Greta Thunberg is the face of a coming radical youth movement aimed at stopping global climate disaster. The attacks on her, and the attempts to undermine her, should be seen in that light. And hardly had she finished lambasting the UN delegates, than those attacks began.
Writing in the NY Times, Christopher Caldwell accused her of “simplification” and “sowing panic”. “Normally Ms. Thunberg would be unqualified to debate in a democratic forum,” he wrote, making frequent references to her young age (“precious, adolescent, diminutive and fresh-faced, unrealistic” were some of the adjectives he used.) “Kids her age have not seen much of life,” he wrote.
He then went on to claim that what she stands for will be used by the far right anti-immigration forces, which is ironic since the Guardian newspaper accused him of stoking “a culture of fear” (of Muslim people) in his recent book, Reflections on the Revolution in Europe. Regarding the looming climate disaster, Caldwell calls for “patience”. (As Thunberg pointed out at the UN, the science has been known for 30 years and nothing significant has been done. Should we be “patient” as we all find ourselves with a burning planet?)
The more blatant far right was more crude yet. Michael Knowles called her “a mentally ill Swedish child” on Fox, and Dinesh D’Souza compared her role to that of a Nazi figurehead child, and Laura Ingraham called Thunberg’s appearance at the UN “chilling”.
Such attacks will be like water off a duck’s back. Thunberg won’t be bothered.
In this regard, Trump is especially useful for Obama and his ilk. Take the case of the Paris climate accord, signed in December of 2015 – by Obama among others. Much has been made of Trump’s withdrawal from that accord. All it means is that he will stop the pretense that that accord represents! Oaklandsocialist analyzed that accord here. We explained that it was lauded by the Chinese government, which got 60% of its energy from burning coal, and by the Brazilian government which was allowing deforestation of the Amazon even back then. We explained that there was not a single reference to “military” in the accord. (A recent article in the Intercept reports that “The U.S. Department of Defense has a larger annual carbon footprint than most countries on earth. With a sprawling network of bases and logistics networks, the U.S. military is the single biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world aside from whole nation-states themselves.”)
As we explained, all the nice-sounding goals of the Paris Accord were just that – goals. Not a single thing was mandated. “While the Republican wing is dominated by climate deniers who appeal to the most backwards thinking, the Democratic wing pretends to give something with one hand, while they take away even more with the other,” we wrote. (See full analysis here.)
Nor will the established environmental groups provide an alternative. As we documented in The Environmentalist Manifesto, they are too integrated into the corporate-controlled Democratic Party as well as too linked with big business to really be effective.
When Thunberg spoke at the UN, she roasted the delegates, who applauded her at every turn. This was their theatrics, a pretense that her justified attack did not apply to them. Ditto with Obama, his fist-bump and his claim that he was a “team” with her. That is the real danger for Thunberg and the coming movement she represents – that in contrast to the monsters like Trump the Obama’s can make themselves look good.
But we should not forget what she said – that the world has had 30 years in which the science of global warming was a proven fact yet the world “leaders” have done nothing. But it wasn’t the lunatics like Trump who were in charge for most of that time; it was the Obama’s of the world.
Specifically, the issue is likely to play out through a few questions, ranging from the very practical to the “theoretical”:
- First: Will the coming youth movement orient to the working class? Will it relate the issue of climate disaster to the economic issues that workers face or will it allow itself to move down the road of making the working class pay? We should remember what happened to Macron and how the Yellow Vest movement developed. In that case, Macron instituted a gas tax as a means of reducing gas consumption. Workers and more middle class people revolted because they couldn’t afford to pay more. The coming youth movement must be devoted to making the capitalists pay for the climate crisis. After all, it is the capitalists who have created this crisis.
- Second: The US labor movement did not develop through safely obeyting every union-busting law and judge. It developed in the 1930s through mass defiance, through sit-down strikes and mass picket lines. The coming movement will have to take up these tactics if it is to succeed – not symbolic civil disobedience, but mass defiance that actually shuts down society.
- Third: The only way to make the capitalist class pay for this crisis is if the youth movement links up with the working class. But the only way that the working class can exert its power is through its own party. The need for a working class party in a country like the United States is seen by the role of the Democratic Party, whose policy for years has been to promote the use of natural gas. Even today, the proposals of the “progressive” wing of the Democrats is completely inadequate, as Oaklandsocialist has shown in our article Can the Green New Deal Save the Planet? (Even if it were adequate, there is no chance at all that the Democrats would even pass it!)
- All this leads to the question of capitalism itself. We think the facts show that the only solution is an economy that is democratically planned by the working class itself. In other words, socialism. That means a complete transformation not only of the economy, but of the very structure and functioning of the government (the “state”) itself. In other words, a workers’ state.
Oaklandsocialist believes that these are some of the main issues that the coming mass movement will have to consider.