record year of 2017, when 73.5 million passenger cars and 23.8 million commercial vehicles were produced worldwide, car production has declined. The corona crisis reinforced this trend. In 2020, the industry still produced 55.8 million passenger cars and 21.8 million commercial vehicles. German industry suffered even greater bloodletting: from 5.6 million passenger cars in 2017 to 2.7 million passenger cars in 2021.[7] While car exports to China were the basis of the flourishing business in the last decade, this market is now developing into a cluster risk. Several automotive plants in Germany record extremely low capacity utilization. It is true that sales fell less sharply than unit numbers and the key corporations were able to defend their profits through rationalization.

With the massive expansion of electromobility, the German car industry wants to counter the pioneer Tesla and the up-and-coming competitors from China after a long hesitation and at the same time start an upswing. According to the coalition agreement, the German government wants to put at least 15 million fully electric cars on the roads by 2030. It subsidizes the purchase of electric cars with premiums and the development of a nationwide charging infrastructure. All this will devour tens of billions of euros, which would have to be put into a truly ecological transport transition in a much more sensible way.

The changes will lead to a significant loss of jobs. Different scenarios estimate the decline to 100 000 to 450 000 jobs with a current workforce of 820 000 employees including the supplier industry. According to a study by the IFO Institute on behalf of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), the industry will cut at least 178,000 jobs by 2025 and at least 215,000 by 2030, and only on the basis of previous climate protection laws.

IG Metall's responses to these challenges are inadequate. IG Metall propagates inefficient synthetic fuels and relies on electric cars. This orientation takes neither the economic structural change nor the urgent expansion of public transport into account. It completely disregards the ecological urgency of largely replacing motorized private transport with public and non-motorized means of transport.

The trade unions in the export-oriented sectors largely subordinate themselves to the interests of the corporations. They believe that if they help to strengthen the competitiveness and profitability of companies, they are most likely to get well-paid jobs. This orientation is built on sand and contributes to the constant erosion of the livelihoods and working conditions of wage earners. IG Metall has not been able to prevent plant closures in the automotive and supplier industries in the recent past. As a result, not only jobs, but also social connections were lost. And the fighting power of the union suffered heavy blows. It is becoming increasingly clear that it is not the urgently needed socio-ecological restructuring of industries, but rather the normal capitalist logic of competition and profit that leads to a reduction in jobs.

Due to the long-standing depoliticization of the works council committees, there are hardly any socio-political discussions. Internalized co-management prevents works councils from setting their own agendas. Surveys indicate that there is a willingness at the trade union base and among shop stewards to tackle the ecological and social challenges in a comprehensive sense. However, this requires independent trade union approaches that are independent of corporate strategies. [8]

The massive expansion of the railway industry and the production of buses would go hand in hand with a massive expansion of the workforce. Estimates of the current number of employees in the railway industry vary widely. It is expected to be 165 000 and 200 000 jobs respectively. [9] A strong shift in transport to public transport would be accompanied by a massive shift in jobs from car manufacturing to rail and public transport sectors by 2035. The aggregate employment effects of -768 000 and + 746 000 jobs are expected to be almost balanced over this period. However, as a result of this transformation to "sustainable mobility", "the labour demand will not be easily met by the people who are affected by employment declines in the same course." [10] The necessary industrial dismantling of the automotive industry and expansion of the railway industry is therefore associated with massive redeployments of industrial capacities, jobs and human creativity.

Democratic social appropriation
Such a process is impossible under the constraints of profit and competition. On the contrary, the creation of a democratically controlled public mobility industry that unites essential sectors of automotive manufacturing, the aviation industry and the railway industry is in keeping with the challenge. This sector would guarantee workers a good job. Under the umbrella of this integrated industrial sector owned by society, the necessary restructuring could be carried out. The rapid and massive expansion of the rail industry and public transport would offer numerous new jobs in a short time, which many employees from the shrinking automotive industry can take on. At the same time, the automotive industry would gradually convert its production capacities to the production of buses and rail vehicles.

However, industrial conversion is only possible if employees are actively involved in this process. They know the work and production processes best. However, this requires trade unions that are aware of their social and ecological responsibility. They are able to drive such processes forward.

