Anarchosyndicalism and Climate change (A contribution to the debate)

A summary of the state of art of CNT-AIT France collective reflexion about the topic.

A call for a working group has been launched in the AIT (International Workers’ Association) on the issue of the anarchosyndicalist approach to the problem of climate change. I offer you here the state of my personal reflection, but which has been nourished by the exchanges, debates and experiences of struggle that we have with the companions of the CNT-AIT in France.

For more than 30 years, we have been involved – like many sections of AIT – in ecological struggles related to the present and future climate crisis. Our involvement in these struggles has always been based on a dual approach: tackling the environmental problem in its global context (capitalism, State) but also tackling another, more horizontal organizational practice, through popular assemblies…

We have taken part in many movements (anti-nuclear, against petrochemical plants, etc.) at different « ZADs » (Zones to defend, occupation of natural spaces against construction sites: Vingrau, Somport, Sivens, etc.), the most recent was a struggle against a local dam. This struggle is quite similar to our understanding of the struggle that the companions of the ASI of Serbia are supporting against micro hydroelectric power plants. To answer the question about anarchosyndicalist action to the climate crisis.

To answer the question about anarchosyndicalist action to the climate crisis, it seems to me first necessary to develop a better understanding of what the climate crisis is, where does it come from, what are the causes and the consequences. So one of the activity we have been involved has been to introduce a debate between our members and friends about the crisis and its meaning.

In those exchanges, we have talked about modern technologies and science. In the public opinion, there is a common opinion that – in order to solve the crisis – ones must relay totally on scientists and modern technology – which could lead to the dictatorship of the experts and technicians. Some others – labelled as “anti-industrialists” – on the contrary think that we have to burn down any civilization

At this stage of our collective reflexion, we are in between those two poles: for a limited and restrained use of technologies. Territorial assemblies should decide what their needs are, and how to produce, so it means which technology is acceptable for use or is not acceptable.

This technology question has also an impact on work and work organization (automatization, artificial intelligence, uberisation) so as anarchosydicalists we should exchange on that, and we are looking to have the opinion of others sections on this topic.

Second about how to react in real world, there are two levelOn a global level, we see no other issue but to make the revolution, destroy capitalism and instead develop a self-organised network of federations. But this is a long term objectives certainly….

Some protests and marches have been organized in France to warn about the climate crisis and ask the government to take action, based on scientific reports. Those marches were often organized by such groups as « extinction rebellion », to name it. We are quite suspicious toward this group, and quite suspicious toward its methodology and wordings. They don’t complain about capitalism (rather they criticize neo liberalism). They ask the government to act (while we want to destroy the government). To our opinion, their call for science based solution is often a call for « green capitalism ».

For instance one of our member is working for a company, which a subsidiary is developing « vegan meat ». This corporate supports discreetly the vegan movement, as it is helping them to create and extend the market for their future product. Also all the current scientific discourse about « precision agriculture to tackle the climate crisis » is in fact officially supported by all the big agrifood corporates … So to call to act on science base decision, and not on collective assemblies decision, is to seize the power from the people and to put it in the hands of experts and big corporates … This doesn’t’ mean we should not listen to science or scientist. But science is not neutral, it is always at the service of a determined politic. So politic – ideology if you prefer – always comes first. Science should give some rationale to the local assemblies, which should have the capacity of decision, and not the government or the State.

For the moment we haven’t decided to join those marches, because we are occupied by other issues with the Yellow vest movement. But what is interesting is that the Yellow Vest movement itself made the junction with the climate crisis question:

The yellow vest movement has been triggered by the question of the tax on fuel. People who have difficult to survive until the end of the month with their low salary wanted the fuel price to decrease.

The government, the conservatives politicians BUT ALSO THE ENVIRONNEMENTALISTS (Green party) attacked the Yellow Vests movements, saying they were egoists, not thinking about the environment, that Yellow vest only wanted a right to pollute more by using their cars etc … The reaction of the yellow vests is very interesting: this question has been debated in many of the local assemblies (at the occupied round-about). Then emerged globally the reply that if Yellow vests drive their car to go to job, to school, to supermarket, it is not because they decided it, but because the organization of the society forced them to do so. They would prefer to live in rich bourgeois districts, going to their job by bike or stay at home to work with their computer, buy and eat organic products … But they have no choice because of the work division and the class system. So the Yellow vests said the two problems (how to survive till the end of the month, how to survive till the end of the World) are linked. Social problem and ecological problems are linked. So we need to change our society as a whole.

It is interesting to see that – according to our contacts there – it has been the same in Ecuador during the recent uprising: the movement was also triggered by an issue of fuel price. The (urbans) ecologists also blamed the rioters for asking the right to destroy more Mother Nature… And the local assemblies – both urbans and Indians – replied that on the contrary they just want to have the possibility to live with dignity, in a preserved environment, and that it is the organization of economy that is destroying both their life and the natural environment.

During Yellow vests (like in Ecuador) some solidarity network emerged, to provide food, to share goods and services. Very often the people took into consideration the climate issue (sharing transports to decrease the pollution for instance). Of course it has been on a small scale and limited time, but it shows that people have the full ability to understand the problem and to take action, they don’t need an expert to tell them what to do or not.

We think this example shows us that the anarchosyndicalist methodology of popular assemblies, horizontal organization, is quite valid to address the issue of awareness and the issue of taking real action.

Another problem we see with groups like extinction rebellion, but also with some fake insurrectionnalists (like the group « Appel » – « the coming insurrection ») that are very present in those marches or ZAD, is the confusion they are making about the term « direct action ». They confuse the real direct action (which is action without representative) with « spectacular action ». Because both of them in fact want to lead the movement. They are just two faces of the same piece. And we had to confront them in the past in some struggles.

b) On the local level, we have been involved – as many sections – into ecological disputes that are linked to the coming climate crisis. Our involvement into those struggles was always according a two way approach: to address the environmental problem but also to address another organizational practice, more horizontal, through assemblies etc … We have participated to different « ZAD » (Zones à Defendre, Area to Be Defended, occupation of natural space against construction sites, Vingrau, Somport, Sivens to name a few) experiences, the most recent was a struggle against a local dam. This struggle is quite similar to our understanding of the struggle that ASI Serbia is supporting against the micro-hydroelectric plants.


We think that AIT-IWA could play a role in being a network for exchange of information, analysis and theoretical opinions, but also about the local struggles we are participating. Sections should be encouraged if possible to translate more their documents and share it with the other sections directly (this is true not only about this issue in fact …)

 We don’t think we need official communicate from AIT-IWA about one particular struggle or another. We rather think we need more exchanges between the sections, more inspiration (as for instance recent participation of Priama Akcia to the climate strike and the text you wrote has been inspiring for us). Those exchanges can create emulation and coordination between the sections.

A compañero of CNT-AIT France

Article published in the CNT-AIT (France) magazine, Anarchosyndicalisme, issue #176, March-April 2022

Original in French / original en français : Anarchosyndicalisme et changement climatique

Auf Deutsch / en allemand : Anarchosyndikalismus und Klimawandel (Ein Diskussionsbeitrag)

In Spanish / En Español : Anarcosindicalismo y cambio climático (Una contribución al debate)

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