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green anarchism

Capital’s Destruction of the Environment: Marx’s Inadequate Response

By Ignacio Guerrero - Black Rose Anarchist Federation, June 4, 2017; image by William Morris (1834-96)

This piece engages claims around Marx’s legacy as a thinker and his relation to ecology. A promotional blurb for a volume recently published by Haymarket Books on the subject, Marx and the Earth by John Bellamy Foster and Paul Burkett, goes so far as to claim that the authors are the “founders of Eco-socialist thought.” This narrative is taken to task in detail here by the author, who concludes with some brief reflections on an alternative vision of ecologically oriented socialism. 

Kohei Saito, writing in Monthly Review in February 2016 on Marx’s “Ecological Notebooks” (1868), distinguishes between “first-stage” and “second-stage” eco-socialists, with the former, an earlier wave, recognizing Karl Marx’s passing references to environmentalism but considering him overall to be a Promethean, and the latter instead claiming Marx to have been a profound ecological thinker. The main theorist presenting this alternative reading has been John Bellamy Foster, author of Marx’s Ecology (2000) and The Ecological Revolution (2009), co-author of The Ecological Rift (2010) and Marx and the Earth (2016/7), and editor of Monthly Review.

Foster bases his argumentation for second-stage ecosocialism on Marx’s statement at the end of “Machinery and Large-Scale Industry” in Capital, vol. 1, in the section on industrial-capitalist agriculture, where Marx states that, besides “concentrat[ing]” the proletariat—the “historical motive power of society”—in the cities through the enclosure of the commons and the dispossession of the peasantry, capitalism “disturbs the metabolic interaction between man [sic] and the Earth” in the sense that it exhausts the soil by demanding unsustainable extraction from it (637-8). Capitalism thus proceeds by “undermining the original sources of all wealth—the soil and the worker” (638). Marx even states that “[t]he more a country proceeds from large-scale industry as the background of its development, as in […] the United States, the more rapid is this process of destruction” (638, emphasis added). Yet he views such environmental degradation as dynamically “compel[ling the] systematic restoration [of the metabolic interaction] as a regulative law of social production.”

Marx isn’t very specific here about what a movement to restore the “natural metabolic interaction” between humanity and the rest of nature would look like, and he doesn’t clarify whether environmental sustainability would be assured in a post-capitalist society, or whether the question of the domination of nature goes beyond the humanistic struggle for the liberation of the proletariat. Initially, it must be said that a passing comment on the capitalist degradation of the soil does not make Marx a radical ecologist, especially when juxtaposed with many of his more Promethean statements. In this sense, the first-stage ecosocialists make a convincing argument. Let’s not forget that this famous statement on the soil comes in the same volume wherein Marx effectively endorses the very dispossession of the peasantry for “dialectically” giving rise to capitalism and thereafter socialism and communism, per the stages theory of history. In “Machinery and Large-Scale Industry,” Marx explicitly calls large-scale industrial-capitalist agriculture revolutionary, “for the reason that it annihilates the bulwark of the old society, the ‘peasant,’ and substitutes for him the wage-labourer” (637), while in “The Communist Manifesto,” Marx and Engels deploy similar reasoning in lauding the bourgeoisie for having destroyed the putative “idiocy of rural life.”

There’s Nothing Anarchist about Eco-Fascism: A Condemnation of ITS

By Scott Campbell - It's Going Down, May 12, 2017

“When horror knocks at your door, it’s difficult to hide from. All that can be done is to breathe, gather strength, and face it….I shared news of the woman found in University City. From the first moment, I was angered and protested the criminalization of the victim. The next morning I woke up to the horror and pain that she was my relative.”

– Statement from the family of Lesvy Rivera to Mexican society

“[W]e take responsibility for the homicide of another human in University City on May 3rd….Much has emerged about that damned thing leaning lifeless on a payphone… ‘that she suffered from alcoholism, that she wasn’t a student, this and that.’ But what does it matter? She’s just another mass, just another damned human who deserved death.”

– 29th Statement of Individualists Tending Toward the Wild (ITS)

Some things shouldn’t have to be said, but as is too often the case in this disaster of a world, that which should be most obvious often gets subsumed to the exigencies of politics, ideologies, money, emotion, or internet clicks. The purpose of this piece is to condemn the recent acts of eco-extremists in Mexico and those who cheer them on from abroad.

