How can the climate movement and the anti‑war movement come together?

In this article translated from German, Christian Zeller looks at the strategies the climate movement and anti war movement could explore in bringing both together.


Exit from the fossil economy and rearmament, solidarity with the Ukrainian resistance

We live in a time of abrupt turns. [1] 

Global warming is accelerating. The climate is changing faster than previously thought. The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine is largely aimed at the territorial conquest of a neighbouring state, the destruction of its army and the overthrow of its government. [2] This is something that has not existed in Europe in this way since 1945. 

Even before this assault, the NATO countries, Russia and China started an arms race. The antagonisms between the various imperialisms intensified enormously. [3]The wave of rearmament that was already being prepared and launched before the war in Ukraine is an expression of intensifying competion for access to scarce resources that are so urgently needed in connection with the energy transition. 

Global warming, this war and the danger of wars to come are interconnected and should be understood in a common context.

Global warming is accelerating

Let’s first look at the dynamics of global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the second part of its sixth assessment report on February 28th. [4] In this report, the IPCC warns more than ever about the dangerous dynamic. The climate is changing rapidly. The consequences are already being felt and will affect the lives of a large part of humanity in a very short time. The clock is ticking.

No place is exempt, and there is no inhabited region unaffected by rising temperatures and increasing weather extremes.

  • About half of the world’s population – between 3.3 and 3.6 billion people – live in areas that are “highly vulnerable” to climate change.
  • Millions of people face food and water shortages due to climate change, even with current warming levels.
  • A mass extinction of species from trees to coral is already underway. These changes in ecosystems endanger food production for humans.
  • 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level represents a “critical value” above which the effects of the climate crisis will accelerate sharply and in some cases become irreversible.
  • Coastal areas around the world and small low-lying islands are at risk of flooding if the temperature rises more than 1.5 degrees.
  • Major ecosystems are losing their ability to absorb carbon dioxide, turning them from carbon sinks to carbon sources, like the Amazon, which has now become a net emitter.
  • Some countries have agreed to conserve 30 percent of the Earth’s land area, but half that area may need to be conserved to restore the ability of natural ecosystems to deal with the damage done to them.

The COP26 in Glasgow did not decide on any effective measures against global warming. On the contrary, the conference degenerated into an institution that serves as a platform for the great imperialist powers to pit their economic policy and geo-economic strategies against each other and to negotiate their spheres of influence. Given the increasing momentum, something like a “everyone for themselves” logic is spreading. Governments have resisted effective action on global warming for decades. The compulsion of capital to multiply and generate profits seems to outweigh the laws of nature. In just a few years, this will mean that many millions of people will lose their livelihoods due to climatic change and social upheavals.

Russian war of aggression against Ukraine pushes climate protection into the background

Governments are now using the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine as an excuse to largely abandon climate protection measures, which were already inadequate. Coal, gas and oil are back in fashion and the stock market values ​​of companies in this sector are rising.

The armaments industry and armies are among the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. Instead of turning this armaments industry into useful production [5], it now receives huge new orders. In Germany, the social-democratic-green-liberal government is burying climate protection and launching an armament program that we have not seen since the end of the Second World War. Once again, a social-democratic and green government is pushing ahead with rearmament and enforcing extremely pro-capital policies. As a reminder: the red-green Schröder-Fischer government from 1998 to 2005 gave finance capital new privileges like no other government before and after. In 1999, when the Kosovo war escalated, it led Germany into a war for the first time since World War II with airstrikes against Serbia and the stationing of troops in Macedonia.

The EU and the US have decided on tough economic sanctions against Russia. So far, the oil and gas business has not been affected. This is also controversial among the governing parties in Europe. The inconsistency of EU policy can be seen in current figures. The EU countries reduced their dependence on Russian natural gas in 2021. But the share of natural gas from Russia is still around 28 per cent. 

What is remarkable, however, is that the daily amounts that the EU transfers to Russia for gas supplies have risen massively since the beginning of the war, from around 200 million euros to up to 660 million for a short time. Gas prices are largely determined on the basis of the average prices of the previous month. Will prices remain at current levels? Gazprom will collect the corresponding amounts at the beginning of April. 

In terms of quantity, business with Russian oil is even more important. Russia is the third-largest oil producer in the world after the USA and Saudi Arabia and is even the leading exporter of refined oil products. Export earnings from fossil fuels collapsed in the crisis year 2020 to 142 billion US dollars from 220 billion in the previous year. And oil exports fell from $121 billion to $72.5 billion. 

However, business recovered noticeably in 2021 and Russia was able to benefit from the massive price increase. Russia’s largest oil market is in Europe. Russia is the third-largest oil producer in the world after the USA and Saudi Arabia and is even the leading exporter of refined oil products. 

Export earnings from fossil fuels collapsed in the crisis year 2020 to 142 billion US dollars from 220 billion in the previous year. And oil exports fell from $121 billion to $72.5 billion. However, business recovered noticeably in 2021 and Russia was able to benefit from the massive price increase. Russia’s largest oil market is Europe. Russia is the third-largest oil producer in the world after the USA and Saudi Arabia and is even the leading exporter of refined oil products. 

