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Editorial: Nuclear alerts, climate catastrophe and a cost-of-living crisis? Another world is necessary

A DAY after Russia places its immense nuclear arsenal on high alert, a new UN report warns that rising temperatures are pushing nature and humans “to their limits.”

The one threat may seem more immediate than the other — though not for those already hit by devastating drought in Madagascar or rising sea levels in the Pacific — but both point to a world sliding dangerously out of control.

Germany ratchets up military spending and breaks a longstanding peace policy by agreeing to send weaponry into combat zones. The US deploys more troops to eastern Europe and hikes its military aid to Ukraine. 

It is hard to see either move as likely to resolve the crisis triggered by Vladimir Putin’s invasion. 

After all the US and its allies have been providing weaponry and military aid to Ukraine for years, and Nato had significantly increased its military presence in Poland and the Baltic states well before Russia attacked Ukraine, one of the grievances Russia aired repeatedly before embarking on its current catastrophic course. 

It is perhaps unrealistic to expect Western powers to revisit the premises of their Russia policy — one of military muscle-flexing expressed for years in huge, annual tit-for-tat war games conducted by Nato and Russia — and acknowledge that it has failed.

Instead the demands are simply to do more of what we were doing already, with Russia’s invasion treated as evidence that we were not doing it enough.

On climate change governments’ dogged pursuit of demonstrably disastrous policies is even more obvious, as transport union TSSA leader Manuel Cortes notes with his condemnation of the “staggeringly stupid” decision to impose the steepest train fare rises in nearly a decade just months after Britain hosted the Cop26 talks.

From Scotland to London, routes and staffing levels for the greenest form of mass transit are under attack, while the Conservatives are engaged in a ridiculous standoff over funding for the capital’s network, using pandemic-related downturns in passenger numbers as an excuse to permanently degrade it. 

There is no effort being made to reduce dependence on cars in the only way that doesn’t hit workers in the pocket — which is by treating the development of fast, reliable, cheap public transport in every part of Britain as a national priority.

Instead, we face rising transport prices at the same time as the prices of food and energy are rising fast in a worst-of-both-worlds Tory approach that maximises pain for ordinary people while minimising action on global warming.

This cost-of-living crisis will intensify because of the Ukraine war. Queues outside Russian banks as the rouble tumbles show working-class Russians are suffering from their president’s recklessness too, while already rocketing oil and gas prices will rise still further. 

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has suggested Britain is prepared to take the “economic pain” of sanctions on Russia, though polling suggests most do not want to follow any policy which drives prices even higher.

But if anyone is going to make sacrifices, it should be the energy barons at the likes of BP and Shell who announced record profits earlier this month, profits which should be seized to shield ordinary people from the worsening crisis.

The Morning Star has long argued that the political and industrial cannot be separated: that workplace militancy is essential to the struggle for peace and socialism but not a substitute for it.

Now we must assert the flipside of that coin and resist attempts to make ordinary people accept declining living standards in the name of a confrontation with Russia. An international mobilisation for peace should not see a single strike cancelled or pay demand reduced. 

And as we press for an immediate ceasefire and Russian withdrawal from Ukraine, we should not drop our quarrel with an imperialist system that is setting the world alight in so many ways.


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