This critique does not aspire to alter the behavior of Individualists Tending Toward the Wild (ITS), Individualities Tending Toward the Wild (ITS), Wild Reaction (RS), Indiscriminate Group Tending Toward the Wild (GITS), Eco-extremist Mafia, or whatever they will change their name to tomorrow. Like any other deluded, sociopathic tyrant, these individuals have declared themselves above reproach, critique, reason, or accountability. They have appointed themselves judge, jury, and executioner; the guardians and enforcers of Truth using a romanticized past to justify their actions. As absolutist authoritarians, they have constructed a theoretical framework that, while ever-shifting and inconsistent, somehow always ends with a justification for why they get to hold a knife to the throats of all of humankind. In short, they think and act like the State.

EGOMANIA! A Response to My Critics on the Post-Left

By Alexander Reid Ross - Anti-Fascist News, April 5, 2017

The Left-Overs: How Fascists Court the Post-Left

By Alexander Reid Ross - Anti-Fascist News, March 29, 2017

Why Environmentalists Must Be Antifascists

By Skyler Simmons - Earth First! Journal, April 21, 2017

In this age of Trump, with its’ rising white nationalism and escalating acts of terror against people of color, there can be no ambiguity when it comes to resisting white supremacists in particular and the far Right in general. And the environmental movement is no exception.

Unfortunately environmentalists have long flirted with racist and even outright fascist ideas, from kicking out immigrants to totalitarian population control. It’s time for the environmental movement to come out as an unequivocally antiracist and antifascist movement. We must show that we are ready to defend human dignity and equality with as much commitment as we defend the Earth.

While many of us within the environmental movement have been taking collective liberation seriously for years, from chasing the Klan out of our communities to answering the calls from communities of color to embrace environmental justice, our movement as a whole has done too little to challenge the racist tendencies both within environmentalist circles as well as society at large. It is time we take seriously the threat posed by racism and the Far right, and firmly position antifascist organizing side by side with our efforts to defend Mother Earth.

Review: The Anarchist Roots of Geography

From Notes toward an International Libertarian Eco-Socialism - Originally posted at Marx and Philsophy*, March 28, 2017

In The Anarchist Roots of Geography, a “proverbial call to nonviolent arms,” Simon Springer discusses some of the past, present, and future relationships between anarchism and geography. He mobilizes the thought of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Peter Kropotkin, Elisée Reclus, and Lev Tolstoy to denounce global capitalism and oppression—declaring, with Kropotkin, that anarchism is “what geography ought to be”—while also affirming the more contemporary approaches of Saul Newman and Todd May, who have advanced the idea of “post-structuralist anarchism” in opposition to classical approaches through a turn to thinkers like Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Jacques Derrida, and Judith Butler, among others. Springer therefore presents his own perspective as amounting variably to “anarchism without adjectives” or “post-anarchism,” neither of which is the same. The former refers to the synthesist approach favored by Voline and others in opposition to the anarcho-communist Platformism advanced by Nestor Makhno, Peter Arshinov, and other exiled militants following the defeat of the Russian Revolution. Post-anarchism, a more recent development, integrates the nihilism, irrationalism, and defeatism of postmodern analyses in expressing opposition to social revolution and universalism as “totalizing narratives.” In this way, while The Anarchist Roots of Geography provides many compelling insights, it itself presents a synthesis of a number of anarchist or anarchistic approaches that cannot so readily be melded together.

Springer’s main project in this volume is to bring geography back to its radical anarchist roots, thus issuing a course correction of sorts beyond those set by the hegemonic presence of Marxists within academic geography departments starting in the late 1960s. The author presents the works of Kropotkin and Reclus as luminous alternatives to the ethnocentrism and state-centricity that has plagued the discipline since its origins. Springer wishes to wield anarchism, defined as the practice of mutual aid with the concern for universal geography in mind, to undermine statism, capitalism, racism, sexism, heterosexism, imperialism, and speciesism (or anthroparchy). For him, anarchism is the “only meaningful form of postcolonialism” (38), as the State-form effectively continues colonization even after formal independence, and—following Reclus—it must centrally express concern for the integrity of the planetary system by means of nature conservation, vegetarianism, and opposition to animal cruelty. Springer here traces the philosophical arc linking Reclus with social ecology and the animal-rights and animal-liberation movements. The author holds that direct action, cooperation, and prefigurative politics can allow humanity to affiliate by free federation, reestablish equality among humans, rebuild the commons, and overturn the domination of nature. Taking after Proudhon (1840), who analyzed property as originating in the Roman concept of sovereignty, or patriarchal despotism, Springer defines property as violence and calls for insurrection—but not revolution—against oppression. Echoing Reclus, he emphasizes the place of beauty in the struggle, citing Albert Einstein’s view that “[o]ur task” must be to “wide[n] our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty” (137), and he declares the importance of unity for anarchy, in parallel to the teachings of Taoism, Buddhism, and Baruch de Spinoza.

