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capitalism, colonialism, and fascism

Pandemic Capitalism and Resistance

By Susan King - Green Left (Australia), February 7, 2021

Last year began with huge climate action rallies around Australia in response to the Black Summer bushfires — a climate-change-fuelled catastrophe that made international headlines.

However, by March, Australians, along with the rest of the world, were facing a new global threat — also connected to the climate crisis, agribusiness and habitat loss — COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing global inequality, and exposed the results of four decades of neoliberalism, including the privatisation of healthcare, and the undermining of the welfare state in the advanced capitalist countries.

The pandemic death toll is still rising, countries have experienced second and third waves of infection, as governments sacrifice lives to reopen their economies. The media reports on health systems overwhelmed in Italy, Britain and the United States, but less about the crisis in the Global South, where people are literally dying in the streets, and where health systems are collapsing under the weight of the pandemic.

Biden-Kerry International Climate Politricks

By Patrick Bond - CounterPunch, February 1, 2021

Is U.S. President Joe Biden’s January 27 Executive Order to address ‘climate crisis’ as good as many activists claim, enough to reverse earlier scepticism?

To be sure, it’s great that the word crisis is consistently deployed, not just ‘climate change.’ Applause is due Biden’s commands to halt fossil fuel subsidies and new oil and gas drilling leases on national government lands, and phase out hydrofluorocarbons. There is a welcome promise to instead subsidize new solar, wind, and power transmission projects. Cancelling the nearly-finished Keystone Pipeline extension (from Canada to Nebraska) is praiseworthy, although surely the Dakota Access Pipe Line should be shut, too.

Moreover, a weakened and often climate-unconscious U.S. labor movement did extremely well, with quite a few paragraphs of the Executive Order – e.g. in the box way below – promising well-paying union jobs in a Just Transition. There is an unusual race consciousness, too, as ‘environmental justice’ is invoked to address the discrimination that so often characterizes pollution in the U.S. Much of the Order resonates with Green New Deal demands, so the Sanders-AOC team pulling Biden leftwards can claim some excellent language.

However, caveats and hard-hitting criticisms of the Order were immediately offered by long-standing Climate Justice organizations, e.g.:

Indigenous Environmental Network: “we stand by our principles that such justice on these stolen lands cannot be achieved through market-based solutions, unproven technologies and approaches that do not cut emissions at source. Climate justice is going beyond the status quo and truly confronting systemic inequities and colonialism within our society.”

Food & Water Watch: “Biden’s orders fall well short of what’s needed and must be paired with serious plans to stop our deadly addiction to fossil fuels. We need a White House that is committed to stopping all drilling and fracking, and shutting down any schemes to export fossil fuels.”

These are absolutely valid misgivings, and apply locally and globally. My additional concerns are about how during the 2010s, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) policy was manipulated by Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry (Secretary of State from 2013-17) and other staff from the Obama-era State Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (including former pro-fracking EPA head Gina McCarthy, now Biden’s senior climate advisor). From Copenhagen’s 2009 United Nations Conference of the Parties COP15 to the 2016 Marrakesh COP22 – and especially at Durban COP17 in 2011 and Paris COP21 in 2015 – their corporate neoliberal agenda held sway. This group’s climate-policy imperialism did enormous harm and it’s vital to recall why.

Impact of European policies on the Global South and possible alternatives

By staff - Recommons Europe, January 2021

The year 2020 was marked by two events that revealed, once again, the limits of the capitalist system. First, the Co- ViD-19 pandemic caused by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, responsible for the deaths of several hundred thousand people and counting, highlighted the vulnerability of human societies in the absence of adequately funded public health services. It also served to highlight which activities are essential to the existence of human societies. Second, the pandemic precipitated the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s. By revealing the fragility of societies where exchanges are extremely rapid and production chains are internationalized, the pandemic also revealed the most irrational aspects of the economic system that governs and structures social relations in almost all parts of the world. Thus, capitalism appears to be incapable not only of providing for basic human needs but also of reproducing its own functioning. All governments that initially try to protect both the law of profit and their citizens’ lives inevitably find themselves tempted to defend the former against the latter.

