The Marxism conference is fast approaching, and now excitingly the programme and reading lists are up on the website. This happens to coincide with what could be a period of sustained, ongoing climate activism around the bushfire crisis, and It’s incumbent upon us to make the most of this situation. So I’d like to talk briefly about the “save the planet” stream, because it provides an excellent opportunity both for sales, and for members. It’s of incredible relevance to the activism we’re doing right now, and for the foreseeable future, and so it’s important comrades wrap their heads around the sessions and start thinking about the way we could pitch them.
To begin with there are a couple of good intro sessions to argue and clarify our politics; firstly the 101 “Why is capitalism destroying the planet?”. It’s fairly uncontroversial now, at least amongst younger people in our orbit, that capitalism is to blame for the crisis, but we want to argue that it’s important to interrogate those ideas deeper, that this session provides a space to hammer out what capitalism is, why it’s class exploitation and market competition driving the crisis. It’s a really good sell to anyone we meet on a stall that comes out with the usual refrain of “I’m interested in getting active, but I really want to learn more”.
The panel on “from bushfires to industrial fires” look pretty exciting: there’s Kate Doherty from Sydney talking about the NSW bushfires, Lavanya Thavaraja from the Migrant Workers’ Centre at Trades Hall talking about industrial chemical fires in factories, and Naomi from Melbourne talking about the 2014 Hazlewood mine fire in the La Trobe Valley.
I think we want to say that these are people that are at the forefront, their communities have been particularly ravaged by these fires, and we’ve a lot to learn from them about how to fight these man-made, social disasters. Naomi was the one to break the story about Hazelwood in Red Flag, and organised the community protests in the Valley in response to it. And Lavanya will provide accounts of the intersection of these disasters with racism, and also talk about how it’s the working-class enduring this, but that we’re also the ones with the power to fight it.
The session on socialism on a hot house earth may seem like more of a downer than the others, but it’s important to address how those mad-max style visions of a climate ravaged future are not inevitable. Whilst obviously we want to win before we get to that point, socialist politics are particularly necessary because they provide a way to respond to dystopian fatalism. And that if you’re interested in this, or uncertain about the possibilities of collective struggle and human liberation in a seemingly apocalyptic future, you should come along because you’d get a lot out of it.
Similarly, dystopian futures goes over the way border authoritarianism, the police state, imperialism, and racism will be exacerbated by climate change. It’s also a broader argument about the role of the capitalist state, not as a neutral arbiter, but a tool of class domination. Which is a good session for contacts interested in questions of racism, refugee rights, and police repression, as well as those following debates around imperialism and the nature of the state.
And finally, the sessions on the GND and food production. As was demonstrated by the system change conference there’s an audience for these debates as they remain an open question within our own ranks and in the left and society more broadly. And I think it’s worth pitching them on that basis: the Marxism conference is an open forum for socialists and radical activists of all kinds to come and have these debates. If you’re interested in the Green New Deal, or the history of how food is grown, or have opinions or want to learn more about what a transition to a sustainable planet will look like, you really don’t want to miss these session. These are arguments at the forefront of the climate movement, and here they’ll be taking place amongst activists that are out there concretely fighting for a better world.
A key session that’s not in the stream, but is very related to it, is the panel A planet to save! The role of socialists in responding to the climate crisis. We want to describe it as a forum for people involved in the climate campaign to come and seriously discuss the movement. It’s going to be the gathering of left wingers and radicals involved in climate activism – so the people that organised the 100,000 that came out and marched last week will be speaking on it- and activists in this campaign have a lot to gain and contribute. We’ve had almost a year now of exciting climate struggle that has heralded the birth of one of the most real social movements in recent history. And this will provide a place to meet up with activists across the country that have been at the forefront, and importantly cohere an explicitly socialist wing of it.
It’s an exciting stream that can provide a great opportunity for sales at protests, on stalls, poster runs, and campaign meetings. As well, it’ll provide a learning experience for us as we continue to take environmental politics seriously. Which then plays into our promotion of the conference: the more we known about and are excited by a session, the easier it is to make that sale. And especially today, when these theoretical questions have concrete implications, and a real relevance to the work that we’re doing.