Convention Discussion: Climate change is an urgent necessity

BY: Juan Lopez| June 4, 2014

Submitted by Juan Lopez, National Vice Chair CPUSA, Oakland, CA

This too is an area that requires our party and members’ involvement with most urgent laser beam focus.

I of course agree when comrades point out that Climate Change is the product of capitalism and the class propelling the system. The real solution lies in a sustainable socialist society.

We should definitely bring this into the discourse.

But, it is far from enough!

The speed and intensity with which climate change is overtaking the planet gathers momentum with each passing day and has already surpassed the worst predictions of scientists about the speed with which it is moving.

Other than the PW, which has been doing a commendable job on the subject, our work on this front needs to be radically ramped up, not tomorrow but yesterday!

It is necessary that our party and members in their respective areas find the points of entry into the movements leading this struggle.

At the same time, wherever we find ourselves in the arena of struggle, the challenge is to move to action the groups and people around us and plug them into the existing environmental initiatives.

It could be the newly organized local chapter of, the movement to stop fracking in the region, the campaign to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, or the divestment initiatives emanating from the universities.

In the course of our involvement, we will gain the respect and confidence of environmental activists allowing us to potentially play a bigger role in helping broaden and deepen this movement.

What do I mean?

The need for all-around unity requires an emergency response.

As I see it, unity includes:

  • Within the environmental movement.

  • Within the house of labor.

  • Between labor and the environmental movement.

  • The environmental movement and the grassroots in the communities, including popular institutions like the churches, synagogues, mosques and their congregations, and more.

  • Unity with people’s of color and their communities.

Noted environmental correspondent Mark Hertsgaard told an overwhelmingly white crowd of environmental activists at a recent conference I attended that studies reveal that concern over climate change is greater among people of color – namely Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Latinos and African Americans – than among whites.

He reminded us that the nation is going the way of California where people of color now constitute well over half the population.

He challenged us to reach out to these communities, many of which suffer from higher than normal incidences of cancer, asthma and other illnesses due to their proximity to toxic dumps and emissions.

He invited the crowd to give more attention to other particular issues of deep concern to people of color as a way of bridging the relationship and broadening the environmental movement.

Coming from a white person, his appeal makes a strong case for the role that white people can and must play in the fight for equality and unity.

He made these observations while recognizing the outstanding role that many white people, especially youth, are playing in the environmental movement.

Also to be recognized is the invaluable role Native American peoples are now and have all along been playing as front line fighters for Nature of which we are all part.

Labor’s agenda intersects with that of the environmental movement.

While significant unity has developed between sections of labor and the environmentalist movement, most notably in the Blue-Green Alliance, there is a need to forge much broader unity.

The environmental movement, joining with labor and a broad people’s alliance, must energetically advocate for a program that guarantees the livelihood of workers whose jobs would be threatened by any transition from fossil fuels, as in the case of coal miners and workers at coal operated energy plants.

Dave Campbell, secretary treasurer the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) Local 675, at the same conference argued for the creation of a “just transition” super fund guaranteeing the income of workers laid off as a result of conversion to renewable energy sources for a period of say two years.

There is precedent for this approach as in the case of laid off members of the United Auto Workers union who would receive a guaranteed income and benefits while waiting to be transitioned to a new plant or out on furlough.

Meanwhile, laid off workers transitioning from fossil fuel industries receiving an income could be trained for new jobs.

Given the current national balance of forces, these demands probably qualify as more advanced demands not immediately realizable but nevertheless important to float publicly through legislation and local ordinances, even if at this point as general policy statements.

The point is to put this out widely into the public discourse and to link it to the proposition that transitioning to sustainable sources of energy combined with conservation measures, such as retrofitting buildings to save energy, would create far more jobs than from fossil fuel industries.

Thus, ramping up street and legislative heat on Republican Climate Change deniers and liars peddling the notion that transition to clean energy is a job killer.

Turning the energy sector into public utilities is another reform to be floated.

Nothing new here either.

That’s already taking place in a number of municipalities, as with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the largest municipal water and power utility in the nation.

This may be an idea whose time has not come at the national level given the present balance of forces.

But, it is one that could be pursued widely at the municipal level.

Could it be pursued at the state and regional level in places like California with relatively strong public pro-environmental sentiment and movements, a Democratic control state government with a significant progressive group of legislators, and the resources to carry it out.

In any case, it will take the Party’s environmental working committee – collaborating with party commissions, other party members and friends – to fully flesh out these ideas.

The moment calls for the most complete popular unity imaginable.

At the same time, it calls for taking advantage of whatever openings – big or small – appear among sections of the ruling class aimed to arrest the out-of-control pace of Climate Change and to mitigate its impact.

A number of steps of the Obama administration are a case in point and merit broad, energetic popular support, while the movement continues to press the administration to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.

One last thought and an important one.

In the context of Climate Change as in other critical challenges, the 2014 and 2016 elections could well be decisive one way or the other for the people and Nature.

All the more reason we must throw everything and the kitchen sink into them.

The views and opinions expressed in the Convention Discussion are those of the author alone. The Communist Party is publishing these views as a service to encourage discussion and debate. Those views do not necessarily reflect the views of the Communist Party, its leading bodies or staff members. The CPUSA Constitution, Program, and all its existing policies remain in effect during the Convention discussion period and during the Convention.

For details about the convention, visit the Convention homepage
To contribute to the discussion, visit the Convention Discussion webpage

30th National Convention, Communist Party USA
Chicago | June 13-15, 2014



    Juan Lopez is chairman of the Communist Party in northern California and statewide coordinator. He has been a labor and community activist during the nearly forty years he's lived in Oakland, where he and his wife raised three children. He was formerly a member of the Teamsters union and a shop steward.

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