The neoliberal structural adjustment policies which have been pursued for decades have played an important role in increasing inequality and, ultimately, in the way the epidemic has spread. Contrary to widespread belief, the epidemic does indeed differentiate between origins and social classes, affecting in particular those at the bottom of the social ladder. It has also particularly affected countries that, on the pretext of maintaining strict fiscal discipline, have given up – or have been prevented from – building an efficient and accessible health care system.

Read the Report (PDF).

A Strategic Perspective for Uniting Ecosocialists in Québec

By Révolution écosocialiste - The Bullet, December 10, 2020

Ecosocialist Revolution contributes to the construction of a socialist movement in which a mass socialist party will be called upon to play a key role. This requires a renewal of the trade union movement and the development of combative and democratic social movements. To be successful, our campaigns – electoral, union or social – must be situated within an overall strategy, which must itself be based on an analysis of the economic and political system and our historical situation. Our basis of unity, which unites us, presents our strategic perspective and our vision of the socialist movement to be built.

A. For Socialism

A1 We want to help build a socialist world that will end the exploitation and oppression that are inherent in capitalism. Everyone has the right to a free and fully creative life. In a socialist society, a democratically planned and administered economy will enable us to meet the challenge of climate change and to preserve our ecosystems and biodiversity. A socialist democracy will redefine politics by extending democracy to our workplaces and within our communities.

B. The Strategic Centrality of the Class Struggle to Overthrow Capitalism

B1 Capitalism is based on exploitation and commodification. Capitalist society is divided into classes. A small minority dominates the economy and monopolizes the means of production and distribution from which the great majority subject to this domination is dispossessed. The resources to which people are entitled and what they must do to survive are determined by their social class, but also by their racialized group, gender identity, and ability.

B2 Capitalist firms are in competition and must therefore maximize profits by reducing costs, intensifying labour and adopting technologies that increase its productivity while making it more precarious. Financial companies are also competing for a share of household debt and developing more and more murky financial products for this purpose. This frantic race for profitability in the context of an unplanned economy leads to recurring crises, both economic and ecological.

B3 While immense wealth is produced, the majority of the population struggles to make ends meet, and our access to what is necessary for a dignified and fulfilling life remains far removed from what it could be. At the top, society is dominated by the capitalist class – a small minority of large property owners and their managers. The profits of this class are derived from the efforts of the vast majority, the working class.

B4 The profits of those above depend on the work of the vast majority below. This gives us enormous potential power, therefore. We have the power to stop production and the flow of profits, or to create a political crisis with a public service strike. We are the vast majority of the population and we have the power to transform a political system that protects the power of capital.

B5 Improving our lives now and eventually putting an end to capitalism requires the mobilization of this immense potential power and poses the central strategic question of the organization of the working class – the construction of its unity in all its diversity. This project is at the heart of our strategic perspective.

Workers and Just Transition: A Global View

By various - Labor Network for Sustainability, December 5, 2021

With the election of a President who acknowledges the threats of climate change and of ongoing economic devastation for working people, we have an opportunity to seriously address how to make a transition to a climate-safe, socially-just, worker-friendly society. The primary objective of the Just Transition Listening Project (JTLP) is to ensure workers and community voices are central to the conversation of a Green New Deal and other climate policies. 

On Saturday, Dec. 5 at 12 p.m. Eastern, the Labor Network for Sustainability and the JTLP Organizing Committee will bring together labor and policy leaders to share perspectives, stories, and strategies from the frontlines of the struggle for a just transition globally. This will be the sixth webinar in the JTLP series. In addition to the webinar series we conducted interviews with more than 100 community leaders and workers to learn of their experiences and perspectives on Just Transition. Our report from these interviews will be available in January.

From the experiences of metalworkers in South Africa to the coal miners in Spain, to workers across sectors in Latin America and across the world, the struggle for a just transition is truly global. In order to effectively address the worldwide transitions we are facing in our jobs, environments, and homes, we must demand a worldwide response. Join us on Saturday, Dec. 5 as we learn from each other and set the stage for finalizing and distributing our report to help us win the struggle to protect jobs, communities and the right to thrive as we work toward a society that is ecologically sustainable and just. 

