Climate Change 'war effort'

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spacious
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Apr 26 2019 18:04

I think an awareness that capitalism is becoming an acute problem is really spreading beyond the usual small portions of the radical left, but how that will play out is of course very much open. The school strike movement and (whatever their tactics and middle class bias) Extinction Rebellion have really contributed to breaking through the stagnancy in popular opinion. Greta Thunberg has supported the notion of a global climate general strike, where it's not just students on strike, that would be quite something to organize towards.

Below I'm just posting some links to stuff I've read and found interesting on the topics of capitalism and required transformations in relation to climate and ecological crisis.

- George Monbiot is now no longer a critic of something-something capitalism but of capitalism as such (and as he's never been an enthusiast for state communism, let's hope he's also rethinking his enthusiasm for solutions that depend on a still-to-be-established benevolent state, socialdemocratic or otherwise):
Dare to declare capitalism dead – before it takes us all down with it

"A system based on perpetual growth cannot function without peripheries and externalities. There must always be an extraction zone – from which materials are taken without full payment – and a disposal zone, where costs are dumped in the form of waste and pollution. As the scale of economic activity increases until capitalism affects everything, from the atmosphere to the deep ocean floor, the entire planet becomes a sacrifice zone: we all inhabit the periphery of the profit-making machine."

- Montly Review has this rather awesome long essay on capitalist extraction/expropriation/exploitation and ecology by John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark (including, besides much else, an extended argument of what Monbiot notes in the quote above):
The Expropriation of Nature
"... at the root of the problem is the extreme expropriation of the earth itself and the consequent transformation in social relations."

And this by Jasper Bernes, "We cannot legislate and spend our way out of catastrophic global warming":
Between the Devil and the Green New Deal

Bernes writes:
"We need a revolution, a break with capital and its killing compulsions, though what that looks like in the twenty-first century is very much an open question. A revolution that had as its aim the flourishing of all human life would certainly mean immediate decarbonization, a rapid decrease in energy use for those in the industrialized global north, no more cement, very little steel, almost no air travel, walkable human settlements, passive heating and cooling, a total transformation of agriculture, and a diminishment of animal pasture by an order of magnitude at least."

Mike Harman
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Apr 26 2019 19:35
spacious wrote:
- George Monbiot is now no longer a critic of something-something capitalism but of capitalism as such (and as he's never been an enthusiast for state communism, let's hope he's also rethinking his enthusiasm for solutions that depend on a still-to-be-established benevolent state, socialdemocratic or otherwise):
Dare to declare capitalism dead – before it takes us all down with it

Will be interesting to see if he recants his strawman of anarchism (or any kind of anti-state communism) as expressed in articles like this https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/aug/22/climatechange.king...

Until that happens taking his conversion from avowed liberalism with a large pinch of salt.

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Apr 27 2019 05:56
Mike Harman wrote:
Will be interesting to see if he recants his strawman of anarchism (or any kind of anti-state communism) as expressed in articles like this https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/aug/22/climatechange.king...

Until that happens taking his conversion from avowed liberalism with a large pinch of salt.

Yes, or if he recants his anticapitalism once a responsible business coalition emerges that is ready to save capitalism and humanity as a package deal.

Spikymike
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Apr 27 2019 13:03

I note that Monbiot in a Novara Media discussion did come round to saying that it was capitalism ''including it's Social Democratic forms'' that was the problem in a piece where he also eventually took issue with another contributor (Anne Pettifor) who was harking back to better times in 'international relations' and talking about 'self sufficiency' in national terms. The Guardian piece referring to 'state communism' was correctly contested by one spgb'er on the guardian comments page but then Monbiot had already admitted that the USSR was operating much the same as the capitalist west. I suspect however that Monbiot's depth of understanding of the fundamental basis of capitalism is pretty limited to a criticism of it's 'market competitive' function allowing him to stay friends with those promoting a mix of state regulation and social market policies.

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May 18 2019 20:47

Viewpoint magazine has posted this article critiquing Jasper Bernes' critical essay "Between the Devil and the Green New Deal" (linked to a few posts above), by Thea Riofrancos. Riofrancos sees Bernes' view as representing "resignation in the cloak of realism". She argues that instead we should claim the Green New Deal as a terrain of struggle on which more radical approaches to dealing with ecological/climate crisis can be developed and fought for:

https://www.viewpointmag.com/2019/05/16/plan-mood-battlefield-reflection...

