Socialists should build a movement for a sustainable society that makes room for workers in fossil fuel industries that support the change.

By Keith Danner, Jacobin

April 1 marked the one-year anniversary of the Warrior Met Coal strike in Alabama. It’s now the longest coal strike in US history. Worker militancy has long characterized the industry, in this respect the length of the ongoing industrial action is unsurprising. Between 1881 and 1905, coal miners in the United States went on strike at a rate of three times that of workers in other major industries. The causes of this radicalism lay in a combination of factors, ranging from the strategic importance of energy for the reproduction of industrial capitalism, to the sense of identity this leverage gave to the towns and cities coal had erected.

Fossil fuel workers need to be included in the Green New Deal

In other ways the present situation shares little with this militant tradition. Coal, once tied to historic high points of US class struggle like Blair Mountain, has come instead to represent the interests of the most regressive political forces obstructing climate action. This became clear earlier this year when Senator Joe Manchin, himself a Coal Baron, and the leading recipient of fossil fuel money in Congress, blocked passage of Biden’s Build Back Better bill because — even with its minimal climate measures — it would challenge his financial interests and those of his funders.

The sentiment, shared by many on the Left, is not only that coal must go but that its defenders — be they bosses or workers — are on the wrong side of history. Faced with the climate emergency and the likes of Manchin, it’s hard to disagree.

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