The Hydrogen Hype: Gas Industry Fairy Tale or Climate Horror Story?

By Belén Balanyá, Gaëtane Charlier, Frida Kieninger and Elena Gerebizza - Corporate Europe Observatory, December 2020

Industry’s hydrogen hype machine is in full swing. An analysis of over 200 documents obtained through freedom of information rules reveals an intense and concerted lobbying campaign by the gas industry in the EU. The first goal was convincing the EU to embrace hydrogen as the ‘clean’ fuel of the future. Doing so has secured political, financial, and regulatory support for a hydrogen-based economy. The second task was securing support for hydrogen derived from fossil fuels as well as hydrogen made from renewable electricity. Successful lobbying means the gas industry can look forward to a lucrative future, but this spells grave danger for the climate as well as the communities and ecosystems impacted by fossil fuel extractivism.

Social Self-Defense Against the Impending Trump Coup

Climate Jobs and Just Transition Summit: Climate Change Racial Justice and Economic Justice

Not Zero: How ‘net zero’ targets disguise climate inaction

By staff - Act!onAid, et. al., October 2020

Far from signifying climate ambition, the phrase “net zero” is being used by a majority of polluting governments and corporations to evade responsibility, shift burdens, disguise climate inaction, and in some cases even to scale up fossil fuel extraction, burning and emissions. The term is used to greenwash business-as-usual or even business-more-than-usual. At the core of these pledges are small and distant targets that require no action for decades, and promises of technologies that are unlikely ever to work at scale, and which are likely to cause huge harm if they come to pass.

This joint briefing highlights concerns that many governments and corporations are jumping on the bandwagon and declaring “net zero” climate targets.

These announcements might sound like they signify ambitious climate action. But unfortunately, the “net” in “net zero” is being used to green-wash weak climate targets, and could end up driving huge land grabs, particularly in the global South.

Instead of accepting “net zero” targets at face value, civil society and media must scrutinise these announcements to assess whether they signify real climate action.

Read the text (PDF).

CalPERS Continues to Invest in Coal

By Robert Dam and Vanessa Warheit - Fossil Free California, September 2020

This 14-page report shows that CalPERS continues to hold millions in coal producers that make the majority of their revenue from thermal coal. In fact, CalPERS even increased its investments in Exxaro, a company that qualified for divestment in 2017 but was retained by CalPERS because they said they were investing more in green energy. But Exxaro’s modest clean energy initiatives are dwarfed by its current coal operations in South Africa, and by its intent to seek permits for a six-fold expansion of its coal mining, which could be a tipping point for the climate.

In recognition of coal’s outsized contribution to human-caused climate change, in 2015 California passed a law – SB 185 – requiring CalPERS and CalSTRS to divest from companies making 50% or more of their revenue from the mining of thermal coal.  A 50% share of revenue sets a very high bar that can be reached by only the small number of “pure-play” coal mining companies that remain in business.  Many investors, including BlackRock and the State of New York, define a “coal company” with a much lower threshold of 25% or even 10%.

If CalPERS coal holdings are analyzed more broadly, using the criteria of the Global Coal Exit List, it’s clear that CalPERS holds billions in coal – coal mining companies, coal-fired utilities, coal distribution and services, and large diversified companies with substantial coal operations. Instead of winding down its investments in coal, which was the intent of SB 185, CalPERS actually increased investments in coal by $1.5 billion dollars between 2018 and 2019, for a total of $6.5 billion throughout the whole coal value chain. 

CalPERS’ coal exclusion policy is weak compared to those of many other institutional investors. By failing to set a strong coal exclusion policy, CalPERS has already lost billions in absolute value on its coal investments, and the sector continues to decline. As New York State’s Tom DiNapoli said when he decided to divest 22 thermal coal companies, “After a thorough assessment, the fund has divested from 22 thermal coal mining companies that are not prepared to thrive, or even survive, in the low-carbon economy.”

Download (PDF).

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