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On Green Socialism and Working Class Politics

By Staff - Pittsburgh Green Left, February 8, 2021

Green Socialism is inspired partly by traditional worker-oriented socialist views, but attempts to transcend class struggle by organizing popular struggle for true democracy, ecology, and freedom.

As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, ecological and social crisis exist simultaneously in multiple forms within the US and across the world. Global neoliberal capitalism has captured the world’s economic and political structures, and we feel the growing pressures of poverty and climate change under the threat of a pervasive police state.

These deteriorating conditions imply that historical socialist revolutionary movements have largely failed to produce the widespread change they described in their visions. There’s an increasing feeling, particularly by the youth, that the “old ways” are insufficient to confront 21st century capitalism and win — particularly with the climate change clock running out — and that a new form of social movement and politics is necessary to directly confront capitalism and broader ecological and social issues.

I believe the new model for the 21st century must be Green Politics, or what I will call “Green Socialism” here to distinguish from other tendencies that lay claim to the more broad term “eco-socialism”. Green Politics is today largely associated with the Green Party, however anyone can practice Green Politics in or outside of the Green Party.

A simplistic description of Green Politics might be to list the 4 pillars — grassroots democracy, peace, social justice, and ecological wisdom — and the 10 Key Values of the movement, but to create a deeper discussion of what Green Politics and Green Socialism really means, a good place to start might be to address some complaints and criticisms of the Green Party and Green Socialism that you have no doubt already heard, particularly from other socialists.

Left Voice for example ran an opinion piece by author Ezra Brain making “a socialist case against” the Green Party and Howie Hawkins, the party’s 2020 presidential candidate, which echoes a number of common leftist complaints against Green Politics. 

However these complaints often ring hollow, either as grave misunderstandings of the Green platform that betray a lack of deeper research and knowledge about the subject — ironically often appropriating bourgeois neoliberal talking points against Green Politics — or as legitimate complaints that have a feel of “stones thrown from glass houses” as those same complaints often apply to other socialist and leftist organizations in the US and simply illustrate the challenge of organizing against global neoliberal capitalism in the 21st century.

Productivism, endless growth and accumulation for accumulation’s sake must be reversed

By various - Counterview, November 23, 2018

Final statement of  the international civil society meet Thematic Social Forum on Mining and Extractivist Economy, held at Johannesburg, November 12-15, 2018, in which representatives* from Indian voluntary organizations also participated:

We, the participants of the Thematic Social Forum on Mining and Extractivist Economy, are gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa to consolidate a broad movement of resistance, to build common struggles for solidarity, to guarantee the integrity of nature and to ensure a better world for present and future generations.

We come from mining-affected communities, trade unions, people’s organizations, the women’s movement, LGBTI people, faith-based groups, indigenous peoples, workers, small scale farmers, fisherfolk, youth, support groups and academics from 60 countries, including from 28 African countries, as well as from the Americas, Asia Pacific and Europe.

We celebrate our diversity, recognising our different perspectives and the alternatives that we offer, but understanding that we are bound together by our desire for a future free from the destructive effects of extractivism.

Extractivism is a destructive model based on the exploitation of so-called “natural resources” and people of which mining is a prime case.

On Consumerism, Capitalism, and Ecosocialism

By Sebastian Livingston - Hampton Institute, March 29, 2018

This piece is intended to be an introduction to an ecosocialist approach to production and consumption. What we have today is a hegemonic obsession with mass production that is catastrophic to the evolutionary processes which allow the biosphere to uphold life as we know it. Capitalist modes of production based upon endless economic expansion and mass consumption disrupt the equilibrium of ecosystems by reshaping the metabolism of nature which regulates earth systems. Within this article I will discuss some issues that I see as problematic in achieving an ecological society and address possible solutions. This is not intended to provide a critique of consumers, my aim is to develop an assault on the hegemonic creation of consumer culture and its devastating impact in maintaining the status quo. This is not an outline for revolution, it is merely my attempt to put forth issues as I see them and contribute to the discussion about the construction of consumer culture as a barrier to achieving social transformation.

