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Summer School (Birmingham)

Friday, 21 July 2017 - 6:00pm - Sunday, 23 July 2017 - 2:00pm


Summer School 2017

21st – 23rd July

Fircroft College, Birmingham



These days, concerns about the environment tend to get pushed into the background by issues like Brexit, Trump’s presidency and ongoing austerity measures. But climate change, pollution and extinctions don’t go away just because the headlines are filled with other events. 2016 was the warmest year on record, with implications for sea levels and habitats; more and more waste is produced for future generations to deal with, and many hundreds of species continue to become extinct every year.

Legislation places some restrictions on the use of dangerous materials, hunting and waste disposal, for example. However, legislators can only work within a system which is structured to safeguard the interests of the wealthy elite, rather than everyone. And of course laws don’t always prevent environmentally-damaging methods from being used if they save or make money. Capitalism turns the natural world into a resource to be exploited for a profit.

The Socialist Party argues that the environment can only be managed responsibly if society as a whole is managed co-operatively and in everyone’s interests. If our industries and services were owned and run in common, then we would be able to produce what we need and want in the most reasonable, sustainable way.

Our weekend of talks and discussions looks at the current state of the environment, and its prospects for the future we make for it.

Full residential cost (including accommodation and meals Friday evening to Sunday afternoon) is £100. The concessionary rate is £50. Day visitors are welcome, but please book in advance.

To book a place click here

Or send a cheque (payable to the Socialist Party of Great Britain) to Summer School, Sutton Farm, Aldborough, Boroughbridge, York, YO51 9ER. E-mail enquiries to spgbschool@yahoo.co.uk


All five sessions have now been announced.


WORLD MILITARY versus THE GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT  - Janet Surman

As citizens of the world contend with almost perpetual war there are various schools of thought about the real motives of those who promote, start or continue war somewhere on the planet. The military is just one arm of the global capitalist industrial complex, and vital to the hegemonic aims of powerful individuals and groups determined to funnel the profits into their own coffers.

It is also one of the most profitable arms of capitalism, one which reaps increasing profits on each successive annual assessment. Not taken into consideration, however, is the havoc wreaked on both people and environments worldwide.

The aim of this session is to investigate the increasing negative impacts of militarism on the global environment and identify the basic cause.


THE VEGANS ARE COMING!  - Paddy Shannon

The currently accepted socialist view of vegetarianism is that it’s a ‘lifestyle choice’. What this means is that, while a future socialist society may choose to be vegetarian or vegan as it pleases, the question has no immediate relevance to the class struggle we need to win right now, and therefore it’s not for us to tell workers what to do.

Yet this view is arguably being overtaken by events in wider society, which is having to face the realities of climate change including the huge and unsustainable impact of meat production. The anti-meat propaganda movement is gaining muscle in the wake of the 2009 Stern report, the 2010 UN call for a global move towards veganism, and just recently Simon Amstell’s controversial BBC mockumentary Carnage (see May Socialist Standard TV review). Perhaps it’s no longer a question of socialists telling workers what to do, but of workers telling socialists what to do. How should we react to this? After all, if meat production is unsustainable in capitalism it is likely to be just as unsustainable in socialism. Does it make sense, in that case, for us to remain aloof from the debate?

This session explores the various arguments with a view to clarifying what our position as socialists ought to be.


DESTROYING THE HAND THAT FEEDS US - Why Capitalism cannot solve our environmental problems

As scientists continue to warn us of species decline, climate change, pollution and environmental collapse, what is it that makes most people continue to believe that Capitalism has the answers?

Glenn Morris will look into these issues and present the case for a new society in which the threats to our environment can be addressed and how society can work alongside nature without being instrumental in its downfall.


SOCIALISM SAVES THE WORLD! - How Quickly Could Socialised Production Resolve Climate Change?

Revolution is long overdue of course - but the threats climate change presents to the habitability of the planet for humans in the long-term keep growing. Capitalism's apparent continued inability to face up to this existential challenge, makes this an issue of increasingly critical importance. As a future socialist revolution unfolds, what sort of planet would an international, politically-aware working class be likely to be taking over? Capitalist states and corporate sectors are currently outlining various future scenarios, and the market is busy laying bets on which technology might save the day. Shouldn’t socialists also look to this uncertain future? Would a global socialist society have to contend with a growing and hungry population? Would there be an urgent need for rapid industrial and agricultural development? And how would this impact on an already dangerously overheating planet?

Brian Gardner opens this session by looking at why we shouldn’t shy away from asking these often tricky questions. The talk will discuss some of the ways in which economic decisions might be made in the absence of the market, and then asks whether a system based on production for use will really be able to meet the fundamental challenge of a warming planet, in time?



Saturday evening at Summer School will feature a quiz, run by Carla Dee: ONE WORLD, OUR WORLD. A QUIZ. What do you know about climate change, the natural world and urban environments? Test your knowledge here.