Does Trump Bring Us Closer to Social Revolution?: Fascism, Crisis, Revolt

By Anonymous Contributor - It's Going Down, March 22, 2017

“Never were we freer than under the German occupation.”
–Jean Paul Sartre, “Paris Alive,” 1944

It is impossible not to notice the foreboding and despair many people express as they witness the first months of Trump’s presidency. The list of grievances grows longer with each passing day, and make no mistake, there are real human consequences to every appointment, executive order, and tweet.

Based on the title, you would be forgiven for thinking this article may bring a message of hope in spite of such despair. But while I am going to offer a different perspective on what is happening, I am wary of that brand of cruel optimism that leads to complacency. To be clear from the outset, what I’m arguing here is that even as we are right now seeing the beginnings of a dark and apocalyptic future, we are also closer to realizing a massive social revolution than ever before. The difference between these two alternatives is in our ability to rise up and fight like our lives depend on it, because our lives really do depend on it.

The perspective I am offering here, which is somewhat counter-intuitive, is the perspective from below. Much of the analysis of the Trump train wreck looks down from above. The perspective from above takes the elite point-of-view and understands the world through a lens of authority. Trump did this, Bannon did that, Spicer said this, and Conway said that. Clinton responded, Merkel explained, and Trudeau lamented. These powerful individuals are, in the view from above, the movers of politics and the shapers of our collective destiny. All us plebs are basically inert, a field of grain before the reaper.

The view from the grassroots, on the other hand, sees all of us regular folks, the whole multitude and mass of us around the globe, as the prime movers of history. For a long time, we have been trying to carry out a social revolution, a fundamental shift with respect to how we live and how we experience the world. But those with the most power and those with the most wealth have opposed us at each step. Every time even a hint of the social revolution comes to the surface, those with economic and political power react. The reactionaries come forward and do whatever it takes to maintain the system that benefits the wealthy and powerful. They also do whatever they can to make us forget the social revolution is even possible.

The system these reactionaries are fighting to maintain is difficult to clearly define. Some call it “the machine” and some call it “empire” and it has many other names as well. It doesn’t have one person at the top calling the shots and there is no shadowy conspiracy pulling the strings. The system is not controlled by any one state and it is not reducible to the vast and unaccountable corporate matrix that enmeshes the globe. The system is all the different nodes and collections of power interacting. And even though the people who benefit most from the system have their internal differences and disagreements, and even though they only vaguely perceive or understand the emergent social revolution, they are nonetheless united in their opposition to it because it threatens to overturn their wealth and power.

As I see things, the recent surge of fascism is precisely a defense mechanics of the system as it desperately tries to keep down the social revolution. Historically, the system has used other remedies and adapted in various ways to maintain itself. Fascism is what the system turns to when other mechanisms don’t work. The Trump presidency in the United States provides a vivid example of this last ditch reactionary mechanism, but similar fascistic tendencies are evident everywhere. The important point to note is that the only reason we are seeing fascism is because the social revolution is presently so dangerous to the system.

A brief and necessarily incomplete historical overview of the 20th and early 21st century from the grassroots point-of-view helps back up the claims I am making, but I want to stress that none of this is as clear-cut as I am presenting it. I encourage interested readers to view some of the linked materials for more detail or to do some background reading.

How Progressive Cities Can Reshape the World — And Democracy

By Oscar Reyes, Bertie Russell - Common Dreams, March 11, 2017

“We’re living in extraordinary times that demand brave and creative solutions. If we’re able to imagine a different city, we’ll have the power to transform it.” – Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona.

