- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Notes on the environment.

Posted by: Farinata ( L'inferno ) on February 14, 19100 at 14:26:44:

In Reply to: 'Beyond' Marx? (corrected) posted by Barry Stoller on February 14, 19100 at 12:02:36:

: Curious, this millennial reliance upon ecological castrophe to initiate social change. SDF, I believe, has also touted ecological castrophe as the midwife of revolution. What exactly is this belief based upon?

Hardly millennial, Barry; the process of environmental destruction on a grand scale has been going on since the Industrial Revolution; it's just that our science has caught up to the point where we can see the physical effects of what we are doing; at the same time, our usage of non-renewable resources has increased to the point that there is likely to be some sort of resource crisis in this century.

Environmental disaster was the #1 cause of refugees in 1998; it accounted for 58% of all refugee activity. Bangladesh's Environment Minister said in an interview on 24/1/00 speaking to the BBC;

"Approximately 20 million people will become ecological refugees. Where shall we move such a huge population? It's an incredible task. People will try to move into upland areas. But there is not enough space to accommodate them.

"So I would request the developed countries of the world to rethink their immigration policies, for the survival of refugees from various small island states and low-lying coastal states like Bangladesh."

Asked which countries she had in mind, Mrs Choudhury replied: "America, the other big countries, Britain and Europe."

20 million refugees - and that's just Bangladesh, which stands to lose 17.5% of its area. The worldwide figure is going to run into hundreds of millions; an equivalent population to the USA; only migrant and looking for a home.

So, factor 1; a lot of refugees; a destabilizing effect to any country, as the Left welcomes them with open arms and the Right tries to send them back to the seabed that used to be their village.

Mind you, it's not just the Third World that will experience a sea-change; Manhattan will probably become something rich and strange; and Wall St. will become Seabed St. unless the state of New York spends a *lot* of money on sea defences.

I'll miss Amsterdam and parts of London, too.

Secondly, lack of fresh drinking water; a problem that is going to get worse as a) the existing supplies get more polluted by the large numbers of people and b) the rising temperatures cause stream depletion. The UN forecasts war over fresh water by the year 2025; two flashpoints are India/Pakistan and Israel/Syria/Jordan; environmental damage combined with deep-seated religious animosity.

The Sea of Galilee is a case in point; the area has suffered severe drought for most of the last decade; and areas of the Sea of Galilee are 40% depleted. The catchment basin for the Sea is the mountains; specifically the Golan Heights; itself a flashpoint between Israel and Syria.

Even in countries without hostile neighbours, predicted water shortages will have severe effects; the overall stream flow in California is predicted to decrease by up to 30%; if this is accurate, you can effectively say goodbye to the Southern US; places like Arizona will become incapable of supporting a settled population and agricultural production in the US will be hit along similar lines; a Dustbowl worse than the one in the 1930s.

That's two such reasons; I can provide many more...

: Let's NOT assume a shortage of oil (etc.) would occur overnight like Halley's Comet or any other such milliennial disaster. ANY ecological castrophe would occur over years---and would, I believe, only initiate another world war fought over the increasingly limited supplies of oil (etc.).

It *has* been occurring over years; it's just that the symptoms are now becoming so bad as to be unavoidable.

As for a world war, it might happen, except for the fact that the nation state has never been weaker. Our countries are now run by multinationals, as you know; and multinationals generally don't like wars (arms companies apart); it's harder to sell dead people things.

In my opinion, the wealth gap will continue to grow; conditions will become better for the well-off and worse for the underclass; the wealthy will continue to pass laws helping themselves and their friends to maintain a stranglehold on the limited democracy we have.

I think civil war is more likely than world war; the combination of environmental damage and socioeconomic bipolarisation will lead to severe interruptions in food stocks and energy; and the poor will catch it in the neck, as per always...

: World wars, history has shown, ARE the midwives of revolution. Ruling classes are weakened by fighting other ruling classes; proletarians are armed; capital's social relations are exposed as antagnonistic to the interests of working people; the relations between capital and their puppet governments become strained; war opposition can develop into class opposition, etc., etc.

I disagree here. War in the context of fighting over precious resources is different; to the leaders, humanity is expendable and always has been.

However, the thing that will separate the rulers from the ruled in the new world order will be control of non-renewable (i.e. finite) resources; and any ruling class with half an ounce of sense will realize that they have a greater common interest with the ruling classes of neighbouring countries than they do with the peasants in their own; the common interest of maintaining their hegemony.