"Once upon a time the working class had nothing to lose but its chains; but now it has been absorbed within capitalism, is a prisoner of consumerism, and its articles of consumption own and consume it." -Michael A. Lebowitz

We have the productive means to fulfil our material needs and to liberate ourselves from alienated labor. However this idea is incompatible with capital which does not aim to address real human needs beyond what is required to reproduce itself. Rather capitalism is contingent upon the realization of wealth accumulation, an endless expansion that is based upon the production and consumption of alienated products. This mass production is a fundamental problem that restricts our ability to create an ecological society by being the unshakable cause of most of the environmental problems we face today.

Climate Crisis, the Deindustrialization Imperative and the Jobs vs. Environment Dilemma

By Richard Smith - TruthOut, November 12, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Since the 1990s, climate scientists have been telling us that unless we suppress the rise of carbon dioxide emissions, we run the risk of crossing critical tipping points that could unleash runaway global warming, and precipitate the collapse of civilization and perhaps even our own extinction. To suppress those growing emissions, climate scientists and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have called on industrialized nations to slash their carbon dioxide emissions by 80 to 90 percent by 2050. (1)

But instead of falling, carbon dioxide emissions have been soaring, even accelerating, breaking records year after year. In May 2013, carbon dioxide concentrations topped the 400 parts per million mark prompting climate scientists to warn that we're "running out of time," that we face a "climate emergency" and that unless we take "radical measures" to suppress emissions very soon, we're headed for a 4-degree or even 6-degree Celsius rise before the end of the century. And not just climate scientists have made warnings, but also mainstream authorities, including the World Bank, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and others. In 2012, the IEA warned that "no more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if we hope to prevent global warming from exceeding more than 2 degrees Centigrade." (2) In September 2014, the global accounting and consulting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers warned that

For the sixth year running, the global economy has missed the decarbonisation target needed to limit global warming to 2˚C . . . To avoid two degrees of warming, the global economy now needs to decarbonise at 6.2 percent a year, more than five times faster than the current rate, every year from now till 2100. On our current burn rate we blow our carbon budget by 2034, sixty-six years ahead of schedule. This trajectory, based on IPCC data, takes us to four degrees of warming by the end of the century. (3)

Yet despite ever more dire warnings from the most conservative scientific, economic and institutional authorities, and despite record heat and drought, superstorms and floods, and melting ice caps and vanishing glaciers, "business as usual" prevails. Worse, every government on the planet is pulling out all the stops to maximize growth and consumption in the effort to hold on to the fragile recovery. (4)

Capital Blight - Green Illusions or Malthusian Miasma?

By Steve Ongerth - April 17, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

A recent item on truth-out.org, published on April 8, 2013, features an interview by Steve Horn of Ozzie Zehner, author of the book Green Illusions: the Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism . Titled, “Power Shift Away from Green Illusions” the interview would have been more appropriately named, “Deep Dive into a Vat of Malthusian Miasma.”

The interviewee, author Ozzie Zehner, argues that the public is being offered a false choice between fossil fuel based civilization and a renewable energy / clean tech based alternative, and that “most environmentalists” have “jumped on board the bandwagon”.

In Zehner’s mind these are not choices at all but, in fact, the same choice, because renewable energy technology production, usage, and maintenance cannot exist without fossil fuels coexisting alongside of it throughout its usage cycle, from manufacturing, to deployment, to maintenance, and so forth.

“There’s no such thing as clean energy, but there’s such a thing as less energy,” he says. “There’s a misconception that once alternative energy technologies are off the ground they can fly on their own. But alternative energy technologies are better understood as a product of fossil fuels,” he continues, also declaring, “Our planet has bounded resources and limited capacity to absorb the impacts of human activities.” Zehner goes on to dismiss electric cars as being no better than conventional fossil fuel vehicle, asserting that electric cars “merely create a different set of side effects (than their fossil fuel counterparts). It’s just that those side effects didn’t come out of a tail pipe, where we are accustomed to looking for them." He finishes up by opining that, “Mainstream environmental groups seem transfixed by technological gadgetry and have succumbed to magical thinking about their pet fetishes.”

