COP26: Growing support for socialist ideas on Glasgow demos 

A Socialist Party Scotland (CWI) stall during last weekend's COP26 demo

From 5-6 November, Glasgow saw some of the largest political mobilisations since the onslaught of the covid pandemic. The catalyst was the bosses’ summit, COP26, a forum to find ‘solutions’ to limit global warming, but more importantly, to save the capitalist system.

Friday’s march – up to 20,000 strong – was an overwhelmingly youthful demonstration organised by Fridays for Future, with a huge openness to the ideas that a systemic change to the profit-driven rottenness of capitalism is necessary.

Saturday’s demonstration, organised by the COP Coalition, was a larger demonstration of around 70,000 and not so youthful. Nevertheless, the widespread lack of faith in COP to deliver a workable solution for the vast majority of humanity was clear to see.

This consciousness was reflected by the global figurehead of the youth climate strikes, Greta Thunberg, with her comments in George Square on Friday. Correctly, she stated that “we cannot solve a crisis with the same methods that got us here in the first place”, continuing with a call for “drastic annual emissions cuts unlike anything the world has ever seen”. Thunberg’s message that political leaders are all ‘Blah, Blah, Blah’ chimed with many.

The question is, which Greta does not yet answer, how is this to be done if the capitalist rulers are in charge of the economy and therefore the process? The purpose of Socialist Party Scotland’s participation in the demos was to answer that question with our central demand of building a mass working-class movement for socialist change to end climate change.

The most recent IPCC report confirms the scientific validity of this demand. While the corporate lobbyists and corrupt politicians talk around the problem for the sake of appearing to address it, millions of youth and workers in Scotland and internationally see our futures being gambled in front of our eyes.

Incredibly the fossil fuel industry has more delegates at COP26 – more than 500 – than any nation. Over 100 fossil fuel companies are represented.

Our dozens of activists were joined on the marches by comrades from our English and Welsh sister party, the Socialist Party (CWI), raising the banner of socialist ideas like seizing the big polluters’ profits and pouring those into democratically controlled, publicly owned renewable energy. This would be as part of a socialist plan of production necessary to guarantee a decent life to all. No more profits for the billionaires and their political servants, we need public ownership and workers’ control of industry!

Significantly, young people in the climate movement are increasingly open to the methods of class struggle, demonstrated by youth strikers joining cleansing workers’ pickets and the return of this solidarity by a strong Glasgow GMB contingent on the Friday march.

This is a welcome development for Socialist Party Scotland, which has been calling for an orientation to the organised working class as the key for young people radicalised by the climate crisis. We have been raising this idea since the first climate strikes occurred in 2018.

Anti-capitalist, and socialist ideas

Another important step forward is the growing support for anti-capitalist, and socialist ideas – both of which were present on Friday and Saturday’s demonstrations. Our party, along with comrades in attendance from Newcastle, Carlisle and London, had a colourful and disciplined impact on the marches.

At our red gazebos, ‘socialist change to end climate change’ flags and placards – which we sold for donations – and leaflets, were eagerly sought after by hundreds of young people, in particular.

Socialist Party Scotland comrades spoke for hours through our PA systems on both days, popularising a socialist solution to the climate crisis. We explained that you can’t have capitalism without climate destruction. The need to end the rule of the billionaires and big businesses is central to the fight against climate change. The building of a mass movement of workers and young people was essential to sweep away capitalism and build a socialist world. Our petitions that called for the seizing of the profits through nationalisation of the main polluting companies, under workers’ control and support for the striking bin workers in Glasgow, were very popular.

We were the only left organisation on the demos to clearly raise these ideas. Many others put forward mixed messages, calling for system change rather than socialist change.

The enthusiasm for bold and uncompromising socialist ideas was reflected in the 262 copies of the Socialist newspaper sold on the marches and the £700 in donations we received at our stalls from placards, badges, leaflets and in solidarity with our ideas. More than 6,000 copies of our leaflet were also distributed. Over fifty people filled in cards to join Socialist Party Scotland.

The interest in socialist ideas was also reflected at our meeting after the Saturday demonstration, which was well attended by 50 young people and workers. Many of them attended their first-ever socialist meeting, and they were enthusiastic about the potential for socialist ideas to prove transformative not only to the climate crisis but across society.

By raising our slogans for socialist change to end climate change, we provide a marker in the discussion taking place outside COP about the best way forward. You can apologise for a system that thrives off the exploitation of the planet and working people, or advocate a fundamental break with that system.

We have not convinced everyone mobilised by the climate movement of our programme thus far, but we made an important impact on last weekend’s events. BBC television news on Friday night showed our influence, with our placards featuring on the national news. The encouraging points to emphasise are the openness to our ideas, the willingness of young people to engage with the unfolding battles fought by the labour movement, and the growing mistrust of the entire capitalist establishment.

Our party and the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) have for decades been organising amongst the working class and youth to build a movement capable of taking on the bosses and their system.

The environmental crisis wrought by unchecked capitalist greed is just one of the clearest examples of how that system offers no future for the vast majority of humanity. On the evidence of last weekend, workers and youth are increasingly drawing that conclusion. We appeal to them to discuss with us, join our party and fight for a socialist transformation of society.


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