If oil is what makes your class powerful above your underclass, you have more to lose by slugging it out with your neighbouring ruling class (which would cause both ruling classes to use up some of their oil reserves) than you do by making a mutual pact with your neighbour to screw it out of your respective underclasses. It's simple economy of form.

And I think the IMF push towards globalisation represents this; a worldwide agreement among the capitalist class not to kill each other off.

I think we will also see 'knowledge' and 'information' treated as commodities and instruments of repression more than ever before; the common people will be treated to continual junk culture and the occasional political soundbite to keep them unaware of the fact that they have little or no information about how the country is run or where it is going.

There may be small wars; but I think those will be distractions as much as anything; something to kill off a few of the peasants and keep them from challenging the power heirarchy within the country.

: To posit, however, as some Greens do that oil shortages or other such ecological doomsday scenarios will instigate social change for the better is unclear.

I doubt it will. However, there are better and worse ways of recovering from environmental disaster.

I'll say it plainly; I think there will be massive civil disturbance and a massive death toll; and I think it will happen sometime between 2030 and 2040; I don't expect to survive. What I'm interested in is the rebuilding afterwards; if we can build a sustainable society, we might be able to recover from it eventually.

: Such crises would only acerbate the class conflicts already extant in imperialistic policies regarding the ownership of natural resources. Example: any oil shortage would be primarily felt by the poorest sections of the population (globally, then nationally)---not simultaneously---therefore social change will begin at the bottom of society.


: 'Beyond Marx' I suspect is a code term for spontaneous, peaceful revolution---a fairy tale concocted by middle class 'radicals' to assuage their middle class guilt-trips.

Barry, are you not allowed to be a revolutionary unless you're covered in coaldust? And are you continuing to judge people solely by their class?

We are all *people*; don't exclude people because of their social background; or you would also be excluding the contributions of the guy who used to sit at desk #83 in the British Museum Reading Room and drank at the Museum Tavern over the road.

: The Greens---who are primarily composed of the educated middle class---would be advised to acknowledge that in the event of ecological castrophe, the working class (and the small proprietors) will be hit first and hardest---long before the educated middle class Greens ever feel the effects of such privations.

We've all been saying it for a long time!

SDF, Qx and myself have repeatedly said that the poor get it in the neck first; it's not exactly a startling insight, after all - the UN Human Development Report 1999 says exactly the same thing at great length.

: To advocate (when the inevitable world war begins the last desperate grab for the last of the oil reserves) that the working class (who inevitably is drafted to fight such wars) take their weapons and TURN THEM ON the class enemy AT HOME instead of using them on their working class equivalents overseas is the primary task of the Marxist vanguard.

Firstly, they will anyway; I think that the internal social divide will prove to be a bigger gulf than the external political divide; the poor don't have nukes or attack 'choppers.

Any vanguard that sets itself apart from the broad mass of humanity is merely laying the seeds of a new ruling class; revolution has to come from within the populace; not be something forced upon it by a vocal minority.

"Let us put it quite bluntly: the errors commited by a truly revolutionary workers movement are historically far more fruitful and valuable than the infallibility of even the best central committees."

Rosa Luxembourg.

To say, as Lenin did, that "The working class by itself can only attain trade union consciousness." is wrong and patronising; to seize power in the workers' names has never led to anything but tyranny. The masses must form the government, or it really isn't a revolution; it's a coup.

And while small groups can point the way, they must never tell people to follow it; or they are just reinforcing the existing heirarchy in a different colour. It's a particularly sick irony that the Russian Revolution led to the rigid class-based USSR.

: And that question is very much a Marxist question. The Greens will be useful ONLY after the struggle ends (favorably for the working class) in assisting the working class find alternative energies.

In actual fact, Green politics are the entry point for a lot of the young blood in 'alternative' politics today, Barry. Environmental destruction is something you can see and touch and measure; and it's something that can be placed squarely in the door of multinational corporates.

You can argue about dialectics until your audience goes to sleep (and thus delay the revolution!) - but let people know about things like BSE and how they relate to global capitalism and you have a veritable army ready to listen to you. That army is lukewarm, admittedly; you get a few new people every time; but the message gets out; people see exactly how capitalism works.

Books are books, but empty stomachs are what fuel uprising. Give people concrete evidence and you give them something they can use.

: Not leading the working class, mind you---working FOR the working class.

As *everyone* should be working for the working class and themselves - because no-one should be outside the working class telling the working class what to do.


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