"Waiting for ever-deferred moment of revolutionary rupture is functionally tantamount to quiescence. In an extremely asymmetric conflict against fossil fuel executives, private utilities, landlords, bosses and the politicians that do their bidding, we need both extra-parliamentary, disruptive action from below—taking inspiration from Standing Rock, the teachers’ strike wave, Extinction Rebellion, the global youth climate strikes—and creative experimentation with policies and institutions."

And another (somewhat older) article on the GND in the Brooklyn Rail by Max Ajl:

https://brooklynrail.org/2018/11/field-notes/Beyond-the-Green-New-Deal

"We ought to remember two things about the New Deal, Mark I. The first is that it did not end the Great Depression. That was accomplished by the military-Keynesianism of World War II. The second is that it occurred in the face of a rising and red labor movement. There have been socio-political rustlings since 2008 and especially 2011. But the level of mobilization is not that of 1933. So whence the notion of a Green New Deal? It often seems to be of a piece with the current definitional dilution “socialism” is facing, as Ted Kennedy-type liberals like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez redefine the word to fit snugly along the left edge of the Democratic Party agenda. In this sense, the Green New Deal can often be a historical-analogical shoehorn to fit our moment back into the comforting clasp of the Fordist comfort zone, maybe a few degrees left vis-à-vis social distribution—Norway plus solar panels.
We ought also not forget that the original New Deal was social containment to avoid a world transformed."

Mike Harman
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May 20 2019 10:48

The Bernes and Riofrancos pieces are interesting, especially read together.

Bernes IMO accurately critiques the Green New Deal - as it's proposed by AOC it means the following:

- replacing fossil fuels with electric, meaning massive subsidies for the solar, wind and battery industries.

- loft insulation and double glazing subsidies (the UK had a massive free insulation scheme until recently).

- high speed rail improvements

- ignoring agriculture, international shipping and aviation, and any kind of reorganisation of social life (like completely removing the need for people to commute etc.).

But Bernes ends up not really hinting out what a reorganisation of social life would be like beyond a sort of boilerplate 'and this is why we need an international communist revolution', and the tone is a bit defeatist.

On the other hand Riofrancos hints (barely though) at what a reorganisation of social life might be like (although only via links) - reconfiguring urban environments to be walk/cycle friendly, massive changes in agriculture. But... these are seen as policy tweaks which can be fought for within the framework of US state stimulus, not things which must happen and which major factions of capital and the US state will fight.

What I think both are missing (and I'm not sure I've seen a recent article that does this either) is a bit more of an overview of the changes that actually need to be made - utopian or not - a projection of how particular areas of social life in highly-polluting countries could/must change to slow down or reverse capitalist ecocide.

We can then look at those changes and think about what might be won as concessions from capital by a mobilised working class, what might be implemented as top-down 'reforms' (and how that might undermine them), what is capital a complete barrier to etc. etc.

So there are obvious things like monocrop industrial agriculture (especially on drained wetlands). Built-in obsolescence (everything from shoddy furniture to electrical/electronics) and the massive extraction and energy required to replace those goods. The sheer waste of people commuting to/from pointless jobs in cars ten times per week (let alone the jobs themselves). And there are solutions to these things (cut out all the pointless work, ensure goods are durable/repairable/upgradeable, switch at least some agriculture from mega-farms to urban/suburban gardening etc., switch from individual car ownership to vehicle pools (which would include cars as well as e/cargo bikes and etc.) which all enable resources to be used more efficiently without actually making things worse for people.

Some of them are completely impossible in a capitalist system, some capital might pay lip-service to or try to co-opt, some might be won as concessions but insufficient on their own - but can't talk about that unless you know what people actually think is necessary.

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May 22 2019 21:24
donald parkinson wrote:
To deal with climate change will require a far greater level of planning than we've seen in any capitalist state, and this planning, unlike that in the US during WII or the USSR will have to centralize on an international scale.

I was going through this thread, and though I agree with the general idea that stopping climate breakdown will require a lot of planned intervention and social reorganization, I don't think this means necessarily that this will take the same form as state planning of wartime production, or USSR-style bureaucratic planning of industrial expansion (the "planning of value" as Robert Kurz called it).

I'm not really sure about how different strains of anarchist thought relate to this concept, apart from those strains that link it fully and exclusively to capitalism and state socialism/state capitalism.

