Socialist Alternative

Socialists mobilise to protest ‘Stockholm+50’ summit

International Socialist Alternative together with our Swedish section, Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna invested heavily in climate protests at the UN Stockholm+50 Environment Summit in Stockholm on 2–3 June. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the Swedish government or its peers from around the world, under whose leadership the planet continues to rush headlong into a devastating climate crisis.

It was called a top summit. It was called a “celebration”, 50 years after the first environmental summit. But it was only in the few days before that it became widely known in Stockholm that a summit on the climate was even taking place. This is because despite their ‘green’ rhetoric the politicians wanted to hide their failure. 

“Celebration” of failure

Despite their claims to be leaders on the climate, a survey conducted around Stockholm+50 showed that Sweden has failed on 3 out of 4 environmental goals set in the last 50 years. Worldwide, only 10% of environmental goals have been met. The Swedish economy continues to engage in devastating predation against people and nature. Only 3.4% of the Swedish economy is based on recycling. The scandalous projects that the Social Democratic government, most of the time supported by the Green Party, are constantly undertaking include new mining projects, new highways, cement mining, reduced beach protection and increased clear-cutting just to name a few.

Stinging criticism of the government’s preparations for the summit came from leading climate activists such as Anders Wijkman, who pointed out that there were not even any proposals for decisions for the meeting. Greta Thunberg refused to attend the meeting in protest at the empty words on offer. 

War and militarism — climate Killers

Instead of the necessary focus on the climate over the past months, Sweden’s political elite have been obsessed with NATO and militarization. In a shocking and coup-like manner, the government has submitted an application for Swedish NATO membership without any sort of referendum to give a voice to the working people of Sweden. 

Subsequently, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made bizarre demands in exchange for agreeing to Sweden’s membership, including the extradition of Swedish citizens from Kurdish backgrounds and demands to be allowed to buy Swedish weapons, to which the government can barely answer. Things were revealed in the clearest possible way during the week of the Stockholm climate conference, when as many as 60 NATO ships were anchored in the Stockholm archipelago, some of which were as large as islands.

What the government mainly did with the summit was pay tribute to Swedish industry. Minister of the Environment, Annika Strandhäll, posed together with four CEOs from Volvo, Volvo CE, SSAB and NCC corporations, and advertised Swedish ‘fossil-free’ steel. One of those who responded to this propaganda is the author Arne Muller, who also spoke at ISA’s public meeting on 3 June. “The quest for profit is almost always at odds with climate change and sustainable development.” said Arne Muller. 

ISA international rally makes case for socialist alternative

He highlighted that the policies being pursued by the Swedish government in their ‘green transition’ actually require MORE exploitation of natural resources through things like energy. Promises of new sustainable power like batteries actually require further exploitation of unsustainable resources and expansion of mining practices. Arne finished by saying that technology can certainly aid the development of sustainability but could only do so on the basis of planned management and distribution. 

Over 70 people came together at the international rally organized by International Socialist Alternative (ISA) and Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (RS). 

Workers’ unions must act

The first speaker at the rally was Katja Raetz, a union representative and nurse, who has played an active role in raising the need for the trade unions to take a lead in the struggle to stop the climate crisis. Katja pointed out that the lack of actual progress in the last 50 years has shown that we cannot count on the people in power to deliver change. Any change will have to come from a struggle from below and that the trade unions have a key role to play in such a movement. 

The unions have the power to arm the climate movement with collective ideas and strike action to fundamentally challenge the balance of power. The leadership of the unions are holding them back from playing this role, preferring a ‘partnership’ with the exploiters of both workers and the climate. She finished with the need for the unions to not only take up a struggle against this but against the profit system as a whole, ending with the quote from great socialist thinker Karl Marx that “all trade union struggle is political struggle” and that the climate crisis only makes this more acute.

The second speaker was Raymond Stokki. Raymond is a teacher, indigenous activist and campaigner against mining and deforestation in the North of Sweden. Raymond focused on the ‘greenwashing’ by the Swedish state and big forest and mining companies and their role in the racist exploitation of Sami people and land. 

Myriam Poizot, from the ISA section in Ireland called Socialist Party (Ireland), drew out the need to link the struggle for the climate with the struggles against racism, sexism and the exploitation of the working class. She cited struggles breaking out in different countries around the world against the oppression of capitalism from Black Lives Matter in the US to the uprising against the cost of living crisis in Sri Lanka. She also talked about the role ISA has played in winning victories on these issues from the campaign against market rents in Sweden to the struggle for a $15 an hour minimum wage in the United States and the successful battle to legalize abortion in Ireland.

The climate movement in Sweden is in a lull. During the summit, there was a demonstration with 1,000 participants and a school strike called by Fridays for Future with a few thousand participants. This is mainly because the pro-NATO campaign from the government has made many people confused and passive. Unfortunately, the organizers of the demonstrations which took place have also chosen an approach of not inviting different organizations into a broad common struggle with a democratic atmosphere. This in turn makes the movement smaller. However, ISA found that there was a very large audience for clear anti-capitalist messages. At the Fridays For Futures demonstration, we built a block with several hundred mostly young participants with a lot of flags and a lot of slogans.

Capitalism’s climate lies and hypocrisy — build a movement for international socialism

At the rally, Mattias Bernhardsson, candidate for Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna in local elections in Haninge later this year, and leading campaigner for forest preservation, spoke about the lies of the Swedish government in particular in reference to ‘biofuel’ and complicity of the Social Democrats and Greens in perpetuating this lie. Mattias pointed out that at the current rate of logging for example, there would be no forests left at all — apart from those that are already legally protected — by 2050. 

Boel Bernmark, a high school student who spoke from Young Socialists, pointed out how imperialist wars under capitalism play the role of massive accelerators in the destruction of the planet. For example, the US military alone produces more emissions than some entire countries producing more than 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gasses since 2001. 

Yaara Cliff, member of ISA in England, Wales and Scotland, talked about ISA’s climate activism around the world from Israel/Palestine to Europe to Latin America. She noted that because the climate crisis is an international phenomenon there needs to be a global fightback and that this requires a fight against the system in favor of a democratic socialist system. 

The rally was summed up by Jonas Brännberg, City Councilmember for Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna in Luleå. Jonas talked about how the speeches all had common threads that pointed toward the multiple crises of capitalism in general, the need for a society that prioritized human needs and the failure of the Swedish and other governments in confronting the scale of the climate catastrophe. He said that while there are tipping points in terms of climate, examples mentioned by the speakers pointed to another, positive tipping point in the consciousness of workers and young people and the need to fight back. 

The rally also included a nice musical performance by Shamiram Adam. Afterwards people stuck around for informal discussions about the meeting and its content for about an hour. 

Overall the meeting was a resounding success which helped to cap off a brilliant week of spreading the ideas of class struggle and the need for a socialist world to stop the capitalist profit system’s destruction of the planet. We also found the response to our ideas in the streets very favorable and sold 301 of our socialist newspapers, raised 1,700 euros in donations and collected 250 names of people interested in joining ISA.