By Jacklyn Cock
Global Labour Journal
October 24, 2011
According to Sean Sweeney: ‘In recent years global labor has worked on the premise that the ‘real world’ historical options are essentially two-fold. Either humanity will transition to some form of “green capitalism” where economic growth is delinked from emissions and environmental destruction generally, or we face a “suicide capitalism” scenario where fossil-fuel corporations and major industry, agriculture, transport and retail interests are successful in maintaining business as usual’ (Sweeney 2011: 9).
Avoiding the suicide scenario and making the transition to a low carbon or ‘green’ economy will be particularly challenging for us in South Africa given the carbon intensive nature of our economy and the continued dominance of the ‘minerals-energy complex’.
Recently the South African labour movement has expressed its commitment to a ‘just transition to a low carbon economy’. However this article argues that this is contentious with very different understandings of the scale and nature of the changes involved. A ‘just transition’ could involve demands for shallow change focused on protecting vulnerable workers or deep change rooted in a vision of dramatically different forms of production and consumption. In this sense the ecological crisis represents an opportunity: to not only address the unemployment crisis in our society, but to demand the redistribution of power and resources; to challenge the conventional understanding of economic growth and to mobilize for an alternative development path .
It could also generate a new kind of transnational solidarity, larger, deeper and more powerful than anything we have yet seen. Moving beyond solidarities based on interests or identities, Hyman emphasizes that ‘the challenge is to reconceptualise solidarity in ways which encompass the local, the national, the European and the global. For unions to survive and thrive, the principle of solidarity must not only be redefined and reinvented: workers on the ground must be active participants in this redefinition and reinvention’ (Hyman
Read more HERE.