On 24 May 2015, the citizen platform Barcelona en Comú was elected as the minority government of the city of Barcelona. Along with a number of other cities across Spain, this election was the result of a wave of progressive municipal politics across the country, offering an alternative to neoliberalism and corruption.

With Ada Colau — a housing rights activist — catapulted into the position of mayor, and with a wave of citizens with no previous experience of formal politics finding themselves in charge of their city, BComú is an experiment in progressive change that we can’t afford to ignore.

After 20 months in charge of the city, we try to draw some of the main lessons that can help inspire and inform a radical new municipal politics that moves us beyond borders and nations — and towards a post-capitalist world based on dignity, respect, and justice.

The ZAD: an autonomous zone in the heart of France

By Martin Legall - ROARMag, January 26, 2017

It all started decades ago with the local resistance against the construction of a second airport near the city of Nantes in western France. Eight years ago, this resistance culminated in the establishment of a self-organized autonomous zone, commonly known as the ZAD (Zone à Défendre, or “Zone to Defend”). Since then, the ZAD has been under constant threat of eviction and has withstood multiple attacks by militarized police forces set on clearing the area. With the support of individuals and collectives across France and from abroad, the occupation continues to this day.

Half a century of planning and resistance

Plans to build a second airport in Nantes were first developed in the mid-1960s. The authorities wanted to decentralize economic activity away from Paris to other cities in France. In the 1970s, the regional council designated the town of Notre-Dames-des-Landes, north of Nantes, as the site for the construction of the airport. At the time, farmers and local producers started to organize to resist the construction and raise awareness.

The construction of a rail network for high-speed trains in the late 1980s pushed the plans to build an airport north of Nantes to the bottom of the agenda until 1994, when the government revitalized the project in order to reduce air traffic at the two Parisian airports of Roissy and Orly.

In the 2000s, the government of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin reaffirmed aspirations to decentralize economic activity and to turn Nantes into an international hub. After being pushed by political elites at both state and regional levels, the project was recognized as “promoting the public interest” in 2008. Two years later, the multinational corporation Vinci was selected to build and run the airport.

As early as 2000, a network of groups and organizations was created to organize an awareness campaign and to undertake actions in the area. In 2009, local activists and residents invited the French climate action camp, resulting in hundreds of activists visiting the zone. They occupied buildings that had been left empty by the authorities and built their own yurts and shacks.

Little by little, self-organization and collective decision-making structures were put in practice. Soon, support collectives were set up in various cities across the country and beyond: it was the beginning of one of the longest struggles in the recent history of French social movements.

The solidarity ecosystems of occupied factories

By Liam Barrington-Bush - ROARMag, January 16, 2017

At first glance it is a factory: heavy machinery, crates, palettes, industrial barrels and men doing manual labor. Little catches the eye, except maybe the homemade banners hanging up around the warehouse. They’re in Greek, so you might not be able to read them, but you can tell these are not the stock decorations from the ‘IKEA industrial chic’ catalog.

Over a couple of days, you might also notice that you’re unlikely to see those men doing the same specific jobs, day after day, as you would in most factories. They seem to rotate their roles, mixing up batches of soap, pouring them into frames and cutting it into bars, but also cleaning toilets, taking product orders and coordinating distribution.

However, overall, when you walk into VIO.ME, it mostly looks like countless other industrial workplaces in the north of Greece and beyond. At least, until you come back on a Wednesday or a Thursday and find part of the administrative office converted into a free health clinic for workers and the wider community.

… or when you arrive first thing any day of the week and see all the workers gathered together, sharing updates on the work and making sure they are all in the know around the pertinent aspects of the business for the day ahead.

… or if you go into one of the store rooms and discover members of different migrant solidarity groups sorting through donations that are stored at the factory, for ongoing distribution around Thessaloniki’s many migrant squats, camps and occupations.

Over time, you notice that beneath VIO.ME’s sometimes mundane veneer, a series of radical changes are taking place. These are changes that offer alternatives to how we organize work, community and society at large. While VIO.ME has become a hallmark of these shifts in Europe, what those who work and support the factory are discovering is not unique. It is spreading, offering an alternative vision of how radical changes might occur in the ways we work, live and relate to the planet as a whole.

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