Export earnings from fossil fuels collapsed in the crisis year 2020 to 142 billion US dollars from 220 billion in the previous year. And oil exports fell from $121 billion to $72.5 billion. However, business recovered noticeably in 2021 and Russia was able to benefit from the massive price increase. Russia’s largest oil market is Europe.[6] Revenues from taxes and export duties from the oil and gas business accounted for 45 per cent of the Russian state budget in January 2022. [7] 

There is not the slightest sign that European countries want to drain this key source of financing for the Russian war machine. In all their rivalry with Russian capital, they are bound up with it too. In doing so, the EU is thwarting its own economic war sanctions against Russia. Crucial to these sanctions is the freezing of part of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves (estimated at $640 billion) by Western countries. But Russia also has assets in gold ($145 billion) in the country and foreign exchange reserves in renminbi ($90 billion). But with the remittance of oil and gas money, which increases with higher prices, Russia can partially mitigate the other sanctions.

The sanctions weapon is aimed less against the Russian oligarchy and certainly not against fossil capitalism; rather, it is intended to weaken the country’s economic and industrial base. As a result, and directly through the devaluation of the ruble, wage earners will bear the brunt of these sanctions. Sanctions against the ruling oligarchy, especially the oil and gas oligarchs, would have to be much more targeted. However, the governments in Europe do not want sanctions against the oligarchy and the fossil fuel economy because they want to continue importing Russian gas themselves. Some politicians are now calling for a move away from Russian gas, and suggesting instead, that fracked gas should be sourced from the USA, which has even worse ecological effects.

EU sanctions against Russia are undoubtedly a weapon in economic warfare. That is why the climate movement and the anti-war movement must take a critical view of these sanctions. They do not serve to support the Ukrainian resistance, and certainly not socio-ecological restructuring. But on the contrary. The climate movement must take the war as an opportunity to question the fossil economy both in principle and also specifically in the current situation.

European countries must immediately begin gradually phasing out imports of Russian oil. The Russian gas must not be replaced by gas from elsewhere, and certainly not by fracking gas from the USA, which is far more ecologically harmful. This is exactly what the governments are projecting now. The climate movement, in alliance with a new anti-war movement, must resolutely oppose this.

The climate movement needs to think about how to directly denounce and weaken fossil capital organized as Shell, ExxonMobil, BP, OMV, Gazprom or Lukoil. The Russian corporations should not be looked at one-sidedly, because any market losses would only be taken over by rivals. The fundamental questioning of the fossil economy should be expressed in the forms of action taken against individual corporations.

But at the same time, it is also about directly weakening the Russian war machine, which is closely linked to fossil capital. That’s why boycotts of Russian gas and oil are right, so long as they don’t simply help US and European rivals take over those markets in turn. The Russian commodity capital places its pension income on the international financial centres. Fossil finance capital, including Russian capital, can be symbolically pilloried, for example with campaigns and petitions. In this context, however, the investment funds, pension funds, banks and life insurance companies, which serve as investment locations and marshalling yards for this capital, should also be targeted. This would make it possible to give concrete expression to opposition both to the Russian war of aggression and to the fossil fuel economy.

The big problem, however, is that neither the climate nor the anti-war movement is currently able to really push through such ideas. This requires broad social anchoring.

How can anti-war and climate movements come together?

The traditional peace movement in Germany is discredited. For years, its exponents – many of them coming from a Stalinist political tradition – remained silent on Russian imperialism, the aggressive wars in Chechnya, Georgia, the annexation of Crimea, the orchestrated war in eastern Ukraine and the murderous mass bombing of Syrian cities. It prioritized allegedly “legitimate Russian security interests” over the well-being of the people in those regions. It unilaterally denounced the offensive nature of NATO, which is indeed offensive, while downplaying the specific imperialist character of the Russian state and its resource-extracting rentier economy.[8] Partly from this perspective, Ukraine’s right to self-defence and thus to its own territorial existence is now being contested. This again amounts to support for the Russian position. It is time for a united anti-war and climate movement to put this problematic legacy behind.

If the young climate movement could be combined with a new anti-war movement that no longer has anything to do with thinking in geopolitical blocs and the traditional toleration of Russian imperialism, a strong social force could emerge. This cobined movement could converge on three closely related strategic axes.

1. Solidarity with the civil and armed resistance of the Ukrainian population against the Russian invading and occupying forces and with the Russian anti-war movement.

The Ukrainian population is legitimately resisting the occupation. Their resistance is impressive and much stronger than probably many in the world thought. We must stand up for the right of the Ukrainian people to self-determination. Of course, the people of Ukraine have the right to armed resistance and they have the right to acquire these weapons. The population that is resisting deserves our political and material support. The admission of refugees, including deserting soldiers, is urgently needed. [9]

The Zelensky government throws itself at NATO. Left and progressive movements should not submit to this government, which has an anti-worker agenda. There is also a danger that fascist forces in Ukraine can expand their influence and strengthen their own armed units precisely through the attack by Russia. The Ukrainian population must decide how resistance to the Russian invasion and occupation forces will be organized.

