Josh's blog

Plane Stupid protester wins kettling court case at the High Court

Back in 2009 Plane Stupid were among a festive group of folk protesting against the terrifying implications of carbon trading as part of the Climate Camp at the G20 demonstrations. Our own Josh Moos was one of the two activists who not only took a beating that evening, but went on to jump through legal hoops to try and bring those responsible for police violence to account. In a remarkable ruling, the Police were in the dock and found guilty today.

Here is Josh Moos's statement on the ruling:

"I have witnessed and been on the receiving end of police violence before. The police have a history of gross violence, and what I saw on the 1st and 2nd April was deeply disturbing because of it's sheer scale. The officers behaved as if they had been unleashed upon us and were free to use as much force as they wished without provocation or any other justification. This was not misbehaviour by a few, out of control 'bad apples'; it was systematic and orchestrated. Today the court has ruled, in clear terms, that it was unlawful and nothing I nor anyone else demonstrating at the Carbon Exchange did in any way to justify the kettling and violence to which we were subjected. The ruling is very welcome, but better still would be an acceptance by the police of their own wrongdoing. That has still to come."

But where would all the workers go?

CtrlAltShift Blog #2 - Ask most direct action environmentalists what we should do with all the airports and coal-fired power stations, and they will probably give you a funny look - "obviously we should shut them down!" Josh Moos explains...

Unfortunately, coal-fired power stations and airports are currently workplaces for thousands of workers, from technicians to baggage handlers. Most environmentalists have a vague idea that they want these workers to be involved in a 'just transition' to a low-carbon economy, but what does that really mean? Even when the environmental movement acknowledges the "problem" of these workers' existence, it has a tendency of overlooking their agency and potential power to effect change. If we are to prevent catastrophic climate change, these issues must be addressed.

Workers in high-emitting industries are not the enemy. Climate change is not caused by workers, but by a system based on profit and accumulation where the majority of people in society produce the wealth and a minority appropriate it. This system is called capitalism.

By understanding the causes of climate change, we can also work out the solutions to it. If it is the workers that produce the wealth, then ultimately it is the workers that hold the real power in our society. Those best placed to press the figurative "stop" button in a coal-fired power station are not the people frantically (if admirably) throwing themselves at the fences, but those working in that power station.

Those dynamics were clearly demonstrated by the recent strikes by British Airways cabin crew. By striking, they grounded thousands of planes, and had a considerably bigger impact on emissions than myself and other activists did when we shut down Stansted Airport for several hours in 2008.

This is not to suggest that Plane Stupid shutting down Stansted was unsuccessful, or that environmental direct action of that kind is in anyway pointless. However the fact remains that, while the BA strikes may not have had a directly "environmentalist" motivation, the workers' action still prevented considerably more emissions than we did. We have to recognise the power that workers hold.

This is not simply a question of using workers as a conveniently-placed army to disrupt the activity of high-emitting workplaces. It is about disrupting the wage relation and profit motive that are, fundamentally, the root causes of climate change. By striking workers challenge the "right" of their bosses to run their workplaces (and, by extension, the whole economy) in the sole interests of profit. This creates the possibility of workplaces and a society in which other interests - those of human need and environmental sustainability - come first.

Even a strike around "bread-and-butter" issues like pay or pensions poses the question of power and control. If climate change activists active within the workers movement can win workers in high-emitting industries to a radical environmental perspective, we could again see workers taking action to save the planet as well as their jobs. This is what happened at the Lucas Aerospace plants in the 1970s; when faced with redundancies, the workers developed an Alternative Corporate Plan to convert their factories and save their jobs. The factory produced military hardware, but the workers demonstrated that it could instead manufacture renewable energy equipment.

From the point of view of an environmental activist and not a worker in a car factory, this may all seem rather abstract, but the implications are crucial. The environmental movement needs to engage with workers in high-emitting industries, rather than alienating them. Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group (CACCTU) have attempted to start this process with their "Million Climate Jobs" Report, and Workers' Climate Action is a network built on the idea of working-class environmentalism.

