Demonstrators from around the world marched through Glasgow where the COP26 is taking place to demand climate action, reports Doncho Atanassov
Incredible displays of solidarity took place in Glasgow on Friday 5 and Saturday 6 November, with the joint school strikes and cleansing workers strikes on Friday and the broad Global Day of Action demonstration on Saturday.
Friday’s strike was not just a climate strike. It was organised alongside Glasgow’s striking cleansing workers, as Greta Thunberg expressed her support for the workers and joined them on the march.
On Saturday, activists from environmental groups, socialist groups, tenants’ unions, trade unions, and single-issue campaigns assembled in Kelvingrove Park to march to George Square and to Glasgow Green. It is estimated that 100,000 people attended Saturday’s march, making it Glasgow’s largest ever protest. What this shows is that our struggle against capitalism is a universal, all-encompassing struggle.
Both marches dispelled the divisive myths that the campaign for climate action is not a working class issue, that the working class do not care about environmental issues, or that the goals of one can only be achieved at the expense of the other.
Thousands gathered in George Square on Friday, and Glasgow Green on Saturday to listen to a host of speakers: from trade unionists and strikers to indigenous activists from the Pacific and Amazon, to Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate. It is abundantly clear from each of their speeches how our struggles are interconnected.
Chris Mitchell from GMB Scotland spoke about climate and social justice being one and the same. Greta Thunberg said that we must fundamentally change society and pointed out that the climate crisis exists in the context of colonialism. The indigenous activists showed how capitalist exploitation is killing their lands and their people for the sake of profit (it should also be noted that indigenous activists were at the forefront of Saturday’s march and are the chief victims of capitalist and imperialist violence).
Vanessa Nakate told us all that ‘another world is necessary, and another world is possible’. The gathering of so many people from around the world in Glasgow demonstrates that our struggle must be global, and that we must support those whose actions disrupt the status quo.
What was also clear is that police intimidation is ever-present, and that the state will deploy the police to stop those calling for systemic change. It is impossible to separate the collective, popular struggle for a liveable future for humanity from the powers that protect the current capitalist order.
We witnessed this with the kettling of socialist and communist activists from the Young Communist League at St Vincent Street by the police officers that have come from around the UK. The ‘liaison officers’ in blue bibs were also spreading disinformation about ‘disruptive activists’ needing to be escorted by the police – which was completely untrue. The YCL were surrounded by police as soon as they arrived in Kelvingrove Park and caused no disruption throughout the march. Shouts of ‘Let them march!’, ‘Solidarity forever!’, and ‘Let them go!’ could be heard from the surrounding activists.
This was simply a showcase of police power being used to undermine protesters, and it is only a matter of time before they use the same power to disrupt and intimidate other radical groups that seek to prevent the environmental destruction of our society. Therefore, the struggle against climate change must be accompanied by the struggle against the Tory Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which seeks to resistrict the right to protest.
The solidarity and the link to the struggle against capitalism was apparent, and it is our job as socialists to maintain this consciousness for future demonstrations and to organise for genuine change outside of capitalism.
While some banners and placards were urging individual solutions to the climate crisis, the dominant message throughout the march was a call for systemic change. This does mean, however, that the job of socialists is to continue to make the explicit link between the climate breakdown and the capitalist system that upholds environmental destruction for the sake of profit.
What the demonstrations in Glasgow showed is that the movement is growing, that climate change is an urgent issue that cuts through to huge swathes of people, and it will take continued mobilisation to force the radical change we need. As Greta Thunberg said at one of the protests outside the COP26, “Change is not going to come from inside there. They are not the leadership. This here is leadership.”
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