These arguments are hardly fresh or groundbreaking. They are, in fact, essentially the same that were made by Richard Heinberg in The Party’s Over: Oil, Water, and the Fate of Industrial Society, in 2003, by William R Catton Jr. in Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change, in 1973, and by Paul Erlich in The Population Bomb, in 1968, and Zehner expressly considers Heinberg and Erlich his compatriots (though he doesn’t mention Catton).

The Ecological Challenge: Three Revolutions are Necessary

By Alternative Libertaire - 2006 [PDF File Available]

With a planetary ecological crisis on hand, it can no longer be denied that socialism will be incompatible with mass production and mass consumption. Indeed, even without returning to Malthusian catastrophe theories, we are forced to admit that the planet’s resources are not inexhaustible. These resources could provide for humanity’s needs, but only if they are used in a reasonable and rational way, i.e., in a manner directly opposed to capitalist logic, which in itself is a source of imbalance.

For decades, anti-capitalists have rightly raised the question of the “redistribution of wealth” between the Global North and Global South. This idea has commonly been imagined to mean an end to the pillage of the Third World by the advanced industrialized powers, so that the people of the Global South are able to attain an equivalent level of development. This demand, put simply, means that the South should catch up to the North’s “standard of living.”

But this old view is clumsy and over-simplified, since certain countries are already fully in the process of “taking their share” of the cake that is Planet Earth, and this is accelerating the destruction of the great ecological balances. The arrival of China and India as industrial, political and military powers obliges revolutionaries to rethink, from top to bottom, issues surrounding the model of development itself.

With a planetary ecological crisis on hand, it can no longer be denied that socialism will be incompatible with mass production and mass consumption. Indeed, even without returning to Malthusian catastrophe theories, we are forced to admit that the planet’s resources are not inexhaustible. These resources could provide for humanity’s needs, but only if they are used in a reasonable and rational way, i.e., in a manner directly opposed to capitalist logic, which in itself is a source of imbalance.

The Environment

By the Workers' Solidarity Federation - January 1, 2005 [PDF File Available]

1. General Introduction

1. The Earth is facing an environmental crisis on a scale unprecedented in human history. This environmental crisis is already responsible for high levels of human suffering. If the crisis continues to develop at its current rate, the ultimate result wil be the extinction of human life on the planet.

2. We call for action to end the environmental crisis because of the threat it poses to humankind, and because we recognize that nature and the environment have value in their own terms. Although we hold human life above all other life on the planet, we do not think that humans have the right destroy animals, plants and eco-systems that do not threaten its survival.

3. The main environmental problems include:

3.1. Air pollution: destroys the ozone layer that filters out dangerous rays from the sun; creates a general increase in planetary temperatures (the greenhouse effect) that will severely disrupt weather patterns; turns rain water into acid that destroys plant and animal life; causes respiratory and other diseases amongst humans.

3.2. Solid waste: the sea and the land environments are poisoned by the dumping of dangerous industrial wastes (such as mercury and nuclear waste); the use of materials that nature cannot break down in packaging and in other products, particularly disposable products, have turned many parts of the world into large rubbish dumps as well as wasting resources; poisons and injures people.

3.3. Soil erosion: this takes place in both the First and the Third World, and is the result of factors such the (mis-)use of chemical fertilizers, dangerous pesticides etc, as well as inappropriate land use, land overuse, and the felling of trees. For these reasons, soil is eroded at a rate faster than that at which it is being produced; contributes to rural poverty [1].

3.4. Extinction: plants and animals are being made extinct at a faster rate than any time since the dinosaurs died out, 60 million years ago; results in the loss of many species, and undermines the ecosphere on which all life depends.

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