The impulses of the climate movement are crucial. Activists in the climate movement can engage in discussion with workers, whether they are members of a trade union or not. Experimenting and trying things out is the order of the day. Such approaches already exist. An example is the joint resistance of employees of the automotive supplier group Bosch in Munich and the anti-capitalist initiative Climate Protection and Class Struggle against the closure of the plant and for the restructuring of production. The joint campaign of the trade union ver.di and Fridays for Future in Germany in autumn 2020 for good collective agreements for bus drivers also conveyed important experiences. Good public transport with good working conditions is an indispensable prerequisite for reducing car traffic and dismantling the car industry.

Such links between the climate movement and the industrial struggles contribute to the formation of a plural movement of workers that is aware of ecological restrictions and at the same time wants to overcome the constraints of capital accumulation. The perspective of a democratic social appropriation of key industries, especially fossil fuel industries and manufacturers of railways and public transport infrastructures, is an indispensable component of a comprehensive socio-ecological transformation. Only when millions of wage earners and their trade unions see themselves as an active part of the climate movement and are prepared to work in "their" companies and factories for an ecological restructuring of production will the balance of power change substantially.

[1] IPCC (2021): Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change[Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S. L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L. Goldfarb, M. I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J.B.R. Matthews, T. K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu and B. Zhou (eds.)]: Cambridge University Press, 3948 pp.
[2] http://productiongap.org/2021report ; OPEC (2021): 2021 World Oil Outlook 2045, September 28, 2021, Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC Secretariat: Vienna, 320 p.; https://www.iea.org/reports/net-zero-by-2050 [3] Tanuro, Daniel (2020): Trop tard pour être pessimistes!
La catastrophe grandissante et les moyens de l'arrêter. Paris: La Découverte, 314 p. ; Löwy, Michael (2016): Ökosozialismus: Die radikale Alternative zur ökologische und kapitalistischen Katastrophe. Hamburg: Laika Verlag, 192 p.
[4] Zeller, Christian (2020): Revolution für das Klima. Why we need an eco-socialist alternative, S 73. Munich: Oekom Verlag, 248
p. [5] Marx, Karl (1867): Das Kapital, Erster Band., S. 192 Karl Marx-Friedrich Engels-Werke (MEW) Band 23, S.
821. 1988. Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 955 S. [6] Zeller, Christian (2020): Revolution für das Klima. Why We Need an Ecosocialist Alternative, Chapters 4-8. Munich: Oekom Verlag, 248 p.
[7] Wolf, Winfried (2021): Greenwashing-Konversion. How the world car crisis, the electric car and an FDP car minister fit together. Lunapark21 (56, Winter), pp. 48-51.
[8] Boewe, Jörn; Krull, Stephan and Schulten, Johannes (2021): E-mobility – is this the solution? A survey of employees on the socio-ecological restructuring of the automotive industry luxembourg contributions No. 1. Berlin: Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (June), 83 pp.
[9] ibid
[10] Schade, Wolfgang; Berthold, Daniel; Doll, Claus; Grimm, Anna; Mader, Simon; Scherf, Christian; Sievers, Luisa and Wagner, Udo (2020): Synthesis and recommendations for action on employment effects of sustainable mobility; Working paper from WP6 and WP7 of the project: Employment Effects of Sustainable Mobility: A Systemic Analysis of Perspectives in Germany up to 2035, M-Five GmbH Mobility, Futures, Innovation, Economics, Karlsruhe: Karlsruhe, 124 p.

You might also be interested in:
Global dimension in the fight against climate change
The globe is burning
Course of Glasgow conference shows: Completely different kind of climate conference needed to tackle the climate crisis
Add Your Comments
LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the latest comments about this post.
These comments are submitted anonymously by website visitors.
TITLE AUTHOR DATE
Negative FeedbackDavid Harold ChesterMonday Jan 3rd, 2022 12:59 AM
We are 100% volunteer and depend on your participation to sustain our efforts!

Donate

Donate Now!

$ 192.00 donated
in the past month

Get Involved

If you'd like to help with maintaining or developing the website, contact us.

Publish

Publish your stories and upcoming events on Indybay.

IMC Network