Letters: Good climate content, dubious wrapping; Better lockdowns

Submitted by AWL on 27 April, 2021 - 7:55
Climate pessimism

Good content, dubious wrapping

Todd Hamer (Solidarity 589) argues well that climate change is not just a threat for the future. It is happening now. A lot of further adverse change will come soon even if we can cut carbon emissions very fast.

We must address climate adaptation: “climate-resilient infrastructure”, “solutions to the food and fresh water crises”, “the capacity for mass resettlement of displaced people”. And mitigation measures such as “the drawdown and storage of atmospheric carbon”. To do that requires huge economic mobilisation, achievable only if social priorities can overwhelm private-profit vested interests.

Todd, however, wraps that message up in two others which are shakier. First, that collapses in property prices in coastal areas will trigger economic snowballs of imploding debt and “the intractable economic crisis”. Second, declining economic growth will turn people to socialism.

Possibly huge floods will trigger cascades of default. Mostly, though, capitalism is quite resilient about regrowth (of its own sort) after destruction. Its distinctive route to crisis is through overproduction. There will surely be more such crises in the years ahead. Not necessarily one “intractable” breakdown.

In countries like the USA, the UK, etc. most people already think that life will be worse for their children than themselves. All other things equal, social pessimism is more likely to drive people to the right than to the left. In 2016, though more people currently badly-off voted Clinton, Trump had a 58%-29% lead among the pessimists who feltworse off than their parents.

Chris Reynolds, North London

Better lockdowns

Jim Denham says that it is “self-evident” that: “If all workers other than those doing “absolutely essential” work are staying home, workers’ action is by definition no factor in [the Zero Covid programme to win more effective lockdowns]”.

I don’t agree with the Zero Covid strategy but is wrong to suggest workers’ action can play no role in winning more effective lockdowns. In fact the opposite: workers’ direct action has forced more effective lockdowns, most significantly with the action by schoolworkers in January. Far from a measure that has to be imposed on workers by police action, the lockdowns have been extremely popular (one poll found 79% supported lockdown in January 2021). Capitalists big and small have been the force in society most resistant to lockdowns and they have determinedly maintained conditions of wage slavery and near wage slavery that have prevented more effective lockdowns. If the tens of thousands of schoolworkers who resisted schools reopening in January had been joined by workers in construction, non-essential manufacturing (arms, luxury goods etc.) and others, then probably the lockdown would have been even more effective: less social mixing would have meant the infection rate would have dropped quicker, less people would be dead and lockdown easing could have ended sooner.

Zero Covid take the daft stance of opposing any reopenings until Covid has been eliminated. But that does not detract from the fact that workers can take action to win more effective lockdowns and it was precisely on this terrain that workers won a total victory over the government. The NEU leadership got spooked by the threat of legal action and made little of this victory. Socialists should not underplay its significance.

Stuart Jordan, South London

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