Ultimate Objective: Alliances and coalitions of labour, community, faith-based, environmental and women’s organisations are campaigning locally, nationally and regionally for decent work, a living wage, essential services and an environment free of pollution, and for a just transition to a low-carbon, wage-led, sustainable and equitable economy.
AIDC sees an urgent need to capacitate, consolidate and mobilise the social forces necessary to effect a meaningful response to the current economic, social and ecological crises: a response that we call a just transition to a low carbon, wage-led, sustainable and equitable development path for southern Africa (discussed in more detail below). AIDC believes this capacitation, consolidation and mobilisation can be accomplished through an integrated set of activities that focus on: intensive capacity building work, through education and joint advocacy, with a core group of activists with whom AIDC enjoys long-standing, productive relationships and are ideally situated to provide a multiplier effect to these capacity enhancement processes. This capacity building work must be informed by relevant, current, high-quality research and dissemination of findings, and complemented by less intensive but more wide-reaching efforts at countering the dominant narrative in mainstream public discourse, and raising awareness of the existence and viability of alternatives. These integrated interventions are also discussed in more detail below.
Much of AIDC’s work in the recent period has been focused on clarifying the elements of a just transition and in carrying out foundational research necessary to provide a robust evidence base and adequate analysis to drive such a campaign forward. As the core elements AIDC understands the following:
- “One Million Climate Jobs”: Any viable strategy for achieving a sustainable and job-creating alternative development path for South Africa will involve the creation of millions of climate jobs to: carry out the transition away from a fossil-fuel based energy system to widespread reliance on renewable energy; a shift from high-energy and high-emissions commercial agriculture to small-scale agro-ecological methods of farming; a massive expansion of public transport; retrofitting of public buildings and houses; and much besides. The “One Million Climate Jobs” campaign responds directly to this challenge.
- Socially-Owned Renewable Energy: The unfolding climate crisis demands an urgent transition away from fossil-fuel-based energy generation and rapid scale up of renewables. In contrast, an alternative approach to build socially owned, locally controlled renewable energy production can demonstrate not only the viability of renewable as an alternative to fossil fuels, but can simultaneously demonstrate the benefits to local communities in job creation, decentralised and democratised control over energy resources, and mitigating the vulnerability of energy supply to breakdowns that is endemic to centralised, mega-project generation (whether fossil-fuel based or nuclear).
- Wage-Led Solutions to Economic Recovery and Job-Creation: AIDC research convincingly disputes mainstream arguments for less regulation, wage compression and profit maximisation. Similar recent research from the Center for Economic and Policy Research in the USA has shown that those US States that raised their minimum wages in early 2014 have experienced faster job growth than those that haven’t. Only higher wages for the majority – based on the principle of “employing people as they are” – offer any hope of boosting consumer demand for basic commodities (clothing, household appliances, bicycles, etc.). Coupled with a shift away from South Africa’s overwhelmingly export-oriented economic orientation, such a path offers the only realistic hope of boosting local industry and thus creating meaningful employment in significant numbers. In turn, only such a path offers any hope to reverse the erosion of social cohesion. Such wages will cut into the large profits harvested by the big private companies that dominate mining, car manufacture, retail, construction, finance, insurance and the food industry, as well as the big farms and wineries. The net boost to “everyday”, people-focused economic activity will also expose the enduring lie that “there is no alternative” to the neoliberal paradigm of large, extractivist, monopoly capitalist domination for southern Africa.
- Women’s Leadership: The contribution of women must be recognised, and the participation of women in leadership roles must be supported. Achieving the depth and scale of transition that is necessary involves a central role for women who are already leading many local struggles, especially in the communities where they bear the brunt of the triple crisis of poverty, unemployment and inequality. This enormous and unrecognised capacity to sustain their families, homes and communities, while simultaneously often playing leading roles in the workplace, must be redirected into driving this transition.
- A Just Transition: Responses to the current crisis must not be pursued at the expense of the needs and legitimate demands of working and poor people. Indeed, AIDC believes that the most effective responses to the crisis will be precisely those that take their orientation from the social and economic needs of marginalised people. A transition to a low and sustainable development path creates huge opportunities for creating decent work and fulfilling peoples basic needs. Most importantly, AIDC believes that such a transition is only possible on the basis of the kind of broad alliance of community and trade union structures which AIDC has cultivated during the recent period. Only such an alliance combines the political-economic weight necessary to exact meaningful concessions from a recalcitrant state.