In the last decade workers around the world have found themselves facing several simultaneous crises.
The worldwide recession caused by the 2008 financial bubble has led to banks being bailed out and the cost being offloaded on the people through austerity and loss of purchasing power and workers’ rights.
Concomitantly, most major democracies have been through a resurgence of fascism and authoritarianism, propelled by the incapability of centre-left parties to present an alternative to neo-liberal policies and by an underlying bedrock of imperialist and colonialist sentiment that has long gone unchallenged in the Western world.
To top it off now people all over the world are facing unprecedented, large-scale disruption to their lives and livelihoods because of the climate crisis which is now felt worldwide and not just in the Global South.
For too long these crises have been treated as separate entities by the progressive forces who have set out to resist them; this division is not just unhelpful, but wholly artificial. In fact the root cause of all these crises lies in the current economic and productive system that exploits both people and nature in its perpetual quest for profit and growth. From this central fact comes the necessity for progressive forces to overcome the artificial divisions between them and fight together to enact change, dismantle the current system and build a better one.
The trade union movement must realise that the dichotomy between jobs and the environment is artificial. The sustainable transition is not a different form of austerity to be resisted, but can give rise to hundreds of thousands of secure, unionised jobs focused on creating social value and on restoring our natural support systems, if only unions are willing to lead it and steer it.
On the other hand, the environmentalist forces must recognise that individual choices are not “free” in this system and that the “sustainable lifestyle” is out of the reach of a majority of working class people at the moment.
It must realise that the crisis is urgent, yes, but not all solutions to it are to be equally embraced. Any sustainable transition that does not put the rights and livelihoods of working people around the world at its centre, making reparations where most oppression has been placed, and does not challenge the current production system, is unjust and must be rejected.
It is only by learning from each other and challenging each other that our two movements can become even more powerful and bring about the change we need.
The path is open before us, but only if we march together we can reach the goal that lays at the end.