A Salute, and an Invitation
An Open Letter to Students Demanding Columbia University Divest from Fossil Fuels

from Sunsara Taylor

April 28, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Students at Columbia University recently occupied President Bollinger's office to demand the university divest investments in companies profiting in fossil fuels—as they contribute to global warming. During this, I spoke to some of the students, and others on campus. Off this, I extend the following message.

You are right that our planet is in peril from global warming: melting ice sheets, dying oceans, desertification of formerly fertile lands, stronger storms, collapsing ecosystems...death and immiseration of people in the most poor and oppressed parts of the world...with time running out.

Your occupation and defiance drew broad support and forced many to confront the emergency we face.

For all this, a salute! More people, especially students, need to put themselves on the line before it’s too late for humanity and the planet.

Your acts hopefully will inspire others to radical resistance, not only on this front, but also to STOP police terror and mass incarceration, especially of Black and Brown people, STOP the degradation and subjugation of women, and oppression based on sexual orientation and gender, STOP wars of empire, and STOP the deportation and demonization of immigrants. 

I extend an invitation, to follow through on your convictions, to keep fighting the power until we stop all the horrors described above, all the while going more deeply and scientifically to the root of the problem, and what it will actually take to resolve all this. In this process, do not be afraid to go outside comfort zones, to interrogate and challenge conventional wisdom and deeply held beliefs—for it matters for humanity, the seven billion people. In this context and spirit, two major points:

I. First, as solutions, some students I spoke with suggested “a truly green economy” and others suggested “local, worker-run cooperatives”—within and in the interstices of the existing capitalist system. Given the urgency and stakes, I speak frankly, and question how these measure up to reality and actually solve the problem we confront. In particular:

How do you see it possible to rapidly and comprehensively transition away from a fossil-fuel economy to a truly green economy under this capitalist-imperialist system?

Capitalism is driven by cutthroat competition between blocs of capital. These blocs stalking and permeating the globe seeking starvation wages and the cheapest resources. These blocs clawing ahead, or getting driven under. Countries compete and are forced to compete viciously. In these driving dynamics and profit-driven calculus, the protection of the environment is an added cost, an “externality” at best. At worst, the environment is a resource to be plundered.

The world could be a whole other way. Take a radical step into the future...

Read the entire Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).

Order the book here

How do you see this transition working when the system of extracting oil and gas has been so productive and profitable? (Oil production and fracking skyrocketed under Obama, the “environmental president.”) When tremendous resources, infrastructure, and investment capital are tied up in fossil fuel production already—and private owners have to recoup these (their) huge investments? Do we just have to wait till this is no longer the case, and should this even be the criteria? How do you see getting countries to “rise above” their competitive national and economic interests? When the science is attacked and undermined by powers that be, the scientists mocked and ignored, their dire warnings fundamentally unheeded?

How do you see local, worker-run cooperatives providing a real alternative to capitalism and a way to solve this planetary crisis?

How would these local, worker-cooperatives in the imperialist countries like the U.S., Western Europe and Japan avoid just “socializing” (equally distributing) the wealth from centuries of global plunder? How would this network of small-scale producers coordinate and prioritize to solve the global problem of climate change—again, while addressing the lopsidedness of a world divided between imperialist powers and the oppressed nations (the “Third World”)? How would it meet the basic needs of seven billion people on the planet, food, clothing and shelter, in an environmentally sustainable way? How would they “trade” with each other? How would these cooperatives consistently sacrifice based on the larger interests of humanity? How would they overcome centuries-old relations of oppression and exploitation, inequalities based on nationality, race, gender and sexuality—on a societal level?

There are answers to these questions: I have had to dig at them, and I have had to approach the world scientifically. We all do, if we are to rise to and meet the great needs and challenges before us.

Read the Revolution special issue on the environmental emergency that now faces humanity and earth's ecosystems.

In this issue:

  • the dimensions of the emergency...
  • the source of its causes in the capitalist system, and the impossibility of that system solving this crisis...
  • a way out and way forward for humanity—a revolutionary society in which we could actually live as custodians of nature, rather than as its plunderers.

Read online....

Also available in brochure format (downloadable PDF)

II. Second, the truth is, the environmental crisis cannot be resolved under this system. Neither can the oppression of Black people, of women, of immigrants, and bringing an end to wars of empire. The system must be overthrown—at the earliest possible time, with millions part of an actual revolution.

This requires science and scientific leadership. This is what makes Bob Avakian (BA) so critical. Bob Avakian’s leadership concentrates a thoroughly scientific approach to knowing and radically changing the world, and on this basis, he has developed a new framework of human emancipation. 

If you are serious about what is confronting humanity and the planet, you need to get into BA.

To those who offer facile dismissals of Bob Avakian based on claims that his promotion is “cultish,” come off it. This claim is just an inexcusable and facile pretext for refusing to engage his actual contribution—the serious work and leadership that enables us to wrench a future in which all of humanity could flourish, while healing and protecting the world’s diverse ecosystems and environment.

We are getting organized for an actual revolution. Carl Dix and I spoke on your campus a few weeks ago, to recruit you to this revolution, the REAL revolution. We reiterate this call, and if you missed us at Columbia, we invite you to attend the next stop of the tour at City College of New York (CCNY), just up the street in Harlem (138th Street & Convent Ave, off the #1 train to 137th) on May 11 from 3–5 pm in Shepard Hall 51, Student Organization Club Space, Conference Room Q. And come visit Revolution Books at 437 Malcolm X Blvd/Lenox Ave @ 132nd St. to get deeper into the revolution.

Sunsara Taylor

Go to www.revcom.us for the following:

The Science, The Strategy, The Leadership for An Actual Revolution and A Radically New Society on the Road to Real Emancipation, by Bob Avakian

Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, authored by Bob Avakian

State of EMERGENCY! The Plunder of Our Planet, The Environmental Catastrophe & The Real Revolutionary Solution,” a special issue of Revolution newspaper (www.revcom.us)



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