Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Mammoth worms in ermine waiscoats

I think that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are underplaying the issue of climate change. As far I can tell it was not mentioned in JC’s speech to the TUC just after he was elected, and received minimal mention at best in his and McDonnell’s speeches at the Labour Party conference. 

I know JC has a  well thought out and coherent position on this issue which can be seen at http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2978777/jeremy_corbyn_the_green_britain_i_want_to_build.html and http://www.jeremyforlabour.com/winning_with_a_greener_future. 

His position is not in complete accord with some unions and with the TUC’s “just transition” strategy, especially in seeing no future role for nuclear power generation, so no doubt he has to be careful what he says and where and when he says it. His support is a sort of ad hoc coalition and organised labour is an important part of it, a part which he cannot afford to alienate. 

He will probably make some sort of statement about the Paris talks in December 2015, either in regard to or at the run up demos or about the, almost certainly inadequate, outcome. If this happens, it could, in effect, consign climate change to the status of being a niche issue to be addressed via an audience of those already concerned about it. However the main point of climate change politics is for those who understand it to convey to the majority who still don’t, or don’t want to, just how important this issue is. It affects everybody, not just one section of the community. 

Greens have known this for decades, it is the central issue of Green politics, and although they have played a role in getting it onto mainstream political agendas, their progress has been very very slow. Furthermore dealing with climate change has been co-opted into existing political and economic programmes. 

In the mean time Corbyn and John McDonnell seem to be beset by competing forces, hearsay reports mention various Labour councillors etc now avowing their support for the dynamic duo and an organisation called Momentum has emerged and is holding public meetings. Momentum, (see http://www.peoplesmomentum.com/) which is in effect a Labour party group, not open to other Parties, such as the Greens, who may stand candidates against Labour. It will however be open to the various Trotskyite sects,(including the ones who are avowed eco-socialists), who do not stand candidates against Labour. 

 However it is unclear how much this attempted re-branding of Labour will have a real impact on the entrenched Labour organisations in constituencies, or the strategy of being a ‘dented shield’, implementing central gov’t austerity policies. The indications seem to be currently that Momentum is going to advocate support for Labour whatever it does, on the grounds that a Corbynist opposition exists within it and has the potential to reverse anti-austerity policies. 

So the struggles to implement anti-austerity are involving a wide variety of alliances, some of which involve those who have attitudes to climate change and the environmental which range from hostility, denial via ignorance to being Greens in all but name. 

As this poses both a Mammoth task and a mammoth can of worms, it’s perhaps unsurprising that climate change is not at the forefront of Corbynist concerns. Furthermore one of the mammoth worms, has curled into a ‘g’ shape, indicating the initial of the other vexed question arising between Greens and Corbynist Labour, ie growth. 

Some may not like to utter the ‘g word’, John McDonnel has actually said it, but hidden it slightly, by adding the adjective ‘sustainable’, as have many others in the past who are seeking to defend an industrialised mode of production. That doesn’t fool Green anti-Corbynists such as Jenny Jones and Rupert Read (aka the ermine waistcoatistas); “…he is thoroughly in hock to the outdated fetish for economic growth.” they say (of Corbyn, at http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/jeremy-corbyns-fetish-economic-growth-will-not-sway-green-voters-1520591). 

 Jones and Read, and numerous other Greens all note that on a finite planet, growth, as currently measured in GDP/GNP and based on the continued extraction of raw materials and especially fossil fuels is not ‘sustainable’, unless the aim is to turn the planet into an ashtray. Jones and Read may be over optimistic in saying that we are now in “a post-growth world.” and especially in seeming to think that work is being automated out of existence, but they are correct in assuming that to move to a low carbon economy, “a just and swift transition” is needed. 

One of the best worked out means of achieving this is outlined in “One Million Climate Jobs: Tackling the Environmental and Economic Crisis” (1m CJ) produced by the Campaign Against Climate Change . This pamphlet and accompanying full technical report which advocates a complete reconstruction of economic infrastructure to enable a low carbon economy. This should not just entail finding newer means to permit continuing energy consumption to continue at existing levels, but must also entail energy saving measures such as widespread home insulation, a shift away from private car use, reducing unnecessary transportation of goods via localising some production etc.

 For a time, at least, enacting and maintaining such a program might well generate economic growth as conventionally defined, and there are indications that there could be Corbyn/McDonnell support for the type of programme outlined in 1m CJ, which was created with the support of many Trades Unions: but this might be papering over the beginnings of widening crevasse between Greens and Corbynisti.

 The leadership of the Green Party of England and Wales has welcomed Corbyn’s election to Labour leadership and sometimes proposed that the Green’s relationship to him be that of a ‘critical friend’, but currently, it seems that this is all that it can be , it looks as though Corbyn is an exclusively Labour left winger, perhaps excessively attached to economic growth, who needs to be reminded that he did once say some sensible things about climate change.


One Million Climate Jobs: Tackling the Environmental and Economic Crisis  at http://www.campaigncc.org/greenjobs
Jeremy Corbyn's fetish for economic growth will not sway Green voters By Baroness Jenny Jones , Rupert Read September 21, 2015 17:19 BST

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