Should independent associations of trade unions and social movements form, they would have to be supported. This resistance in Ukraine and resistance from the Russian population can defeat Putin. That must be the goal.

People in the Ukrainian cities that are being bombed are experiencing a murderous escalation of the war and are calling for help. Nevertheless, a no-fly zone should be rejected because it would result in a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia. The delivery of NATO aircraft to Ukraine could also internationalize the escalation. This makes international mobilization against the Putin regime all the more important, especially in Russia itself.

Russian capital, derived from the exploitation of Russian workers and the plunder of natural resources, parks billions of US dollars in Europe’s financial institutions, particularly in Switzerland and in the world’s offshore financial centres. These assets should be confiscated. After the war, and after the fall of the Putin regime, they should be returned to the Russian population to finance the reconstruction of the Ukrainian infrastructure. But the matter is contradictory. Since these sanctions are carried out by other imperialist states with their own great power interests, we cannot have the slightest confidence that they are being carried out in the interests of the people.

Ukraine has a debt burden of around 94 billion US dollars (2020). The country is in hock to the International Monetary Fund. In order to give the country room to rebuild and develop properly, international creditors must be forced to cancel the debt.

2. Resistance to any rearmament by European countries, the USA and NATO:

NATO is an imperialist military alliance. We must completely resist rearmament in European countries. The current rearmament programs have nothing to do with Ukraine. Rather, they serve to prepare for the intensifying imperialist rivalry for raw materials that are becoming scarce but are urgently needed for the “green” energy transition. It is about the struggle for future zones of influence and markets. 

This rearmament will not help the Ukrainian people now or in the future. This wave of rearmament will soon be accompanied by enormous cuts in other areas, above all in the social infrastructure and in the social sector. The armaments industry and the armies are among the most important emitters of CO2

The US defence industry was responsible for 15 per cent of total US industrial CO2 emissions in 2017. [10] Although the defence industry in Europe is smaller than in the US, military-related CO2 emissions are significant. The massive increase in armaments expenditure that has now been decided in Germany and other countries will again significantly increase CO2 emissions. This policy, which simply ignores global warming, must be vigorously opposed.

3. For a rapid, gradual phase-out of the fossil fuel economy.

The Russian war of aggression in Ukraine is based not least on Russia’s fossil-based economy. War not only pushes global warming and its consequences into the background but also drives CO2 emissions. At the same time, the war makes it clear how urgent it is to phase out the entire fossil fuel economy. That is why not only the Russian, but all gas and oil companies should be placed at the centre of information campaigns. A debate needs to be developed about how these corporations – and of course the entire defence sector – can be socially controlled and appropriated. This is a mandatory prerequisite for gradually shutting down and converting these production lines.

We need to combine resistance to government ignorance of global warming, Russia’s imperialist war (as well as other wars), and too militaristic armament. The alternative is brutally simple. It’s all about life instead of capital. If we choose life, we must oppose capital and its wars in East and West against people and against nature.

We live in a time that is compacted and changing rapidly and abruptly. The foundations of previous strategies are crumbling away. The contradictions of capitalist society are growing and increasingly violent, narrowing the scope for “compromises” more and more. [11] There is no longer any scope for gradual reforms of the capitalist system. This time has expired, the sudden changes in the earth system underline this.

The sketch presented here of a common perspective of the climate and anti-war movements are just a beginning. It is important to discuss further strategic hypotheses. We must open a cross-border discussion about what transnational revolutionary eco-socialist strategies in global responsibility can look like.

Sources and Notes

[1] Zeller, Christian (2021): Ecosocialist Strategies in the Anthropocene. Introduction to the series of articles. The Love of Freedom . October 17, 2021.

[2] Zeller, Christian (2022): War of Russian imperialism against Ukraine: Result of long preparations. . February 26, 2022.

[3] Zeller, Christian (2022): Against the world of imperialism - building the world of resistance from below. . February 23, 2022.

[4] IPCC (2022): Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Summary for Policy Makers , Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Working Group II contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report, WMO and UNEP, 36 pages. .

[5] Zeller, Christian (2020): Revolution for the climate. Why we need an ecosocialist alternative . Munich: Oekom Verlag, pp. 83-85; accessible online at Die Freiheitsliebe:

[6] Marina Zapf: Das Capital February 6, 2022

[7] IEA: Frequently Asked Questions on Energy Security, 2 March 2022

[8] Examples of this complete misorientation are numerous. A look at the website gives an impression. The “Zeitung gegen den Krieg” (Newspaper against the War), which was included with other left-wing newspapers after the start of the war, is downright grotesque. , the latest issue can be found here:

[9] The proposals of the Office of the Fourth International of March 1, 2022 Solidarity with the Ukrainian and Russian resistance to the war! offer a good basis for establishing concrete solidarity with the Ukrainian resistance

[10] Zeller, Christian (2020): Revolution for the climate. Why we need an ecosocialist alternative . Munich: Oekom Verlag, pp. 83–85; accessible online at Die Freiheitsliebe:

[11] Zeller, Christian (2021): Ecosocialist Strategies in the Anthropocene. Introduction to the series of articles. The Love of Freedom . October 17, 2021.

Source > Die Freiheitsliebe

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