But we need these initiatives to grow. At the most basic level, if a car factory is threatened with closure we shouldn't lick our lips at the prospect of getting rid of a high-emitting workplace, but actively campaign alongside workers to keep the plant open, while helping develop worker-led conversion plans so that factories currently producing cars or aeroplanes begin producing socially and environmentally necessary products.

Everyone knows that climate change will hit the poorest first and hardest, but a united working class is not a vulnerable victim, it is a significant social power. A 'just transition' is not an abstract concept but an integral part of the fight for the survival of our planet. On 20 July 2010, Linamar car factory workers started a fight to save their jobs, and BA cabin crew workers rejected a pitiful pay offer from bullying boss Willie Walsh.

These are workers' struggles in the here and now which need our support and solidarity; they are the path to a just transition and sustainable future.

One million green jobs now!

All too often you hear someone say: "What about all the workers that will lose their jobs if there were no short-haul flights" or "aviation expansion means more jobs". A new report from the Campaign against Climate Change, 'One Million Jobs Now', provides the answer. It shows how over 1,000,000 jobs could be created in 'climate jobs'.

These jobs would directly help to reduced the amount of greenhouse gases we're putting into the air - unlike the 'green jobs' the Goverment keeps supporting. The report suggests that new jobs could be created in all areas - including those in sustainable energies, homes and buildings and transport.

Providing this many new jobs is vital to tackling climate change and providing a transition for workers employed in polluting industries. It would also assist the two and a half million people currently unemployed in the UK. The report demonstrates how over half those people could be re-employed in new 'climate jobs'.

The report was partly inspired by the Vestas struggle, where a group of un-unionised workers on the Isle of Wight were given their marching orders when a factory manufacturing wind turbines was shut down. Work in sectors like the aviation industry is notoriously precarious, with boom and bust cycles creating little job security. The report argues for Government investment in genuinely sustainable employment, for work which will continue to be useful; regardless of the vagaries of the market.

This document is hugely important to climate change activists. It helps to highlight the compatibility of workers and climate activist's struggles and so helps to cement a crucial relationship in the fight against capitalism and climate change.

Support occupation of Vestas wind turbine factory


Last night we saw what may turn out to be one of the crucial moments in the fight against climate change. Faced with closure and the loss of over 600 jobs, 25 workers from Britain’s only wind turbine factory occupied their workplace and vowed to remain in place until the government nationalises the factory.

The Government's reaction perfectly symbolises their refusal to take the environment or labour complaints seriously. Just days after Miliband and Brown promised to create a million green jobs comes an opportunity to demonstrate how serious they are. But instead of engaging in debate they sent in waves of riot cops while putting out press comments that lament the closure of the factory but do sweet f.a. about it.

The Vestas workers are spot on: the factory should be nationalised and turned into an icon of green employment. Don't forget that we just splashed out £400 billion on the bankers who are up to their old tricks again. Labour may bleat about the downturn, but in the real world this wind turbine factory is being closed and they are sitting on their hands. Why? Because saving jobs and preventing climate change are not the government’s priorities, no matter how much they talk about it.

That's what makes this occupation so important: workers coming together to solve their own problems. This country has a history of industrial disobedience and workers’ solidarity. Thatcher tried her hardest to bury this radicalism, but we've seen it returning to our factories and work-places as layoffs continue and bailouts go to those who can most afford a few months out of work (such as the majority of MPs, who are about to break for summer).

People are angry, taking action and getting results. Wildcat strikes in support of the Lindsey Oil Refinery got those workers re-employed. BA workers have firmly rejected their boss's suggestion that they might like to go without pay for a while, protesting outside the AGM and refusing to cave. With Ryanair cutting its Stansted flights by 40% (and already operating with as few staff as possible), how long will it be before we see workers taking over an airport to protest again job losses?

The environmental movement has started to engage in debate about what a low-carbon economy might look like, and - more crucially - how we get there. The Vestas occupation is the perfect tinderbox to ignite that discussion, take it out of the hands of Government and business and let us have a say in what our future will look like.