I think the idea of "conscious social planning" and the possibility that this takes highly decentralized/autonomic but still coordinated forms, and that it can be directly related to social self-determination away from capitalist disciplines, seems very worthwhile at least to counterpose to the more inherently hierarchical forms, centralized state planning etc., that most people almost exclusively have in mind when they say 'planning'.

Edit:
There's an interesting discussion on the requirements, problems and different conceptions of Green New Deals - does it mean a massive investment towards a "green industrial revolution" or "limits to growth" qua materials and energy throughput? - on the site of Steadystate Manchester. The article ends on a note of how socialism and ecosocialism (of the anti-productivist variety) come back onto the agenda because of what capitalist relations render impossible:
https://steadystatemanchester.net/2019/02/28/what-kind-of-a-green-deal-t...

And the left think tank Autonomy has published a short research-based paper arguing how a radical reduction of work hours (to a 9-hour work week) could serve to reduce GHG emissions:
http://autonomy.work/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/The-Ecological-Limits-of...

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Jun 2 2019 20:34

The Green New Deal Can’t Be Anything Like the New Deal - Samuel Miller McDonald
https://newrepublic.com/article/153996/green-new-deal-cant-anything-like...

Why It Is Too Late for the Green New Deal (As Presently Envisioned) - Bill Henderson
https://www.resilience.org/stories/2019-05-30/why-it-is-too-late-for-the...

Spikymike
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Jun 14 2019 14:44

Just looking back at Mike's post #37 I thought this short article, addressing the 'urban-rural divide',
modern World Bank influenced agricultural changes and the effects of pesticide use, was useful in highlighting the continuing damage to the ecology and human life from global capitalism whilst briefly intimating that there were some limited efforts to resist this which though inadequate pointed to the possibilities that a different libertarian communist society could benefit from. See here:
https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/2010s/2019/no-137...

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Jul 17 2019 20:29

Below is Peter Gelderloos' sketch of an "anarchist solution to climate change" - or what social life might look like when the dust has settled and capitalism and fossil fuel-based productivism are gone:

https://anzacgf.home.blog/2019/07/12/an-anarchist-solution-to-global-war...

ajjohnstone
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Jul 17 2019 21:57

Many in the ecology movement have accused socialists of ignoring the environment but here is Anton Pannekoek in 1909 writing about the topic, that could easily have been text from today

https://socialismoryourmoneyback.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-destruction-of...

Quote:
"...This is an economy which does not think of the future but lives only in the immediate present. In today’s economic order, nature does not serve humanity, but capital. It is not the clothing, food or cultural needs of humanity that govern production, but capital’s appetite for profit, for gold. Natural resources are exploited as if reserves were infinite and inexhaustible. The harmful consequences of deforestation for agriculture and the destruction of useful animals and plants expose the finite character of available reserves and the failure of this type of economy..."

Mike Harman
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Jul 18 2019 07:39

Thank you for digging out that Pannekoek piece, it's great.

Spikymike
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Aug 20 2019 15:12

Another pretty good article from a Left communist viewpoint drawing on Monbiot's more recent 'anti-capitalism' comments:
http://www.leftcom.org/en/articles/2019-08-12/''capitalism-is-dead''-george-monbiot-but-only-the-world-working-class-can-bury-it

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Aug 24 2019 13:26
Spikymike wrote:
Another pretty good article from a Left communist viewpoint drawing on Monbiot's more recent 'anti-capitalism' comments:
http://www.leftcom.org/en/articles/2019-08-12/''capitalism-is-dead''-george-monbiot-but-only-the-world-working-class-can-bury-it

Cheers.
I think the url was edited by admins, here's a working link: http://libcom.org/blog/capitalism-dead-george-monbiot-only-world-working...

Another interesting article: I'd be interested in what folks here think of the arguments in this one by Jasper Bernes, who also wrote the "Between the Devil and the Green New Deal" one:

https://cominsitu.wordpress.com/2018/08/04/the-belly-of-the-revolution-a...

Basically he's arguing that future revolutions (at least initially successful ones) will necessarily need to involve a near-instantaneous reorganization of social reproduction and food production in a way that's much more a matter of hands-on mass agroecology than what some might imagine (urban conceptions of post-work futures, etc.).

(It's a chapter from a book, Materialism and the Critique of Energy, free pdf here: http://www.mcmprime.com/books/marxism-and-energy. Seems quite solid/interesting.)

And this is very much in the same direction:
Samuel Miller McDonald - Lifecycle of a leaf
https://www.currentaffairs.org/2019/08/lifecycle-of-a-leaf