Bolivia climate conference: The poor take charge of battle for the planet
There are now two sides in global climate politics – theirs and ours.
In December, Barack Obama forced world leaders to accept the “Copenhagen Accord” – an agreement to do nothing about climate change.
At the end of the conference in Bolivia last week, 30,000 people met in the Cochabamba football stadium.
They were mostly Bolivian, mostly workers, and mostly “indigenous”. In Bolivia a majority still speak the “native” languages they spoke when Columbus invaded.
But there were people from over 100 countries there too.
Our “Cochabamba Accord” was read to the crowd. We had passed it in a reasonably democratic process over the last three days.
It’s an astonishing document. It calls for radical cuts in carbon dioxide emissions, no market solutions, and an end to capitalism.
In the stadium, I stood in front of two circles of indigenous mountain peasants, mostly middle aged.
They were well into their coca ritual, blessing and chewing the leaves, when Hugo Chavez of Venezuela began to speak.
They listened to every word, the women leading the clapping when they approved – for instance when Chavez mentioned Lenin.
At the big moments, when he attacked American imperialism, shouted “revolution”, or thundered “Che!”, the older men blew deep rumbling notes on their cow horn trumpets.
This was a stadium full of politically organised communities.
Bolivian president Evo Morales spoke, saying, “On to Cancun”. The UN climate talks in November are in that US tourist-dominated, concrete hell in Mexico.
We will pit our Cochabamba Accord against their Copenhagen Accord. These are the two sides.
We need to be clear about Morales and Chavez. Both preside over a deep contradiction.
They speak of socialism and revolution. Yet capitalist bosses still control most companies.
Evo’s Movement To Socialism party paints “Dignity” and “Respect” on slum and village walls.
These words are real and lived. But they do not feed the children. The majority in that stadium were workers, but the leaders spoke of them as peasants and indigenous people.
All this weakens and limits the governments. Many NGO activists are looking for things in the Accord to criticise. They may, or may not, be right in the details.
But most NGOs cannot support the Accord because it attacks imperialism and capitalism, by name, and calls for socialism and revolution.
In any argument about the Accord, we must start with support.
We also need to be realistic about the climate movement in Britain (and Australia – JP). Most of it is not ready for these ideas. But for many thousands this will be electric.
The global centre of the climate movement has shifted from the NGOs and the middle classes to organised farmers and workers in a poor country.
The Native Americans, so long persecuted, marginalised and impoverished, are now the global leaders of an organised fight to save the Earth.
We have hope now. On to Cancun.
Jonathan Neale reporting in Socialist Worker from Cochabamba, Bolivia.